You may have noticed this Dolby Atmos logo on the back of most 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray (and some Blu-ray) cases. The logo indicates the movie, TV show or video game incorporates Dolby Atmos audio, an advanced format that with the right setup can create an immersive sound experience.
The audio format is actually created by metadata within a Dolby audio stream like Dolby TrueHD. The data contains information about where to place audio objects and can create a more spatial experience by placing sound overhead and behind the viewer.
But if you purchased a movie with Dolby Atmos either on Blu-ray or in digital format, you may wonder how to get it to work and how do you know you’re listening to it? Here’s a quick overview of what you need to set up and what to look for in order to actually hear Dolby Atmos audio through your home entertainment system.
Your device, whether an audio receiver, speaker, sound bar, streaming media player or TV must support Dolby Atmos. Look for the logo on the device packaging or in the manual to be sure. If your device doesn’t currently support Atmos it is possible a firmware update will (although this is rare). Look for any updates from the manufacturer and keep your equipment firmware updated to ensure the latest versions are running.
Whether you are using an audio/video receiver, streaming media player or game console be sure to set the audio output to bitstream and make sure any secondary audio function is disabled. HDMI must be HDMI 1.4 compliant or later in order to function correctly. In addition, many 4k Blu-ray players will have a second HDMI input to run a second device through to your 4k TV. This is perfect if, for example, you have a Sony 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray player and Apple TV 4k from which you want to hear Dolby Atmos audio.
Dolby Atmos Content
As mentioned above your setup needs to be Atmos-ready. And, the content you play must also be encoded with Atmos. Look for the Dolby Atmos logo on the back of a Blu-ray Disc or video game case, or within the details of a digital title. You can also search our lists of movies on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Netflix and Vudu that indicate whether or not a title features Dolby Atmos.
Turn On Dolby Atmos in Disc Settings
Before playing a disc or game look in the audio settings of the disc interface. Dolby Atmos can sometimes be found in the main Settings of the disc, and without it on will default to Dolby TrueHD. You may have to make sure Atmos is on every time you play a disc as we’ve found some 4k Blu-ray players may not remember the setting. Streaming media is slightly different though. Once you ensure the media player is set up to playback Atmos (like an Apple TV 4k or Amazon Fire TV 4k) it should be automatic every time Atmos content is played.
Is It on?
Samsung sound bars with Dolby Atmos will let you know when Atmos is activated by a blue light on the front of the bar. On a Sony system, you can press the Display button on the Sony remote and DAtmos or Dolby Atmos will show on the screen. You can also press the Display or Display Mode on the front of the device, although if playing a 4k Blu-ray this may not work. In addition, Sony has something called Vertical Sound Engine but Dolby Atmos will override that sound feature. Check the manual belonging to your specific audio system for details.
There are a few ways to set up your speakers in order to experience Dolby Atmos and overhead sound.
- Install ceiling speakers.
- Use new Dolby Atmos enabled speakers.
- Use a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.
Ceiling speakers are obviously intended to be installed near the ceiling, but other speaker systems have been designed to point sound upward where it can bounce off ceilings to create an overhead sound effect. Dolby says you can get the experience with just two speakers but suggests four to get the full effect. Dolby provides different layouts on their website for locations, but you can also experiment with placement in whatever locations you have available.
Some of the easiest setups for Dolby Atmos include using a sound bar with a subwoofer and optional speakers. Companies that make Atmos-supporting sound bars include LG, Philips, Pioneer, Onkyo, Samsung, Sony, Vizio, and Yamaha.
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).