With its object-based sound system, Dolby Atmos is now the benchmark for at-home surround sound. Though it took some time khổng lồ catch on, the format is now supported by Ultra HD Blu-ray discs & streaming services lượt thích Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. So, if you’ve got Dolby Atmos speakers, a Dolby Atmos-compatible AV receiver or soundbar, & access khổng lồ Dolby Atmos content, you should be hearing Dolby Atmos sound, right?


Well, as it turns out, no, not necessarily. Lớn understand if your Atmos system is delivering true Atmos sound — & not just really good surround sound — you need khổng lồ understand how Dolby Atmos works with all of your truyền thông media sources và components. It’s a bit technical, but we’re going to make it as simple as possible.

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What exactly is Dolby Atmos?

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Dolby

Dolby Atmos isn’t actually a soundtrack at all. It’s metadata that is used by compatible audio gear to lớn control which speakers are reproducing certain sounds. A good example is when a helicopter flies overhead in a movie. Without Atmos information, the sound of the helicopter is embedded in one, or many, of the surround sound channels. But so are all of the other sounds you’re hearing.


How Dolby Atmos works and what it is Hanif Jackson / Digital Trends

With Dolby Atmos, the helicopter is treated as its own discrete object, và a Dolby Atmos receiver can use that information to separate the helicopter sound from the background sounds and move it independently from one speaker to lớn another. The result is a very convincing 3d placement of sounds for a much more immersive movie experience.

And what about Dolby Atmos Music?

Though it’s still just getting a toehold on streaming music services, Dolby Atmos Music does for music what Dolby Atmos does for movies. It’s impressive when you hear it, but to get it you’ll need a specific combination of apps & Dolby Atmos-capable devices. Chances are good that if you’re equipped for Dolby Atmos movies, you’re ready for Dolby Atmos Music, but lớn be sure, kiểm tra out our full Dolby Atmos Music explainer.

So if Dolby Atmos is just metadata, what am I listening to?

As we said, Dolby Atmos isn’t sound, it’s information about sound. That information piggybacks on đứng top of existing surround sound signals. At the moment, Dolby Atmos can only vày this with two types of surround sound signals:

Dolby TrueHDDolby Digital Plus

Dolby TrueHD is a lossless, very high-bandwidth format that is currently only available on Blu-ray & UHD Blu-ray discs. It’s transmitted over an HDMI cable, from a Blu-ray player khổng lồ an AV receiver, TV, or a soundbar that can pass through the video. Atmos via TrueHD is also supported by some media player apps, like Plex, that run on the Nvidia Shield TV family of streaming devices.

The combination of Dolby Atmos và Dolby TrueHD is the best possible surround sound you can get at home.

More on Dolby Atmos

Dolby Digital Plus is a lossy, lower-bandwidth format that has been optimized for use with streaming services và features lượt thích B-D Live. It’s currently supported by a wide range of devices, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, và streaming boxes lượt thích Apple TV và Roku. Dolby Atmos over Dolby Digital Plus will be the way most people experience Atmos.

Not only is it the format used by Netflix & Amazon, but it’s also the only version of Atmos that is compatible with HDMI ARC (more on this later).

Files, apps, và hardware

The tricky thing about Dolby Atmos is that, for it khổng lồ work, every ingredient in your home theater cài đặt has to support Atmos. In other words:

The movie you’re playing — whether it’s physical, downloaded — or streamed, has to lớn be encoded with Dolby Atmos (via Dolby TrueHD or Dolby Digital Plus).The hardware you’re playing it on has to lớn be able to lớn decode Dolby Atmos or pass it along to a Dolby Atmos-capable sound system without altering it. This is known as “pass-through.”The ứng dụng you’re using — e.g., Plex, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, etc. — must be capable of delivering Dolby Atmos data to your playback device.And of course, your TV, A/V receiver or soundbar must be Dolby Atmos compatible, if that’s the device you’re using to lớn hear audio.

Another potential gotcha: Just because your phầm mềm of choice supports Dolby Atmos on device X, that doesn’t mean it necessarily supports it on device Y. For instance, Plex running on an Nvidia Shield TV can pass through Atmos over Dolby TrueHD, và over Dolby Digital Plus, but Plex on an táo apple TV 4K will only handle Atmos over Dolby Digital Plus, and Plex on a 4th-gen táo TV can’t pass through Dolby Atmos at all.

