Dolby Atmos surround sound technology has made its way from post-production suites into living rooms and is rapidly becoming one of the most significant and impactful technologies in home cinema. But with so many presets available for optimizing sound settings, what is the best Dolby Atmos preset?
You don’t need to buy special speakers to run Dolby Atmos on your home theater setup. But you will at least need a Dolby-enabled audio visual receiver (AVR) to decode Atmos sound, and height speakers to recreate the overhead sound. You can then adjust presets accordingly.
Virtual surround sound through Dolby Atmos is a great way to get better sound performance from your favorite games, movies, and music thanks to stunning audio. It heightens the audio-visual experience, making you feel totally immersed in the onscreen action. In this guide, we will explore some of the best Dolby Atmos presets.
An Overview of Dolby ATMOs
Since the very first Dolby Atmos installation in the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, Dolby Atmos has firmly transitioned from the “future of home cinema audio” to very much the here and now.
That’s not only thanks to the immersive surround sound technology gaining traction in Hollywood but also its support throughout the chain – it runs from content creation and distribution right the way through to hardware and device compatibility. Video streaming services, TVs, AV receivers – you name it, there’s a good chance Dolby Atmos is part of the package.
At its core, Atmos is a surround-sound technology that was first developed in 2012, expanding upon the pre-existing 5.1 and 7.1 surround-sound set-ups with surround channels coming from overhead, enveloping the audience in a dome of sound.
But unlike traditional channel based systems, Dolby Atmos doesn’t just send audio at discrete levels to each speaker. The technology can also produce up to 118 simultaneous sound objects, allowing the sound designer to place each sound and voice to exact points within the sound field rather than simply assign them to specific channels. These objects can be manipulated and moved around within the space creating a convincing 3D soundstage.
Up to 400 speakers can be used in the top Dolby Atmos cinemas, but in a domestic environment, it’s unlikely you’ll have the room (or the desire) to house such a system.
Instead, there are simpler alternatives: the addition of two or four ceiling speakers in your system; installing ‘topper’ speaker modules on top of your existing left/right speakers (one set, for a .2 configuration) or to your left/right front and rear/surround speakers (two sets, for a .4 layout).
Best Equalizer Settings For Movies
To understand what makes Atmos different from, say, its direct predecessor Dolby Digital, let’s first take a look at how sound is mixed for movies and TV shows.
Everything you hear in a movie, from the music to the voices to the sound effects, all gets mixed into specific “channels.” For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say these channels are, as you look at them in a room, left front (L), center (C), right front (R), right surround (RS) and left surround (LS). Some more complex systems add “surround back” channels.
All the low frequency booms and thumps go to the “.1” subwoofer channel. So if two actors are speaking onscreen, that gets mixed to the center channel. When the music swells during a dramatic moment, that’s usually in the front left and right channels. Zooming and swooping special effects might appear in the surround speakers.
To an extent, this same mix of channels also translates to the home. After all, if you have a 5.1 speaker system, you have all those same speakers.
Except…you don’t. Not exactly.
Where your speakers are, how powerful they are, and increasingly, how much range each has, varies greatly compared with a decent movie theater.
Atmos, for the most part, doesn’t use channels. Instead, most sounds are treated as “objects.” Instead of assigning a sound to a channel (and by extension, a speaker), Atmos lets filmmakers assign a sound to a place. Not “left surround speaker” but “left rear corner.” Not “pan from left surround speaker to right sound speaker” but “pan smoothly across the rear wall.” Not only does this give greater flexibility, but it improves the experience in the theater and, potentially, at home.
Reasons For Bad Sound in Movies
Well, TV manufacturers don’t really put an emphasis on sound quality. TV design has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.
It seems like one of the main stand-by excuses for a TV Spokesperson: It swivels.
There is much, much more to it than that.
The old CRT TVs (remember the 90s?) had a lot more room for speakers. It was also much more common to see big entertainment centers with large speakers. That’s no longer the case with flat screen TVs. Manufacturers are constantly making their TVs thinner and the bezels smaller. This has forced the speakers into the back or the bottom, making them very tiny in the process.
The problem is, speakers need to be bigger to produce decent sound. And it doesn’t help that they’re often facing down or away from you. This creates a quiet, often inaudible, sound. Wanna open up your window or maybe turn on the AC? Chances are, you’re going to miss some dialogue.
But, there are a few things you can do to get some decent sound out of that TV.
It doesn’t take much Googling to find the solution. Buy another speaker. But the answer is a little more complicated than that. The two main forms of external speakers for TVs are sound bars and bookshelf speakers. Bookshelf speakers are what we traditionally think of when it comes to a home sound system. They usually come in pairs to produce stereo sound. You can even add more speakers to create a surround sound setup.
Sound bars are a longer, single unit with several speakers inside. The biggest advantage with any of these speakers is the sound is actually pointing towards you. They also have larger and higher quality drivers which produce better sound. Many speaker systems even come with a subwoofer, adding much more bass than you would ever get with your TV.
You can spend anywhere from less than 100 to thousands of dollars on a sound system. Do your research and read reviews, but generally, any speaker you get will be better than what came with your TV. But, if you just dropped a ton of money on a brand new TV and are looking for a solution that doesn’t cost you anything, take a look at the placement of your TV.
If the speakers are on the bottom, make sure the TV is propped up. Either by a stand or in a wall-mounted position. If the speakers are in the back, it may help to move your TV further away from the wall. That way the sound will be less muffled.
You may have gotten used to the subpar sound quality of your TV, but there is a lot you can do to fix it. Don’t let bad sound ruin your viewing experience. Don’t let bad sound ruin your movie.