Atmos Makeover: A Space Odyssey, Part 2 Page 2

Look out below!
First up was the Dolby Atmos Demo Disc from August 2014 (widely distributed at last year’s CEDIA Expo) that shipped to me with the Marantz AV8802. The disc includes a Dolby Atmos retail loop, a number of Atmos-enabled trailers, a short film, a music video of Enrique Iglesias hit song “Bailando,” a Red Bull video clip of F1 Racing, a trailer for On Any Sunday, and a time-lapse clip of the Napa Valley. I jumped right to the “Amaze” trailer as my family and I sat on the couch in tense anticipation. Needless to say, we were all blown away—especially when a bird circles the room from overhead. The sound definitely encompasses the room, giving a three-dimensional audio experience.

All of the specific Atmos trailers have their high points, but my favorite is probably the Unfold trailer in which a diamond shaped object transforms into the Dolby logo. The audio hits you from all directions and definitely makes your jaw drop. When a guest comes over, this is always the first trailer I put on to impress them. I’ll then jump to the music video from Iglesias. This really shows off how well multichannel audio can take advantage of all of the channels in an Atmos system.

Unfortunately, the list of Atmos-enabled discs available in North America remains pretty sparse at this point, but there are a few that are definitely worth watching—namely John Wick, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1, and Unbroken. LionsGate is certainly embracing the format out of the gate, but Universal and Warner have also shown some support as well. Let’s hope more are on the way. [Editor’s note: Warner’s Gravity has also just been released with Atmos, but was not available for David’s first demos; he’s reviewing that title for us now.—RS ]

John Wick is arguably Keanu Reeves best movie since The Matrix. He plays and ex-assassin hell-bent on exacting revenge on a gang of thugs who picked the wrong guy to piss-off. The violence is over-the-top and isn’t necessarily the type of movie I enjoy very much, but I have to admit that the Atmos track dragged me into the film, especially during the third act. Raindrops felt like they were falling from above, and when a helicopter swoops over you can really sense that it’s coming from the sky. Furthermore, when bullets and glass start flying through the room, the Atmos definitely helps give you that “being there” feeling.

I tried out the Dolby Surround Upmixing mode as well. This allows Atmos-enabled prepros and AVRs to process existing 5.1- and 7.1-channel tracks to make use Atmos height speakers. Disney’s Big Hero 6 has a DTS-HD 7.1 track on it, which in and of itself is very impressive, but engaging DSU definitely added something extra to the proceedings. As Hiro takes Baymax for a ride around San Fransokyo and zooms between buildings as he tours the city, I felt more a part of the action on screen than I did with traditional 7.1-channel playback.

So, would I do it all again? One of the major concerns I had going into this upgrade was whether I would pay some sort of significant sonic penalty in the end by not being able to comply fully with the Dolby spec for speaker placement, which recommends direct radiating speakers for side and back surrounds and lowering them to ear level. I even woke up once or twice at night during the upgrade process worried about it! But I’m happy to say the system sounds great, and I would do it all again without no hesitation whatsoever. I ended up going over my budget on equipment, but I don’t have a speck of buyer’s remorse.

With DTS’s DTS:X object-based audio format on the horizon, I’m sure the next 12 months will bring more Dolby Atmos and DTS:X discs and open the floodgates for years to come. Furthermore, I’m sure the streaming services will follow—Vudu already has the Dolby Atmos trailers available through its service, and I’d bet Netflix and Amazon Instant Video aren’t far behind. It’s going to be an object-based audio world in no time at all, and I’m glad to be living in it.


Intrigue_curious's picture

I am curious did you custom build the cabinet, or did you find it? I just wrote a review on the IC-6 OBA speaker, and a few other speakers as well.

David Vaughn's picture
That's a custom built cabinet.
esappy's picture

I just noticed on The Digital Bits website that American Sniper and Jupiter Ascending arrive in June with Atmos.

Great job on the remodel! I am about ready to pull the trigger myself on upgrading to Atmos and can't wait to hear it in my own home. Looking forward to the upcoming AV8802 review.

David Vaughn's picture
CJLA's picture

Hey David, Any chance that you have an overhead drawing of the room? Not so much dimensions but more so one that shows the speakers in relation to the seats so we can 'see' the placement. (How far fore or aft the in-ceiling speakers are in relation to the seats, etc.) Thanks for your DIY article... Very informative!

David Vaughn's picture
I had a drawing but I may have circular filed it after I installed the overhead speakers. I'm buried right now working on two different reviews, but this is something I'll try to get to. Are you a member at AVS? Send me a PM if so on that site, if possible.
giomania's picture

Nice Noctua Fans in your equipment area, David.

Would you please share your fan control setup for the equipment area? Is it a standard PC fan controller with a 110V to 12V step-down power supply? I noticed they are all set to blow out into your theater. Is that because you don't have much space behind the equipment?

Thanks for any information you can share.


David Vaughn's picture
Mark, the fans are from Coolerguys and use their standard power controller that I have mounted on the back wall and that plugs into my power conditioner. It's temperature activated (85 F) and works wonders in the rack. No piece of equipment ever reaches over 100 degrees, even in the dead of summer and the fans are extremely quiet in their operations. The way I have them mounted actually draws cool air in from the top of the rack and pushes the warm air out the front. Let me know if you have any other questions.
skykingoh's picture

David, First my compliments on your craftsmanship. Very nice job.

I have read many articles where you discuss your dual subwoofer setup. I just can't get my arms wrapped around it.

It seems that all too often we discuss room correction in terms of EQ. EQ is just one part of the puzzle. An EQ is time blind, it can't correct for phasing issues. I am not speaking of simple delay added to make sure that the sound all arrives at the listening position at the same time, I am speaking of frequency specific delay, often applied at different amounts depending on level. The latest trend is using FIR filters, they are a good solution and easy to program your desired transform.

To get to my point you have two different subwoofers. They have different amplifiers, drivers and processing. The frequency and phase response is very different. Considering that the output from the two point sources overlaps the entire room there must be significant destructive interference.

I can't imagine it's not audible. Under the best of conditions if you stack the two speakers you are picking up 4.5db of gain. You have to have more headroom than that so why the need for two? I can't find an upside to it.

What have I missed?