3D Audio

I have been trying out 3D audio this last couple of weeks and wondered if anyone has any views on it and future directions? Dolby has Atmos, Apple has positional audio on the new AirPod pros and Sony has their own version for the PS5 and their new wireless headphone ranges. There is also Waves NX for PC and Mac which I am using at the moment and there are other options as well I am sure.

All of these except for Waves NX seem to require purpose encoded media at the moment - Dolby Atmos sounds OK but I really like the Waves 3D effect on my existing stereo music when used with the Bluetooth headphone tracker. It is not at all popular but I would like to hear from anyone who has tried it. I found that the Windows 10 Waves NX app in “Movie Theater” mode and video or preferably Bluetooth head tracking give excellent results once you have adapted to it as it is very different to conventional “in your head” audio. You can also get a VST plugin but this is not quite the same. Try the free download trial. The illusion of space and speaker like imaging may not be immediate - try moving your head while the tracking is running and give it “burn in” time on different genres. Video tracking lags a bit and ties you down so I use Bluetooth clip on tracking. I use it all the time now as I perceive the sound quality to be better then conventional headphone stereo and better than speakers as there is no adverse room resonance. If you use video tracking you will need to put your laptop on your actual lap so the webcam can see you or sit in front of your PC.

Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. I wonder if this technology will become more popular?


I miss the DTS: X effect back when I had the LGV40. It was fun. From very limited experience, nothing can create a better sense of space and dynamics than a good OTL tube amp when it comes to 3D audio.


Check this blog post out @OldAudioGuy:

This is a lot more about simulating stereo speakers using headphones than Harman Curves. Links to various solutions like Waves NX throughout the three parts.
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Also this:

And this:


Thanks for sending those links they were very illuminating. So a lot of work has been done already but for some reason it hasn’t made it out into the real world to any great extent. I’m very happy with the Waves NX stereo to 3-D solution for my laptop but you have to be willing to put up with glitchy application behaviour, multiple reinstallation, trouble downloading the Bluetooth tracker firmware et cetera.
I think that once the likes of Apple start to put it in the product it will become more prominent. I’m still not sure why the audiophile community hasn’t taken it up to a greater extent as there is no doubt that the listening experience is superior to that of flat in your head audio.
I attach a picture of my set up which is just a normal i3 windows ten laptop running Amazon HD and the waves nx app in cinema mode and equaliser APO. Out of sight is a USB to SPDIF converter feeding my DAC at 96/24 and an objective2 Head phone amp. The headphones are the original hi-fi man HE 400 with an upgrade to the he400i headband. You can see the Bluetooth tracker clipped to the top of the headband on the headphones


Just a quick update if anyone is interested. Apple is now promoting integrated head tracked 3D positional audio in their AirPods Max headphones as a premium feature. This still only works with Dolby Atmos pre encoded content at present - mostly movies at the moment rather than music.

I suspect they will support universal in device 3D encoding of legacy stereo content in due course. I wouldn’t go back to non 3D spatially encoded head tracked stereo music now I have settled in with Waves Nx.

This will help open up 3D audio to the mass consumer market although the DIY audiophile community haven’t really paid it much attention despite it being cheap and fairly accessible if you use a PC or Mac in your audio DSP pipeline and don’t mind a bit of tinkering. A head tracker cost me £60 but I think that was money well spent though the batteries only last a few days.

I still haven’t heard from anyone else who has tried it with audiophile music but the magazine reviews of the Apple AirPods Max 3D audio are very positive so far and it will be interesting to see if it becomes as popular as noise cancellation and transparency mode have.