Spatial Audio 101: A Guide for Beginners

Like active noise cancellation, spatial audio is a feature that is becoming more common in luxury headphones. Maybe you have heard of it but you are unsure of what it is. Maybe you want to know how it works or whether it is worth buying. This article will tell you everything you need to know to be an informed consumer.

What Is Spatial Audio?

Spatial audio, or 3D audio, is a system of creating a 3D audio experience using headphones or earbuds. Many people are likely familiar with surround sound systems that create a similar effect for a home theater.

How Does Spatial Audio Work?

Have you ever thought about how we know where things are just from listening? You probably haven’t, it is not a common topic at the dinner table. But, understanding this is important to understanding how spatial audio effects work.

Essentially, we determine the location of a sound based on the difference between the same sound in the right and left ear. Using the difference between the volume of the sound when it hits your ears and its quality.

Normally, people don’t think of their ears hearing the same sound at different times. We aren’t really aware of this, but that is what is happening. If someone is talking to your left, the sound that arrives in your right ear is indirect. Indirect sound is slightly delayed compared to the direct sound. Even though we don’t really notice, our brain does and this is what helps us locate where sounds are coming from.

A peron in Spatial Audio

This system is quite complicated involving your external ear, inner ear, and tiny hairs in your ear. We are not going to get any more specific about the biology that makes it possible in this article. If you want to learn more you can click here to continue reading about it and you can learn about the trigonometry used to replicate it here.

What you need to take away is that we determine the location of a sound by comparing the differences between the same sound as it hits your two ears. So, if a sound is louder and occurs slightly early in the left ear, it will make your mind think it is coming from the left side of your body. This is a slight oversimplification, but these differences between the left and right ear are what create the sensation of 3D audio.

How Can You Use Spatial Audio?

People generally have a surround sound system for a home theater. But happens when a roommate or family member is hard at work, but you want an immersive movie-watching experience? This is a great example of how you can use headphones with 3D audio to bring a movie theater experience to your living room.

A person wear a earphone before computer screen

Additionally, you may not be aware of the fact that video games often have sound designs that use 3D audio effects. If you are just playing on the computer with a single speaker, you are not getting the full effect the game developers intended. Spatial audio would allow you to hear where the enemy is and give you a better idea about how far away they are.

If you have ever played a VR game, you have probably noticed the disconnect between the immersive 3D environment and the tinny audio from across the room. Headphones with 3D audio can complete the experience and make sure you can completely escape into a fantasy.

VR devices

What Will the Future Bring for Spatial Audio?

Facebook is so confident that the metaverse is the future of escapist entertainment that the company changed its name. While the company was widely mocked for this, it does show that there is a lot of money and power behind improving virtual reality and changing the way we interact with the internet. Spatial audio and 3D audio effects are definitely going to play an important role in completing this experience.

As the functionality of VR improves, it offers a world of possibilities. There are games and online interactions, but also potential advancements in how we experience movies or buy houses. Still, even if you don’t care about VR and the metaverse at all, you can use 3D audio effects to help you have a deeper and more profound experience while watching movies, playing video games, or listening to dramatic podcasts.

Spatial Audio 101: A Guide for Beginners

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