A little over a year ago, I began experimenting with ways to expand my Dolby Atmos surround sound system to beyond the 7.1.4 limitation of current consumer hardware. My continued quest to achieve the best Atmos experience at home has recently driven me to make additional upgrades. These days, my home theater is so crazily complicated that I actually need to run three A/V receivers simultaneously to manage all my speakers.
In most home theaters, 7.1.4 channels of sound should be plenty enough. Even though the Atmos format (as well as its competitor, DTS:X) can support additional speakers, there hasn’t been much demand for that from consumers or much push from manufacturers to do it. Currently, only boutique high-end products such as the $37,000 Trinnov Altitude 32 will decode more than 11 channels at once.
Nonetheless, for some of us, a limit of four height channels isn’t enough to fill the top of the room with sound. My own home theater is a long room with a lot of space behind my seats. That, combined with a low ceiling, makes it difficult for just four speakers (two in the front of the room and two in the back) to image a sound above my head convincingly. This issue is compounded by the fact that the locations where I had installed speakers when I built the home theater (before immersive audio was a concern I gave any thought to) were less than ideal for Atmos. Those speakers are now fixed in place with wiring through the walls and ceiling, and I can’t move them without remodeling the room. That simply isn’t an option.
The better solution is to install additional speakers in the center between the other height channels (Top Middle position). Unfortunately, the asking price for that Trinnov processor is absurdly beyond my budget. I needed to find a way to jury-rig a similar effect for a fraction of the cost.
(Video) Dolby Atmos Beyond 7.1.4 - Where to next?
The First Attempt
I wrote an article last year explaining how I had cobbled together a convoluted system (jokingly dubbed “Zatmos”) utilizing a second A/V receiver to derive extra channels on my ceiling. I advise reading that piece to understand the basic concept of how such a thing is possible.
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Even at the time, I was not the only person experimenting with this, and I knew that my Zatmos system was not as ideal as I would have liked it. Over at AVSForum, a member named Scott Simonian had gone even further to use a total of three A/V receivers in unison to create a 7.1.6 configuration (affectionately known as “Scatmos”) more accurate to the intentions of the original Dolby Atmos sound mixers.
For a while, I decided not to go that far. The complexity of installing, connecting and configuring three A/V receivers seemed like overkill to me. I felt that the results I had with Zatmos were good enough to get me most of the way there, and I had a certain amount of egotistical pride that I’d figured out a way to do it with just one extra receiver rather than two.
However, in recent months, my attitude changed and I grew less satisfied with the Zatmos configuration. Eventually, I knew that if I was going to do this, I needed to do it right.
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Going Full Scatmos
The silly Zatmos and Scatmos nicknames can be more formally grouped under the heading of “Dolby Atmos Extended.” I want to be clear here that I did not develop the Scatmos process. Credit for that goes to Scott Simonian and others at AVSForum who helped him work it out. With his permission, I’m just trying to explain it here.
For as perhaps ridiculously complicated as they may be to install, one of the saving graces of these experiments is that they can be assembled relatively inexpensively. Although your primary A/V receiver must be a Dolby Atmos (or DTS:X) model capable of decoding 7.1.4 channels of sound from a Blu-ray or UHD immersive audio soundtrack, the secondary receivers don’t need to be nearly as fancy. Any receiver that has, at a minimum, Dolby ProLogic II processing will do. (If using multiple secondary receivers, I recommend that they be identical to each other.)
With a little patience while monitoring For Sale ads on my local Craigslist, I managed to pick up a pair of used Marantz SR4400s for well below $100 each. This is a no-frills, entry-level (or close to it) Dolby Digital/DTS model from 2003. It’s so basic that it doesn’t even have an on-screen menu system. I have to set it up using only the front panel display. The receiver doesn’t have HDMI and cannot handle lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio signals, but it doesn’t need to. All it needs is a pair of analog stereo inputs (which any receiver will have) and ProLogic II.
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The simple act of finding a place to put another A/V receiver in my system proved to be far more of an ordeal than I wanted. Because I didn’t have enough space for it on my main equipment shelf, I had to remove all my components, take the shelf apart, rearrange the levels, put most of the equipment back, and hook it up again. Then I had to do the same thing with the second shelf in order to add a level. My Blu-ray and HD DVD players, which had previously been on the main shelf, moved over to the second so that I could keep all the audio equipment together where the speaker wire will reach it. This, in itself, was a tremendous pain to do.
(Video) 4K Home Theater Tour! 7.1.4 ATMOS PLEX UNRAID!
