Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and felt completely immersed in the action? Like you could reach out and touch the spaceships flying overhead or feel the roar of the dinosaur stomping towards you? That sense of audiovisual immersion is the magic of Dolby Atmos technology.
Dolby Atmos home theater systems can transport you inside the movie with sound that flows all around you in three-dimensional space. But setting up an Atmos system can be complicated, with so many equipment options and configurations to choose from.
This guide will explain what to look for when shopping for a Dolby Atmos home theater. I’ll cover how to choose the right speaker setup, audio equipment, and design within your budget. You’ll also find reviews of the top 5 Dolby Atmos systems perfect for bringing that cinematic experience home.
Let’s dive in so you can start enjoying movie night like never before!
What to Look for in a Dolby Atmos Home Theater System
Dolby Atmos achieves that 3D, immersive sound through the addition of height channels – speakers that are placed overhead or that bounce sound off your ceiling. This creates an audio bubble all around your listening position.
But Atmos is more than just speakers above you. To get the full experience, you need the right set of surround sound speakers placed properly around the room. You also need an AV receiver that can power those speakers and process Dolby Atmos soundtracks.
Here are the key factors to consider:
Speaker Setup and Configuration
There are a few recommended Atmos speaker configurations depending on your room size and budget:
- 5.1.2 – This includes the traditional 5.1 surround speakers (left, center, right, side surrounds) plus 2 height channels. The height speakers can be either in-ceiling or up-firing modules on top of floor speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling.
- 7.1.2 -Builds on 5.1.2 by adding two rear surround speakers for a wider, more enveloping soundstage.
- 9.1.2 – Goes even further with front wide speakers between the front main speakers and side surrounds. This is best for larger home theater rooms.
In general, more speakers allow for more precision and immersion. But even a basic 5.1.2 setup can produce astounding Atmos effects!
For the height channels, in-ceiling speakers are ideal. The sound comes straight down over the listener. However, up-firing add-on modules work remarkably well in many rooms by bouncing audio off the ceiling and down to your ears. Up-firing speakers are easier to install and ideal if you rent.
AV Receiver with Dolby Atmos Processing
The AV receiver (also called an A/V amplifier) is the brains of your home theater system. It takes in content, amplifies the audio through each speaker, and processes surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos.
Look for a receiver with at least 5 or 7 channels to match your speaker setup. Higher-end models may offer 9 or 11 channels. More channels means you can add more speakers down the road.
The receiver should also have Dolby Atmos compatibility and decoding. Many newer models under $500 are Atmos-ready. Higher-end receivers add more amplification power for bigger rooms, better video processing, and room correction software.
A Dolby Atmos system is only as good as its speakers. Look for speakers with wide frequency response – at least 45 Hz to 20 kHz – for clear, detailed sound. The receiver and speakers should both boast low distortion ratings.
Dialogue enhancement features help boost vocal clarity, which is useful since many people place surrounds far from the TV.
Ideally, listen to speakers in person before buying. If that’s not possible, read reviews to compare sound quality.
Ease of Setup and Use
Look for an AV receiver with auto calibration using a setup microphone. This adjusts speaker levels and delays to optimize audio for your room. It makes configuration painless.
Streamlined interfaces, intuitive remote controls, handy streaming features, and smartphone control apps also simplify operation.
Brand Reputation and Support
Stick with established home theater brands that offer at least a 1-year warranty and responsive customer support. This ensures you’ll have help if any issues pop up.
Positive reviews from customers and home theater enthusiasts also give confidence in a system.
How much should you spend? Dolby Atmos systems run the gamut from under $500 for entry-level receivers and speaker packages to $5,000+ for premium gear.
In general, spending more boosts power, sound quality, and extra features. But you can achieve excellent Atmos surround sound even on a $700 budget if you buy smart.
Focus first on proper placement and good speakers/amplification to handle your room size. Consider adding more speakers and capabilities later.
With the basics covered, let’s look at some excellent Atmos home theater packages across various price points.
Top Dolby Atmos Home Theater Systems
Here are 5 of the best Dolby Atmos home theater systems from budget 5.1.2 setups to lavish 9.1.4 configurations:
Onkyo HT-S7800 Speaker and Receiver Package
The Onkyo HT-S7800 is a fantastic entry-level Dolby Atmos system. For under $500, you get a 7.1 capable receiver, 5 matched speakers, and 2 up-firing Dolby Atmos speaker modules.
