You Won’t Need New Headphones To Enjoy The PS5’s 3D Audio

You Won’t Need New Headphones To Enjoy The PS5’s 3D Audio
Image: Sony

Sony’s talked up their new PS5 3D audio engine before, but a small detail that’s gotten less attention is how that advanced tech will be broadly available to everyone — provided you’re using headphones.

The natural inclination is that you’ll want a new set of headphones to go with the PS5. And, to be sure, the new Pulse Wireless headset looks sweet. Sony released a new shot of the over-ear cans early Wednesday morning, showcasing some large, presumably comfy ear pads and a neat headband design with a white exterior. It reminds me a little of the design ethos from the PSVR, which is still one of the best engineered VR devices comfort-wise.

But, as Sony stresses, you won’t need the new headset for 3D audio:

On the PS5, you’ll be able to experience 3D Audio with the headphones that many of you already own, either through USB connection to the console, or by plugging your headphones into the DualSense wireless controller’s 3.5mm headset jack. 

Headphone audio is the current gold standard for 3D Audio on PS5, as Mark Cerny mentioned in his “Road to PS5” talk in March. We’re also in the process of working on virtual surround sound through speakers that are built into TVs. Although TV speaker virtual surround sound won’t be available on launch day for PS5, it’s still a feature we are extremely excited about, and our engineers are hard at work on bringing it to PS5 in the future.

Virtual surround sound through TV speakers isn’t something I’d be looking forward to — most TV speakers are genuinely small with poor bass and garbage presence. I’m hoping Sony’s talking about something that’s compatible with soundbars and standard 2.1 channel setups, because that’s more applicable to what a lot of people have.

The Sony blog post also mentioned how these games will use the PS5’s 3D Audio tech in different ways:

ps5 3d audio
Image: Resident Evil Village
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered
  • Astro’s Playroom
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Returnal
  • Destruction AllStars
  • Demon’s Souls
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Resident Evil Village

They’re not the only games that’ll be using 3D audio, Sony stresses. It’s still not clear at this stage precisely how these (or any other games) will leverage the PS5’s Tempest engine in meaningfully different ways from, say, the Xbox Series X or S.

Crucially, it’ll be interesting to see how the Tempest engine fares in games where audio locality is crucially important — competitive games like FortniteRainbow Six: Siege or Overwatch, where audio cues and the location of audio cues can be crucial. And there’s a question over whether the Tempest engine has any upscaling abilities to improve the precision or locality of sound in older games, like the PS4 titles people might be enjoying on PS5 through their PlayStation Plus subscription.

Either way, we’ll all know more in a few weeks. November isn’t far away now.


  • This is a little tangential, but 3D audio and the new features in the Dual Sense are for whatever reason always left out of the ‘value’ arguments I see surrounding both upcoming consoles which I find pretty strange. I don’t have a horse in the race, I’m happy with my PC and Switch and won’t pick up any new consoles bar maybe a second hand PS3 for a few select exclusives, but surely I can’t be the only one that would factor in experience as equally valuable (if not more) than performance when it comes to games.

    Sure, the Series X seems to have slightly more performance under the hood, but given a) Multi-platform titles are, even if they’re only being developed for consoles, going to be designed with at least three different levels of hardware (Series X, PS5 and Series S) in mind, b) graphical performance is only one part of how we interact with games and c) we haven’t been able to mess with them in person yet to actually compare how much more performance the Series X will eke out in the real world – it seems odd to leave out the experiential elements that Sony seem to be focusing on.

    Personally if offered $100 extra to spend on a marginally better GPU or a significantly better Mouse and Keyboard I know I’d pick the latter every time. I’m sure that’s not the case for everyone, but I don’t seem to see anyone with that perspective online.

    • I think because the features are intangible for now. We don’t know the impact we’ll have, and quantifying them at this point without tested third-party experience is basically nothing more than PR spin at this point.

      3D audio has a ton of potential, but we need to see it in action to know whether it’s transformative, additive or just a basic gimmick. And also to see how developers approach the new tools too.

      • Oh, I definitely agree it’s intangible right now, but I feel like people are dismissing them as irrelevant off the bat. At the least the adaptive triggers sound amazing, assuming they work well if I were into racing games and buying a PS5 (neither of which is true, but hey) that’d be a massive plus for me. ‘Ray traced adio is a little harder to imagine, but if they can really deliver on better audio that’s a pretty amazing feat.

        If they all turn out to be gimmicks – well, I guess that’s what it seems like people are expecting, but it’s still a nice addition for the first party titles that make good use of them.

        I might be unusual in this respect, but I also kind of like the odd gimmick. Not as a replacement for the norm, nor as the sole focus of some hardware (like the Wii, though it was still an amazing party machine), but gimmicks are kind of fun and they make a lot of sense with games / entertainment devices. I’m sure people thought rumble was a gimmick at first, but now it’s just expected and the early gimmicky uses of it (Psycho Mantis in MGS for example) are still thought of pretty fondly.

