Ask Me Anything: Immersive Audio - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Ask Me Anything: Immersive Audio

Welcome to a very special thread on AVS Forum, presented by Sony, which provides you the opportunity to ask any questions you like about immersive audio. In this relatively new approach to audio reproduction, sounds come from above as well as around the listener, a concept that is epitomized by Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro 3D. Today, from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Pacific time (2:00 to 3:30 PM Eastern time), tech expert Bob O'Donnell will monitor the thread during that hour and a half for your questions on this hot topic and post his answers on the spot.

To get this party started, we began a pre-event thread inviting AVS members to post questions ahead of time, and many of you responded with some great ones. Bob will begin by answering a few of those up front. Meanwhile, feel free to post your questions in the new thread—the one you're reading now—and Bob will respond to as many as he can.

Because of the functionality of AVS Forum, we decided the best way to conduct the AMA is within a standard thread. This allows people to quote and search for specific posts, but it also means you'll need to reload the page often to see Bob's responses as well any new questions that are posted. Also, because of time constraints, he probably won't be able to answer every question.

In addition to getting answers about immersive audio, those who submit a question will be automatically entered to win a Sony STR-DN1080 AV receiver with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well as many other advanced features. The winner will be selected by random drawing from among those who submit at least one question; submitting more than one question will not increase your chance of winning. The drawing and announcement of the winner will be made at the end of the live session around 12:30 PM Pacific/3:30 PM Eastern.

After the live session has ended, this thread will remain open for 48 hours, during which Bob will answer as many remaining relevant questions as he can. However, he won't respond to questions posted after the live session is over. After 48 hours, the thread will be closed.

If you're confused about immersive audio, you've come to the right place. What would you like to know about it? Post your question(s) here and follow the thread in real time for the answers.

For the official rules and regulations of the giveaway, click here.
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post #2 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 10:55 AM
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Hello everyone and thanks for joining today’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on immersive audio. For those who also joined our AMA on Hi-Res Audio last fall, welcome back.

I’m excited once again to host this Sony-sponsored AMA and look forward to what I’m sure will be a rollicking discussion on a very hot topic.

To get things going, I figured I’d start with a basic definition of immersive audio so that we have a shared point of reference. Essentially, immersive audio is any audio signal with more than two discrete channels that attempts to envelop the listener in a field of sound. The earliest immersive-audio standard for home listening came from Dolby Laboratories in 1987 in the form of Dolby Pro Logic, which offered a four-channel, analog, matrixed signal. (In this case, “matrixed” means a standard stereo file format that also incorporated, or “folded in” two extra channels. Upon playback those extra channels were decoded and “unfolded” in a manner that provided four discrete channels.) This first surround-sound format provided left, center and right signals in front of the listener and one surround channel behind the listener. Dolby rival Digital Theater Systems (DTS) unveiled its functionally similar DTS encoding and decoding system in 1991.

Since then, there have been several major improvements in each of the Dolby and DTS standards, including ProLogic IIx, IIz, Dolby Digital, DTS Neo and DTS HD. In each case, improvements to the technology enabled the use of more speakers and increased the overall quality and “immersiveness” of the sound. In all cases, however, the fundamental concepts behind immersive audio—placing sounds in specific channels of a predefined mix—remained the same.

Audio content from a movie or TV show or a multichannel audio recording were encoded in a specialized format. Essentially that means multiple channels of discrete audio that had been recorded and intentionally mixed to create a specific sonic soundstage, were combined into a single data stream and formatted to fit either onto a recorded disc or embedded into a digital file (the source). Then the data stream from that file was sent to a playback device (typically an audio/video receiver or the audio components inside another device). Inside that device, the signal was decoded back out to multiple individual audio channels before being sent to the connected speakers. The method of encoding and decoding was (and is) where the “magic” of immersive audio happened, and these encoding processes continue to be the way in which competitive immersive audio standards differ from one another.

The latest standards for immersive audio, including Dolby Atmos (which was first introduced for the home environment in 2014) and DTS:X (introduced in 2015) add an important twist to that basic concept: object-oriented audio. Whereas earlier immersive-audio standards had predetermined locations within the multichannel audio mix for certain sounds (a location, by the way, that was determined by the sound engineers who created the audio), the object-oriented audio techniques used in these new standards lets the sound be positioned dynamically by the decoding device (typically your AVR). So, for example, with a traditional immersive-audio system, if there is spaceship flying by in a movie, the location of the audio for the ship is predefined in such a way that at a given moment, there might be 60 dB of audio signal going to the left front speaker, and another 5 dB in the left surround. While this obviously would change as the movie played, the key point is these levels would be the same across different AVRs, different speakers and even different configurations of speakers. (It actually does get a bit more complicated than that, but I’ll get to the issue of what’s called upmixing in a second.)

