Nothing beats going to the cinema. Warm buttery popcorn, a gigantic screen, and best of all, Dolby Surround sound. Earthquake equivalent sound that not only makes your ears bleed with joy but makes your insides shake in the best way possible.
But in the current climate, that might not be a viable option for most of us. Thus, the second-best option is to bring the cinema to your home, and what better way to do it than with a Dolby Atmos system.
Today I’ll be taking a deep dive into what Dolby Atmos is and try to answer the question, “Is Dolby Atmos Actually Worth It?”
What is Dolby Atmos?
Dolby Atmos is essentially the next step in surround sound evolution. Starting from mono, stereo, and eventually surround sound, the way we listen to music and movies have changed drastically over the years. Even headphones support Dolby Surround Sound and Atmos.
Dolby Atmos uses a few channels such as left-back or front-right like standard surround sound. But also enables audio engineers to specifically place a sound within a 360-degree soundscape. Allowing for the most immersive listening experience.
This field of audio is created using not only speakers placed around the listener but also with up-firing and downward-firing speakers that add the extra dimension of sound. Not only will sound play around you, but it can now simulate a plane flying over you or bugs crawling underneath you.
Is Dolby Atmos the same as Surround Sound?
Yes and no. Dolby Atmos is a form of surround sound. It is the next step in that it takes surround sound and builds upon the premise.
Surround sound does exactly what it says. It plays sounds in different directions, depending on where they are coming from in the movie. The more speakers you have around you, the more directions the sounds can come from.
Dolby Atmos uses special software that allows sound engineers to choose from 128 different channels and a 360-degree soundscape, to place a sound exactly where they want. Not only that, but they now also have control of where the noise comes from vertically. This means they can make a sound come from higher than another sound if they want to.
Where can I find a Dolby Atmos supported system?
There are plenty of different variations of Dolby Atmos supported systems. Including soundbars, home theatre systems, and headphones.
One excellent option if you want a large speaker system is from Klipsch. Their Klipsch Reference Dolby Atmos Speaker System is the most comprehensive set of speakers and gives you everything you need.
If you already own one, you can easily add Dolby Atmos to your surround sound system by purchasing a pair of Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers from Sony. The Sony SSCSE Dolby Atmos Speakers add up-firing speakers to your current setup. Just put them on top of your current front-facing speakers and let the magic happen.
Some soundbars come with built-in up-firing speakers like the Samsung HW-Q900T Soundbar. It comes with a low-frequency speaker as well, allowing not only exceptional sound but bass too.
How can I watch Dolby Atmos movies or shows?
The easiest way to get access to Dolby Atmos shows is Netflix. A lot of shows and movies on Netflix support Dolby Atmos as well as HDR10 and 4K. The only thing to consider is that Dolby Atmos is only available on the Premium Netflix package.
Dolby Atmos gaming is a little more difficult with games supporting it very low in numbers at the moment. But things have gotten better lately.
Some games that support Dolby Atmos are the recent Call of Duty games, Dirt 5, Cyberpunk 2077, and Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. The latter is a stunning experience on high-end hardware, 4K resolution, and Dolby Atmos. It comes as close to flying as possible, without actually flying.
Can I get Dolby Atmos on my computer or phone?
Yes, you can. Dolby Atmos is available on iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S20/21. These phone’s speakers come with Dolby Atmos built-in.
If you use headphones with your devices, you can experience some form of Dolby Atmos using your standard pair of headphones. If you subscribe to streaming services like TIDAL, which supports Dolby Atmos, you can listen to certain albums and artists that have albums that have been enhanced with Dolby Atmos.
The same goes for Netflix and other services like Disney+ and Amazon Prime that have selected titles that support Dolby Atmos. On your Windows computer, you will need to download the Dolby Atmos application purchase it to be able to use it with your computer. It does have a trial period, so you can try it out.
Do I need any other special equipment to use Dolby Atmos?
Yes and no. To answer our initial question, “Is Dolby Atmos Actually Worth It?” we need to consider the equipment you need for Dolby Atmos. The fact of the matter is you will be paying a hefty price for quality Dolby Atmos support gear.
If you want the true Dolby Atmos experience, you will not only need the up-firing speakers but also need a receiver that can read the Dolby Atmos formatting. Some soundbars and surround systems already have these built-in, but if yours does not, you will most likely need to purchase one.
The Denon AVR-S960H is a great option and is future-proof with Dolby Atmos support as well as 8K support, which is scarce at this point but will become normal soon with the new-gen consoles supporting 8K already.
Need some great Speakers for Dolby Atmos?
We have some options for you. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, the Best Smart Speakers, the Best Sonos Speakers, or the Best 7.1 Home Theater System on the market in 2021.
And don’t miss our detailed Sony SS-CS3 3-Way 4-Driver Review, our Klipsch R-26FA Review, our Klipsch Sub-12HG Review, our Klipsch R-10B Review, our KEF LS50 Review, and our Fluance Signature Series HiFi Review currently on the market.
Is Dolby Atmos Actually Worth It? – Final THoughts
Dolby Atmos is still making its way to the mainstream, the same way as 5.1 Surround did in the 90s. As more and more systems come with Dolby Atmos support built-in, like the PlayStation 5, which supports Dolby Atmos playback with Blu-ray playback, Dolby Atmos will become a normal thing in households.
For now, it is still an expensive investment, just like most new technology. If you have extra cash around the house, then it is a great future-proof investment; otherwise, it is better to wait till it becomes less expensive and more accessible.
Until next time, enjoy the show.