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What is Dolby Atmos? How it will change your TV experience?

A graphic showing a living room with a TV and home theater. And on the graphic a large inscription: "What is Dolby Atmos?".
MING | Unsplash

Written by

Jacek Obst

8 min read

Are you tired of the same old surround sound experience? Want to take your audio experience to the next level? Look no further than Dolby Atmos. This innovative sound technology offers an immersive audio experience, creating a spatial sound experience that makes you feel like you're in the middle of the action.

But what exactly is Dolby Atmos? And what comes after it? So sit back, relax, and get ready to be blown away by the future of audio technology.

1. What is Dolby Atmos and How Does It Work?

Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary surround sound technology that takes the audio experience to the next level. It creates a more immersive, lifelike, and dynamic audio environment by adding height channels to traditional surround sound setups.

Dolby Atmos System

The Dolby Atmos system uses speakers placed above the listener to create a three-dimensional sound field. The system allows for up to 128 simultaneous audio objects in a mix, each with its own positional metadata. This metadata tells the Dolby Atmos decoder where to place each sound object in space.

Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization

Dolby Atmos height virtualization allows for a similar effect using fewer speakers by simulating overhead sound. This feature can be found on many modern AV receivers and soundbars, enabling users to enjoy an immersive audio experience without having to install additional speakers.

How does it work?

Dolby Atmos works by assigning audio elements to specific speakers in real time, creating a more precise and dynamic soundstage. The system determines which speaker or group of speakers should play each element based on the metadata associated with that element.

For example, if you're watching an action movie with explosions happening on-screen, the Dolby Atmos system will assign those explosive sounds to specific speakers around you, creating a realistic and immersive experience.

Is Dolby Atmos worth it?

If you are an audiophile or someone who enjoys high-quality entertainment, Dolby Atmos is definitely worth considering. However, keep in mind that this system was created mainly for movies. If you only want to listen to high-quality music, you can do without it, as most likely 99% of the songs you will listen to are not recorded with Dolby Atmos.

How can I get Dolby Atmos?

To get started with Dolby Atmos at home, you'll need compatible hardware such as an AV receiver or soundbar along with compatible content to take advantage of this technology.

2. The Evolution of Dolby Atmos: A Brief History

Movie theater hall with empty seats Geoffrey Moffett | Unsplash

Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary audio technology that has transformed the way we experience sound in movies, TV shows, and music.

Dolby Atmos: A New Audio Format for Movie Theaters

Dolby Atmos was first introduced in 2012 as a new audio format for movie theaters. The first film using this technology was Brave. Since then, many other films have been released in Dolby Atmos including Gravity, Interstellar, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Adapting Dolby Atmos for Home Theater Systems

In 2014, Dolby Atmos was adapted for home theater systems. This made it possible for consumers to experience the technology in their own homes. With Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers or soundbars, viewers could enjoy the same immersive audio experience they would get in a movie theater.

Available on Various Devices

Today, Dolby Atmos is available on a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles. This means that users can enjoy an immersive audio experience no matter where they are or what device they're using.

Continuously Evolving Technology

The technology behind Dolby Atmos continues to evolve with new features being added to enhance the listening experience. One such feature is object-based audio which allows sound engineers to manipulate individual sounds within an audio mix rather than just placing them in specific locations within a three-dimensional space.

Another feature is virtualization which allows users to enjoy an immersive audio experience even if they only have two speakers or headphones. By using advanced algorithms and processing techniques, virtualization creates the illusion of sounds coming from all around you even if you're only using a stereo setup.

3. Devices and Services That Support Dolby Atmos Technology

Xbox Series S Kamil S | Unsplash

Audio Devices

Dolby Atmos technology is supported by various audio devices such as home theater systems and soundbars. One example of an audio device that supports Dolby Atmos technology is Sony HT. It provides a cinematic sound experience with its 7.1.2 channel system that includes two up-firing speakers for overhead sound effects.

Streaming Services

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have started to support Dolby Atmos for select content. This means that viewers can enjoy their favorite movies and TV shows with enhanced surround sound technology, making it feel like they are right in the middle of the action.

Gaming Systems

Xbox fans can triumph there, becase Xbox Series X/S are the first consoles supporting gaming in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision.

Unfortunately Playstation 5 will never support Dolby Atmos, because Sony has its own 3D audio technology called Tempest 3D AudioTech.

Xbox Gamers can now enjoy their favorite games with spatial audio that allows them to hear sounds coming from all directions, giving them an advantage over their opponents.

Music Streaming Services

Dolby Atmos music is an emerging trend in the music industry. It allows artists to create a more immersive listening experience by adding height channels to their tracks. Currently, Tidal and Amazon Music HD offer a selection of songs in this format.

