This guide will dig into the Dolby Atmos. We’ll discuss what it is, how you can get it, including the devices that can support it. Also, you’ll find out how to set up a sound system using it.
If you are looking for a sound system that will give you excellent sound quality, the Dolby Atmos may be one of the best options. We’ll compare it to some of the leading competitors so you can be able to know the difference between the two in terms of features, performance, and more.
Let’s dig right in and talk more about the Dolby Atmos.
What is Dolby Atmos?
The Dolby Atmos provides the best 360-degree audio, equivalent to what you can experience in a movie theater. And best of all, you get that right in your living room or when it’s linked to your mobile device of choice.
The Atmos has been around for the last 10 years. It’s first appearance was in movie theaters during the time of the showing of Disney’s “Brave”. Soon after, that same technology providing that theater-style quality was found in many homes, albeit custom installed.
Dolby Atmos has since been found on audio products including soundbars and AV receivers. Since then, consumers have relied on it to get the best quality in terms of surround sound. On top of that, home theaters with Dolby Atmos technology are affordable thus making it a steal of a deal for someone looking for that sound quality so awesome, their living room may very well double as the local cinema.
One of the things it won’t do is require you to install speakers that would otherwise need to be placed on your walls (including drilling the holes needed to hang them up).
What Does Dolby Atmos Do?
Atmos expands on the 5.1 and 7.1 channel formats that Dolby has normally used. It also focuses on the vertical Z plane aside from the usual X and Y axis. The audio is not pre-mixed.
The Dolby Atmos has been created for the best audio experience in not only a cinema setting, but also for higher end home theater systems. If you can afford it, you can be able to add more speakers to enhance the sound experience.
So for example, you can add as many as 64 speakers to get the maximum sound experience needed. But what if you want to use it in a smaller home theater or even use your mobile device? Yes, the technology exists in both of them (including in a handful of Samsung Galaxy phones and Note9).
So yes, one of the biggest features that Dolby Atmos has is versatility. Which means that in order to experience it, there’s no need to purchase 64 speakers for your living room (if you don’t want to). Your mobile device will provide you with an excellent sound experience thanks to the multi-speaker system it may have.
What Atmos does is render the audio by converting the audio channels into a 360 degree output. For best results, you may need headphones that have Dolby technology such as the Razer Thresher Ultimate.
How to Get Dolby Atmos?
There are three ways to get Dolby Atmos: via content, devices, and a sound system. We will be breaking each of them down so you have the best ways to acquire what could be the best sound quality in the business today. Let’s get started:
Blu-ray discs will be your best bet in terms of acquiring Dolby Atmos content. Most movies (not all of them) you purchase using this format will have Atmos as its soundtrack. This will be featured alongside some of the other formats including 5.1 audio, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio.
If you are not a fan of Blu-Ray and want to keep it to streaming apps, the good news is that Netflix. Disney +, and Amazon Prime all have this option available. Like Blu-Ray movies, not every title you’ll want to stream will have this audio option. It may not hurt to check if you feel the need to do so.
At the same time, you may also see Dolby Atmos as an available audio option for console and PC games. It is slowly but surely becoming popular with games on both of these platforms.
What you’ll want to understand is that even though you have content with the option of Dolby Atmos audio, it may not be heard that way. The reason for this is that you may be using the content on devices that don’t support it. With that in mind, you’ll want to find the right devices.
They include but are not limited to:
- Cable TV boxes
- Mobile devices (tablets and phones)
- Gaming consoles
- Blu-Ray Players
One common way to know if your device is Dolby Atmos compatible is finding out if it has an HDMI connection. If it does, there’s a good chance that it can play such audio content (if included). If you are using a mobile device, there can be support in either the speakers or headphones.
The key point is that in order to get the best experience with Dolby Atmos, getting a device that supports it will be a top priority on your list before purchasing the content that has it. As for the setup itself using your TV (with Dolby Atmos), you’ll want to connect it to your soundbar or AV receiver.
Don’t forget that you will need support for Dolby Digital Plus audio and connection for HDMI ARC. If your TV was manufactured after 2018, this won’t be a challenge since most TVs will have Dolby Atmos support. Anything before that will be the opposite.
If you are using a Blu-Ray player or supporting game consoles, make sure it has HDMI 1.4 (or later) support. The audio itself will need to be set to bitstream.
Your sound system will need to have the ability to decode the Atmos format and play it through compatible speakers. Because of its versatility, Atmos audio can be played through so many different devices. Yet, you’ll want to use an AV receiver or processor if you want your home theater to be able to decode the Atmos format.
