Has Dolby Home Atmos Been a Step Forward for Home Audio?

Do you think Dolby's Home Atmos hasbeen a positive move on the whole for home audio?

  • Yes, Home Atmos has been a move in the right direction.

    Votes: 27 50.9%
  • Dolby's Home Atmos has overall been good for home audio but has some flaws.

    Votes: 19 35.8%
  • Home Atmos has become a misbegotten mess for home audio.

    Votes: 6 11.3%
  • I don't know what a Dolby Home Atmos is. Help, I am lost and scared!

    Votes: 1 1.9%

  • Total voters
    53
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Now that Dolby Home Atmos has had some time to mature, Audioholics looks at some competing predictions made five years for the fortunes of Home Atmos shortly after it was launched. Who was right, and what were they right about? Has Atmos been a vehicle for home theater revival or has it been a tangle of confusion? Read our take for a candid assessment of where Home Atmos stands today.
Dolby_Atmos.jpg
READ: Has Dolby Home Atmos Been a Step Forward for Home Audio?
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
Looking at Dolby Atmos from my personal consumer stand point.

Atmos has brought another layer of realism to home theater with the immersive overhead sound. But, imo it will not much impact on Blu-ray sales.

One reason is Joe Public is pretty far behind the learning curve. The average joe that knows what 5.1 audio is and maybe even 7.1 has almost no clue about Dolby Atmos.

Finally, an upgrade that requires you to cut holes in your ceiling or purchase speaker top modules is just not going to go very far.

Atmos will appeal to that guy that has a dedicated home theater space, or is heavily into home theater in general. The masses probably will never get it.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
I'm still holding off but that's not a poll option. I am a little scared of cutting holes and dealing with the wiring, as its gonna be messy and think I'll wait until other work needs to be done....if its still a thing by then :). I really would like to try it though. I do wonder about the branding message of Atmos....my phone has Atmos as some sort of headphone enhancement I think.
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Ninja
Looking at Dolby Atmos from my personal consumer stand point.

Atmos has brought another layer of realism to home theater with the immersive overhead sound. But, imo it will not much impact on Blu-ray sales.

One reason is Joe Public is pretty far behind the learning curve. The average joe that knows what 5.1 audio is and maybe even 7.1 has almost no clue about Dolby Atmos.

Finally, an upgrade that requires you to cut holes in your ceiling or purchase speaker top modules is just not going to go very far.

Atmos will appeal to that guy that has a dedicated home theater space, or is heavily into home theater in general. The masses probably will never get it.
I agree totally with your assessment BUT thanks to Audioholics I'm a little ahead of the average Joe so it was a win for me! If atmos dies out I'll just turn them darn overheads off but until then I'm going to enjoy it for all its worth!!!! :D
 
William Lemmerhirt

William Lemmerhirt

Audioholic Spartan
IMO, Atmos has been a cluster cluck of misinformation, and worse, misinterpretation. I do have a 7.1.4 Atmos installation in my living room, but I’m not average joe and have been following Atmos for awhile. I absolutely recommend it wherever I can, but I understand people’s reticence to it.
So yes, I think it has been a step forward, in general. I do wish though that Dolby would have done more to educate installers as I’ve seen them pedal more bad info than regular enthusiasts, stuck in old ways of thinking.
 
D

Danzilla31

Audioholic Ninja
IMO, Atmos has been a cluster cluck of misinformation, and worse, misinterpretation. I do have a 7.1.4 Atmos installation in my living room, but I’m not average joe and have been following Atmos for awhile. I absolutely recommend it wherever I can, but I understand people’s reticence to it.
So yes, I think it has been a step forward, in general. I do wish though that Dolby would have done more to educate installers as I’ve seen them pedal more bad info than regular enthusiasts, stuck in old ways of thinking.
Yes yes yes my installer was horrible I knew more then him he still thought bipoles were ideal for surrounds course I suspect he was trying to milk my pops when I wasn't there hid sh@$!y bipole s sold for a 1000 each my 590's would smoke them and I got them for under 500 a peice

Get the f@$# out of here
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
I'm still holding off but that's not a poll option. I am a little scared of cutting holes and dealing with the wiring, as its gonna be messy and think I'll wait until other work needs to be done....if its still a thing by then :). I really would like to try it though. I do wonder about the branding message of Atmos....my phone has Atmos as some sort of headphone enhancement I think.
I'm very pleased with the results with some movies, there is a benefit to it, especially via blu ray. IMO for it to take off in the mainstream home theater market, it will have to be in a streaming format and I'm not hugely optimistic we're going to see Dolby Atmos streamed as a norm any time soon.

