Is Dolby Atmos Better Than 5.1?

You probably saw the Apple Music announcement that they would utilize spatial audio to the entire Apple Music catalog. However, there are two main competitors in the spatial audio industry: Dolby Atmos and 5.1. So, which is better?

Is Dolby Atmos Better Than 5.1?

Dolby Atmos is better than 5.1, also known as Dolby Digital 5.1 Here’s why:

  1. Dolby Atmos utilizes objects
  2. Placement assignment
  3. Individually address speaker
  4. Dolby Atmos of Headphones
  5. Increase in the number of speakers
  6. Atmos Content

For sound engineers, Dolby Atmos is the 4K to 1080p TV. It’s an evolution of sound systems to homes, movie theaters, and onto your headphones. For more information on the benefits of Dolby Atmos, be sure to keep reading. 

Also read: Is Dolby Atmos Actually Worth It?

Is Dolby Atmos Better Than 5.1?

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Dolby Atmos is the new kid on the block, and many people may be skeptical of its performance. Is it truly better than the standard Dolby Digital 5.1? 

First things first, Dolby Atmos has changed the surround sound game. It’s why experts and critics are comparing it to 4K TVs. It’s just that revolutionary. Atmos changed how surround sound systems work, and it’s all thanks to the math. 

Dolby Atmos hired a bunch of scientists to solve the problems associated with Dolby Digital 5.1. What were the problems with this version?

  • 5.1 came from a music standpoint.
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 used a discreet channels system.
  • Phasing issues 

Dolby made Atmos fix the problems with 5.1 and change the game in surround sound. Atmos provided a newer and more immersive experience for consumers. 

Here’s why you should upgrade to Dolby Atmos.

1. Dolby Atmos utilizes objects

As shared earlier, Atmos utilizes the concept of objects. Atmos used the concept of objects to replace the discreet channels system or the problem with this system. 

What are objects? Objects are one of 128 sources that you can place anywhere in a three-dimensional space. Not only that, but Atmos also utilizes the concept of a bed. 

A basic bed will be a 7.1.2 bed which includes:

  • Left
  • Center
  • Right 
  • Left surround (LS)
  • Right surround (RS)
  • Left rear surround (LRS)
  • Right rear surround (RRS)
  • A single sub-woofer channel
  • Two height speakers

2. Placement assignment

The placement assignment refers to the ability of sound engineers to assign a sound to a specific place other than a channel. This placement method also allows sound engineers to either upscale or downscale depending on the objects in the three-dimensional space. 

It’s a great show of innovative flexibility in the surround sound industry. It also makes it so that everyone in the space can experience that immersive experience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the right place or not. Wherever you sit or stand in the space, you will experience surround sound. 

3. Individually address speaker

Thanks to the flexibility, Atmos allows sound engineers to individually address speakers according to their placement on the Dolby engine. Sound engineers or designers can now specify precisely where they want the speakers to provide an immersive experience for every party in the space. 

It also plays back to the scalability of Atmos. Regardless of how many speakers you have in the three-dimensional space, Atmos can either scale up or scale down to meet your needs. 

4. Dolby Atmos of Headphones

Most of this article has touched on Dolby Atmos from a movie theater perspective. However, Dolby Atmos shines brighter than 5.1 because it includes smaller spaces such as headphones. 

Apple Music and Tidal have grasped onto the surround sound opportunity that Dolby Atmos is offering. They are doing this because Atmos is mimicking the same home theater surround sound effect onto headphones. 

As long as the objects are in place, Atmos will scale down to provide that immersive experience on headphones. For $15, you can also access the Dolby Access app and apply these effects to your Xbox and PC. Furthermore, Atmos will work on any pair of headphones. 

If you want Dolby Atmos in your home, experts recommend buying new devices for your sound system. More so, if you want to have the entire home theater experience. For example, a receiver or soundbar would be a great addition.

5. Increase in the number of speakers

If you wanted, you could have maybe over 34 (even 65) speakers in your proposed home theater. Yes, 65 speakers. That is the power of Atmos. Not only that, but Atmos will scale up to provide the optimum listening experience without causing any problems seen in 5.1. 

The objects will always stay in place regardless of the number of channels. Why does it stay in place? It’s all thanks to the complex math that Dolby conjured for Atmos to reach its current potential. 

6. Atmos Content

Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple Music, Tidal, etc., these brands all offer Atmos content for consumers to partake in, whether it is watching a movie or listening to music. 

Be sure to check which platforms offer Atmos content to get the whole immersive experience of Dolby Atmos. It’s also one of the highlights of Dolby Atmos in comparison to 5.1

Frequently Asked Questions About Dolby

1. Is it worth upgrading to Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is light years ahead of 5.1. Dolby created Atmos to solve all the problems that Dolby Digital 5.1 caused during its lifetime. 5.1 isn’t dead; it just has a newer and better version in the market right now. So yes, it is worth upgrading to Dolby Atmos. It’s revolutionary in the world of surround sound. Atmos changed the Dolby system and the industry standard.

2. Which one is better between a 5.1 and a 7.1?

It depends on what you want to use it for and where you want to use it. The 7.1 is excellent for a home system, while the 5.1 is excellent for movie theaters.

3. Is Dolby Atmos worth the hype?

Atmos has changed the surround sound game, and with that comes a shift in sound engineering and the industry. So yes, Atmos is worth its revolutionary hype. It earned it. 


1.Dolby, What is Dolby Atmos? Dolby,

2.Geoffrey Morrison, Dolby Atmos: What you need to know about the spatial audio format, CNET,

3.Apple Music, Apple Music announces Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos; will bring Lossless Audio to entire catalog, Apple Music,

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