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post #1111 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 06:43 AM
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'Ears on' experience of Atmos in a home theater, using Atmos-enabled speakers


It has come to my attention that there was some studio content that was showcased in error during the event I attended this week. I had posted a review that described the Dolby Atmos experience that talked in detail about these film clips. These clips were provided by the studio to help test the Dolby Atmos home capabilities during development and had not yet been approved to show during public demos. I have been kindly asked by Dolby to remove references to these movies in my review. I have been invited back to do another demo with approved cinematic studio content and will look to post a follow up review as soon as I can.

I have since attended another demo At Dolby's London HQ, and the report of that visit can be seen by clicking here.

The deleted sections have been replaced by 'spoilers' explaining the reason for their deletion.


__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _____

'Ears on' experience of Atmos in a home theater, using Atmos-enabled speakers

On July 15th I was invited to a demonstration of Atmos For The Home at Dolby Labs in London. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to be one of the very first AV enthusiasts to hear at first hand just how well — or not of course — the theatrical Atmos experience translates to the confines of the typical home cinema. What follows is a report of my experience that day and the impressions gained from it.

The demonstration was split into two parts. The first was held in Dolby’s amazing screening room. We were told that this room represents “probably the finest Atmos experience in Europe” and I can easily believe that, having heard what we did.

The room seated, at a guess, for I failed to count, about 130 seats and the rows of speakers on the side walls, down to the screen, on the rear walls and in two rows above our heads were pointed out to us. All in all I counted 32 speakers, more or less, including two huge subwoofers mounted in the rear corners.

Opening demo in Dolby’s main screening room.

After an explanation of the broad principles of object-based audio, we were treated to a couple of Dolby’s own short demo clips. While these did indeed display the amazing sense of 3D immersion in a sound field, my feeling was that this was to be ‘expected’. After all, Dolby themselves are not going to create special demo material that fails to deliver a good Atmos experience, especially in their own screening room. Sounds zipped around us, over us, even passing ‘through’ us. The precision and definition was startling, the bass was the best I have heard, anywhere, ever.

But what the small group of audience members was craving were some actual movie clips. And here, Dolby did not fall short. As we may have expected, the most awesome was the Academy Award Winning sound of

Spoiler!

So effective was the sound track at putting me “right there” that I felt my pulse rate quicken and my elevated heart rate left me a little short of breath. I was “there”, out in the open, with them. It was an amazing experience and I have never felt anywhere near as immersed in a movie as I did during that sequence.

But in some ways, this was as expected as it was amazing. We were sitting in “probably the finest Atmos facility in Europe”. What we all wanted to know now was “how does this translate to the home?”, and this was next up on the agenda.

Atmos in the home theater.


We were split into groups of six and taken into a small, 6 seater ‘home theatre’ on the first floor of the Dolby facility. Immediately on entering the room, I noticed that it was treated, including treatments running front to back down the centre of the ceiling, and that the 7.2.4 Atmos system which they were running consisted of two decently sized subs and 7 fairly modest looking bookshelf satellite speakers. In the ceiling I could see 4 modest in-ceiling speakers. I’d say the room was about 15 feet long and 12 feet wide, with an 8 foot ceiling, so the sort of space that many people could easily replicate at home. I would say that the system components in this room were of the sort that most people could afford - there was nothing that seemed in any way ‘over the top’, so Dolby had gone to lengths to make this room typical of what we could recreate for ourselves at home.

The first demo up were the specially created Dolby ‘sound logos’ we had heard in the main room so that we could compare the two experiences. As before, they were excellent but expected. What impressed was, again, the three dimensionality of the sound. This demo, it was explained, was using the physical in-ceiling speakers, but all of the subsequent demos would use the Atmos-enabled speakers. This is where it started to get interesting.

When the operator played the Dolby demo clip again, using this time the Atmos speakers, I noticed a small, but definite, diminution of the precision with which the sounds were placed, especially overhead. But it was surprisingly small. One of the audience members I spoke to afterwards said he couldn’t hear any difference at all. I stress that the difference was unexpectedly small.

Watch out - he's above you… behind you… in front of you… to the side of you…


But again, what I wanted to hear was not specially created Dolby clips but some real movie content and I was not disappointed. Let me try to describe what I heard when they played a clip from

Spoiler!

I am very familiar with this clip and I have used it myself to demonstrate how a good system can ‘lose the walls of the room’ making the space of the HT sound much bigger than it really is.

But nothing, nothing I have heard before prepared me for this Atmos mix. And remember, I was hearing this now only on the Atmos-enabled speakers. The sound came from above, from the left, from the centre, from the above left, from the left-centre, from everywhere that the character jumped to in the scene. The precision of the placement of his voice to reflect his physical location on the screen was excellent. I found myself moving my head towards his voice. In some parts of the scene we can’t see the character as he is obscured by shadows. But each time he spoke, before we could see him, we knew exactly where he was. Exactly. And when he came out of the shadows to reveal himself, he was exactly where we knew he would be.

