After analyzing the enormous evolution that smartphones have undergone, we can see that this evolution has focused mainly on photography, screen size, battery capacity and processor power. It is not the only thing, it is evident, but it is the most notorious; while another important aspect remained in the background: sound.
The sound hardware has been improving while options were subtracted from the user. The headphone jack is an example, also other related items such as the FM radio. Fortunately, the quality of the audio has gained presence, as there are several manufacturers that put special care in this section, especially in the highest range. And a proper name usually stands out: Dolby Atmos.
Common in movie theaters, and in some home speakers, said Dolby Atmos increases the immersion of multimedia content by taking advantage of the speakers that surround the viewer to emit the sounds right in the space where they would be physically. This capacity, which at first does not seem typical of mobile phones, is also available in a select number of them.
Spatial sound on the phone
If you have recently gone to the cinema, and had the opportunity to see a movie compatible with Dolby Atmos, you surely enjoyed the presentation of that sound platform: the audio is capable of surrounding you in the three dimensions of space. For this they are used speakers on the sides of the room, in the front, back and also on the ceiling; that emit high quality digital sound according to what the screen is reproducing at all times.
Despite the name, Dolby Atmos on the phone does not literally translate the audio quality and its spatial reproduction since, not surprisingly, a smartphone lacks the amount of speakers that a movie theater has; Nor would it be logical that to enjoy Dolby Atmos it was essential to connect a high-performance multi-channel sound system. For this reason, the Dolby system adapts to the requirements of the telephone to offer spatial audio reproduction taking advantage of the device’s hardware, both the external speakers and the headphones connected by cable; in addition to sound processing hardware capable of interpreting the tracks.
In essence, filmmakers choose precisely where each object is placed in the audio playback; and Dolby Atmos uses that representation to create soundtracks by aligning each object according to the available speaker arrangement. Since a smartphone usually has an external speaker (or two depending on the brand), and two headphones if connected by cable, the Dolby Atmos compatible phone can simulate the listening environment of the film on the phone by taking advantage of the two stereo channels . This is the main difference in compatible mobiles: the sound experience watching compatible movies and series is very close to that offered in the cinema and without the need to use headphones or 4.1 or higher speakers. All thanks to binaural listening.
As detailed by Dolby on its website, an Atmos-compatible audio mix uses the position in space of up to 128 objects while translating that position into metadata; that the phone hardware reads and applies on the two stereo tracks to end up being emitted as sound. Our brain identifies the position of objects without the need for multiple speakers thanks to frequency response analysis and sound reverberation. A neurological and automatic process that Dolby Atmos takes advantage of in the phone to recreate spatial sound.
Dolby Atmos doesn’t just improve movie playback
The primary purpose of this sound system is to reproduce compatible multimedia content. That is, the series, movies and songs that have the audio file with metadata that marks the position of objects in space. But it is not the only advantage for the user since the specific Dolby hardware also improves the rest of the sound, whether it is compatible with Atmos or not.
Sound improvements may vary from one mobile to another, as usually happens in Android, but they usually add different equalization modes, audio virtualizers, immersive sound or volume boosted. These improvements have the advantage that they apply to all the audio that the phone emits, whether a YouTube video is viewed or a WhatsApp voice note is heard.
The Dolby hardware included in Atmos-compatible mobiles allows you to enhance any sound with effects, equalizers and enhancers
In general, Dolby Atmos can be activated with external speakers and also in wired headphones, both through the 3.5 mm jack and using a USB C adapter. Bluetooth is not usually supported, but there are mobiles capable of use the benefits of Atmos using wireless accessories.
How to know if an Android mobile has Dolby Atmos
Since this hearing improvement is related to higher-end mobiles, depending on the amount of the phone there will be more or less chances that it has Dolby Atmos. To begin with, the company offers a list of compatible mobiles, but it is not very up-to-date.
Smartphones like the latest Samsung Galaxy S20 include Dolby Atmos, as well other older Galaxy S and Note. Or the OnePlus 7 Pro, the Sony Xperia 1 or the OPPO Reno. Since there is no complete list, and the manufacturer you can activate or not Dolby Atmos depending on the market where you sell your phones, it is best to manually check if compatibility is available. For it:
- Open the phone settings and go to the sound section.
- Look for the ‘Additional settings’, ‘Audio settings’, ‘Effects and sound quality’ or some similar section. Each manufacturer includes sound enhancements in their own way.
- Find the setting to enable Dolby Atmos. It usually works with the phone’s speakers as well as the wired headphones. It is likely that if you have connected the audio via Bluetooth it will not work for you.
- Additionally, you will have other audio enhancements, such as equalizers, bass boost or HiFi. Adjust them according to your tastes: it is best to try each option with the content that you usually play.