The Dolby Atmos system places speakers above the audience. The actual Atmos system lets film makers place sound elements in a 3D space. With 5.1 and 7.1 systems, when you want to create the illusion that someone is behind the audience you just throw that sound to those speakers. It’s a speaker based system. With Atmos, instead of pushing a sound to a particular speaker, it’s pushed to a place in a 3D space. For example, to create the illusion of a helicopter flying overhead the sound engineering doesn’t pick which speaker the sound of the helicopter will come out of. Instead, the engineer picks a point in a 3D space and the Atmos system automatically adjusts the sound coming of the appropriate speaker.
The outcome is an audio experience that pulls the sound up from the ear-level speakers of 7.1 and 5.1 systems. It beams the sound upwards to envelope you in a breathtakingly precise multidimensional soundscape where each sound source moves as it does in real life. When listening in “Atmos” mode it sounded like water was falling on a canopy above me in a scene where storm was happening. When something goes whizzing by your ears it “feels” like it’s actually happening in the Movie Theatre. You can hear the audio system in action in any Atmos Certified Theatres with recent movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek into the Darkness and The Life of Pi. So far there are over 150 Atmos enabled movies available in addition to the movies mentioned above, The Hobbit trilogy, Brave, Gravity, Ender’s Game, Frozen, Pacific Rim, and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron are all Atmos-mixed movies. Of course, the studios need to release a home-video version of those movies with Atmos audio enabled in order for the Home Theatre system to create the same soundscape at home. Thank goodness, the same audio mix used for a Movie Theatre can be used with Home Theatre systems. So it’s really just a matter of selecting the “Atmos” audio mix.
Dolby “Atmos” enabled speakers are specially engineered to direct sound upward, where it reflects off the ceiling to produce an incredibly lifelike re-creation of overhead sound.
- Integrated units that also include traditional forward-firing speakers
- Add-on modules, containing only the upward-firing elements that you put on top of your current speakers or on a nearby surface
A majority of Atmos equipment will be available this year 2015. This includes speakers, speaker modules and receivers from companies like Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Yamaha, Pioneer and Integra. There’s even an all-in-one Home Theatre set coming from Onkyo. The Onkyo all-in-one system will cost about $899 and the cost will just increase from there on.
If you are a “Movie Enthusiast” and love the multidimensional surround audio effects, then it’s worth checking out the system now. In a Home Theatre it may not sound 100% precise as the Movie Theatre, but it can be very close (90%) if you set it up and calibrate it correctly. So that means you can enjoy the similar multidimensional experience in your own Home Theater. Like all Home Theatre technologies the prices will drop as the market become fully developed.