The 75W per channel receiver includes auto speaker setup and handy streaming features. Dialogue enhancement helps vocals stand out. The speakers feature balanced mids and highs and solid bass response down to 50Hz.
Together, this system delivers an immersive Dolby Atmos height bubble and wide surround effects. The up-firing speakers add height channels without installing in-ceiling speakers.
While not as robust for large rooms, the Onkyo HT-S7800 package is a great value for smaller home theaters and apartment setups. It’s the easiest way to add Dolby Atmos on a budget.
Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar System
If you want an ultra-simplified Atmos system, the Klipsch Cinema 600 is an excellent choice. This slim soundbar packs 3 HDMI ports plus wireless surround speakers and up-firing Atmos modules.
Dialogue enhancement and a wide frequency range provide clear, full audio from a single bar. The wireless surrounds placed behind you add immersion while integrated up-firing speakers bounce overhead effects around the room.
The Cinema 600 is extremely easy to set up – just one cable to the TV. It’s the perfect Atmos solution for bedrooms or smaller spaces like apartments. You don’t need to run wires all around the room.
Denon AVR-X2700H Receiver with Polk Audio Speakers
This combination offers a significant step up in power and flexibility:
- Denon AVR-X2700H – $599 7.2 channel 95W per channel receiver with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding. It also has built-in HEOS streaming technology and microphone-guided calibration for easy setup.
- Polk Audio Speaker Package – For around $600, you can add a quality 5.1 Polk speaker system. Combine it with Polk OWM3 up-firing speaker modules for $99 each. This adds Dolby Atmos height channels.
Together, the Denon receiver and Polk speakers deliver medium-sized rooms robust surround sound and seamless object-based audio. You can start with the 5.1 speakers and add more later. The receiver’s auto-calibration perfectly tunes the system to your space.
SVS Prime 7.1 Theater System with SVS SB-1000 Subwoofer
Ready for truly earth-shaking Dolby Atmos sound? Step up to this high-performance SVS system:
- SVS Prime 7.1 Surround Speakers – $2,100 premium speakers crafted from dense MDF cabinets. The tower front, center, and surround speakers feature signature SVS sound with deep lows and crystal clear highs.
- SVS SB-1000 Subwoofer – A 500W sealed sub that plunges down to 19Hz with minimal distortion. Fills out explosions and action scenes with visceral bass.
- Onkyo TX-NR5100 – $699 Atmos-enabled 7.2 channel receiver with auto calibration to blend the speakers smoothly.
For around $3,000 total, this system delivers reference-level surround sound. The bass performance sets it apart, while SVS’s smooth frequency response shines with music and movies. Add two SVS Elevation speakers for up-firing Dolby Atmos, or install Prime in-ceiling speakers.
Monolith HT-15000 Ultra Home Theater Bundle
If you want a truly immersive Dolby Atmos system with the most speakers, monstrous power, and towers of thunderous bass, this Monolith bundle is unrivaled:
- Monolith HT-15000 Ultra Home Theater Bundle – $6,000 package with 15 speakers including front towers, center, 4 surrounds, 6 Dolby Atmos height channels, and TWO giant 1,500W subwoofers. This unleashes the full Dolby Atmos experience with sound surrounding you from all directions.
- Monoprice Monolith HTP-1 – The 16-channel AV receiver powering the system pumps 200W to each channel. It has every connectivity option and calibration software for seamless audio integration.
Only the most dedicated home theater fans require such an elaborate Dolby Atmos installation. But for dedicated at-home cinemas, this Monolith system is an unforgettable sensory experience. The bundle pricing provides huge savings compared to buying individually.
While the setup process takes time, the end result is complete audio immersion. Scenes play out all around you with pinpoint sound effects and chest-thumping bass response. Movies will never sound more real at home.
Key Takeaways for Choosing Dolby Atmos Home Theater
Here are some closing tips for choosing components and designing the best Dolby Atmos home theater system:
- Match speakers and amplification to room size – Bigger spaces require more power, sensitivity, and low-end response. Plan speaker and subwoofer placement carefully.