Amazing though this was, and amazed as I was at the way the Atmos-enabled speakers ‘just worked’, this was not actually the most impressive part of this scene.

Much, much more than ‘height effects’.

No, the most impressive part was the sheer scale of the space we were now ’sitting in’. The walls and ceiling of the room had gone. They had just vanished. In their place instead were the confines of a massive cave, hundreds of feet wide and high. There is a lot of ambient sound and echoes in this scene and Atmos’s ability to add a height dimension was just breathtaking. I don’t want to ‘gush’ over this, but there is no other way to describe what I was hearing. I had been transported to a huge, echoing cave with an evil little creature taunting me as he hid and revealed himself over and over in this huge space. I closed my eyes. Yes, I was sitting in a massive cave, not a small demo room in central London. If Dolby had blown a cold blast of aircon into then room, the illusion would have been total. And I repeat, this was from the Atmos speakers not the physical in-ceiling speakers. Remember I said that I heard a little more precision in the sound with the physical speakers playing? I can only imagine how much better this clip would sound when using the physical speakers because, sadly, we had run out of time and had to make way for the next six attendees.

My overall impressions? OK - first off, Atmos is much, much more than ‘height effects’. This is one of the great misconceptions about Atmos in my opinion - that is only for ‘height effects’. Forget all about it only being of value when helicopters fly over or rain is coming down. Sure, these things are vastly better when heard via Atmos, but in my view, that is not what Atmos is about. What Atmos truly does is use those ceiling speakers, or the Atmos ‘modules’ in an Atmos speaker, to enable the sound to be precisely located in three dimensional space. The ‘top’ speakers have just as much of an important role in helping place a sound ‘just slightly above your head and to the right’ as they do in flyovers and so on. There is no doubt of the role of top speakers in creating that huge cave space in the clip mentioned above of course - without the ability to put sound ‘over our head’ that scene can never be as impressive as it was in Atmos. But ‘height effects’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A genuine revelation - Atmos-enabled speakers.


If you haven’t actually heard Atmos-enabled speakers for yourself, you cannot begin to understand how effective they are. They are not just ‘a bit’ effective. They are not a ‘real compromise’. They are just stunning in a way that can’t really be believed until you have heard them. For anyone who cannot or does not want to install physical speakers on or in the ceiling, Atmos-enabled speakers are not some sort of ‘poor man’s alternative’. Having heard both, ‘side by side’ I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that if you go with Atmos speakers for your Atmos system, you will not, in any way, be disappointed.

Dolby seem to have achieved the impossible here - they have found a way to deliver the Atmos experience in a small home theatre, or in a living room, without the apparent addition of a single extra speaker. To look at the Atmos system I saw and heard this week, it looks no different to any other 7.1 system already out there. If you are comfortable with a 5.1 or 7.1 system in your home, then you can enjoy Atmos without any visible change to the room at all. Note the use of the word ‘visible’. The audible change is of a magnitude I have not heard before.

Acknowledgements.

I would like to thank Dolby, Onkyo (the co-hosts of the demo) and my good friend Allan of Ideal AV in Yorkshire, England for making this day possible. For anyone living within travelling distance of Allan’s great demo room, he will soon be having a full Atmos demo facility up and running. I urge everyone who can to go and hear this and especially anyone who feels that he cannot ‘accommodate’ an Atmos system. You can! And from what I heard this week, you will most definitely want to.


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post #1112 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:14 AM
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Good read.

Which Atmos speakers were they using exactly?

So from my understanding, they had in ceiling speakers installed, but they were not in use? It was only the Atmos speakers them selves?
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post #1113 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:19 AM
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Nice write-up Keith. Will hopefully get a similar demo at the Pioneer open house at the end of the month.
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post #1114 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 04rex View Post
Good read.

Which Atmos speakers were they using exactly?

So from my understanding, they had in ceiling speakers installed, but they were not in use? It was only the Atmos speakers them selves?
The Atmos speakers were a small, unbranded speaker. They called it a 'prototype'.

They did demo the in-ceiling speakers for us but only for two clips. All the rest was demoed on the Atmos speakers.


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post #1115 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 04rex View Post
So from my understanding, they had in ceiling speakers installed, but they were not in use? It was only the Atmos speakers them selves?
No, both types of speakers were demonstrated.
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Originally Posted by kbarnes701 View Post
This demo, it was explained, was using the physical in-ceiling speakers, but all of the subsequent demos would use the Atmos-enabled speakers.

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post #1116 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:30 AM
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All those delivery media were 480i vertically The "lines of resolution" was a horizontal measurement (how many dots could each scan line resolve). But they were all NTSC, so they all had the same number of scan lines (480i).
true. I poorly phrased my sentence. how many actual lines of resolution each format was capable of was what I was referring to.

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post #1117 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:36 AM
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Keith,
Thanks for sharing the details of your experience. Excellent review!

