Testing the Dolby Atmos experience at Best Buy

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By now you’ve probably heard about Dolby Atmos. This ultra high quality sound system was first developed for movie theatres back around 2012. Essentially, Dolby Atmos creates 3D sound— where you “hear” sounds in a 3D space.

But how does it work, what do you need to get this technology at home, and what else do you need to know? I recently had a chance to visit a Best Buy store that has a full Dolby Atmos system set up for anyone to come and try out.

What is Dolby Atmos?

When you have a 5.1 or 7.1 channel home theatre sound system, you create the illusion of 3D sound by pushing specific audio to specific speakers. With Atmos, instead of pushing sound to a particular speaker, it’s pushed to a particular spot in 3D space, sometimes by more than one speaker.

Shop Dolby Atmos audio equipment at Best Buy.

Trying to replicate this effect in a YouTube video, or to describe it in words is impossible, so the best way to hear how amazing this sounds is to head down to one of Best Buy’s Dolby Atmos demo rooms, sit in a comfy chair and experience it. The experts there will also help you learn more.

Dolby Atmos brings overhead sound to home theatre

“Our traditional home theatre, 5.1 or 7.1 has all been channel based where you have a left channel, centre channel and right channel where the sound originated,” explains Matthew Somerset, with Geek Squad. “Dolby Atmos creates object-based audio with the introduction of overhead speakers, which allows sound to travel through the room.”

Sitting in a lounge chair, listening to a demo video featuring a helicopter circling is impossible to describe, but it actually sounds like it’s doing laps over my head, travelling from corner to corner of the demo room. That’s thanks to the addition of two and sometimes four overhead speakers.

With Dolby Atmos, sound follows the action

With Dolby Atmos, if you’re supposed to be hearing a plane flying overhead, the sound engineer doesn’t pick which speaker the sound will emanate from, but instead chooses how the sound will move through space and the Atmos system adjusts the sounds automatically to ensure the audio comes from the appropriate speaker, given their position in your room.

To get the most from Dolby Atmos, you’ll need an Atmos-ready amplifier or receiver, plus front and rear speakers, and of course those overheads. But what if you don’t have the space or the budget for the full set up?

“It is always recommended you use in-ceiling speakers with Dolby Atmos to get the best effect. But there are Dolby Atmos modules that speaker manufacturers are making that can sit on top of existing speakers at the front of the room and can direct the sound up to the roof and then it bounces it back down to the centre of the room,” says Somerset.

If your set up still needs to be more compact, you can look at some of the Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bars that are available. Similar to those modules Matthew mentioned, they direct some of the sound up, reflecting it off your ceiling to replicate that 3D audio soundscape.

The Atmos experience is impressive; this was my first time trying it out first hand. It definitely feels just like it does in a move theatre; the room rumbles, the sound moves around you and it feels ultra real. If you’re considering an audio upgrade for your home theatre, you definitely need to find your nearest Best Buy with the Atmos set up to check it out.

Here is a list of the Best Buy stores that feature the Dolby Atmos experience:

STORE # STORE NAME STORE ADDRESS UNIT #/ LOCATION CITY
10 Victoria 3450 Uptown Blvd. Suite 200 Victoria
926 Heartland 6075 Mavis Rd., Unit 1 Mississauga
928 Ottawa West 1701  Merivale Rd. Merivale Plaza Nepean
929 Langley 20202 66th Ave., Unit F3 Langley
930 Oakville 2500 Winston Park Dr., Unit A Oakville
932 Woodbridge 7850 Weston Rd., Bldg E Unit 1 First Pro Woodbridge
933 Edmonton West 17539 Stony Plain Rd. NW Edmonton
934 Edmonton South 9931 19 Ave. NW South Edmonton Common Edmonton
935 Kitchener 215 Fairway Rd. S Kitchener
936 London 1080 Wellington Rd. London
938 Sherway 167 North Queen St. First Pro Queensway Etobicoke
940 Ottawa East 380 Coventry Rd. Ottawa
941 Richmond 5300 No. 3 Rd. Unit 700 Lansdowne Center Richmond
942 Burlington 1200 Brant St., Unit 1 Burlington
943 Scarborough 480 Progress Ave. Scarborough Town Center Scarborough
944 Windsor 4379 Walker Rd. Walker Road Shopping Centre Windsor
946 St. James 810 St. James St., Unit A St. James Station Centre Winnipeg
947 Deerfoot Meadow 8180 11th St. SE, Unit 300 Deerfoot Meadows Shopping Ctr Calgary
950 St Catharines 420 Vansickle Rd., Unit L1 St. Catharines
952 Cambie 2220 Cambie St. Vancouver
954 Brampton 25 Peel Centre Dr., Unit 451 Bramalea Centre Mall Brampton
958 Coquitlam 2929 Barnet Hwy Unit 2140 Coquitlam
961 Surrey 10153 King George Blvd. Unit 3200 Surrey
968 Laval 1560 Boul. Le Corbusier Laval
973 Kingsway 6200 McKay Avenue Unit 200 BURNABY
977 Bay & Dundas 65 Dundas St. W Toronto
980 North London 1735 Richmond St., Unit 1 London

Shop Dolby Atmos audio equipment at Best Buy.