Dolby Atmos is an object-based audio format that brings immersive sound effects to movies that would otherwise play in 7.1, 5.1, or 2.1 channel systems. Mainly, Atmos brings a height element to audio environments in which sound is bounced off the ceiling (or, directly from above with ceiling-mounted speakers) in order to hear audio overhead and behind.
The audio format can be found on Blu-ray Discs, 4k Ultra HD Blu-rays, and digital movies and shows (both in 4k Ultra HD and HD resolution). Movies Anywhere has a huge selection of movies with Dolby Atmos (including titles from Disney, Sony, Twentieth Century Studios, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment), accessible through the app for streaming media players and Smart TVs.
A Dolby Atmos Speaker System
To hear Dolby Atmos you need to have an audio system that supports it. This means your speaker system, soundbar, and/or AV receiver can all deliver Atmos. The product box and manual for your device should have the Dolby Atmos logo on it. Note: Most TVs do not have speaker systems that support Dolby Atmos audio although a few select do (see models on Amazon).
If setting up a true home theater system with multiple speakers it’s probably a good idea to start with a receiver that supports object-based audio. Good examples of receivers that support Atmos and DTS-X are the Marantz SR5015, Onkyo TX-SR494, and Pioneer VSX-534, all of which also support Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG HDR formats.
Then, if you don’t already have speakers decide on how many you will be setting up and what brand fits your style. Home theater systems typically have at least 5 channels, meaning five speakers, which is represented as 5.1 (the .1 is an optional subwoofer). More speakers can be added to create 7-channel, 9-channel, or even 11-channel layouts.
You can purchase multi-speaker surround system packages like the Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-280FA 5.1 that will require an audio receiver that supports Dolby Atmos. Or, build your system piece-by-piece by adding speakers along the road (see home theater speakers on Amazon).
Soundbars like the Sony HT-ST5000 and Samsung Q700A Q Series are fairly easy to set up as there are only two speakers: the bar itself and a subwoofer for bass frequencies. However, soundbars may be expanded or purchased with additional rear speakers such as the Samsung SWA-9500S or Sony SA-RS3S wireless speaker kits.
Home theater audio systems can vary according to how many speakers are set up. Atmos systems are usually configured in one of three ways.
1. A soundbar with speakers that angle upward to bounce off ceilings
2. A multi-speaker system with back speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling
3. A multi-speaker system which has speakers installed in the ceiling
Connect Your HDMI Cables
First off, make sure you purchase at least 18Gbps HDMI cables for optimal video playback. Audiophiles looking for even higher quality audio should consider faster HDMI cables.
Since most TVs do not support Atmos through their built-in speakers you will need to connect the Smart TV, streaming media player like Apple TV, or Blu-ray player to the HDMI input of a Dolby Atmos-supporting AV receiver or soundbar. Those devices must be able to support Atmos passthrough.
Most audio systems have more than one HDMI input which is ideal for having more than one playback device. For example, HDMI1 and HDMI 2 can be used to connect a streaming media player and 4k Blu-ray player. If you have more devices than the provided HDMI inputs consider getting an HDMI splitter to get all your devices connected to the sound device.
HDMI-Arc is the port you’ll want to use to have your TV re-route sound through the sound system. This ensures the TV audio (from cable, satellite, or over-the-air signal) plays through the sound system and not the TV. We should mention that because Apple TV 4k uses a high bandwidth form of Dolby Atmos it will not work using ARC connections. So, use a normal HDMI port to connect Apple TV 4k separately.
It should be noted there are some Dolby Atmos sound systems that don’t support HDR (Dolby Vision / HDR10 / HDR10+).
Set Up Apple TV 4k
This should be enabled by default, but your Apple TV needs to be configured to playback Dolby Atmos. Do this by going into the Settings > Video & Audio > Audio Format. Make sure Dolby Atmos is turned On. There may also be an Auto option that can be turned on so when Atmos is detected it will switch without hassle. Also, be sure your Apple TV is running the latest tvOS version.
Find a Dolby Atmos Movie, Series, or Special
Find a movie or TV series from Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, or Vudu that plays in Dolby Atmos. If a title supports Dolby Atmos a small logo should appear under the title. It should be to the right of the icon for Ultra HD resolution. Note that if a title does support Dolby Atmos it may not also show the icon for Dolby Vision.
Check Your Sound Bar or Receiver
Your soundbar or AV receiver should indicate when you are playing Dolby Atmos. For example, Samsung displays a blue light on the speaker when Atmos is enabled. Sony shows the label DAtmos or Dolby Atmos on the TV or device when pressing the Display button. If your audio device or speaker does not tell you it’s playing Atmos it probably isn’t.
Still No Atmos? Check the Movie Info.
With the Apple TV remote swipe down on the top touchpad and you should see more information about the title. Look for the Dolby Atmos logo that indicates the movie is formatted with Dolby Atmos. If it doesn’t say Atmos it likely does not play in Atmos.