A little over a year ago, I began experimenting with ways to expand my Dolby Atmos surround sound system to beyond the 7.1.4 limitation of current consumer hardware. My continued quest to achieve the best Atmos experience at home has recently driven me to make additional upgrades. These days, my home theater is so crazily complicated that I actually need to run three A/V receivers simultaneously to manage all my speakers.
In most home theaters, 7.1.4 channels of sound should be plenty enough. Even though the Atmos format (as well as its competitor, DTS:X) can support additional speakers, there hasn’t been much demand for that from consumers or much push from manufacturers to do it. Currently, only boutique high-end products such as the $37,000 Trinnov Altitude 32 will decode more than 11 channels at once.
Nonetheless, for some of us, a limit of four height channels isn’t enough to fill the top of the room with sound. My own home theater is a long room with a lot of space behind my seats. That, combined with a low ceiling, makes it difficult for just four speakers (two in the front of the room and two in the back) to image a sound above my head convincingly. This issue is compounded by the fact that the locations where I had installed speakers when I built the home theater (before immersive audio was a concern I gave any thought to) were less than ideal for Atmos. Those speakers are now fixed in place with wiring through the walls and ceiling, and I can’t move them without remodeling the room. That simply isn’t an option.
The better solution is to install additional speakers in the center between the other height channels (Top Middle position). Unfortunately, the asking price for that Trinnov processor is absurdly beyond my budget. I needed to find a way to jury-rig a similar effect for a fraction of the cost.
(Video) Dolby Atmos Beyond 7.1.4 - Where to next?
The First Attempt
I wrote an article last year explaining how I had cobbled together a convoluted system (jokingly dubbed “Zatmos”) utilizing a second A/V receiver to derive extra channels on my ceiling. I advise reading that piece to understand the basic concept of how such a thing is possible.
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Even at the time, I was not the only person experimenting with this, and I knew that my Zatmos system was not as ideal as I would have liked it. Over at AVSForum, a member named Scott Simonian had gone even further to use a total of three A/V receivers in unison to create a 7.1.6 configuration (affectionately known as “Scatmos”) more accurate to the intentions of the original Dolby Atmos sound mixers.
For a while, I decided not to go that far. The complexity of installing, connecting and configuring three A/V receivers seemed like overkill to me. I felt that the results I had with Zatmos were good enough to get me most of the way there, and I had a certain amount of egotistical pride that I’d figured out a way to do it with just one extra receiver rather than two.
However, in recent months, my attitude changed and I grew less satisfied with the Zatmos configuration. Eventually, I knew that if I was going to do this, I needed to do it right.
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Going Full Scatmos
The silly Zatmos and Scatmos nicknames can be more formally grouped under the heading of “Dolby Atmos Extended.” I want to be clear here that I did not develop the Scatmos process. Credit for that goes to Scott Simonian and others at AVSForum who helped him work it out. With his permission, I’m just trying to explain it here.
For as perhaps ridiculously complicated as they may be to install, one of the saving graces of these experiments is that they can be assembled relatively inexpensively. Although your primary A/V receiver must be a Dolby Atmos (or DTS:X) model capable of decoding 7.1.4 channels of sound from a Blu-ray or UHD immersive audio soundtrack, the secondary receivers don’t need to be nearly as fancy. Any receiver that has, at a minimum, Dolby ProLogic II processing will do. (If using multiple secondary receivers, I recommend that they be identical to each other.)
With a little patience while monitoring For Sale ads on my local Craigslist, I managed to pick up a pair of used Marantz SR4400s for well below $100 each. This is a no-frills, entry-level (or close to it) Dolby Digital/DTS model from 2003. It’s so basic that it doesn’t even have an on-screen menu system. I have to set it up using only the front panel display. The receiver doesn’t have HDMI and cannot handle lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio signals, but it doesn’t need to. All it needs is a pair of analog stereo inputs (which any receiver will have) and ProLogic II.
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The simple act of finding a place to put another A/V receiver in my system proved to be far more of an ordeal than I wanted. Because I didn’t have enough space for it on my main equipment shelf, I had to remove all my components, take the shelf apart, rearrange the levels, put most of the equipment back, and hook it up again. Then I had to do the same thing with the second shelf in order to add a level. My Blu-ray and HD DVD players, which had previously been on the main shelf, moved over to the second so that I could keep all the audio equipment together where the speaker wire will reach it. This, in itself, was a tremendous pain to do.
(Video) 4K Home Theater Tour! 7.1.4 ATMOS PLEX UNRAID!
With that finished, here’s the basic idea behind Scatmos: You want to mount six ceiling speakers – in the Top Front, Top Middle and Top Rear positions. (The following sketch does not represent my personal speaker layout, but I’ve drawn it this way to show how it should be done.) Your primary A/V receiver will be set to decode its maximum of 7.1.4 channels, configured as Top Front and Top Rear.
