A complete shift in sound mixing
Dolby Atmos is based on quite a different way of mixing sound for movies. Instead of a filmaker deciding which speakers to send the sound to (as in 5.1 or 7.1) a filmmaker just decides where they want the sound to come from in the room. A processor then decides (based on how your room is set up) where the sound should be produced. This should leave us with much more interesting and believable soundtracks to films
This technology has already been used in many new film productions and can be heard in some of the best cinemas in the world.
The second new aspect of Atmos is adding arrays of speakers above the listener. This gives an extremely immersive sound and can really transport you inside a scene.
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How will it work in the home?
Atmos will still be based around the Dolby True HD codec, which means any Blu-Ray player that supports this codec won't need to be replaced.
Your A/V receiver or processor will be the brains of this whole operation. To have Dolby Atmos you will need to invest in a new one which has Atmos support. Yamaha have commited to supporting this (by firmware update) in the RX-A2040 and RX-A3040
Once you have told your receiver where in the room your speakers are placed you're in business. Enjoy being completely immersed in your movies!
How many speakers do I need?
As always use your common sense. The vast majority of people are better off investing their money in less, but higher quality speakers. Atmos is going to be best value for people in dedicated rooms who have more control over the placement of their speakers and have the budget to allow many high quality speakers.
Dolby have taken this into account and have tried to make it as easy as possible for people to gradually step into Atmos without needing a huge upfront investment. You can add arrays of speakers a couple at a time and simply tell your receiver and it will figure out how best to mix sound.
Should I be pre-wiring now?
As always, pre-wiring is a wise way to go if you think you may want an outcome in the future.
Dolby's height speaker standards mean that if you have a dedicated theater room where you think Atmos may be appropriate, you should plan for a number of speakers above you (both in front and behind) Talk to us, we can help reccomend the perfect set up for your room, budget and quality expectations.
It is also worth noting that you may be able to get by without pre wiring for in ceiling speakers. Dolby have announced plans to use add on modules that sit on top or beside traditional speakers and bounce the sound of the ceiling.