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Today’s Show:

Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers and Receivers

When we first read the press release about Dolby Atmos enabled speakers, we’ll admit, it sounded a bit puzzling and we found ourselves scratching our heads. Atmos enabled receivers? Sure, that makes sense, but what does it take to make an Atmos enabled speaker? We’ve never heard of a Dolby TrueHD enabled speaker, or a DTS-HD Master Audio enabled speaker. So what is the difference with Atmos that it needs, or can even provide, a special speaker?



Dolby Atmos is a killer system for delivering multi-dimensional sound that can place and move specific sounds anywhere in the room, including overhead. It can even do this without the need for new speakers mounted overhead. The result is a captivating experience that can bring movies and TV shows alive all around you, in a movie theater and very soon, in your own home theater.


Pioneer announcement

Pioneer Electronics has announced a dedicated line of Dolby Atmos enabled Elite speakers and Elite SC series home theater receivers that will be Dolby Atmos upgradable via a firmware update available by the end of the year. The new for 2014 flagship Elite SC receivers will provide the multi-channel processing and necessary power required to transform your home theater into a Dolby Atmos theater.

If you haven’t been to an Atmos equipped movie theater, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The experience is impressive. You get so much more out of the movie when it is brought to life with an even more encompassing, multi-dimensional audio experience. Dolby Atmos brings the soundtrack to life, with sound coming at you from all directions, including overhead. It takes the notion of 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound to the next level. Getting this technology in the home will be awesome.

But does it really require special speakers? It doesn’t sound like it. The press release states that they are a new line of specially designed speakers that “will produce exceptional sound quality that brings the technology to life.” Does that mean other speakers won’t also be able to bring the technology to life? Of course not. But will they be good speakers that work really well for the kinds of surround effects and experiences you want from Dolby Atmos? We’d venture to guess that they will be.

Chris Walker, the director of AV product planning and marketing for the Home Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics provided a little more detail in the press release. He said, “To ensure the best Dolby Atmos experience possible, Pioneer not only produced a series of ultra-high end receivers dedicated for the task, but also appointed Andrew Jones, our top speaker engineer, to design a speaker system worthy of the Elite brand and that can reproduce the sound quality that only Dolby Atmos can deliver.”

So it sounds like, they designed, built and tested them together to make sure they provided the best possible Atmos experience out of the box. Probably a marketing ploy, but an understandable one. Pioneer’s claim is that their years of experience and expertise in home theater gave them the opportunity to develop a complete Dolby Atmos system with both receivers and speaker products.  They believe that the availability of a single Pioneer branded system will provide better control of the Dolby Atmos experience and the advantage in delivering the technology.


Excitement for Retailers as well

“Dolby Atmos is the next step in home entertainment and it’s really something you have to experience for yourself to understand how truly amazing it is,” said Michael Crane, Senior Director of Merchandising for Magnolia Home Theater and Design Centers. “We’re looking forward to demonstrating the technology in our Magnolia locations through Pioneer’s complete Dolby Atmos-enabled system.”


Bottom line

The truth, at least what we hope will be the truth, is that Dolby Atmos will probably be pretty cool in your home. Will you need the special Atmos enabled speakers? No. Will they somehow enhance the experience? Our honest gut reaction is that they won’t, unless you’re upgrading from inferior speakers at the same time. We’ll have to wait and listen to them for ourselves, but on paper, we just aren’t seeing it. Get the receiver, listen to the speakers for yourself.


Not just Pioneer

And of course, the Atmos technology isn’t unique to Pioneer. Onkyo has also announced a line of Atmos-enabled receivers. The THX Select2 Plus-certified 9.2-channel TX-NR1030 Network A/V Receiver will have an MSRP of $1,699, the 11.2-channel TX-NR3030 Network A/V Receiver will sell for $2,399, and the THX Ultra2 Plus-certified PR-SC5530 Network A/V Controller will go for $2,499. All three are expected to be available in August and will all support HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DTS Neo:X and ISF Video Calibration support.

Onkyo press release: “With Dolby Atmos, sound comes alive from all directions, including overhead, to fill the home theater with astonishing clarity, power, detail, and depth. Dolby Atmos multi-dimensional sound places and moves sounds around the room, like a bird chirping or rainfall from above, to make every sonic element come alive. All three Onkyo components feature Dual 32-bit DSP engines to decode, scale and calibrate Dolby Atmos to suit individual home theater configurations. With up to 11 channels of high-current amplification, users can unlock the full experience with in-ceiling height channels or Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers to augment a standard 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 home theater setup.”

Sounds like Onkyo will be selling special Atmos-enabled speakers as well…


Posted by The HT Guys, June 27, 2014 2:08 AM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.