Thanks to the launch of the new PlayStation 5, 3D audio has hit the headlines, yet this technology has been around for a lot longer than you might think.

The inclusion of 3D audio capability in Sony’s latest games console was one of the major features listed when the tech giant first released the list of brand-new features included with the next-generation console.

What is 3D audio?

Cinema-goers will already be familiar with a type of 3D sound, as surround sound has been used in cinemas for a number of years now, although there is a subtle difference between surround sound and 3D audio.

However, both work by making sound come from different areas, so if there is a car coming from left to right you will hear it first and louder in your left ear and as it passes the sound will transfer to your right ear as it drives off into the distance.

How do 3D audio and surround sound differ?

The problem with surround sound in a cinema or home environment was the number of speakers required to get this realistic effect, but with 3D audio, the effect can be achieved with a simple pair of standard headphones.

Surround sound speakers needed to be set in specific places to achieve the desired effect, so you would need front, side and rear speakers with the sound being transferred between them as the position of the car changed, with 3D audio you get a much more realistic and natural sound, so you would hear the car passing as if it were right there in front of you.

3D audio and gaming

3D audio has already been a feature of virtual reality headsets, but now the technology has been included in the latest gaming consoles, and although Sony has been marketing their Pulse 3D wireless headset, they also confirmed that 3D audio can be experienced through standard headphones too.

However, if you find wearing headphones for hours on end uncomfortable, Sony is also working on a solution to enable standard speakers to transmit 3D audio in the near future.