In an object-oriented environment like Dolby Atmos, the receiver has knowledge of the speaker configuration you have (thanks to an initial setup process) and can, therefore, make different adjustments to different environments. Importantly, the objects (such as the aforementioned spaceship) in a scene also have additional data associated with them. So, in addition to the audio signal of the spaceship, there is also information, or “metadata” about how the object is moving through the scene. This metadata can be used by the decoding device to determine how the sound is output. In other words, you could end up getting slightly different levels than in the previous “predetermined” example if you use different AVRs and different types (and numbers) of speakers. Essentially, what’s going on is a lot of real-time computing and audio processing. In fact, it’s only because of the computing power now available that we can have these new object-oriented immersive audio standards.

Now, to get back to the “upmixing” comment I made earlier, there is a bit more to this. Everything I described is true for audio content that was specifically created for and encoded for a particular immersive audio format, such as Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital 5.1. However, not all the movies or music we own or listen to/view comes in that format. So, in order to take advantage of, say, a 7.1 speaker system to listen to two-channel music, or even a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround-encoded audio track, the decoding engines in AVRs or other audio components can essentially “create” new content based on the signals of the audio tracks that are there, and then play that material out over all the connected speakers. This process of “filling in” the otherwise unused channels is called upmixing.

As you can imagine, some audio purists are not big fans of this for stereo music because it certainly alters the listening experience, but many people like the immersive sound impact. On movies, the extra created channels are typically much more subtle and, thanks to clever algorithms that are used to generate the synthesized content, can increase the immersive feeling of the audio. Nevertheless, there are limits to how much “filling in” you can do, which is one of the key reasons why companies like Dolby and DTS moved toward the more flexible, object-oriented approach of technologies like Atmos and DTS:X.

In addition to the object-oriented nature of these new standards, the biggest and most obvious change that Dolby Atmos and DTS:X bring to immersive audio is the sense of height. While earlier encoding standards such as Dolby Pro Logic IIz tried to bring a vertical aspect to what has essentially been horizontal immersion of sound, the focus on sound that comes from above the listener is what has made so many people excited about these new immersive technologies. Basically, this height aspect helps create a much more enveloping and, therefore, more realistic immersive audio experience than has been available from previous immersive audio standards, such as 5.1 or 7.1 surround. Both Atmos and DTS:X have separate height channels that are meant to drive either ceiling-mounted or upward-facing reflection-based speakers that help create a hemispherical sound experience.

The new nomenclature for these height channels comes at the end of the traditional 5.1-type system descriptions. So, a system that has two overhead speakers along with a common 5.1 setup would be called 5.1.2. Because Atmos supports up to 24 individual front, center and surround speakers and 10 ceiling speakers (but only a single subwoofer channel), you could theoretically have configurations up to 24.1.10. (Note that some people choose to use more than one subwoofer, however, so that’s why you might see descriptions such as 9.2.4.)

By the way, if you’d like to read the latest version of Dolby’s official explanation of Atmos, here’s a link: https://www.dolby.com/us/en/technolo...me-theater.pdf

OK, so now that I’ve covered the basics of these new immersive audio standards, it’s time to dig into your questions.
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post #3 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 10:55 AM
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AVSForum member b0rnarian asked:
“I already have a 7.1 Home Theater system and want to upgrade to Atmos. Can I just buy Sony's newly announced 7.1 Atmos enabled soundbar to make it work in conjunction with my existing system or are these two different systems that aren't supposed to work with each other?”

You can use your existing speakers with an Atmos system, but unless your current AV receiver supports Atmos, you’ll have to replace it. The most critical piece of an Atmos (or DTS:X)-enabled system is the decoder, which is typically integrated into a receiver, but can also be incorporated into a soundbar. Without the decoder, you can’t make Atmos work.

A few newer soundbars, such as Sony’s HT-ST5000, support Atmos as well. In fact, the HT-ST5000 offers a 7.1.2 configuration. However, modern soundbars incorporate their own amplifiers, as well as the speakers, so they are designed to be used instead of a receiver/speaker combo and not along with one. In theory, it would be possible to create a soundbar that incorporated the Atmos decoder, just the two upward firing speakers, and speaker outputs for existing 7.1 speaker setups, but because it would also need to have the power amps to drive all of those speakers, it’s not a very practical possibility.
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post #4 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 10:55 AM
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What is the quickest path to get started with Immersive Audio?