Receivers that have been manufactured from 2018 and beyond will have Atmos support. Some higher-end receivers before then may have this support, but it may depend on the brand. Either way, it will be able to provide you with two output channels that will need the use of two overhead speakers.
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Keep in mind that the output channels your receiver has will give you a limit to how many Atmo-compatible speakers you will be able to include. Alternatively, a soundbar can also be installed (especially if it comes with speakers that are Atmos compatible).
In short, newer model sound systems will more than likely have Dolby Atmos support. Keep this in mind when you are shopping around for soundbars, AV receivers, or anything else that will consist of your dream home theater or sound system.
Dolby Atmos speakers setup
If you are planning to set up your home theater with Dolby Atmos capabilities, you’ll want the following:
- Speakers (Dolby Atmos-enabled)
- Soundbar (Dolby Atmos-enabled)
- Ceiling speakers
This will be your must-haves when you need to set up a high-quality sound performance. The speakers that are Atmos-enabled will need to be situated so that the sound coming from them can bounce off the ceiling and ensure excellent overhead sound. Please note that you have two speakers that are enabled for Atmos including the integrated one with your forward-firing speakers and any add-ons that you can include.
If you purchase a soundbar that is Atmo-enabled, it should include upward-firing speakers. If not, you may need to purchase them separately. As for how many speakers you’ll need, you want to use four Atmos-enabled speakers if you want the best quality and experience.
For this section, we will be showing you how to set it all up in two ways. First, we’ll be using the soundbar setup, then we’ll follow up with the 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 surround sound setups. If you have either of these, skip over the soundbar setup and find the surround system that fits you best.
Setting up with a Soundbar
If you are playing or streaming the content of your choice, you’ll want to make sure you have the right devices that will support Dolby Atmos. Again, this includes a Blu-Ray player, XBox One, Fire TV or Apple TV (both in 4K), or any newer TVs (after 2018) and applicable apps that are included. Also, make sure you have the bitstream output enabled.
If you want Dolby Atmos to pass through your soundbar, it needs to be connected using an HDMI or ARC. Enable bitstream output. If you are setting up a home theater system, keep reading.
You want the soundbar that is Dolby Atmos enabled to be set up below your television. All the speakers in your home theater system will need to be in the same housing (with the exception of the subwoofer). Keep in mind that you’ll want to place the soundbar in a place where it won’t block any of the paths where the audio coming from the Atmos-enabled speakers will travel to.
Related: Where Should a Soundbar Be Placed?
If you wish, you can place the soundbar at the halfway point between the floor and the ceiling. This can give you the best height effects if you so choose. If you wish to install a subwoofer (which is optional), you can place it facing towards the listening position or on either side of the soundbar or TV (you can place it down below the soundbar or TV as well).
Do not set the subwoofer and the soundbar too far apart as it can be a problem for the sound frequency. Be sure to test the soundbar once everything is set up.
Setting up with 5.1 Surround Sound
Before we set up the Surround Sound (5.1 or above), it’s important to know some of the following tips. For one, the room size may differ making the setup slightly different. Also, it’s better to make sure you have a clear path for your audio and make some adjustments if need be.
Also, reducing echo will also be a good idea if you want your audio to be more balanced. This can be done by making sure your floors and walls are less cluttered. Now, let’s begin:
- The subwoofer should be facing you at the front and placed below the TV.
- You’ll need two front speakers each at a 30 degree angle at each listening position.
- Two rear speakers each situated anywhere from a 110 to 120 degree angle.
Adding two more speakers, these ones will be to the front but closer to you. These two will be situated anywhere from a 50 to 70 degree angle on either side. These speakers will need to be situated at your situated ear height when you are seated.
It is recommended that your minimum number of speakers you’ll need are four. Again, it will depend on the kind of setup you are using. For example, a 5.1.4 or 7.1.4 system includes four Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers.
If using a 9.1.2 system, all you need to do is add another pair of front wide speakers (if using a 7.1.2 layout). You have the option to add more speakers if you so choose, but this will depend on some factors including room size, layout, and more.
While there are plenty of options for Dolby-Atmos speakers, it can be a challenge to choose the best ones. However, we do have our recommendations for both speakers and soundbars. If you are looking for a speaker system that will be Atmos-compatible, the Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 Speaker System might just be what you need.
If you are looking for a soundbar, one in particular would be the Sonos Arc. In terms of its Dolby Atmos capabilities, it’s the best on the market right now. With 11 Class-D amplifiers, 8 woofers, and three tweeters, it’s an all-in-one soundbar that will prove its worth once it’s set up.
How Does Dolby Atmos Compare to Similar Products?
