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.
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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.How many speakers do you need to mix in Atmos? ›
4 speaker layout for Atmos music mixing, and some labels will insist on this as a minimum. This numbering convention denotes an array with seven speakers in the base or horizontal plane, at ear height, plus a subwoofer for the LFE channel, 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? ›
The overhead speakers should be at a height between two and three times the vertical position of the listener-level speakers. The angle of elevation from the listening position (to the front and rear) overhead speakers in a 7.1. 4 reference layout should be 45 degrees.What is the best size room for Dolby Atmos? ›
Experts estimate the optimal Atmos mix room is about 18 x 21-feet with a ten-foot-high ceiling. The absolute smallest is 10 x 11.5-feet with at least an eight-foot-high ceiling. These space specifications are estimated for optimal speaker configuration and sound dispersion.Can I use regular speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›
You can use any speaker for Dolby Atmos, provided you have a sufficient number of them for the full surround sound setup and a compatible AV receiver. Also, you will need elevated or ceiling speakers at an appropriate height and adequately aligned to experience the intended 3D effect of Dolby Atmos.Which is better Dolby Atmos or DTS sound? ›
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.What is the minimum speakers for Atmos? ›
We recommend installing four Dolby Atmos enabled speakers whenever possible. The use of four speakers will make the placement of overhead sounds more accurate, and you'll get more precise, realistic sounds when an object, such as a helicopter, passes overhead.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.Does Dolby Atmos sound better than stereo? ›
A standard stereo system will pan the sound from left to right as it passes the character, but can't emulate aerial sounds. Dolby Atmos, on the other hand, can do so. In fact, you don't even need multiple speaker outputs, many capable soundbars can recreate this overhead sound so long as its properly setup.
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.Does HBO Max support Dolby Atmos? ›
Audio for shows and movies on Max is available in stereo, 5.1 surround sound, or Dolby Atmos. Max automatically plays the highest quality audio available for your device and subscription plan.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.
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.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.Which is better Dolby 7.2 or Atmos? ›
The Dolby Atmos system offers a superior and highly realistic sound experience. With the old channels, sound can only be heard from predetermined locations defined by the speaker setup, not how you would hear it in real life.Is Netflix Dolby or DTS? ›
Netflix works using Dolby Digital Plus (DD+). To check if the sound of a film is DD+ compatible just look at the information page for each film.
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 Dolby version is best? ›
True to the artist's vision, Dolby True HD delivers the best sound possible for movies, music, and TV shows with lossless audio.
Check it out here! The Dolby TrueHD audio codec delivers Dolby Atmos in its highest resolution and quality (24-bit 96kHz), resulting in an authentic Dolby Atmos experience, delivered as intended by movie directors, where listeners will be able to hear object-based audio and overhead effects through positional metadata.Is Dolby Atmos always on? ›
Choose how to listen to Dolby Atmos on your iPhone or iPad
Go to Settings. Tap Music. Under Audio, tap Dolby Atmos. Choose Automatic, Always On, or Off.
A Dolby Atmos installation requires a minimum room volume of 50m³.What size room is best for 7.1 surround sound? ›
How big is your room? If it's larger than around 350 square feet, consider a 7.1 speaker setup. If it's smaller, a 5.1 may be more appropriate.
Setting up your Dolby Atmos soundbar. If you're like the rest of us and want to get the most out of your shiny audio gadget, mount the soundbar in front of your television. Then, set it at the same height or slightly above your ear level and make sure that it's approximately five feet away.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.Is Arc Atmos worth it? ›
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.