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post #5 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 10:57 AM
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AVSForum member m. zillch asked:
“Are there any formal published studies that have evaluated actual listeners' perception of bounced vs. direct ceiling speakers, ideally carried out in a home setting (not commercial), using actual consumer-grade Dolby Atmos "ceiling bounced" speakers and AVRs that support them?”

The subject of direct ceiling mounted vs. bounced speakers is probably the most contentious one there is in the world of immersive audio. Many people feel that ceiling mounted is the only way to go, but others will argue that bounced is an equally valid option. I don’t know of any studies on the subject, but the simple truth is, even if there was one it wouldn’t matter to most people because these height-based immersive audio additions are extremely dependent on the size, shape, height and makeup of the listening environment. And, as we all know, everyone’s is different.

In an “ideal” rectangular room with flat, 8-12 foot ceilings that allow for speaker mounting and the right kind of absorption qualities both in the ceiling and on the floor, ceiling-based speakers will likely provide a more satisfying result. But according to Dolby’s own testing in numerous environments, in other rooms that don’t match these ideals, reflective, ceiling-bounced speakers can actually sound better. In rooms with angled ceilings, unfortunately, neither option is a great choice.

Of course, in many environments and for many reasons (aesthetics, cost, WAF, building materials, necessary permissions, etc.) ceiling-mounted speakers are simply not an option. That’s why you have a choice of both ceiling-mounted and reflected. This is definitely a case of your own mileage may vary….
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post #6 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 10:59 AM
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With the improvements in LG OLED for 2017, should I feel bad for having bought a 2016 model?

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post #7 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:01 AM
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Since my "theater" is my bedroom, is Atmos even viable in such an environment? Since my viewing position is lying prone on the bed, and I can't place speakers behind the bed, would a 5.1.2 arrangement with Atmos-enabled speakers be noticeable?

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Samsung JU7100 4K TV, Yamaha RX-V583, Nvidia Shield, a number of Roku players and TVs, Windows 10 media server with Serviio and Plex. Other players and TVs as well.
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post #8 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by streetfights View Post
What is the quickest path to get started with Immersive Audio?
Thanks for the question. Step one is getting an immersive audio (e.g., Dolby Atmos or DTS:X) capable receiver or soundbar, a modern Blu-ray player, and some capable content. The easiest way is to get an Atmos-capable soundbar.
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post #9 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:02 AM
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Speaker placement upgrade

I already have a 7.2 THX system, with speakers at listener ear level, as per specification. To achieve the immersive audio (3D) experience, will I need to move any of the existing speakers or will I just add new speakers above?

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post #10 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:03 AM
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Upgrade from standard TV sound

I have a new samsung UHD HDR 4k curved tv. Its in a location that did not have a reasonable AV receiver. Budget is an issue. I am trying to determine is a soundbar + Subwoofer would suit my needs, or a AV receiver. the room does have speakers in the ceiling already, but no real place to put front speakers at present. a soundbar would mount to the existing TV wall mount. but with a curved tv, my sound bar option might be limited. I like what I read about ATMOS, but those speakers seem out of my price range, and the curved samsung ATMOS sound bar is longer than my 49" tv

Pretty much a noob here. I've a review after review after review, but I'm no closer to figuring out how to get batter sound.
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post #11 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atc98092 View Post
Since my "theater" is my bedroom, is Atmos even viable in such an environment? Since my viewing position is lying prone on the bed, and I can't place speakers behind the bed, would a 5.1.2 arrangement with Atmos-enabled speakers be noticeable?
Well, it may not be an ideal environment, but you could put surrounds on the wall where the bed is and have the Atmos height speakers up front and that should be Ok. The other option--and perhaps better in your case--would be an Atmos-capable soundbar.
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post #12 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:04 AM
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Question 3 channel setup

Right now I have 2 klipsch front speakers, 1 klipsch center channel, and a subwoofer. I purchased 2 klipsch atmos speakers which will sit on my front speakers...Is this viable as I currently have no rear or surround?