In this section, we will do a quick comparison between Dolby Atmos and a few of its leading competitors in terms of sound. Let’s get right to the chase and begin:
Atmos has both horizontal and vertical speaker arrangements while its Digital counterpart has horizontal along. In terms of audio compression, Digital has 2D surround sound compared to Atmos’ 3D.
Last but not least, Atmos has a pair of side speakers aside from the usual speakers and subwoofers (which the Digital does not).
Now, we’re going to switch gears and discuss headphones and the spatial technologies they use for a moment. If you are a gamer that is looking for excellent sound quality, there’s no denying that these two are the heavyweight contenders. So how do they stack up against one another?
For one, the Windows Sonic is free of charge and doesn’t need any dedicated hardware. Windows-compatible devices will also require minimal setup (unless it’s built-in). With Atmos, you may need dedicated hardware, but an app download will be required for such devices like your PC or Xbox One.
Despite sharing the same name, they are not the same in terms of functionality. That’s why we’re comparing them here. Dolby Audio has 2D sound enhancement while Atmos has 3D. That’s the major difference between the both of them.
The Atmos beats out the DTS X in terms of sound quality, but only by a hair. However, the DTS X throws the requirement for extra speakers out the window for a more similar sound. It also uses an open source MDA platform, so it requires no special permissions before it’s in operation.
Surprisingly, we didn’t think we expected these two to be almost evenly matched in comparison sound wise. But in terms of setup, DTS X won’t make it challenging because it doesn’t need a lot of additional equipment.
Spatial audio is exclusive to Apple devices. So you’ll find these on most of their Apple devices including the latest iPhones, AirPods, Apple TV, and similar products. Dolby Atmos will usually be found on Android devices.
One of the major differences between Atmos and Surround Sound is the number of channels that are being used. The number of speakers used with Surround Sound will depend on the set up that’s being used. As mentioned before, 5.1 will use five speakers and one subwoofer while the 7.1 uses two more speakers, creating more audio channels.
Atmos has overhead sound, calibration software, and has better sound precision compared to its Surround Sound counterpart. Plus, Atmos will give you a more fuller, clearer sound.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions pertaining to Dolby Atmos. This will help you make the determination of whether it’s worth purchasing over its competitors. Here are the following questions people ask:
It may depend on the devices being used. Some say it will make a difference with TVs and home theaters, but won’t make much of a difference in terms of game consoles and headphones. For example, if the headphones have sound quality that already sounds top quality, you won’t notice a difference if it’s playing content in Dolby Atmos form.
Atmos is good for those looking for excellent sound quality regardless if they are using a home theater system or a mobile device. If you are looking for something that will sound great in a 360-degree bubble, this might be something that’s right up your alley.
They are the same thing.
Dolby Atmos will give you the option to watch the movie while immersing yourself in multi-dimensional sound packed with clarity and precision.
Dolby Atmos will improve sound at a much higher level compared to its Surround Sound counterparts.
According to most audiophiles, Dolby Atmos says that the competition is not close with IMAX. They state that Atmos ‘blows IMAX out of the water’. One of the major factors is that Atmos has more speakers and better sound quality compared to IMAX.
You may not need a TV that already has Dolby Atmos in order for it to be supported. However, you may need to get speakers that are compatible with it. Make sure that these are connected using HDMI.
Dolby Atmos is available on select movies and TV shows that you can watch. However, you will need to purchase the plan that supports Ultra HD streaming.
Dolby Atmos deals with sound while Dolby Vision deals with pictures. The latter is useful whenever you want something that will give you the best image quality.
One TV that has Dolby Atmos equipped is the 2022 Neo QLED 8K. Aside from its audio features, it has excellent picture quality.
No, YouTube videos are not equipped for Dolby Atmos audio.
That will depend on the movie titles. Some movies in 4k will have Dolby Atmos and others may not.
So far, Spotify does not have Dolby Atmos support. However, there are plans for inclusion at some point in 2022 or beyond.
It is recommended that you need about four speakers minimum needed for Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos has proven itself worthy in terms of sound quality. Though it’s fairly new, it has yet to be included on some other platforms like YouTube and Spotify. But nevertheless, it can be an awesome experience assuming you have the right content, devices, and equipment that will help you get the best out of it.
Granted, some devices may not give you the full experience because it may have excellent sound quality that may exist beforehand.
John Fleming is the senior editor for Audiophilez.com, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. He is a graduate of Music Production and Technology. Before Audiophilez, John began his career as a staff writer for two different magazines, where he became a skilled storyteller across different mediums. When he isn’t writing, he can be found biking, reading books, and playing the piano.