        I don’t know, I guess it just seems strange to me.

    • For me, the Dualsense controller and Tempest audio are what I’m most excited about for next gen. The controller is always what I look forward to most, it’s been like that every generation. First thing I do when opening my new console is grab out the controller and check it out…then I unpack everything else and set it up. Shinier graphics are nice and all, but I want new experiences and new ways to play.

      • I’ve owned very few consoles (PS1, Switch and a few handhelds being mostly into PC), but I think if I bought them more often I’d be much like you.

        For me new graphics are the least interesting aspect of the new consoles, and the dual sense in particular looks amazing after the already excellent Dual Shock 4.

    • For me it shows the difference between how the companies market themselves, especially in the last few years.
      Sony has become quite reserved in how it markets itself in many areas which I’m guessing has a lot to do with being on the top (making backlash and disappointment more widespread) and MS’s targeted marketing and on its failures and areas of shortcoming.
      On the other hand, MS doesn’t rely on the wait and see method, they hit the ground running with aggressive marketing carefully crafted narrative control.

      To use the new PS5 controller as an example, Sony has flaunted the new technology but isn’t really overplaying it because at the end of the day it’s up to the developers on how they use it (Like the PS4 touchpad)
      If the Series X was using a new, experimental controller they would be hyping the endless possibilities of those features even if some of those possibilities might not be entirely feasible or available short term.

      I’m going to add that I’m not criticising MS’s over how they like to control the message and while it might be easy to claim that while they aren’t releasing a new controller you just have to look at the existing examples of the Kinect, Cloud Gaming and Backward compatibility where they hyped expectations and carefully controlled the wind down over time as things didn’t eventuate quite as well as they said.

      • I think that’s a good take. As I see it PS5 is pitched as the traditional generational leap style of console – it’s the next step in something you already know with some new features to play with, while Series X/S seems to be pitched as a box that gives you one way to access the ‘new’ way to play games (i.e. gamepass) but without any real standout features aside from the (excellent) backwards compatability.

        I guess I see one as more ‘practical’ and the other as more desireable.

    • Xbox One has had Dolby Atmos support for about 2-3 years now on any pair of headphones which make a huge difference and the controllers already have haptics.

    • A someone else said. XBone has had Dolby Atmos for a while and haptic feedback for the entire generation. The Series X/S will have the 3D audio and haptics as well, they just don’t feel the need to market it, because it’s not new.

      • As I understand Dolby Atmos though it’s about simulating positional audio sources, a virtual surround sound if you will. That is seemingly more or less what the PS5 is touting, with the important exception that this is built from the ground up with games and specific hardware acceleration in mind, with ray traced audio from more individual sources at a time being hinted at. What it will provide and how well it will do so is yet to be seen, but given Atmos was something there up for grabs (unless there was some kind of exclusivity deal I’m unaware of) if they wanted it I doubt they’d have spent the R and D time if they were just aiming to come up with the same results, nor would they effectively dedicate an of what could have been a GPU or CPU to Audio processing. See this video from Mark Cerny talking about what they went for and why they didn’t use Atmos

        Haptic feedback in general meanwhile isn’t really what I’m talking about as they’ve yet to be demonstrated as anything amazing in particular, but the adaptive triggers that can supposedly react to what’s happening in a game, becoming easier or more difficult to press depending on the situation sounds pretty damn cool, and nothing like what Microsoft has had before.

        Like I said ealier in my original comment, I don’t care about either console, I won’t be buying either console, and obviously the most important factor in buying a console is which exclusives each console will have – but talking just about the specs of the box, and specifically what visuals it will put out just seems shortsighted.

    • Microsoft were crucified this gen for having the slower console when launch happened. Remember all those side by side comparisons? It didn’t bode well for MS. This time around they want to have those comparisons in their favour. As others have stated, the Series S/X will have 3D Audio but it just isn’t a big enough deal for them to market it.
      Personally I have no interest in the dual sense features. They could turn out to be game changing, at the moment it just means additional controllers cost me more than xbox ones ($110 is steep!).

  • I do see why MS would decide to optimise for performance per dollar, and for some that is no doubt preferable (though I have a feeling this gen those comparisons aren’t going to be as effective given the increase in watching any such content on a phone makes it all but impossible to tell the difference, and competing at 4K a lot of the differences will be really hard to spot) but personally I think they had so much trouble because of a comparative lack of big exclusives and the botched attempt to make it an all in one device. But if all you’re after is raw performance, yeah, MS is a shoe-in (unless you’re going all digital, in which case Sony’s the shoe-in). It’s not a mentality I hold myself, but I get it.

    The controller price, and backwards compatibility with older controllers is a good point and a big deal though – that’s the flipside of what Sony is aiming for that I also haven’t seen people talk about much. Admittedly I didn’t even think about that as an (almost) exclusively single-player person and as someone who’s yet to break a controller / mouse / keyboard. I’d be curious to see if any third parties try to make one at the old price.

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