Sony’s Tempest 3D Tech is the Future of Gaming Audio

Alex Rowe
5 min readJul 12, 2022
Photo taken by the author.

Every PS5 owner can experience brilliant hardware-accelerated virtual spatial 3D audio in their games with no special equipment other than a pair of headphones. Just toggle on the appropriate setting in the PS5’s menu, and you’ll hear spatialized audio that works on everything from older stereo and surround tracks in PS4 games to full dynamic 3D audio objects in the latest PS5 titles.

Ironically, this probably wouldn’t have happened without Microsoft.

Last generation, Sony had a much earlier, more rudimentary version of this technology available for PS4 users — but it was locked down to Sony’s own first party headsets. If you bought their Silver, Gold, or Platinum headset you could turn on their proprietary surround sound system, powered in part by hardware located in their USB dongles.

Tempest 3D is a full generational leap over that old technology, and it’s unlocked for all PS5 gamers regardless of what headphones or headset you use. Just plug in your favorite pair and go. Tempest is powered by an extra AMD GPU compute unit located within the PS5 hardware. It accelerates sound decompression, and places audio all around you in a sphere of a thousand different virtual locations. It’s one of the best implementations of this idea I’ve ever heard, and it seems that Sony achieved this by studying a large sphere of reference speakers, much like the Hyperion Sphere JBL built for their QuantumSurround system.

Microsoft was the first company to launch a free virtual headphone audio system on game consoles with 2017’s Windows Spatial Audio platform on Xbox One. That same system appears on the current Series consoles, and although I’ve written fondly about it in the past — it’s not without serious implementation issues.

Windows Spatial Audio sounded amazing during its initial beta period, and it worked on both special 3D-encoded games and with the standard surround audio tracks in all Xbox games. I had never been happier to play the Xbox port of Diablo III, which came to life in a whole new way in spite of its “mere” 7.1 source audio track.

However, that early beta version had some glitches where it would sometimes start to pop and crack, necessitating the user to soft reset the system by toggling it on and off. My…