Official Atmos Home Theater Thread UPDATED With First Impressions

schan1269

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I'm irritated I had to miss out on the NYC demo.(work started a third shift and the logistics side, two of us, are training the 3rd shift. No "off-time" granted...).I've already used the whitepaper to "re-design" two in progress theatres. Thankfully both overall budgets are "blank check".
 

Ronald Epstein

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I'm very interested in hearing the feedback on the speakers that bounce the sound off the ceiling. I have a conventional eight foot ceiling and could easily mount speaker in the ceiling but if the bouncers work great I might use them instead.
I think the NYC experience was totally different than what Adam reported
in his impressions.

In our demo, we could absolutely tell when the up firing speakers were
controlling the overhead vs. the actual ceiling speakers.

The entire room was shown a demo and quizzed afterwards. All hands in
the room showed that they could hear the difference.

So what do I find to be the difference?

The up firing speakers do not do the job that the ceiling speakers would.
In other words, it didn't fool our group who listened to the demo. The ceiling
speakers had distinct overhead sound. The up firing speakers sounded like
they were coming from the rears.

I was all set to invest in home Atmos anticipating that I could get away without
having to install overhead speakers. However, after listening to the demo, I am
convinced that Atmos would not be even worth considering unless it was done
with overhead speakers.
 

Dr Griffin

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Ronald Epstein said:
I think the NYC experience was totally different than what Adam reported
in his impressions.

In our demo, we could absolutely tell when the up firing speakers were
controlling the overhead vs. the actual ceiling speakers.

The entire room was shown a demo and quizzed afterwards. All hands in
the room showed that they could hear the difference.

So what do I find to be the difference?

The up firing speakers do not do the job that the ceiling speakers would.
In other words, it didn't fool our group who listened to the demo. The ceiling
speakers had distinct overhead sound. The up firing speakers sounded like
they were coming from the rears.

I was all set to invest in home Atmos anticipating that I could get away without
having to install overhead speakers. However, after listening to the demo, I am
convinced that Atmos would not be even worth considering unless it was done
with overhead speakers.
Ron, how high was the ceiling at your demo? I am curious because Dolby is recommending Atmos enabled speakers for ceilings 8 feet and under. Thanks.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Ron, how high was the ceiling at your demo? I am curious because Dolby is recommending Atmos enabled speakers for ceilings 8 feet and under. Thanks.
The ceilings were low.

I think they were careful to get the needed specs exactly right.
 
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DaveF

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I've been completely baffled by Atmos for home from the start of these threads. I think I can clear up some of my confusion with one question:

Given a typical 5.1 speaker setup in a typical living room, will Atmos sound better than Dolby Digital?
 

schan1269

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DaveF said:
Given a typical 5.1 speaker setup in a typical living room, will Atmos sound better than Dolby Digital?
Irrelevant question.

Atmos, like DPL IIz/DSX/Presence, is an ADD-ON.

The base, core, audio is just that.

Your question is akin to...

Which car is faster around a race track? A Ferrari or Nissan Leaf

IF some 16yo fresh with his license is behind the wheel of the Ferrari, Michael Shumacher* would have still given him a head start before driving off in the Leaf.

*still worthy of talking about him like he will get better.
 

DaveF

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schan1269 said:
Irrelevant question. Atmos, like DPL IIz/DSX/Presence, is an ADD-ON. The base, core, audio is just that.
Atmos doesn't provide sophisticated virtual sound positioning than DD? It can't do anything more with a 5.1 speaker setup than currently-conventional Dolby Digital?
 

schan1269

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Audio, since the dawn of Victrola, has had spatial cueing.

Atmos(and DTS upcoming UHD) take spatial cueing a step further.

That further is object based sound.

You want 5.1 with no object based sound? Fine, skip Atmos/UHD.

You want 5.1 with 2 or 4 object based speakers? Buy/install those extra speakers.

Atmos, in the end, will be up to the "usefullness of the soundtrack".

Can't wait for the eyeroll of Blue Collar Comedy Tour in Atmos...so you really sound like you are in the audience.

In all seriousness...what would rock, literally, in Atmos...

A NIN concert BD. (that is if Trent ever gets off the Hollywood nipple and goes back to creating aural sex)
 

Ronald Epstein

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DaveF

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So Atmos only does Atmos-y things with the addition of two ceiling speakers (or two upward firing speakers)? Atmos doesn't do anything Atmos-y with a conventional 5.1 setup; it's normal Dolby digital in that configuration?
 

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DaveF said:
So Atmos only does Atmos-y things with the addition of two ceiling speakers (or two upward firing speakers)? Atmos doesn't do anything Atmos-y with a conventional 5.1 setup; it's normal Dolby digital in that configuration?
Correct. Extra speakers are required...just like they are with Presence*(which debuted 10-15 years ago?), DPL IIz, DTS Neo:X and Aud DSX.*Virtual Presence is a different feature.
 
