HBO Max has a select list of movies that offer Dolby Atmos audio (see a full list of 4k HDR & Atmos titles here). But not all home theater systems are able to play Atmos, so getting the immersive audio format isn’t going to work on all speaker systems. But when it does, Atmos offers a huge advantage to Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (the format most digital movies and shows use). And, when combined with 4k and HDR the three standards provide the best in current consumer home theater technology.
What Is Dolby Atmos?
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 channels. 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) so audio can be heard from overhead and behind.
Obviously, Dolby Atmos in home theaters is a watered-down version of what you would experience in Atmos-enabled cinemas, but there is definitely a noticeable difference at home.
The audio format can be found on Blu-ray Discs, 4k Ultra HD Blu-rays, and digital movies (both in 4k Ultra HD and HD resolution). Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix, Prime Video, and Vudu all offer Atmos with select titles. Here are some steps that should help you get Dolby Atmos playing on your audio system.
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).
Soundbars like the Sony HT-A7000 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 can be expanded or purchased with additional speakers. Multi-channel surround systems like the Samsung HW-Q950A 11.1.4ch a subwoofer, sound bar, and two external speakers and surpasses that of a 2-speaker soundbar system.
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
Shop for Dolby Atmos sound systems on Amazon.
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+).
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.
We hope you are successful in getting Dolby Atmos to work. If you still have trouble you can always contact the manufacturer of the audio system you are using for help. Look in the device manual or search online for troubleshooting questions and answers.