You have probably heard these two words floating being mentioned from time to time, whether it be in the shop on a headphones box, advertising online, or on the television.
It sounds familiar at first because it is. Dolby Surround Sound has been around for decades. Dolby Laboratories first invented a four-channel stereo system back in the 1970s.
By the 1990s, they had gone from a four-channel stereo system up to 5.1 surround sound. This means that there are five full-bandwidth channels consisting of a left and right front speaker, a middle speaker, a back left and right speaker, as well as an additional low-frequency (bass) channel.
Does Dolby Atmos Work with Bluetooth Headphones?
The short answer is yes. However, the real question isn’t if it works, but how it works and if it is worth the extra cost?
What is Dolby Atmos?
After going as far as 9.1.2 surround sound systems, Dolby wanted to push their immersive sound design even further. They did this by creating a fully realized three-dimensional space.
So, how does Dolby Atmos work?
By not only adding speakers around the listener’s head but also adding height, creating the three-dimensional listening experience.
In cinemas, this is achieved by using ceiling-mounted speakers as well as grounded, up-firing speakers. This creates the illusion that sound is not only moving side to side but also upwards and downwards.
How does Dolby Atmos work on a headset?
After the first installations in theaters in 2012, Dolby worked with a large variety of home theatre system manufacturers. As well as headphone manufacturers to bring their technology to your home.
There were a lot of complications at first…
The technology at home does not have the same processing power as the systems at the cinema. So, a spatially-coded sub stream is used. In layman’s terms, it means all the spatial data of the 128 possible tracks are compressed and reworked into a binaural 360-degree field within the headphones.
Unlike home theater Dolby Atmos systems that support 24.1.10 surround sound (35 speakers), headphones have an infinite number of channels. All done via software in the mixing booth. For example, there are audio workstations with Dolby Atmos built-in, such as Nuendo. There is also the Dolby Atmos Production Suite, which can be used within Pro Tools.
That’s nice to know, but we’re talking about headphones. So let’s get back to our original question, “Does Dolby Atmos Work with Bluetooth Headphones?” Yes, they do. But that’s not the whole story.
Is Dolby Atmos worth the extra cost?
First of all, headphones with Dolby Atmos do not mean you instantly get Dolby Atmos when you plug them in. You need a Dolby Atmos app for headphones that is an added cost.
Yes, you heard it here first. To use Dolby Atmos, you will need to pay for the application. At least it comes with a 30-day trial. Typically, the Dolby Atmos app price is $14.99.
Thankfully, the application is available for PC, iOS devices, Android devices, and macOS. Windows Sonic is another option if you are using a Windows device. It isn’t as good as Dolby’s application, but it’s free.
Before Buying Dolby Atmos Headphones
You need to ask yourself what you will be using them for. If you enjoy binging your favorite shows on Netflix, which has a lot of Dolby Atmos supported shows, it might be worth it, especially if you spend most of your time watching them with headphones.
Our biggest concern…
The validity and experience of the Dolby Atmos on the headphones. Usually, in a cinema or home theatre, you’d have a large screen paired with large speakers for the full experience.
Usually, if your headphones are plugged in, you are most likely on your phone or laptop. These screens are usually not the best for watching movies or shows, which takes away from the excellent sound you get from the headphones. We see this as one of the biggest disadvantages of Dolby Atmos headphones.
As larger, high resolution and HDR-enabled screens become cheaper; we might see some value in these headsets. But, unless you own a large, high-resolution computer screen and watch all your movies alone, we don’t see a reason to put this at the top of your list when buying headphones.
Can I just use the app with my normal headphones?
Yes, the app will encode the data and give you the Dolby Atmos experience. But without a Dolby Atmos headset, you won’t get the full experience.
This is because Dolby Atmos needs Binaural 360-degree Technology to play the audio correctly. Otherwise, what you will be hearing is still only sound in a stereo environment.
Dolby Atmos with Wireless Headphones
Some worthy contenders offer excellent features, Dolby Atmos being only one of them. Most of these aren’t cheap but are excellent investments in technology that will become widespread soon.
The Sony MDR-HW700DS Wireless Headphone comes equipped with Dolby Atmos. The headphones come with a decoder that is used to compress and send the Dolby Atmos formats to the headphones and even support 4K. However, these headphones are expensive and can cost more than $400.
A cheaper alternative…
One that sounds excellent with Dolby Atmos is Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones. These headphones cannot use real Dolby Atmos. But paired with the app on a Windows PC and their active noise canceling on, they sound superb.
If you are a gamer, Razer Opus ANC Wireless Headphones THX are a great choice. They are THX certified and offer the best of the best gaming audio, especially when paired with Dolby Atmos.
Need Some Amazing Bluetooth Headphones?
We have all your needs covered. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Commuting, the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Conference Calls, the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200, the Best AptX Bluetooth Headphones, and the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $100 you can buy in 2021.
Does Dolby Atmos Work with Bluetooth Headphones? – Final Thoughts
To get the real deal Bluetooth headphones means big money. But that does not mean you can’t experience Dolby Atmos on normal headphones. If you own a decent pair of headphones, you can reap some benefits. Unfortunately, at the moment, purchasing a pair of actual Dolby Atmos headphones is not worth it.
Invest in a pair of quality high-resolution headphones instead that come with some form of 360-spatial audio, and Dolby Atmos will add some immersion to your games and movies.
Until next time, happy listening.