Today Onkyo and Pioneer announced their support for Dolby’s new Atmos Multi-Channel audio format. Atmos equipped movie theaters add additional channels or speakers in the ceiling, the sides and front of the viewing area. The end result is a sound that is more 3D and enveloping than what you’d hear in a 7.1 channel setting. Through a special set of tools sound designers are able to move sound around a listening area in a way that is closer to what we perceive in real life. According to Onkyo, in commercial theaters it supports up 128 audio tracks and 64 speakers.



Onkyo has stated that their 11.2 channel TX-NR3030 ($2,399), 9.2 channel TX-NR1030 ($1,699) and the 11.2 channel PR-SC5530 ($2,499) will have atmos built-in. The TX-NR838, 737 and 636 can be made Atmos compatible with a simple firmware upgrade. Pioneer has also announced their support for the fledgling format stating that their Elite SC line-up of 2014 receivers can be made Atmos compatible with a firmware upgrade that will be made available towards the end of this year.


So how will Atmos affect your current home theater. First of all, if you don’t have an Atmos capable receiver then you’ll need to purchase one. Ideally, to enjoy the full 3D sound effects of Atmos you would place ceiling speakers in your listening area. However, in most home theaters this isn’t a possibility, but there are a couple of solutions. The first option would be to purchase a set of Atmos enabled front left and right speakers. Option two would be to purchase of set of what’s being called “Atmos Modules”. These modules set on top of your front left and right speakers and direct the sound upward towards the ceiling. The sound is then reflected down from the ceiling into the listening area simulating ceiling speakers.


Home theater enthusiasts are sure to  enjoy experimenting with the new format, however for the average home theater owner the benefits of the new format will be limited. Although Atmos does have much to offer, it’s one of those formats that will most likely find a following only with hardcore home theater aficionados.


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