With that finished, here’s the basic idea behind Scatmos: You want to mount six ceiling speakers – in the Top Front, Top Middle and Top Rear positions. (The following sketch does not represent my personal speaker layout, but I’ve drawn it this way to show how it should be done.) Your primary A/V receiver will be set to decode its maximum of 7.1.4 channels, configured as Top Front and Top Rear.
All four of the height channels should be routed to the analog pre-out connections on the primary AVR. You should not attach any speaker wire to those channels on the primary AVR. For all of the height channels, speaker wire will be attached only to the secondary AVRs.
The pre-outs for the Top Front Left and Top Rear Left channels will go into the Right and Left stereo inputs on AVR 2.
(Video) Trinnov Altitude Processors: Breaking the 7.1.4 Surround Barrier
The pre-outs for the Top Front Right and Top Rear Right channels will go into the Left and Right (reversed from AVR 2) stereo inputs on AVR 3.
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If that sounds confusing already, trying to keep it straight while actually connecting the cables and wires can be truly daunting. I strongly recommend drawing a chart that shows what should go where.
When working properly, each of the secondary downstream AVRs should take a stereo signal consisting of part Front and part Rear, and matrix a Middle channel between them using any mono information in common to both (much as ProLogic II would extract a center channel for dialogue in the front of your room between your left and right speakers under normal circumstances). Thus you get six channels of height information from an original four.
(Video) My 2021 7.1.4 Home Theater & Audiophile Stereo System!
That’s the theory, simplified to its most basic elements. Actually getting it to work properly after your connections are made has some added levels of difficulty that I’ll cover soon in Part 2.
Read Part 2
1. Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 on Amazon|Raalmak
2. 747 DEMO DOLBY ATMOS 7.1.4
3. Dolby Atmos Object Demo on 7.1.4 Speakers - 360 Spatial Audio
4. The 5 best Dolby Atmos Movie Scenes to Test your System
5. Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 Channel 600W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with 8 Wireless Subwoofer
6. New Heights in my Atmos Studio (Thanks Billie)
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We recommend installing four Dolby Atmos enabled speakers whenever possible. The use of four speakers will make the placement of overhead sounds more accurate, and you'll get more precise, realistic sounds when an object, such as a helicopter, passes overhead.Are Atmos modules worth it? ›
Dolby Atmos is worth it if you can afford it. If upgrading to Atmos from a 5.1 surround sound system, Atmos will sound fuller. And a jump from a relatively archaic audio setup to Atmos would be game-changing. Atmos's three-dimensional, 360-degree audio experience is akin to the audio you listen to in movie theaters.How do I pass Dolby Atmos? ›
If you want to transmit Dolby Atmos from your TV to your AV receiver or soundbar, your TV must be equipped with at least HDMI ARC. As we mentioned above, HDMI ARC works with Dolby Atmos/Dolby Digital Plus, but if your TV is equipped with the newer HDMI eARC standard, it will also work with Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD.Which is better Dolby 7.1 or Atmos enabled? ›
Expert-Verified Answer. The sound is deeper and more precise with Dolby Atmos than with conventional Surround 7.1 systems due to the addition of overhead sound and superior calibration software.What is the minimum speaker requirement for Dolby Atmos? ›
You must have at least two height channels for a Dolby Atmos system. Therefore, the minimum number of channels for Dolby Atmos is 2.0. 2, which is a stereo speaker system with two overhead/height speakers. However, Dolby recommends four height speakers for the best 3D experience.What is the minimum room size for Dolby Atmos mixing? ›
Experts estimate the optimal Atmos mix room is about 18 x 21-feet with a ten-foot-high ceiling. The absolute smallest is 10 x 11.5-feet with at least an eight-foot-high ceiling. These space specifications are estimated for optimal speaker configuration and sound dispersion.Is anything better than Dolby Atmos? ›
The higher the bit rate, the better. You'd think that Dolby Atmos, being the more widely known brand name, would be the one with the higher bit rate. However, it's DTS:X has the higher bit rate. Dolby Atmos delivers a slower bit rate.Does Dolby Atmos actually sound better? ›
Does Dolby Atmos Really Make a Difference? Dolby Atmos really makes a difference as it brings a higher sound quality and makes it seem like the sound is coming from all directions. It is the benchmark for theaters, so it makes a huge difference to your home setup.Are in ceiling speakers better for Atmos? ›
Why are ceiling speakers a great option for an Atmos set up? Ceiling speakers in an Atmos home theater systems are mainly used as height channels to add a vertical plane of sound. As they're ceiling-mounted, they are well-placed to give immersive effects when the audio is encoded to fire above you.Can Dolby Atmos go through HDMI ARC? ›
Most Dolby Atmos audio can be played through HDMI-ARC using the Dolby Digital Plus codec. HDMI-eARC is required to play lossless Dolby Atmos audio using the Dolby TrueHD codec.
