What is Dolby Atmos?

By reviews / 1. May 2020

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.

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 your hoe 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.

To find out where Dolby Demo rooms are in your area head to BestBuy ca. There’s a lot more to read more on Dolby Atmos at the blog too, that’s blog.BestBuy.ca

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