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What is Dolby Atmos: Everything You Need to Know About This Immersive Sound Technology

  • 13 min read

What is Dolby Atmos? It's an object-based surround sound format developed by Dolby Labs. Let's find out more about Dolby Atmos...

Whether you're a movie buff, a music lover, or a gamer, Dolby Atmos has revolutionized the way we experience sound. While there are dozens of surround sound formats available for you to use in your home theater setup, Dolby Atmos is one that has gained a lot of attention. But, what exactly is Dolby Atmos and how do you experience it?

Let’s find out more about Dolby Atmos:

Dolby Atmos Soundbar - What is Dolby Atmos?

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos, an object-based surround sound technology, is one of a long line of surround sound formats developed by Dolby Labs. What makes it different is that it uses a special type of spatial coding to make the surround sound experience more immersive than previous formats.

Dolby Atmos’ sound encoding process is completely different than traditional audio formats. Instead of delivering sound through channels, Dolby Amos uses a technology that encodes sounds into sound objects. These sound objects are individually placed in a three-dimensional space, creating an immersive audio experience that surrounds the listener from all directions. Imagine the sensation of raindrops falling from above your head or the rustling of leaves swirling around you — that's what makes Dolby Atmos so powerful.

Dolby Atmos is more than surround sound. This cutting-edge technology provides a truly immersive and lifelike audio experience. It allows you to hear your favorite Dolby Atmos movies, music, and games in a way that makes you feel like you are actually there in the middle of the action.  When Dolby Atmos sound is combined with a Dolby Atmos soundbar or home theater system the result is an unparalleled realistic audio experience. 

How Dolby Atmos Works

Traditional surround sound systems deliver sound through channels or speakers that are placed around a room to create an immersive experience. The surround sound data is stored using an encoding process that tells an AV receiver which sounds to send to specific speakers. When surround sound is played, the listener will hear each sound coming out of different speakers around the room. But that's where the technology stops.

Dolby Atmos allows sound to be precisely placed in any direction within a given space, creating a more accurate representation of how sound occurs in the real world. To capture this 3-dimensional sound, Dolby Atmos uses a more advanced and precise encoding process. 

"The magic of Dolby Atmos starts by breaking down audio into precise sound objects."

The magic of Dolby Atmos starts by breaking down audio into precise sound objects.  Then, instead of simply assigning these sound objects to specific channels or speakers, each sound object (as decided by a movie sound mixer) is assigned to a spot in 3D-dimensional space (this is where the spatial coding process comes in). Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound format, rather than strictly a channel-based format. Of course, to hear the results, you need compatible speakers or a Dolby Atmos soundbar.

After assigning sound object placement, the information is placed into metadata that, in turn, is delivered through a bitstream encoded on a Blu-ray Disc or in streaming movies or programs. The bitstream is then decoded by a special chip in a home theater receiver or AV processor. The receiver/processor then assigns the decoded spatial elements based on the channel/speaker setup used.

Dolby Atmos in Theaters vs Home Theaters

Dolby Atmos in theaters utilizes the commercial version of Dolby Atmos, which offers up to 64 channels of audio. This includes speakers placed in the front, sides, rear, back, and overhead.  The audio algorithm used in Dolby Atmos is designed to immerse the listener in a 3D bubble of sound.

Examples of Dolby Atmos use in movie theaters include effects such as wind, thunder/lightning, rain, planes, helicopters, and other sounds that actually come from overhead with more accurate distance cues than can be achieved with traditional surround sound layouts. It results in the smooth flow of sounds as they move through a movie theater auditorium. It also provides more pinpoint location accuracy for stationary sounds.

Although Dolby Atmos started out for use in commercial movie theaters, it has been scaled down to provide a similar experience for home users. If you want to experience Dolby Atmos in your home, there are now many ways to do this.

How to Get Dolby Atmos at Home

With Dolby Atmos, you can experience original and reformatted movies in immersive audio at home. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ offer a wide range of Dolby Atmos content.  Dolby Atmos is also available for video games and music and the availability of Dolby Atmos content is constantly expanding as this technology becomes more popular and more accessible.  So, how do you get Dolby Atmos?

If you want to experience Dolby Atmos in your own home, there are several options available to you depending on your preferences and budget. The best choice for you will depend on what you're looking for in your home theater experience and the type of Dolby Atmos content you want to enjoy.

