Dolby Atmos is coming to home theaters via Pioneer, Denon, and more
Dolby's new surround sound format will work with existing Blu-ray players, but requires new AV receivers and other home audio gear.
Dolby Atmos launched back in 2012 and since then the new surround sound format has been used by an impressive list of movies, including blockbusters like "Gravity", "Frozen" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug".
Today, Dolby announced that Atmos is coming to the living room, thanks to Atmos-enabled speakers, receivers, and other home audio components. Atmos supports up to 64 separate speakers -- up from the eight speakers currently supported by Dolby's current top-end home format, Dolby TrueHD. Notably, Atmos also delivers overhead sounds, in addition to side and rear channels, using ceiling speakers and other sound-processing technology.
Denon, Marantz, Integra, Onkyo, Yamaha, and Pioneer all announced high-end Atmos-compatible AV receivers, which will either debut in the fall, or require a firmware update to enable the Atmos functionality. Pioneer also introduced a new series of Andrew Jones-designed Elite speakers; details are scarce at the moment, but Pioneer intends to release more information at a press conference on Wednesday. On the Blu-ray side, Dolby says that existing players will support new Dolby Atmos soundtracks and that compatible movies will be coming out this fall, in both Blu-ray and streaming format.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Dolby's announcement is that Atmos-enabled speakers will be available, which are capable of creating overhead sound without the need for ceiling speakers. There will also be "Atmos-enabled speaker modules" to add onto existing speakers you already have to create the overhead Atmos effects. While avoiding the need for ceiling speakers is certainly welcome, especially for apartment dwellers, the requirement of such specialized speakers is a break from surround formats in the past, which largely worked with the speakers you already have.
And the big question is whether buyers will be interested in a more elaborate and expensive surround sound format like Atmos when home audio has been trending toward smaller, cheaper speakers like sound bars and Bluetooth speakers. Dolby arguably already has a hit on its hands when it comes to theaters, but Atmos in the home may be a tougher sell.