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Dolby Atmos: What is it and how does it work

Dolby Atmos
In this article we briefly explain that Dolby Atmos: what is it? how does it work? what it is good for you and how you can use it.
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This week is all about a new surround format; Dolby Atmos. We have already written many articles about receivers with support for Dolby Atmos, but what exactly is this new audio format and how does it work? In this article we briefly explain that Dolby Atmos: What is it? what it is good for you and how you can use it.

In theaters

Dolby Atmos is not a completely new audio format. It has been used in cinemas for some time, so there is a chance that you have already seen a movie that uses Dolby Atmos. In 2013, there were 300 cinemas worldwide that supported the surround format. Through recording software and stereo hardware, Atmos makes it possible to send an unlimited number of audio tracks to different speakers in multiple areas of the theater to provide realistic audio reproduction and impressive surround sound.

In the living room

The Dolby engineers have now found a way to bring Dolby Atmos into the living room and make the surround experience even more impressive here. The main feature of Dolby Atmos is the surround effects that take place above the listening position. As a result, the falling rain on a roof or an aircraft flying over is displayed more realistically and you as a listener are immersed in the action. In the video below, Onkyo gives an introduction to Dolby Atmos.

In the ceiling

The best way to use Dolby Atmos in the living room is to place speakers above the listening position, in the ceiling. You can use all types of speakers for this, but a receiver / amplifier is needed that can decode the its audio track and then send it to the different speakers. Various setups are possible; for example, the 5.1.4 setup consists of a traditional 5.1-channel setup, plus four speakers above the listening position. The 7.1.2 setup uses the 7.1-channel layout with two speakers above the listener. A 5.1-channel setup with four this firmat speakers is also possible. The setup that you can use in your living room depends on what your receiver or amplifier offers and of course what the possibilities of speakers in the room are.

Dolby Atmos: What is it

Dolby Atmos speakers

But, there is a good chance that you can not place any speakers in the ceiling or just do not want to adjust your ceiling. Fortunately, there are also other options in the form of Dolby Atmos speakers. These are speakers that can reproduce complete and detailed ‘overhead’ sound from the place where your current speakers are placed. These speakers have a built-in module that reflects sound from the ceiling to the listening position. This can only be the speakers at the front, but the surround speakers can also have such a module. So you don’t have to place speakers in the ceiling, but you do need new speakers for the full experience.

Dolby Atmos: What is it

Add-on module

However, you may not have the budget to buy completely new speakers or your current speakers are just very good. Even then there is a solution, because speaker manufacturers are also going to market its add-on modules. These can be used in combination with your current speakers and in most cases simply be placed on the existing speakers. Here too, you can choose only the speakers at the front or the speakers at the rear.

Dolby Atmos: What is it

How to create the last two options sound that is located above the listener is a difficult process to explain in which sound waves play an important role, but according to Dolby, this surround experience cannot be matched with the standard 5.1-channel or 7.1-channel. channel arrangement.

Read more about placing Dolby Atmos speakers .

Receivers with Dolby Atmos

To be able to listen to this at home, extra speakers, new speakers or add-on modules are required, but that is not all. The receiver or amplifier you have must be able to decode the audio format and then send it to the speakers. It is therefore important that your new receiver offers this support. Several manufacturers have already receivers with Dolby Atmos announced .

Blu-ray discs with Dolby Atmos

Fortunately, no new Blu-ray player is required to read the its audio track. Current Blu-ray players can extract the audio format from a Blu-ray disc and send it in bitstream to a compatible receiver. This then turns it into a signal that can be understood by the speakers. Dolby expects that the first Blu-ray discs with the its version audio track will be in stores before the end of this year. The first streaming services must also offer support for the new audio format at the beginning of 2015.

The first movies with Dolby Atmos audio track are;

  • Transformers: Age of Extinction
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Step Up All In
  • The Expendables 3
  • Gravity (Diamond Luxe – February 2015 release)


Dolby is of course not the only company that has started with ‘3D audio’. Another format that we see more and more often is Auro 3D, largely comparable to Dolby Atmos but uses slightly different setups for the speakers. DTS is also working on its own format that we will probably see in early 2015.