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Sam Posten

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Back from Vegas, hope to get my NYC pictures processed and posted tonight.Agree with Ron, the upfiring speakers didn't fool us in NYC, I enjoyed the full speaker experience tho and am convinced that it will be a worthy addition to a properly calibrated home system.
 

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Fellow home theater enthusiasts, the time has come!

Dolby Atmos is here.

Dolby_Atmos.jpg


My sincere thanks goes out to Ronald Epstein, Adam Gregorich, Robert Crawford, Sam Posten and to Dolby Labs for inviting me to the Atmos event in New York on August 13, 2014. Needless to say, it was a pleasure meeting Ron and Sam for the first time in person.

I've been a HTF member since July 2001, which happens to be the year I started my junior year of college. I credit my Dad for getting me into home theater. In 2002, we built our first home theater, of which I've documented here.

I've got my own place now, and am in the middle of constructing my very own Atmos-ready home theater.

My goal is to future proof my surround wiring, thus I've taken a very calculated approach towards planning my pre-wire.

Why? You know why.

Stereo, then Pro-Logic, then 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, height channels, wide channels...when will it end? Maybe never, but I at least wanted to wire to every practical location, especially if Dolby themselves recommends doing so.

Allow me to describe for you what I experienced at the August 13 event in New York.

It started at 9 a.m., with about 40-50 people in attendance. As a 'commoner', I got a little excited to see name badges like Ron Epstein, John Sciacca and Theo Kalomirakis upon walking in.

The event consisted of four breakout sessions.
  • Q/A With Brett Crockett, Senior Director Of Sound Technology Research, Dolby
  • Q/A With Craig Eggers, Senior Partner Marketing Manager, Dolby
  • Atmos Cinema With Stuart Bowling, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, Dolby
  • Atmos Home Theater With Peter Razukas, Product Marketing Manager, Dolby
Ron, Sam and I were among the Green group.

name-tag.jpg


We attended the sessions in the order you see above. I was really eager to get to the demos, as I hadn't yet experienced Atmos in any movie theaters whatsoever.

Q/A With Brett Crockett, Senior Director Of Sound Technology Research, Dolby

Brett said bringing the Dolby Atmos experience to the home theater was "the single most exciting thing" he's done in his career. For audio engineers, it allows them to do a single mix, instead of separate 7.1, 5.1 and stereo mixes. The Atmos renderer uses object oriented metadata to automatically deliver a mix according to the surround setup in use.

Don't have Dolby Atmos? No problem, it'll spit out a "substream" to match your hardware configuration. All the way down to streaming and mobile devices!

So let's say you bought a blu-ray in 7.1. Then you re-bought the same title because they offered an Atmos mix. In theory, the "substream" 7.1 down-mix of a Dolby Atmos encoded soundtrack would be a completely new mix than the original 7.1 dedicated mix.

I asked Brett to clarify the maximum number of allowed ceiling speakers. I told him that initial Dolby literature mentioned 4 ceiling speakers, but he told me it goes up to 10!

10 ceiling speakers!

After the demos, it occurred to me why 10 is important, rather than 2 or 4. I'll get to that in a bit.

Another thing I clarified was whether or not Dolby ever thought about incorporating floor-based speakers into Atmos, or any near-future iteration of Atmos. Brett said they did not consider it, believing that it wouldn't add much practical benefit.



Q/A With Craig Eggers, Senior Partner Marketing Manager, Dolby

This was held in a small board room. It's the only board room I've ever seen to have a 7.1 surround sound setup. Very cool.

I asked Craig if the ideal home theater setup would require full-range timbre-matched speakers for the ceiling channels. He said yes. Especially ones with wide-dispersion. Obviously it's not practical to mount towers to your ceiling, but the closer you can get to full-range the better.

I also asked if Dolby had plans to upgrade Atmos in the near future, perhaps Atmos-plus or something like that. Craig said they were extremely happy and relieved to have gotten this far and don't have any plans to come up with any new encoding scheme.


Atmos Cinema With Stuart Bowling, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, Dolby

Held in a good size screening room.

The room had 10 ceiling speakers, as well as speakers lining the side and rear walls. They were all the same large-cabinet, full-range JBL speaker. Not sure which model.

Four trailers and one film clip were shown.
1 - Atmos 'Jungle' Trailer
2 - Atmos 'Cube' Trailer
3 - Star Trek Into Darkness Opening Scene
4 - Red Bull Racing Trailer
5 - Atmos 'Leaf' Trailer

The 'Jungle' and 'Leaf' trailers were fun. You know, raindrops and rustling leaves.

