Dolby ATMOS (next big thing)?

AM Matt

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I just read that there is going to be a stereo surround system called "Dolby ATMOS". One of the ones mentioned is Lorde "Solar Power" (her latest album). Is it kinda or better like "Quadrophonic" sound??
 

Bobberman

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I have a Dolby Atmos mode in my Tablet audio but in my testing of it on my music player it didn't sound right to me so I kept it turned off and just stayed with the normal mode
 

Rudy

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Atmos has been around for quite a while now, and since movies no longer interest me and surround music isn't on my radar anymore, I have no desire to own anything capable. While I do have the equipment to play back 5.1 surround and I do like the many tastefully mixed surround titles I have, it was disconnected several years ago and stored away. I don't get how people take over an entire room with a dozen speakers just to watch a movie. I didn't even like having a 5.1 setup in my room--too much clutter.


Atmos just feels like a way to part consumers with their money. And surround music/audio has proven to be a dead end each and every time someone tries to restart it. Quad failed. DVD-Audio failed. Surround tracks on SACDs are few and far between. If anything, labels release surround these days only as a means to part consumers for the latest Ultra Super Special Deluxe Anniversary Edition of whatever pedestrian big-selling album they are pimping these days.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Atmos just feels like a way to part consumers with their money.

Ding ding ding! Rood for the win.

Atmos started off as a way to part movie theater owners with THEIR money.

It is basically a surround sound system on steroids, in which an auditorium can have up to 128 channels of sound (each individually amplified), on top of the traditional three or five stage channels, plus the subwoofer channel. The surrounds are, of course, spread all around and above the audience. The idea is that a sound mixer can "isolate" any background noise to any part of the sound field, even directly overhead. I heard a demo of it in Las Vegas about five years ago, and have to admit it did sound great.

The coolest part of it is, the system is scalable -- meaning if you are a smaller theater and you don't want to put in all 128 channels, you could put in fewer, such as 24 or 48 or any number you want, and the Atmos decoder will automatically assign the sounds to the appropriate speaker(s) to approximate the mixer's intended placement in the sound field. Many, but not all, movies released in theaters these days (especially the high-profile releases) come with a separate Atmos mix.

If that all sounds expensive, you got that right. A typical sound system in a good theater costs around $30,000 to $60,000 per auditorium, depending on the size of the room. A full Atmos installation in a large auditorium (300 seats or more) could cost over $250,000 when you factor in all the amplifiers and speakers required, not to mention the electrical requirements. The Atmos decoder alone costs something like $12,000, although that price may have dropped in recent times, but it's still expensive.

Naturally, hardly any movie theater owners wanted to, or could afford to, invest that kind of money, especially when theaters are currently contemplating purchasing the next generation of projection systems, since the first wave of digital projectors is now reaching end-of-life status. (And those aren't cheap, either.)

So, Dolby decided (and probably always intended, I'll bet) to water Atmos down and compromise it in order to take it to the home market, even though almost nobody is going to have the type of system capable of reproducing an Atmos mix properly..... but that's not stopping Dolby from claiming it'll sound fantastic in your house (or on your head -- they have Atmos headphones, too). Bottom line: Marketing claims notwithstanding, in real life it's not nearly as cool as it started out being.
 

Harry

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I gave up on surround sound of any kind when we moved south. Our main viewing room doesn't really support having speakers strew about the room, dominating it. Up north I had a modest 5.0 setup. Subwoofers have never been in the plan as I don't need to feel a movie's sound track.

Anyway down here, I went with a simple 3.0 setup. A center channel, and a left and right. It gives us dimensionality in front of us, across the plane of the TV. I don't need bullets or bombs exploding behind the couch to enjoy a movie. It's fun to experience at sometime in your life, but all in all, it's not a necessity.

As my favorite movie was always 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and I'd seen it in a Cinerama theater, I always wanted to replicate the experience at home. Starting with an NBC showing in the 70s where I hooked up some stereo speakers to enhance the broadcast, I'd gradually gotten closer and closer to that original large screen, surround sound experience. Finally, up north, with just the latest DVD at the time, I got it on my 55" TV, with 5.0 surround, and could finally hear the man-apes chattering off to the left rear, just like in the Cinerama theater. Then the novelty wore off, and certain movie sound designers and disc audio authorers managed to make their presence known by drowning out the dialog channel with music and effects in the other channels. That's another reason why I reduced things to 3.0. It's just more pleasant that way.

We're still using a 2K HDTV. When it goes, I understand that 4K is in my future as far as the TV goes, but I'm no longer doing one-upmanship in equipment to eek out a minor upgrade. To me a Blu-ray in 2K is just fine. It's more important that good, honest, film restoration be done to movies than to eek out a pixel's worth of resolution on the video source.
 

Rudy

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Bottom line: Marketing claims notwithstanding, in real life it's not nearly as cool as it started out being.
I've seen some video fanatics raving about it like it's the Best Thing Ever, but many of them have entire home theater setups and endless money to dump down that particular rabbit hole. The only way I could see doing it is to build it out in new construction with no drywall on the studs, so all the wiring can be run. Then, install all in-wall speakers to keep the clutter out of the room. And given that in the rare instance I actually watch a movie (maybe once every two or three years now), it's probably a classic that was only single channel. 🤣

Then the novelty wore off, and certain movie sound designers and disc audio authorers managed to make their presence known by drowning out the dialog channel with music and effects in the other channels.
To me it's the dynamics--I would just get the volume to where I could hear the dialog, then some stupid sound effects would come blasting out way too loud. I eventually started using a dbx 118 in my system on the compression side to make them listenable. Can't do that now since I use a soundbar. But whatever I watch now isn't an issue.

When it goes, I understand that 4K is in my future as far as the TV goes,
That's the only way to get larger screens now, but luckily they are so common that the cost isn't that bad. When I got mine a few years ago (65" I think?), it was more of a choice between standard and OLED, and additional features. The video game is 1080p at best and looks fine on 4K, but many of the content creators I watch are shooting in 4K.
 

tomswift2002

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Of course it gets interesting when you watch any TV show/movie recorded in “Dolby Stereo” and then see another recorded in “Dolby Surround” (2.0). “Dolby Surround” was originally known in theatres as ‘Dolby Stereo’, but when introduced to Broadcast, VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc, it was rebranded to “Dolby Surround” to differentiate it with the broadcast TV “Dolby Stereo”, which had a smaller sound field and only contained 2 channels as it was designed only to be played on 2 speakers—-running it through a Pro Logic/5.1 decoder you might get surround information but it’ll be randomly placed whereas a true 2.0 Surround/Theatrical Stereo has Stereo Right, Left, Mono Center and Rear (all matrixed into just 2-channels). One good TV episode to hear this difference is Star Trek The Next Generation The Best of Both Worlds, since part one is from the end of Season 3, and TNG’s 2.0 soundtrack was mixed in Dolby Stereo for Seasons 1-3, and then Seasons 4-7 were in Dolby Surround (I’m not talking about the 2002 or 2012-2014 5.1 matrixed remix & 7.1 full remix), while Part 2 was the first episode of Season 4, and was mixed in Dolby Surround.
 
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