Want to experience Dolby Atmos at home? Here are a few ways to get Dolby Atmos at home:

  • Set up a Dolby Atmos home theater system
  • Invest in a Dolby Atmos TV
  • Install a Dolby Atmos soundbar
  • Use a Dolby Atmos enabled mobile device or headphones.

Dolby Atmos Home Theater Systems

Dolby Atmos Home Theater Systems

Setting up a Dolby Atmos surround sound system in your home can create an immersive and realistic audio experience. However, replicating the 64-channel theatrical version in a home environment is not practical. 

To address this, Dolby has provided a way for Dolby Atmos soundtracks to be scaled down to fit the number of channels and speakers that may be available in a variety of home theater setups. This way you can still enjoy the benefits of Dolby Atmos technology in your own home without having to invest in a commercial setup. 

To set up a Dolby Atmos speaker system here’s what you need:

  • A Dolby Atmos compatible AV receiver. Look for a receiver that supports Dolby Atmos with multiple amplification channels. You’ll want a receiver that can support at least five main channels, a subwoofer, and two height channels. It should also have enough HDMI input ports for the desired number of source devices.
  • Speakers and at least two additional height speakers. You will need at least five main speakers for surround sound and two additional speakers for the height channels (either two ceiling-mounted speakers or two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers).
  • A Subwoofer. A subwoofer enhances audio by providing deep bass frequencies that are necessary for low-frequency sounds such as booming explosions or other special effects.
  • A Dolby Atmos-enabled source device.  You will also need an audio source such as a Blu-ray player, streaming device, or a smart TV that supports Dolby Atmos
  • HDMI cables and speaker cables.  To connect all the components in your system together, you’ll need HDMI cables and speaker cables.
How to set up a Dolby Atmos speaker system

Dolby Atmos Configurations

The configurations for Dolby Atmos are similar to 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems, but with Dolby Atmos the surround sound channel/speaker placement is described differently than what you may be accustomed to. Instead of the 3.1, 5.1, 7.1, 9.1 designations, you will see descriptions such as 3.1.2, 5.1.2, 5.1.4, 7.1.2, 7.1.4, etc.  The more channels and speakers that can be used, the more precise the spatial positioning.

Here is how to translate this configuration system:

  • Horizontally placed speakers (left/right/center front and surrounds) are the first number (3, 5,7,9, etc....)
  • The second number (.1 or .2) designates the number of subwoofers.
  • The last number (usually .2 or .4) designates the number of ceiling-mounted or up-vertically-firing speakers required to hear overhead effects accurately.

Setting up a Dolby Atmos system can be complicated, especially if you want your wiring to be discreet and hidden, such as in-ceiling or in-wall wiring. This is why some people choose a soundbar instead. However, there are limitations in recreating spatial sound if you use a TV or soundbar.  Dolby Atmos soundbars and televisions rely on speaker drivers pointing toward your ceilings and walls to bounce sounds to create the illusion of surround sound, rather than using ceiling-mounted speakers.

While this can work in an ideal symmetrical room environment with flat walls and ceilings, every living room is different. This may lead to an inconsistent experience depending on your configuration.

Also, if you are passing Dolby TrueHD encoded Atmos signals through a TV to an external audio system, the TV and the audio system need to be equipped with eARC to handle the additional bandwidth. However, some recent model TVs capable of decoding Dolby Atmos can pass the Dolby Digital Plus encoded Atmos signal to an audio system via ARC.

If you opt for a more traditional wired setup, look for a Dolby Atmos-ready AV receiver paired with separate speakers. To get the maximum benefit of Dolby Atmos height effects, it's best to use ceiling-mounted speakers for the height channels. 

Dolby atmos speaker configuration

A more convenient, but less effective option is to employ vertically firing floor standing or bookshelf speakers in your setup. This allows Dolby Atmos information to be directed to and bounced off the ceiling, then back down to the listening position. The ceiling needs to be flat. The speakers also need to be able to project sound the required distance to reach the ceiling with enough force to reflect back down.

NOTE: If a speaker cabinet houses both horizontally and vertically firing speakers, the vertically firing speakers require separate speaker connections.

Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Setting up a wired Dolby Atmos surround sound system can be expensive and complicated, as it requires multiple speakers and ideally ceiling-mounted speakers for optimal performance. Not everyone can afford this type of setup, and it’s not always practical for smaller homes, condos, or apartments.

