Getting the best audio with Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology that offers multidimensional sound for a fuller, more immersive experience. It’s worth investing in if you plan on setting up a home theater or want to take your entertainment to the next level. Whether you’re watching movies, playing video games, listening to music or recording, upgrading to Dolby Atmos can elevate your audio experience.

What it is

Dolby Atmos is an audio system that has innovated the way people enjoy at-home entertainment. Unlike traditional stereo setups, it gives the listener a three-dimensional listening experience via surround sound. It doesn’t rely on a single speaker to emit all audio. Instead, it arranges specific sounds through each speaker so they feel more realistic spatially.

Think of this object-based system as a kind of bubble. For example, if you’re watching a movie with a high-speed chase to the left, the Dolby Atmos setup makes it sound like the vehicles are coming from that direction. If two characters are speaking in the center of the screen, the speakers can make it sound like they’re right in front of you. All other sounds will also come from the direction they appear on the screen.

Typically, Dolby Atmos uses a combination of three to seven speakers that all play specific parts of the audio for a near real-life effect. This lets listeners take in more of the noise from whatever form of media they’re currently watching or listening to. With the right equipment, you can get a 360-degree sound similar to what you’d get at a movie theater or in a recording studio.

How it works

Every home theater has its digital naming system. With Dolby Atmos, you get three numbers that mean the following:

  • First digit — Number of speakers
  • Second digit — Number of subwoofers
  • Third digit — Number of overhead speakers

To get the full audio experience, you need at least two overhead speakers, which are usually mounted on the ceiling or walls. You also need at least one subwoofer and several regular speakers to get a 360-degree experience.

Equipment

To use Dolby Atmos properly, you need compatible hardware. It should be able to effectively translate audio through the system or decode it without making changes. The most important components are:

  • Speakers: These emit audio and are vital to the entire setup. They should be Dolby Atmos-enabled, such as Sony’s SSCSE Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers.
  • AV receiver: An AV receiver acts as the brain behind the entire theater system and connects to all installed devices. It takes in video signals and sends them to the television or computer monitor while distributing amplified sounds to the speakers. One of the best compatible AV receivers is the Sony STR-DH790 7.2 channel AV receiver.
  • Subwoofers: These produce the bass so the audio doesn’t sound flat.
  • Sound bar: For certain setups, you need both a sound bar and an HDMI cable. The cable should have enough bandwidth to handle eARC, the next generation of ARC. It boosts the bandwidth and creates significantly higher-quality sound.
  • Players: Any entertainment setup should have film or disk players, such as a Blu-ray player or compatible gaming console, to play audio.

Compatible services and other devices

Other compatible devices include:

  • Blu-ray players and Ultra high-definition Blu-ray players
  • Some smart TVs (ex. LG, Philips, Sony, Vizio)

Certain services also have music or movies that are Atmos-compatible. This includes:

  • Disney+
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Netflix
  • iTunes (Apple)
  • Vudu

You should be able to stream the content directly from a smart device at home that’s connected to the Atmos system.

Dolby Atmos for gamers

While most home entertainment setups that use the Atmos system focus on films and music, it’s also great for creating a more immersive gaming experience. Whether you’re an avid or casual gamer, the surround sound format can make games feel immersive. Since it heightens the audio, it could even put more competitive gamers at an advantage by letting them hear the gameplay from every angle.

What you need to buy to support your Dolby Atmos system

TCL Alto 8i 2.1 Sound Bar

TCL Alto 8i 2.1 Sound Bar

Designed for Dolby Atmos, this sound bar comes with built-in subwoofers and is compatible with Bluetooth. It offers listeners a richer, deeper experience complete with bass that brings music and films to life. It’s also easy to set up.

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Ubluker HDMI 2.1 Cable

Ubluker HDMI 2.1 Cable

This ultra-high-speed HDMI cord can easily handle Dolby Atmos systems. It’s also compatible with other devices, such as projectors, Roku TV, sound bars and Xbox gaming consoles. It has a speed of 48 gigabits per second and comes in 6.6-, 10- and 15-foot lengths.

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LG OLED C1 Series Alexa Built-in 4K Smart TV

LG OLED C1 Series Alexa Built-in 4K Smart TV

This Smart TV comes with a screen size ranging from 48 to 83 inches. It works with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision to produce crisp audio and video. It’s compatible with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, too. With over 8 million pixels and excellent color contrast, the display is perfect for graphic-intensive gaming, immersive film-watching and more.

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Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System

This simple surround system is compatible with Atmos and includes four satellite speakers, a built-in subwoofer amplifier and the main speaker. It creates a realistic, highly immersive audio experience 

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Polk Audio Signa S4 Ultra-Slim Sound Bar For TV With Wireless Subwoofer

Polk Audio Signa S4 Ultra-Slim Sound Bar For TV With Wireless Subwoofer

This option comes with a wireless subwoofer and a sound bar with a small form factor that fits nearly anywhere. It can be connected to a smart TV using a single HDMI cable.

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Denon AVR-S960H 8K Ultra HD 7.2 Channel AV Receiver

Denon AVR-S960H 8K Ultra HD 7.2 Channel AV Receiver

This immersive system supports Dolby Atmos and works well with 4K displays. It’s also great for next-generation gaming. Plus, it’s easy to set up. It provides high-quality audio to surround sound speakers.

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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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