We'd all like to have been there & heard what you heard
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post #1118 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post
Nice write-up Keith. Will hopefully get a similar demo at the Pioneer open house at the end of the month.
Thanks, Sanjay. Yes, I am sure you will be as equally impressed as I was. And maybe more so - I expect Andrew Jones's Atmos speakers may be even better than the ones I heard.


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post #1119 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 07:38 AM
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Keith,
Thanks for sharing the details of your experience. Excellent review!

We'd all like to have been there & heard what you heard
I know you would, Steve! You surely would. I was grinning from ear to ear for about an hour afterwards...


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post #1120 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:05 AM
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looks like you guys will have to re-buy all those titles with ATMOS now ;P

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Originally Posted by BillFree View Post
I totally agree. I look forward to each and every 3D release. If I have it and 3D version comes out I replace. I have a huge collection too. There are crummy 3D titles but thats expected. I enjoy 3D music bluray videos as they are released. Most of the people I know that complain about 3D always complain about the glasses. Been there dun it! Passive 3D solved that problem for us.

to the edge of eternity and depth of infinity, stupidity knows no bound.
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post #1121 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:13 AM
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Keith,
Excellent write up! ...Reading it is transforming, invigorating, catapulting.

Wow! I'm all in. I am going to change my habits and get on with the new program; cinema is 50% sound of the total movie experience.
{Imagine...what it can do for ultra high-end music listening experience; in multichannel surround sound!}

1. How come you waited a month to rely your Atmos experience?
2. What are you going to do in a very near future, to your own home theater room?
3. Are you as happy as I am?

Bests,
R §

Bests, ~ Robert § (Bob)

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post #1122 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:16 AM
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Dear All,

I wonder for a 5.2.4 set-up, can I use 1 pair of Atmos add-on speaker modules + 1 pair of in-ceiling height speakers?

Thanks.
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post #1123 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:20 AM
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7.1.4

Gimme gimme
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post #1124 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:21 AM
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You're probably right about Laser Disc. I honestly don't know much about it other than it was a product that used to exist and no longer exists. I remember the discs were big and shiny.


I spent maybe 5 seconds coming up with examples of failed products and didn't do enough fact checking

Laserdiscs lasted (in various forms) from the early 80's until (and a little after) DVD debuted. There were non-laser, needle on spindle versions in the 70's.

Listen up, studios! Just say "NO" to DNR and EE!!
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post #1125 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:28 AM
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...
The consumer version of 3D killed it for everyone involved. I think only Vizio with there "Theater 3D" was the only company who got it(3D) right. I mean $3,500 for a TV plus $150 for glasses times 6, give me a break. And i should also add the consumer projectors to this as well, 3D ready $1,599 projector after you purchase a $400 converter, plus $150 glasses(6 or what ever you need) to have 3D.
...
Yes, and LG, and Philips, etc. who are all doing the passive 3D. So much better. That makes it so hard for me to understand Vizio, dropping Theater 3D from their high-end UHD TVs. That would be the ideal panel, since it allows for the full line count per eye of 1080p 3D content.

I guess we'll have to see if a decent glasses-free version of 3D comes out that will get people to finally use it.
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post #1126 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:42 AM
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Keith, thanks indeed for sharing your impressions.


Given that Onkyo has given up MultEQ to enable Atmos, what was your take on the spectral balance and timbre matching of the speakers in the room? Are these acoustic/electronic qualities still valuable ... or are we headed down a questionable path on that subject? Maybe some detail of the treatments in the room will affect that impression, too.
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post #1127 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by kbarnes701 View Post
The demonstration was split into two parts. The first was held in Dolby’s amazing screening room. We were told that this room represents “probably the finest Atmos experience in Europe” and I can easily believe that, having heard what we did.

The room seated, at a guess, for I failed to count, about 130 seats and the rows of speakers on the side walls, down to the screen, on the rear walls and in two rows above our heads were pointed out to us. All in all I counted 32 speakers, more or less, including two huge subwoofers mounted in the rear corners


We were split into groups of six and taken into a small, 6 seater ‘home theatre’ on the first floor of the Dolby facility. Immediately on entering the room, I noticed that it was treated, including treatments running front to back down the centre of the ceiling, and that the 7.2.4 Atmos system which they were running consisted of two decently sized subs and 7 fairly modest looking bookshelf satellite speakers. In the ceiling I could see 4 modest in-ceiling speakers. I’d say the room was about 15 feet long and 12 feet wide, with an 8 foot ceiling, so the sort of space that many people could easily replicate at home. I would say that the system components in this room were of the sort that most people could afford - there was nothing that seemed in any way ‘over the top’, so Dolby had gone to lengths to make this room typical of what we could recreate for ourselves at home.

The first demo up were the specially created Dolby ‘sound logos’ we had heard in the main room so that we could compare the two experiences. As before, they were excellent but expected. What impressed was, again, the three dimensionality of the sound. This demo, it was explained, was using the physical in-ceiling speakers, but all of the subsequent demos would use the Atmos-enabled speakers. This is where it started to get interesting.

