Surround sound technology has evolved significantly in the recent past. Dolby Atmos is leading the charge with a rather impressive audio format providing real, theater-like experiences for smaller, home entertainment systems. If you recently added or intend to add height speakers, here’s some good news for you.
You can use height speakers without Atmos. Height speakers are standalone speakers that don’t need any special technology to make them sound good. However, if you truly want the best performance from your height speakers and your home theater at large, bringing Atmos onboard can help do the trick.
Also read: Can Any Speaker Be Used for Dolby Atmos?
The rest of the article answers some of the most common questions people have about Atmos.
Atmos adds something special to your entertainment. Forget about the ordinary directional highs, mids and the omnidirectional bass we hear from other speakers. The Atmos sound format does something special. It sums all these frequencies into a 3D sound bubble. Still, many believe that Dolby Atmos is just another gimmick meant to dig deeper into your pockets.
You can use height speakers without having Dolby Atmos. You don’t need it to make your height, elevation, or ceiling speakers work. After all, Atmos hasn’t proven a basic need for your speakers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get it for your speakers if you want a more immersive experience.
Just don’t forget to use decent-quality speakers for the complete experience. Atmos surround sound technology inserts sound objects in a 3D sound space so that explosions in movies sound like real explosions and rain sounds like real rain coming from the top.
All this sounds good. But, before investing in new speakers powered by the technology, perhaps you should hear about the pros and cons first.
Dolby Atmos pros at a glance:
- By suspending objects in a 3-dimensional sound space, Atmos-enabled height speakers can project accurate sounds that completely engulf the listener into whatever they’re watching.
- There’s more than enough overhead room for additional speakers in your setup. Remember, the more speakers you have, the better.
- There’s a wide selection of Atmos content and you don’t have to worry about finding it. Atmos also supports a wide range of surround sound speakers, soundbars, bookshelf speakers, and so on.
On the flip side, Atmos doesn’t come cheap. You’re also likely going to need new height speakers, processors, and new speaker cables. Also, don’t forget the painful cost of cutting out new holes for your ceiling speakers. So, if you’re on a budget, it might not be a good idea to invest in all these at once.
Other downsides include:
- If you have an irregularly shaped room, the 3D sound bubble may not sound good enough. For that, you’ll need a flat ceiling in a square room.
- The technology doesn’t kick in all through your content. Some scenes of the movie sound better than the others. For example, if you have an airplane soaring above the skies in your movie, Atmos will attempt to create a rumbling, real-like airplane sound in your sound bubble. A small stream may not sound all that immersive.
- You also need Dolby-enabled devices to enjoy the full experience.
Atmos does exactly what it’s meant to do. However, not everyone would appreciate the results for a couple reasons. But, if you love entertainment and don’t mind digging a little deeper into your pockets, then go for it.
If you’re looking to customize your entertainment theater, chances are, you’ve tried Atmos with your existing speakers or heard it somewhere. The results were nothing short of spectacular, and you want more.
Now, must your speakers be Atmos compatible to sound as good as promised?
Speakers technically don’t need to be Atmos compatible to bring in some 3D sound effects. Any speaker can be used with Dolby Atmos and still recreate accurate sound in multidimensional space. But, if you want the full audio spectrum to really kick in, you should get Atmos-enabled speakers.
The good news is, you don’t have to invest in many new speakers if you have at least four in your existing setup. Get yourself a 5.1.2 channel at the very least for the best result. If not, you could still add a few more extra speakers to your setup and use Atmos on any speakers.
As mentioned earlier, height speakers add a third (height) dimension to sound. Front and back height speakers add both directional and panning effects.
Front height speakers can be used for Atmos. You must aim them towards the listening position for an even greater result. The speakers can also be experimented with Atmos at different angles depending on the room size and shape to find the best possible placement.
Front height speakers are assigned the most important task of all; producing the most directional sounds in your 3D sound bubble. In most setups, they’re faced towards the listening area. Some are mounted on the top front wall while others rest on the same front wall, slightly above the front surround speakers.
No matter how good your speakers are, it wouldn’t hurt to add a little technology to make them sound even better. Atmos technology can add a life-like theater experience by submerging users in a 3D sound bubble.
You need height speakers if you want the full Atmos experience. Technically, however, any speaker can be used with Dolby. If you want the full immersive experience, Dolby suggests at least four height speakers, and the more speakers you have, the better the experience.
In addition to height speakers, you could use 2-4 ceiling speakers. Install an extra pair behind your TV set. With Atmos, it’s really just about the numbers and the positioning. Don’t go beyond 34 speakers — that’s what the technology can support.
Dolby Atmos isn’t another ploy by manufacturers to dig deeper into your pockets. It can be an expensive setup, but it can be worth it if you want to have the full immersive experience.
If you’re stuck between going in partially or fully, why not give it a try in your next movie, gaming, or music? Use whatever you have — soundbars, headphones, or bookshelf speakers.
- Dolby: Dolby Atmos® Home Theater Installation Guidelines
- Digital Trends: Dolby Atmos: The future of immersive sound
- CNET: Dolby Atmos: What you need to know about the spatial audio format
- What Hi-Fi?: Dolby Atmos: what is it? How can you get it?
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.