Is Dolby Atmos Worth It?
For years it seems that TV manufacturers have been focusing on improving the picture quality from their devices, but have rather neglected the equally important sound side of things.
There is a huge industry in aftermarket soundbars to bring cinemas sound into the home.
This was a fact recognised by Dolby, the American company previously specialising in audio noise reduction and audio encoding and compression. Being sound specialists, they decided that they could lend their expertise to TV manufacturers and meld the best in vision with the best in audio. Dolby have been involved with film sets and post-production suites for many years, but are now transitioning all the way into our living rooms. And the latest iteration of Dolby products is powering TV’s to new levels of enjoyment.
Dolby Atmos is a proprietary audio format that's designed to bring that same immersive sound from all around you that you get in a cinema, right into your living room. Utilising Atmos, content creators like sound mixers, cinematographers and broadcasters can place specific sounds precisely in the soundscape, so you can hear the action as it was intended.
After several years of gradually building their wares into TV systems, Dolby have really come to the fore with their new Atmos system, and it’s creating quite a stir. The Dolby's Atmos surround sound system has quickly become one of the most important and impressive technologies in home cinema, and is fast becoming a must-have addition to a mid to high-end TV.
Dolby has developed the technology required to translate the Dolby Atmos experience in cinema to home theatres. In the case of the home theatre, every sound in the mix is represented as an audio object.
It wasn’t that many years ago that Dolby – who were already established as a major name in the big screen – were trying to position themselves as the “future of home cinema audio”, and started to transition into commercial systems for home use. Now, the Dolby name is not only entrenched in home devices, but is the go-to name for those seeking top end performance from their audio as well as their visuals. So, what is it actually?
How Does Dolby Atmos Work?
The Atmos system is a surround-sound technology that was originally developed by the Company. It expands upon the usual 5.1 and 7.1 surround-sound set-ups by incorporating surround channels coming from the overhead direction. Connected speakers can been placed along walls at a range of heights, and even behind the screen itself. What’s more, the system allows you to even place speakers in the ceiling, thereby enveloping the viewer in a huge dome of sound.
While the system developed for cinemas can run up to 400 speakers for one source, that isn’t really something that is supportable in a home environment, and so Dolby have re-engineered the system to be more functional – and less intrusive – in a family environment. Dolby offer a range of simpler options, such as the addition of either two or four ceiling-mounted speakers, including add-on speakers to existing floor-mounted, or even additions to your existing surround speakers. The combinations are almost endless, as you allow Dolby to create a system that fits perfectly with your room. The rationale behind the Atmos design is to produce a home-theatre-in-a-box (HTiB) that can be used to enhance almost any TV system.
Bandwidth issues, together with reduced processing ability, in home systems mean that the Dolby Atmos systems typically found in a residential environment is rendered in a different way to the cinema and theatre systems. During production, sound is mixed as a series of channels which deliver certain sounds to certain areas. Because of this, a spatially-coded sub-stream is added to Dolby True HD or Dolby Digital Plus to create the audio tracks matching the installed speaker configuration with the channel outputs. In this way, actors on screen might be assigned the centre or front portion of the speaker set while ambient sounds or anything to the sides of the image can be apportioned to the relevant speakers to make the sound being generate seem natural and coming from the direction that you would expect.
The breaking out of channels means that you experience far more natural ambiance from the show or film. A flock of birds can encircle you in front, in back and above, and aircraft circling overhead can scream through the air just above you. Any sound presented, such as inbound missiles, screeching cars, magic spells, and alien spaceships pass over and around you to completely immerse you in a film’s sound effects. That is the power of Dolby Atmos!
Does My TV Need to Support Dolby Atmos?
Panasonic OLED TVs are fully compatible with the Dolby Atmos system, and Panasonic Soundbars are designed to work with the system. You can hook in an external Dolby Atmos soundbar and speaker system using an HDMI cable, or you can plump for a high-end Panasonic TV such as the HZ2000 4K OLED TV, which has the Dolby Atmos function that bring you the rich and vibrant sound that you expect but without the issues of having a series of surround speakers.
This system has huge advantages over an off-TV system, and doesn’t require any specialist set-up. If you decide on a full home theatre configuration, you will have to go through a detailed series of set up moves to obtain the optimum delivery. Most of the set-up will revolve around your speaker configuration and how the sound is delivered to your room. If expense is an issue, you may want to go for a Dolby Atmos ready soundbar, which is designed to throw sound upwards to allow it to bounce off surfaces to replicate a true surround sound set up.
If all of that sounds like hard work, the obvious option is the to go for a TV like the HZ2000 with the Dolby Atmos system built into it, and ready to deliver the best sound that you have ever heard, straight out of the box. Some people prefer the feel of a fully immersive theatre-style sound, but many want the same quality without the need for extra speakers, and those are the people who look to Panasonic TV’s.
And if you want to image delivery to match your new sound configuration, you might consider the Panasonic HZ2000, the HZ1500, and the HZ1000 OLEDs which all run Dolby Vison on a 4K device along with the Dolby Atmos immersive sound, to give you the best of both. Whether you are a movie lover or a gaming enthusiast, this combination of deep, immersive sound and razor-sharp images will blow you away, and take your passion to a new level.
Because of its impressive performance, Dolby's Atmos surround sound technology has quickly become one of the most important and impressive technologies in home cinema. Dolby Atmos’s ability to completely immerse the viewer in the visual in front of them adds a huge new dimension to your shows and films, and once you have it, you’ll just wonder what you ever did without it!