Breathing life back into the Home Theatre experience with Dolby Atmos
For decades, traditional 5-channel or 7-channel home theatres with one or two subwoofers were the go-to installation for AV dealers in the UK and US. But in 2012, Dolby, the company that brought us surround sound, took the theatre experience to the next level with the introduction of Dolby Atmos in professional cinemas – a distributed audio format that creates a 3D aural experience for audiences.
In 2014 Dolby brought that object-based audio experience into the home, and since then the installation of Dolby Atmos home theatres has grown substantially.
A Dolby Atmos system is different than traditional home theatres in that rather than installing five or seven speakers in a room, it requires a minimum of nine – four of which are placed in the ceiling above the seating position (referred to as the height channels). The height channels are important because film makers are not restricted by having to choose which speaker to send a specific sound too, Dolby Atmos lets them position and move sounds spread out over a 3D space, which faithfully recreates sound how we experience it in the real world. For example, if a noise is meant to be heard overhead, different layers of that sound will be spread out among the appropriate section of the room, making the sound experience (such as an overhead plane, mosquito flying by or rain drops overhead) much more realistic to the listener.
Opportunity in the marketplace
The jump in sound quality from a traditional seven channel system to a Dolby Atmos theatre install is significant and easily audible. The popularity of the systems has resulted in a renewed interest in home theatres and is making music and films more exciting for consumers. When given the opportunity to sell a Dolby Atmos theatre to a customer, it’s particularly effective if you can do an A/B comparison. If your facility allows, demo the same clip on a traditional system followed by a Dolby Atmos install immediately afterwards. Once a customer has had the opportunity to hear a movie clip from a regular 5.1 or 7.1 system and then a Dolby Atmos 9.1.4 system, they are bound to be immediately sold on the Dolby Atmos technology.
“Once a customer has had the opportunity to hear a movie clip from a regular 5.1 or 7.1 system and then a Dolby Atmos 9.1.4 system, they are bound to be immediately sold on the Dolby Atmos technology.”
Even if you’re unable to do an A/B comparison, it’s important to start the demo with a bit of education. Explain the benefits of Dolby Atmos over traditional home theatre systems to the customer, as well as some features on the speakers they will be listening to. It’s also important to describe the movie clip or music selection before you play it for them. Be specific about what they should listen for and at what section of the clip it will occur. Try to demo a few different clips to truly show off the dynamic range of the system and keep the clips relatively short (no more than a few minutes each) in order to maintain customer interest. If you have a broad spectrum of demo clips available, it’s always a nice gesture to ask the customer what kind of music or movies they prefer in order to appeal to their individual taste.
Integrating within a wider system
It is also to your advantage if you are able to give the customer control of the system with a smart phone or tablet. Doing so helps remove any insecurities or fear that they have about the system being too complex. There are many simple to use, integrated control solutions, such as Control4. With a Control4 system, homeowners can access their entire home theatre audio/video setup from the same place they control the rest of their home via a touch screen or remote, and from the Control4 App on their phone or tablet. Control4 can even be used to set a home theatre scene that will dim the lights, turn on audio/video, and start a movie on Netflix – all with a touch on a device or a keypad.
We talked a little bit about the required speaker configuration for Dolby Atmos and how a minimum of nine speakers are required, including four height channels in the ceiling. However, not every customer home is constructed using drywall. Installers may be faced with a ceiling built with concrete or a dropped ceiling in a basement where in-ceiling speaker installations are simply not possible. For these kinds of installs, there is still another option that allows dealers to meet Dolby Atmos specifications. Speaker manufacturers including Triad, have introduced speaker modules that sit on top of a traditional floorstanding or bookshelf speaker with the speaker drivers facing upwards. This design allows the sound waves to reflect off the ceiling at the correct angle, in order to recreate the desired overhead 3D audio experience that you would get from in-ceiling speakers.
Triad has been a Dolby Labs Home Atmos Speaker Development Partner from the beginning; a trusted relationship that continues today. As a result, Triad was one of the original speaker manufacturers to offer an Atmos height channel module in both its Silver and Gold speaker series. For those looking for an all-in-one solution, Triad also offers two speaker models that are essentially two speaker systems in one; a traditional front-firing speaker, plus an upward-firing height speaker. Regardless of the chosen application for height channels, installers should follow Dolby’s Atmos Home Theatre Installation guidelines, available here, to ensure they are providing customers with the best home theatre experience possible.
Dolby Atmos is quickly becoming the new norm for home theatre installs around the world and should not be ignored by dealers who do business in the residential AV space. To learn more about Dolby Atmos visit www.dolby.com. Visit www.control4.com to learn more about Control4 home automation solutions and check out www.triadspeakers.com to browse the full selection of Triad speakers and audio products. Triad is now available in the UK via the new dealer portal for easy ordering, customisation requests, and access to training. And, having recently been acquired by Control4, Triad dealers can now access the full line of Control4 products including control, lighting, entertainment, security, and networking solutions – all from the same portal they purchase their Triad gear.
Kordon Vaughn is senior director of product marketing at Control4