But of course, the one sure fire way to confirm Dolby Atmos is working on your soundbar is to use the best tools you have — your ears. From a surround sound perspective, if you're getting Atmos you should be able to detect sounds as they appear to move from one area of the room to another.Is HDMI 2.1 needed for Dolby Atmos? ›
You're in luck — all you need is a single HDMI cable to connect your TV and soundbar enabled with Dolby Atmos (HDMI 2.0 for ARC should do the trick while HDMI 2.1 is necessary for eARC setups). This is the simplest option and will send audio directly from your TV to your soundbar.Do you need 7 speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›
While two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, modules, or overhead speakers will deliver a compelling experience, we recommend using four if possible. This will deliver more precisely located and realistic overhead sounds.Is there a Dolby Atmos app? ›
Enable Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos by downloading the Dolby Access app and connecting an enabled TV, soundbar, home theater, or monitor to your platform device via HDMI.Which is better Dolby Atmos or Laser Atmos? ›
IMAX with laser vs Dolby Cinema is just a difference between the screen size and audio plus visual quality. IMAX with laser has a much bigger screen compared to Dolby Cinema, but Dolby comes out on top with crisper images, higher resolution and more impressive audio.Do Atmos speakers need to be full range? ›
"Dolby Atmos audio is mixed using discrete, full-range audio objects that may move around anywhere in three-dimensional space. With this in mind, overhead speakers should complement the frequency response, output, and power-handling capabilities of the listener-level speakers."What is the maximum speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›
According to Dolby's own Director of Sound Research, Brett Crockett, Dolby Atmos surround for home theaters will ultimately support up to 34 speakers – and that might not even include subwoofers.Can I use regular speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›
You can use any speaker for Dolby Atmos, provided you have a sufficient number of them for the full surround sound setup and a compatible AV receiver. Also, you will need elevated or ceiling speakers at an appropriate height and adequately aligned to experience the intended 3D effect of Dolby Atmos.What size room is Dolby Atmos 7.1 4? ›
A Dolby Atmos installation requires a minimum room volume of 50m³.What size room is good for 7.1 surround sound? ›
How big is your room? If it's larger than around 350 square feet, consider a 7.1 speaker setup. If it's smaller, a 5.1 may be more appropriate.
There is no hard and fast minimum room size to mix Dolby Atmos Home Entertainment content, but a certain distance to all loudspeaker should be maintained for a pleasant listening experience.Why DTS is better than Dolby Atmos? ›
DTS is encoded at a higher bit rate and therefore is considered by some experts to be better quality. Others argue that Dolby Digital's technology is more advanced and produces better sound quality at a lower bit rate.Does Netflix support Dolby Atmos? ›
You can watch Netflix in Dolby Atmos audio on select TV shows and movies. You need: A Netflix plan that supports streaming in Ultra HD. A Netflix-capable device that can play Dolby Atmos.Can you tell a difference with Dolby Atmos? ›
How does Atmos compare to surround sound? The biggest difference between Dolby Atmos and traditional surround sound is the use of channels. Audio over conventional surround sound is mostly referred to as 5.1 (five speakers, one subwoofer) or 7.1 (seven speakers, one subwoofer) channels.Which Dolby Atmos mode is best for music? ›
As far as precise location-based game listening goes, the best choice is probably Dolby Atmos with its "performance mode" turned on. That limits the amount of room simulation and EQ applied to the signal, allowing the game's original sound design to come through while still giving a good sense of positional audio.Should Atmos soundbar be above or below TV? ›
Make sure to place your soundbar below and in front of the T.V. If your configuration uses upward firing hardware elements, clear the sound's path from the drivers to the ceiling. Large ornaments like chandeliers or fans can interfere with the projection of sound.What are the best Atmos ceiling speakers? ›
|Model||Woofer Size||Special Note|
|Bose Virtually Invisible 791||7″||Pricey, but “invisible”!|
The fix: Place your center speaker at ear level when seated. This is usually around 30” to 50” off the ground. If your theater set up doesn't allow you to place the center speaker this high, you can improve the sound of a low positioned speaker by tilting it up so that the sound fires at your ear level.Is eARC necessary for Dolby Atmos? ›
Is eARC Required for Dolby Atmos? No, eARC is not required for Dolby Atmos to work. Dolby Atmos can work with regular HDMI ARC through the Dolby Digital Plus audio codec.How do I know if ARC is playing Atmos? ›
Listen to Dolby Atmos on Arc
Arc must be connected to your TV's HDMI-ARC input to play Dolby Atmos content. If Arc is receiving an Atmos signal, we will display that within the Sonos App on both the "Now Playing" screen, and within the settings portion of our app.
