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
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Senior Audioholic
Sorry, it's slow to respond here so I might not respond much (I'm still apparently being punished for disagreeing with the owner on an article where he called me stupid despite the scientific evidence presented, apparently some from an engineer he previously booted from here for suggesting his listening room wasn't optimized as well as it could be) and seemingly slowed my account to a crawl so it's a PITA to even load the page to check for responses, etc. (if it weren't for email, I'd never know).



I agree Nolan's mixes do upmix well. It's a shame he won't let them use Atmos. Clearly, the Atmos soundtracks do vary GREATLY in immersiveness and overhead content. It's night and day with many of them. You can call that something else if you like; I still prefer incompetence. Someone who knows what they're doing can make a great Atmos track. Someone who doesn't know or doesn't believe in immersiveness will tend to make a bad one.



It's not a system problem. My rear speakers are 15 feet behind my MLP with three rows of seats. If I move back, everything in front of me images great. But say I run the DTS:X "callout" demo. The voice behind me somehow sounds closer to me than 15 feet. I'm saying it's harder to gauge distance and pin-point as well as things that are overhead or in front of me. This goes with the idea that our brains aren't as good with imaging behind us as precisely as in front of us.

You may not notice this, but I'm talking about trying to say how far away a sound is behind me isn't as easy as in front of me, not that it doesn't image behind me. Of course, it could be that Flatliners opening (the demo I'm thinking of in this particular case) doesn't really image that much behind the 50% mark. The first voice that talks goes in a circular pattern from the front wide ceiling vicinity to behind me in an arc that sounds about 30-50% the distance to the rear wall (whereas the thunder in the Rainstorm demo sounds like it's at the back of the room, so I guess I can gauge the distance, but perhaps there just isn't much imaged in the back as in the front or middle? It seems like that to me, in any case. The rest of the voices in the Flatliner opening go no more than 20% behind me (near the mid-point of the room), I'd say. Most seem to alternate from the top middle location to the front height position and move across the ceiling in various patterns everywhere in-between. That one opening voice is the only one that seems to go really far back into the room by comparison (2/3 the way to the back of the room).
it would be news to me if we had any ability to slow your access. We can block you but not slow you down.
 
C

Cdx

Audioholic Intern
Dolby Atmos is best described in 2 words....Massive Gimmick.

Speakers in the ceiling?
Really?

Seriously, the sound quality would be rubbish.
"Would be" rubbish? Is this a troll or a joke? Just checking.

it would be news to me if we had any ability to slow your access. We can block you but not slow you down.
To be honest that's what I thought. It is kind of possible but you would almost certainly be affecting many other people as well.
 
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William Lemmerhirt

William Lemmerhirt

Audioholic Spartan
Dolby Atmos is best described in 2 words....Massive Gimmick.

Speakers in the ceiling?
Really?

Seriously, the sound quality would be rubbish.

AV Receivers with that many channels?

Seriously, with their paltry little power supplies, the sound quality would also be rubbish.

Quantity, not quality without doubt.

As said, 90% of the material is through your front 3 speakers so how can you possibly justify anything more than even 7.1 DTS-HD???

It’s such an industry con.

Waiting for the usual suspects to start making 16K TVs telling us that our 8K TVs are not good enough when in reality there is no plausible reason to go beyond 4K.

It’s an industry con to make the uneducated consumer throw their perfectly good gear away & waste money for new gear they don’t need, in order to keep the the usual brand suspects & retail box movers in business.

It’s laughable.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
So this is based on what experience with immersive formats?
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Senior Audioholic
The lack of resolution for sound localization in the vertical plane is not left to right. That will generally be just as good. We rely heavily on phase and amplitude differences and as such the height of the source doesn’t matter too much.

it’s pans front to back that are problematic. We rely on the HRTF or spectral shifts to detect sound as overhead. This provides very crude overhead hearing. if the sound source is directly overhead in the medial plane there will be no cues in phase or amplitude. Just a shift in spectrum. This leads to poor resolution of pans across the medial plain.


the ability to resolve pans behind us is less good than in front of us and so the same would hold true overhead. As an object moves overhead and behind the ability to also resolve its exact location across the azimuth is reduced. Our judgement becomes gross.


