What is Immersive Audio? Why should brands and products use it?

Imersive Audio

Immersive audio is exactly as it sounds: audio that exists in a 3D space. In normal day-to-day life, sound is perceived from a 360-degree perspective, except for the most common media that humans consume like products and music, which is typically in stereo (meaning two sound channels/sources). When discussing produced sound, we generally talk about mono and stereo, and it is still a relatively new idea to have surround sound at home.

Cinemas today usually use what is called object based audio, like when a helicopter passes above you in a film, you can hear the object fly from behind you, to above you, to in front of you. What makes object based audio interesting is that it uses every speaker accessible which could be a 5.1.2, 7.1.2, to 9.1.2 configurations (the first number denotes side speakers, the second denotes a speaker for Low/deep end sounds, and the last denotes ceiling speakers), and you can increase that number all the way up to 128 channels of sound. The important thing to note here is that, even with a small amount of speakers, object based audio can turn it into a 3d space. So even without a huge budget, regular people can still experience 3d audio.

From the Cinema to the Home

Headphones today, and immersive audio, are designed in a way so you can theoretically have almost the same experience as a big surround sound setup, but all entirely located inside your headphones.

The reason why we perceive sound in 360 degrees is because of these factors :

Time difference: Sound reaches one ear slightly before the other if the sound source is closer to one side of the head. This is known as the interaural time difference (ITD).

Intensity (level) difference: The head creates an acoustic shadow, causing sounds to be slightly less loud in the ear farther away from the sound source. This is called the interaural level difference (ILD).

Spectral difference: The shape of the ears also affects how sound is received, particularly for frequencies above 1000 Hz, adding to the spatial cues our brains use to perceive sound direction and distance.

Places where you might notice this effect include video games, movies, podcasts, music, concerts, and some (but very rarely) in interaction and notification sounds (I.E. the sound that you hear in your headphone when it starts).

As this is a new technology a lot of different ideas are getting spun around, like head tracking, VR, metaverse, virtual workspaces etc – Therefore it’s vital for us to be strategic and mindful about where we focus our efforts to navigate this new exciting area successfully.

Why should brands use it?

Immersive audio can potentially enhance brand engagement and innovate products and commercials by leading in technology. Apple music has seen this change and have implemented the Atmos option so everyone can experience the new standard that is gradually being put into the world. Apple is a future focused company, and wants to ensure they are at the top of the game and wants to future proof their brand. Which is why they’ve adopted this technology. By being first movers and using this technology they also positioned themselves outside of the box, making them more noticeable.

The power of sound to evoke emotions, recall memories, and influence behavior is well-documented, but the advent of immersive audio technologies amplifies these effects to an unprecedented level. Immersive audio, by enveloping listeners in a 3D auditory landscape, can significantly impact their emotional state and enhance memory retention as it is mimicking real life, making it a potent tool for branding and advertising. Where the difference with stereo is that what we are hearing is in front of us, we can kinda see it and therefore doesn’t have to be as engaged in the sound as we would have to with 360 audio. Evidence suggests that the loudness of a commercial can make or break its market appeal. As immersive audio emerges, it hints at a future where success is not just heard, but felt, offering a whole new dimension to branding .

Research suggests that emotional experiences are more likely to be remembered than non-emotional ones. Immersive audio leverages this by creating vivid, emotionally charged auditory experiences that are more likely to be retained in memory. For brands, this means that advertisements or branded content enhanced with immersive audio are more likely to be remembered by consumers. This enhanced recall is crucial for building brand recognition and loyalty over time.

Immersive audio can also create a sense of presence and personal connection, making listeners feel as though they are experiencing a moment firsthand. This sense of being part of a story or experience can lead to a deeper emotional bond between the consumer and the brand. By utilizing immersive audio, brands can craft experiences that resonate on a personal level, fostering a sense of intimacy and trust.

Mercedes-Benz and Dolby Atmos have recently collaborated, setting a new standard for innovation in car sound systems. Drivers can now experience the luxury of high-quality sound while driving. Imagine going back to a regular car after that—the change in audio quality would be stark and disorienting, ensuring brand loyalty

Here is an example of immersive audio, this is the audio logo of meditation app Moments of Space. The immersive quality of the sound embraces the listener, cutting them off from the world and giving them their moment of space.

Consumer expectations grows

As technology continues to advance, so too do consumers’ expectations for more engaging, interactive, and personalized content. Immersive audio is not just a trend but a glimpse into the future of media consumption. By adopting immersive sound technologies now, brands can future-proof their strategies to get a valuable understanding and information on this new technology, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of what’s possible in digital storytelling and consumer engagement. Just like we expect movies today to be HD, we would not want to watch a low resolution film or black and white movie anymore because of the innovation in the field – so why should we stop with audio?

In a world where visual stimuli are omnipresent, immersive 3D sound offers a distinctive way for brands to differentiate themselves. By engaging the auditory sense in a novel and enveloping way, brands can create signature experiences that not only stand out but also leave a lasting impact on the consumer’s mind. This differentiation is vital in today’s competitive market, where capturing and retaining consumer attention is paramount.

At Sonic Minds, we often hear brands expressing their desire to sound innovative. Therefore, we aim to create not just unique and innovative branding, but also to utilize the next big leap in innovative audio. The adoption of immersive 3D sound in branding is more than an innovation—it’s a strategic imperative for brands seeking to captivate and connect with their audiences in the most impactful way possible.

Get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more