Dolby is once again bringing big-screen sound to your home theater with Atmos, the latest addition to their surround sound arsenal. The same technology used to bring movies like “Gravity” and “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” to life is now available to the public, delivering 3D audio and giving movies viewed in your home lifelike depth of sound. Dolby’s Atmos is a hardware and software offering which promises to immerse the viewer in a rich, colorful experience. Movie goers have likely experienced Atmos first hand in their local movie house, but Dolby has partnered with brands like Denon, Pioneer and Onkyo to enhance home theaters around the world.
Previously, surround sound has been delivered by way of audio channels being pushed through different sets of speakers. The sound of crashing waves in an ocean scene, for instance, was previously bound to a particular channel and would be mixed with other sounds before being delivered to a specific speaker or speakers. Atmos expands on these channels and now breaks sounds into individual objects. This means filmmakers are given fine-grained control on every element to create immersive and lifelike soundscapes. The sound of a buzzing bee, for instance, can now feel as if it’s circling your head from right to left. All told, Dolby Atmos supports as many as 128 independent audio objects at one time, making for a revolutionary and immersive sound experience.
This new surround sound requires some new hardware, including an Atmos-enabled receiver and speakers. The process begins with the receiver, which first calibrates itself by creating a 3D model of your home theater. This lets the system know exactly where it can shoot these audio objects to create a three dimensional space. You’ll also need to purchase at least two new Atmos-ready speakers for the full experience, but you’re given a few options to mull over. Onkyo, for example, offers a pair of in-ceiling speakers, front speakers to fire at the viewer, or add-on modules which sit on top of existing speakers. Prices for new, all-in-one systems start around $899 and go up from there.
Once installed, home theater owners will have a plethora of movies to watch on their new system. Atmos has already been encoded into more than 150 titles including Brave, Frozen, and The Hobbit Trilogy. Streaming entertainment providers like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix are also able to deliver Atmos-ready content into home theaters, but there’s no word yet on when or if these companies will begin offering this high definition sound.
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