"Underwhelmed" by Dolby Atmos

AVRAG

Active Member
So after living with Atmos (5.1.4) since last April, I still find myself feeling underwhelmed by the Atmos part.
Is it me or do some Atmos/DTSX sound tracks just not deliver? For example, The Greatest Showman, I was convinced my speakers weren't working. I unplugged my flat surround channels just leaving the Atmos and discovered they aren't used at all for the entire opening act, which gives no presence, which is something I expected. Also, after pumping them up to try and actually convince myself they're on, during Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom I only remember recognising them kick in twice! Specifically on the first scene when the helicopter is spinning out of control you just get a once over head and then they're done.
I get more from them when the AVR is using Dolby Surround and manually chooses them to add on to the listening experience, which is why I use this setting a lot.
I only ask as when researching and also listening to lots of feedback, the general consensus was Atmos really DOES make a difference. Due to this, I can't help maybe it's something I'm doing wrong...
Sorry for the rant, it's just something I've had at the back of my mind for a while and have never wanted to admit it or say it out loud.
I just wondered if anyone ever felt the same, and/or had suggestions how to make the most of them?
Many thanks

**EDIT**
After much discussion, a few points have been raised and somewhat agreed across the board, to potentially address the issue of feeling "underwhelmed".

1. All films audio soundtracks are very different from each other. Some may use the heights to great effect throughout the movie, and others may not. This has an impact on the general experience of "Atmos/DTSX". It is recommended to check out the Best Atmos Blu rays thread here in the forums.

2. It appears where an Atmos/DTSX track may be missing, some say the upscaled technology of "Dolby Surround" and "DTS Neural X", do make a huge impact and improvement on the movie and in some cases a better Atmos experience. So be sure to try out those features on most recent AVRs.
 
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markymiles

Distinguished Member
Are you using in ceiling or the bounce off the ceiling type.

Opinions vary, I've never really been that impressed either to be honest and I've heard plenty of set ups. Sure there's sound up there but does there really need to be? I think Atmos is quite subtle, well unless you deliberately pump up the volume of the height speakers :rolleyes:
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
I agree with Markymiles...it's not the 'night and day' thing that some hyped it to be back when it first was talked about on the forums. I still reckon that having a really good front three (matching) speakers and decent subs makes more difference to the system. Even on DTS:X/Atmos tracks there is still mostly sound coming from the front, so focus on those over anything else IMHO.

I went to various dealer open days and still remained underwhelmed myself...in hindsight I don't know why I got swept along with it myself when I re-did my room. :rolleyes: I started off wiring for it planning on using some spare speakers I already had, but happened to spot a deal on some ex-demo MK Sound MPS300 LCR speakers. Now I'm really happy with those, but I then moved my existing MP150 to Atmos channels and even bought a fourth one.

Perhaps I should have just sold the 3 MP150s I had and stuck with my original plan of really good 7.1. Sure I get the 'out of room' effects sometimes, but then I did with my previous 7.1 set up. What I do find I like is that I never seem to suffer with issues about poor dialogue or where effects overwhelm the dialogue, which I put down to having matching LCR and that the subs are well set up so everything is nicely balanced. Having something flying overhead, or just extra ambient effects doesn't really make the film anymore enjoyable to me (if the film is any good in the first place of course).

Also I also tend to turn off the up-mixing function when listening to music discs as I feel it impacts on the tone of the more important front speakers (especially Neural:X IMHO). I can hear this if I unplug the Atmos speakers and change from 5.1 to an up-mixed version and hear the centre channel tone change, sometimes becoming a bit 'nasal' sounding.

Maybe I'm a Luddite ;) but I'd prefer to have the best sound quality rather than add fake ambience to music concerts (which are usually in 5.1 anyway, which is ample for a bit of room reverb/crowd noise if I'm really honest).
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
Surprised at a couple of the comments on here. Atmos in my room is incredible, I am enveloped in a complete bubble of sound with absolutely no idea where my speakers are positioned. The sound just comes from the “correct” area, which in most cases sounds like it is actually from outside the room.

