Dolby Atmos, introduced in 2012 is a surround sound system. It was once available only in movie theaters.
It is now available for home movie viewing with 4K HDTVs, home theater systems, soundbars and video streaming services that support it.
According to Dolby, Atmos is the “most significant development in cinema audio since surround sound.”
Before Dolby Atmos
Prior to the introduction of Dolby Atmos, sound in movie theaters was limited to 8 solo tracks of surround sound.
Take for example a 7.1 channel surround sound system which some theaters still use.
With 7.1, you get 3 frontal sound channels – left, right and center. You can also have 2 side surround channels – left and right. Then you have 2 rear channels. Finally, you have one subwoofer channel.
You can connect any number of speakers for a particular channel. No matter how many speakers you connect, you’ll get only one channel of sound on all the speakers for that particular channel.
In short, all the additional speakers will play the sound of that particular channel at the same time.
Dolby Atmos Capability
Dolby Atmos , on the other hand, can handle a whooping 128 sound channels. Sound can be transmitted to up to 64 different speakers.
In this way, speakers can be placed up on the ceiling to enhance certain sounds, for example, the sound of rain, which you’ll hear above your head giving you a realistic experience.
Sound can also come from behind and move overhead, before moving to the right or left.
Dolby Atmos is sound in motion. So, the sound of a fighter plane can come in from the back, go up over your head and then move to the left or right.
Dolby Atmos at Home : What You Need
To enjoy Dolby Atmos you would need an HDMI 2.0 ARC connection. Better still, use HDMI 2.1 eARC.
Cost is a factor to consider if you need to prepare you home theater system to support Dolby Atmos.
You’ll need rewiring work to the extent of cutting your ceiling to install speakers.
But there’s a workaround. You can get Dolby Atmos speakers and Atmos AV receivers.
Instead of cutting your ceiling to install speakers, you can bounce sound off the ceiling to get an immersive sound experience.
Dolby recommends adding 2 to 4 additional reflective or ceiling speakers to your existing 5.1 or 7.1 syetem. But then Atmos supports up to a maximim of 34 speakers.
Talk to an AV expert at your neighbour electronics store for further advice.
Also, check out this video by Onkyo to give you a basic idea of how Dolby Atmos works.
Dolby Atmos Blu-ray Movies
Dolby Atmos is available on 4K streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
There are also Blu-ray movies like The Matrix, Everest, John Wick, The Martian and Man of Steel which support Dolby Atmos.