Atmos is a surround sound technology that was originally developed in 2012. But what is it, exactly? Whether you’re enjoying media from your phone, TV, or local movie theater, the audio is likely supported by Dolby. Dolby Atmos takes Dolby’s traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound setups a step further by adding a third, overhead dimension. You’re no longer constrained to a stereo system or standard six or seven-channel arrangement. With Dolby Atmos, you experience an auditory atmosphere, and are encompassed by scenic sounds by your equipment bouncing sounds off your ceiling. The end result is an environment that more accurately represents how you experience sound. Atmos technology can realistically reproduce the sound of something as big an explosion or as small as a bee flying from flower to flower, making it sound spatially accurate. You can even hear sounds that are coming from overhead. Dolby Atmos essentially fools the brain into thinking it’s right in the middle of the scene.
What is Atmos?
Atmos is, in Dolby’s own words, “the most significant development in cinema audio since surround sound.” Up to 400 speakers can be used in the top of Dolby Atmos cinemas. But it’s unlikely you’ll have the room to house such a speaker count in your home. Instead, there are a number of simpler home theater system options. You can add two or four ceiling speakers to your system. Installing add-on speaker modules on top of your existing main floor standing or bookshelf front left and right speakers or your left and right front and rear/surround speakers are other options. Or you can purchase a purpose-built Atmos speaker system. When a Dolby Atmos system is installed, the room receives a complete calibration, allowing sound mixers to precisely ‘place’ sounds and voices at exact points in the sound field rather than just to specific audio channels. Each speaker in an Atmos system has its own discrete feed, enabling new front, surround and ceiling-mounted height channels.
Atmos at Home
The benefit of Dolby Atmos in a home theater is its versatility. Dolby Atmos can be played back on virtually any speaker configuration. The more speakers you have, the more precise each audio object’s placement. Given that a cinema-style installation isn’t a practical solution for most people, AV manufacturers have stepped in to make it realistic in the domestic situation. The best news is that you don’t have to make holes in your ceiling to install ceiling speakers. Atmos upward firing speakers reflect off the ceiling and towards your listening position to create a pseudo-overhead effect.
Is Dolby Atmos Worth It?
Now available for home theater, Dolby Atmos places surround sound layout all around you, including overhead, to make entertainment incredibly immersive. Think of it as 4K for your ears. Dolby Atmos takes surround sound layout to the next level by delivering a true 3D audio experience. It’s worth it to upgrade to a Dolby Atmos setup from your standard 5.1 home theater set up. A Dolby Atmos setup sounds fuller and clearer than regular 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound layouts. The sounds coming from the height channels really make you feel like you’re in the movies you’re watching. Dolby Atmos setups are becoming a must-have feature for audiophiles.
Dolby Atmos Speakers
Thankfully, you don’t have to get a lot of speakers to enjoy Dolby Atmos. A 5.1 setup will do just fine. If you’re thinking about getting a couple of height speakers, your system would be described as a 5.1.2. But if you want to keep things simple, you can just invest in a compatible soundbar. They tend to use upward-firing drivers to disperse sound overhead. The Sony ST5000 Dolby Atmos Sound Bar from Buydig.com is a superb-sounding product, packed full of features. You’ll immediately find your head bobbing along with whatever you play through this soundbar. The integration between the treble, midrange and bass is tight, giving the ST5000 a great sense of timing and rhythm. Sony’s ST5000 pairs a real sense of height with a sophisticated sound quality. Included with the bar is a subwoofer, sitting in a housing about the size of a bowling pin. Along the front of the soundbar are seven 65mm drivers, three of which have tweeters mounted in the middle. On the top are two upfiring drivers that make this soundbar capable of conveying height realistically. If you’ve been looking for a fuss-free way to get Dolby Atmos into your home, this is the best way.
Samsung has been introducing truly impressive soundbars in recent years and this year’s Q series lineup is no exception. The Samsung 5.1 Soundbar System Q80R from Buydig.com is a 5.1.2-channel system, with three front and two side-firing drivers along with the two upfiring height channel drivers. These are positioned upward to reflect sounds off the ceiling. One intriguing new feature Samsung has introduced for its 2019 soundbars is the Adaptive Sound mode. As with the Optimized Sound feature on Samsung’s latest TVs, Adaptive Sound adjusts the way sound is presented based on analysis of the audio source. For instance, if sport is detected, the speakers will work to create a stadium-like effect, with pretty much equal balance around the sound stage. Chat shows, news and the like will get an emphasized center channel, and music will get a pop ‘tone’ and stereo emphasis. The Q80R’s ability to recognize the sort of sound it’s getting even extends to a Game Pro mode that can tell when you’re playing a game on a PS4 or Xbox One and automatically switch your TV into its fast-responding Game picture mode. The Q80R delivers spectacular levels of room-filling power, precision, and dynamism.
LG has announced its complete sound bar range for 2019, which includes three high-end models with support for both Google Assistant and Dolby Atmos. With built-in Google Assistant, the LG SK9Y will double as a full-on Google smart speaker, allowing you to request songs or ask about the weather with your voice. The LG Dolby Atmos Soundbars include the front channels only, but you can purchase an add-on Wireless Rear Speaker Kit for more immersive surround. Meanwhile all of the sound bars like the LG SK9Y include wireless subwoofers.
Dolby Atmos is one of the latest ways to get surrounded by sound!