My speakers and MLP are positioned in the perfect placement for Dolby Atmos though, so not sure if this is why I am getting such good results.

As Kelvin says above, matching speakers also helps, mine are all matching on the base layer along with my subs, so sound switches effortlessly from front to side to back.
 

AVRAG

Active Member
Surprised at a couple of the comments on here. Atmos in my room is incredible, I am enveloped in a complete bubble of sound with absolutely no idea where my speakers are positioned. The sound just comes from the “correct” area, which in most cases sounds like it is actually from outside the room.

My speakers and MLP are positioned in the perfect placement for Dolby Atmos though, so not sure if this is why I am getting such good results.

As Kelvin says above, matching speakers also helps, mine are all matching on the base layer along with my subs, so sound switches effortlessly from front to side to back.
Thanks. (see my signature) - Im using Denon X4400. 5.1.4 setup. All Dali for speakers. Atmos are Altecos firing down.

I'm going to recalibrate the Audysee set up now the speakers have had quite some time to settle in and I'll see if results differ.

Upon further research I have discovered I need to also update my Atmos disks as ones I have aren't the best either...
 

AVRAG

Active Member
I agree with Markymiles...it's not the 'night and day' thing that some hyped it to be back when it first was talked about on the forums. I still reckon that having a really good front three (matching) speakers and decent subs makes more difference to the system. Even on DTS:X/Atmos tracks there is still mostly sound coming from the front, so focus on those over anything else IMHO.

I went to various dealer open days and still remained underwhelmed myself...in hindsight I don't know why I got swept along with it myself when I re-did my room. :rolleyes: I started off wiring for it planning on using some spare speakers I already had, but happened to spot a deal on some ex-demo MK Sound MPS300 LCR speakers. Now I'm really happy with those, but I then moved my existing MP150 to Atmos channels and even bought a fourth one.

Perhaps I should have just sold the 3 MP150s I had and stuck with my original plan of really good 7.1. Sure I get the 'out of room' effects sometimes, but then I did with my previous 7.1 set up. What I do find I like is that I never seem to suffer with issues about poor dialogue or where effects overwhelm the dialogue, which I put down to having matching LCR and that the subs are well set up so everything is nicely balanced. Having something flying overhead, or just extra ambient effects doesn't really make the film anymore enjoyable to me (if the film is any good in the first place of course).

Also I also tend to turn off the up-mixing function when listening to music discs as I feel it impacts on the tone of the more important front speakers (especially Neural:X IMHO). I can hear this if I unplug the Atmos speakers and change from 5.1 to an up-mixed version and hear the centre channel tone change, sometimes becoming a bit 'nasal' sounding.

Maybe I'm a Luddite ;) but I'd prefer to have the best sound quality rather than add fake ambience to music concerts (which are usually in 5.1 anyway, which is ample for a bit of room reverb/crowd noise if I'm really honest).
That's kind of how I wondered if I was alone or not. I went to Sound and Vision show last year and Sony's Atmos demo really didnt inspire me as much as I thought it would, but I still went ahead full steam for the Atmos set up too lol
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
I used to get the 'bubble' effect when I had 7.1 with two pairs of Tripole surrounds, especially when I upgraded my surrounds to the same 150 line as my (then) front three. I did have the surrounds high up though, which perhaps was why I was less wowed by hearing sounds above me even in the more 'showy' Atmos demo scenes.

My surrounds and Atmos speakers are all 150 series so they are all perfectly matched...I can even use the same crossover all round, so it's not like I haven't made a good effort to get a good Atmos set up. It's just that after 2 years I realise that I could probably have spent my money better elsewhere (even outside of AV, since I can never have enough guitars :D). I now know that I find having a good sound from the speakers doing the most work is more important to me.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I have a couple of Atmos discs and I've really wondered why have they bothered as nice as it for the company to include it on a mere 1080p blu ray. Black Klansman, recently released has very few sequences where the soundtrack enters the upper speakers for object based effects. Same can be said for American Sniper.