When the operator played the Dolby demo clip again, using this time the Atmos speakers, I noticed a small, but definite, diminution of the precision with which the sounds were placed, especially overhead. But it was surprisingly small. One of the audience members I spoke to afterwards said he couldn’t hear any difference at all. I stress that the difference was unexpectedly small.

Thank you for the write up, Keith! Hopefully, they'll have actual retail Blu-ray discs being played and not carefully selected and "tweaked" clips at CEDIA along with more extensive comparisons of on ceiling speakers that comply to Atmos specifications vs. Atmos-module speakers. If Dolby doesn't do this themselves, then perhaps other speaker manufacturers hawking their wares to the attendees will.

The next comparison Dolby should have in their Lab theaters is a commercial Atmos decoder playing a genuine theatrical Atmos clip and then play back that same clip from the genuine retail Atmos Blu-ray of the same movie through a Trinnov Altitude processor, since it can handle the same speaker amount as in their labs. I'm crossing my fingers that Trinnov will be able to demo working Atmos processors at CEDIA.

That's IMHO the real test... how does the at-home Atmos mix hold up to its theatrical counterpart given a comparable screening room system. Are the inevitable compromises acceptable enough... or are there virtually no appreciable differences.

If Dolby thinks their consumer Atmos codec is as wonderful as they're touting it to be... they shouldn't be afraid of doing this head-to-head match up.

Listen up, studios! Just say "NO" to DNR and EE!!

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post #1128 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by kbarnes701 View Post
On June 15th I was invited to a demonstration of Atmos For The Home at Dolby Labs in London. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to be one of the very first AV enthusiasts to hear at first hand just how well — or not of course — the theatrical Atmos experience translates to the confines of the typical home cinema. What follows is a report of my experience that day and the impressions gained from it.

The demonstration was split into two parts. The first was held in Dolby’s amazing screening room. We were told that this room represents “probably the finest Atmos experience in Europe” and I can easily believe that, having heard what we did.

The room seated, at a guess, for I failed to count, about 130 seats and the rows of speakers on the side walls, down to the screen, on the rear walls and in two rows above our heads were pointed out to us. All in all I counted 32 speakers, more or less, including two huge subwoofers mounted in the rear corners.

Opening demo in Dolby’s main screening room.

After an explanation of the broad principles of object-based audio, we were treated to a couple of Dolby’s own short demo clips. While these did indeed display the amazing sense of 3D immersion in a sound field, my feeling was that this was to be ‘expected’. After all, Dolby themselves are not going to create special demo material that fails to deliver a good Atmos experience, especially in their own screening room. Sounds zipped around us, over us, even passing ‘through’ us. The precision and definition was startling, the bass was the best I have heard, anywhere, ever.

But what the small group of audience members was craving were some actual movie clips. And here, Dolby did not fall short. As we may have expected, the most awesome was the Academy Award Winning sound of Gravity. The clip chosen was close to the beginning of the movie, where Clooney and Bullock are space-walking, apparently repairing a failed component. Those who have seen this movie (including me, who has seen it four times) will remember the way the voices of the two actors pan around the room as the camera angle angle changes, all the while accompanied by the ceaseless chatter of radio comms, both from the characters in space and those on the ground at Mission Control. Even in 5.1 this is impressively done, but nothing can prepare you for the way that it is handled via Atmos. And then, the story starts. “Mission abort! Mission abort!” shouts Ed Harris from ground control, and all hell breaks loose, culminating in Bullock’s character cutting loose and being catapulted into space. So effective was the sound track at putting me “right there” that I felt my pulse rate quicken and my elevated heart rate left me a little short of breath. I was “there”, out in space, with them. It was an amazing experience and I have never felt anywhere near as immersed in a movie as I did during that sequence.

But in some ways, this was as expected as it was amazing. We were sitting in “probably the finest Atmos facility in Europe”. What we all wanted to know now was “how does this translate to the home?”, and this was next up on the agenda.

Atmos in the home theater.


We were split into groups of six and taken into a small, 6 seater ‘home theatre’ on the first floor of the Dolby facility. Immediately on entering the room, I noticed that it was treated, including treatments running front to back down the centre of the ceiling, and that the 7.2.4 Atmos system which they were running consisted of two decently sized subs and 7 fairly modest looking bookshelf satellite speakers. In the ceiling I could see 4 modest in-ceiling speakers. I’d say the room was about 15 feet long and 12 feet wide, with an 8 foot ceiling, so the sort of space that many people could easily replicate at home. I would say that the system components in this room were of the sort that most people could afford - there was nothing that seemed in any way ‘over the top’, so Dolby had gone to lengths to make this room typical of what we could recreate for ourselves at home.

The first demo up were the specially created Dolby ‘sound logos’ we had heard in the main room so that we could compare the two experiences. As before, they were excellent but expected. What impressed was, again, the three dimensionality of the sound. This demo, it was explained, was using the physical in-ceiling speakers, but all of the subsequent demos would use the Atmos-enabled speakers. This is where it started to get interesting.

