Can Any Speaker Be Used for Dolby Atmos?

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What Is Dolby Atmos?

The best way to experience Dolby Atmos is to have speakers in your ceiling that allow you to experience audio coming, not just from above, but from the sides and corners as well. But with the advent of virtual reality, many people have started to use speakers that rely on a designated “sweet spot” below or behind you on the ground to experience the audio.

Not everyone has a home theater setup that has modified the ceiling to include an audio capable speaker setup. So, if you are interested in virtual reality or 3D audio, and you have a few inexpensive options for an Atmos experience.

You can use a dedicated Atmos receiver, or a receiver that supports Dolby Atmos along with other favorites like DTS: X, and Auro-3D.

Or, you can use a pair of bookshelf speakers to experience Atmos with a big improvement in sound quality.

Many of these speakers can be found used for a fraction of the price of a home theater receiver.

If you are looking for a decent pair of bookshelf speakers to use for Atmos, you can’t go wrong with the Paradigm Series 7 speakers, available on Amazon.

What Dolby Atmos Does

Dolby Atmos is the latest version of the Dolby surround sound system. Rather than surround sound speakers on the walls and ceiling, Dolby Atmos creates an environment of audio objects around you. It’s almost like having your own personal theater for the home, even without a physical space to set up speakers and screens.

This makes it ideal for people who want to maintain their home’s decor or for those who just don’t have the space to install surround sound speakers. Dolby Atmos also reproduces audio according to elevation and location. So rather than surround sound, which is more focused on the front-center, left-right stereo, it’s more about creating the illusion of sound in a 3D environment.

Dolby Atmos is more than just surround sound, and the biggest difference between most current systems and Dolby Atmos is that Dolby Atmos is object-based. Dolby Atmos creates three-dimensional sound fields that seem to come from everywhere.

How Does Dolby Atmos Work?

Audio content is most immersive when it comes from all around you so that it sounds like it is truly all around you. Achieving this immersive effect is simply a matter of recording the different sounds coming from these different speakers spread out around a room and playing them back with equal volume.

Dolby Atmos aims to deliver this kind of cinema-like experience through home theatre speakers. In this case, it’s achieved through the use of upward-firing speakers, which push the height-channel sound right to the top of your ceiling.

In addition to upward-firing speakers, you can also expect to have a combo of left, right, front, and rear speakers, and sometimes side and center speakers too. While a pair of rear speakers is a given, an Atmos-compatible receiver (or preamp) can sometimes be an optional extra. This is because it’s possible for some AVRs to process Dolby Atmos content with just a pair of front left and right speakers. It’s worth noting that the ability to process this content on the receiver is based on its specs and may not all be able to do it.

How to Set Up Your Speakers for Dolby Atmos

Before you get started, make sure you have your sound system properly configured, tuned, and calibrated. If you understand the concepts of speaker levels, channel levels, speaker distance/sub distance (rear of room distance > diffuser), you should be good to go. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Flux technology, the app-based system that makes all of the above super simple.

Now, onto the advice for dolby atmos general tips:

{1}. ) If you’re just adding on the additional audio channels for the ceiling, consider a center-immersive soundbar. Reason being, that the standard bar has to accommodate all channels for standard def sound too. So, centering in the middle of the unit works best for immersiveness. There are a couple of cool ones out there and a DIY job that forgoes the wires and makes it cordless.
{2}. ) If you are adding a wireless speaker to the ceiling with a digital processor, cutting the speaker in half(instead of on an angle) and angling the tweeter/turning it down slightly will provide a much better sound output and result in a more realistic experience.
{3}. ) For those who have a projector and a front projector screen, try to position the projector on the far right side of the screen. This allows for the best listening experience.

Do You Need Special Speakers for Dolby Atmos?

Atmos “ or object-based 3D surround … is the next step in home theater audio, allowing sound to flow and move around you, and this effect is more convincing than traditional surround sound. With Dolby Atmos, sound comes from anywhere in the room: above you, to the sides, and below you.

Up until recently, this 3D audio experience was reserved for the home cinemas with boosted speaker setups, but the Dolby Atmos technology is now available for cinematic public spaces like movie theaters.

