Spatial audio, or surround sound through headphones, is a popular topic in the audio industry. However, this concept doesn’t have a single implementation. Windows Sonic for Headphones, which is a component of the aforementioned operating system, is Microsoft’s offering in the category.
But what is Windows Sonic exactly, and how does it operate? What you should know about the Windows Sonic surround sound standard is provided below.
How does Windows Sonic work?
Without getting too scientific, Windows Sonic basically deceives your brain and ears into believing that noises are coming from everywhere around you.
To utilize Windows Sonic, suitable content is required. It could be a little more challenging to discover content that has the criteria in mind. Although it can employ Dolby Atmos mixes and 5.1 or 7.1 content, the experience won’t be exactly the same.
However, as Windows Sonic is a component of Microsoft Windows and the Xbox One, having the operating system already makes it essentially free. Furthermore, there is no need to purchase a particular pair of headphones because the OS performs all necessary signal processing.
Since you can get spatial audio when playing compatible games without having to spend money on specific hardware, that is very helpful for video games.
For Windows Sonic, this means that frequent head movements may cause the immersion to fail. That isn’t as much of a problem, though, as long as you’re mainly looking at your monitor.
How does Windows’ spatial audio work?
Microsoft’s version of spatial audio standards, sometimes known as “virtual surround,” handles sounds as objects that may vary in location and over time, much like Dolby Atmos does.
Compatible content can simulate how sounds come from different directions and enter your ears using software or hardware signal processors. A set of headphones can provide the sense that you are immersed in surround sound by doing this.
In essence, spatial audio functions by accounting for everything that happens to sound waves as they move through your ears, head, and body.
If a sound is to your left, it takes longer to reach your right ear, which is how we establish directionality. Your head also serves as a filter, removing higher frequencies. Furthermore, the pitch of sounds changes as they move closer to you and then again as they grow farther away.
Spatial audio may produce a believable surround sound illusion by simulating all these effects in addition to other phenomena like phase cancellation, auditory masking, and the countless other things that can happen to sound when it travels through space, interacts with other sounds, and strikes your body.
This requires either specialized software or hardware, and that is the function of Windows Sonic. To get a sense of the experience, try watching a YouTube video using binaural audio. The same broad idea applies to video games, movies, music, and other media.
How to use it
On Windows desktops, laptops, and Xbox One, Windows Sonic functions. It should be rather easy to get everything operating if you have any of these.
Enabling Windows Sonic for Headphones on a PC is fairly easy:
- Navigate to Settings > System > Sound > Related settings > Sound Control Panel from the Start menu.
- Right-click on your playback device and select Properties.
- Select Spatial sound in the popup that appears.
- Select Windows Sonic for Headphones under Spatial sound format, then click Apply.
You should be good to go if you have material that is compatible. Installing the Dolby Access app, which has a seven-day free trial and then requires a one-time payment of $14.99, will give you complete support for Dolby Atmos. After a two-week free trial, DTS Surround Unbound will cost $19.99 and enable DTS Headphone:X.
You may also enable Windows Sonic on your Xbox One console if you have one:
- Navigate to Settings > Audio Devices > Audio Output in the Xbox One menu.
- You can select Stereo Uncompressed, Windows Sonic for Headphones, or Dolby Atmos for Headphones from the selection that appears.
- Select Windows Sonic.
You must buy a separate item if you want complete Dolby Atmos capability, much like on a computer.