When the operator played the Dolby demo clip again, using this time the Atmos speakers, I noticed a small, but definite, diminution of the precision with which the sounds were placed, especially overhead. But it was surprisingly small. One of the audience members I spoke to afterwards said he couldn’t hear any difference at all. I stress that the difference was unexpectedly small.

Watch out - Gollum is above you… behind you… in front of you… to the side of you…


But again, what I wanted to hear was not specially created Dolby clips but some real movie content and I was not disappointed. Let me try to describe what I heard when they played a clip from The Hobbit. It is the clip, for those of you who have seen the movie (twice for me at home and once in a SOTA cinema) where Gollum encounters Bilbo in a huge cave. Gollum is playing a malevolent game with Bilbo where he darts from shadow to shadow, rock to rock, taunting Bilbo as he moves around. I am very familiar with this clip and I have used it myself to demonstrate how a good system can ‘lose the walls of the room’ making the space of the HT sound much bigger than it really is.

But nothing, nothing I have heard before prepared me for this Atmos mix. And remember, I was hearing this now only on the Atmos-enabled speakers. The sound of Gollum’s voice came from above, from the left, from the centre, from the above left, from the left-centre, from everywhere that Gollum jumped to in the scene. The precision of the placement of his voice to reflect his physical location on the screen was excellent. I found myself moving my head towards his voice. In some parts of the scene we can’t see Gollum as he is obscured by shadows. But each time he spoke, before we could see him, we knew exactly where he was. Exactly. And when he came out of the shadows to reveal himself, he was exactly where we knew he would be.

Amazing though this was, and amazed as I was at the way the Atmos-enabled speakers ‘just worked’, this was not actually the most impressive part of this scene.

Much, much more than ‘height effects’.

No, the most impressive part was the sheer scale of the space we were now ’sitting in’. The walls and ceiling of the room had gone. They had just vanished. In their place instead were the confines of a massive cave, hundreds of feet wide and high. There is a lot of ambient sound and echoes in this scene and Atmos’s ability to add a height dimension was just breathtaking. I don’t want to ‘gush’ over this, but there is no other way to describe what I was hearing. I had been transported to a huge, echoing cave with an evil little creature taunting me as he hid and revealed himself over and over in this huge space. I closed my eyes. Yes, I was sitting in a massive cave, not a small demo room in central London. If Dolby had blown a cold blast of aircon into then room, the illusion would have been total. And I repeat, this was from the Atmos speakers not the physical in-ceiling speakers. Remember I said that I heard a little more precision in the sound with the physical speakers playing? I can only imagine how much better this clip would sound when using the physical speakers because, sadly, we had run out of time and had to make way for the next six attendees.

My overall impressions? OK - first off, Atmos is much, much more than ‘height effects’. This is one of the great misconceptions about Atmos in my opinion - that is only for ‘height effects’. Forget all about it only being of value when helicopters fly over or rain is coming down. Sure, these things are vastly better when heard via Atmos, but in my view, that is not what Atmos is about. What Atmos truly does is use those ceiling speakers, or the Atmos ‘modules’ in an Atmos speaker, to enable the sound to be precisely located in three dimensional space. The ‘top’ speakers have just as much of an important role in helping place a sound ‘just slightly above your head and to the right’ as they do in flyovers and so on. There is no doubt of the role of top speakers in creating that huge cave space in The Hobbit clip of course - without the ability to put sound ‘over our head’ that scene can never be as impressive as it was in Atmos. But ‘height effects’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A genuine revelation - Atmos-enabled speakers.


If you haven’t actually heard Atmos-enabled speakers for yourself, you cannot begin to understand how effective they are. They are not just ‘a bit’ effective. They are not a ‘real compromise’. They are just stunning in a way that can’t really be believed until you have heard them. For anyone who cannot or does not want to install physical speakers on or in the ceiling, Atmos-enabled speakers are not some sort of ‘poor man’s alternative’. Having heard both, ‘side by side’ I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that if you go with Atmos speakers for your Atmos system, you will not, in any way, be disappointed.

Dolby seem to have achieved the impossible here - they have found a way to deliver the Atmos experience in a small home theatre, or in a living room, without the apparent addition of a single extra speaker. To look at the Atmos system I saw and heard this week, it looks no different to any other 7.1 system already out there. If you are comfortable with a 5.1 or 7.1 system in your home, then you can enjoy Atmos without any visible change to the room at all. Note the use of the word ‘visible’. The audible change is of a magnitude I have not heard before.

Acknowledgements.

I would like to thank Dolby, Onkyo (the co-hosts of the demo) and my good friend Allan of Ideal AV in Yorkshire, England for making this day possible. For anyone living within travelling distance of Allan’s great demo room, he will soon be having a full Atmos demo facility up and running. I urge everyone who can to go and hear this and especially anyone who feels that he cannot ‘accommodate’ an Atmos system. You can! And from what I heard this week, you will most definitely want to.
Thank you for sharing your impressions.

