Immersion Networks mix³ web interface
Immersion Networks mix³ web interface

Immersion Networks competes with Dolby Atmos for Spatial Audio supremacy

mix³ is a cloud-powered 3D sound tool aiming to mix and produce spatial audio in the easiest way possible.

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Over the past few years, Spatial Audio has become more and more important in almost every product with sound in it. From videogames to films and even songs have introduced spatial audio with specific sounds beating reproduced from distinct directions. Dolby Atmos in this field has always been the undisputed master but its dominance, at least part of it, seems to be in danger thanks to the arrival of a new player.

Immersion Networks recently launched its platform, mix³ (mixed cubed) a cloud-powered 3D sound tool aiming to mix and produce spatial audio in the easiest way possible.

Differences between the two systems

There are some significant differences between the two in terms of how audio is delivered to consumers: Dolby is made for an at-home speaker setup, whereas Immersion is made specifically for headphones. The most notable difference is that Dolby surrounds the listener with a 3m circle, preventing sound from becoming truly intimate, whereas Immersion Networks’ technology has no such limitations.

While Dolby Atmos relies on consumers purchasing compatible hardware to support their audio, Immersion Networks designed their platform to work with the billions of headphones already on the market, as headphones are the most popular way for people to listen to music.

In contrast to Dolby’s approach, Immersion has developed a new codec for transmitting spatial audio in a much more efficient manner, as well as a transcoding solution that can create immersive content from mono or stereo files, allowing massive libraries of immersive content to be created in days rather than years.

New automation tools

Automation in a 3D environment is a new development with which users will be able to fully automate through space for the first time.

The new feature set includes tools for creators to adjust the track’s position and gain, allowing them to create mixes with sounds that move fluidly around a listener. This creates a 3D audio experience that is ideal for musical creation and audio storytelling, allowing you to take your mixes to the next level and introduce something completely new and innovative to eager audiences.

We have reached out to the guys behind Immersion Networks, Founders Paul Hubert and JJ Johnston and COO Jim Rondinelli, who let us play with this new tool. They also answered to some of our questions about this new mixing system.

Let’s start talking about the company. It was founded in 2014 when Dolby Atmos was already leading the spatial audio market. Why try to compete against such a big giant?

Like how Google disrupted Yahoo, we know there’s a better way to do it. Dolby’s approach is based on outdated science and technology, and there isn’t much differentiating it from multi-channel speaker approaches. Our team has a better understanding of the science, thanks to researchers like JJ Johnston, the leading scientist in perceptual audio.

And, is it really a direct competitor or do you offer different solutions?

There are lanes here where offerings are the same, or even act as a companion. Dolby’s Atmos uses a low-bitrate codec, whereas we have more sophisticated tools to create immersive audio. In the future, if consumers prove demand for Dolby Atmos, we might consider adopting an immersive content creation platform for that market.

Your website mentions Cloud Powered 3D Sound Tools which suggest audio processing on the cloud. How does your system work?

We allow a user to upload audio content to the cloud and position it using an intuitive user interface to manipulate sounds and their perceived point of origin.

You claim no need for a hardware upgrade to use your solution. Does it mean it will work virtually with any device? Will we see devices that will be built with your spatial audio solution in mind in the future?

The idea here is that there are ways to deliver better sound onto devices using hardware you already own. This is what we had to solve first, to become an interesting product, from our point of view: getting a better experience from things you already own, that’s what the world should be thinking about. Our tech is designed to work with anything, anywhere.

You have even created a brand new codec to manage this kind of audio. Could you tell me more about it? What size are we talking about for a 3-minute clip for instance? What are the specifics of the codec?

The new family of codecs that we’ve developed was designed from a clean sheet of paper, by a key contributor to the AAC and MP3 codecs, to offer transparent audio to the source, while providing file sizes that are in a container half as small as those used for top-quality settings at music services today.

What’s your approach to spatial audio? Do you have different audio tracks and metadata associated with that, kind of what Dolby does, or do you have a totally different approach?

We have a different approach. The basic mix3 experience is delivered as a stereo file, and all info is contained within that stereo file.

Let’s say I’m a creator and how to produce spatial audio with your technology. Do I need to build it with some specific software? What’s the process?

All that’s needed for a creator to produce spatial audio, is to upload audio tracks to the cloud processor and to move the tracks around. You can create fully immersive, next-gen audio experiences using tools available at mix3, and can be as simple as uploading and positioning a file, or can go deep and do full audiomation. This is up to the artist as to what’s musically appropriate and is accessible by any web-connected device with a decent internet connection.

The early access started last May; do you have an ETA for the service to go live?

The service is live, creators can sign up on for a 30-day free trial.

Mix³ (mixed cubed) is definitely one of the easiest tools we have used when it comes to audio mixing. The only thing you need to do is to upload the audio files on their website and their cloud will take care of the rest. The user interface is super simple; once an audio track, a circle will appear on the dashboard pointing to where the sound will be played in space. You can move it on the 3D space and regulate its volume according to the other sounds. When you’re happy with your final result (you can constantly reproduce your work without buffering and/or waiting for the audio to render) you can export the final audio track as a normal stereo audio file.

Immersion Networks has delivered a tool that will definitely simplify the creation of spatial sound for small and medium developers/audio engineers or simple audio enthusiasts who need to create or produce spatial audio without having to worry about complex and expensive gears or software.