You may have seen recent coverage of Dolby Atmos and wondered what all the fuss is about.
Well, we're here to help with our guide to everything you need to know about Dolby Atmos, but we weren't afraid to ask!
What is Dolby Atmos?
Atmos is an entirely new audio system developed by Dolby that is transforming the way sound is designed for movies and presented in cinemas. Atmos uses an object-based approach to sound design rather than just channels, which Dolby says gives filmmakers more creative freedom in relation to the audience's environment.
To realize this vision, Atmos-equipped theaters feature side speakers that start at the edge of the screen and extend the full length of the auditorium, additional subwoofers, and two sets of speakers running directly above. Since its launch, Atmos has been installed on over 650 screens in 40 countries including 9 screens in the UK and 120 films have been made with Dolby Atmos soundtracks includingheaviness,GodzillajX-Men: Days of Future Past.
We cover the digital release of the final film on this list in detail in our article. Digital Cinema: Deluxe, Dolby und Days of Future Past
If you want to learn more about the history of Dolby, you can read our article Dolby – Movies have been sounding better for over 40 years
For a more detailed explanation of Dolby Atmos in cinema, you can read our in-depth article Dolby Atmos: Giving movie soundtracks a new purpose
Atmos is Dolby's new "object-based" sound system designed for both the cinema and the home.
How is Atmos different from typical channel-based home theater systems?
Atmos is the first home theater system based not on channels but on audio objects. What is aKlangobjekt? Any sound heard in a movie scene, such as a helicopter taking off, is an audio object. Filmmakers using Dolby Atmos can decide exactly where the sound of this helicopter should come from and where it should go as the scene unfolds. Thinking about sound this way removes many of the limitations of channel-based audio. With a channel-based system, filmmakers have to think about speaker configuration: should the helicopter sound come from the left surround back surround or from the left side? With Atmos, filmmakers only have to think about the story and where is the helicopter going within the dimensional space of the film itself?
Whether in the cinema or at home, the Dolby Atmos system determines which speakers to use to recreate the movement of the helicopter exactly as the filmmakers intended. This also makes Atmos much more flexible and adaptable than channel-based home theater systems. In a channel-based system with channel-based content, the number of speakers is fixed: a 7.1 system always consists of seven speakers and a subwoofer. In contrast, Atmos offers more flexibility: you can get the full experience with just seven speakers, or get an even richer, more detailed sound by adding more speakers. When you add speakers, a Dolby Atmos-compatible receiver automatically determines how to use them to create the most immersive sound field.
If I can add more speakers with Dolby Atmos, why am I seeing AV receivers with only 9 channels?
Many of Dolby's hardware partners are building or planning to build Atmos-enabled A/V receivers and speakers. Of course, it's up to these partners to decide which product configurations make the most sense for their customers. But the Atmos system itself is almost limitless. If you have the space and budget, you can build an Atmos system with up to 24 speakers in the floor and 10 speakers in the ceiling, and some Dolby partners plan to release products that support up to 32 channels.
How is Dolby Atmos delivered into the home?
At home, Dolby Atmos is delivered via suitably equipped AV receivers and processors. So far, nearly every major AV receiver manufacturer has announced support for Atmos, with Onkyo, Denon, Pioneer, and Yamaha all lining up Atmos-compatible models for fall. All of these new receivers offer Dolby Atmos decoding, either out of the box or via a firmware update, although the specific configuration depends on the amplifier channels and outputs built into the receiver itself. However, with prices between £1,399 and £2,199 there should be a Dolby Atmos compatible receiver for every budget.
Onkyo's Atmos-enabled models are the TX-NR1030, TX-NR3030 Network AV Receivers and PR-SC5530 Network AV Controller, due to launch in the US in August. The TX-NR1030 supports up to 9 channels, while both the TX-NR3030 and PR-SC5530 support up to 11 audio channels. Other Onkyo products with Atmos include the HT-S7700 and HT-S9700THX all-in-one systems, and the SKS-HT693 and SKH-410 speaker packages. It's also been reported that current models like the TX-NR636, TX-NR737 and TX-NR838 will be Atmos-enabled via a firmware update.
Not to be outdone, Denon will be releasing the AVR-X4100W and AVR-X5200W in September, both of which will be Atmos compatible and have the processing power to run a 9-channel setup. Pioneer will also join the Atmos party in September with the release of the SC-LX88, SC-LX78 and SC-LX58, all of which feature 9-channel designs and support Atmos. Finally, Yamaha announced that it will be releasing the RX-A3040 and RX-A2040 in September and both receivers will be Atmos compatible straight away. As far as processors go, the Trinnov Audio Altitude 32 is the only Atmos-enabled one announced so far, offering a staggering 32 channels for a full Atmos home theater setup.
Atmos is very flexible, allowing you to go from a 9 channel setup to a whopping 32 channels!
Do I need more speakers?
