There's been quite a bit of discussion surrounding Dolby Atmos over the past week courtesy of some recent investigations by Digital Foundry, which discovered that the feature is suffering from an apparent delay issue on Xbox.
DF's John Linneman and various Xbox fans have been conducting tests on this using the Latency Check in Hi-Fi RUSH in recent days, and while the results have differed from case-to-case, the delay has always been present in some form.
"A bunch of different people posted their results, and we found that in all cases, there is in fact a delay when using [Dolby] Atmos."
"What's interesting about this is this is not the fault of the Xbox hardware, rather it's very much a software thing because Windows 11 [has the] exact same problem."
According to John, these Dolby Atmos problems are only present in games, and are significantly exacerbated when using the eARC functionality built into some TVs. Even without taking eARC into account though, while some Xbox users have found ways to reduce the delay, it seems that nobody has been able to get rid of it entirely.
In the example below, you can see a slow-motion version of the Latency Check where the sound is supposed to play when the cat icon lights up, but instead takes a little bit longer than expected to activate:
These tests have conjured up quite a lot of attention on social media, which has led to Playground Games chief engineer David Springate promising to "get this to the appropriate people" - hopefully meaning a solution can be found.
"I appreciate this John! I’ll get this to the appropriate people tomorrow! You’re the best."
We'll obviously keep an eye on this situation and see if anything comes of it, but for now Digital Foundry suggests using the uncompressed audio options on Xbox if you want the least latency. It's also worth noting that DF hasn't tested Dolby Atmos for Headphones as part of this investigation - it's purely based on the "Home Theater" experience.
"Even if you use Dolby Digital or the DTS option there is still a delay, it's just Atmos is worse. So, if you want responsive audio on your Xbox, use compressed 7.1, 5.1 or stereo is my suggestion right now."