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.