 
Henry Howards

Henry Howards

Junior Audioholic
I'll admit that I've never been seriously interested in Atmos. For a person like me on a budget, Atmos just seems to offer too little bang for the buck (as well as being much too complicated to implement correctly). But I have discovered a simple speaker positioning approach that produces surprisingly good "Atmos-simulation" results from a basic 5.1 channel Home Theater system. My front and back channel speakers are all slightly higher than ear level. While this is usually not recommended for audiophile music systems, for Home Theater it is fine, especially since from a psychoacoustive perspective, our eyes and brain naturally place the soundtrack at the level of the screen we're watching, and the center channel speaker focuses the dialog at screen level as well. When I'm watching a movie with this loudspeaker arrangement I never have the feeling that the soundtrack is "floating higher" than it should be. However, I have been amazed sometimes to hear how it can create a convincing atmosphere of sound-effects happening overhead. For example, when I was watching the Blu-ray of the World War II series The Pacific, I was given the distinct impression during battle scenes that aircraft, bombs, and artillery fire were flying above me from one part of the room to another. It isn't true Atmos, of course, but for a frugal Home Theater enthusiast, it will suffice.
 
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C

Cdx

Audioholic Intern
I'll admit that I've never been seriously interested in Atmos. For a person like me on a budget, Atmos just seems to offer too little bang for the buck (as well as being much too complicated to implement correctly). But I have discovered a simple speaker positioning approach that produces surprisingly good "Atmos-simulation" results from a basic 5.1 channel Home Theater system. My front and back channel speakers are all slightly higher than ear level. While this is usually not recommended for audiophile music systems, for Home Theater it is fine, especially since from a psychoacoustive perspective, our eyes and brain naturally place the soundtrack at the level of the screen we're watching, and the center channel speaker focuses the dialog at screen level as well. When I'm watching a movie with this loudspeaker arrangement I never have the feeling that the soundtrack is "floating higher" than it should be. However, I have been amazed sometimes to hear how it can create a convincing atmosphere of sound-effects happening overhead. For example, when I was watching the Blu-ray of the World War II series The Pacific, I was given the distinct impression during battle scenes that aircraft, bombs, and artillery fire were flying above me from one part of the room to another. It isn't true Atmos, of course, but for a frugal Home Theater enthusiast, it will suffice.
Yeah I had that by default in the past where my speakers were much higher than ear height. For the film 'Underworld' the rain at the beginning was very immersive and falling from above. The actual Atmos mix is less immersive lol.
 
Philnick

Philnick

Enthusiast
I used to call myself a "budget audiophile" because none of my equipment was still being made. I'm just about there again! The only thing I'm using that's still in production is my JVC projector - a native 4K DLA RS1000 - their entry-level model - oh, and my Roku Ultra and 4K FireStick.

My speakers are about fifteen year old Paradigm Studios - from before they became a status brand; my primary AVR is about three or four years old (the secondary AVR is pre-ARC, which is why I was given it for free), my Oppo 203 is out of production.

So on the audio side, I guess I still qualify!
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Ninja
Some studies looking at our ability to discern quality issues in speakers suggests that 2+ channels negatively impacts our perception. That we don’t notice flaws as readily as the number of channels goes up.

I often wonder what the true implications of this are? Is it that multichannel confuses the brain making discernment harder? Does multichannel make up for detriments such that they no longer exist? Does this mean that lesser quality speakers would actually be ok if all you listen to is multichannel? I mean, if you can’t hear the flaws, what’s it matter?

but to your point, it makes a lot of sense that you had trouble hearing the flaws while used in multichannel.
That makes sense. We aren't really focusing on a particular speaker so much when listening to a multichannel track, but the room as a whole. VERY different when demoing 2ch. ALL the focus is on them and it doesn't take long to hear the flaws.

I will say that this probably doesn't apply with multichannel orchestral recordings. I'm willing to bet anything sub par will be obvious within seconds. Even a good score on a movie would do this. The particular room I'm referring to in my previous post never underwent this test so no way to tell how it's do.

All I know is my current room does just fine with everything I've thrown at it. :)
 
Henry Howards

Henry Howards

Junior Audioholic
I used to call myself a "budget audiophile" because none of my equipment was still being made.
My situation is the same as yours, and to a certain degree, this has been intentional. I try to buy the highest-quality audio/video components I can afford, and then I hold on to that equipment for its entire functioning lifespan. When a component "gives up the ghost" -- or is no longer capable of interfacing with current technology -- that's when I invest in an upgrade-by-necessity (and usually not before that point..) I'm just hoping my plasma TV lasts until MicroLED displays become affordable (!) I'm already coveting one of those screens and I'm saving my pennies for an eventual purchase... ;)
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
Some studies looking at our ability to discern quality issues in speakers suggests that 2+ channels negatively impacts our perception. That we don’t notice flaws as readily as the number of channels goes up.