Until recently, the táo bị cắn dở TV app for LG’s WebOS smart TVs could only provide 5.1 Dolby Digital, however, a June 2020 update added Atmos support.

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Simon Cohen/Digital Trends và Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

If you’re playing an Atmos-encoded Ultra HD Blu-ray on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player that’s connected to an Atmos-capable TV, soundbar, or AV receiver via HDMI, we can pretty much guarantee you’re getting the full Dolby Atmos experience. We can’t say the same about some other device combinations.

Here are a few examples where you will not get Dolby Atmos sound:

Playing any Dolby Atmos-encoded nội dung on a Roku Streaming Stick+ that’s attached to a Dolby Atmos capable TV, with an Atmos soundbar connected via optical cable. The obstacle here is the optical connection to the soundbar. You’ve got Atmos nội dung on a device that can support Atmos, on a TV that can pass through Atmos, but because you’re using an optical cable instead of HDMI ARC, the TV has khổng lồ down-convert the audio to lớn Dolby Digital 5.1 (otherwise known as EAC), because optical connections cannot cope with the higher bandwidth requirements of Dolby Digital Plus.Using the built-in Plex client on an LG OLED TV khổng lồ play a movie encoded with Dolby TrueHD và Dolby Atmos, with an Atmos soundbar connected via HDMI ARC. This is a really frustrating one — all of the sources and components are Atmos-capable, but because the Plex client on the LG TV isn’t yet optimized to handle TrueHD/Atmos, it down-converts the audio to Dolby 5.1 — even though both the TV itself and the connected soundbar could have easily handled the TrueHD/Atmos track.

Perplexed by Netflix

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We recently discovered an extremely vexing situation for Netflix users hoping to enjoy Dolby Atmos sound. The Netflix phầm mềm currently requires that playback devices be capable of decoding Dolby Atmos natively, instead of simply being able khổng lồ pass through Dolby Atmos khổng lồ an Atmos-capable soundbar or A/V receiver.

While several TVs meet this criterion, like 2018 or newer Sony app android TV models, 2017 or newer LG OLED TVs, 2019 or newer Toshiba TVs, & 2018 or newer Vizio TVs, only select streaming devices will work. So far, that’s a pretty limited list: Apple TV 4K, Nvidia Shield TV & Nvidia Shield TV Pro (2019), Amazon Fire TV Cube (first và second-gen), Fire TV Stick (third-gen), Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Chromecast Ultra, và Chromecast with Google TV.

Using the Netflix app on an Nvidia Shield TV (pre-2019) or select Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices — even though they can pass through Dolby Atmos — will still limit you khổng lồ 5.1 surround sound.

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There’s no real xúc tích to Netflix’s insistence on Dolby Atmos decoding, as none of these devices can output audio without the help of a device with speakers, whether that’s a TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver.

Plus, Netflix makes the task of identifying which devices natively decode Dolby Atmos very difficult, because it does not maintain a master list of these devices. The only way lớn know if the Netflix app for a particular device supports Atmos is to tìm kiếm for it within Netflix’s help pages.

HDMI-only?

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Unless you are satisfied with your TV’s internal speakers, HDMI is a requirement for Dolby Atmos. Whether your Dolby Atmos content is coming from a Blu-ray disc, a streaming box, or even a built-in app on your TV, the only way to lớn get that signal khổng lồ your AV receiver or soundbar is via HDMI. Both Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus contain more data than a digital optical connection (TOSlink) can handle.

If you want lớn transmit Dolby Atmos from your TV khổng lồ your A/V receiver or soundbar, your TV must be equipped with at least HDMI ARC. As we mentioned above, HDMI ARC works with Dolby Atmos/Dolby Digital Plus, but if your TV is equipped with the newer HDMI eARC standard, it will also work with Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD. There aren’t many Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD sources yet, but you’ll be ready as they become available.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re using your TV between your streaming truyền thông media device và your soundbar or A/V receiver is that not all TVs are equally adept at passing through Dolby Atmos content. For instance, the apple TV 4K outputs a version of Dolby Atmos that, in its native format, is incompatible with HDMI ARC. Some TVs can transcode that Atmos signal into one that is compatible with HDMI ARC, while others can’t. If you have a TV that can’t bởi vì it, you may have trouble getting Atmos from the táo TV 4K khổng lồ the soundbar. TVs equipped with HDMI eARC, however, should have no trouble passing along that Atmos signal khổng lồ connected equipment.

