Can I Upmix Stereo Sound for a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Setup?

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Q I’m planning on installing a 5.1.2 Atmos speaker setup. I mostly watch streamed documentaries (the BBC channel, for example) and nearly all of them have stereo soundtracks. Here’s my question: Would audio upmixing solutions like Dolby Surround or Dolby Pro Logic IIz (I don’t know which is better or more advanced) be able to convert stereo sound for a 5.1.2 speaker setup? How about DTS solutions such as DTS Neural:X or DTS Neo:X (I think Neural has replaced Neo)? Do midrange AV receivers provide these upmixing technologies? Since I really care about overhead speakers, I need a solution that will upmix to them. —Osama Ashoor, via email

A Dolby Surround is a new technology featured on Atmos-enabled AV receivers and processors that upmixes stereo or 5.1/7.1 multichannel soundtracks for 5.1.2 or higher Atmos speaker configurations. (Interestingly, while the technology is new, the name isn’t: Dolby Surround was the same label for the original process used by Dolby to extract a monophonic surround channel from stereo soundtracks.) Dolby Surround serves as a replacement for Dolby Pro Logic IIx and IIz, which were included in older-generation AV receivers and processors to expand stereo and 5.1 soundtracks for 7.1-channel and 5.1/7.1-channel plus height speaker configurations, respectively.

DTS Neural:X is a new DTS processing mode for surround speaker configurations that include ceiling or upfiring speakers to convey overhead effects, and you’re right that it replaces DTS Neo:X, which expanded stereo or multichannel sound mixes for 11. 1-channel configurations featuring front-height and width speakers. Neural:X is compatible with mono, stereo, and multichannel soundtrack sources, and is included on AV receivers and processors that feature DTS:X, an object-based sound processing format similar to Dolby Atmos.

For someone looking to add these new technologies to their home system, the good news is that many midrange AV receiver models feature both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing (and come with Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X by default). One example is Onkyo’s TX-NR787 ($700) and you can find many other receivers with the same feature set in the under-$700 price range from manufacturers including Denon, Yamaha, and Sony.

bikdav's picture

Thank you for telling us what is going on. I will have to try this since my new receiver has all of this.

KevinMD's picture

I have a 5.1.2 setup and most of my source content have 5.1 and 7.1 tracks. Which track would yield better results when upmixing to 5.1.2 using Dolby Surround? My gut is the 7.1 provides more channel information which would improve the upmixing result. But on the other hand, 5.1 is already matched for my setup so only the height channels need to be created. Then again I don't know enough about how the upmixing actually works and maybe the result is about the same either way?

Ted Driver 54's picture

I have found that using Dolby Surround (ATMOS) can be a very welcome enhancement to some two-channel stereo music. A lot depends on the source material. Some music is enhanced and sometimes using Dolby Surround (ATMOS) degrades the overall musical enjoyment. The good news is one can always turn it off if the results are disappointing.