- Choose a receiver with ample channels – Look for 7.1, 9.1 or 11.1 capabilities to handle extra speakers down the road. Atmos-enabled is a must.
- Combine easy setup with sound quality – Auto calibration and room correction simplifies installation. But don’t compromise on speaker performance just for convenience.
- Consider furniture and seating layout – Recliners, chairs, and other furniture impact optimal speaker placement. Measure first or use acoustic treatment to improve audio performance.
- Install acoustic panels to reduce echo – Bare walls and floors make sound bounce around and reduce Dolby Atmos precision. Panels and rugs help absorb excess reverb.
- Start simple and expand over time – An entry-level 5.1.2 system still provides impressive Atmos compared to basic surround sound. You can add speakers later as budget allows.
Treat your home theater room like a carefully calibrated instrument designed to fully envelop your senses. With the right Dolby Atmos system, you’ll be so immersed in movies that reality will fade away.
After reading this guide, you have all the information needed to craft an incredible Dolby Atmos home theater. Time to start shopping and make that cinematic dream system a reality!
Frequently Asked Dolby Atmos Questions
What content formats does Dolby Atmos support?
Dolby Atmos is available on Blu-ray discs and 4K Blu-ray releases. Most major streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+ now offer a growing library of Atmos movie and TV show content. Atmos is also used in premium cinema theaters equipped with overhead speaker arrays.
What’s the difference between Dolby Atmos and DTS:X?
DTS:X is the object-based audio competitor to Dolby Atmos. It works similarly by adding height channels for 3D audio. Most AV receivers now support both formats. Atmos has wider adoption, but DTS:X content is catching up. They deliver comparable immersive surround sound.
Is Dolby Atmos worth the extra cost over a basic 5.1 system?
Absolutely – the addition of overhead sound projected into the room is a game-changer. Dolby Atmos introduces a whole new dimension to home theater, enhancing realism for movies, TV and gaming. The difference is immediately obvious compared to standard 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound.
Do I need to replace all my speakers to get Dolby Atmos?
Not necessarily. Many AV receivers allow you to add Atmos height channels to your existing speaker setup. For example, you can add up-firing Atmos speaker modules or in-ceiling speakers to a 5.1 system without changing your other gear.
Can I start with a 2.1 or 3.1 system and add Atmos speakers later?
Yes, absolutely! high-quality receiver like the Denon AVRX-2700H supports starting with two speakers and expanding up to a 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 Atmos system over time. Many packages are designed for easy add-on upgrades.
Is Dolby Atmos only helpful for movie watching or does it improve music too?
Atmos boosts immersion for both movies and music. Music mixed in Atmos can place instruments and vocals in precise locations around you. An Atmos music library is growing on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms like Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited.
How difficult is it to install in-ceiling vs up-firing Atmos speakers?
In-ceiling speakers require running speaker wires through the ceiling and shelling out for professional installation in many cases. Up-firing modules simply sit on top of floor speakers, no wiring needed. Both perform surprisingly well.
How important is room correction calibration for good Dolby Atmos performance?
Calibration via room correction software like Audyssey, Dirac, or AccuEQ is crucial. It sets proper speaker levels, distances, and delays so audio blends coherently. This optimization is a huge difference maker and absolutely worth using.
Does Dolby Atmos work with any AV receiver or do I need one designed for Atmos?
You need an Atmos-ready AV receiver with processing for Atmos soundtracks and height channels. Mainstream home theater receivers now include Atmos decoding, often under $500. Look for the Dolby Atmos or Dolby Surround logo.
Will Dolby Atmos work in an apartment or small room?
Definitely – Dolby Atmos can transform even small home theaters thanks to up-firing speakers. Soundbars like the Klipsch Cinema 600 also introduce Atmos in tight spaces. For larger rooms, stick with tower speakers and more amplification.
Enjoy Movie Magic with Dolby Atmos
I hope this guide to choosing the perfect Dolby Atmos home theater system gave you lots of useful advice. With the right audio gear carefully placed and calibrated, you’ll be blown away whenever you sit down for movie night.
Dolby Atmos technology finally brings true cinematic audio immersion into your home. If you have any other questions about designing your ideal system, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below!