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Room Sizes

What are some considerations we should take into account with respect to room size for taking advantage of immersive audio?
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Atmos on PC

Do you foresee dolby atmos becoming available to the masses via PC? In terms of hardware, either through sound cards that support more channels, or perhaps using two devices, i.e. motherboard onboard sound for overhead channels and discrete sound card for mains, etc.?
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post #15 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GurusInc View Post
I already have a 7.2 THX system, with speakers at listener ear level, as per specification. To achieve the immersive audio (3D) experience, will I need to move any of the existing speakers or will I just add new speakers above?
You have two choices. You could just add a pair (or more) of height speakers or you could move your surround backs to a new position (if that's feasible). Note that you will need an Atmos or DTS:X-capable receiver for either case.
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post #16 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:06 AM
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Do you anticipate continued further speaker expansion as immersive audio continues to evolve? As nice as it is to have 11 speakers, the more speakers the harder it is to appease home audio enthusiasts, as well as limited space to meet specifications.
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post #17 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:07 AM
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What is Sony's view on high, near-ceiling mounted speakers angled at the MLP as an alternative to ceiling mounted or upfiring speakers for a Dolby Atmos configuration?
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post #18 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:08 AM
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Is there a benefit to Atmos processing even if you don't have ceiling or Dolby enabled speakers? We have a nice 5.1 system in our living room, but I'm looking to upgrade our AV receiver for 4K/HDR handling. Just curious if Atmos will do anything for our setup. Thank you!
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post #19 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:08 AM
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I just updated my system to a Denon AVR S710W last year. What is a ballpark figure for how much it will cost me to upgrade to an Atmos receiver?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gynoid View Post
Right now I have 2 klipsch front speakers, 1 klipsch center channel, and a subwoofer. I purchased 2 klipsch atmos speakers which will sit on my front speakers...Is this viable as I currently have no rear or surround?

Jeff
You can certainly use this arrangement for now and then add surrounds later. It won't be as immersive as a 5.1.2, but it will certainly provide more than what you had beforehand. Just as a point of reference, several soundbars are using this 3.1.2 type arrangement and they work just fine for many people.
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post #21 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobOD View Post
Well, it may not be an ideal environment, but you could put surrounds on the wall where the bed is and have the Atmos height speakers up front and that should be Ok.
If you had a 5.1.2 system, does it matter if the heights go up front or in the back? Or do they need to be stereo? What about one center front and one center back?
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post #22 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:10 AM
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How do you plan to apply immersive audio techniques to the current wave of VR products that are available? I've noticed a surprising lack of products that Integrate audio immersion.
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post #23 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nirgal2002 View Post
What are some considerations we should take into account with respect to room size for taking advantage of immersive audio?
Unless you are building a custom room, there's not much you can probably do about it, but probably the most important aspect is ceiling height. Ideal range is 8-12 feet (which is pretty typical), but Sony soundbars, for example, can handle up to 17 feet. Also, you want a flat ceiling if at all possible.

Another issue is how far away the speakers are from the listening position. You don't want speakers that are too close to you if you have taller ceilings for example and vice versa.
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Have you heard anything from cable companies or the broadcast world in regard upgrading to HD/Immersive sound formats in the coming years to go along with their cable broadcasts? I can think of nothing more amazing than being able to watch TV in the latest fully immersive audio formats.
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post #25 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:14 AM
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Room shape adjustment

Do any or all of the immersive audio receivers use Audyssey or something like it, for adjusting speaker delay/volume for room size and shape, or will I have to go through entering the distance to each speaker manually, like the old days?

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post #26 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:14 AM
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Has there been any consideration of floor speakers? Something that points up to give a true 3D effect?

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Great opening! I currently use a Yamaha RX-V667 with Polk speakers, 7.1 setup. Are all manufacturers incorporating the newest decoders? Which ones are "ahead of the pack"? and is there a way to add the newest decoding technology with an older receiver, say, with an add on component?
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post #28 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:16 AM
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I have vaulted ceilings in my house.Would a Atmos system work in it?
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post #29 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:16 AM
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Challenges?

Hi! What challenges do you perceive in the beginning stages of consumer market, and do you foresee movie theaters adapting to the new technology quickly as more source material is presented?
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post #30 of 185 Old 03-07-2017, 11:16 AM
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I'm not clear if receivers that support both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X can do so with the same speaker setup, allowing consumers to watch content from either standard with one 7.1.2 speaker setup. I have installed Atmos ceiling speakers above the listening position. The Denon AVR-S910W seems to not support that speaker position for DTS:X. Should I expect a receiver to support both standards at the same time with this 7.1.2 configuration?
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