This is where a Dolby Atmos soundbar comes in. For many consumers, a Dolby Atmos soundbar provides an excellent listening experience without the hassle or expense. If you don’t have an existing surround sound system (or even if you do!) a Dolby Atmos soundbar may be the best option for bringing Dolby Atmos entertainment to your home.

Here’s why.  A Dolby Atmos soundbar is designed to create a three-dimensional and immersive sound experience without the complicated setup or expense. Unlike a wired surround sound system, it is a single unit that contains multiple speaker drivers along with audio technology to reproduce Dolby Atmos sound, but how does it work?  

Dolby Atmos Soundbar - The Eclipse by Enclave Audio

How Does a Dolby Atmos Soundbar Work?

Dolby Atmos soundbars typically consist of multiple speaker drivers, including upward-firing speaker drivers housed inside a single unit. These upward-firing speaker drivers bounce sound off the ceiling, creating the illusion of sound coming from above. In addition to the upward-firing speaker drivers, Dolby Atmos soundbars also have front-firing, side-firing, and rear-firing speaker drivers that simulate the sense of sound coming from different directions.

They use advanced algorithms to analyze and process Dolby Atmos encoded audio. These algorithms consider the metadata embedded in the content to determine the precise direction of the sound. The sound is then sent to the appropriate speaker drivers, creating a three-dimensional audio experience. Through dynamic adjustments to the volume and timing of each speaker, Dolby Atmos soundbars are able to recreate a realistic and immersive illusion of three-dimensional sound.

For effortless Dolby Atmos sound, experience superior sound quality from the Enclave Eclipse 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar + Subwoofer. With its impressive 11 built-in speakers and a powerful subwoofer, our Dolby Atmos soundbar delivers a truly immersive and cinematic audio experience. It also offers 7 EQ Presets, including an enhanced dialogue mode for clearer dialogue and a night mode to reduce loud sounds during nighttime viewing. Don't miss a single detail of your favorite movies with the precision and quality of the Enclave Eclipse soundbar. 

Dolby Atmos Televisions

Another way to get Dolby Atmos in your home is with a Dolby Atmos enabled television.  Dolby Atmos televisions are incredibly popular, with several manufacturers offering models that are capable of delivering this immersive audio experience. Some of the top brands, such as LG, Sony, Samsung, and Visio, have integrated Dolby Atmos capabilities into their newest OLED TVs.

However, while streaming 4K movies through these televisions can provide Dolby Atmos sound, it's important to consider the TV’s built-in speaker configuration. Some OLED TVs marketed as Dolby Atmos TVs may only have a 2.2 channel configuration, which can significantly impact the immersive capabilities of the technology. To fully experience the cinematic Dolby Atmos experience, additional external speakers or a Dolby Atmos soundbar with dedicated height channels may be necessary. 

Dolby Atmos Headphones and Mobile Devices

You can also listen to your favorite music and videos with Dolby Atmos headphones and mobile devices. You may be wondering how small mobile devices and headphones can deliver Dolby Atmos sound.

Dolby Atmos sound can now be experienced on small mobile devices and headphones through the use of a technique called HRTFs (head-related transfer functions). This technique delivers audio to our ears in a way that mimics how we naturally perceive sound. While it may not reproduce sound objects the way a full Dolby Atmos sound system does, it creates a more immersive experience.

To create this lifelike audio experience, sound is directed to different ears to simulate sound coming from different directions. By adjusting volume and timing, they can create the sensation of sound coming from various angles, such as footsteps getting louder as they approach the listener.

Now that you know a little more about how Dolby Atmos works and how to get it in your home, you may be wondering where to find content to fully experience this immersive audio technology. There are several options for finding Dolby Atmos content. 

Where to Find Dolby Atmos Content

Dolby Atmos-encoded content is available on a growing number of Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs, as well as select streaming content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, and other services, provided your smart TV or streaming device supports it.  However, in order to stream Dolby Atmos content on your video streaming platform, you will need a plan that supports UltraHD or 4K streaming.

How to Find Dolby Atmos Movies

You can find Dolby Atmos the latest Dolby Atmos releases by visiting Not only do they have a list of upcoming movie releases, but you can also see what Dolby Atmos movies and shows are playing on Apple TV, Netflix, and Vudu.  You can also follow Enclave Audio’s blog for updates on the latest shows and the best movies to stream

Additionally, many of the streaming providers allow you to search by format. Simply doing a search for “Atmos” or “Dolby Atmos” in your provider’s search bar can help you to find movies streaming in Dolby Atmos.

