If you’ve been shopping for a new TV, or even a soundbar, you’ve likely heard a lot about Dolby Atmos. But what exactly is Dolby Atmos and it is something that you definitely need in your new TV and/or soundbar? Or even in your next smartphone? We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about Dolby Atmos and how it can make your entertainment center even better.
What is Dolby Atmos?
Let’s start with actually defining Dolby Atmos. What is it? According to Dolby, it is “the most significant development in cinema audio since surround sound.”
At the core, Atmos is a surround-sound technology that was initially developer in 2012. It expanded on the pre-existing 5.1 and 7.1 surround-sound set-ups that many already had. This was done be adding a channel come from overhead, enveloping the audience in a dome of sound.
Traditional channel based systems will send audio at discrete levels to each speaker. That’s not how Atmos works, though. It can also produce up to 118 simultaneous sound objects, allowing the sound designed to place each sound and voice to exact points within the soundfield rather than simply assign them to specific channels. Those objects can also be manipulated and moved around within the space creating a convincing 3D soundstage.
At the best Dolby Cinemas, you’ll find up to 400 speakers being used. Of course, at home, you won’t have the room for that many speakers. So instead you can use alternatives like using two or four ceiling speakers in your system. Or you can just buy a purpose-built system. Which is what most people are going to do.
Dolby does have some cinemas with local partners that use Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. Giving you a premium visual and audio experience. Once you experience a Dolby Cinema, you won’t want to go back to a regular cinema. Trust us.
You can find a theater near you that has a Dolby Cinema by clicking here. You can also see what movies are available in Dolby Cinema.
The only bad thing with a Dolby Cinema is that most theaters have just one theater that is a Dolby Cinema. Meaning that one movie at a time is a Dolby Cinema. However, those cinemas are usually much larger, to fit more people into each showing.
Dolby Atmos at Home
There are a few ways that you can go about getting Dolby Atmos in your home. You could get a surround-sound soundbar and system or you could get a single soundbar that will support Dolby Atmos. You’ll get a much better experience with a multi-speaker setup. As you’re able to put them all around the room.
The best speaker package is the Elac Debut 2.0 5.1 Home Theater system. It’s pretty pricey and can still take up a lot of space in your living room or a man cave. This is a wired Atmos system, so it’ll take some time to get it setup. There’s also the Sony HT-A9 soundbar which is about the same price, but a whole lot easier to setup – it’s a wireless system too. And of course, the Sonos Arc and Beam Gen 2 are even cheaper, and easier to setup – it’s a single soundbar.
Dolby Atmos Soundbars
The Sony HT-A7000 is a 7.1.2-channel soundbar. It’s just a soundbar, which makes it super simple to setup in your home. Just plug it into your TV and you’re good to go. It also has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant included, for some really great smart home features.
Polk Audio Signa S4
Dolby Atmos doesn’t have to be expensive either, as the Signa S4 is showing us here. For under $400, you can get an ultra-slim sound bar with Dolby Atmos included. Now, it doesn’t have as much power as the Sony one above, so it won’t get as loud, but for $400, you really can’t complain here.
The Sony HT-A5000 is a slightly less powerful version of the HT-A7000 that is also listed here. It still has Dolby Atmos, and is a single soundbar, so it’s still easy to set up. It’s a 5.1.2 channel soundbar this time around. You can bundle it with rear speakers and a wireless subwoofer too.
The Sonos Arc is another easy to set up Dolby Atmos soundbar, and it comes in at $900. It’s been a hard one to buy since it was released in 2020. As it’s been hard to find it in stock, really anywhere. But it is a really great and powerful soundbar to buy for your home with Dolby Atmos. And of course, it works with the other Sonos speakers in its multi-room audio system.
Sonos Beam Gen 2
The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is another one that has been very hard to get your hands on, since it’s been out of stock for quite some time. But for under $500, you can get a smaller soundbar that also has Dolby Atmos support. Like with the Arc, it can also work with the other multi-room speakers in Sonos’ lineup.
Dolby Atmos TVs
There aren’t a lot of Dolby Atmos-enabled TVs, and that’s because TV makers don’t prioritize sound. Normally, that’s an after thought, which is why Soundbars have become so popular in recent years. But here are a few that have Dolby Atmos built-in (as well as Dolby Vision).
