Dolby Atmos audio has revolutionised the home theatre experience. Moving sound from a channel based experience to an object-based audio experience is fantastic. While personal audio is catching up, it’s a tricky technical challenge. Let’s take a look into Dolby Atmos and the concept of Dolby Atmos headphones.
We’ve written a lot about the best dolby atmos speakers you can buy for your home theatre but what about the mobile experience with Dolby Atmos headphones? Is it even a thing?
I’ll let you in on the secret early, while there are some Dolby Atmos listed headphones (Dolby even have their own set of non-Dolby headphones called Dimension) and Dolby Atmos gaming headsets, it’s actually more about the software you use with the headphones.
We’ll explain more so stay with us.
While any headphones can be used with compatible software-enabled hardware to create Dolby Atmos audio you would be unlikely to get a decent experience out of poor dynamic single drivers.
For this reason, we’ve listed all the headphones we think are the best match for Dolby Atmos.
Bluetooth also limits the ability for Dolby to create a first-class Atmos experience in headphones.
How does Dolby Atmos work in headphones?
Traditionally audio works in channels. It is a direct sound that is thrown from a pre-defined driver. This driver is chosen by the audio mixer in the studio. Typically you will be used to hearing about Dolby Atmos in a Home Theatre context. This might be 5.1, 7.1 9.1.2 etc. You can read more about that in our atmos speaker post linked at the beginning of this article.
In headphones, the functions of Dolby Atmos are performed by software and is less about the headphones. Technically this means you can use Dolby Atmos with any headphones but it’s more important to have the right drivers and ideally a large speaker diaphragm to create a better sound stage where Atmos audio can really shine.
Dolby Atmos-enabled devices
I have an older Lenovo Tab 4, this is a very affordable Android tablet. This includes Dolby Atmos software on it. There is a Dolby atmos app included which you can start up and turn on. There are then 4 scenes you can choose between – Movie/Music/Game/Voice.
There are many other hardware devices like tablets that are marketing Atmos as included. The most recent of these is the iPhone 11 which now has Dolby Atmos built-in.
Existing hardware also includes Samsung Galaxy S9 & S10, Note 9, Oppo Reno, Sony Xperia 1, OnePlus 7 Pro, Razer Phone.
Are there Dolby Atmos Headphones, with multi-drivers?
While you can get Dolby Atmos audio with any headphones using Dolby Atmos software, you can also improve the experience by selecting special multi-driver headphones. These multi-driver headphones effectively mimic what you get in a Home Theatre set up by placing audio drivers in the unit.
There is no way to get all 36 drivers in a headphone as you get in a movie Cinema that is Atmos-enabled. The Dolby Atmos cinema in Trafalgar Sq. as over 400 atmos speakers -try fitting that in a headphone!
A multi-driver headphone, in this instance, essentially means you have lots of little speakers in each earpiece, place at different positions.
This is different from IEM and earphones
This is different from an IEM or multi-driver earphone where the drivers perform different frequency responses and combine to create a single powerful sound output. Some in-ear monitors, like the KZ AS10 which have 5 Balanced Armature drivers (BA). These focus on different frequencies. So, this is different to multi-driver headphones as earphones are technically unable to fit multiple angles for the drivers.
Multi-driver Dolby Atmos headphones
Multi-driver Dobly Atmos headphones typically work by using multiple drivers (small speakers) in each headphone cup to act like a mini surround sound speaker set up. If you look closely at the Razer Tiamat headphones below you will see 5 small speakers in each speaker cup. These still require software to make them work correctly, but are quite effective are producing Dolby Atmos sound.
So, just to recap the first 2 basic points:
- Dolby Atmos sound can be produced on normal headphones in conjunction with Dolby Atmos software
- There are headphones more suited to effect Dolby Atmos reproduction. These include the Dolby Dimensions and others like the Razer Tiamat Gaming headset.
It also seems important to note at this point that Dolby Atmos is available on Xbox and Windows 10+. Playstation supports it better for Movies than Gaming at the time of writing.
To use Dolby Atmos on your Xbox One or Windows 10 machine there is need of a code to unlock the software. This is regardless of whether you use Atmos with your home theatre, headphones, soundbar or TV.
Read more here: https://www.dolby.com/us/en/apps/access/pc-xbox.html
We’ll do this list as one list but with two sections. The first will be ‘Dolby Atmos’ headphones and the second will be normal headphones that are great for Dolby Atmos use.
Best Dolby Atmos headphones
Dolby Atmos marketed as a big part of the headphone/gaming headset purchase.
It’s impossible to start a list about Dolby Atmos headphones without including Dolby’s own headphones. These are called Dimension. The set up in these is designed to give you a great Atmos experience if you listen to Atmos-enabled audio but the Bluetooth limits Atmos capabilities. This is common in Bluetooth headphones.
