Integrators are getting more clarification on exactly how to design and install Dolby Atmos speaker configurations for their customers.
Speaking at the Pacific Northwest Consumer Electronic Expo (PNWCEE) this week 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 product opportunities in a long while for integrators to grow their business revenue volume and bring in new customers, calling the technology immersive, compatible, scalable and adaptable.
“Dolby Atmos complements 4K,” he says. “It will allow you to sell more wire, cable and processors, while also selling more design and calibration services.”
To date, there are 67 Blu-ray titles in Atmos with the total due to reach 100 by the end of the year.
Among the key recommendations from Eggers are:
Mixing Legacy Equipment: 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 All In-Ceiling Atmos 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 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 Type: 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.
Use Wide Dispersion Speakers: 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.
Demo Material: If you do not have access to the Dolby Atmos demo disc, Eggers offers five great Blu-rays to demo for clients. (See Slideshow.)
As for the PNWCEE, the one-day event, which is put on jointly by local Northwest manufacturers’ reps and distributors, drew 750 registrants to meet with 155 different 12V audio and home electronics vendors and 40 educational seminars at the Doubletree at SeaTac Hotel. About half of the vendors and attendees were car/marine audio companies.
Another well-attended session was a deep dive into 4K by noted industry expert Michael Heiss. He was adamant with integrators that they should not disregard 4K as a gimmick like 3D.
“4K is not more pixels, it is better pixels and faster pixels,” he noted. Heiss says the increased number of pixels will bring better resolution (four times 1080p), while the “better” pixels mean Wide Color Gamut, improved color sampling, High Dynamic Range and deeper bit rate. Moreover, “faster” pixels mean a higher frame rate. Using the Lechner Distance Scale, Heiss says the ideal screen-to-couch viewing distance is 7 feet, 9 inches away. He notes that the TV screen needs to be at least 55- to 70-inches diagonal for the viewer to see a discernable difference between 4K and 1080p. That size TV is right in the wheelhouse of most integrators.