You must have come across the term “Dolby Atmos” on movie posters and movie theatres. Even when TV channels advertise about any upcoming movies, they specifically mention Dolby Atmos audio quality. As a matter of fact, if you have checked out the latest soundbars and home theatres, you will find Dolby Atmos everywhere.
You must be wondering what Dolby Atmos is and what difference it is going to make if you purchase home theatre, headphones, or soundbars that support Dolby Atmos audio format. In this article, we will discuss in detail all you need to know about Dolby Atmos and if it is truly worth purchasing Dolby Atmos sound devices.
Understanding Dolby Atmos
Dolby Atmos is a modern audio format. You can compare it to stereo sound or surround sound. In Dolby Atmos audio format, audio from movies, video games, or soundtracks is projected in such a way that the listener gets to listen to the audio in an immersive way. Specifically, Dolby Atmos is popular for producing a three-dimensional effect.
Therefore, the audio will feel more realistic as if the movie scene is taking place around you or you are in the middle of the game itself. Apart from the usual front and the side channels, Dolby Atmos produces sound from the top by adding a height channel to create the three-dimensional effect.
History of Dolby Atmos –
Dolby Atmos audio format has been developed by Dolby Laboratories. It was first introduced in the movie theatre with the movie named “Brave” back in 2012. Dolby Atoms was specifically designed for movie theatres only at the very beginning. However, audio companies now have Dolby Atmos home theatres, headphones, soundbars, VR gadgets and even some premium smartphones.
How To Identify Dolby Atmos?
When you go to the market to purchase a Dolby Atmos soundbar or home theatre, you have to identify them based on the system of naming. If it is a non-Atmos soundbar or home theatre, you will find two digits mentioning the sound channels. For example, a 2.1 home theatre is a non-Atmos system where there are two speakers and one subwoofer.
If it is a Dolby Atmos soundbar or home theatre, you will find three digits mentioning the sound channels. For example, a 5.1.2 soundbar is a Dolby Atmos soundbar where there are five speakers, one subwoofer, and two overhead audio channels. It is this overhead audio channel that creates the three-dimensional effect.
Setup and Working of Dolby Atmos –
Unlike a non-Atmos system where you have speakers on all sides including front and rear sides, for Dolby Atmos to work, you need to install speakers in the ceiling as well apart from the side ones. Therefore, Dolby Atmos has side speakers as usual and ceiling speakers as additional. From a technological point of view, Dolby Atmos depends on surround sound signals and metadata to deliver audio as expected.
It is important to note that Dolby Atmos is an object-specific audio system. This means it enhances the sound of objects more vividly instead of improving the overall sound quality. Therefore, the sound quality may be as same as the non-Atmos system, but due to object-specific audio and height channels, there is a marked difference that listeners can observe immediately.
Content Availability For Dolby Atmos –
It is important for Dolby Atmos enthusiasts to understand before buying Dolby Atmos soundbar, headphone or home theatre that content compatibility is still a big issue with Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos based content is not widely available. Yes, the latest movies are compatible with Dolby Atmos. Even video streaming platforms like Netflix are coming up with content that is compatible with Dolby Atmos.
But still, the amount of compatible content is significantly low. As far as video games are concerned, there are only a few high-end games available that are compatible with Dolby Atmos. Therefore, if you are purchasing any Dolby Atmos sound device, you are buying it for the future as the compatible content is regularly increasing.
Which Are The Gadgets and Hardware To Purchase For Dolby Atmos?
First and foremost, whenever you are buying any gadget or hardware with Dolby Atmos in mind, make sure that the gadget or hardware supports Dolby Atmos. Don’t just buy blindly at a premium price and imagine that it will support Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos Home Theatre – You should check that there are three digits mentioning the channels. For example, a 5.14 or 7.1.2 home theatre is a Dolby Atmos home theatre.
Dolby Atmos Streaming Boxes – Streaming boxes like Apple 4K, Nvidia Shield, Roku Ultra, and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max support Dolby Atmos.
A/V Receiver – There are brands like Pioneer, Yamaha, Onkyo, Integra, and Denon, Marantz that have A/V receivers with Dolby Atmos compatibility.
If you are buying a TV, ensure that the brand specifically mentions Dolby Atmos in specifications. Generally, the latest 4K TVs from popular brands have Dolby Atmos. Similarly, you have to check the specifications and features minutely to understand if any soundbar or AV receiver supports Dolby Atmos.
What Headphones Are Designed for Dolby Atmos?
Technically speaking, all headphones are suitable for Dolby Atmos because Dolby Atmos does not have any particular requirement for the number of speakers. All the work is done by Dolby Access software for the headphones to play Dolby Atmos sound. The processor of your computer or gaming console does the rest of the work for creating the three-dimensional surround sound effect.
However, premium headphones are best for Dolby Atmos. You should opt for multi-driver headphones for better Dolby Atmos. Similarly, wired headphones are better for Dolby Atmos. Most importantly, if you are buying new headphones, check the specifications and see the company that mentions Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos for Headphones: Advantages & Drawbacks
Here are the advantages and drawbacks you should be aware of.
- You can listen to Dolby Atmos on any headphones. There is no need for extra money to purchase suitable headphones.
- You get more immersive quality and three-dimensional sound effects. The movies, videos, and games feel more real, and you get invested to a greater extent.
- Dolby Access app does not come installed on computers and gaming consoles. Therefore, you have to download and install it explicitly. The process is time-consuming.
- You have to purchase a Dolby Access license to use it continuously. The one-time fee is $14.99.
Dolby Atmos – Is It Worth It?
If you already have a home theatre, soundbar, or headphone, you might wonder if you should upgrade to Dolby Atmos. You should upgrade only if you are very particular about the sound effect instead of sound quality. If you are looking to improve sound quality, there is no need to upgrade as the overall sound quality will stay the same. However, with Dolby Atmos upgrade, you get to listen to the enhanced object-specific sound.
If you are going to buy a new home theatre or soundbar, you can opt for Dolby Atmos if you like surround sound effects and you want a three-dimensional effect. You should have a large room for Dolby Atmos home theatre or soundbar so that you get the 3D effect vividly. If you do not have movies, soundtracks, and games that are compatible with Dolby Atmos, there is no use in buying a Dolby Atmos. However, if you are buying a home theatre or soundbar that you do not have to upgrade for the next ten years, you should opt for Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos is the future of the audio industry. Due to not so readily available content, Dolby Atmos may not be as worthy as it should be in the current scenario. However, if you have Dolby Atmos content, purchasing a Dolby Atmos-based audio device should be your first preference. In fact, if you are looking to buy something that does not have to be upgraded at least for the next five to ten years, Dolby Atmos is totally worth it.