Video and Audio Center Blog

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Everyone knows that Dolby is all about sound and through its use multichannel audio from multiple speakers create an immersive sound field. But not content to rest on their laurels, Dolby Laboratories has created Dolby Atmos, a system designed to enhance and improve upon the immersive quality of the sound being heard. It’s in theaters but now it’s in home theaters too. To lose the mystery, we asked a few questions of Brett Crockett, Sr. Director, Sound Technology Research, Dolby .

How does Dolby Atmos translate from the theater to the home theater?

Brett Crockett

The cinema, with its giant screen and massive sound system, will always be the reference for the ultimate entertainment experience. While home theaters have fewer speakers, the Dolby Atmos home experience is extremely powerful. It combines traditional home theater speaker layouts with either ceiling-mounted speakers or new Dolby Atmos enabled speakers that reproduce sounds coming from above you. The impact of either in-ceiling or Dolby Atmos enabled speakers is breathtaking; your room fills with realistic, multidimensional sound that places you directly in the center of the entertainment experience.

What’s do you need for Dolby Atmos in a home theater?

Brett Crockett

In a nutshell: A new AV receiver with Dolby Atmos decoding and rendering capability and supporting speakers – either overhead or new Dolby Atmos enabled speakers. Most AV receiver or preprocessors cannot be retrofitted for Dolby Atmos; the key to Dolby Atmos performance in the home or the cinema is a rendering block which conforms the object based audio stream to the specific speaker layout in the home theater. While you can construct an immersive playback experience from a traditional 5.1 system with 2 overhead speakers (referred to 5.1.2) we recommend a system that supports 4 speakers in the overhead position (or 4 Dolby Atmos enabled speakers) to maintain best precision of object movement overhead.

A home theater enthusiast that employs separates (processor and amplifiers) can build a Dolby Atmos home theater by replacing their processor with a Dolby Atmos capable decoder, and adding amplifier support for the additional speakers components.


What are the options for Speaker Setup?

Brett Crockett

A growing number of companies will offer speakers specifically designed to support Dolby Atmos. These speakers project sound upward to the ceiling. The sounds downward reflection creates a breathtaking, lifelike, and accurate re‑creation of sound coming from above you.

Youll have three options:

One option is to buy speakers that include both traditional, forward-firing speakers and upward-firing Dolby Atmos enabled speakers in the same cabinet. This is a great option if you need new traditional speakers.

Second, if youd prefer to build on your existing speaker setup, you can simply add upward-firing Dolby Atmos speaker modules that sit directly on top of or alongside your current speakers.

Third, you can choose to install speakers in or on your ceiling—the same arrangement used in the cinema.

Any of the three speaker options will deliver the revolutionary Dolby Atmos sound experience that puts you in the middle of the onscreen action, right in your own home theater. As to the number of speakers in your setup, Dolby Atmos is fully adaptable to layouts from traditional 5.1 to 7.1 to 9.1 configurations up to and including 34 speakers. [There is also a home-theater-in-a-box solution supporting Dolby Atmos as well]

Is having speakers in the ceiling the best answer for Dolby Atmos?

Brett Crockett

In real life, sounds come from all around us, including overhead. Having the ability to re‑create overhead sounds is a key element in making Dolby Atmos sound so realistic. The obvious way to create overhead sounds is to install speakers in or on your ceiling. We recommend ceiling heights of 8 foot or higher for installation of overhead speakers. Ideally the overhead speaker should be timbre matched to the performance of your primary multichannel speakers; have wide dispersion characteristics (plus and minus 45 degrees) ideally support full range performance and support high power – or at least be equivalent to your primary speakers in terms of power handling capacity.

We realized that not all consumers can install speakers in the ceiling of their living room, family room, den or even dedicated home theater space. Through our knowledge of psychoacoustics and the physics of sound, weve developed speakers that can create overhead sound even though theyre only a few feet off the floor. These speakers fire sound upward, where it reflects off the ceiling to produce an incredibly lifelike recreation of overhead sound—you really have to hear them to believe them. 

You will be able to buy integrated Dolby Atmos enabled speakers that include both traditional forward-firing speakers and upward-firing speakers in one speaker cabinet. (The Dolby Atmos enabled speaker is housed in a separate enclosure and has its own set of binding post inputs), one for the traditional speaker and one for the upward-firing speaker.) But if you already have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled speaker modules. These include only the upward-firing speakers. You can put the add-on modules on top of your current speakers or on another nearby surface.

What about content that is Atmos-enabled?

Brett Crockett

A Dolby Atmos soundtrack on a Blu-ray disc can be supported by Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus audio codecs. No changes to the Blu-ray specification were required to support Dolby Atmos on Blu-ray content, best of all, a disc featuring Dolby Atmos soundtrack will offer full backward compatibility playback through a traditional channel based home theater system. Globally, more than 235 cinema blockbusters featuring Dolby Atmos soundtracks have been either announced or released since 2012, and many more are on the way. Major Hollywood studios are partnering with Dolby to create home video versions of current box office releases—and previously released favorites—for release in 2014. In addition to global studio partnerships, Dolby is partnering with game and music content creators to streamline Dolby Atmos technology for future home theater use.

Currently Dolby Atmos is available on Blu-ray disc; in the near future you will be able to stream Dolby Atmos content to your home theater. 

Will an existing Blu-ray player have to be replace?

Brett Crockett

You will not need to replace your Blu-ray player as long as it fully conforms to the Blu-ray specification. Current-generation Blu-ray players, and most older players, are compatible. The decoding and rendering of Dolby Atmos content is managed entirely by the A/V receiver. To properly pass the Dolby Atmos audio to the AVR, source devices must be connected to the AVR via HDMI and set to audio bitstream out.

There are presently 14 Home Theater Partners currently manufacturing products, with another half dozen partners working on products. 9 Blu-Ray Discs have been released/announced.

Titles Released:

·      Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount Pictures)

·      Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount Pictures)

·      Step up All In (Lionsgate)

·      Expendables 3 (Lionsgate)

·      John Wick (Lionsgate)

·      On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter (Red Bull Media House)

Titles Announced:

·      The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (Lionsgate): Release date

        March 06, 2015

·      Unbroken (Universal): Release date March 24, 2015

·      Gravity (Warner Bros.): Release date March 31, 2015


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