Since Onkyo was the co-host, I presume they would have used some Onkyo products in the HT. You mentioned unbranded speakers, did any of them look like the pics below I grabbed from the Onkyo website? Or could they have been the AJ Atmos speakers with the Pioneer insignia removed (seriously)?

What AVR or pre-pro/amps were they using?

Someday, consumers will purchase a BD with Atmos content and play it back on a BD player. For the demo, what was the container for the content and what equipment did they use for playback ?
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post #1129 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by kokishin View Post
Thank you for sharing your impressions.

Since Onkyo was the co-host, I presume they would have used some Onkyo products in the HT. You mentioned unbranded speakers, did any of them look like the pics below I grabbed from the Onkyo website? Or could they have been the AJ Atomos speakers with the Pioneer insignia removed (seriously)?

What AVR or pre-pro/amps were they using?

Someday, consumers will purchase a BD with Atmos content and play it back on a BD player. For the demo, what was the container for the content and what equipment did they use for playback ?
More than likely it was behind a veiled curtain like in The Wizard of Oz. If they did that, they're probably not using retail products. The Tokyo press were treated to a similar demo and the actual units being used were seemingly not revealed.

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post #1130 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:04 AM
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This is the The official Dolby Atmos thread (home theater version).

Could those that wish to discuss the merits of LD, 3D, Howard Stringer, etc. discuss it in the appropriate forum/thread?

I'm just a caveman. Your modern world frightens and confuses me.

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post #1131 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:11 AM
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On June 15th I was invited to a demonstration of Atmos For The Home at Dolby Labs in London. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to be one of the very first AV enthusiasts to hear at first hand just how well — or not of course — the theatrical Atmos experience translates to the confines of the typical home cinema. What follows is a report of my experience that day and the impressions gained from it.

The demonstration was split into two parts. The first was held in Dolby’s amazing screening room. We were told that this room represents “probably the finest Atmos experience in Europe” and I can easily believe that, having heard what we did.

The room seated, at a guess, for I failed to count, about 130 seats and the rows of speakers on the side walls, down to the screen, on the rear walls and in two rows above our heads were pointed out to us. All in all I counted 32 speakers, more or less, including two huge subwoofers mounted in the rear corners.

Opening demo in Dolby’s main screening room.

After an explanation of the broad principles of object-based audio, we were treated to a couple of Dolby’s own short demo clips. While these did indeed display the amazing sense of 3D immersion in a sound field, my feeling was that this was to be ‘expected’. After all, Dolby themselves are not going to create special demo material that fails to deliver a good Atmos experience, especially in their own screening room. Sounds zipped around us, over us, even passing ‘through’ us. The precision and definition was startling, the bass was the best I have heard, anywhere, ever.

But what the small group of audience members was craving were some actual movie clips. And here, Dolby did not fall short. As we may have expected, the most awesome was the Academy Award Winning sound of Gravity. The clip chosen was close to the beginning of the movie, where Clooney and Bullock are space-walking, apparently repairing a failed component. Those who have seen this movie (including me, who has seen it four times) will remember the way the voices of the two actors pan around the room as the camera angle angle changes, all the while accompanied by the ceaseless chatter of radio comms, both from the characters in space and those on the ground at Mission Control. Even in 5.1 this is impressively done, but nothing can prepare you for the way that it is handled via Atmos. And then, the story starts. “Mission abort! Mission abort!” shouts Ed Harris from ground control, and all hell breaks loose, culminating in Bullock’s character cutting loose and being catapulted into space. So effective was the sound track at putting me “right there” that I felt my pulse rate quicken and my elevated heart rate left me a little short of breath. I was “there”, out in space, with them. It was an amazing experience and I have never felt anywhere near as immersed in a movie as I did during that sequence.

But in some ways, this was as expected as it was amazing. We were sitting in “probably the finest Atmos facility in Europe”. What we all wanted to know now was “how does this translate to the home?”, and this was next up on the agenda.

Atmos in the home theater.


We were split into groups of six and taken into a small, 6 seater ‘home theatre’ on the first floor of the Dolby facility. Immediately on entering the room, I noticed that it was treated, including treatments running front to back down the centre of the ceiling, and that the 7.2.4 Atmos system which they were running consisted of two decently sized subs and 7 fairly modest looking bookshelf satellite speakers. In the ceiling I could see 4 modest in-ceiling speakers. I’d say the room was about 15 feet long and 12 feet wide, with an 8 foot ceiling, so the sort of space that many people could easily replicate at home. I would say that the system components in this room were of the sort that most people could afford - there was nothing that seemed in any way ‘over the top’, so Dolby had gone to lengths to make this room typical of what we could recreate for ourselves at home.

The first demo up were the specially created Dolby ‘sound logos’ we had heard in the main room so that we could compare the two experiences. As before, they were excellent but expected. What impressed was, again, the three dimensionality of the sound. This demo, it was explained, was using the physical in-ceiling speakers, but all of the subsequent demos would use the Atmos-enabled speakers. This is where it started to get interesting.

