We got to interview Brett Crockett of Dolby Laboratories when we heard the 2014 CEDIA Dolby Atmos demo in their booth. We spoke about the new Dolby Atmos format at length. Dolby was excited to see no less than 12 manufacturer partners at the show demoing the new Atmos format with either electronics or speakers which support the new surround format. This was clearly the biggest launch to-date for a new surround format or technology and the adoption rate seems to be phenomenal. Onkyo, for example, has a firmware update coming for its new $699 TX-NR636 AV receiver that will make it Dolby Atmos-enabled. In general, however, it seems like everyone was rolling out new systems, technology, and speakers at the show. Combined with new Dolby Atmos content rolling out in theaters, this format has a distinct chance of becoming the next dominant format in home theater. A lot of people are still wonder What is Dolby Atmos? The Dolby Atmos surround format started around 2 years in cinemas, launched in 2012 June for the film Brave. It has quickly expanded to over 600 theaters (and growing every day) and there are now over 160 Dolby Atmos soundtracks mixed for feature films.
Dolby Atmos, at its core, is an object-based mixing platform and format, with an emphasis on height channels. You can have either 2 or 4 overhead channels in a room, but that doesn’t mean you have to install new speakers on your ceiling (as some may think). Dolby has created a new type of speaker or speaker module called a Dolby Atmos enabled speaker. These speakers have a top-firing element or driver that bounces sound off a reflective ceiling and makes the sound seem as if it’s coming from an overhead channel. These new height-channel speaker solutions use reflecting technology to project sound from the top of the speaker and elininate the difficulty of having to install ceiling-mounted speakers. Of course, as Brett Crocket says, if someone wants to install ceiling speakers, then Dolby Atmos would love to see that as well.
To be perfectly honest, one of the more amazing things was that we really didn’t notice much of a difference between the dedicated ceiling speakers and the Dolby Atmos enabled speakers in the Dolby show floor demo. That is a good testimony as to the effectiveness of these new speakers when they are properly set up and calibrated.
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