What is Dolby Atmos?

What exactly is Dolby Atmos? What does it do for your entertainment experience?


You’re new tv, speaker or soundbar has Dolby Atmos capability, but what does that mean? You know it has to do with sound, but what does it do for your overall entertainment experience? If you aren’t an audiophile, this may not be something that you are familiar with. We’re here to break down the basics and give you all you need to know about Dolby Atmos.


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Dolby Laboratories is a company that specializes in audio noise reduction and audio encoding and compressing. Dolby Laboratories launched Dolby Atmos in 2012 and has perfected it each year. Atmos is the highest level and quality you’re going to get in a speaker system. These elevated speakers add height dimension to sound, giving you 360 degrees of surround sound with additional richness and depth. The latest 4K TVs have implemented Dolby Atmos capability to produce that movie theater-like sound effect. Unlike your typical speakers, Dolby Atmos produces a 3D soundstage to feel as if you were right there immersed in the scene. It uses location technology to determine where to place sounds in the room based on a number of details. It analyzes the size of the room, the distance between the listener and where sounds will be placed, the height of the room, and more. The decoder then produces sounds that are more accurately effective of where it is supposed to be in space. Movies, tv shows, games, and music suddenly come to life with Atmos. It can make sounds louder or quieter, more diffused or focused, and bigger or smaller.


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Everything feels more natural and lifelike as you become submerged into the movie. For example, with regular speakers, the sound of helicopters flying over you will travel from the center or front speakers to the rear. Although this is the best sound effect given the equipment, this isn’t the best sound experience you can have. With Atmos, you’d hear helicopters flying as if they were right above you in real time or maybe someone running from a murderer; you can hear them running towards and behind you.


How do they create this immersive movie theater experience? So we know that speakers typically have “channels” or what I call additional speakers within the speaker. Dolby Atmos consists of sound “objects.” Unlike regular channels that delegate each sound to a channel, these sound objects assign each sound to a specific place in the room. For example, the sound channel would assign a sound to the rear left and right channel while the sound objects would assign a sound to travel across the rear wall. This is what contributes to that 3D soundstage we just mentioned. Home audio systems can produce a whopping 128 objects in as little as 7 speakers. Atmos can support up to 34 speakers, but sound experts say that this isn’t necessary. Plus, how funny would that look? For a home audio system, the Dolby reference guide recommends using up to 12 speakers, at most.


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Dolby combines traditional speaker layouts with in-ceiling speakers or Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers. The typical 5.1 speaker layout is what most people are familiar with, but Dolby Atmos can follow a 5.1.2 and 7.1.4 speaker layout with the addition of 2 and 4 extra drivers in the room. Having more speakers doesn’t necessarily mean higher sound quality. Atmos will adjust and adapt to your specific speaker layout to give you the most optimal listening experience, given your setup.


There’s no need to go to the movie theater to enjoy superior sound quality, you can now enjoy the same audio effects at home. In order to enjoy Dolby Atmos in the comfort of your own home, you’ll need a few things: a receiver with Dolby Atmos capability, at least a five-speaker surround setup, two additional overhead or upward-firing speakers, a subwoofer, and content with Dolby Atmos capability(Blu-ray disks, streaming service content). Dolby Atmos is now available on Apple TV 4K and Prime Video.


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You can even enjoy Dolby Atmos on your mobile device by bringing that same powerful sound effect and transferring them to your speakers and headphones. It even supports phones that have up to four speakers embedded. You’ll notice a significant difference in entertainment that wasn’t even created for Dolby Atmos. All mobile content is dramatically enhanced; from dialogue sharpness to volume stabilization. Not only will videos improve tremendously, but live streams, podcasts, and audiobooks as well. It even reduces background noise in voice messages to provide greater clarity the first time around.


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Dolby Atmos has changed the game for music producers and concert ravers. Even clubs around the world have adopted Atmos. With the power to move sounds around the room, the experience is more electrifying and enveloping than ever before. Songs suddenly have heightened depth and texture.  Music producers are starting to write their unique tracks in Dolby Atmos format, stating that they feel more in tune with their music and the audience when playing in Atmos. DJs are no longer hindered by their typical stereo that hosts two channels. Popular electronic music dance producers like Flux Pavilion, Sam Feldt, Deadmau5, and Sub Focus have already had the opportunity to play live with the support of Dolby Atmos and are wishing to continue using the format. Soon enough, Dolby Atmos will be the standard, leaving music fanatics with the most surreal concert experience.


By: Wendy Wang