Cutting holes in the ceiling. I had the wife's blessing for a pair of inceiling speakers in 3 rooms. Cutting more holes would've been pushing it...in fact, if my music/ht space were anywhere else in my house...there's a 99% chance I would never have Dolby Atmos. With attic space above 9' ceilings...it was something I could do myself with little bother.

atmos front .JPG

Front atmos

atmos rear.JPG

Rear atmos
Well...almost no bother...a perfect cut is not perfect...slightly overcut is best...had to tussle with far one...a little touch up paint will be in order :)
 
Jon AA

Jon AA

Audioholic
From a business sense, Atmos has been a home run. Dolby has grabbed back a whole bunch of market share and I don't see that changing any time soon now that it's the default premium audio mix for streaming movies/tv. Every manufacturer of any little piece of junk audio related is paying them royalties so they can slap the "Atmos" label on it. And if it wasn't for Atmos, we probably wouldn't see all these 16+ channel processors hitting the market.

In execution it has largely been a disappointment. Very few movies use it well enough to provide the "immersion" promised. Mostly that can be blamed on the people mixing, but some is due to the limitations of the format for home mixes (not many objects allowed so many objects in a theatrical mix are "clustered" into a single object).

And the format isn't nearly as flexible as claimed. There are lots of speakers Atmos simply won't use. And the installation guidelines for the speakers you do get are very strict as far as placement goes.

DTS:X is an even bigger disappointment in this regard. Before it came out, they were really hyping the "Object based audio! It adapts to any speaker setup you have!" Then the movies come out....that contain zero "objects." And have more than 11 speakers? Sorry, can't use them. Maybe we'll offer a "Pro" version for really high end stuff next decade....
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
I agree with absolutely everything you wrote Shady. It was an excellent review.

This is what I wrote this morning before I read what you have written. We seem to have remarkably similar views.

[Actually I'm conflicted on this Atmos issue.

On the one hand true Atmos movies, of which there are few, the system does marginally add to the effect. But movies and TV is really about telling a story. I really think this complexity adds little to telling the story and come to that going above 2 or 3 channels adds little either as far as story telling goes.

What I have noticed is how these four ceiling speakers improve the audio effect of music from concert halls and especially ambient cathedral spaces. This did come as a surprise. I should add that up mixing music in the popular domain, that is muti miked and processed to death it makes it worse and is a definite negative reproduced though upmixers.

Now If I had not had speakers and amps at the ready I would not have bothered with this to be honest.

However it turns out that for me it was worth the effort, as my only expense was wire, conduit and some MDF, paint and four grills.

I'm lucky as my ceiling speakers are absolutely ideal, as they are pretty much a perfect acoustic match for all the other speakers. They have never once drawn attention to themselves and unless you switch them off would not realize their benefit. It seems to me that Dolby do have their preferred layout correct. Also Audyssey does seem to set the levels correctly.

And of course all these spaces have ambiance from the front of the space, if not more so then the rear and elsewhere. So if this upmixer gets it close to correct then you have ambiance form 11 distinct points in a small room.

I have no idea how close the tonal match of the speakers has to be, but my instinct tells me that for the way I use 11 channels it needs to be very close, or the odd speakers will draw attention to themselves.

As I have said before those little JW drivers have been my acoustic truth test for years. They are extremely well balanced speakers with no crossover to muck them up.

So my experience may be very different from others. I just can't imagine that these ceiling speakers with tweeters right in front of the cone can come close to the fidelity of my JW modules. However I don't own any, and reliable data on them is pretty much not to be found.]

Your points about degrading the core sound to get more channels is very well taken. When you look at what systems pass through here, that when you take into account budget and rooms in the average house, then the vast majority of systems would be better off with two, or may be three channels and a sub or two. I say advisedly may be three, as good centers are rare and expensive. I can attest that designing center speakers that are any good is a real challenge.

I think I lost count of the times that I have advised that two really good channels are far better then more inferior ones. Due to my hoarding, being an old man and equipment preservation, I have good two, three and 11 channel systems. Honestly all three give a really good home theater experience. In the three channel system the gain going to three channels over two is actually far more marginal that you might imagine. The biggest challenge of three channel in my view is not making it worse than two channel. I'm certain the latter is quite common and probably prevalent.

Once you get to more then three channels and especially up to 7 and 11, then actually bringing about a real improvement more often that not requires an expensive home remodel. My last theater was part of a remodel we really had to do, as the former layout was not handy at all. The total home remodel was about three times the purchase price of the property. I'll admit that I thumped a real deal on the original purchase buying it out of a bankruptcy and really going toe to toe with the bankers who had repossessed it.

