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Dolby Atmos is everywhere, and that's not necessarily a good thing

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
47
1
18,545
I agree with most of this but it's odd that What HiFi choses to make a stand against the dilution of Atmos whilst apparently accepting and therefore endorsing the marketing associated with other initiatives.

"Should high-resolution headphones really be a thing? " Of course it shouldn't. Is high resolution audio more about better mastering than the benefits inherrent to the medium? Arguably. Has this publication ever looked into this properly? No.

"Maybe you remember the confusion of HD Ready?" I certainly remember reading articles from other magazines at the time insisting that for typical viewing distances full HD provided no real improvement over HD Ready, but time marches on and marketing is a numbers game. I jumped straight from HD Ready Pioneer plasma to 4K OLED, happy to have done so too, but i wouldn't have abandoned my Kuro for a full HD LCD despite this magazine raving for years about the picture quality of the latest Samsungs. Has this publication ever criticised the resolution upgrade wheel to which we all seem to be tethered? Not to my knowledge.

As the article says, Dolby don't make the equipment, and so they don't put gear up for review, or spend money advertising their gear with publications such as What Hifi. Maybe this makes them an easier target. I do agree though, Atmos is being devalued by this approach.
 

SMPTE.Technologist

Active member
Jun 10, 2020
1
2
25
This critique of Atmos is far too kind to Dolby.

Dolby USED to be a technology company. They had scientists, they did research, they produced products that worked, even though many audio professionals thought them to be unnecessary. Remember Dolby SR? This was Dolby's Cinema sound "response" to digital sound in other venues. Dolby engineers in Hollywood notably made increasingly lame arguments about how digital soundtracks weren't needed for films. Dolby even engaged THX founder Tomlinson Holman to help make this argument to the film studios. As digital sound on film provided other necessary advances besides signal:noise, Hollywood rightfully rejected the Dolby position.

Keep in mind that Dolby Stereo was not even a Dolby invention, but the results of work at Eastman Kodak to make available a stereo variable area (SVA) optical track. Dolby added their own Dolby B noise reduction, a Lt/Rt encoder/decoder (also hijacked from elsewhere) and "Dolby Stereo" was born.

Dolby was the last company to finally embrace digital on film, and as a result had the worst digital implementation with heavy data compression and a bitstream located between the sprockets, and area of high film damage.

As digital cinema began to take hold Dolby realized it was only a matter of time when "Dolby encoding" of any kind would no longer be required.

At that moment lots of work had already been done on immersive sound, with two systems commercially available. Auro-3D, a company in Belgium and the Japanese NHK 22.2 system. Both used a second, higher array of surround speakers on the walls in the cinema. When Dolby started to panic about these efforts that were getting commercial traction, Dolby purchased a French company that had patents in the area of immersive sound and voila! Dolby Atmos!

Atmos in the cinema suffers from a serious psychoacoustic shortcoming. The ability to do immersive sound works much better from wall-mounted speakers, not overhead. We don't localize well to overhead speakers. Even with you put dozens of them in. However Dolby out marketed Auro-3D even with much worse technology. And the DTS-X technology (along with work done by German technologists Fraunhofer) is substantially better than latecomer Dolby But here we are.

A similar story exists with Dolby Vision, for another day. Note Dolby didn't research or "invent" Dolby Vision, either. . . .

Dolby is now only a licensing company. How can a movie theater with 60+ loudspeakers called "Atmos" be anything like a cheap mobile phone that says "Dolby Atmos" on it? It CAN'T. As a result as the article notes virtually ANYTHING can be called Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Vision, Dolby Cinema with NO standards being attached. The corruption of the home media business which arguably began with "Monster Cable" is now virtually complete. And with the collapse of the standards process (the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers SMPTE only now exists to "document" standards written by the manufacturers) there is no attempt to even TRY to employ the best technology into these products.
 

DELBOY14

Well-known member
May 6, 2017
27
12
4,545
It's wasted on most people, as soon as you say that you have Atmos, everyone assumes you have a sound bar, when you tell them you have 7.1.4 system, they say you wasted your money as their sound bar is just as good. The industry has shafted Atmos just like it shafted Vinyl all those years ago, " CD is better, no crackles and can't be damaged with better sound reproduction", all to line there own pockets, if only the world was square then they would all fall off.
 

Fandango Andy

Member
Jun 10, 2020
1
1
20
I think people get hung up on titles. "its Atmos so it must be good". A few months ago a friend demonstrated his new Atmos system to me. He had spent over £1,500 on an Arcam amp and hooked it up to a myriad of satellite speakers. To add to the problem, he was in the corner of a cavernous open plan room.

Yes, the sound came from all around, but it lacked depth, character, and tone. It was hollow bordering on tinny. My system (in a smaller room) sounds a million times better. I have a 7.1 system, with decent speakers, all for about half the price of his amp. I also know of somebody who has an Atmos amp that he is running at 5.1, oblivious to what Atmos is.

I know that in the right room, with decent speakers, and set up properly, their Atmos systems will blow my 7.1 out the water, but so many people think buying a fancy amp with the right TM is all there is too it!
 
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Matt0001

Member
Apr 24, 2020
2
1
20
@DELBOY14 .. the comparison to CD vs vinyl is not the same. CD was a genuine step forward for the majority of people. Convenience and a kiss goodbye to those cracks and pops were good reasons for many to move. Whilst I know vinyl can sound amazing, be crack and pop fee, it has its own set of issues from limited dynamic range to "de-essing", monoline bass and the sound quality dramatically changing from the outside of the record to the inside. Those limitations were gone with CD.
 
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