How To Set Up a Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 Home Audio System
Dolby Atmos is an immersive sound format for 3D audio. Expanding on existing surround sound systems by adding height, Atmos is currently the most popular immersive sound format, with at least 6,000 cinemas using it and wide adoption in home theater systems.
One of the reasons Atmos is growing fast in the consumer market is that it can be built upon existing surround sound systems. If you already have a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup, for instance, you can add Atmos support by adding a few overhead speakers. You can even repurpose two speakers from a 7.1 speaker setup to make it into a 5.1.2 Atmos setup.
Dolby Atmos in the Home
For simplicity and to keep costs low, Dolby Atmos in home theaters doesn’t have the full functionality of Atmos you hear in commercial cinemas. Still, its maximum capabilities dwarf the needs of most home cinemas, as you can have up to 24 floor speakers, 10 overhead speakers, and a subwoofer in a single setup. This is overkill for most people and would require an expensive AV receiver that supports so many channels.
The smallest setup that works with Atmos is a 5.1.2 configuration. This denotes there are five speakers around the room, one subwoofer, and two overhead speakers.
The recommended surround sound speaker setup is a 7.1 system. This has seven speakers around the room and a subwoofer. To make this system Atmos compliant, you can add two ceiling speakers (known as 7.1.2), four ceiling speakers (7.1.4), or six ceiling speakers (7.1.6).
These are just common examples. Atmos isn’t tied down to these specific configurations and can take advantage of any additional speakers in your home theater setup.
Requirements for Dolby Atmos 7.1.4
A 7.1.4 setup is the sweet spot; the best Atmos configuration that doesn’t break the bank. There are certainly more impressive complete Atmos systems you can buy, but above 7.1.4 there are diminishing returns unless you have an absolutely huge room.
The 7.1.4 setup, as the numbers suggest, means you will have three front channels (main left, center, and right), two side surround speakers, two rear surround speakers, a subwoofer, and four Atmos speakers. For the Atmos speakers, you have the choice between in-ceiling speakers or upward-firing elevation speakers.
You’ll also need an AV receiver that supports Dolby Atmos and at least 11 channels. If your AV receiver doesn’t support this, it’s possible to use a separate surround sound processor.
Setting up your Amos speaker setup is mostly about getting the right angles. After installing the speakers at the right angles relative to your listening position, you can calibrate the speakers to work around any differences in distance.
- Main left and right speakers – Set at an angle relative to your listening position of 45-60 degrees.
- Center speaker – Should be as close as possible to the TV/projector screen. All three main speakers (left, right, and center) should be at ear level.
- Side surrounds – At ear level, in line with your seating position.
- Rear surrounds – At ear level, at a 45-60-degree angle to your listening position.
- Atmos speakers – In line with your front and rear speakers, at a 90-degree angle from your seating position when looked at from the side.
AV Receiver Setup
Most AV receivers that support Atmos will have labeled connections for front, center, surround, rear, and height. Others allow you to assign specific terminals to be the height speakers in their setup menus.
The majority of AV receivers will also include a setup step so they know exactly how many speakers you have and where they are located. This either comes from microphone detection or through the user interface.
Speaker Calibration and EQ
The distance for all speakers can be set manually, and many systems have an automatic calibration tool that can set up base settings for levels and delays.
Dolby notes that sometimes automatic calibration isn’t perfect, so it’s worth doing a manual calibration. Each speaker should produce the same sound pressure level (SPL) when tested from the central listening position. You can test this using pink noise driven from each of the speakers in turn.
The Perfect Immersive Sound
Dolby Atmos is a versatile system for 3D immersive sound in Blu-ray movies, streaming content, and games. Compared to competing immersive sound formats, Atmos is the most versatile, easiest to set up, and has the widest support in hardware, media, and streaming services. Consider updating your surround sound setup with Atmos speakers to get real 3D sound for the ultimate home theater experience.