Dolby Atmos is the first new surround sound technology in twenty years that actually matters, in our opinion. Most of us have heard of Dolby Digital or DTS, both of which are digital surround sound formats. Almost every home theater receiver built in the last fifteen years supports both, and you can hear these surround sound formats when watching almost all TV programs, and certainly all DVD or Blu-ray movies. So what is this Atmos, and how is it different?
Surround sound hasn’t really had a revolutionary leap since 1994 when Dolby Digital came onto the scene. While you might have heard such terms as 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, 9.1 (you get the idea), all that happens is an increase in the number of speakers around your room, either on the side walls or behind you. While the sound did get a bit more immersive, it wasn’t dramatically different than your normal 5 speaker setup. Atmos changes all of that.
Dolby Atmos is commonly referred to as a 3D surround sound. In a movie theater that has Atmos, there are actually 64 speakers in the auditorium, many rows of them on the ceiling, which allows for placing sound not just around you, but above you in specific spots. While we don’t expect that many of us will outfit a room with 64 speakers, you can get the same Atmos experience with different speaker and placement options that fit into a home.
Upgrade Your Experience
What you will need to get started is a new Dolby Atmos receiver or preamp/amplifier combo. If your speakers are all in-wall or in-ceiling you will need to add more speakers. If you have free-standing tower speakers around the room, they can be replaced the Atmos-capable speakers that have extra channels built-in. Finally you will need a current-generation Blu-ray player such as an Oppo.
We sell Atmos products and would love to discuss upgrading your existing system to Atmos or helping you build a new spectacular movie room of your own!
Have you ever noticed how sometimes the audio from your system is not always the same from program to program when you are watching television? Your cable or satellite provider doesn’t always send 5.1 surround sound down the line to your system. Typically, if the program you are watching is in HD, whether a major sporting event or a movie, then almost all the time it will be broadcast in surround sound. Many times it will even be advertised at the beginning of the program. However if you are watching the news or an old rerun of Murder, She Wrote, then it will most likely be broadcast in plain old two-channel stereo. What does this mean?
In a surround sound situation, not all the speakers are working at the same time. It is directional, so if a sound on the screen appears to come from the left, then the left speakers will produce the audio with the others quiet. That being said, generally, dialogue comes from your center channel speaker.
This is a very common question that we receive on a regular basis. Just because we installed a 5 or 7 speaker surround system in your house, doesn’t mean all the speakers will be playing all of the time. This is totally normal. If you are watching an HD program and you still don’t have all speakers firing, let us know and we’ll help troubleshoot it for you.
We have been in many media/theater rooms with problematic audio. Typically there is not a room in your home perfectly suited for how your ear actually hears audio (there are some rare exceptions of purpose-built listening rooms). Room size, furnishings, dead spots and a legion of other factors can turn the best speakers and equipment into boring, or sometimes ear-splitting, wasted money.
Room equalizing is not a new concept by any means but Anthem’s room correction system (ARC ) mimics how the human ear hears, adjusting for the room’s features on each speaker independently. ARC corrects for up to 7 speakers and subwoofer with multiple microphone measurements, as compared to a standard wimpy “room EQ” with only one cheap, plastic mic at the primary listening position. Multiple microphones allow you to receive real-life feedback from many listening positions as well as adjustments for surround and rear speakers that are often given less priority. The outcome is a surround experience that will give you goosebumps.
The decision to build a new home is incredibly exciting! There are so many fun choices to make – finishes, coverings and fixtures and all sorts! We are often called in to help “technify” a custom home and we see many common mistakes made over and over – you can be better prepared with a couple of tips:
Design Before You Design (Plan Ahead)
Save yourself a ton of money by planning your electronics ahead of your final home design. Bring in your audio video/integration specialist early, during the design phase of your home, to eliminate common problems that happen after the fact (and sometimes too late):
Proper places for equipment, correct dimensions and cooling needs
Blocking behind wall-mounted TVs for support
Pre-wiring plan to a master control area (head end)
Room size for theaters and media rooms
Dedicated circuits for equipment rooms and areas with high demand
Prewiring Is Cheap
You can always change carpet, paint or counter tops, but it’s not so easy to retro-fit wiring so find a line that you are comfortable with between “wire for everything” and “wire for the bare minimum.” You can also run smurf tubes (a type of conduit) between floors so that you can retrofit wire more easily if necessary. Sure, many things can operate with wireless technology but to have the most robust and problem-free system, hard-wired is always best.
Prepare A Budget
This seems like a no-brainer, right? True, but be realistic about what it costs. You can go to Big Box Retailer and purchase a 50” TV for under $700 but will that give you what you want? Same goes for audio, security, control… well… everything. A good integrator can give you realistic ranges to get you started.
We are not talking about how big or small your theater room is here… we are talking specific dimensions that you want to absolutely avoid. Why would that matter? The short answer is that sound waves have specific sizes, like ripples in a pond or waves in the ocean. The waves bounce off, or are absorbed by, the interior of your theater room in specific places. If the room is of certain dimensions or oriented poorly, you have sound canceling at many points in the room with the result being a dead sounding theater. A dead sounding theater will have pockets of no sound at certain frequencies – it has no punch, no liveliness to the sound, no impact when you are watching your favorite movie. It just sounds boring or even bad.
The worst sounding theater room is a perfectly square cube. But you also don’t want a single theater room dimension to be equal or be a multiple of another.
BAD 12’ X 12’ X 12’ 8’ X 16’ X 32’ 8’ X 16’ X 16’ You get the picture…
Typically, every room needs some help to really knock you out of your seat. Properly setting up your equipment is a must but we also recommend acoustical treatments that are strategically placed to absorb, reflect or diffuse sound. For a dedicated movie/theater room, it’s ideal to have no windows, but they can be dealt with.
To read a more detailed description and use their optimum room dimension calculator click here.
Get Out of the Big Box for Big Sound in A Pretty Package
Sound bars are designed to attach to your television to provide better sound quality and a seamless look. They can be fitted to the sides or along the bottom or top of a flat-panel television. They typically come in two forms, powered and self-contained, or “custom”, meaning they’re designed to wire back to an amplifier located not directly at the TV to get their power.
Self Contained Sound Bars
Self-contained speaker bars are what you commonly see in your big box retail shop. They require being plugged into electricity at the wall with your TV and then connect to your TV to get an audio signal. They come in lots of shapes, sizes and brands, and very few of them deliver great sound. They also are “best matched” to your make and model of television – not built to the exact dimensions. Although these retail solutions are better than the speakers built into TVs today, custom solutions offer better sound and aesthetics.
Custom Sound Bars
Custom speaker bars will come from a specialty manufacturer and will almost always sound much better than an off-the-shelf solution. Most are built specially for each job, so they can match dimensions of your TV. This way the sound bar looks like it was always meant to be a part of your TV experience. They can be built to go above the TV, below it or even on the sides. If you are doing a surround sound room but don’t have a place for the front speakers, custom sound bars can even be built for left, center and right speakers, so you sacrifice nothing!