With all the buzz that’s been surrounding Dolby Atmos and the increasing number of brands advertising it in their soundbars, you might be wondering if you should upgrade to an Atmos Soundbar. What’s all the fuss about? Are Atmos Soundbars really worth it?
Yes, Atmos Soundbars are worth the higher price because they give you a more immersive and three-dimensional sound compared to regular soundbars. Thanks to the innovations of object-based sound and vertical audio, you don’t just hear sounds from around you but also from above, making the experience more life-like.
In this article, we’ll explore just how these two game-changing innovations help transform your surround sound experience. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of purchasing a Dolby Atmos Soundbar.
To understand how Dolby Atmos soundbars make your audio experience more realistic, let’s first compare them with traditional surround soundbars.
Also read: Is Dolby Atmos Really Worth It?
Dolby Atmos soundbars vs other soundbars
In a basic 2.1 soundbar configuration, the number 2 refers to the left and right speakers and the .1 to a subwoofer that delivers the bass sounds. However, this is not technically not surround sound as the speakers are only in front of you.
Some 2.1 soundbars try to compensate for this by offering virtual surround sound that mimics the real thing.
The 5.1 configuration gives you the traditional surround sound experience. It includes 3 primary speakers in the soundbar(left, right, and center), 2 separate surround speakers, as well as a subwoofer. The basic idea here is that if the speakers surround you, so will the sound.
Now let’s look at how Dolby Atmos changes the way sound is distributed in the room.
Dolby Atmos adds the dimension of height – with sound coming from above, in addition to the front, sides, and back. So in a surround sound system with a Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 configuration, the extra ‘.2’ would refer to the overhead speakers.
Soundbars that have Dolby Atmos disperse sound vertically and reflect it off your ceiling, thus giving you the effect of having overhead speakers. The sound coming from all directions helps create a kind of sound bubble and adds to the realism of the experience.
Conventional surround sound involves assigning sounds to channels or speakers. Dolby Atmos technology differs from this in that the audio engineer defines individual sounds (such as a siren or a bee buzzing) as audio objects and assigns them to precise positions in the sound field.
This information is then decoded by the Dolby Atmos object audio renderer for optimal playback based on the type, location, and number of speakers in the user’s setup.
For example, instead of assigning a sound to say- ‘right surround speaker’ as in conventional surround sound, the audio engineer would define it as ‘right rear corner’. This provides flexibility and the rendering that is done on the user’s equipment comes closer to what the filmmaker intended.
These two innovations result in an enhanced perspective of sound- it feels as if the sounds are moving through space.
Imagine watching an alien spaceship in a sci-fi movie appear and hover overhead while you also hear it coming towards you and hovering above your head through the speakers. How thrilling that would be!
Thus, the combined developments of vertical sound and object-based audio make for a far more realistic home theater experience.
How Dolby Atmos works in a Soundbar
Soundbars are designed to be compact units. They offer an unobtrusive alternative to multi-speaker surround sound systems.
Dolby Atmos uses two different approaches to delivering vertical audio in soundbars, depending on the price range of the product.
1. Soundbars with Dolby Atmos upward-firing elements
These Atmos soundbars simulate vertical audio by using drivers that project the audio upwards which reflects off the ceiling to reproduce overhead sound. This gives you a feeling of overhead sound, even if the soundbar is located at ear level.
2. Dolby Atmos soundbars with height virtualization
Using psychoacoustics (the way the human ear perceives sound) instead of upward drivers, these soundbars manage to create a perception that the sound is also coming from above you, even though the soundbar may be placed in front of you.
This is made possible through the use of sophisticated height-cue filters that simulate this effect.
Many Dolby soundbar systems also come with separate surround speakers along with the subwoofer to give you complete 360-degree sound. However, you can still get a good Dolby Atmos experience from a single soundbar
Are Dolby Atmos Soundbars Worth It
Let’s examine some pros and cons of atmos soundbars to know if they are worth it.
Dolby Atmos soundbars give you a rich, immersive sound like never before. The best part- you don’t have to clutter up your living room space with too many speakers to enjoy this enveloping experience. You can have a small space and still enjoy the benefits of Dolby Atmos.
Moreover, there’s a lot more content available with Dolby Atmos soundtracks on Blu-ray discs, streaming services, as well as Xbox games. Look for the Atmos logo near the title to check if the content supports it.
Most of the latest Dolby Atmos soundbars have many additional features and benefits such as network connectivity and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant too that are very convenient.
Dolby Atmos soundbars are much more expensive than regular soundbars. And to get the true Dolby Atmos sound experience, every part of your home theater system needs to support it. If not, it would end up downplaying the audio and you’ll miss out on the richness of object-based audio.
If your TV does not have an HDMI ARC or eARC port, you will not get Dolby Atmos sound since Dolby Atmos uses a lot of bandwidth and needs an HDMI connection to work.
With Atmos soundbars, you will definitely have to shell out a whole lot more. But if you are a die-hard movie buff/gaming enthusiast and want a truly immersive, life-life audio experience then Dolby Atmos soundbars are worth the extra bucks.