'3D audio' headphones promise to immerse wearers in sound

The audio world is currently in the grips of a minor revolution, as a new type of headphones is poised to bring a cutting-edge audio experience to the market.

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Developed by the likes of the American audio firm Jabra and the French start-up 3D Sound Labs, this new generation of "3D audio" headphones offers unprecedented immersion in audio environments, much to the joy of music lovers, movie buffs and gamers.

3D audio virtually positions sound sources all around the listener's head, immersing them in a 360-degree sound sphere that mimics the experience of being plunged into the heart of a concert, a movie or a video game. To achieve this, 3D audio headphones are equipped with a whole load of sensors (GPS, gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, etc.) to adapt the sound output to the surrounding environment and to movement of the wearer's head.

The 3D Sound One, developed by French start-up 3D Sound Labs, was first showcased at CES 2015, before a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign raised funds for production. It's now available to buy for approximately $324, and is currently compatible with devices running Windows or iOS (via the 3D Audio Player mobile application).

Jabra too has presented its first 3D audio headphones, although for the time being they're only aimed at developers. To promote its technology, the American manufacturer has teamed up with Microsoft and the Guide Dogs UK charity in the aim of adapting these intelligent audio headphones into a tool for visually impaired users. The headphones could be used to create an audio image of a wearer's surroundings, immersing them realistically in a given environment. Jabra unveiled its "Intelligent Headset Developer Edition" at the CES 2016 consumer technology show in Las Vegas. As yet, it's only available in the U.S. for $420.

These kinds of headphones, which connect over Bluetooth and use specific software and applications, are designed to offer a portable alternative to 3D audio setups like home theater systems, which take up a lot of room and can be very expensive.


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