What is Spatial Audio? Qualcomm bringing spatial audio to more devices in 2023

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Why does watching movies in a theatre prove to be a better experience than watching them on mobile, laptop, or TV? This is because movies in theatre have to surround sound audio. Surround sound makes the watching experience more immersive and people who don’t like to go to theatres want to emulate it at home. If you have a system that has many speakers throughout the room, then it is fine, but if not then? This is where spatial audio steps in as it uses technology and some advanced maths to allow a pair of headphones to sound like a multi-speaker system.

Let us learn everything about spatial audio and its inclusion in your devices

What is Spatial Audio?

The Spatial Audio feels as if it’s filling the room when listening to the music, it allows you to hear every element of the recording- as if you are standing in a recording studio. When you tilt your head in any direction, the audio adapts to this change re-directing with dynamic head tracking making it feel like the sound is surrounding you rather than just being left and right. The 360-degree surround sound technology allows you to enjoy music, podcasts, mixes, and more in a surreal format that captures every detail.

It is also known as virtual surround sound and was first introduced by Apple in September 2020.

How does Spatial Audio work?

The spatial audio makes you feel as if there are more sources of sound than really present. Spatial audio systems simulate real-world sound waves to tighten the realism of an immersive environment. To make the sound more lifelike, engineering records with a binaural setup where two microphones capture audio simultaneously. It gives the audio a 3D experience and helps to replicate how sound waves react to an environment.

How to determine to use Spatial Audio?

If you want to use spatial audio, you will need to see what devices and streaming services you have or wish to purchase. You need to see what you are listening to. The spatial audio is not fit for the gym because you want to focus on working out. It can be distracting while commuting as well. Spatial audio will be best if you have time and the ability to focus on the content. Spatial audio creates a more immersive soundscape and if you want to spend the money and find the time to track down spatial audio movies and music, it is worth it.

Audio devices supporting spatial audio

Many flagship devices support spatial audio. These include Sony WH-1000XM5, Apple AirPods Max, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, and more. Some video game consoles that have their own version of spatial audio are PS5, Hyper X Cloud Fight S, and more. Smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S22 have Dolby Atmos support and spatial audio.

Hiccups in using Spatial Audio

Headphones using spatial audio are very expensive. This is due to the extra processing power and other hardware needed. Although most movies support spatial audio these days, the case is not the same with music. Only specific streaming apps like Tidal, Spotify HiFi, and Deezer support spatial audio.

Also, different brands have different proprietary implementations. These include Dolby Atmos, Apple Spatial Audio, Windows Sonic, and more. Some of these make non-spatial content more immersive, but it will not be the same as true spatial audio.

Spatial Audio by Qualcomm

Qualcomm recently held its Tech Summit in Hawaii wherein the company announced 2 new advanced audio platforms- Qualcomm S5 Gen 2 Sound Platform and Qualcomm S3 Gen 2 Sound Platform with support for Snapdragon Sound technology. These two platforms can work with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and feature spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, improved lossless music streaming, and 48ms latency between phone and earbud for lag-free gaming.

“The next generation Qualcomm S5 and S3 platforms have been designed to deliver the rich features that consumers want most, while also delivering ultra-low power performance….We know from our 2022 State of Sound Consumer research that more than half the consumers say they will be seeking out support for spatial audio on their next set of wireless earbuds. I am excited to say that we are bringing support for spatial audio with dynamic head tracking to Snapdragon Sound technologies, lossless audio for the new Bluetooth LE Audio specification, and even lower latency on our latest platforms,” said James Chapman, VP, and GM, Voice, Music, and Wearables, Qualcomm.

The sound platforms also support 3rd generation Qualcomm Adaptive ANC which improves the listening experience by adopting both in-ear fit and the user’s external environment. The S5 and S3 Gen 2 sound platforms are currently sampling to customers with commercial products expected in 2nd half of 2023.

Shivangi AgarwalShivangi Agarwal
Shivangi is an honours graduate in English from Delhi University with a passion for reading and writing. Always keen to know more about the latest gadgets, when she is not reading about tech, she loves listening to Hindi music and grooving to the latest Hindi beats.

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