So which one is better? HDMI ARC or digital optical audio? HDMI ARC is a better option. It supports Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos, and up to 7.1 channels of uncompressed audio while Digital Optical only supports Dolby Digital and up to 5.1 channels of uncompressed audio.Can you hear the difference between Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos? ›
Is Dolby Digital 5.1 the same as Atmos? No, Dolby Digital 5.1 is not the same as Atmos. Dolby Atmos is an upgraded version of Dolby Digital 5.1, which means Atmos is way better than the 5.1 version. They can offer different sound qualities and surround sound.How can I test Dolby Atmos on my TV? ›
You can test Dolby Atmos output by checking your AV receiver or TV display for “Atmos” or “Dolby Atmos” options. You can also put on a Dolby Atmos movie and listen closely to see if sounds move from one corner to the other. Another option is to check your speaker app to see if it uses Atmos.How do I always have Dolby Atmos? ›
Go to Settings. Tap Music. Under Audio, tap Dolby Atmos. Choose Automatic, Always On, or Off.Is HDMI 1.4 enough for Dolby Atmos? ›
This is because Dolby Atmos can be embedded right into the software or hardware by the manufacturer, which means that it doesn't need any specific hardware to use, and HDMI 1.4 and onwards will work just fine.Does Dolby Atmos work through optical cable? ›
Dolby Atmos content is not delivered through optical connections or through wireless connections of Bluetooth, AirPlay, or Chromecast. Most video streaming services that offer Dolby Atmos content use the Dolby Digital Plus codec.Do I need 7 speakers for Atmos? ›
While two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, modules, or overhead speakers will deliver a compelling experience, we recommend using four if possible. This will deliver more precisely located and realistic overhead sounds.Is Dolby Atmos good for mixing? ›
Mixing in Dolby Atmos is processor intensive and requires a higher sample rate and large I/O buffer size. As such, recording audio or performing live with software instruments while mixing in Dolby Atmos is not recommended.How do you mix Atmos without all speakers? ›
If you don't have a multi-speaker setup, you can still mix music in Dolby Atmos. The way to do this is to use the Dolby Atmos plugin to render your music to headphones, essentially creating a binaural version of your 3-dimensional mix. It's not a true representation of what your music will sound like through a 7.1.What is the best height for Atmos speakers? ›
Atmos upfiring speakers work best at ceiling heights between 7.5 and 12 feet.
Most Dolby Atmos audio can be played through HDMI-ARC using the Dolby Digital Plus codec. HDMI-eARC is required to play lossless Dolby Atmos audio using the Dolby TrueHD codec.Can you master in Dolby Atmos? ›
Dolby Atmos mastering will make sure that the song has enough basis in the front and enough elements all around the listener at the same time. One of the main tasks of the mastering engineer is to check if the song in Dolby Atmos is mixed similar to its stereo version.What are the limitations of Dolby Atmos? ›
|Dolby Atmos Pros||Dolby Atmos Cons|
|Expands surround sound to include overhead effects.||Overhead sound cues need to be encoded in the content.|
|More precise placement of sound objects around the room.||Not all content benefits from overhead sound effects.|
Connect the HDMI output (ARC) port from the soundbar to the HDMI (ARC) or HDMI (eARC) Audio-Return Channel enabled port on your TV. This allows Dolby Atmos audio to flow from the TV apps or other devices connected to the TV via HDMI.How much does it cost to mix in Dolby Atmos? ›
The average price for Dolby Atmos mixes start at $500 per song for independent artists. This includes the stereo mix. All mixes provided will be “Mastered” and ready for release. The average price for a Dolby Atmos up-mix of an existing stereo mix is $150.What is the best Atmos speaker layout? ›
Getting your speaker placement right will greatly benefit your surround sound experience. The 5.1. 2 speaker configuration is the most popular and best value with 5 speakers at ear level, one pair of Atmos speakers, and one subwoofer.Can you get Dolby Atmos with just a soundbar? ›
soundbars with height virtualization. Generally speaking, there are two different types of soundbars enabled with Dolby Atmos: those with upward-firing speakers and those that use height virtualization.What audio format for Dolby Atmos? ›
Dolby Atmos® is an immersive audio format that can be delivered via multiple audio codecs including Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD (but NOT Dolby Digital).