However, when the upmixers are involved, especially DTS Neural is employed, the results can be fantastic breathing exciting new life into old DTS HD titles. I often refer to the box set of Black Sails which has an already excellent DTS HD 5.1 track. I slowly watching the whole series again and a couple of days ago watched Series Three, Episode Two.

In it Captain Flint sails his ship into a storm to escape the Royal Navy. Neural has the waves breaking over the ship and Neural places it beautifully drenching the ceiling with water. All this with upfiring KEF R50s.

It seems to be, with a well mixed Atmos soundtrack, that the ambient sounds, subtle and small they may be, really do help with the immersive listening experience.
 

Luminated67

Well-known Member
My ceiling shape doesn’t really lend itself to Dolby Atmos but I honestly don’t feel any desire to have it due to my complete happiness with my 7.2 setup.

I honestly feel if you get a really well balanced traditional setup you don’t need anything else, and as for sounds of choppers etc sounding like they are flying overhead.... well frankly I already get that now.
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
If anyone is underwhelmed with Atmos, try the following discs:

Deepwater Horizon
Mad Max Fury Road
Blade runner and BR2049
Lone survivor
Everest
Equalizer 2
Hans Zimmer
Hacksaw Ridge
John wick 1&2
Kong
Mission impossible rogue nation and fallout
San Andreas
Wonder Woman
Star Trek
Ready player one
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
Also, just to clarify. Atmos speakers alone aren’t supposed to be obvious. The effect it subtle, but what they can give you is a complete 360 degree bubble of sound, more so than a typical 7.1 setup can. I appreciate good non Atmos setups can sound awesome (mine does even without Atmos), but the Atmos speakers just add to the effect.
 

Luminated67

Well-known Member
^I agree because I have heard an truly awesome setup but I have to agree with others that too many BluRays are labelled Atmos and have precious little effects.

You mentioned BR49, Kong and Player One, three discs I have and on each I get the whole overhead experience that will be present with Atmos. Maybe Atmos is even more believable but I do get the same effects without it.
 

Nayfne

Distinguished Member
Think I have mentioned this before, but the last 30 minutes of the new blair witch blu ray ( yes, I know how bad it is lol) in Dolby Atmos is a tour de force, it has everything, dynamics, heart pounding LFE, overhead effects and also that bubble of immersion. I think it really showcases the format brilliantly.

I realise no two discs are ever the same and there's some discs that merely have ambient effects etc, but still adds to a better sounding/viewing experience if done correctly, imo.
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
Think I have mentioned this before, but the last 30 minutes of the new blair witch blu ray ( yes, I know how bad it is lol) in Dolby Atmos is a tour de force
I think this sums it up for me: The films that make big use of Atmos/DTS:X maybe wouldn't be worth watching if it was just shown on a decent TV...it's more about the sound effects than the actual content.

Similar to the list in MB3195's post; there are very few in there that I'd want to watch all the way through. I mean some might be good for short demos, but that's not what I put my system together for. If I want to demo it, then I have an Atmos demo disc, but most of the time it isn't as obvious as that disc makes it seem, so IMHO Atmos is just a very small 'nice to have' and certainly not the essential 'must have' that it seems to have become.

I keep seeing mention of 'subtle' when discussing Atmos, yet when it was first being promoted there were comments about it being 'night and day' better. It can't be both...
 

Nayfne

Distinguished Member
I think this sums it up for me: The films that make big use of Atmos/DTS:X maybe wouldn't be worth watching if it was just shown on a decent TV...it's more about the sound effects than the actual content.

Similar to the list in MB3195's post; there are very few in there that I'd want to watch all the way through. I mean some might be good for short demos, but that's not what I put my system together for. If I want to demo it, then I have an Atmos demo disc, but most of the time it isn't as obvious as that disc makes it seem, so IMHO Atmos is just a very small 'nice to have' and certainly not the essential 'must have' that it seems to have become.

