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What is Dolby Atmos and Why is it Important?

Jan 12, 2023

graphic of an outdoor deck chair with a speaker and a pair of wireless earbuds for relaxation


Audio transmission

Uses Bluetooth technology

Audio quality

Up to two channels of compressed audio (stereo)


Ideal for headphones, earbuds, and portable speakers

graphic of a home office improved with a speaker system


Audio transmission

Uses a standard Wi-Fi network

Audio quality

Up to two channels of high-definition audio (stereo)


Ideal for smart speakers, multiroom speakers, and speakers that expand soundbar-based systems

graphic of a home theater


Audio transmission

Creates a dedicated wireless network, specifically for the sound system

Audio quality

Up to eight channels of ultra high-definition uncompressed audio; supports Dolby Atmos®

Highest globally-recognized standard for wireless speaker systems


Ideal for true cinema surround-sound systems

Over the past few years, Dolby Atmos® sound has taken the home entertainment world by storm. Movies, TV shows, sporting events, games, and even music are recorded, delivered, and enjoyed in a new way. Imagine Dragons just rocked the 2023 CES show demonstrating the immersive power of Dolby Atmos. It's even being installed in all new Mercedes models. Everyone is getting on the bandwagon, and you may have heard about Dolby Atmos, but what does it mean? And, more importantly, do you need it? Let's dive in.

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is the latest immersive surround sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. Dolby Labs was founded in London, England, in 1965, moved to San Francisco, California, in 1976, and is responsible for a continuous stream of audio technology development with the goals of enabling recorded sound to be more precise, more detailed, more realistic, and more immersive. Great examples of Dolby Lab's technology contributions to sound recording and reproduction are Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital AC-3, Dolby TrueHD, and now Dolby Atmos.

Previous Dolby surround sound technologies created a realistic sound field in two dimensions, width and depth. Three speakers are placed in the front of the room (center, left, and right), and two speakers are placed in the back of the room (left and right) in order to achieve a flat, 2D version of surround sound. Occasionally speakers can be placed at the sides of the listener to develop the depth of the stage. This speaker setup was the standard for years but never addressed the third dimension in the listing space, height.

Dolby Atmos=Height

Enter Dolby Atmos. With Dolby Atmos, recording engineers and producers work within a three-dimensional space locating sounds anywhere around the listener and creating a much more immersive entertainment experience. Think about going to a baseball game. When you sit in your seat, you hear the bat crack as it hits the ball down in the field, then you listen to fans around you roar. You may hear the ball clank against the foul ball pole up in the air, down at the back of the field. You may hear someone screaming popcorn and peanuts behind you. Microphones have already been installed throughout stadiums for decades. Now, with Dolby Atmos, you can hear all the sounds from the game exactly where they occur in space, making you feel like you are at the ball game in the comfort of your air-conditioned (or heated) house.

Dolby Atmos TV shows and movies are produced in the same fashion. If a jet or rocket roars overhead, that is where the sound should come from. If an actor is hard at work at their desk and is frightened by a knock at the door behind them, the sound should come from that direction. If actors trudge through a blizzard, the listener should hear ice and snow fall from above.

The height dimension in Dolby Atmos is achieved by locating speakers physically in the ceiling. Now, the easier to install and use technology is the use of up-firing speakers to reflect sound off the ceiling. The sound bounces back down towards the listener, creating the 3D sound. These upfiring speakers can be independent of the front speaker or integrated into them. As another option, some systems rely on a virtual Dolby Atmos effect rather than having overhead or upfiring physical speakers responsible for the Dolby Atmos content. Virtual Dolby Atmos is remarkably better than non-Atmos systems but not as good as having upfiring speakers.

Dolby Atmos Movies, Music, and More

Dolby Atmos made its theatrical debut in 2012 with the movie, Brave, and is now the chosen technology for over 500 films. Considering the immersive audio benefits of Dolby Atmos sound, most movies will utilize this technology moving forward. By 2022 over 10,000 professional movie theaters were Dolby Atmos enabled. It is expected that most newly built and renovated theaters will embrace the technology.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are not limited to major motion pictures. An increasing number of TV shows, sporting events, video games, and even music tracks are being captured and reproduced using Dolby Atmos technology. Content providers, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, and VUDU, are already bringing Dolby Atmos content into our homes. More providers are expected to adopt the technology soon. Shows as diverse as Stranger Things to Ted Lasso have Dolby Atmos technology.

Gaming is getting on board too. Xbox Series XS has Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision (another topic!). Most popular new games, from Call of Duty to Halo, were released in Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos's immersive approach to audio entertainment is also being seen in the music industry. New music is being recorded in Dolby Atmos, and previously recorded tracks are being remixed and remastered in Dolby Atmos, bringing a new dimension to this category. Dolby Atmos recordings can be found on Apple Music and Amazon Music. More services are expected to follow the trend in 2023 and beyond.

Do you need Dolby Atmos?

You don't need it, no. Of course, you can watch and listen to entertainment without the technology. However, eventually, it will be like going back and watching a movie from a couple of decades ago. You will be shocked that you enjoyed the much worse quality of the technology.

Dolby Atmos is becoming the standard technology in all entertainment: TV, Movies, games, sports, and music. You will pay the price for your streaming bill's sound quality. You will need a Dolby Atmos system if you want to hear Dolby Atmos. Most of the top musicians are now becoming Dolby Atmos evangelists, including, Deadmau5, Billie Eilish and Finneas, and Coldplay, and most new music will be released in Dolby Atmos.

Dolby Atmos is supplying a much-needed modernization for how audio is captured and reproduced in professional cinemas and home entertainment systems. Content creation, delivery, aggregation, access, and Dolby Atmos-capable sound systems are all converging toward an entertainment world that is entirely Dolby Atmos. The technologies have made it very easy for us to be immersed in our favorite entertainment content right in our homes.

Meet Monaco 5.1.2 from Platin Audio

Featuring front speakers with upfiring drivers to play Dolby Atmos and Dolby Atmos Music height channels, Monaco 5.1.2 with WiSA SoundSend takes home entertainment to new heights.

Platin Monaco 5.1.2 on a white background; blue circle shows the upfiring speakers

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