Sound for your home theatre system can come in a variety of blissful audio flavours, such as stereo sound, surround sound, and now this new format that promises to be the future of home theatre audio, called Dolby Atmos. But, while you may have already heard of stereo and surround sound, chances are pretty high that Dolby Atmos doesn’t ring a bell for you yet.

Let me tell you, though. This new audio format can do a lot more than just ring bells. It can pretty much rock the entire bell tower with 360-degree sound technology that is going to change how your home theatre is set up, and how you’re going to be experiencing audio from now on. Well, that is once I show you how to set up a Dolby Atmos receiver (like the Denon receiver shown here) for your home theatre system.

Why Choose Dolby Atmos?

The Dolby Atmos audio format first hit the sonic scene in about 2012, setting a new precedent for the sound we would be getting in darkened cinemas with sticky floors, and that guy who won’t get off his cellphone. Pixar’s Brave was actually the first movie to use the technology, and several others, such as Godzilla and Gravity, soon followed.

In cinemas, using about 60 speakers (including overhead ones) the Dolby Atmos format spits out sound in a sort of 3D bubble, distributing the audio all around you, and in the directions from which it should be emanating. Imagine hearing the raindrops from a scene falling from overhead, or the footsteps of the serial killer behind you in a horror movie. It is a whole new immersive audio format – developed by Dolby Laboratories – and it is now amazingly available for your own home theatre system… and you don’t even need 60 speakers to make it happen!

What Speakers Do You Need for an Atmos Home Theatre?

Like I said, you don’t need 60 speakers in order to get a Dolby Atmos setup in your home. You won’t even need to get speakers on your ceiling either to achieve the same mind-blowing object-directional sound you find in top movie houses. That’s because in order to create that 360-degree bubble of sound in your home, Dolby Atmos actually bounces the audio off your ceiling and right into your earholes!

Also, Atmos turns individual sounds and audio elements into “objects” and then is able to precisely move them around this 3D audio bubble to render sound exactly the way a filmmaker intended. So, rather than confining sounds to five or seven “channels” in a regular home theatre system, Dolby Atmos frees up the sound from channels and immerses you in this full 360-degree experience. It’s kind of like virtual reality sound in that you feel like you are at the centre of the action.

As you can imagine, to get the right sounds (or objects) bouncing off the right surfaces takes a fair bit of computing work, and the right speakers. So, here’s what you’ll need.

Many people already have 5.1 or 7.1 systems with a subwoofer and either five or seven speakers positioned at or about at ear level. Many of these speakers will work without a problem in a Dolby Atmos system. However, overhead sound is a vital part of the Dolby Atmos experience. Many current home theaters just aren’t capable of producing overhead sound, so, either you go to all the trouble of mounting speakers on your ceiling (ugh, and what a mess that would be with wiring and plaster and everything!), or you go the simple route and pick up some speakers that offer dual posts, such as the Klipsch R28F Tower Speaker, and add in the Klipsch Reference Premiere 50-Watt Dolby Atmos Elevation Speakers to complete that immersive setup.

You could alternately go a simpler speaker route, and opt for maybe a Dolby Atmos sound bar, like the Sony HTST5000 800-Watt 7.1.2 Channel Dolby Atmos Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer.

Of course, for any 5.1.2 home theatre audio system, you’ll need five surround speakers in total, including left, centre and right front speakers, plus the left and right rear surround speakers, and of course, the subwoofer for banging bass sounds. For an Atmos 5.1.2 system, you’ll need two ceiling speakers, or two Dolby Atmos enabled speakers or modules.

3 Steps to Setting up Your Atmos Home Theatre System

  1. Position your equipment. First off, let’s hope you have a flat ceiling, because Dolby recommends a flat ceiling height of between 7.5 and 12 feet for best results. Additionally, Dolby says if you’re using Dolby Atmos enabled speakers, place them at the left front and right front locations. If you’re using add-on modules, place them on top of the left and right front speakers, or within three feet of those speakers. Be sure the drivers are facing toward the ceiling. You’ll get the best sound when the front and surround speakers are at or slightly above your ear level when you’re seated. Wall-mounted surrounds can be higher, but no speakers—especially Dolby Atmos enabled modules—should be higher than half the height of your wall.
  2. Configure your receiver. Naturally, you will need a Dolby Atmos-compatible receiver, such as the Denon AVR-S730H 165-Watt 7.2 Channel 4K Ultra HD Network AV Receiver (for a 5.1.2 setup) or the Denon AVR-X4300H 125-Watt 9.2 Channel 3D 4K Ultra HD Network AV Receiver (for a 5.4.1 or 7.1.2 system). When wiring up everything, remember that the only real difference between Dolby Atmos and your run-of-the-mill speakers is that the former will have two sets of terminals – one for front left and right audio and one for height left and right – instead of one. Make sure both are connected to the proper terminals on the receiver. And, make sure when you select a configuration you choose something with three digits (e.g. 5.1.2 or 7.1.2, etc), which indicates that you want to enable Dolby Atmos.
  3. Find Atmos content. As with 4K televisions when they first came out, Dolby Atmos is still a bit of a new thing, so content is still incoming. However, if you have an Atmos-compatible Blue-Ray player, then there are already a few movies ready for the format, with the latest Transformers movie having been the first to use the technology. Additionally, Netflix is promising to support the format in the near future, so it may be a good time to start investing or at least taking a look at what’s coming.

Is Dolby Atmos right for you?

So, should you run out and upgrade to a Dolby Atmos system? Well, if you’re an audiophile who demands the absolute best in sound, then that is certainly a yes, because you will be hard-pressed to find anything better right now than this format for your home theatre system.

However, you just need to remember that to get that sweet sound, you will need to make sure your receiver, video player and the content you’re watching all support it. Luckily, filmmakers and video game developers are all jumping on the bandwagon, so that content is well on its way.

So, what are you waiting for, you sound aficionado you? Check out all the Dolby Atmos receivers and Dolby Atmos speakers available at BestBuy, and start planning your own immersive 3D bubble of 360-degree object-positional home theatre sound now!

I am an award-winning writer, freelance journalist and blogger who is a self-confessed geek and tech lover. When not playing the latest video games or salivating over the newest gadgets, I enjoy cooking for my family, mountain biking or snowboarding the deep powder on Whistler Mountain.