What is Immersive Audio?

Traditional Audio
Immersive Audio

Immersive audio is the three-dimensional approach to audio storytelling that is taking sound to new heights. While traditional “surround sound” exists in a horizontal plane around the listener, immersive sound refers to an expanded sonic field that quite literally immerses the listener in a multi-dimensional soundscape. The Recording Academy as of 2019 has renamed their Grammy for Best Surround Sound Album to “Best Immersive Audio Album” in order to include the many immersive formats beyond surround sound – such as Auro, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and more.

What Goes Into Immersive Audio?

Making an album takes a lot of work. Making a surround sound or an immersive audio album for multiple channels of listening takes even more work – and a lot of investment.

The technology required for recording immersive audio typically runs into the thousands of dollars. Ambisonic microphones, like those from Sennheiser, Rode, or DPA, are needed for capturing spatial audio with high sensitivity and modular flexibility. These help reproduce a truly authentic 3D sound.

In addition to the hardware, special audio plugins are needed for mixing – and when the album is done and distributed, consumers themselves need the right speaker system, soundbar, or headphones to properly listen to all the localized components of the immersive sound field.

Start Listening to Immersive Audio

Listening to immersive audio music is dependent on your playback system and what formats are compatible with it. For a “true immersive” experience, your technology and configuration ideally aligns with those intended by the producers of the track or album. The most typical formats include DVD-Audio (DVD-A), Super Audio CD (SACD), Dolby Digital and DTS, and lossless audio formats like DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Higher immersive audio formats include Auro, Dolby Atmos, and more.

In addition to physical albums and DVDs, encoded digital formats such as FLAC and WAV are also usable and gradually being supported across streaming services and online marketplaces. Because these files tend to be large, IAA now offers select exclusive FLAC files for immersive audio music.

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