What is Dolby Atmos?
Generating realistic surround sound comes now comes from above and below.
Atmos is Dolby’s newest way of generating realistic surround sound. It works by employing multiple speakers – and not just the 5.1 or 7.1 channels you might be used to in a home cinema setup. A fully-fledged Dolby Atmos cinema can utilise up to 64 speakers, although you can create a convincing Dolby Atmos system with far fewer.
The key difference between Atmos and previous systems is that Atmos employs not just left/right/centre and front/rear speakers, but top (ceiling) and bottom (floor) speakers as well.
For producers of movie soundtracks, this means separate channels have to be created for each of these speakers – hence the arrival of the Mix Stage post-production suite at Abbey Road Studios.
The likes of Yamaha, Samsung, Kef, Pioneer, LG and Onkyo all sell Atmos-compatible products, from soundbars to AV receivers, and interestingly, the technology isn’t limited to audiovisual applications – Ministry Of Sound in London recently became the first nightclub in the world to have a Dolby Atmos sound system installed.
Russell Deeks is a freelance writer with nearly 30 years’ journalism experience, working across the fields of music, technology and science – which, he says, cross over more often than you might think. Despite the drawback of holding a degree in English & American Literature, he has been a regular contributor to BBC Science Focus since 2006.
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