02/05/2024What is Dolby Atmos? How it Works, Uses, Installation Guide
TYX Studio

Dolby Atmos is an audio technology that elevates traditional surround sound to an immersive three-dimensional experience. Height channels allow sound to move around and above you, creating a lifelike soundscape for movies, music, and games. In this article, we'll go through everything you need to know about this exciting technology.

Table of contents

  1. How does Dolby Atmos work?
  2. How does Dolby Atmos differ from a typical surround sound system?
  3. A short history of Dolby Atmos
  4. What is Dolby Atmos used for?
  5. Step-by-step guide to Dolby Atmos installation
  6. What does the future hold for Dolby Atmos?
  7. Discover TYX London Dolby Atmos suite

How does Dolby Atmos work?

So what is Dolby Atmos? Well, it’s no stretch to say that this audio technology has changed the game. Moving away from the traditional channel-based approach, people can now experience a more dynamic sound. Traditional surround speakers confine audio to a flat plane. Conversely, Dolby Atmos enabled speakers to create a three-dimensional soundscape. It leverages spatially encoded digital signal to deliver its immersive audio experiences. This allows sounds to move freely in three-dimensional space, providing unparalleled immersion.

Here’s how:

Audio objects

The Dolby Atmos format treats sound as individual entities, known as audio objects. Each audio object is equipped with metadata that defines its location in the 3D space. This allows for precise placement and movement of sounds around and above the listener.

Height channels

Overhead speakers add a vertical dimension to the audio, adding depth and realism to the audio experience.

Rendering engine

This dynamically maps audio objects to the available speakers in real time. The rendering engine ensures the spatial audio effect is maintained across different setups.

Scalability and adaptability

One of the biggest perks is its ability to scale across various environments. Whether it’s in a large cinema, a home theatre, or even through headphones, Atmos delivers a consistent and immersive sound experience.

How does Dolby Atmos differ from a typical surround sound system?

diagram of dolby cinema

Image from Dolby Atmos Support

It differs from traditional surround sound systems (like 5.1 or 7.1) by adding a height element to the sound field, creating a three-dimensional audio experience. Traditional systems distribute sound across a single horizontal plane. However, Dolby Atmos includes speakers above the listener, allowing sounds to move overhead. This is particularly noticeable in scenarios like rain scenes, where the sound can come from above, enhancing realism.

For example, with a conventional surround system, you would hear raindrops around you. Conversely, with Dolby Atmos, you can hear them falling from above, providing a more natural and lifelike audio experience.

A short history of Dolby Atmos

Today, there are hundreds of Atmos titles in circulation. But where did it all start? Initially designed for commercial cinemas, the first film to feature Dolby Atmos was “Brave” from Pixar, released in June 2012. The technology provided filmmakers with new creative freedom to direct sound with precision, enhancing the storytelling and viewer immersion.

Following its success in cinemas, Dolby expanded into home entertainment, personal devices, and content creation, transforming the listening experience across movies, music, and games. It has since become a standard in immersive audio for its ability to create a lifelike audio experience, bringing sounds to life in a way that envelopes the listener.

What is Dolby Atmos used for?

This technology has gone from strength to strength and is now used for a wide range of different media. This includes:

Cinema

Garphic design of cinema

Dolby Atmos revolutionised cinema audio. By allowing audio to move freely around and above the audience, Atmos creates an incredibly immersive environment that significantly enhances the cinematic experience.

This allows filmmakers to pinpoint sounds with incredible accuracy. This ensures that every whisper, footstep, or explosion contributes to a more realistic and engaging storytelling experience. Cinemas that support Atmos offer viewers movie soundtracks that complement the visual spectacle on screen, setting a new benchmark for audio in the film industry.

Home Entertainment

Woman watching movie on big TV

Dolby Atmos is no longer limited to cinemas. It can transform your living room into cinema experience. It does this by incorporating ceiling speakers or upward-firing soundbars (a soundbar a compact, rectangular audio device that contains multiple speakers in a single unit). A Dolby Atmos cinema processor can elevate movie nights and make watching regular TV shows a more engaging experience, with sounds flowing naturally around the viewer, creating a theater-like atmosphere right at home.

Gaming

For gaming, Dolby Atmos introduces a critical advantage: spatial awareness. It allows players to hear the direction of approaching enemies or environmental changes with precision, providing a more immersive and realistic gaming experience. This can be the difference between victory and defeat in competitive gaming, making Atmos a must-have for serious gamers. Download the Dolby Atmos app to take your gaming to a whole new level.

Mobile and streaming services

mobile phone between futuristc patterns

Dolby Atmos has also made its way into mobile devices and streaming services, ensuring that users can enjoy immersive audio wherever they are. Whether through Atmos-enabled smartphones, tablets, or through headphones, users can access a three-dimensional soundscape, enhancing everything from music and movies to podcasts and audiobooks available on streaming platforms.

Content Creation

For filmmakers and video producers, Dolby offers tools to create soundscapes that draw viewers into the heart of the story. This capability is invaluable for creating dynamic soundtracks for movies, documentaries, and even YouTube videos.

Music

Artists and producers can place instruments and vocals in a three-dimensional space, allowing fans to experience music with a clarity and depth previously unattainable. Albums mixed in Atmos let listeners feel as though they’re standing in the studio with the artists, surrounded by sound that breathes life into every note.

Music studios (like TYX’s London Dolby Atmost studio) that support Dolby Atmos give sound designers an unparalleled level of depth and clarity. How? Each sound can be an independent audio object, free from the constraints of fixed surround channels. This means that every audio track can be tuned to create an enveloping sound experience.