The format allows sound to be placed and moved "in the air" and travel from one audio object to another. This means that sound isn't limited to specific channels. So, instead of hearing a sound that feels like it's coming from the left or right speakers, the scene's sound flow can now create a more immersive experience, allowing the sound to come from above, below, and around.

In a home theater setup, Dolby Atmos is a 7.1.4 channel system with the following setup:

  • Up to three height speakers (or ‘baffle wall speakers’)
  • A maximum of 10 regular speakers
  • A 4K video display

This means that you would need subwoofers and speakers, in addition to the upgraded receiver or preamp that includes the Dolby Atmos decoder.

Can You Use Any Ceiling Speaker for Dolby Atmos?

1.4 A common question from people who want to play Dolby Atmos discs is whether any speaker will work for this purpose. The answer to this question is a qualified no. Unless you are using a Dolby Atmos speaker system, you may not get great results. Here’s why this is true.

To get great Atmos results, you need a cabinet that encloses the Atmos speakers. The cabinet helps direct audio to a vertical plane, which enhances Atmos effects. All Dolby Atmos speaker systems have the necessary enclosures to deliver Atmos effect.

There are two types of Dolby Atmos speaker systems that you can buy: the conventional speaker cabinet system and the in-ceiling speaker system. One of the key benefits of the in-ceiling speaker system is that it’s easy to install, and you can quickly adapt it to the available space.

If you are planning to buy an in-ceiling speaker system, you don’t have to worry about whether any speaker will work with it. The speaker system is designed to work with the in-ceiling speaker saddle, which is included with the package. The saddle is specifically designed to deliver high-impact audio. As such, you can expect great Atmos results as long as you place the in-ceiling speaker in the appropriate place.

What Makes a Speaker Atmos-Enabled?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology for home theaters. It’s intended to give the listener a more immersive experience with sound coming from all around them.

Atmos achieves this surround sound experience through the use of height channels and audio objects that allow a greater level of control over audio positioning compared to what was possible with previous surround sound technologies.

Just as you need a premium Blu-ray player, you need an Atmos enabled speaker setup to take advantage of the new surround sound experience. These days you commonly see Atmos enabled speaker setups at the forefront of a manufacturer’s product line.

But not all speakers are Atmos-enabled. Going to the store and looking for Atmos-enabled speakers won’t be enough. To meet the Atmos certification, the speaker needs precise 3D placement controls, which are made possible by individual delays and levels between the height channels and they may seem small, but they are the crucial ingredient in turning a speaker into an Atmos-enabled speaker.

So now you’re sold on buying Atmos enabled speakers, the next step is being aware of the difference between an Atmos enabled speaker and an Atmos-enabled speaker. Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction to be made.

Integrated Speakers

Integrated speakers are formed by two sets of loudspeakers located in front of the screen and above the audience which are built in the ceiling. Each set of speakers has the role of representing a direction with a complete sound, with a height of 3D surround sound.

There are two types of integrated speakers. The first is full-range loudspeakers referred to as full-range ceiling speakers that are designed to meet audiophile performance. Its length ranges from 10 inches to 24 inches.

The second is a dual driver loudspeaker that is designed for home entertainment. Typically, this speaker has a surround-sound system with a frequency range of 35Hz to 20 KHz. It is made up of two 6.5 inches drivers, one high frequency tweeter with 3.5 inches and one super tweeter with 1 inch.

Integrated speakers tend to be larger than discrete speakers of the same power thus, their volumes are greater. However, most of them sound like home theater systems which are quieter than the high performance audiophile speakers.

Add-On Modules

To enjoy this advanced audio format, you need a theater/media room, a Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker system, and an AVR (Audio Video Receiver) with a Dolby Atmos decoder module.

It’s important to note that not all speakers can realize the full potential of the Dolby Atmos format. To enjoy it fully, you will need compatible or Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, ideally from a reliable brand, and an AVR that has the Dolby Atmos decoder module.

