Normally I talk about physical things on this site, but today I want to talk about a piece of software that has made my audio equipment work better. The software is Boom 3D for Mac or PC, an app I’ve been using that has made audio from any headphones I throw at it sound great with its custom equalizer. More impressively, it transforms all audio into 3D audio! It does these things system-wide, so it works with any programs on your computer.
I started using Boom 2 years ago, another offering that is still available but doesn’t include the 3D audio. Boom 2 was Mac only, and I was shocked at the level of customization it provided for audio. I never thought I’d be able to do anything like it on a Mac. I became totally obsessed with making all my devices sound really good, from my wired headphones to my knockoff Bluetooth speaker.
- Free for 15 days
- Lifetime price is variable: MSRP $49.99, usually on sale for $24.99, I got it for $14.99
- It is generally cheaper to buy direct from the developer instead of the App store.
What does the Boom 3D app actually do?
There are a ton of features but these are the big ones:
- Volume Boost: The signature feature of the last iteration, Boom 2. Have ever had speakers or headphones that don’t quite go loud enough? This app can give you an extra volume boost with its virtual pre-amp. Just be careful if you’re boosting your laptop speakers on an older computer, as you can blow your speakers if you push them too hard.
- Equalizer: Boom 3D has defaults for different types of headphones; in my case, I have in-ear canal buds (Power Beats Pro), so I selected that and the music sounded great immediately. But you can further tweak the audio, which is great since all headphones sound different. Now I can dial in the audio to what I want, meaning I can make any old headphones or dupe wireless buds sound great with some tweaking. You can do this using a manual equalizer, or different preset profiles.
- 3D Audio: Boom 3D creates a virtual 3D soundscape, using some technical wizardry I don’t understand. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first, but I tweaked the settings and suddenly loved it. Changing the bass and intensity of the effect can make a huge difference.
Other Audio effects: In addition to 3D audio, there are also other useful effects, with my second favorite after 3D being fidelity
- Ambience: Calibrates sound to be more audible in louder environments
- Fidelity: Increase weaker frequency sounds for better balance
- Night-mode: Reduces louder noises so that you won’t disturb others
- Spatial: A different version of 3D, hard to explain but it sounded really good with some music as if I was at a venue.
- Pitch: You can adjust the pitch at various ranges to try and change the sound of specific channels or instruments. I don’t use this one.
Ok, volume boost and equalizer are pretty straightforward. But unless you’re a complete nerd you’re probably wondering what 3D audio is. It basically is exactly what it sounds like: you can hear sound in three dimensions instead of just left and right. It is kind of like surround sound but adds the vertical dimension, and is virtual. Somehow this is done using some science and algorithms. That may sound vague, but after reading an explanation here I still don’t really know how It works…
The reason this type of audio isn’t very broadly used yet is due to the barriers of entry. If you’re using an iPhone, then you better have Airpod Pros or Airpod Maxs to even try it. Then, to get the best effect you need to use Apple Music. Android is similarly restrictive and confusing. Current generation video games are leading the charge here, with Playstation and Xbox consoles supporting this for any headphones.
What’s the difference between Boom3D and the OEM 3D audio?
The main difference is that advanced headphones such as Airpod Pros can track head movement. However, I feel that this won’t make a huge difference for most, since you’re generally going to be stationary for most activities where you wear headphones. Even if you’re walking, I don’t really need the 3D landscape to ship depending on how I move. Where this would actually make a huge difference would be VR content, but for 99% of us, that doesn’t really matter.
Who is this for?
I love this app because I love to tinker. I will turn the effects off and be shocked at how much worse it sounds without the 3D audio and equalizer. Then I’ll change the effects for different headphones or speakers. Sometimes I’ll switch from 3D surround to fidelity mode for different types of music. I can imagine this can sound like a lot to many people, but I have literally got goosebumps from the experience of listening to some of my favorite music again using this. For me, that’s worth it.
Issue #1: minor connection problem
I’ve had a somewhat annoying issue that keeps rearing its head: sometimes when I connect my PowerBeats it initially doesn’t apply any effect. I frequently will have to change the audio output to something else such as internal speakers, and then back to my preferred output using either the app or system controls. My Macbook is ancient (2013), so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was part of the reason. But as I alluded to already, this is an app that requires the occasional tinkering.
Issue #2: App volume controller doesn’t work for Safari
Another feature I was super excited about was the App volume controller. I’ve never understood why Macs don’t have the ability to control the volume for each app separately the way you can on a PC. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped. While I could get it to work with no problem on Spotify, Music, or even Chrome, it wouldn’t work with Safari.
How about IOS/Android?
There actually is a Boom IOS and Android app, but it’s quite different. It isn’t system-wide, instead it’s more of a music player that has similar benefits to the Mac/PC app. But it only works to pull in music from some apps, meaning it isn’t nearly as expansive as the computer app. I am currently using it though for my Spotify and do like it. Unfortunately, purchasing one doesn’t get you both.
Using this app was well worth the $15 for me. I’ve been re-discovering music and enjoying it more, and the 3D audio has been better than I expected it to be. This is also essential if you are using some cheap headphones like the ones that I’ve suggested in the past, as you can remedy the sound balance issues they might have with this app. Try it out!