Surround Receivers

Older Receiver – What Am I Missing From Dolby Atmos?

You are not an “early adopter” type of person. You’ve seen new technologies come and go. Some stick around and become necessary. Others never really catch on and fade away. You’d rather wait and ensure a tech will be supported for a long time before you invest. Dolby Atmos is one of those techs that you have had your eye on. Sure, everyone online seems to love it, but no one in the “real world” has ever heard of it! So, for now, you are sticking with your current gear. But that has you wondering: What are you missing from Dolby Atmos with your older AV receiver? Let’s discuss!

Dolby Atmos – A Refresher

We’ve talked about downmixing Atmos before. While you can read the article, the basics is that Atmos is actually metadata that is embedded inside an audio mix. This metadata tells your Atmos-capable receiver or device to take some of the sounds out of the mix and move them into the overhead speakers. If you are using an older AV receiver, that Atmos metadata is ignored and the sounds are left in the floor-level speakers. No sounds are lost. They are just not moved into the non-existent overhead speakers.

But What Are You Getting?

While you might not be missing any sounds by using an older receiver with a Dolby Atmos signal, that doesn’t tell you what you are getting. Well, it depends on the age of your AV receiver. Atmos is usually embedded in one of two signals: Dolby TrueHD or Dolby Digital Plus. Discs will have the Atmos metadata on the Dolby TrueHD mix and streaming will normally use Dolby Digital Plus. If your AV receiver can decode one or both of those, that’s the sound format you will be hearing. If not, it will default to another sound mix that it can decode.

Take Away

One thing that we really like about Dolby Atmos is that you won’t miss anything by using an older receiver. No, you won’t get the overhead effects. But it isn’t a totally new format that will be incompatible with your older receiver. All the sounds will still be there, they just won’t be played by the overhead speakers. And that’s good thing!

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