Dolby Atmos is a 3D sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. It expands on existing surround sound systems by adding height channels. Sounds though are interpreted as three-dimensional objects with neither horizontal nor vertical limitation.
With this expansion, Dolby Atmos provides an immersive sound experience. And it is becoming a new standard in sound production and reproduction.
Dolby Atmos for Music, an audio-only iteration of the format, was adopted by streaming music services Tidal and Amazon Music in December 2019 and followed by Apple Music in Mai 2021, and others will follow.
The immersive experience of Dolby Atmos utilises up to 64 speaker channels. The speakers completely envelop the audience from the front, the sides and overhead. Dolby Atmos is designed to enhance the conventional 7.1 surround formats by adding an additional stereo overhead array.
More precise, Dolby Atmos Music is a new ‘object- based’ immersive audio format for music production. This new format allows creatives to place each sound exactly where they want it to go. They are creating a more realistic and immersive audio experience and to push their creative boundaries. With Dolby Atmos Music, producers have now the ability to place and move sounds in a 3D environment with more precision. These sound objects that can be moved throughout the listening area in all 3 dimensions. Now the listeners feel like they’re immersed by their favourite music.
Consumer implementations of Dolby Atmos
The Dolby Atmos sound system consists of a compatible speaker system that has a Dolby Atmos object audio renderer. During playback, each Dolby Atmos system renders the audio objects in real time based on the known locations of the loudspeakers present in the target home theater, such that each audio object is heard as originating from its designated set of coordinates.
To benefit from this experience, there is no special equipment necessary. Every format will be created in realtime by the Dolby Atmos renderer, even binaural rendering for headphones.
In 2019, Amazon introduced “Amazon Echo Studio” (developed closely with Dolby) as the ﬁrst smart speaker to support Dolby Atmos together on day one of their available Dolby Atmos Music content. It has speaker drivers all around the enclosure, ﬁring in all directions, mounted on top, ﬁring upwards. Room reﬂexions all around create a 3-dimensional sound ﬁelds. The speaker even listens to itself playing, recording its own playback and tuning itself, starts EQ’ing and adapting to the room.
Headphones for Dolby Atmos
Dolby Atmos also has headphone implementations for PCs, several Xbox models and mobile phones. There are even headphones with Dolby Atmos implementation. All these devices work by using audio processing algorithms to convert the Atmos object metadata into a binaural 360° output using the usual two headphone speakers.
Users can use their normal headphones or earphones so long as the decoding device uses Atmos, or the audio track itself has been previously downmixed.
With the release of third-generation AirPods in October 2021, Apple added support for Dolby Atmos to all their models.
Smartphones with Dolby Atmos implementation
Dolby Atmos has smartphone implementations for devices including, but not limited to, the iPhone when running iOS 13 or later and almost all Samsung smartphones and tablets released after the 2019.
Implementations in phone use both the binaural headphone technology and the dual loudspeaker virtual surround sound implementation similar to that used in Dolby Atmos TVs, Soundbars and smart speakers.