All four of the height channels should be routed to the analog pre-out connections on the primary AVR. You should not attach any speaker wire to those channels on the primary AVR. For all of the height channels, speaker wire will be attached only to the secondary AVRs.
The pre-outs for the Top Front Left and Top Rear Left channels will go into the Right and Left stereo inputs on AVR 2.
(Video) Trinnov Altitude Processors: Breaking the 7.1.4 Surround Barrier
The pre-outs for the Top Front Right and Top Rear Right channels will go into the Left and Right (reversed from AVR 2) stereo inputs on AVR 3.
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If that sounds confusing already, trying to keep it straight while actually connecting the cables and wires can be truly daunting. I strongly recommend drawing a chart that shows what should go where.
When working properly, each of the secondary downstream AVRs should take a stereo signal consisting of part Front and part Rear, and matrix a Middle channel between them using any mono information in common to both (much as ProLogic II would extract a center channel for dialogue in the front of your room between your left and right speakers under normal circumstances). Thus you get six channels of height information from an original four.
(Video) My 2021 7.1.4 Home Theater & Audiophile Stereo System!
That’s the theory, simplified to its most basic elements. Actually getting it to work properly after your connections are made has some added levels of difficulty that I’ll cover soon in Part 2.
Read Part 2
1. Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 on Amazon|Raalmak
2. 747 DEMO DOLBY ATMOS 7.1.4
3. Dolby Atmos Object Demo on 7.1.4 Speakers - 360 Spatial Audio
4. The 5 best Dolby Atmos Movie Scenes to Test your System
5. Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 Channel 600W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with 8 Wireless Subwoofer
6. New Heights in my Atmos Studio (Thanks Billie)
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Dolby Atmos is worth it if you can afford it. If upgrading to Atmos from a 5.1 surround sound system, Atmos will sound fuller. And a jump from a relatively archaic audio setup to Atmos would be game-changing. Atmos's three-dimensional, 360-degree audio experience is akin to the audio you listen to in movie theaters.How do I pass Dolby Atmos? ›
If you want to transmit Dolby Atmos from your TV to your AV receiver or soundbar, your TV must be equipped with at least HDMI ARC. As we mentioned above, HDMI ARC works with Dolby Atmos/Dolby Digital Plus, but if your TV is equipped with the newer HDMI eARC standard, it will also work with Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD.Which is better Dolby 7.1 or Atmos enabled? ›
Expert-Verified Answer. The sound is deeper and more precise with Dolby Atmos than with conventional Surround 7.1 systems due to the addition of overhead sound and superior calibration software.What does 7.1 4 surround sound mean? ›
The third number indicates the number of top channels (usually overhead speakers). For example, a 5.1 surround system has five ear-level speakers and one LFE. Similarly, a 7.1. 4 system has seven ear-level speakers, one LFE, and four overhead speakers.Is anything better than Dolby Atmos? ›
The higher the bit rate, the better. You'd think that Dolby Atmos, being the more widely known brand name, would be the one with the higher bit rate. However, it's DTS:X has the higher bit rate. Dolby Atmos delivers a slower bit rate.Does Dolby Atmos actually sound better? ›
Does Dolby Atmos Really Make a Difference? Dolby Atmos really makes a difference as it brings a higher sound quality and makes it seem like the sound is coming from all directions. It is the benchmark for theaters, so it makes a huge difference to your home setup.What is the best way to test Dolby Atmos sound? ›
But of course, the one sure fire way to confirm Dolby Atmos is working on your soundbar is to use the best tools you have — your ears. From a surround sound perspective, if you're getting Atmos you should be able to detect sounds as they appear to move from one area of the room to another.Is eARC necessary for Dolby Atmos? ›
Is eARC Required for Dolby Atmos? No, eARC is not required for Dolby Atmos to work. Dolby Atmos can work with regular HDMI ARC through the Dolby Digital Plus audio codec.Should I use PCM or passthrough? ›
In the discussion PCM vs Passthrough, we can determine that Passthrough technology is better than PCM regarding sound quality and ease of use and is preferred in home theater landscape arrangements. Nevertheless, PCM technology is better at handling multiple audio channels and converting analog sound to digital.Do you need 7 speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›
While two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, modules, or overhead speakers will deliver a compelling experience, we recommend using four if possible. This will deliver more precisely located and realistic overhead sounds.
