Dolby evolution: The path to Dolby Atmos

Dolby’s steep path to surround sound heaven!

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Dolby - essential for every audiophile. Founded in London in 1965 and later relocated to the US, Dolby has been standing for extremely high sound quality for over half a century. Nowadays, Dolby is an integral part of film technology. Especially the high-quality multichannel sound systems play a major role and contribute significantly to the experience in cinemas and at home! Regardless of whether 5, 7 or 128 channels, every home cinema fan needs Dolby Digital. But what exactly are the differences between 5.1, 7.1 and Atmos? And are these differences significant?

Dolby Digital and Dolby 5.1

Dolby Digital was first used in Batman Returns in 1992. In 1995, it became a possible audio format for DVD. The most fundamental change compared to mono or stereo, which support a maximum of two channels - namely right and left - is that Dolby supports up to six channels. Those are divided in the following way:

  • Front left and right
  • Rear left and right
  • Centre

Furthermore, there is also a separate subwoofer channel for bass playback. So the five tweeters (5) and the subwoofer (.1) stand for the term 5.1. Thus, it is possible to perceive the sound not only “from the front”, but also from anywhere in the whole room. For example, car chases and atmospheric ambient noises like the chirping of birds can be heard in a lot more detail and more realistically.

Dolby 7.1

Through the advancements in storage media, it was also possible to improve the Dolby standard. The extended storage space of Blu-Rays made it possible to increase the main channels to up to eight discrete channels. Therefore, Dolby 7.1 was able to deliver an even more precise representation of atmospheric soundscapes. While Dolby 5.1 only differentiated between front and rear channels, Dolby 7.1 made it possible to place channels to the side of the listener's position. This made an unprecdented sound immersion possible. Additionally, it was possible to create a seamless surround effect and the overall sound level was increased. Apropos, the first movie released with Dolby 7.1 was Toy Story 3 from Disney and Pixar.

Dolby Atmos

Now, we have arrived at highly professional sound technology. Used for the first time in 2012 in the movie Brave from Pixar, Dolby Atmos theoretically allows an unlimited number of audio tracks. Theoretically, because the first generation hardware supports up to 128 audio tracks and 64 separate output signals. If one has such a number of different speakers, one can send a separate signal to each of these speakers. This, in turn, leads to an unprecedented attention to detail in order to, for example, localize moving objects. Dolby Atmos is backward compatible with 5.1 and 7.1 by playing the same sound from several speakers. The first installation of the Dolby Atmos technology was in the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California. In the course of the following years, more and more cinemas around the world installed Dolby Atmos. In September 2014, the first Blu-Ray with Dolby Atmos was released, Transformers: Age of Extinction, marking the arrival of Dolby Atmos in home cinemas.

At alugha, we offer you - in contrast to many other videoportals - excellent sound quality! You can convince yourself by watching the video in this post: our short film Berndout! Watch the journey of Bernd and the alien in Dolby 7.1! :-)

So: Off to the Dolby universe, you will hear the difference!


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