What is Dolby Atmos? Is It Worth the Price?


Without sound, movies would just be pretty pictures flashing on the screen. We’ve come a long way from the little speaker built into our old TVs, with newer and better ways to step up the home viewing experience, first with stereo, then surround sound. Today, Dolby Atmos® brings to your living room the state-of-the-art, enveloping, and immersive sound currently found in the best movie theaters, bringing you closer to the stories and characters in an incredible cinematic experience.

How Dolby Atmos Improves Sound Quality

How does Dolby Atmos work? To fully understand this technology, it takes just a bit of math, we promise. These days, different speaker options have different digits attached to describe them. Stereo (one left and one right speaker) is called “2.0”, and if you combine it with a subwoofer--a special speaker for more powerful boom, kick and rumble--it becomes 2.1. Combine these with a center channel for clearer dialogue in movies and TV shows, and you’re up to 3.1. Back in the DVD era, we were invited to use a pair of left/right rear speakers too, for a 5.1 surround. With a good soundtrack, the surround effect can be, well, awesome. Imagine someone shooting an arrow, and you hear the pluck of the bowstring behind you, the bolt whizzing through the air and then thwap, hitting its target in the front of the room as you see it happen on screen. But what is Dolby Atmos, and how does it improve upon traditional sound systems? It takes audio to a new level and brings an extra dimension to the overall listening experience.  

Time for a simple comparison: Dolby Atmos vs 5.1. All of the speaker configurations mentioned above are two-dimensional. However, turn your head from side to side and you’ll see (or hear) where all the sound is originating. But what if you looked up? Dolby (the OG of surround audio) literally takes it to a new level with Dolby Atmos, which brings height channels to the mix, so now sound can come from above and around you with breathtaking realism. What does Dolby Atmos do? It helps you enjoy the sound experience of television, movies, and music like never before, taking the audio of each media format to the next level. If you’re wondering how to use Dolby Atmos, you’ll be pleased to know no special installation is required because upfiring height speakers basically bounce the sound off the ceiling in such a way as to convince you that’s where the action is. Checking to see if your video-playing devices, including streaming services,  adhere to Dolby Atmos requirements are easy. All you need to do is download a setup guide from the official website.

Yeah, But Does Dolby Atmos Really Make a Difference

Now that you know what is Dolby Atmos, there's one more thing you may be wondering: How good is Dolby Atmos? Short answer: “Whoa…!” As any Dolby Atmos review will tell you, it’s the latest and greatest, and once you hear it, there’s no turning back. There’s a reason Darryl Wilkinson of Sound & Vision said, “Now that I’ve experienced Dolby Atmos in my home, I’m hooked.” Specific sounds can come from each speaker, with the height channels used in clever new ways. Sometimes you’ll really feel the helicopters buzzing overhead. Other times you’ll hear the detailed pitter-patter of raindrops and maybe even catch yourself reaching for an umbrella. Dolby Atmos can also create a sort of general immersion, filling the room with a remarkably realistic echo or a lush soundscape that puts the viewer in the thick of all the excitement. Here, you’re not necessarily pointing up at individual birds flapping about. Instead, you might believe you’re in a teeming jungle.

What Can I Watch with Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos vs. Dolby Digital: which is better? In reality, Dolby Digital Plus includes support for Dolby Atmos audio, so there is no rivalry here, only seamless integration. There’s already a big and growing library of Dolby Atmos content, including movies and TV series from providers like Prime Video, Disney+, and Vudu. Tons of Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD discs pack Dolby Atmos soundtracks to better capture the theatrical “wow” of the biggest, newest blockbusters. The gripping soundtrack of Ford v Ferrari enhances the drama with a powerful ambiance that rises above the throaty cars zooming around the racetrack, and sometimes crashing spectacularly. Atmos is used magnificently to capture the oppressive noisiness of the decaying Gotham City in Joker, the inescapable squeal of the subway, or the menace of an angry protest mob, while much of the mood is set by the Oscar-winning music, mixed generously across the channels. Filmmakers seem to be digging Dolby Atmos, thinking up scenes that put the story overhead, like when Spidey battles the towering elemental monsters in Spider-Man: Far from Home. And it’s not just new movies: studios are going back and remixing classics, like The Matrix Trilogy, into Dolby Atmos for modern home theaters.

Select next-gen videogames such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare*, Gears 5, and Borderlands 3* can be played in Dolby Atmos, too, putting you in the middle of the action so you can pinpoint game-changing sounds like footsteps sneaking up behind you, or boulders tumbling down the cliff above you.

Is Dolby Atmos Worth Buying?

We’ve answered the question, “what is Dolby Atmos?” but you may still be wondering, is Dolby Atmos worth it? Have you been paying attention? With the rise of Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bars, it’s a quick, easy and affordable upgrade that can dramatically improve the home viewing experience, bringing you closer to the characters and the stories you love. Break free from the limits of onboard TV audio and start enjoying your entertainment as never before.

VIZIO Dolby Atmos Sound Bars

How do you want your Dolby Atmos? VIZIO--America’s #1 sound bar brand1--offers three different flavors: 3.1.2 offers full stereo separation, a dedicated dialogue channel plus two height channels (that’s the “.2”), all from a pair of compact, elegant boxes. The 5.1.2-channel option adds dedicated rear speakers for true surround, while the award-winning 5.1.4 SB46514-F6 (46” width) and SB36514-G6 (36”, for smaller TVs) puts two additional upward-firing speakers into the rears, for a total of four and VIZIO’s most immersive “Home Theater Sound System” (fancy!). All of these include a wireless subwoofer, enhancing the oomph while simplifying setup and reducing the number of wires. One of VIZIO’s feature-packed Dolby Atmos sound bars might be just what you need to take your TV audio above and beyond.

Learn more: VIZIO.com

1 Source: The NPD Group, Inc., U.S. Weekly Retail Tracking Service, Sound Bars, Based on Units, Feb. 4, 2018 – Apr. 6, 2019

* Dolby, Dolby Vision, Dolby Audio, and the double-D symbol are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories. Manufactured under license from Dolby Laboratories. Confidential unpublished works. Copyright © 1992-2015 Dolby Laboratories. All rights reserved.

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