Step-by-step guide to Dolby Atmos installation

Diagram of DOlby Atmos home studio

Image take from Dolby Atmos 

Follow the steps below to create a comprehensive Dolby Atmos setup, delivering an immersive audio experience for your home theatre or portable devices.

1. Select an audio setup

Choose the type of setup that suits your needs. This can range from a full home theater system with height speakers, overhead speakers, and an AV receiver, to a simpler setup using an Atmos-enabled soundbar.

2. AV Receiver

If you opt for a multi-speaker setup, ensure your AV receiver supports and can decode Atmos content. The receiver will manage and direct audio signals to the appropriate speakers.

3. Positioning speakers

Position speakers correctly for a full Atmos setup to ensure a balanced sound field. This includes placing overhead or height speakers to create a three-dimensional soundscape, along with surround speakers to deliver multi-directional sound.

4. Install soundbar

If using a sound bar, place it directly below or in front of your TV. Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars typically include up-firing speakers that create an overhead sound dimension by reflecting audio off the ceiling.

5. Media sources

To enjoy Atmos content, connect your setup to compatible media sources. This includes Blu-ray players with Atmos-enabled discs, or streaming devices like Apple TV that offer Atmos content through services like Netflix and Disney+.

6. Content playback

Ensure your media sources are playing Dolby Atmos content. You may need to configure settings on your AV receiver and media device to enable Dolby Atmos playback.

7. Fine-Tune Settings

Adjust sound settings on your AV receiver, speakers, or soundbar to ensure optimal performance. This may include balancing speaker levels or adjusting the Atmos decoder’s settings.

What does the future hold for Dolby Atmos?

CES 2024 showcased significant developments across various industries. Movies like “Super Mario Bros.” and “Barbie” integrate Atmos soundtracks, reflecting its continued expansion and innovation.

Additionally, streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+ offer a range of Dolby Atmos media, from movies to TV series. The event highlighted Dolby Atmos’ growing reach in film, music, automotive, and gaming, emphasizing its versatility and integration into everyday consumer experiences​.

Here are some key developments presented at CES:

Automotive integration

3D futuristic car

CES 2024 highlighted the integration of Dolby Atmos into mainstream car audio systems, allowing for a more immersive in-car experience. This integration extends to various apps, including music, streaming, and podcasts, delivering multi-faceted audio experiences on the go.

Furthermore, Dolby Vision is also making its way into automotive entertainment, providing a visual complement to the audio experience. Dolby Vision enhances video quality through a wider colour gamut, higher dynamic range, and dynamic metadata, delivering more vibrant and realistic visuals for in-car entertainment.

New audio devices

Several new Atmos-enabled soundbars and speakers were announced. Sharp launched a compact sound bar to bring the tech to more affordable home theatre setups. Samsung also announced new Dolby Atmos products.

Gaming and music

Dolby Atmos is making strides in gaming and music, enhancing audio experiences for players and listeners. Pro Tools recently integrated an internal Dolby Atmos renderer, allowing for real-time re-renders. Moreover, there has been a surge of new Atmos mixes, like Frank Zappa’s “Over-Nite Sensation”.

Discover TYX London Dolby Atmos suite

Professional studio

In the heart of London, our Atmos Suite stands as a testament to TYX’s partnership with Dolby, meticulously crafted for Atmos mix sessions. This studio merges advanced technology, including a Q-SYS 8-Core Flex speaker management system and an i7 Mac Mini, with 7.2.4 Atmos monitoring by Neumann to deliver an unparalleled immersive audio experience. It’s the ideal choice for creators who want to explore the depths of Dolby Atmos mixing.

Precision in production

Dolby Atmos in TYX Studios allows for pinpoint accuracy in sound placement, enabling producers to craft intricate soundscapes that engage listeners in completely new ways.

Flexibility across projects

Whether working on immersive film scores, dynamic music tracks, or engaging podcasts, Atmos’ adaptability ensures high-quality output regardless of the medium.

Innovation at the core

This technology positions TYX Studios at the forefront of audio production, attracting creators looking to explore the limits of sound design and production techniques.

OUR MOST ASKED QUESTIONS
While two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, modules, or overhead speakers will deliver a compelling experience, we recommend using four if possible. This will deliver more precisely located and realistic overhead sounds.
Dolby Atmos compatible smartphones recreate the immersive sound of a movie theatre. They deliver high-quality audio through headphones and speakers. It seeks to replicate the 3D surround sound effect typically found in traditional home entertainment systems.
Dolby Digital is a traditional 5.1 surround sound format with fixed channels directing sound from specific points. In contrast, Dolby Atmos introduces spatial audio with audio data that can move in a three-dimensional space, including overhead sound.
Platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Apple Music, and Sky Q offer a variety of this content.
We are open 24/7 to members, 9am-9pm for non members. If you need to book irregular hours please contact us directly by phone or through our web form.
This depends on your preference and use case. For those who want the most immersive audio experience possible (like for a home theatre set-up) it's a worthwhile investment. However, when mixing, many producers prefer more conventional audio systems.
Some of our London recording studios do indeed function as mixing studios. it depends on your level of mixing needs. The Red Studio provides comprehensive production capabilities, including advanced monitoring systems, making it suitable as a mixing studio. The Dolby Atmos Studio is designed for immersive audio production and can also accommodate multi-channel mixing tasks, offering a functional mixing studio environment. Production Studios offer varied configurations, with some specifically equipped for mixing studio tasks through advanced monitoring systems. For specific details to meet your mixing needs, contact us directly.

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