I love everything about audiobooks: give me an Audible app and a pair of the best true wireless earbuds and I'm in my second most happy place (my first most happy place is in a studio actually recording an audiobook, which I did recently in full on Toast of London style*). And now Audible books are getting even more immersive thanks to Dolby Atmos spatial audio.
The Dolby Atmos support is a partnership between Dolby and the Amazon-owned brand, and it's coming to Audible's own productions first. There are more than 40 titles in the list already, featuring books such as The Little Mermaid, The Sandman Act III and the music podcast Maejor Frequency. It won't be limited to a few genres, either: according to Audible it already covers feature-length, multi-cast productions, live recordings and podcasts too.
What does spatial audio bring to the audiobook party?
In a word, space. When it's done well, spatial audio makes the soundstage feel three-dimensional. Ambient sounds seem to come from all around, and directional sound is no longer just stereo but above and behind you too. It's brilliantly effective, which is why it's a staple of TV shows and movies.
It's not going to make much difference to a book like mine, which is a memoir: it's just me and a mic. But with live comedy recordings, documentaries using archive audio or adaptations of fiction, listening to spatial audio on a pair of the best headphones or via one of the best soundbars or best AV receivers quite literally adds a whole new dimension to the audio. For example, according to Audible, The Little Mermaid delivers a "magical underwater soundscape and original music".
If you're already an Audible subscriber you can find the Atmos titles via the iOS or Android app, although of course you'll need Atmos-enabled audio kit to hear the full soundtrack. Spatial audio titles will have a little Dolby Atmos logo next to them in the app, and you can find the full collection by searching for Dolby Atmos. And if you aren't a subscriber, there's a 30-day free trial.
* If you haven't seen Toast of London, it's wonderful: Matt Berry is a washed-up, pompous actor doing crap advert voiceovers in a delightfully old-fashioned sitcom. Unfortunately it's not currently streaming from any of the best streaming services.