When the operator played the Dolby demo clip again, using this time the Atmos speakers, I noticed a small, but definite, diminution of the precision with which the sounds were placed, especially overhead. But it was surprisingly small. One of the audience members I spoke to afterwards said he couldn’t hear any difference at all. I stress that the difference was unexpectedly small.

Watch out - Gollum is above you… behind you… in front of you… to the side of you…


But again, what I wanted to hear was not specially created Dolby clips but some real movie content and I was not disappointed. Let me try to describe what I heard when they played a clip from The Hobbit. It is the clip, for those of you who have seen the movie (twice for me at home and once in a SOTA cinema) where Gollum encounters Bilbo in a huge cave. Gollum is playing a malevolent game with Bilbo where he darts from shadow to shadow, rock to rock, taunting Bilbo as he moves around. I am very familiar with this clip and I have used it myself to demonstrate how a good system can ‘lose the walls of the room’ making the space of the HT sound much bigger than it really is.

But nothing, nothing I have heard before prepared me for this Atmos mix. And remember, I was hearing this now only on the Atmos-enabled speakers. The sound of Gollum’s voice came from above, from the left, from the centre, from the above left, from the left-centre, from everywhere that Gollum jumped to in the scene. The precision of the placement of his voice to reflect his physical location on the screen was excellent. I found myself moving my head towards his voice. In some parts of the scene we can’t see Gollum as he is obscured by shadows. But each time he spoke, before we could see him, we knew exactly where he was. Exactly. And when he came out of the shadows to reveal himself, he was exactly where we knew he would be.

Amazing though this was, and amazed as I was at the way the Atmos-enabled speakers ‘just worked’, this was not actually the most impressive part of this scene.

Much, much more than ‘height effects’.

No, the most impressive part was the sheer scale of the space we were now ’sitting in’. The walls and ceiling of the room had gone. They had just vanished. In their place instead were the confines of a massive cave, hundreds of feet wide and high. There is a lot of ambient sound and echoes in this scene and Atmos’s ability to add a height dimension was just breathtaking. I don’t want to ‘gush’ over this, but there is no other way to describe what I was hearing. I had been transported to a huge, echoing cave with an evil little creature taunting me as he hid and revealed himself over and over in this huge space. I closed my eyes. Yes, I was sitting in a massive cave, not a small demo room in central London. If Dolby had blown a cold blast of aircon into then room, the illusion would have been total. And I repeat, this was from the Atmos speakers not the physical in-ceiling speakers. Remember I said that I heard a little more precision in the sound with the physical speakers playing? I can only imagine how much better this clip would sound when using the physical speakers because, sadly, we had run out of time and had to make way for the next six attendees.

My overall impressions? OK - first off, Atmos is much, much more than ‘height effects’. This is one of the great misconceptions about Atmos in my opinion - that is only for ‘height effects’. Forget all about it only being of value when helicopters fly over or rain is coming down. Sure, these things are vastly better when heard via Atmos, but in my view, that is not what Atmos is about. What Atmos truly does is use those ceiling speakers, or the Atmos ‘modules’ in an Atmos speaker, to enable the sound to be precisely located in three dimensional space. The ‘top’ speakers have just as much of an important role in helping place a sound ‘just slightly above your head and to the right’ as they do in flyovers and so on. There is no doubt of the role of top speakers in creating that huge cave space in The Hobbit clip of course - without the ability to put sound ‘over our head’ that scene can never be as impressive as it was in Atmos. But ‘height effects’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A genuine revelation - Atmos-enabled speakers.


If you haven’t actually heard Atmos-enabled speakers for yourself, you cannot begin to understand how effective they are. They are not just ‘a bit’ effective. They are not a ‘real compromise’. They are just stunning in a way that can’t really be believed until you have heard them. For anyone who cannot or does not want to install physical speakers on or in the ceiling, Atmos-enabled speakers are not some sort of ‘poor man’s alternative’. Having heard both, ‘side by side’ I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that if you go with Atmos speakers for your Atmos system, you will not, in any way, be disappointed.

Dolby seem to have achieved the impossible here - they have found a way to deliver the Atmos experience in a small home theatre, or in a living room, without the apparent addition of a single extra speaker. To look at the Atmos system I saw and heard this week, it looks no different to any other 7.1 system already out there. If you are comfortable with a 5.1 or 7.1 system in your home, then you can enjoy Atmos without any visible change to the room at all. Note the use of the word ‘visible’. The audible change is of a magnitude I have not heard before.

Acknowledgements.

I would like to thank Dolby, Onkyo (the co-hosts of the demo) and my good friend Allan of Ideal AV in Yorkshire, England for making this day possible. For anyone living within travelling distance of Allan’s great demo room, he will soon be having a full Atmos demo facility up and running. I urge everyone who can to go and hear this and especially anyone who feels that he cannot ‘accommodate’ an Atmos system. You can! And from what I heard this week, you will most definitely want to.
After reading that, I would say you just gave Atmos (and Dolby Labs) a huge endorsement! Few things in life leave that much of an impression - especially in the world of audio/video we all love so much, but your enthusiasm about Atmos is undeniable. Your comments certainly left me wanting to hear a demo and plan my space for a future upgrade. I'm sure the naysayers and purists will complain about something, but when it comes to movies, don't we all want as much realism as possible? There are no rules, so I'd say Dolby with Atmos has achieved the 'next' big thing in reproduction on a scale that obviously has to be heard to be truly appreciated.

