Move over Dolby Atmos, a new rival from Samsung and Google is coming

Samsung 3D Audio
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung and Google have been working behind the scenes to create a new 3D spatial audio technology to challenge the likes of Dolby Atmos.

 ‘Immersive Audio Model and Formats’ (IAMF), is claimed to be the first open-source 3D spatial audio technology. 

Work on IAMF began back in 2020 through Samsung and Google’s joint venture, ‘Project Caviar’, which drove the idea of pushing open and royalty-free HDR video and 3D audio alternatives.

In an interview on Samsung's website, the company explains the new spatial audio technology comprises three core features: vertical sound, AI scene analysis, and user-customised audio.

On the topic of expressing sound vertically, WooHyun Nam from Samsung Research’s Visual Technology Team said, “IAMF makes sound more realistic, by allowing listeners to hear audio in front, behind or to either side and also above or below them. As such, when IAMF technology is applied to home TV speakers and sound bars, it allows listeners to hear sounds such as birds flying over their head on their TVs at home.”

Samsung also states that IAMF uses AI and deep-learning technology to analyse scenes and adjust audio levels where necessary. One example was how in TV and film the soundtrack and background should be the focus in certain scenes. “IAMF will balance the sound in these instances. Similarly, the technology will fine-tune audio when there is character dialogue to allow the listener to focus on the conversation,” said Nam.

Personalised customisation options also allow users to apply their favourite audio preferences to IAMF technology. These include the possibility of adding weight to sound effects from an action scene or enhancing dialogue during conversations.

Samsung adopted Dolby Atmos in its TVs in 2022 but has yet to incorporate Dolby Vision into any models, opting to stick with its own, rival format, HDR10+. Now, with their own 3D spatial audio technology in the works, could this spell the end of Atmos in Samsung TVs?

It’s possible that we will hear more about IAMF at CES 2024 in January, so we will be sure to update you with any announcements. Stay tuned.


Dolby Atmos: what is it? How can you get it?

HDR10+ – everything you need to know

Our pick of the best TVs 2023: flagship OLEDs and affordable flatscreens tried and tested

Staff Writer

Ainsley Walker is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied music journalism at university before working in a variety of roles including as a freelance journalist and teacher. Growing up in a family of hi-fi enthusiasts, this naturally influenced his interest in the topic. Outside of work, Ainsley can be found producing music, tinkering with retro tech, or cheering on Luton Town.

  • manicm
    This is why I'm sticking with LG TVs over Samsung. HDR10+ is not as prevalent as Dolby Vision. What makes them think even in 5 years time this new audio format will catch up to Atmos???

    Waste of time.
  • simontompkins
    I'm not sure what "move over" means in the headline. Isn't dolby atmos encoded in the metadata so I think what would happen is you put your Dolby Atmos encoded source into the Samsung and Google TV and its algorithms interpret the sounds and output a best guess idea of what those sounds relate to. Why then doesn't Samsung and Google just output from the metadata in Dolby Atmos - because to do so would mean you would have to have a Dolby decoder and that would require a Dolby license.
    Far from being "free" it still required some financing from Samsung and Google so what this reminds me of is when historically companies that primarily operated in the hardware space released open source software that was "free" as a way of undermining competitors whose business was mostly software. The obverse was also true, companies commodified hardware as their only business was software.
    On first inspection this looks like Samsung and Google not wanting to pay licenses for Dolby Atmos and even if they do pay licenses they can use the argument that they have an open source alternative to drive down the price of Dolby Atmos licenses.
    Well, you might argue, isn't it good to reduce the price of licensing and turn it into open source? If companies like Samsung and Google are able to force a company out of business then it reduces competition in the marketplace. Alternatively if they can drive down the cost of Dolby licenses then they can reduce the profitability of Dolby and thus reduce their ability to act as a player in the digital market space.
    Neither Google or Samsung's main business if sound processing so as long as it fits in with their overall strategy they are all good.
    Far from being "free" it just means increased profits for companies who don't pay a Dolby license.
    There are many open source and open platform projects that have been rather marvellous, I very much doubt this is one.
    I've made any number of assumptions and conclusions in the present piece and would welcome anyone else's thoughts
  • tentes
    They definitely need a new name for it. "Dolby Atmos" is way better than some random letters like "IAMF".
  • Friesiansam
    tentes said:
    They definitely need a new name for it. "Dolby Atmos" is way better than some random letters like "IAMF".
    SUDS, Samsung Up and Down Sound...
  • tentes
    Friesiansam said:
    SUDS, Samsung Up and Down Sound...
    I'll go for SSSSS, Samsung Super Surround Sound System.