When the time in our lives came to move off the Lake, in order to maintain a good home theater experience it was cheaper to build a new home than remodel a used home for an optimal home theater experience. I firmly believe that is the reality for most wanting an optimal home theater experience. So it is small wonder that it is hard for this technology to really take root among home owners. What I wish is that we would push far harder the good two channel experience which can be done well in most homes, and in all honesty gives you 90% of the loaf. I can't stress enough that wasting money and effort on more than two channels so often results in a downgrade.

I think we are all at fault here. So often we are advising people with limited budgets. We should be pushing the two channel experience far more often and more forcefully than we do. Truthfully we should be cautioning against 11 channel systems, and especially the purchase of receiver with 11 power amps form one power supply crammed in. That for me is a non starter and I have not recommended that to anyone and nor will I. There needs to be far more really well done two channel receiver options available. I think actually that would benefit the industry and everyone. If that were far more the norm we would see good AV in far more homes than we do. In fact it would probably become the norm. After all I remember a time when almost all homes had a better audio system than they do now.
Your point Shady about complexity intimidating people and putting them off is well taken. Add to this how it all looks in the average domestic space and you have the perfect recipe for poor market penetration.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
So often we are advising people with limited budgets. We should be pushing the two channel experience far more often and more forcefully than we do. Truthfully we should be cautioning against 11 channel systems, and especially the purchase of receiver with 11 power amps form one power supply crammed in. That for me is a non starter and I have not recommended that to anyone and nor will I. There needs to be far more really well done two channel receiver options available. I think actually that would benefit the industry and everyone. If that were far more the norm we would see good AV in far more homes than we do. In fact it would probably become the norm. After all I remember a time when almost all homes had a better audio system than they do now.
Your point Shady about complexity intimidating people and putting them off is well taken. Add to this how it all looks in the average domestic space and you have the perfect recipe for poor market penetration.
When people do ask for advice on putting together systems, I do try to encourage them to limit the channel count when their budget has limitations. However, there is no way we are going to be able to talk someone looking into putting together a home theater system into just sticking with 2 channels; they would just think we are stubborn old luddites who reject change. But, where the budget is modest, the difference in sound quality between a sensible 2-channel system and a surround sound system for the same cost would be obvious to anyone, in the 2-channel system's favor. However, without the experience of the difference between the two, most people will just assume that more speakers equals better sound, and trying to talk them out of that notion would be a herculean task.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
When people do ask for advice on putting together systems, I do try to encourage them to limit the channel count when their budget has limitations. However, there is no way we are going to be able to talk someone looking into putting together a home theater system into just sticking with 2 channels; they would just think we are stubborn old luddites who reject change. But, where the budget is modest, the difference in sound quality between a sensible 2-channel system and a surround sound system for the same cost would be obvious to anyone, in the 2-channel system's favor. However, without the experience of the difference between the two, most people will just assume that more speakers equals better sound, and trying to talk them out of that notion would be a herculean task.
I suspect you are correct about that!
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
Home Dolby Atmos and DTSX are fantastic only if you are able to implement them.

If you can’t implement ceiling speakers, then DSU and NeuralX are still fantastic for your 5.1/7.1 system when watching 2CH sources.

If you only have a 2Ch system, then they all suck. :D
 
C

CoryW

Audioholic
Now that Dolby Home Atmos has had some time to mature, Audioholics looks at some competing predictions made five years for the fortunes of Home Atmos shortly after it was launched. Who was right, and what were they right about? Has Atmos been a vehicle for home theater revival or has it been a tangle of confusion? Read our take for a candid assessment of where Home Atmos stands today.
READ: Has Dolby Home Atmos Been a Step Forward for Home Audio?
I have spent my time and funds I buying the best 5.1 that money could buy (That’s “my” money anyway. My equipment has a few years on it, but using a true reference speaker system with what was a state of the art 7.1 receiver a few years back. I don’t have any itch that I cant scratch. I know my results are better than buying lower end Atmos receiver. The cost of buying a superb Atmos receiver is a cost I can’t justify. I’ll have to stick with bottom feeding as y’all upgrade to Atmos. I’ll buy one when your updating to the latest 20.1 system.
 
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C

Cdx

Audioholic Intern
After reading this article I was moved to register so I could reply. Speaking as an older person, some of this article sounds like an old man poo pooing the new fangled speaker technology and looking for every less than perfect point to crap all over it. There are of course valid points but I remember reading the previous articles on this site and getting the same impression.

I've heard the argument before that Atmos doesn't make that much difference. The others with this argument also seem to have top end systems. So I wonder if your systems are so amazing that the extra dimension really doesn't make a difference. I have a decent enough system based around a marantz 9+2 channel receiver. I use Focal speakers with built in modules (yes I swapped out the boomy sub). I notice you didn't mention those. Up firing is definitely more difficult to set up because of the variables but the Focals at least simplify the speaker incline.