It’s important to note immediately that these are NOT Atmos badged headphones (because it’s about the software, remember) but they do have software options to alter the sound etc.
These have single 40mm drivers with a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range. Should be able to produce decent bass but nothing spectacular here.
These are Bluetooth and have a pretty cool charging stand. A 15-minute charge should be enough to get you through a movie. Loads of Bluetooth codecs in these Cans.
- APTX LOW LATENCY
Touch controls on these are great with 4 way swiping and tap button touch.
Accompany app lets you manage your headphones from your phone including Cinematic sound, EQ, Power mode options and more.
- Lots of features
- Great audio
- Includes Google Assistant or Siri with a single touch
- Nice design and clean lines
- Active Noise-cancellation
- No specific Atmos features which you would expect from Dolby in our opinion.
Any last comment on the Dolby Dimension?
A great sounding headphone but that comes with a high price tag. All the extra features might be too much if you just want good sound. If you like to tweak and play – these might be for you.
Check out more reviews
We’ll start with an Atmos gaming headset, also good for movies, but focused really on gaming.
The Razer Tiamat comes with an external control unit for levels and the ability to switch between 7.1 sound and stereo sound. You can also Mute/Unmute and toggle audio to your external speakers as you like.
Razer have a lot of experience with headsets so this gaming headset is comfy with leatherette ear cushions and a nice balance. The ‘squeeze’ on these is light enough you can wear them for long periods of time with limited discomfort.
Of course, the Chroma backlighting on the earcups (which have removable plates) is a really nice touch. You can’t see the pretty lights but others can. You can change the colour range to be up to 16.8 million colour options.
There are 2 x 20mm drivers, 2 x 30mm drivers and 1 x 40mm driver which will be the one delivering your Bass frequencies.
- Well made – nice quality feel
- LED-lit earcups are a really nice, unique touch
- Great sound
- Gaming designed headset
- The audio quality may really depend on your sound card
- Jaw fatigue
- Mix amp could have been better thought out.
Any last comment on this Tiamat?
If you’re in to gaming and like lights, the Tiamat is a good choice. Your sound card will make a big difference with this one so it helps to have good supporting gear.
Check out more reviews
Plantronics is not the first company you expect to align with high-end audio headphones, especially ones pre-designed for use with Dolby Atmos but, seeing that they have been in the audio business since 1961 I think we can put a good deal of trust in their products.
Audio quality is good and the fit on these is a big improvement compared with the RIG 500 Pro which just felt a little tight on the head. The 800LX Wireless are light and fluffy for long term wearing.
As mentioned you need to unlock Dolby on Xbox One and Windows 10 with a code which is included. The code unlocks Dolby Atmos for more than just headphones. It also includes use on where ever you are outputting Xbox / Playstation / Electronic Games and Mac OS X.
Frequency response is pretty standard with a 20Hz to 20kHz range. The microphone is 100Hz to 10kHz.
- 40mm drivers for a great wide soundscape
- Price is not bad at all.
- Mic flips to mute
- 24-hour battery
- earcup controls
- Comfortable and light
- Fit for larger heads hit and miss
- A couple of years old now but that’s not necessarily a negative as headphones go the distance.
Any last comment on the Plantronics?
They put Dolby Atmos at the forefront of the advertising for the full RIG range. They include the code for Xbox One and Windows 10 (which is tied to your Microsoft account, not your hardware) so, if you need a new headset it’s worth a look.
Check out more reviews
The JVC XP-EXT1 is the real deal and the newest headphones with Dolby Atmos audio and DTS: X® audio processing. Offering 7.1.4 multi-channel sound, and support for stereo or 5.1 audio you can really get immersive movie goodness.
It’s important to note the XP-EXT1 are a system – there is the headphone but also a processing unit which processes the signal before sending to the headphones.
The Smartphone app connects to the processing console via Bluetooth and the console then connects to the headphones 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz.
The sound processor has inputs for 3 HDMI inputs. Useful for TV, HiFI system etc.
The headphones are a good and comfy fit with a 40mm driver which provides a broad and wide soundstage.
- Up to 7.1.4 multi-channel sound
- Upmixing is effective
- Smartphone App
- Requires encoder/decoder (included)
- Still virtualisation of audio
Like the JVC the Sony HW700DS come with a sound upmixing decoder capable of handling Dolby Atmos decoding and 9.1 surround sound audio goodness. The Sony headphones can also reproduce 5.1 and 2 channel stereo sound.
Wireless headphones with a nice 50mm neodymium driver and a frequency response from 5Hz to 25Khz.
Like the XP-EXT1 these broadcast on 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz frequencies and come with preset modes for gaming, audio, movies etc.