If you’re using an optical cable to lớn connect your TV to your soundbar or your AV receiver, these signals will be converted into a simpler surround format, lượt thích Dolby Digital 5.1, before they get transmitted. The bottom line is that while the sound you hear will still be really good, it won’t be Atmos.

Do I need Dolby Atmos speakers?

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Klipsch

Initially, Dolby Atmos at trang chủ required the use of “height” channel speakers (the “.2” or “.4” in the middle of the speaker configuration description), but that is no longer the case. In addition to the TV speaker-based Atmos available on some TVs, you can get Dolby Atmos soundbars, which include height channels.

However, there’s also something called “virtualized” Dolby Atmos, which can create a simulation of a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos phối from as few as two front-facing left and right channels. How good is this virtualized effect? It varies based on the number of channels that are being virtualized and the chất lượng of the speakers themselves. On a product lượt thích the Sonos Beam gen 2, which virtualized height và surround sound channels, the effect is noticeable but mild.

It can, however, be awesome. Sennheiser’s superb Ambeo Soundbar possesses dedicated up-firing drivers for the height channels but uses its array of forward-facing drivers lớn virtualize the surround channels. It’s pricey, but it delivers a very convincing virtualized Atmos experience.

Though still not quite as good as a system with dedicated Atmos speakers, for many folks, the simplicity of a single soundbar plus a subwoofer will be worth it.

Virtualized Atmos is also showing up on new A/V receivers. This means that if you have an existing 5.1, 7.1, or better surround system, but you lack height channel speakers (and don’t want to add them), the A/V receiver will use those existing speakers to lớn give you a very good approximation of the full Dolby Atmos experience.

How do I know if I’m getting Dolby Atmos?

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Denon

Because Dolby Atmos systems will upmix any surround sound signals they get to lớn use all of your speakers, it can sometimes be tricky to know if you’re getting true Dolby Atmos or upmixed 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. From an audible point of view, if you’re getting Atmos, you should be able to detect sounds as they appear lớn move from one area of the room to another. Rainfall, bullet ricochets, và whizzing cars are all good candidates for this.

They won’t just move from front to back or side khổng lồ side; they should also occasionally sound as though they’re coming from overhead, or somewhere above the screen.

Still not certain? The one surefire way to lớn confirm Dolby Atmos is working is to kiểm tra the information panel on the front of your A/V receiver or your soundbar (if it has one, or perhaps an on-screen display). It should display the kind of audio signal it’s currently working with. If the display doesn’t specifically say “Atmos” or “Dolby Atmos,” then the odds are that you’re not getting Atmos. Checking the display is likely easier than queuing up the right soundtrack for a rainfall or ricochet sound check.

Some Atmos soundbars, like the Sonos Arc, Bose Smart Soundbar 900, và LG SP9YA, will show you the audio signal within their respective smartphone apps for iOS and Android.

One more thing …

We have one last troubleshooting trick up our sleeves for those of you who still can’t get Atmos to appear despite exhausting all the protocols mentioned above. TVs và streaming devices have different settings for their digital audio outputs. Most of the time, they’re set to “auto” by default, which is what you want.

But sometimes, they kết thúc up in PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) mode, for whatever reason. Perhaps you have troubleshot your device every way you know how và still can’t pick up Dolby Atmos. In that case, we recommend you navigate its settings khổng lồ see if it’s in PCM mode. If it’s set lớn PCM, change it to tự động or Bitstream. Not all setups are compatible with Dolby Atmos, so if this doesn’t work either, you might have an incompatible system.

Achieving proper Dolby Atmos requires a bit of diligence và technical know-how on your part, but it’s totally worth it. The result is a clearer, richer sound that surpasses 5.1 or 7.1 surround. We have created the diagram above khổng lồ provide you with the proper guidelines to ensure that your Atmos setup goes off without a hitch. Once you dial in your files, hardware, apps, and settings, you should be able khổng lồ achieve impressive Dolby Atmos sound that’s worth all the effort.