I do agree that a separates system will never be the norm, more so with Atmos. But that's where the sound bars come in. I personally can't stand the idea of using one (Saying that, one of those bars in a bedroom is a great option). But if it brings some of the Atmos benefits to mainstream users then that can only be good news.

Overall I'm extremely happy with Atmos/DTSx not including the Disney At"mouse" discs of course. Up mixing non Atmos tracks has also been a revalation. I'm only talking about home theater. Outside of live events I'm not yet convinced that Atmos brings useful benefits for music.
 
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J

JStewart

Audioholic Intern
Thanks for the factual and balanced article.

Fair summary as well:
“For high-end home theater, the performance improvement is unquestionable, but for entry-level systems, absolutely not. For middle-tier systems, it depends on how extensive the Atmos system is pushed and whether it is properly set up. A medium-budget 5.1.2 Atmos system in a medium to small room is probably fine if the setup guidelines were followed and the user isn’t going after THX reference loudness levels.”

And an enjoyable read too!
 
C

Cdx

Audioholic Intern
When people do ask for advice on putting together systems, I do try to encourage them to limit the channel count when their budget has limitations. However, there is no way we are going to be able to talk someone looking into putting together a home theater system into just sticking with 2 channels; they would just think we are stubborn old luddites who reject change. But, where the budget is modest, the difference in sound quality between a sensible 2-channel system and a surround sound system for the same cost would be obvious to anyone, in the 2-channel system's favor. However, without the experience of the difference between the two, most people will just assume that more speakers equals better sound, and trying to talk them out of that notion would be a herculean task.
I think the problem here is that your priorities are different. The vast majority are not looking for the best audio. You think that they would notice the difference when in fact they won't. I've lost count of the number of times I've entered a home to find the TV in vivid mode. What makes you think they will understand decent audio any better?
 
William Lemmerhirt

William Lemmerhirt

Audioholic Spartan
I think the problem here is that your priorities are different. The vast majority are not looking for the best audio. You think that they would notice the difference when in fact they won't. I've lost count of the number of times I've entered a home to find the TV in vivid mode. What makes you think they will understand decent audio any better?
This is a fair statement. I’ve also been in homes where people have their whole 5.1 system IN and on the entertainment center. As even in the AV community, everyone has a different yard stick, many normal people hardly even use a ruler.
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
I have spent my time and funds I buying the best 5.1 that money could buy (That’s “my” money anyway. My equipment has a few years on it, but using a true reference speaker system with what was a state of the art 7.1 receiver a few years back. I don’t have any itch that I cant scratch. I know my results are better than buying lower end Atmos receiver. The cost of buying a superb Atmos receiver is a cost I can’t justify. I’ll have to stick with bottom feeding as y’all upgrade to Atmos. I’ll buy one when your updating to the latest 20.1 system.
Truth be told, I would've been happy with just 2 channels, but I'm so glad I went forward with 5.1...the music side of it is way better than I expected.

The extra layer is nice, but it's not overwhelmingly better than a good 5.1 system.

In 40 yrs of dabbling in this hobby, I've had 2 surround sound processing devices...my Onkyo 5.1 avr I paid $300 for and the Marantz prepro I have now...there has been about 20 yrs or so in between.

Maybe there are movie enthusiats that would upgrade a relatively new AVR for atmos, but for me it was a by-product of timing. Atmos, my timing to invest in a new HT, and the location of the space itself, all synced up.
 
Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic Chief
Home Dolby Atmos and DTSX are fantastic only if you are able to implement them.

If you can’t implement ceiling speakers, then DSU and NeuralX are still fantastic for your 5.1/7.1 system when watching 2CH sources.

If you only have a 2Ch system, then they all suck. :D
That's the problem with Dolby Atmos, if you can't implement per their strict guidelines, i.e, ceiling speakers, it doesn't work, which makes Dolby Atmos an overall failure.
 
Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic Chief
Thanks for the factual and balanced article.

Fair summary as well:
“For high-end home theater, the performance improvement is unquestionable, but for entry-level systems, absolutely not. For middle-tier systems, it depends on how extensive the Atmos system is pushed and whether it is properly set up. A medium-budget 5.1.2 Atmos system in a medium to small room is probably fine if the setup guidelines were followed and the user isn’t going after THX reference loudness levels.”

And an enjoyable read too!
Even in a two channel or 5.1 system, higher end components will be an improvement of cheap ones, so that does prove that Atmos is an improvement.

Quite honestly, I believe that Auro 3D would have better for the home market. It would have been much better way to implement immersive audio in the home simply because it would not have required ceiling speakers. Dolby Atmos requirement for ceiling speakers is the reason why we have Dolby Enabled speakers, which no one seems to truly like.
 

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