A New Dimension in Surround Sound: Dolby Atmos
At Gramophone, we’re excited! Dolby Atmos is the biggest advancement in home theater sound in over a decade. Dolby Atmos was first shown in commercial movie theaters with the release of Brave in 2012. Since then, most major motion pictures have been produced in Dolby Atmos. The home releases of these are starting to hit the market now, and we can demonstrate Dolby Atmos for you in one of our showrooms.
With Dolby Atmos. movie directors now have a whole new dimension for the soundtracks of their movies. Surround sound for home theater generally uses a 5.1 channel system with the top systems being 7.1 channels. The speakers include left, center, and right across the front along with two rear speakers and in a 7.1 system surround left & surround right side speakers. The “point 1” is the deep bass track called LFE (low frequency effect) which is sent to a subwoofer. This arrangement of speakers allows producers to have sound appear any where in front of or behind you. Now, with Dolby Atmos, 4 more speakers are added to the system to create sound in front, on the sides, behind, and above you.
Now imagine this: directors now have a 3D map of your entire theater space to work with. Think about a rectangular 3D space that starts with your front speakers, encompasses your ceiling and includes all the way to the back walls of your theater. Atmos provides the director the ability to take any single spot in 3D space and locate precisely where any sound should come from! Dolby Atmos actually attaches “meta-data” to every sound to tell the Atmos processor where to locate the sound. This means that we need more processing power inside a home theater receiver to decode all of this than in the past, but fortunately, the technology is remarkably affordable.
In the past, Dolby has recommended the surround and rear speakers be positioned slightly above the listening area to add a sense of height. With the addition of in ceiling speakers for the height channels, new home theaters will have the normal sides and rears more at ear level to give a bigger space for the 3D sound to occur within. If you currently have surround speakers located in the ceiling, you can still upgrade to a Dolby Atmos theater by locating additional surround speakers on the side & rear of your space. Just keep in mind that Atmos will just not work unless you make your in ceiling speakers the Atmos channels and add a pair of speakers for the surround channels on the side or rear walls.
So what will you need to put Atmos in your home? First of all, the good news is, if you have a recent Blu-Ray player, it will decode Atmos soundtracks. Any Blu-Ray player with 1.4 HDMI capabilities can play Atmos. You WILL need a new surround sound receiver or preamp/processor and additional speakers. Integra, one of Gramophone’s favorite brands, has Atmos enabled receivers and processors available now.
Once you have Atmos set up, all of your movies will become even better. The Atmos system has “up-sampling” to take normal 5.1 surround and use your Atmos speakers! Dolby Atmos is just amazing from a sound perspective. Once you hear it, we know you’ll be as excited as we are.