If you have an existing speaker system, but it only has a regular 5.1 channel setup, you can still enjoy the enhanced experience of Dolby Atmos by connecting add-on modules to your current setup. These add-on modules can work with any speaker system and they seamlessly integrate with your pre-existing electronics.

If you don’t have any existing speakers, you can simply go ahead and purchase a Dolby Atmos speaker system that is compatible with your AVR. A good speaker system will have all the presence channels required for a 5.1.2 or 5.1.4 speaker setup.

There are many great 5.1.2 and 5.1.4 speaker systems in the market, from well-known brands like Klipsch, Polk Audio, Golden Ear, and more.

Pros of Dolby Atmos

You can hear the sound coming from different places in your room.

No need to add more speakers.

Many of your existing speakers can already do the trick.

Simple to setup.

No Special Hardware Requirements (Yet)

Movie soundtracks benefit most from the effect.

An increasingly popular standard, DTS has been around for quite some time. It was known as the king of 5.1. The next-generation standard, DTS:X, claims to mix sounds in even more directions. Dolby Atmos is another competitor of DTS. It has been around for a while, more recently it’s gone mainstream. The 3D sound is produced by multiple speakers placed in different places. This way, you can experience the height of the sounds. It’s not the same as having someone right above you, but it’s close.

All in all, the only difference in surround sound from one standard to another right now is the direction sounds are coming from. So yes, you can take any speaker and use it as an Atmos speaker! All you need is the Atmos-enabled receiver or A/V processor, an Atmos-ready speaker set, and your Blu-ray player or video game console.

You Can Use Your Existing Equipment

You can use your current speakers without having to buy expensive new equipment for the Dolby Atmos process but it’s useful to know about the speaker categories required to get Dolby Atmos sound. This will help you plan out your full Atmos home theater system.

Dolby Atmos has spatial sound technology that uses specialized speaker configurations to deliver a reproduction of the movie’s sound effects.

The trick behind the process is a specific speaker configuration. It’s a combination of floor standing, ceiling mounted, and bookshelf speakers that are used in the following ways:

Floor Standing Speakers – These full-range speakers located on the floor produce a wide and deep sound stage.

  • These full-range speakers located on the floor produce a wide and deep sound stage. Ceiling Mounted Speakers – These speakers, mounted in the ceiling, deliver height effects.
  • These speakers, mounted in the ceiling, deliver height effects. Bookshelf Speakers – These are used for side effects that are typically situated along the side walls of a room.

Availability of Affordable Equipment Options

In order to enjoy audio in Dolby Atmos format, you need a few additional audio components to get the best possible experience from your atmos setup.

This includes an Atmos enabled speaker, an Atmos enabled AV receiver, an Atmos enabled amplifier, an Atmos enabled Blu-ray player and an HDMI 2.0 or later compatible TV with Atmos pass through. You also need to make sure that all these devices are provided with a 5.1 channel or greater signal source.

Due to the sheer number of options available to consumers for home audio, people are sometimes confused about what options are affordable and which ones are not. With the DIY speakers available in the market, it can be difficult to estimate the cost of home theater audio setup for someone who is just starting out home theater.

The good news is that you can enjoy Dolby Atmos even if you have an entry level budget. Entry level atmos enabled speakers like the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR may not look very impressive at first, but in reality, they are capable of a lot more than their price might suggest. These speakers, as well as other atmos enabled speakers that are in the same price range, are actually quite a good deal for anyone who is on a strict budget and wants to experience atmos somewhere around their home theater setup.

Availability of Content

Dolby Atmos is a selectable feature on almost all home theater receivers.

Before you start worrying if a particular model is compatible with Dolby Atmos, first check if your devices support the feature.

Now, let’s assume that you’ve established that your current speakers will work with Dolby Atmos.

But what is the catch? Availability of content is a major quirk of Dolby Atmos. If you want to experience the full force of this feature, one or more of the following devices need to support it – your receiver, your Blu-ray player, your gaming console, or your streaming media player. And you’ll also need a movie or a game that supports it.

So you see, although many receivers now support Dolby Atmos, not all Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, or other sound-producing devices support Dolby Atmos. If you just want to listen to music from your phone without the support of Dolby Atmos, then you may not need it.

