At tuexperto.com we have been seeing what the latest imaging technologies are and how they work. We have explained what HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG are. Also what advantages does 4K resolution bring? However, we had not yet addressed the audio. And, in recent years, the great revolution in terms of audio is, without a doubt, the Dolby Atmos format . Surely you have seen it as an advertising claim for many audio equipment and even televisions. Maybe, if you live in a big city, you have even heard it already in a cinema.
But what exactly is Dolby Atmos? Many times we see the logo or the billboards, but we don't really know how it affects what we are seeing. So we are going to explain what Dolby Atmos sound consists of, how we can have it at home and what content we have available to enjoy it .
What is Dolby Atmos?
According to Dolby Labs, Dolby Atmos is the biggest advancement in cinema audio since the launch of surround sound . And honestly, they may be right.
Dolby Atmos is a sound technology that mixes the usual surround sound channels with dynamic sound objects . Hence, we often describe Dolby Atmos sound as an object-based sound system.
With Dolby Atmos, the sound engineers have up to 128 "objects", which they can distribute around the room at their discretion . In other words, we achieve a 360-degree sound experience, since the sounds can be located at any point around the viewer.
Obviously, many speakers are needed to position the sound at any point . A theater with Dolby Atmos can use up to 64 speakers. This, logically, is not feasible for a home, so later we will see what options we have to listen to Dolby Atmos at home.
Something to keep in mind is that the Dolby Atmos track is embedded within the Dolby True HD and Digital Plus tracks . This means that only if a compatible receiver is detected, will Dolby Atmos sound be played. Otherwise, the system reproduces the sound with the maximum channels that our equipment accepts.
Dolby Atmos in the cinema
Dolby Atmos introduces two important concepts in theater audio: objects and ceiling speakers . Logically, to be able to use this system, the movie must be available in Dolby Atmos. Something that, luckily, is becoming quite common.
Common soundtracks place sound on a small set of channels . That is, the creators of the sound can place an audio track at the rear. Also on the side, if we opt for a 7.1 sound.
In Dolby Atmos, by contrast, the sound can be released from the channels . It allows sound engineers to treat each sound as an individual entity, called audio objects. These objects can be placed anywhere in the three-dimensional space of the cinema; they are not confined to specific channels. Then it will be the audio processor that determines how many front, rear, side and top speakers each theater uses.
As a result, the sounds of the movie flow around the viewer to immerse them in the action .
Dolby Atmos at home
An installation like the one we have described would not be viable in most homes. So the manufacturers got down to business bringing Dolby Atmos sound into the home . Now we have several options to get this system to our home.
We start with the simplest: sound bars . In the market we have several models available, such as the LG SJ9 that we had the opportunity to test a few months ago.
Dolby Atmos compatible sound bars include a minimum of two speakers on top . These project sound upward, bouncing it off the ceiling. This allows the sound to spread over the head of the viewer.
Something similar we would get include two height speakers on a pair of front speakers , as you can see in the video.
But if we want to achieve the best possible performance, we will need a complete speaker system . To understand it well, let's first review the nomenclature. The basic surround equipment is 5.1, being able to have a 7.1 or even 9.1 equipment. The 5.1 is made up of 2 front channels, a center channel, two rear channels and a subwoofer. On the other hand, the 7.1 adds two “side” channels for a more complete surround. Something similar happens with 9.1, although this can be configured in several ways.
If we are talking about a team with Dolby Atmos we have to introduce a third digit in this nomenclature . So a typical 5.1 rig with two ceiling speakers for Atmos would be named 5.1.2.
To get Dolby Atmos sound from a set of speakers we need two things. The first is a Dolby Atmos compatible AV receiver . For a couple of years practically all receivers that appear on the market are.
The second is a set of loudspeakers with units for Atmos. Luckily, there are already several manufacturers that sell height speakers separately . This allows us to upgrade our current set of speakers to Dolby Atmos easily.
However, the ideal setup would be to place speakers on the ceiling . If we have a dedicated room or a conditioned room, we can set up a configuration of up to 9.1.6 channels.
As an advantage we have that it is not necessary to change the Blu-Ray player or cables , since the current ones are perfectly compatible with this Dolby Atmos system.
But we can not only enjoy Atmos sound at home or at the cinema. Also on portable devices , such as mobiles or tablets. Some headphones even include Dolby Atmos sound .
Like any new technology, devices arrive before content . We have seen it with HDR or Dolby Vision. And the same goes for this sound format.
If we know English or live in the United States, we will have it much easier. There are already many movies released on Blu-Ray with a track in Dolby Atmos. However, the producers seem not to trust the Spanish market much, so the track in this format is always the original .
Torrente 5: Eurovegas Operation was the first Blu-ray released in Spain (and Europe) with Dolby Atmos sound in Spanish. We also have other titles, such as Palmeras en la Nieve or Mortadelo and Filemón Contra Jimmy el Cachondo.
If we put aside the physical discs, we will have to turn to Netflix . However, at the moment, only LG TVs from 2017 and Xbox consoles are supported. In addition, even on Netflix the content with this sound is very limited.
But we don't only have movies or series with this sound. Dolby Atmos is also available, for example, in some games . Titles like Assassin's Creed Origins or Battlefield 1, in their PC version, are also compatible with this system.
For now, in addition to adapting our equipment, the big problem with Dolby Atmos is once again the content. Whether or not it is worth making a significant investment to achieve this will have to be decided by each user. What we can tell you is that the experience of listening to a movie in this format is amazing .