Towering Performance By Atmos In Home Test
Even if you haven't been lucky enough to experience it yourself yet, you will be familiar with the ourselves of Dolby Atmos (and the rival Auro system from Barco) in a select number of top-end cinemas. What's less commonly understood is whether Atmos and / or Auro will find a place in the home.
US home cinema magazine Sound & Vision recently conducted a test of a home Atmos system featuring a Denon AVR-X5200 Atmos receiver and a set of Definitive Technology BP-8060ST floor-standing bipolar SuperTower loudspeakers with built-in powered subwoofers and additional Atmos modules moounted, very cleverly and unobtrusively, on the top. These "up-firing cabinets", which Sound & Vision reviewer Daniel Kumin describes as being "loaf-sized", bounce the overhead signals in the Atmos mix off the ceiling.
Atmos-encoded is only currently available on Blu-ray, followed, probably, by some that is streamed, so Daniel had a pre-release full copy of Transformers: Age of Extinction some Atmos trailers, two movie scenes, and a music video to play with.
For the first part of his demo Daniel used the Def Tech modules in conjunction with his own speakers. The first piece Daniel played was a CGI point-of-view fly-through of a forest (pictured), which:
"...opens with rustling leaves and birdsong; then wind noises whirl subtly but audibly overhead—not directly so as in “look up at the ceiling!”—but in a sort of flattened-hemisphere, impressively coherent bubble of surround. The whizzing maple seed did likewise, but in a much more tightly focused, localizable way. Individual birdsongs localized nicely at various three-quarter positions in three dimensions. But I was impressed not so much by any hard-hitting Atmos overhead-ness—though this certainly occurs—as by the enhancement of ambient textures: The forest-sound aural environment was an order of magnitude more convincing than any I’d previously heard from my system."
For another Dolby-supplied piece of content, the live photography 'Amaze' trailer that's set in a rainforst, Daniel tried it in both Atmos and standard surround settings. Atmos succeeded in "opening out the middle and raising the roof, but most importantly, lending detail and air, and a subtly brighter overall timbre, to ambient effects. The difference, I would predict, might seem subtle or even elusive to casual listeners, but I think experienced surround-freaks will find it revelatory."
I'll leave you to visit Daniel's original review to learn what he thought of the row Optimus Prime and his chums made.
In his summary, Daniel revealed that, for him, "the whole Atmos-enable height-module thing worked much better, frankly, than I expected. I never really found my ear being drawn to the modules themselves, which surprised me. And Atmos’ enhancement of naturalistic ambience and acoustic space—which, honestly, is what I value about surround-sound, above explosions and fly-bys—made me hungry for more.", and signing off, concluded, "Atmos, here? Yes, please."24/11/14