Dolby Atmos is a surround sound format that utilizes over-head speaker channels and object-based sound to give a significant boost to the immersion level of your home theater audio system. It is one of the newest 3D sound technologies around and it definitely deserves some attention from us here at That AV Dude.
Dolby Atmos: The Technological Details
Like we mentioned earlier, Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound format. It supports up to 128 simultaneous sound objects in an audio mix, and, depending on the Dolby Digital format being used can support a sample-rate frequency of up to 192kHz per channel!
Since Dolby Atmos sound can use the same sample rate frequency ranges of Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD, the decoder used to decode the variable rate bitstream of Atmos is 100% backward compatible with both formats.
The major difference between Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD is that TrueHD is a lossless format. What this means is that none of the audio information present in the original studio mix is lost during the compression of the audio file in the home release mix. The second most important difference between Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD is that TrueHD content is currently only available on Blueray and UHD Blueray disc. Dolby TrueHD also supports more sample rate frequencies (including 48, 96, and 192 kHz) and bit and bit depths (16-, 20-, and 24-bit) than Dolby Digital Plus encoded audio.
What do You Need for Dolby Atmos at Home?
There are a few different ways that you can enjoy Dolby Atmos sound at your home. But first, you have to decide if you would prefer a soundbar or system of separate speakers.
Dolby Atmos from Separate Speakers and an Audio-Video Receiver
In order to get the full benefit of the Dolby Atmos sound format, we here at That AV Dude recommend you go with a decent AVR (Audio-Video Receiver), a UHD Blueray Player that supports the format, a 4K TV or projector (obviously), and a set of decent speakers.
Dolby Atmos supports almost any configuration of speakers from stereo on up to 11.2 surround sound systems. When you add in Dolby Atmos speakers to your multi-channel audio system you change the way you denote the array of speakers for convention sake.
For example, normally we discuss speaker configurations by saying things like “2.1, 3.1, 5.1, etc.” where the first number denotes the full range speakers in the array and the number after the decimal represents the number of subwoofers in the array.
However, when we are discussing Dolby Atmos (and Auro3D, more on that in a future post) speaker arrays we denote them like this: “5.1.4, 7.1.4, 7.2.4, etc”. In these arrays, the first two numbers mean the same thing they did in non-atmos and Auro3D enabled systems and the final number represents the number of overhead channel speakers in the array.
There are two different types of overhead speakers to choose from. The first type has to be mounted in the ceiling of your home and will work in almost any home with a flat ceiling. The second kind of loudspeaker that works for this type of Dolby Atmos system is one that sits on top of your main surround speakers (front left/right, back left/right) and disperses soundwaves directed towards your ceiling where they bounce back to your sitting position. These are known as up-firing speakers and they give listeners a very realistic and immersive overhead sound experience. Many listeners actually believe up-firing speakers to be more immersive than overhead mounted loudspeakers!
Dolby Atmos from a Soundbar System
There couldn’t be an easier way to introduce yourself to Dolby Atmos sound formats than a dedicated soundbar system. Many soundbars support Dolby Atmos sound and work identically to the up-firing speakers mentioned above. Soundbars are generally placed below the display and slightly in front of it. In order to get the full benefit of Dolby Atmos from an up-firing soundbar, a flat ceiling is best. If you have slanted or angled ceilings in your home, it will still work but will take a little tinkering to get just right.
Which Type of System is for You?
We here at That AV Dude can’t tell you which system would work best in your home. It very much depends on your budget and the layout of your home. One thing that we here at That AV Dude can help you out with, however, is to give you a good list of amazing products that will help move you on your way towards Dolby Atmos sound in your very own home! Check them out below: