What Are the Requirements for Dolby Atmos Sound?

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Q I have a Sony XR-90J TV that supports 4K/HDR and Dolby Atmos. Here’s my question: For a fully Atmos-compatible system, do I also need a receiver, Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and HDMI cables specifically designed to support Atmos? —Rayfield Coston, via email

A While it’s true that a Dolby Atmos-compatible TV can support Atmos height virtualization using its built-in front- and side-firing speakers, the effect is not the full Atmos enchilada, so to speak. To get that, you’ll minimally need an Atmos-compatible soundbar system, preferably one with dedicated up-firing drivers to bounce the height effects off the ceiling of your room. Any TV claiming to support Atmos will have an HDMI eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) port that connects to a soundbar, allowing for Atmos soundtracks to be routed to it from the TV in bitstream format.

As for the A/V receiver, that’s a definite yes — you’ll need a model with built-in Dolby Atmos processing. This represents a step-up option, one that, when paired with a full 5.1.2 or higher speaker system, will deliver a fully immersive Atmos audio experience. All Ultra HD Blu-ray players by default support Dolby Atmos. Regular Blu-ray discs with Atmos soundtracks can also be played on standard Blu-ray players, though the soundtrack will default to the multichannel “core.” (Dolby Atmos on discs is actually delivered using the Dolby TrueHD codec developed for Blu-ray, with the “height” information added as an extension to the core 5.1- or 7.1-channel soundtrack bitstream.)

Now for the HDMI question. There’s no such thing as a “Dolby Atmos-compatible HDMI cable.” Any HDMI link that you’re using to send 4K/HDR video from an Ultra HD Blu-ray player through an A/V receiver and on to a TV will be capable of supporting Dolby TrueHD and Atmos. These are typically labelled as “High Speed” or “Premium High Speed,” with the latter spec’d to support up to 18Gbps bandwidth.

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nestlesubdued's picture

A minimum of an Atmos-compatible soundbar system will be required, ideally one with specialized up-firing drivers to driving directions bounce the height effects off the ceiling of your room, in order to achieve this result.

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