The Hisense U6H comes in 55, 65 and 75-inch models, and includes Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and is powered by Google TV. So you’re going to get thousands of apps built into your TV for streaming.
LG OLED A1
This is the 2022 model from LG, and it has just about everything you could want. That includes Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision IQ and even Amazon Alexa. This is an OLED TV, so you’re going to get a pretty incredible picture from this one here.
Hisense U8G QLED
The Hisense U8G is probably the most affordable TV with Dolby Atmos built-in. It’s giving you Atmos, along with Dolby Vision, and it also has Android TV built-in. Not to mention, it is great for gaming, as it does have HDMI 2.1 for 120fps at 4K.
What content is available with Atmos?
Since Dolby Atmos’ inception in 2012, there have been loads of content produced in Dolby Atmos. Many have made their way to 4K Blu-ray, while others are available on streaming services. Movies like Dune, Blade Runner 2049, Roma, Mad Max Fury Road, and Avengers: Endgame, are among a few.
Netflix does offer Dolby Atmos and Vision to its top-tier subscribers – on the Premium plan with 4K. A lot of their originals are available in either Atmos or Vision or both. And they likely have the largest library of Dolby Atmos films available.
Disney Plus also has quite a few titles that have Dolby Atmos support. Including all of the Star Wars feature films. Amazon Prime Video has a small handful of titles available. Finally, Apple TV has a ton of them available on TV+ (its streaming service that is just $5 per month) as well as available to rent.
A lot of the newer titles are being filmed with Dolby Atmos (and Vision), but older titles are getting remastered to work with Atmos and Vision. That’s the case for Disney, as it remastered a lot of its films for 4K (which included Atmos and Vision) when it launched Disney Plus back in 2020. So that is likely going to continue for the foreseeable future.
Even if you are watching a film or TV show that is not produced in Atmos, you’ll still notice a difference. It might not be as noticeable as when you’re watching an Atmos title, but there is still a difference.
Can I experience Atmos on my smartphone or tablet?
Yes you sure can. A lot of modern smartphones – mostly flagship models – have support for Dolby Atmos. So you can experience this sound upgrade while you’re on the go. A handful of tablets have it too, like Samsung and Amazon’s latest tablets. Here’s the list of smartphones that currently have Atmos support.
- Apple iPhone 11
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
- Apple iPhone 12
- Apple iPhone 12 Mini
- Apple iPhone 12 Pro
- Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Apple iPhone 13
- Apple iPhone 13 Mini
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Huawei P20
- Huawei P20 Pro
- Huawei P30
- OnePlus 7 Pro
- OnePlus 8
- OnePlus 8 Pro
- OnePlus 8T
- OnePlus 9
- OnePlus 9 Pro
- OnePlus 10 Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S20
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S21
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S22
- Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
- Sony Xperia 5 II
This is an incomplete list, but you get the gist, basically any smartphone from Samsung, OnePlus or Apple released in 2018 or later will have support for Dolby Atmos.
What music streaming services has Atmos?
Dolby Atmos isn’t just limited to movies and TV shows. It’s also available for music. Currently, Tidal, Amazon Music and Apple Music all have Atmos support, but again, it’s not for every single song in their library. Amazon Music has a separate tier for Dolby Atmos, which is Amazon Music HD. However, that was recently merged into the regular Amazon Music service, so you’re paying the same price for Dolby Atmos music and music without it.
Apple Music actually uses the term “spatial audio” for its Dolby Atmos tracks. And there are also many playlists that use only spatial audio tracks. So you can listen to the best sounding tracks only, and not worry about having to hear some that are not using Dolby Atmos.
Is Dolby Atmos worth buying and using?
It definitely is. And these days, Dolby Atmos products have become a whole lot cheaper. In previous years, it was hard to get a Dolby Atmos soundbar without paying well over $1,000 for one. But as we showed earlier in this article, you can get one for under $500. Which is about what you’d pay for a good soundbar without Atmos.
Not to mention the fact that most smartphones do have Atmos included now. So you can really use it pretty much anywhere. It’s one of those things that once you experience it, you won’t want to go back to not having it. I have this feeling when I use a Galaxy smartphone and then go back to the Pixel – since it doesn’t have Atmos, unfortunately.