I keep seeing mention of 'subtle' when discussing Atmos, yet when it was first being promoted there were comments about it being 'night and day' better. It can't be both...
I suppose it all depends on the content and the context, crash bang and wollop Atmos, full on overhead engagement and bass sweeps galore, such as Transformers, this equals night and day for me.

Trying to think of the more subtle use of Atmos, from things that heighten and elevate ambience and natural sounds such as the breeze, echoes/reverb in a cave etc, these additions help the soundtrack seem more realistic IMO, even better in a light controlled room, it seems to heighten the senses.
 

SonOfSJ

Well-known Member
@gibbsy Congratulations on your promotion to Moderator.
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
I think this sums it up for me: The films that make big use of Atmos/DTS:X maybe wouldn't be worth watching if it was just shown on a decent TV...it's more about the sound effects than the actual content.

Similar to the list in MB3195's post; there are very few in there that I'd want to watch all the way through. I mean some might be good for short demos, but that's not what I put my system together for. If I want to demo it, then I have an Atmos demo disc, but most of the time it isn't as obvious as that disc makes it seem, so IMHO Atmos is just a very small 'nice to have' and certainly not the essential 'must have' that it seems to have become.

I keep seeing mention of 'subtle' when discussing Atmos, yet when it was first being promoted there were comments about it being 'night and day' better. It can't be both...
Out of curiosity, what films on the list I provided wouldn’t you want to watch? I could probably rule out San Andreas as a second watch, but the rest are a decent bunch of films, some of which are excellent? Maybe this is it? The improved dynamics make the film better? I know I wouldn’t enjoy them as much if watched on my tv in my living room, compared to my cinema room.

And yes, although the Atmos speakers are subtle, the overall effect is massive.

I certainly wouldn’t go back to a standard setup as I would feel I’m missing the elevated sounds too much.
 

30CenturyMan

Active Member
I agree that 3D sound is overrated and I also think it's unnecessary in a home environment. I speak as someone who had a full 5.2.4 Ken Kreisel system and swapped it out for a 5.2 setup.

Before going 'Atmos' I always mounted my rears high up and slightly behind the MLP (something I just carried over from the old Pro-Logic days!), so the rear height effects were not really giving me anything new compared to how I was already used to hearing surround sound anyway. The front heights added a little more 'wall of sound', but since dropping back to 5.2 I can't say I miss it particularly.

For anyone who's never tried 'standard' 5.1 with higher mounted rears I'd recommend you give it a go, I think you'd be surprised at how room filling and effective it is. Most rear effects tend to be something that's supposedly overhead anyway, so it all feels very natural for the sound to be coming from above.

Just my take.
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
Out of curiosity, what films on the list I provided wouldn’t you want to watch?
I don't want to offend, so let's just say that most of them aren't my cup of tea.

I get that people enjoy their Atmos set ups and like the effect it has. It's just that in hindsight I feel that I'm more focused on having a great LCR/sub sound for the content I watch and that I didn't really need to put nearly £5k worth of speakers in the 'ceiling' to get a result that (for the content I watch) doesn't add that proportion of improvement.

I'm not going to pull it all out now, but I do support those who also feel it's a bit underwhelming, because on these forums it's very easy to get sucked into the hype. Often small improvements are made out to be much more significant than they perhaps are, but we are at the point of splitting hairs really in a lot of cases.
 

stevelup

Well-known Member
Surprised at a couple of the comments on here. Atmos in my room is incredible, I am enveloped in a complete bubble of sound with absolutely no idea where my speakers are positioned. The sound just comes from the “correct” area, which in most cases sounds like it is actually from outside the room.
7.1 or even 5.1 'done right' can achieve exactly this though. So perhaps the people who are underwhelmed by Atmos already have high expectations.
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
7.1 or even 5.1 'done right' can achieve exactly this though. So perhaps the people who are underwhelmed by Atmos already have high expectations.
Again, not doubting this. My 7.2 setup (when using only this) is pretty damn good, BUT Atmos in my opinion is better.

