The next generation of Dolby is coming with new amps

Home theatre enthusiasts — and we know there’s a fair few of you out there — have probably been waiting with bated breath for Dolby’s super-surround concept known as “Atmos” to come home. Good news, people: it’s almost here.

If you haven’t heard of Dolby Atmos before, you’re in for a treat, though only if you can find a cinema and a movie supporting the technology. The concept takes a movie theatre and throws around 60 surround sound speaker into the cinema, with the movie capable of sending diverse soundtracks to each of these speakers, creating a more complete sound experience.

For those keeping track at home, that’s a difference of around 60 channels (essentially, up to 64 channels) compared with the five to seven channels heard in most cinemas.

In Australia, the theatres are few with support for the technology. Melbourne has one that we know of, with the Village Cinemas Crown featuring one cinema with Dolby Atmos, which currently runs blockbuster movies through its sound system. At the time of publishing, that included Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Transformers 4,” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Big movies with big sound. That sort of thing, and since there are lots of speakers spread out over the big room that is a cinema, it makes a lot of sense.

But most homes don’t have the space that a movie theatre would have, and so Dolby has had to come up with something else for a home environment.

“If you’re willing and able to install speakers in your ceiling, there will be great options,” said Brett Crockett, Dolby’s Director of Sound Research in a blog on Dolby’s website. “If that’s not possible for you—and for many people, it isn’t—our partners will offer new Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers that produce full, detailed overhead sound from speakers located where your conventional speakers are now.”

That’s part of a long post that Crockett put online in late June, talking about some of what Dolby is doing to bring the Atmos experience home, but this week, we have more information on that concept, with word that Onkyo will be providing Atmos-compatible receivers in Australia through its distributor Amber Technology,

The receiver will be one part of the package, with extra Atmos add-on speakers sitting on top of the front left and right speakers, providing extra channels to bounce their sound, which as far as we understand emulates the ceiling speakers by bouncing the audio on your roof.

Dolby’s concept will work for home theatres with existing 5, 7, and 9 channel setups, with the only change really being the amplifier and Atmos add-on speakers, though obviously those people with ceiling speakers will see more depth due to the availability of extra speakers.

Blu-ray discs will also be coded with Dolby Atmos in the near future, completing the setup, while the receiver will support HDMI 2.0, meaning those of you upgrading your TVs and projectors for Ultra High Definition display devices will see the benefits not just in audio with Atmos, but with video, too.

Unfortunately, Onkyo’s Dolby-enabled AV receivers won’t be here until later in the year, but some of Onkyo’s other currently available receivers will be upgradeable to support Atmos, with a firmware update coming in the next few months.

As to which models they are, if you have either the Onkyo TX-NR838, TX-NR737, or the TX-NR636, you’re in luck.

If not, well, it might be time to update later in the year if this is a must have feature, but with the add-on speakers (SKH-410) not arriving until September at the earliest from what we hear, you have some time.