After reporting on an upcoming PS5 update that included Dolby Atmos support, Digital Foundry asked Mark Cerny, the PS5’s lead system architect, about how this new approach to surround sound would fold into a system with its own 3D audio architecture. Cerny wrote them a letter in response.
Up until now, the PS5 has had no way to fully support Dolby Atmos, so developers were not mastering their audio for a full 7.1.4 surround sound stage (i.e., 7 satellite speakers, 1 subwoofer, and 4 overhead speakers). As Cerny explains it, rather than implement a full-scale Atmos implementation into the PS5 and complicating matters, it has instead added the four overhead channels to the PS5’s existing (and fairly robust) Tempest 3D AudioTech engine.
Essentially, the PS5 uses ambisonic audio, a version of stereo audio that can arrange up to 36 sound channels in specific locations on the left or right of the soundstage to create a surround sound effect. The short version (which dramatically undersells the complexity of what Sony has done here) is that the PS5 can now represent the two overhead speakers in this arrangement, approximating the Dolby Atmos setup without actually using the Atmos platform. The Tempest 3D audio platform then renders all of these channels to create the desired audio effect — even creating sound from “overhead speakers” for those wearing headphones. “Also note the rendering latency for these new speaker setups is identical to what it has been in the past for stereo, 5.1 and 7.1,” reads Cerny’s letter.
This is, incidentally, almost exactly what Digital Foundry predicted Sony would do in its original reporting. It’s also super impressive as an engineering project. With this software update, your PS5 should now support Dolby Atmos-certified devices — be it a pair of headphones, a soundbar, or a full surround sound setup — out of the box.
Is it perfect? Not quite, says DF, but it is about as good as it gets without actually being full Dolby Atmos support. You can read Cerny’s full letter (and check out the latest episode of DF Direct, which discusses the changes) right over here.
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