The problem with this hobby is little improvements generally cost a lot and maybe aren’t significant. But if you want the absolute best, Atmos WILL sound better than a 7.2 setup if in the same room and using the same gear.

I also know that a lot of 7.2 setups will sound better than a lot of Atmos setups. That isn’t my argument.

Kelvins quotes are fair enough, if his film taste doesn’t match the Atmos films I’ve mentioned (you didn’t offend, but I really need to know what films you like as there were quite a big range of genres), then yes, he’s unlikely to hear much difference, as to get the best out of it, you probably do need films that use a lot of special effects, utilising the full range of speakers and have a big soundstage.

For anyone who isn’t sure about Atmos, I would more than happily invite people over for a demo and almost guarantee you would change your mind.
 

AVRAG

Active Member
So I downloaded some demos last night and played them - I have to say one of the Auro 3D demos is great. Although I don't have the "Voice of God" channel it clearly demonstrates how the heights work and this has made me a lot happier about my set-up, knowing that it is set-up indeed correctly and has proven, it's all about what content is being played and which movies make the most out of it.
From now on I will choose my disks a bit more carefully.
 

30CenturyMan

Active Member
So I downloaded some demos last night and played them - I have to say one of the Auro 3D demos is great. Although I don't have the "Voice of God" channel it clearly demonstrates how the heights work and this has made me a lot happier about my set-up, knowing that it is set-up indeed correctly and has proven, it's all about what content is being played and which movies make the most out of it.
From now on I will choose my disks a bit more carefully.
The Auro 3D demo disc is probably the best demonstration material for 3D audio of anything I heard when I had my setup actually. I particularly liked the tractor passing and the cathedral organ chapters. As for movies in general, don't think there's anything 'stand out', certainly not what I heard when I had my 3D sound system anyway.
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
The Auro 3D demo disc is probably the best demonstration material for 3D audio of anything I heard when I had my setup actually. I particularly liked the tractor passing and the cathedral organ chapters. As for movies in general, don't think there's anything 'stand out', certainly not what I heard when I had my 3D sound system anyway.
See my list above. Mad max is really obvious.
 

Luminated67

Well-known Member
^Maybe it’s just me but I buy a movie for the story rather than the sound, of course a great soundtrack makes it even better but I’ve never bought a movie for its sound.
 

mb3195

Well-known Member
^Maybe it’s just me but I buy a movie for the story rather than the sound, of course a great soundtrack makes it even better but I’ve never bought a movie for its sound.
Yeah, fair enough, but if you’re not bothered about the sound, why have a decent sound system in the first place.

A rubbish film with a decent soundtrack is still a rubbish film. But, a decent soundtrack with a decent system, takes a 6/10 film and makes it an 8/10 film.

I can think of a fair few films that I have enjoyed more on second viewing in my cinema room compared the first time I watched it at either the cinema or on a TV, the most obvious films being Oblivion, Godzilla and Prometheus.

I wouldn’t buy a film just for the soundtrack, but there are plenty of films out there that have very good Atmos mixes that are also decent films.....
 

rc789

Active Member
I bought pixels from CEX the other day and it wasnt for anything but the soundtrack. Stuck it in my UB900 and it said it wasnt a compatible disk. Stuck it back in and my player froze on 10 seconds. Couldnt do anything with it at all. There i was thinking great, a s**t film costing me 1 pound has just broken my several hundered pound player. Luckily enough it eventually powered off after about 5 mins and i pressed open. Much to my delight it's working fine now. It's the only Auro 3D movie I know of so hopefully i can be forgiven for that curiosity.....?:rolleyes:
I also purchased The Great Wall which was pretty awesome. Big drums, whistling arrows and a more than watchable story. Well worth a purchase.
 

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