I often wonder what the true implications of this are? Is it that multichannel confuses the brain making discernment harder? Does multichannel make up for detriments such that they no longer exist? Does this mean that lesser quality speakers would actually be ok if all you listen to is multichannel? I mean, if you can’t hear the flaws, what’s it matter?

but to your point, it makes a lot of sense that you had trouble hearing the flaws while used in multichannel.
What flaws particularly are you referring to? Is it merely a difference in moving perception from what you're accustomed to, to something you're not? Are you speaking of particular live stage reproduction or studio work? Classical vs electronica?
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
While I might be a bit harsh on Atmos, one thing that should be considered is its value to blind people. I think it would be quite a bit more exciting to the blind to have a more realistic surround sound field as opposed to sighted people.

On the other hand, I think what is most immersive for most people, blind or sighted, isn't presentation but the emotional power of the content. The most amazing sound system in the world with highest quality sound mix can't make up for a movie with a dull story or uninteresting characters. Some of the most immersive movies ever made were immersive because of the artistry within the medium, not the technical sophistication. Movies like Casablanca or Treasure of the Sierra Madre have monoaural sound mixes, but, for myself at least, its a lot easier to get involved in that than the latest blaring snoozefest in the Transformers or Marvel franchise. Hell, some of the most emotionally involving movies had NO soundmixes; compare the emotional draw of the great movies of the silent era against the CGI-laden spectacles of today. The great silent movies are not going to be improved by a fancy sound mix, and movies that rely on fancy sound mixes to be watchable are inevitably going to be poor dramas. Consider the great movies by Chaplin, Fairbanks, the German Expressionists, Keaton, Eisenstein, etc. The 200-million dollar formula movies designed for mass market appeal do not have the dramatic power of those silent greats, and so, for all their technical superiority, just do not captivate or engage anywhere near as well as those timeless classics.

However, it must be said that blind people might be at a slight disadvantage in enjoying a silent movie...
 
W

Whiffer

Audiophyte
My ATMOS system is a big improvement over my 7.1 system, but to be fair it may have been the change from an A/V receiver to a pre/pro and power amps. On the other hand there have been scenes, such as in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" where Dolby ATMOS height speakers made a noticeable difference. We don't have any Dolby ATMOS theaters within 150 miles of where we live, so my policy is to only watch action movies with soundtracks that may be spectacular in Dolby ATMOS at home on Blu-ray.
 
Jon AA

Jon AA

Audioholic
That makes sense. We aren't really focusing on a particular speaker so much when listening to a multichannel track, but the room as a whole. VERY different when demoing 2ch. ALL the focus is on them and it doesn't take long to hear the flaws.
To add on to that, it can be said that 2ch requires different things from a speaker than multichannel.

When most people judge speakers in a 2ch system, much of their opinion depends upon how "enveloping," how much "spaciousness" the speakers can provide while using the room as a surround processor. Typically wider dispersion speakers are going to do a better job of this as they energize the sidewalls, ceiling, etc, with more energy. How well a speaker pulls that off can vary widely even among speakers of equal quality that measure flat on-axis and smooth off axis. And while tastes certainly vary (some prefer more pinpoint imaging vs spaciousness and visa versa), speakers that don't provide as much spaciousness on average tend to rank lower in mono or stereo tests even if they're of equal quality.

But when the application is multi-channel/immersive, many of those things one judged them on for 2 channel just don't matter as much anymore as the surrounds and heights are now there to provide that immersion (and do a more convincing job of it in my opinion). In fact, the same speaker a guy didn't like as much for two channel he might like better for multichannel as too much energy being directed at the sidewalls that may sound great for music, can adversely affect things like dialog intelligibility and imaging, especially for off axis listeners.

I understand the point made in the article was one of cost and I agree with that to a large degree--five really cheap speakers won't likely sound better than 2 really good ones. But I'd challenge the way most people will measure that--how good they sound playing two channel music. There are things a good controlled directivity speaker can do that a more conventionally designed speaker just can't do, things that can be advantageous in a multi-channel setup. But those things just won't show up in the sweet spot of a typical 2 channel listening room. They are different applications and thus have slightly differing design requirements.
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Ninja
To add on to that, it can be said that 2ch requires different things from a speaker than multichannel.

When most people judge speakers in a 2ch system, much of their opinion depends upon how "enveloping," how much "spaciousness" the speakers can provide while using the room as a surround processor. Typically wider dispersion speakers are going to do a better job of this as they energize the sidewalls, ceiling, etc, with more energy. How well a speaker pulls that off can vary widely even among speakers of equal quality that measure flat on-axis and smooth off axis. And while tastes certainly vary (some prefer more pinpoint imaging vs spaciousness and visa versa), speakers that don't provide as much spaciousness on average tend to rank lower in mono or stereo tests even if they're of equal quality.