The short answer is yes. One of the main attributes of Dolby Atmos is the use of overhead speakers. So, to get the desired effect, you need to add at least two ceiling speakers. You'll need four for the full Atmos setup, but the good news is you don't have to hang big bookshelf speakers over your head. Smaller speakers that are part of a sub-sat system would be ideal for in-ceiling speakers. They are light, usually contain wall brackets, should be easy to install and remain "relatively" unobtrusive. Whether you need to use two or four will depend on the Atmos setup you choose and ultimately how many amplifier channels your new receiver has, but barring some cable management, adding top speakers is doable.
Feasible but not necessarily desirable, especially in terms of partners. It can often be quite difficult to convince your significant other that you need five or seven speakers in the living room and four more in the ceiling. It's fair to assume that adding in-ceiling speakers would be better suited for a dedicated home theater, and any husband hanging speakers from the ceiling is likely to find himself in the doghouse pretty quickly. Dolby and its partners recognized this and came up with a compromise they dubbed Atmos-enabled speakers.
Replacing your existing front and rear speakers, these speakers feature built-in upward-firing drivers to bounce the upper channels off the ceiling for the effect of overhead speakers without resorting to a stepladder and drill . Of course, such a solution isn't as good as real ceiling speakers, but it's a cleaner solution that's less likely to end in divorce. If you don't want to replace your existing speakers, and we're sure many of you won't, there's also the option of Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker modules. These are designed to complement your existing speakers, simply place the modules directly on top.
If Atmos isn't a channel-based system, why are there pre-defined speaker positions?
With Atmos being new to the domestic market, Dolby has decided that some "reference" speaker configurations will be defined first to ensure early customers have the best possible experience while retaining the option of keeping as much of the equipment that they already have. Initially defined configurations include the 5.1.2 configuration, which adds two in-ceiling or Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers to a traditional 5.1 system, and the 7.1.4 configuration, which starts with a traditional 7.1 system and adds four ceiling speakers Atmos enabled. Speaker. Of course this is just the beginning and since Atmos is object based there will be the possibility to add many other speaker configurations later. In fact, the aforementioned Trinnov Audio Altitude 32 processor already offers Atmos with up to 32 channels.
Where should I place my new speakers?
So you've got your Atmos-compatible receiver and your premium or dedicated Atmos speakers, what's next? Well, you'll have to decide which Atmos setup works best for you. This undoubtedly depends on practical considerations such as space and the number of amplifier channels your receiver has built in.
If you have 9 channels of amplification, you have the option of making 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 configurations with ceiling-mounted or Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers. A 5.1.4 speaker setup is based on a traditional 5.1 speaker design complemented by four top-firing or Dolby Atmos compatible speakers. A 7.1.2 setup is based on a 7.1 speaker layout with 2 top speakers or Dolby Atmos compatible.
If you have a receiver with 11 channels of amplification like Onkyo's TX-NR3030, you have the option of a 9.1.2 setup with two top or Dolby Atmos compatible speakers and two wide speakers, or a 7.1.4 setup with Standard create 7.1 complemented by four Dolby Atmos enabled or listening speakers. Of course, if money is no object, you can opt for the full 32-channel setup with 10 top-firing speakers.
You can see the four initial "reference" configurations in the diagrams in this article, and if you plan to add overhead speakers, the basic position is two in front for a 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 configuration. If you plan to use the four top speakers (5.1.4 or 7.1.4), two will be placed in the front and two more in the back, above and directly behind the main listening position. The final current setup would be 9.1.2 with two top speakers in the front and two on the sides, between the front and side speakers of a standard 7.1 setup.
Dolby Atmos is backward compatible and can be delivered via Blu-ray or video streaming services.
Where can I get Dolby Atmos content?
It appears that Dolby Atmos is backwards compatible and can therefore be made available on Blu-ray and via video streaming services. Dolby says it has developed new scalable algorithms and extensions to Dolby TrueHD for Blu-ray and Dolby Digital Plus for major video streaming providers. Both formats now support Dolby Atmos sound, meaning you can play Atmos movies from your Blu-ray player or through your favorite streaming services. And with 120 movies already mixed in Dolby Atmos and more on the way, there shouldn't be a shortage of Atmos content to play on your new system.
Do I need to replace my Blu-ray player or HDMI cables?
No, any Blu-ray player that is fully compliant with the Blu-ray specification can play a Dolby Atmos movie without firmware update. Remember to set your player to Bitsteam audio output mode. There's also no need to buy new HDMI cables, as the current HDMI specification fully supports Dolby Atmos audio.
What if I'm building an Atmos system but want to play content that doesn't come with Atmos?
Don't worry, your new Dolby Atmos-compatible receiver or processor will still support all other formats currently available, so you can continue to play stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 content on your new system. However, you also have the option of using Dolby's Atmos technology to automatically adjust all channel-based signals to utilize the full capabilities of your new system, including top-of-the-line speakers to ensure you're hearing the best possible sound.
It certainly sounds very exciting and I am currently installing four overhead speakers in my home theater so I can give you a detailed look at Dolby Atmos and receivers when the new Dolby Atmos compatible receivers are released.
So what do you think? Are you also excited by the prospect of a new sound format? Thinking about adding in-ceiling speakers to your home theater system, or do you prefer the idea of upward-firing speakers as a more realistic alternative? Please let us know in the following thread.
To share your thoughts on the above, clickdiscussionTab and post an answer.