Great review! Thanks.
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post #1132 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:15 AM
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If someone else quote Keith's post again in full I will torture him!

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post #1133 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by kokishin View Post
This is the The official Dolby Atmos thread (home theater version).

Could those that wish to discuss the merits of LD, 3D, Howard Stringer, etc. discuss it in the appropriate forum/thread?
Right on right on right on!

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post #1134 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:35 AM
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Wow, I gotta say that's a huge ringing endorsement from a guy who is probably quite jaded and hard to impress when it comes to home theater. I am hoping a proper demo in a quiet room can be had somewhere at CEDIA this year as I am looking forward very much to hearing this.

Edit: Keith, can you elaborate more on the room treatments involved? What kind of treatments were running down the middle of the ceiling?

I'm thinking out loud here, but it seems to me that the more sound sources (speakers) you have in a theater, the more acoustically dead the theater wants to be. Ambience can be created by the mix and realized by the speakers, and the room should be contributing very little to it.


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post #1135 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:46 AM
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Guess I'll have to change my designation from 19.6 to 15.6.4 or 13.6.6 - depending on what the 11.2 front high will be counted as. (4 overheads planned)

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post #1136 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:47 AM
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Kbarnes, thanks for the time well spent wrt a communicative write-up for some (many?) of us "seekers".
It's exciting!
I was cleaning up some old unistrut to put up a (almost) 10' x 10' positioning grip on the ceiling giving me a max of about 58" front and rear and to the sides of the MLP, adjustable wrt to good angles/ and "crossfire" at the MLP bubble. and of course, if needed a 3rd bar available for Top centers. Current target angle is based on a 7foot square centered around the MLP.
I want to hear the demo . . .


thank you
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post #1137 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:47 AM
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The Onkyo 838 (and 636) models only have 7 channels of amplification. They have binding posts separate for the height/ceiling connections however. But what this means is either you run 7.1, or 5.1.2. Typically the optimal speaker placement for 5.1 is with the rear speakers just behind the sides of the listening seats. But for 7.1, they are nearer to the actual sides of the seating with the additional speakers directly behind. This means no set-up with these models will be optimal I believe. Onkyo should have put 9 channels into the 838 I feel. In the UK the Onkyo retails for 1000, and its next nearest model in price is the Denon X4100 which DOES have 9 channels of amplication and is cheaper than the Onkyo 1030 at nearly 2000 pounds.
FYI - the X4100 has SEVEN channels of amplification but can expand to 9 channels simultaneously with the addition of at least 2 channels of external amplification. Plus it has the super advanced XT32 room calibration whereas the Onkyo has... um....

I'm not sure you can criticize the Onkyo model for not including 9 amps, it is what it is, you pay more for more features. Onkyo decided to forego certain things (good room EQ and in this case the extra amps) to shoehorn Atmos into lower price points. One of the compromises was maxing out at 7ch (so 5.1.2 for Atmos) which is still plenty for a lot of typical home theaters (most people are probably still running 5.1 setups). Your argument about surround placement for 5.1 vs. 7.1 seems to be irrelevant to Atmos, I'm not sure I follow the criticism.
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post #1138 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 09:51 AM
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...but when it comes to movies, don't we all want as much realism as possible? ...
Depends on what you mean by realism. If by realism you simly mean that sound is coming at you from all the appropriate angles then fair enough, that sure seems awesome. However if it's the absolute best audio quality from all sources you mean you certainly aren't going to get that from speakers costing less than a $1000 a pair with say sub $1000 or $2000 receivers. I'm sure you don't think that all speakers that cost tens of thousands or hunderds of thousnds aren't just for show and sound no better than those costing sub $1000 even after factoring in diminishing returns. For that I say we need separate in ceiling speakers in order to preserve the best audio fidelity of the main plain by continuing to use great speakers if and when we can afford/justify them or at least until we see high end speakers offer top firing drivers which is highly unlikely. If a top firing driver was something that contributed to getting us closer to perfect music reproduction it wouldn't have taken Dolby Atmos to make people aware of it it would have been incorporated decades ago, just saying

Keep in mind this harshness I present towards the hardware going to be offered for the initial wave of Atmos has nothing to do with how cool of an experience Atmos is going to be.

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post #1139 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 10:12 AM
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looks like you guys will have to re-buy all those titles with ATMOS now ;P
You know, that was my thought too after the demo. But you know what - it will be worth it. For some of them at least.


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post #1140 of 8739 Old 07-16-2014, 10:12 AM
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On June 15th I was invited to a demonstration of Atmos For The Home at Dolby Labs in London...
Thanks for this. I really do not want to replace my AVR but really like the thought of Atmos at home...

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