But when the application is multi-channel/immersive, many of those things one judged them on for 2 channel just don't matter as much anymore as the surrounds and heights are now there to provide that immersion (and do a more convincing job of it in my opinion). In fact, the same speaker a guy didn't like as much for two channel he might like better for multichannel as too much energy being directed at the sidewalls that may sound great for music, can adversely affect things like dialog intelligibility and imaging, especially for off axis listeners.

I understand the point made in the article was one of cost and I agree with that to a large degree--five really cheap speakers won't likely sound better than 2 really good ones. But I'd challenge the way most people will measure that--how good they sound playing two channel music. There are things a good controlled directivity speaker can do that a more conventionally designed speaker just can't do, things that can be advantageous in a multi-channel setup. But those things just won't show up in the sweet spot of a typical 2 channel listening room. They are different applications and thus have slightly differing design requirements.
Very good points. You seem to understand what I'm getting at.

I think I'd honestly disagree with the 2 excellent speakers would sound better than 5 mediocre speakers. I say this just because a lot of people just don't care. They want the fancy surround effects. They want all the speakers all over the place.

Talking about Atmos to our group is so very different than the majority of people with an "Atmos" system. We are particular about every speaker. How it works in the given environment and whether or not it is integrated into the room and the system as a whole. Most people just aren't. It's kind of like when you go to someone's house and their TV is on the stock vivid mode and the soap opera effect is turned up to the max. It looks like crap to those of us that know, but they don't know. And telling them crushes their expectations. I've done it enough to as a salesman.

I eventually went with "if you don't see it, don't worry about it."
 
C

Cdx

Audioholic Intern
The most amazing sound system in the world with highest quality sound mix can't make up for a movie with a dull story or uninteresting characters.
I'm pretty easy to entertain, so a film which is borderline entertaining with HDR and Atmos puts it over the edge for me. Although what I call borderline you might call trash. For example, Godzilla KOTM is great because the Atmos soundtrack appeals to the my jaded adult self, while the kid inside me enjoys the light show.
 
-Jim-

-Jim-

Full Audioholic
Hi Gents,

There's been a lot of chest beating and skewing of facts here, but it seems most posts have strayed from the topic into a general discussion on Atmos. The question was:

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

My take was yes, but only barely. The problem is mentioned in the summary section of Mr. Larsons well written piece "...a requirement to have all of these extra speakers in a modern home theater, that could be a turnoff to prospective audio enthusiasts who could be intimidated by the complexity of a seven or nine or eleven channel system."

One needs to look at the Industry and how well the public is accepting it and buying it. Like others stated earlier Audiophiles, and those who think they are or hope to be, are always interested in reasonable improvements in technology; and that's why I give it a passing mark but only barely. These guys get it. The vast majority of people who could afford to go Atmos (even with "bouncy speakers") have been turned off by the sheer number and complexity involved, and simply walk on by.

I have been one of the few who was able to tear down the ceiling, and fish wiring through the walls during a recent renovation of the whole main floor of our house. I installed the speakers for a 7.2.4 => all to Dolby Specs, and yes there is a benefit to having the overhead speakers but it's marginal, and very much subject to the source material.

Our friends & family who have heard the system think it's amazing, but would they buy a Home Theater System? => only one out of about 60 people so far, and because he lives in an apartment it's a 3.0 system (no sub yet) but he's planning to make it 5.1 soon => and not Atmos due to limits of his rental agreement. He's a software Engineer (& my nephew) single with lots of spare $$, so it's not a cost thing. The heart of his system is a Denon AVRX6400H because he'd like to ramp it up if his accommodation would allow it some day. In the mean time, I'll try to talk him into the new 2020 Corvette. (Oh to be young & single...)

The folks who've liked the system have more than the means to buy one, and live in their own houses, just have no desire for it because it's too complex looking and messy to rip down ceilings. Women (OMG! the WAF => Wife Acceptance Factor) is a huge killer of many decent Home Theater Systems - never mind cutting holes and wires and all that. They like those cute little cube speakers systems from Bose - in white please! But only 2 on the back shelf - out of the way...

In my opinion the industry should focus on 5.1 and try to appeal to the masses, and work on improving the experience within those limits. I think Mr. Poes said 5.1 is the minimum people should have for a good Home Theater experience, and I agree. While Atmos is marginally better, I think adding a second Sub was more substantial a move for me in that room; and should be the first upgrade after a good 5.1 system is in place.

