Speaking at the Pacific Northwest Consumer Electronic Expo (PNWCEE) in Seattle, Craig Eggers, director, content creation and playback, home theater, for Dolby Laboratories, pumped up a room full of dealers about how Dolby Atmos represents one of the first setups in a long while that offers some truly immersive, scalable and adaptable AV solutions that integrators can develop for their current clients while attracting some new ones to the fold.
Owing to that point, Eggers also gave integrators his own recommendations on how to design and install Dolby Atmos speaker setups for the utmost impact. Among those recommendations, Eggers said:
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Legacy Equipment with Your Dolby Atmos Setup
Do not be afraid to mix legacy equipment with Dolby Atmos, says Eggers. Using the newly renamed Dolby Surround Upmixer, integrators can make non-Atmos channel-based content sound pretty darn close to real object-based surround sound. The upmixer is included in every Dolby Atmos Hardware Bundle.
Avoid In-Ceiling Systems
Do not design and install all in-ceiling Dolby Atmos configurations. “The customer may be OK with it, but it is not the right experience. There needs to be speakers at listener-level,” he says. “I am not going to tell you that you cannot install an all in-ceiling Atmos system. In fact, we have done A/B testing comparing in-ceiling speakers to upfiring Dolby Atmos modules on freestanding speakers and people cannot tell the difference. Dolby Atmos allows you to bring immersion into a home where you will not be allowed to cut holes in the ceiling.”
For in-wall listener-level speakers, Eggers recommends they are at least 3 feet below the ceiling. The speakers should be placed outside the perimeter of the seating area and in line with the left and right mains. They should be facing downward for rooms with high ceilings. For rooms with lower ceilings, toe-in the speakers. Tweeters should be aimed at the primary listening position. The seated positions should be at minimum 3 to 5 feet from the speaker; this is especially important for the rear speaker placement.
5.1.4 is Better Than 7.1.2
Dealers should opt to design a 5.1.4 system configuration (five listener-level speakers, one subwoofer, and four overhead speakers) over a 7.1.2 design for the best object imaging and panning. “You need to have four Atmos speakers overhead to move the sound around. With just two Atmos speakers, you are just moving sound back and forth,” he adds.
Speaker Types Can Make or Break Your Dolby Atmos Setup
Full range or bass-managed speakers are best for the Atmos speakers. They should be timbre- and power-matched to the primary speakers. Speakers should always be calibrated using room EQ. Eggers suggests dealers run the Auto EQ to match with forward-firing speakers in case there are ceiling losses.
Eggers says wide dispersion patterns (+/- 45 degrees from 100Hz to 10KHz) are ideal, especially in a room with 8- to 14-foot tall ceilings. Officially, Dolby does not recommend any particular type of speaker for Atmos: bipolar, dipolar or tripolar.
Have Some Primo Demo Material Lined Up
If you do not have access to the Dolby Atmos demo disc, Eggers offers five great Blu-rays to demo for clients. (See Slideshow.)
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