Waves Audio has been creating 3D audio experiences for professional sound engineers for a couple of decades. Now it is launching a consumer product, Waves Nx, that uses a motion sensor to deliver better-quality 3D audio experiences.

With the motion sensor added, Waves Audio can deliver a better experience that gets rid of the “sweet spot” in a home theater system, said Tomer Elbaz, executive vice president and general manager for the consumer electronics division at Waves Audio, in an interview with GamesBeat.

Elbaz said that the $80 Waves Nx can work with any headphones or earbuds that you already own. It can turn music, voice, games, and movies into an immersive 3D Audio experience. Elbaz said it doesn’t matter how the creators recorded the content, as this device requires no proprietary coding. Waves Nx lets you enjoy true 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound content.

(Left) Jack Joseph Puig, Idan Egozy, and Tomer Elbaz of Waves Audio.

Above: (Left) Jack Joseph Puig, Idan Egozy, and Tomer Elbaz of Waves Audio.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

“The difficulty with immersive audio is that you need to stay in the sweet spot,” Elbaz said. “[With the NX] you are in the best seat in the house wherever you are.”

You can listen to movies from Netflix and other streaming services, watch YouTube, or play computer games and get rich, high-quality audio with improved quality. I listened to the headphones with the Wave Nx and it sounded good to me. But I don’t really trust my ears the way a true audiophile does.

“We found the 3D audio without the tracking is nothing,” Elbaz said.

The Waves Audio folks say that listening to music also enhances the clarity as the instruments appear separated from one another in the listener’s audio space. The company is demoing a VR version of the technology at the VRDC virtual reality event in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday.

Idan Egozy, product manager at Waves Audio, also showed me a VR experience that was created just for the Waves Nx. That allowed me to hear the quality of the 3D audio better and to see that the head-tracking actually works.

Racket: Nx is a futuristic fusion between single player racket sports like squash, and classic, brick-breaking arcade games. It is also the first game to feature Waves Nx 3D Audio Technology, which brings true-to-life sound spatialization that deepens your feeling of presence in VR. Over time, Waves Audio hopes to get a lot of game developers to use the Nx technology.

“We simulate all of the reflections of sound in a room,” Egozy said.

Waves Audio's Waves Nx.

Above: Waves Audio’s Waves Nx.

Image Credit: Waves Audio

The VR game for the HTC Vive was like a Breakout game, where I had a paddle and had to swing at a ball bouncing around a 3D room. I could hear the ball, and then I swung the paddle at it to make it bounce off  the wall. I think that showed me that you can more easily appreciate the 3D audio when you are using content that is specially designed to take advantage of it.

You can also notice that the source of sound stays consistent. If you are looking at a screen, the sound appears to come from that screen. If you turn your head 90 degrees, you’ll hear the sound coming mostly from just one of your ears. The Unity-based game is out on Steam.

The VR game is an interesting innovation for Waves Audio, which was founded 25 years ago to build technology for sound studios. Elbaz said his mission was to take the technology into the consumer space.

“For decades, realistic, spatialized audio has been out of reach from consumers because the technology was extremely expensive and technical,” said Elbaz. “Waves Nx is a real revolution because for the first time ever, 3D audio is accessible to the masses, works on everyday headphones, and is easy to set up. Waves Nx is a perfect complement for listening to music, watching movies, playing games, and even conducting conference calls.”

You can also use the Nx Head Tracker with a mobile device, allowing you to experience 3D audio on mobile with a $10 app. The Waves Nx Head Tracker and accompany software works for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

Waves Audio has 350 employees. One of its rivals is Dysonics, which showed a motion-sensing 3D audio tracker in 2015. That company recently got funding from Intel.