Enable Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos by downloading the Dolby Access app and connecting an enabled TV, soundbar, home theater, or monitor to your platform device via HDMI.Which is better Dolby Atmos or Laser Atmos? ›
IMAX with laser vs Dolby Cinema is just a difference between the screen size and audio plus visual quality. IMAX with laser has a much bigger screen compared to Dolby Cinema, but Dolby comes out on top with crisper images, higher resolution and more impressive audio.What is the best setup for Dolby Atmos? ›
For optimal effect and to minimize direct radiating audio at listener level, place Dolby Atmos enabled speakers at or slightly above the height of your ears when seated. Avoid placing the Dolby Atmos enabled speakers higher than one-half the height of your wall.Is 7.1 4 Dolby Atmos? ›
schéma. 7.1. 4 is the minimum preferred Dolby Atmos® layout. Each number separated by a dot corresponds to a specific height.Should I use 7.1 or not? ›
A 7.1 system is a great choice for larger rooms where sound may get lost in the space. It provides a deeper surround sound listening experience. Theater quality media designed for a 7.1 system will come through clearer than it would on a 5.1 system.Is DTS better than Atmos? ›
The differences between the two are minimal but the experience could vary depending on the devices that the user owns. Dolby Atmos requires additional speakers for a complete experience while DTS:X does not. That does not mean that DTS can revive an old audio system or make very cheap headphones sound much better.Does Netflix support Dolby Atmos? ›
You can watch Netflix in Dolby Atmos audio on select TV shows and movies. You need: A Netflix plan that supports streaming in Ultra HD. A Netflix-capable device that can play Dolby Atmos.Can you tell a difference in Dolby Atmos? ›
How does Atmos compare to surround sound? The biggest difference between Dolby Atmos and traditional surround sound is the use of channels. Audio over conventional surround sound is mostly referred to as 5.1 (five speakers, one subwoofer) or 7.1 (seven speakers, one subwoofer) channels.How can I improve my Dolby Atmos? ›
(The best) solution is to install speakers overhead. Most conventional overhead speakers with wide dispersion characteristics will work in a Dolby Atmos home theater. Dolby Atmos audio is mixed using discrete, full-range audio objects that may move around anywhere in three-dimensional space.Why would I want Dolby Atmos? ›
The benefit of Dolby Atmos in a home theater is its versatility. Dolby Atmos can be played back on virtually any speaker configuration—it maxes out at 34 speakers though. Again, the more speakers you have, the more precise each audio object's placement.
Most Dolby Atmos audio can be played through HDMI-ARC using the Dolby Digital Plus codec. HDMI-eARC is required to play lossless Dolby Atmos audio using the Dolby TrueHD codec.Which Netflix Dolby Atmos? ›
The Right Subscription Plan
Netflix hosts a few different subscription plans for its users. You'll need the Premium subscription plan which gives you access to Dolby Atmos and Ultra HD (4K) content.
Dolby Atmos content is not delivered through optical connections or through wireless connections of Bluetooth, AirPlay, or Chromecast. Most video streaming services that offer Dolby Atmos content use the Dolby Digital Plus codec.Can you hear the difference between ARC and eARC? ›
If your TV is HDMI eARC enabled, but your AV amp or soundbar is only compatible with HDMI ARC, you'll likely get a sound – but the bandwidth restrictions of ARC will mean you won't be able to experience the high bitrate audio that eARC can provide. So no, it's not backwards-compatible.Do I need a special HDMI cable for Dolby Atmos? ›
You're in luck — all you need is a single HDMI cable to connect your TV and soundbar enabled with Dolby Atmos (HDMI 2.0 for ARC should do the trick while HDMI 2.1 is necessary for eARC setups). This is the simplest option and will send audio directly from your TV to your soundbar.Does HDMI cable matter for eARC? ›
Do I need new HDMI cables to use eARC? eARC should work over a standard HDMI cable with Ethernet, or a High-Speed HDMI cable with Ethernet. You don't need to upgrade your cables to Premium or Ultra High-Speed HDMI to use this feature.Should I use passthrough with my soundbar? ›
Passthrough isn't a necessity, and it's only important if you have a surround sound setup or a dedicated soundbar. You can still get the same audio-video experience without passthrough, but you'll have more wires going to and from your TV.Why does PCM sound better than Dolby? ›
Additionally, Dolby Digital is not compatible with all devices, so it may not be suitable for certain applications. PCM audio is a digital audio format that is uncompressed and lossless. This means that no audio data is lost during the compression process, resulting in a higher quality audio file.Does PCM pass Dolby Atmos? ›
PCM will decode the 7.1 or 5.1 core only and bypass the Atmos encoding. Dolby Atmos is metadata that rides on top of Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby TrueHD which provides the codes for height channels in a Dolby Atmos-compatible surround sound setup.What is the maximum speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›
According to Dolby's own Director of Sound Research, Brett Crockett, Dolby Atmos surround for home theaters will ultimately support up to 34 speakers – and that might not even include subwoofers.