The Red Bull Trailer punched you right in the chest. Great mix.

The 'Cube' trailer was easily my favorite. It sounded like your head was in the middle of a giant Transformer as it changed from robot to car. Punchy!

But let's examine the Star Trek Into Darkness clip. First thing, we were told that there is no intention to release this film on Blu-ray with an Atmos soundtrack. It was just for preview purposes. I'm just happy we're getting the IMAX enabled STID with all of the special features consolidated.

I sat listening with my eyes closed. You know what it sounds like going through a car wash? Same thing. Sound from all around, even above. But the ceiling speakers allowed the music and sound effects much more room to breathe. I could much easier distinguish between the two.

Remember how 'height' channels were introduced a few years ago? Say good-bye to them. The same effect is now produced with Atmos by combining the ceiling speakers with the floor-standing speakers. Brilliant!

This is how I came to the realization that it's not only important to have ceiling speakers directly above you, but in front and behind you. Now we have 360 degrees of 'height' channels. In other words, the sound between the floor-standing and ceiling speakers.


Atmos Home Theater With Peter Razukas, Product Marketing Manager, Dolby

Held in a small room, like your family room. 4 in-ceiling speakers. Every floor-standing speaker was Atmos-enabled.

This demo allowed us to do an immediate A/B comparison using both ceiling speakers and Atmos-enabled speakers. While everyone in the room could tell the difference, the Atmos-enabled speakers were nothing short of amazing.

Imagine a speaker enclosure with both front-firing and ceiling-firing drivers. The ceiling-firing drivers reflected sound off of the ceiling to produce a simulated speaker.

Then came the most convincing demo.

The 360 HELICOPTER.

You know what I'm talking about. Before Atmos, we simply had to imagine what it would sound like if a helicopter was flying around above us.

NO LONGER.

IT. IS. NOW. THERE. IN. THE. SKY.

Even with the Atmos-enabled speakers it produced a much more natural effect when compared to just 7.1 surround-sound.


Here's what I'll leave you with.

If you're building a home theater from scratch, there is no reason to exclude ceiling speakers. It is the new standard. Don't limit yourselves to just 5 or 7 traditionally-placed speakers either. Run wire everywhere, just like you see in the movie theater. Sound travels front to back. Let's give it the channels it needs to do so.

Can't install ceiling speakers? Go with Atmos-enabled. Sure, they require two speaker wires to be run to the same enclosure, but it makes all the difference.

As for me? It looks like I'll have to run some more speaker wires to my ceiling. I ran 6, but now need to run 4 more because Brett Crockett told me to my face. "Yes, sir!"

The Atmos experience presents a 'You Are There' quality, unlike any you've ever experienced at home. It was overwhelming at times. I don't think I was ready for the impact it had on me. But I will say I am ready for more.

Anticipate Atmos-ready Blu-rays later in 2014. The idea is that eventually you will not see Blu-rays in 5.1 or 7.1 anymore. Simply Dolby Atmos.

I edited a short video of my visit, to give you all an inside look of what the event was like.

 
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Ronald Epstein

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Great video, Brian! Fun reliving that morning through its viewing.

...and absolutely, a pleasure to meet you.
 

Ronald Epstein

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The Atmos experience presents a 'You Are There' quality, unlike any you've ever experienced at home. It was overwhelming at times. I don't think I was ready for the impact it had on me. But I will say I am ready for more.
Brian,

Sam and you were in the same demo room as I was when they blindly switched off the
ceiling speakers and just ran the upward firing.

None of us were fooled. We knew the ceiling speakers were off.

Were you at all impressed with the ability of the upward firing speakers to admirably
do the job of ceiling speakers -or - were you not impressed?
 

Brian Dobbs

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Ronald Epstein said:
Brian,

Sam and you were in the same demo room as I was when they blindly switched off the
ceiling speakers and just ran the upward firing.

None of us were fooled. We knew the ceiling speakers were off.

Were you at all impressed with the ability of the upward firing speakers to admirably
do the job of ceiling speakers -or - were you not impressed?
There's no denying the 'real-thing'. The ceiling-mounted speakers definitely produced a superior effect.

I will speculate that perhaps it is because I was in the front row that I had a better experience with the upward firing speakers. The sound seemed like it came from almost the same spot as the ceiling speakers, albeit more diffuse and harder to localize.

But boy, I tell ya, if I couldn't put speakers on my ceiling, and wanted to get that height effect from the helicopter, the upward firing was surely adequate.

If the ceiling speakers produced a 100% Atmos effect, the simulated, upward firing were at least 80%.

I'm wondering if they accounted for the different seating positions with the demo.
 

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