NOTE: If a specific Blu-ray/UHD Blu-ray disc or streaming content is Dolby Atmos coded, but your receiver or system isn't Dolby Atmos-compatible, it just ignores that information and defaults to another compatible surround sound format that is included in the content, such as Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus.

How to Find Dolby Atmos Music

Dolby Atmos technology is not just changing how we enjoy movies, it is also revolutionizing the way we listen to music. If you haven't tried streaming music in Dolby Atmos, you're missing out on something extraordinary.

Just imagine hearing your favorite artist walking down from the stage and singing the lyrics of your favorite song softly as she gets closer to you. With Dolby Atmos, the possibilities are endless. Your music becomes more interactive, creative, and expressive, making you feel like you're right in the middle of the band, with instruments and vocals coming from different directions.

In addition to enhancing the listening experience, Dolby Atmos also opens up new possibilities for artists and producers to create and remix music. Artists can take existing songs and re-imagine them in a three-dimensional space, adding new elements and sound effects to create new and exciting versions of their originals.

Where can you stream Dolby Atmos music? 

Dolby Atmos music is available on some of your favorite music streaming platforms including Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Tidal. Unfortunately, Dolby Atmos is not available on Spotify or YouTube Music at this time.

How to Find Dolby Atmos Games

Gaming has always been about immersing yourself in virtual worlds, and Dolby Atmos takes that immersion to a whole new level. Whether you're exploring ancient ruins, battling enemy forces, or racing through city streets, Dolby Atmos enhances the gaming experience by making it more realistic and engaging.

With Dolby Atmos, every sound in the game can be precisely placed in the 3D audio space, ensuring that you hear every footstep, gunshot, or explosion with incredible clarity and accuracy. Dolby Atmos also enhances the way sound travels in the game world. Instead of relying on fixed speaker positions, Dolby Atmos allows sounds to move dynamically, following the action on the screen. This enhanced immersion can greatly enhance the gameplay experience, and make your gaming even better.

Dolby Atmos gaming has become more and more popular with gamers, with numerous games now offering this immersive audio experience. 

Gaming Systems that support Dolby Atmos:

  • PCs enabled with Dolby Atmos
  • Microsoft Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Xbox One

Playstation 4 (PS4) and Playstation 5 (PS5) do not support Dolby Atmos. Instead, they have their own 3-D audio technology called Tempest 3D Audio Tech. Additionally, Nintendo Switch doesn’t support Dolby Atmos or use 3-D audio technology.

While a comprehensive list of all Dolby Atmos-enabled games may not be available, a simple search can help you determine if your favorite game supports Dolby Atmos. Some well-known games that offer Dolby Atmos include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Halo Infinite, Marvel's Guardian of the Galaxy, and many others. 

Is Dolby Atmos Worth It?

Is Dolby Atmos worth the investment? The short answer to this question is yes, but it depends on your current audio setup. 

Is Dolby Atmos worth it if you already have a 5.1 surround system?

If you already have a 5.1 surround sound system, upgrading to Dolby Atmos can greatly enhance your listening experience by adding height channels, creating a more immersive sound environment.

The great thing about Dolby Atmos is that it is compatible with most home theater systems. If you already have a 5.1 system, you will just need to add additional ceiling speakers or up-firing Dolby Atmos speakers.

However, there is some debate among audiophiles. Some believe that Dolby Atmos is definitely worth it, while others argue that it may be better to invest in additional speakers or a better (or additional subwoofer) for your existing surround sound system. Ultimately, the decision depends on your personal preferences, your budget, and what type of content you enjoy streaming with your surround system.

If you don’t have a surround sound system, Dolby Atmos is absolutely a worthwhile investment.

If you don’t currently have a home theater system, setting up a wired Dolby Atmos system can be expensive, complicated, and may be out of your budget. In this case, a better way to experience Dolby Atmos without having to invest in a wired system, with professionally installed ceiling-mounted speakers, is to invest in a high-quality Dolby Atmos soundbar.

Your movies, games, and music will come to life with a Dolby Atmos soundbar. We recommend the Enclave Eclipse 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar + Subwoofer. It offers immersive surround sound and comes with a powerful subwoofer.  Its wireless setup makes it easy for anyone to install. Simply plug it in and start enjoying your favorite Dolby Atmos content effortlessly.