ask-marioMy customer asked about Dolby Atmos… Help!

When one decides to treat oneself to a custom installed home theatre or media room, 99.9% of the time, they want the latest technology available. Given the level of commitment, it’s completely normal for them to expect their investment to be cutting edge, for at least a few months…

Today, this means a 4K display and Dolby Atmos.

Up until Dolby Atmos technology, movie sound was mixed to specific audio channels creating a horizontal line of focused sound sources at the front, and diffused sound effects beside and behind the audience.

Now with Dolby Atmos technology, movie producers can position localised sound sources in three dimensions anywhere around the audience. Let’s refer to these sounds as “objects”. In a commercial theatre, the playback system can have up to 128 audio channels, with the same amount of speakers in the room. These speakers are usually mounted at different heights behind the screen, on the walls and on the ceiling as well. This kind of setup is absolutely unacceptable in a home according to your customer’s life partner and their interior designer.

This is why Dolby came up with a residential version that starts with a 5.1.2 setup with 2 Atmos channels in front of the listener, and goes to a 7.1.4 with 4 ceiling channels. Of course, this starts with a fancy high end Japanese receiver that has Dolby Atmos decoding. There are 2 options available for the “elevation” channels: in-ceiling speakers are the obvious one, but the most interesting one feature Atmos speaker modules that project sound toward the ceiling. These have a very specific design determined by Dolby that affects the driver arrangement and crossover filter. If you play a pair of these in stereo, it sounds awful, but when it’s combined with audio that is processed specifically by the receivers for Atmos modules, magic happens! You now have localised sounds coming from anywhere above and around you, with the ceiling remaining untouched. Atlantic Technology offers the 44-DA, the first stand-alone Atmos speaker modules to be certified by Dolby. These can be acoustically paired with any brand or model, but visually complements their 4400 LR speakers perfectly.

If in-ceiling speaker installation is possible, results may vary and let me explain why. Traditional in-ceiling speakers tend to be localisable in a Dolby Atmos setup, and dipole in-ceiling for traditional surround channels are just too diffused. Soundstage imaging lacks a lot of focus with the later. This is why Atlantic Technology developed Object Based Audio in-ceiling speakers. Their IC-6 OBA speakers have a frequency response and radiation pattern specifically engineered to offer an optimal power response at the listening position. With their tweeter array pointing towards it, it eliminates the hot spots that would be perceived with regular in-ceiling.

Although the Atlantic Technology 44-DA modules have been certified by Dolby for Atmos, just like the IC-6 OBA they will perform perfectly for any other object based audio format like Auro and DTS-X. Right now there are only four movies on Blu-Ray available with Dolby Atmos encoding. I know it’s not a lot, but still it’s four more than Blu-Ray movies in 4K!

Send your technical questions to custominstallation@sfm.ca and each month Mario will answer one of your questions. Dealer’s name will be held confidential.