The industry does not appear to be growing to me. I think it's shrinking but maybe I'm wrong. (I hope I'm wrong...) While most have heard of Dolby Atmos, not many folks are actually using it. That's doesn't bode well for it's future.
 
C

Cdx

Audioholic Intern
Has Dolby Home Atmos Been a Step Forward for Home Audio?
My take was yes, but only barely...
...
Our friends & family who have heard the system think it's amazing...
I was assuming that people who couldn't hear the advantages of Atmos either had an incorrect setup or a 7.1 system so great the the difference was possibly minimised. The difference I hear for many Atmos tracks is night and day, but from what you've just written, and then the opposing comments of your friends and family, it looks like you genuinely can't hear much of a difference.

I know this is a little OT but there are so many factors to consider here that think it would be interesting to see some research on this.

In my opinion the industry should focus on 5.1 and try to appeal to the masses, and work on improving the experience within those limits. I think Mr. Poes said 5.1 is the minimum people should have for a good Home Theater experience, and I agree. While Atmos is marginally better, I think adding a second Sub was more substantial a move for me in that room; and should be the first upgrade after a good 5.1 system is in place.
This is fantasy land. A 5.1 system is very unlikely to appeal to the masses if you need 6 separate speakers. That's the minimum "you" should have for good home theatre because like me you are an enthusiast.

While Atmos is marginally better, I think adding a second Sub was more substantial a move for me in that room; and should be the first upgrade after a good 5.1 system is in place.
OK this really is fantasy land. A seventh speaker? The concept of a single subwoofer is alien to the majority never mind a second. I'm an enthusiast and the thought of having a second sub is interesting but no more than that. We are enthusiasts, we are the minority of the minority when it comes to audio. Unless it becomes much easier to set up a 5.1 system, sound bars and their like will be the norm. A sound bar is nearly always better than TV speakers so let's see that proliferate before worrying about 7 separate speakers.

That's how you get people interested, a sound bar, then maybe a sound bar with a subwoofer, then maybe one with wireless rear speakers. That's a reasonable progression and even then there won't be many takers. Years ago I started off with a 2.1 PC system then eventually I bought a 5.1 PC system. I upgraded through several iterations of HTiB boxes until I got my first receiver a few years ago. Since then I've replaced the receiver, the speakers, the sub and bought stands.
 
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2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
I've heard some serious high-end 2Ch systems (Focal Grand Utopia, KEF Blade, Salon2, etc.). No way in heck I would favor any 2Ch systems over a great HOME Atmos system.
I would go the opposite there, but that's no slight on Atmos, just that I wouldn't use it near as much....in fact now that I've had a taste of both I would miss multi-ch music more...it's really good we get the best of both :)
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
I was assuming that people who couldn't hear the advantages of Atmos either had an incorrect setup or a 7.1 system so great the the difference was possibly minimised. The difference I hear for many Atmos tracks is night and day, but from what you've just written, and then the opposing comments of your friends and family, it looks like you genuinely can't hear much of a difference.

I know this is a little OT but there are so many factors to consider here that think it would be interesting to see some research on this.


This is fantasy land. A 5.1 system is very unlikely to appeal to the masses if you need 6 separate speakers. That's the minimum "you" should have for good home theatre because like me you are an enthusiast.


OK this really is fantasy land. A seventh speaker? The concept of a single subwoofer is alien to the majority never mind a second. I'm an enthusiast and the thought of having a second sub is interesting but no more than that. We are enthusiasts, we are the minority of the minority when it comes to audio. Unless it becomes much easier to set up a 5.1 system, sound bars and their like will be the norm. A sound bar is nearly always better than TV speakers so let's see that proliferate before worrying about 7 separate speakers.

That's how you get people interested, a sound bar, then maybe a sound bar with a subwoofer, then maybe one with wireless rear speakers. That's a reasonable progression and even then there won't be many takers. Years ago I started off with a 2.1 PC system then eventually I bought a 5.1 PC system. I upgraded through several iterations of HTiB boxes until I got my first receiver a few years ago. Since then I've replaced the receiver, the speakers, the sub and bought stands.
The film/audio industry approach to growing 5.1 has mostly been build it and hope they come. There's no proactive leg that's consistent.

For years I sold new construction homes...new home owners, the ideal market to tap into at the builder level...not post construction. Even the actual design of the homes...most family rooms are designed for the TV to go over the fireplace (not a great idea) but no place for a center channel speaker. Upscale homes would typically have some type of book cases flanking the fireplace for components, but subs are rarely taken into account.

Dolby should be partnering up with local retailer/custom installers, etc and sending their salespeople into Beazer, Pulte, corp offices...both sides are leaving opportunity on the table.
 

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