Dolby Atmos captures the director's intent and brings it intact to any theatre of any size and configuration, from 5.1 and 7.1 up to 64 channels. It ensures that the audience experience is always the best possible for your specific playback environment.How do I test Dolby Atmos on my computer? ›
Select Start > Settings > System > Sound > Related Settings > Sound Control Panel, select your desired audio device to play the sound, and then select Properties in the bottom right-hand corner. 2. In the options for Spatial sound format, select Windows Sonic for Headphones, then Apply the changes.Is Dolby Atmos software free? ›
You can also use Dolby Atmos for Home Theater for free. To connect your soundbar or home theater with Dolby Atmos support, go to the Products page in the Dolby Access app. Select the Dolby Atmos for home theater option and click on Setup.Is Dolby Atmos worth it on PC? ›
Yes, Dolby Atmos for Headphones makes a difference, even with only two speakers at its disposal. You get a more expansive soundstage that makes your audio sound dynamic and alive.Which is better 4k laser or Dolby Atmos? ›
Even though IMAX with the laser has a far larger screen than Dolby Cinema, Dolby Cinema comes out on top in terms of clearer visuals and greater resolution, as well as more spectacular acoustics.Does Dolby Atmos reduce sound? ›
Like, it's a night/day difference in terms of max volume compared to standard. As soon as I enable Atmos, songs get so much quieter. Switch it off, and you can hear “real” full volume again.Which is best Dolby Digital or Dolby Atmos? ›
Dolby Atmos is an upgraded version of Dolby Digital 5.1, which means Atmos is way better than the 5.1 version. They can offer different sound qualities and surround sound.Is Dolby Atmos license worth it? ›
Does Dolby Atmos make a difference on headphones? Yes, Dolby Atmos for Headphones makes a difference, even with only two speakers at its disposal. You get a more expansive soundstage that makes your audio sound dynamic and alive.Is Atmos worth it for gaming? ›
Dolby Atmos allows sound to be projected precisely into a three-dimensional space, which means, in theory, you get a better experience when it comes to positional audio. This is great for games where audio makes all the difference, like first-person shooters for example.Do Atmos enabled speakers really work? ›
In our listening tests of Atmos-enabled vs Discrete Speakers, we've noted the Atmos module does compromise the focus of its companion speaker slightly when comparing it to being off. This is particularly more noticeable for music listening. This isn't a problem when using discrete ceiling mounted speakers.
The Sonos Arc is an impressive and premium Dolby Atmos experience even without a subwoofer or extra speakers. New soundbars offer even better positional sound effects, but when it comes to dynamic audio that's perfectly clear from a single-box package, it's as good as you can get for the price.
Download the Dolby Access application from Microsoft Store and install it. Open the app. If you are using Headphones, you can either purchase the access (one time purchase) or start a free trial. For Home Theater the access is free.Is Dolby Atmos a lifetime license? ›
Yes, it is a one time purchase, you don't have to pay monthly or annually.What are the limitations of Dolby Atmos? ›
|Dolby Atmos Pros||Dolby Atmos Cons|
|Expands surround sound to include overhead effects.||Overhead sound cues need to be encoded in the content.|
|More precise placement of sound objects around the room.||Not all content benefits from overhead sound effects.|
When it comes to gaming, the debate is heated between Dolby Atmos and DTS. The short answer? Both will greatly improve your gameplay by providing more immersive 3D audio. However, most gamers believe that DTS is the best for gaming.Is Dolby Atmos lossless? ›
Dolby Atmos averages around 6,000 kbps when a 48kHz sampling rate is used. But Atmos can be encoded losslessly at up to 24-bit/192kHz, which results in bit rates that can soar as high as 18,000 kbps.How far away should Atmos enabled speakers be? ›
Avoid placing the Dolby Atmos enabled speakers higher than one-half the height of your wall. To avoid an unwanted proximity effect, make sure the speakers are at least 3 feet (0.9 meter) away from listening positions, ideally 5 feet (1.5 meters) or more.Do Atmos speakers need to be full range? ›
"Dolby Atmos audio is mixed using discrete, full-range audio objects that may move around anywhere in three-dimensional space. With this in mind, overhead speakers should complement the frequency response, output, and power-handling capabilities of the listener-level speakers."Do I need Arc or eARC for Dolby Atmos? ›
Most Dolby Atmos audio can be played through HDMI-ARC using the Dolby Digital Plus codec. HDMI-eARC is required to play lossless Dolby Atmos audio using the Dolby TrueHD codec.Which is better Dolby Atmos beam or Arc? ›
The significant difference between them is that the Arc has physical upfiring units to create the sensation of Dolby Atmos sound, where the Beam Gen 2 achieves this through virtual processing. Both speakers sound very good and consistent with movie/music.
The defining feature of Dolby Atmos is its configuration of audio objects. Sounds are no longer limited to their respective channels. Since Atmos' introduction, audio is interpreted and recreated as objects. Think of each sound as a floating orb in space: it's not limited to vertical or horizontal movement.