4. Necessary Equipment for Dolby Atmos: Specially Designed Speakers for Zooming and Swooping Sound

Black and white photo of speakers Sandy Kawadkar | Unsplash

Atmos Speakers

To fully enjoy the benefits of Dolby Atmos, you need specially designed speakers that can produce overhead sound. There are three main types of speakers required for a complete Dolby Atmos setup:

  • Height Speakers: These speakers are mounted above the listener's ear level and create the illusion of sound coming from above
  • Surround Speakers: These speakers are placed on either side of the listener and behind them to provide directional sounds
  • Ceiling Speakers: These speakers are mounted in or on the ceiling directly above the listener's head, providing an even more immersive experience.

Speaker Configuration

The speaker configuration for Dolby Atmos can vary depending on your home setup. The most common configuration is a 5.1.2 system, which includes five traditional surround sound speakers (front left, center, front right, rear left, rear right), one subwoofer for bass frequencies, and two height speakers.

However, if you have a larger room or want an even more immersive experience, you can upgrade to a 7.1.4 system with four height speakers or even a 9.1.6 system with six height speakers.

Additional Equipment

While having dedicated Atmos speakers is necessary for experiencing Dolby Atmos at its fullest potential there are some additional equipment options available as well:

  • Soundbars: A soundbar can be used as an alternative to traditional speaker setups if space is limited or you prefer a simpler setup
  • Wireless Subwoofer: It often comes with soundbar and can be used to add more bass to your audio experience

5. Dolby Atmos-Compatible TVs and Soundbars: What You Need to Know

Soundbar on the cabinet in front of the TV Jonas Leupe | Unsplash

Experience Immersive Audio with Dolby Atmos-Compatible Soundbars

While a full home theater setup with multiple speakers can provide the ultimate Dolby Atmos experience, it's not always practical or affordable for everyone. That's where Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbars come in. They offer an easy and convenient way to enjoy immersive audio without all the extra equipment.

Key Components for Optimal Dolby Atmos Experience

To get the most out of your Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbar, you need two things: a TV that supports the format and an Atmos soundbar or AV receiver with height channels. Height channels are essential as they add overhead sound effects that create the illusion of sounds coming from above.

When shopping for a TV that supports Dolby Atmos, look for models labeled as Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos. These TVs have built-in support for both video and audio formats. Ensure your TV has HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) support so you can connect your soundbar easily.

6. Conclusion: Why Dolby Atmos is the Future of Audio

Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary audio technology that has changed the way we experience sound. It creates a multidimensional sound that allows you to hear every detail and feel like you are right in the middle of the action. With its unique ability to zoom in and swoop around, Dolby Atmos provides an immersive experience like no other.

The evolution of Dolby Atmos has been remarkable, and it's now available on various devices and services. Content creators have embraced it as well, making it easier to find Dolby Atmos content across different platforms.

To fully enjoy Dolby Atmos, you need specially designed speakers that can deliver multidimensional sound. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for both TVs and soundbars.

If you're looking for an unparalleled audio experience, then Dolby Atmos is definitely worth considering. It's the future of audio and promises to transform your entertainment experience.


Do I need special equipment to enjoy Dolby Atmos?

Yes, you will need specially designed speakers or headphones that support Dolby Atmos to enjoy its benefits fully.

Can I watch regular movies with Dolby Atmos?

You can watch regular movies on your Dolby Atmos setup, but you won't get the full experience. Dolby Atmos is designed to work with specially encoded content that includes height channels for overhead sound effects.

Is there any free content available in Dolby Atmos?

Yes! Some streaming services offer free trials or have a selection of free content available in Dolby Atmos format.

Do all streaming services support Dolby Atmos?

No, not all streaming services support this technology yet. However, many popular ones such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video do offer some content in this format.

Can I use my existing soundbar or home theater system with Dolby Atmos?

The answer is yes, but it depends on the specific model and its compatibility with Dolby Atmos. Some older models may not support this technology, while newer ones are designed to work with it. You should check the specifications of your soundbar or home theater system to see if it is compatible with Dolby Atmos before purchasing any new equipment. Additionally, you will need to make sure that your content (movies, TV shows, etc.) is encoded with Dolby Atmos to fully experience the immersive audio experience.

How does Atmos compare to surround sound?

While surround sound only provides audio from specific channels, Atmos allows for individual sounds to be placed and moved in a three-dimensional space. This means that sounds can come from above or below the listener, creating a more realistic and dynamic audio environment. Additionally, Atmos can support up to 128 simultaneous audio objects, offering a level of detail and complexity that is not possible with traditional surround sound systems. Overall, Dolby Atmos provides a more advanced and immersive audio experience than traditional surround sound.

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