While this could apply to both disc and streaming formats let’s try not to concern ourselves with the delivery format but the audio format and the number of channels delivered by the audio format. We have come such a long way on the audio side and many of us have been in this hobby since the beginning. We went from movies in stereo to Dolby Pro Logic to the next big step of Dolby Digital and DTS. We then went to lossless audio formats like DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD that took us from discrete 5.1 to discrete 7.1 audio. And how we have immersive audio which gives us combinations of 7 (5.1.2), 9 (5.1.4 or 7.1.2), 11 (7.1.4) or in higher end systems 13 channels (7.1.6).
In many consumers home there is the wife acceptance factor that keeps out basic 5.1 and 7.1 surround set ups. Then there is also the reluctance to have more than 7 speakers in a living room, den or dedicated theater room. While dedicated theater rooms are more likely to have speaker configurations of 7 channels to 11 channels of sound supporting all available surround formats. Let’s face it the many average consumers are not supporting 7 channel surround and immersive audio even if they are buying discs or digital movies that offer those number of channels. We are living in what I call the golden age of home theater as we have access to the quality we never had access to before. But at the same time there comes a point where people will not keep stuffing more and more speakers in there rooms dedicated or not. And where consumers do not see the benefit of trying to stuff more speakers in small rooms or can not because they rent an apartment.
What could the industry possibly offer beyond the current audio codex’s that the consumer would adopt? Do we even need anything beyond 7.1.4 or even 7.1.6 or even considering running multiple subwoofers? So our current number of overall channels with widely available hardware is 11 – 13 channels which most hardware only offering 11 channels! This doesn’t even include Emotiva’s new pre/pro monster offer 16 channels with future upgradability to 28 channels! And Denon is offering a flagship product that offers 13 channels. At this rate the only other place to put speakers would be the floor but I do not see that being very feasible. So is Dolby Atmos and DTS-X the last of the new surround codex and is the only thing they can do is increase bit rate on future formats? Many of us lived with basic two channel stereo for many years before the explosion of channels began. I feel there is nothing more to be offered that will make people want to place more and more speakers in the listening environment.