The decoder on these Sony HW7000DS is impressive handling all the formats you can name. Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio, DTS 96/24, DTS-ES, DTS, DTS Neo:6, MPEG-2 AAC, LPCM 2ch/5.1ch/7.1ch, Dolby Pro Logic IIz
- Up to 12 hours of battery life
- Up to 9.1 multi-channel sound
- Dolby® TrueHD
- 4K passthrough
- Requires encoder/decoder (included)
- Still only virtualisation of audio
Get more reviews and pricing on the Sony MDR-HW700DS Surround Sound Headphones
From here down in the list we’re going to list headphones that could sound great with Dolby Atmos software-enabled devices. Bluetooth is not yet supported.
We’re going to start this headphones section with an affordable choice that pairs well with Atmos and Atmos enabled devices.
The Cowin E7 Pro is an upgrade from the E7. They are Bluetooth (therefore wireless), have active noise cancelling and are a set up from the previous model, which was already awesome.
We chose these to pair with Atmos as they are portable and have a 45mm driver which is always best for maximum Dobly effect and deep bass.
Great sound, good comfort and a 30-hour playtime battery life = #winning.
- 30-hour battery life
- Improvement on already great headphones
- Active Noise-cancelling
- 45mm Drivers
- aptX Codec
- The build feels good but it’s not super high-end. At this price, who cares.
Any last comment on the Cowin E7 Pro?
It’s almost impossible to go past these headphones at this price with these features and sound quality. If you can’t, or don’t, want to compete at the high end Bose QC 35ii end of the headphone spectrum, these are a great choice and make a good Atmos pairing.
Check out more reviews
With the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro we’re taking a big step up in quality. We’ve owned these for about 4 years and they are really quite fabulous open-back headphones with natural bass and punchy mids.
If these are too high in the price department we definitely recommend defaulting to Beyerdynamic other best-seller which we reviewed some time back. You can read that DT 770 PRO review here.
Not sure why we haven’t done a separate review on the DT 1770 Pro but perhaps we should
We picked these because they have a frequency response from 5Hz to 40kHz which means you get more boom and bling from these. They have 45mm dynamic Tesla neodymium drivers which are so neutral yet so alive.
We also picked them because they are very comfortable and are open back which ensures nice ventilation when you are listening to your favourite tunes.
It’s important to note these are a 250 Ohm unit – so a headphone amp is also a good idea to feed into the line.
For what it’s worth these days they are also made in Germany.
- Tesla 2 45mm Drivers
- Beyerdynamic – Made in Germany
- Closed-back but comfy
- Pro end quality
- Excellent frequency response
- Comfy, really.
- 250 Ohms means they need to be powered well.
Any last comment on this product?
High end brand with high-end quality. Closed back with wide frequency range and good sized drivers make these a great pairing for Atmos sound tracks. We own them and we like them.
Check out more reviews
We owned the Bose QC 25 and upgraded to the Bose QC 35 when travel demanded so much from us the QC 25 died. That was a couple of years ago.
In terms of wireless headphones, we come back to these every time. Light, comfortable with a very acceptable audio quality. Bose has taken some hits from audiophiles over the years but these still sit in our pick for so many reasons.
So why choose Bose for using with Dolby Atmos soundtracks and movies?
There is something about the open space of the earcups that seems to create a really nice spacious sound stage – the virtual sound scaping. One of the unique and defining audio signatures of Atmos is that it makes it sound like audio is coming from everywhere, all around you.
The Bose QC35 ii have the perfect audio chamber/ear cup to suit the all-encompassing sound around you.
This is why we chose them. This list is in no particular order, or we would move it up.
- Open and wide soundscape
- Great quality
- So comfortable – hours and hours of use with no complaints or overheating
- Excellent battery life
- The companion app is good and firmware updates happen.
- No other cons in our opinion.
Any last comment on the Bose QC 35ii?
We’ve used these extensively for years in planes, trains and automobiles and believe the active noise-cancelling, audio quality and particular sound signature a perfect match for Dolby Atmos enabled devices and audio when it is available on Bluetooth.
Check out more reviews
While Dolby Atmos headphones are not really a thing…yet, we think it’s only a matter of time until more multi-driver headphones are released on the market that opens up a more surround feel to sound in headphones.
Until the headphones options happen, the closest you will get to complete Atmos audio is via Dolby Atmos-enabled external devices and software.
For now, the best experience is going to be a multi-speaker set up for your home theatre.
The good news is this means you can use (almost) any headphones.
The ones we have listed below, especially in the Headphones list from #6 onwards are ones we feel will be a great match for Atmos-enabled devices.
Thoughts or questions? Put them in the comments below and we’ll be happy to help. What would be your dream pairing?
This post was last updated on 2021-04-23 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.