An Introduction to Dolby Atmos Surround Sound

You may have seen the term ‘Dolby Atmos’, or the generally accepted shortening ‘Atmos’, popping up in adverts for television and home cinema products. If you’re curious about what it is and more importantly what it does, this easy guide is for you!

Understanding Dolby Atmos requires a small bit of knowledge about surround sound. If you’re not familiar, please have a quick read over our guide to 5.1 speaker system basics.

The way Atmos works is ingeniously simple. Specifically designed speakers are either ceiling mounted and directed at the listener, or send sound up that is then bounced off the ceiling and directed at the listener, adding a sense of ‘height’ to a surround sound system. With Atmos, you don’t just hear sound around you, but above you as well! Please note: in order to experience Dolby Atmos, you will need to have an AV receiver that can process Dolby Atmos.

This new technology is truly stunning in the way it can make you feel like you’re part of the movie. You may be thinking that Atmos is really aimed at big blockbuster action films. While it certainly helps those types of movies come alive, ALL content benefits from the addition of Atmos. The ‘room ambience’ of a film or programme is often handled by the Atmos speakers so, for example, when two characters are having a hushed conversation in a seedy diner, it’s like you’re right there with them, with the quiet hum of the ceiling fan and the soft clatter of cutlery off in the distance.

An example of downwards firing speakers

As mentioned earlier, there are two main styles of Atmos speakers you’ll encounter. First are ones that are mounted on the ceiling and are called “downwards-firing”. These are often wedge-shaped and tuck in where your wall meets your ceiling and project sound down on you. For those looking for a more discreet option, there are many Atmos speakers available that can be mounted directly in the ceiling above your viewing area, hiding almost completely from sight.

The second design, called “upwards-firing”, is a speaker that projects sound upwards and bounces it off the ceiling and back at the viewer. These speakers are a bit more flexible, and can either be placed on your existing left and right speakers, or on either side of your TV. Just be sure they have a clear path to aim at the ceiling.

An example of upward firing speakers

Lots of Atmos speakers are able to be used in both upwards and downwards positions, so you’re not tied to one specific setup.

For those who are interested in getting an Atmos experience without going to a full surround sound system, there are many Atmos soundbars on the market. They work in generally the same way, with upwards-firing speakers built directly into the soundbar. While they won’t give you the fully immersive experience that a full surround sound system will, it can be a great alternative to stock tinny TV sound for those on a budget.

Richer Sounds stocks a huge range of Dolby Atmos products, from AV receivers to speakers packages and soundbars and our in-store staff are always ready to help answer your questions and help you pick the perfect product. Give your local Richer Sounds store a call today!

Click to take a look at our Dolby Atmos speakers.