What Is Windows Sonic for Headphones?

How Microsoft's spatial sound simulator works

Windows Sonic for Headphones is Microsoft's take on spatial sound, attempting to create a surround sound experience for everyone, even with ordinary stereo headphones. 

What Is Windows Sonic?

Windows Sonic was added to Windows 10 in 2017 as part of an update, and was quickly rolled out in an update for Xbox One owners, too. While there's always the option to also use Dolby Atmos headphones for a surround sound experience (with pros and cons to both), there are many reasons to stick with sonic audio through Windows Sonic for Headphones. 

What Is Spatial Sound?

Spatial sound forms the basis of Windows Sonic for Headphones and is required as a way in which to 'create audio objects that emit audio from positions in 3D space'. Essentially, it's as if Windows has created multiple speakers scattered around your room then emulated the results via your headphones. It's a simple way of experiencing surround sound but with less physical equipment. 

A diagram of how spatial sound works
xbox.com 

It mixes sounds before they're sent to your headphones. So, for instance, a gunshot in a game coming from the right corner is 'repositioned' so you actually hear it coming from that direction through your headphones.

How Does Windows Sonic for Headphones Work?

Windows Sonic for Headphones works through virtual means. The hard work is done by software rather than the physical equipment you use. Rather than using sonic headphones or dedicated surround sound headphones, Windows Sonic is activated simply by toggling a button on your speaker settings on your computer.

It doesn't work with all setups, such as with built-in laptop speakers, but it's supported all headphones.

Windows Sonic for Headphones only works with applications, games, or movies that are capable of rendering to 7.1 channel formats. Some games and applications may not benefit from activating it. 

What Are Its Advantages?

Using Windows Sonic for Headphones has a number of advantages. Here's a brief look at some of them. 

  • Space constraints: You don't have to worry about setting up extensive surround sound systems to gain a similar audio experience.
  • It's cheaper: Windows Sonic for Headphones is free to use and doesn't require expensive equipment.
  • Simple to setup: Generally, you can set it up by toggling one switch on your computer or Xbox One.

When Is It Most Useful?

It's always good to enjoy better quality sound for less, but there are a couple of key areas where Windows Sonic for Headphones is extra useful. 

  • Gaming: When gaming, the positional aspect of Windows Sonic means that you can hear the direction that footsteps or gunshots come from. In multiplayer games in particular, it's hugely helpful to be able to rely on your ears as well as your reaction skills. 
  • Movies: Movies are always better with good picture quality and great sound. You have a better chance of hearing subtle nuances when watching a film with Windows Sonic for Headphones activated.

Is It Worth Using Windows Sonic for Headphones?

Windows Sonic is entirely free to use, so there's no reason not to activate it on your computer or Xbox One. It provides better sound quality via its use of spatial sound technology, and is a great inexpensive way of enjoying a form of surround sound without having to buy extra equipment.