You might have noticed a paid app called Dolby Access on your Xbox. Dolby Atmos is an audio format that adds height channels for realistic 3D object-based sound. There are also a few variations, such as Dolby Atmos for home theatres or headphones.
But is Dolby Atmos worth it for games? And does it make much of a difference? I’ll share what I discovered below.
Is Dolby Atmos Worth it for Gaming?
Dolby Atmos is worth it for gaming because for a one-time $15 fee, you get advanced spatial audio that improves game immersion. Dolby Atmos works best with a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system. Dolby Atmos also offers a software version for headphones that will work with any headset, soundbar, or headphones.
How to Enable Dolby Atmos
A number of things need to work together for you to experience true Dolby Atmos. For true Dolby Atmos, you will need a surround sound system that includes Atmos height speakers.
In addition to that, all of your other hardware (PC, console, AV receiver, speakers, etc) need to be compatible with Dolby Atmos too. For the true Dolby Atmos experience, you need a proper surround sound system, but Atmos can be simulated on a software level too.
Assuming all of your hardware is Dolby Atmos ready, it’s time to enable it. To enable Dolby Atmos you need to purchase a licensing fee. It costs a one-time $15 payment for lifetime access and up to 10 devices on various platforms.
The app is occasionally on sale from time to time and you can often find it bundled with headsets or other gaming devices.
So you can buy one license for Dolby Atmos on Xbox and use it on both your Xbox, Windows PC, and other devices. It will have various profiles available, and you can switch between them to find one that you like the most.
Enable Dolby Atmos on PC
Download Dolby Access from the Microsoft Store. Once installed, a free 7-day trial will start, so you can test how the audio format works. To connect your PC to an AV receiver run an HDMI cable from your graphics card to the receiver. From there, connect another HDMI cable from the HDMI out port on your receiver back to your display.
Next open the Control Panel, Hardware and Sound, Sound, select your playback device, and click Properties. Head over to the Spatial Sound tab and select Dolby Atmos from the drop-down menu. The option won’t be available unless you install the drivers using the Dolby Atmos app.
And now you simply need to launch a game that supports Dolby Atmos or use an audio test. Most streaming apps like Netflix support Dolby Atmos, but only on certain movies and TV shows. Look for the Dolby Atmos logo.
However, there are lots of Dolby Atmos audio tests you can download to see if the audio is working correctly.
Enable Dolby Atmos on Xbox Series X|S
To enable Dolby Atmos on Xbox Series X or S open the Microsoft Store, search for Dolby Access, and download it. Both the Xbox Series X and Series S support Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision.
Run an HDMI cable from your Xbox to your AV receiver and then another one from the receiver to your TV or other display. To see if Dolby Atmos is working correctly open System, Settings, Display and Sound, and choose Dolby Atmos for the appropriate device.
Next, launch a Dolby Atmos-supported game and check the audio settings for Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos for Headphones
As I mentioned earlier, for the true Dolby Atmos experience you want a surround sound system with height speakers.
However, there’s also a software-simulated version that is compatible with headphones and soundbars. It’s not exactly true Dolby Atmos but it’s quite similar and can make a noticeable difference. It’s also called virtual Atmos.
How Dolby Atmos for Headphones Works
Dolby Atmos for headphones is an audio format that uses customized Binaural audio profiles and HRTF (Head-Related Transfer Function) to simulate 3D sound. These software-based spatial audio formats simulate how sound waves move depending on the shape of your head and ears.
Since everyone has different head and ear shapes, general profiles are created. For some people HRTF audio sound incredibly accurate, and for others, it sounds washed out and hard to pinpoint.
If you think HRTF audio sounds good, it means your head and ear shape match the general profiles that are being simulated. Likewise, if the audio doesn’t sound accurate, it means the profiles don’t match you.
Dolby Atmos is Compatible with Every Headset
What’s interesting about Dolby Atmos for headphones is you don’t need a specific headset. Any headset will work with Dolby Atmos, although the effect will be more noticeable on good-quality headsets, especially headsets with deep bass.
The steps to enable Dolby Atmos for headphones are the same, download the Dolby Access app and pay the licensing fee. Change your audio settings to Dolby Atmos and launch a game.
On Xbox, you may need to select Dolby Atmos for Headphones in the audio settings and make sure your headset is connected to your controller. Wireless headsets will work too.
Is Dolby Atmos for Headphones Worth It?
Since Dolby Atmos is based on HRTF profiles, the effect will vary from person to person. Whether Dolby Atmos is worth it or not is up to you to decide, and you can easily test it using the 7-day Dolby Access trial.
I personally feel like Dolby Atmos sounds great, it makes it easy to pinpoint in-game audio sources. On PC you can easily switch between Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos to test which one you prefer.
Linus Tech Tips did a video that demonstrated people were able to more accurately locate enemies in games when using Dolby Atmos.
Games that Support Dolby Atmos
Now that you know how to enable Dolby Atmos, it’s time to take it for a test run in a game. There aren’t that many games that support Dolby Atmos at the moment but more will be coming soon.
Here are the most popular titles:
- Halo Infinite
- Forza Horizon 5
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Resident Evil Village
- Star Wars Fallen Order
- Microsoft Flight Simulator
- No Mans Sky
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019
- Gears 5
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Farcry 6
- Call of Duty Warzone
- Sea of Thieves
- Tom Clancys The Division 2
- Battlefield 1
The Bottom Line
Dolby Atmos is a great audio format, and for the best experience, you want a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system. I personally recommend taking the Dolby Access app for a test run to see if the audio sounds better to you.
For some people, it’s a big improvement, and for others, it’s barely noticeable, everyone is different. You have to try it for yourself. If you do like it, the one-time payment is a great deal for improving the audio.