Have you heard the phrase "Dolby Atmos" but have no idea what it means? Have no fear, because Origin Hi-Fi is here to explain everything about this wonderful audio format that brings you an immersive cinematic experience. Available in certain soundbars, game consoles, TVs, and even devices like laptops, phones, and headphones, Dolby Atmos is a beloved feature by cinephiles. But how does it function, where can you purchase the feature, and what type of content supports this technology? Welcome to our beginner’s guide to Dolby Atmos.
The most basic explanation of Dolby Atmos is that it is a proprietary audio format designed to offer the 360-degree sound that you experience in a movie theater. The format was first developed in 2012 to give an element of height to the soundstage. It gives a realistic impression of overhead effects and subtle atmospheric and object-based locational effects that place users in a bubble of sound. It first appeared in Disney's Brave in movie theaters. Bit by bit, the format began to appear in homes through custom installations and is appearing in more consumer audio products to provide a realistic sense of acoustic space in onscreen environments.
How does it work?
Dolby Atmos emits detailed audio by using a 9.1-bed channel (which is comprised of stationary sounds like background audio and music), 128 tracks, and up to 118 simultaneous sound objects to form an immersive soundstage. A sound object can be anything from the sound of dancing steps, a bouncing ball, a barking dog, or a falling tree. Each object has a specific position in a scene, and Atmos allows content creators to put and move these sound objects in specific locations to emulate a 3D space. This creates realistic audio of someone running towards you, for example.
If you have Dolby Atmos-compatible equipment, you can enjoy theater-quality sound in your living room. Whether you opt for a soundbar or a full home-theater 5.1 system with an AV receiver for the surround-sound experience, Dolby Atmos will emit a sound different than anything you've heard in your home. The compatible tech will analyze audio data and based on the number and placement of your speakers, it will determine optimal playback in real-time. The more speakers you have, the more fine-tuned your audio positioning, richness, and depth will be, so you'll be able to feel the audio of a plane moving over you as you watch it onscreen.
How does Atmos compare to surround sound?
The greatest difference between Dolby Atmos and surround sound is the use of channels. The conventional home theater surround setup is 5.1 channels, which is five speakers and one subwoofer, or 7.1 channels, which is seven speakers and one subwoofer. With these setups, you can hear a horse galloping from left to right or vice versa, but the system fails to realistically create the auditory illusion of a flock of birds flying overhead. That missing data can subtract from the feeling of sound immersion.
Dolby Atmos pinpoints acoustical sound and space of objects to a specific place. If you hear a sound in the top left corner of the room, the audio will cast a more accurate spatial sound instead of being fixed to your left speaker. That’s because Atmos-compatible speakers are integrated with upward-firing drivers to achieve auditory height, which is achieved by bouncing the sound off the ceiling.
Bringing Dolby Atmos to Your Home
Not everyone can have multiple speakers due to constraints on space or money. But luckily, these formats are being incorporated in more soundbars, including some of our partners’ products like Sonos Beam, Sonos Arc, and Sony HT-A7000. Although you'll still be making an investment in high-quality soundbars, these systems can still grant you a surround sound experience without having to mess with additional components. Many soundbars can also be paired with wireless rear speakers and subwoofers if you want to expand your home theater sound system in the future.
Is Dolby Atmos a Necessity?
As of now, Dolby Atmos is not exactly a necessity in the home. Audio video fans who already have 4K or 8K televisions may be interested in heightening the movie-watching experience with Dolby Atmos soundbars or home theater systems. Everyone else can wait until the technology becomes more affordable as it saturates the mainstream.
But if you want to feel like you’re attending your favorite band’s live concert or are part of the action or suspense movie keeping you on the edge of your seat, it’s well worth the investment. The easiest thing to do is contact a professional AV company like Origin HiFi and ask about our Dolby Atmos compatible speakers; we can even install your soundbar or a full sound system for you.
Where Can I Find Dolby Atmos Content?
Dolby Atmos support is readily available with select Blu-rays and a multitude of streaming platforms, including certain shows and films on Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney+ on Apple TV 4K, and Netflix. You may have to change your subscription to a plan that supports UHD streaming. Dolby Atmos can also be found on platforms such as Apple Music, Tidal HiFi, and Amazon Music, which each offer a selection of songs in the audio format and can be played through compatible headphones or a soundbar.
Are you ready to elevate your home theater experiences with Dolby Atmos? Whether you still have a few questions, or you’d like to install a full system, Origin HiFi has you covered with products, design, and installation. Contact us today to begin!