The “new” trend of 8D audio explained; what is it and how is it achieved?

There's no new technology but simple panning and equalization techniques that give to the sound a spatial feeling

What is this “new” 8D audio technology that is trending right now online? You may have received a message stating something like that: “Listen to this song with headphones (put on the 2 headphones). It is the new music of the Pentatonix, composed with 8D technology. Listen to it only with headphones. It will be the first time that you will listen to that song with your brain and not with your ears. You will feel the music from outside and not from the headphones. Feel the effects of this new technology.”

The “new” 8D audio; what’s it?

After reading the message and hearing the audio attached, you may have been surprised by the result; the feeling is that of being in the middle of an empty environment with the sounds and music all around you. The effect is similar to the one you would hear while walking around the city, with audio coming from all the different directions but, this time, everything comes from your headphones.

This “new” 8D audio, for most people, is a new futuristic technology that allows you to recreate the feeling of listening to music played by speakers distributed around us. A sort of immersive and actually very suggestive experience. So, is this a real new technology called 8D? The answer is no, 8D audio does not exist for various reasons but, the effect created by the audio is a real thing.

Spatial Sound
Visualization of how we perceive via Xbox website

Is it a real thing?

The reality is that there’s no new technology but a technique that allows hearing sounds as if you were in the middle of it. That feeling of music that runs through your head, thanks to the use of headphones, is the result of equalization techniques, panning and effects combined together. In short, panning is the ability to distribute the sound on different audio channels. If you think about your earphones, they have two physical channels: left and right. You can pan the sound all the way to the left or the right or, you can choose a specific sound to be played by one or the other earphone.

The result is the so-called 8D audio (which has no sense as the physical space where we live is mapped on 3 dimensions) that let you appreciate sounds coming from different directions. You can find on YouTube or Soundcloud this kind of audio recordings from the lowest quality where the record simply moves from left to right without a real point or, you can find high-quality records where the sound is correctly located in a specific region of the 3D space and you can clearly hear it through your earphones.

The reality of the spatial audio

An even more advanced “8D audio” is the Dolby Atmos, a technology developed by Dolby that, instead of using audio channels uses sound objects. With this technology, the sound moves around you in three-dimensional space, so you feel like you’re inside the action.

In conclusion, does the 8D audio exists? Yes, but no. Yes because there is the ability to hear sounds all around you on a 360° space; no, because it’s not a new technology and it’s definitely not called 8D audio but, we can call it more properly spatial sound or 3D audio.

If you don’t own a 7.1 system or a Dolby Atmos supported system, use your earphones/headphone or you won’t be able to hear the effect.

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