You will only be able to utilize this sound enhancement if your speakers are compatible with Dolby Atmos and if the content you are streaming supports it. Most streaming services don’t support the format now, but more are expected to jump on the bandwagon in the future.

It’s Simply Amazing!

Dolby Atmos creates an audio bubble around you, putting you at the heart of the action. It's designed to create the sensation of acoustic and visual realism.

Dolby Atmos was designed to work with your existing 5.1 or 7.1 channels to give you a more immersive sound experience no matter where you are sitting. Also, it works with your existing speaker system, new or old. Or you may add an additional three, ceiling-mounted speakers and a subwoofer to your system to experience a true Dolby Atmos-certified sound system.

However, the speakers that you have in your home are not designed to support Dolby Atmos. It’s a new sound technology, and many of the speakers on the market don’t have the proper specs to support it. To get the most out of this awesome new sound system, you’ll want to make sure that you choose compatible speakers.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the process of upgrading your home theater system and picking out the right speakers for your Dolby Atmos enabled sound system.

Cons of Dolby Atmos

Since the 2016 launch of Dolby Atmos, listeners have been asking this question – can any speakers be used for Dolby Atmos? The answer is—drumroll—technically yes!

There isn’t a major difference between vertical and horizontal drivers when it comes to an Atmos sound. The only difference, really, is that you would need an additional Dolby Atmos enabled device if you use speakers with horizontal drivers. This isn’t a huge disadvantage since the technology has become quite accessible in the last two years. Fortunately, many of the most popular soundbars offer both vertical and horizontal drivers.

Cons of Dolby Atmos Speakers:

You Might Need to Upgrade

While any speaker could technically be used for Dolby Atmos, you won’t get the best or authentic sound experience if you use an older speaker. Dolby Atmos takes surround sound to a new level and both the height channel and the individual overhead sound effects require special speakers that can reproduce those audio frequencies.

B&W, Klipsch, KEF, and Onkyo are just some of the companies that offer dedicated speakers for use with Dolby Atmos. B&W has a unique offering that uses concentric drivers, typically found in earphones and headphones, to create a more focused and forward sound. For more information on this unique design, you can check out the official B&W Dolby Atmos announcement.

While the best experience will be realized using newer speakers, you can still use your current speakers, but you may need to upgrade them to reproduce the full audio spectrum and experience the immersive feel of Dolby Atmos.

Dobby Atmos Is Expensive

Dolby Atmos is a home theatre technology that when done right is equal to a live performance. Dolby Atmos bounces sound off the ceiling for a dimensional and realistic effect. How many speakers you need, as well as the placement of those speakers depends on the complexity of the Atmos system.

For a basic 5 speaker system with Atmos, you would be needing 3 side speakers for height channel and 2 front speakers for the usual left, center and right channels. A 7.1.4 Atmos system will need 5 height speakers, 2 front speakers and 1 subwoofer. This is the simpler array of speakers and required placement of the speaker in your room.

But a Dolby Atmos system that is set up optimally for your living room, will have up to 30 speakers and require that you move your speakers around, and create speaker lines that originated from the base speaker rather than from the screen. All of this will give you the most eye-popping 3D and realistic sound you've ever experienced.

Hopefully your room allows for this kind of setup but if not, there are online guides that'll help you get the most out of the system you have.

Conclusion

Maybe you’ve seen Dolby Atmos described as the "next generation of surround sound," “sound from every conceivable angle,” or even a "magic bullet for ears." If you haven’t, here’s the deal: Atmos recreates the audio experience of a room, a theater, or other atmosphere by allowing you to actually place the physical speakers in different locations around the room. It’s made possible by a new format developed by Dolby that allows for the placement of up to 64 separate speakers within a regular theater or home theater.

The key question is, do you need a Dolby Atmos set-up to enjoy the format? The short answer is yes, but not as much as you might expect, as we’ll soon see.

You must have the right speaker setup.

If you're just planning ahead, this is the important takeaway. You must have the right speaker setup in order to experience Dolby Atmos. The potential for incredible 3D sound anywhere in your home is amazing, but you need the right speakers.

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