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Sony introduced the hardware-accelerated Tempest 3D audio engine in its PS5 console as a next-gen feature, but what is 3D audio and how does it work on PS5? Is it different from the positional audio that we have had for quite some time? In this article we are going to answer these questions and tell you how it works.
If you are an audiophile you should know that this is not a technical article. Rather, we are going to do a fairly broad overview of what 3D audio is in relation to other more traditional sound setups and how Sony’s implementation works on its next-gen console. The Japanese manufacturer wants to sell us this feature as something exclusive of a new generation, and what we are going to do is determine if this is really the case or if it is rather a mere marketing strategy to try to call the most audiophile users to buy their console instead of the competition.
What is the so-called 3D audio?
Traditional sound reproduction is divided into channels. In the 1960s, for example, when the Beatles began releasing their music records they did so with single channel audio, known as mono. This means that if you listened to these music records with headphones, you heard the exact same thing in the left earphone as in the right one.
Today music is recorded and released in stereo, which means two channel audio, so if you listen to music records with headphones you will be hearing two different audio outputs (really, only slightly different), one for the left channel. and another for the law. This allows musicians and artists to greatly increase the complexity of their creations by adjusting what a listener hears for each ear.
Surround sound is simply more channel audio, which often comes in 5.1 or 7.1 settings, where five or seven refers to the number of speakers in the setup and one refers to a single subwoofer for bass sounds. While not often used in music, when using a television, movie, or games, the audio is split across many different channels. This allows you to have directional sound and feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.
3D audio is a reinterpretation of the idea of channels in audio. Instead of having a series of dedicated speakers outputting the sound corresponding to the action on the left side of the screen versus the right side, 3D audio uses object-based spatial sound to digitally generate sound from many, many individual sources. .
Indeed, instead of for example playing a track with rain sounds when it rains in the scene and adjusting the volume of the rain as it approaches or moves away from the sound source, the 3D audio will simulate the sound of rain drops. rain falling in the context of where the user is within the world of the screen, individually.
How 3D Audio Works on the PS5
First of all, 3D audio is not a substitute for traditional audio and you won’t have to choose between one or the other. These technologies work in conjunction with each other, so if you listen to the audio in stereo with a sound bar under the TV, the 3D audio will be output from both channels of your sound bar.
Sony’s 3D Tempest engine audio on the PS5 is like a proprietary hardware-accelerated version of Dolby’s Dolby Atmos 3D audio. It is a software that is based on the hardware of the PS5, and over time you will be able to enable it with the console using any audio system you have, be it surround sound, stereo or simply speakers, since this does not depend on your physical system of sound but of the channels and audio sources at the software level. However, you should note that this is not yet possible, and although Sony has promised to enable this option in future console updates it still cannot be done.
Currently support for 3D audio on PS5 is only possible with headphones, although it is true that you will not need the official Pulse 3D headphones of the brand. Once enabled, there are a few different audio profiles to choose from that personalize the experience, but the level of audio fidelity that headphones provide generally leaves a lot to be desired, even with these settings.
When 3D audio support reaches other devices and becomes more configurable, this technology is likely to have much more traction. Considering next-gen 3D audio positioning it doesn’t make much sense to give up the fidelity of a high-end speaker system to experience new technology in whatever pair of headphones you have lying around.
So is it real or just marketing?
Unlike the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers of the PS5 DualSense controller, 3D audio can redefine the way each player interacts with games to a constant new fundamental: hearing.
Although the technology currently has a very limited application (as it is only available in headphones), as developers make use of 3D audio in games and Sony implements more support for this technology in other sound systems, the immersion of sound in the PS5 console can far exceed what the competition offers.
It really has a lot of potential to significantly improve the gaming experience in the future, and the PS5 is ready for that thanks to its hardware acceleration, so that this huge number of additional audio sources does not imply a performance impact. .