Maybe you’ve heard rumblings about this new technology hitting the market, but what does immersive audio actually entail? This Q-and-A with CEDIA Senior Director of Learning & Emerging Trends, Dave Pedigo, gives you the inside look.

How is immersive audio different from surround sound?

The cinematic experience has long been dominated by surround sound. Classics like Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, and Clear and Present Danger were among the first movies to utilize this sound format, which has since progressed from using two speakers to five speakers to seven speakers or more. Regardless of the number of speakers, until recently the audio still simply surrounds you on a horizontal plane.

Immersive audio is allowing sound engineers to get creative with speaker placements by adding elevated and/or overhead speakers to the traditional horizontal plane format used with traditional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound systems.

How is an immersive audio experience created?

Imagine using additional speakers to create a three-dimensional space where you’re hearing sounds from not only around you, but above you. Multichannel audio companies like Dolby Labs, DTS and Auro Technologies are actively working to make this experience achievable with Dolby Atmos, DTS NEO:X, and Auro-3D, respectively.

Immersive audio also steps outside the boundaries of a channel-based audio system and challenges sound engineers to use an object-based approach, which signifies the trend of moving away from the traditional way of pairing sounds with specific speakers on a horizontal plane, to now associating sounds with individual objects in a three dimensional space, such as bullets whizzing by or the tires peeling out during a high speed chase. The information associated with these individual sounds (objects) is deciphered in the system and distributed through a combination of speakers to reproduce that sound in your home.

It’s only when you have an immersive, multi-layered audio experience that you realize how much deeper into a scene an audio system can take you. With movies like Mockingjay: Part 2 and Sicario, we’re becoming genuinely immersed in the action of these films through this new approach to audio.

Does immersive audio work with current equipment and content?

As was true when surround sound became popular, the only way to enjoy this advanced immersive audio system is to find content that is encoded with the technology. This does ultimately mean replacing your DVD/Blu-ray collection, but at a slow, affordable pace considering the remastering of content for this system is transitioning slowly. Some studios are releasing Blu-rays and other content in this format, so it is important to keep a pulse on the immersive audio trend and find the appropriate films that will cater to your new audio system.

As far as equipment is concerned, there are some products that will need to be purchased, and there are some products that could already be part of a current system. It is crucial to understand the needs of immersive audio systems before you begin presenting them as options to clients. 

It is an exciting time for the home theater enthusiast as the landscape in this industry continues to grow in such innovative and experiential ways. Content, such as films and concerts, will continue to be recorded or remastered in immersive formats like DTS NEO:X, Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D. Interested in finding out more about home theaters and the immersive audio experience? Visit to stay up to date on all the latest home technology trends.