Are You Really Getting Dolby Atmos Sound?

Figure out if your TV actually has Dolby Atmos

This guide will explain the process for how to check if Dolby Atmos is working properly in your home theater setup, how to get the object-based audio technology working on your TV, and which TVs, consoles, and streaming devices support Atmos audio.

How to Test for Dolby Atmos Sound

Testing for Dolby Atmos can be a bit difficult as supported media will automatically upmix to 7.1 or 5.1 surround when a Dolby Atmos setup isn’t detected. This can give the impression of Atmos working when it isn’t as it will still output a degree of surround sound through the various speakers.

Illustration of a Dolby Atmos speaker setup.

Here are the best ways to test if you’re getting Dolby Atmos.

  • Play a Dolby Atmos movie or video. Throw on a video or movie that you know supports Dolby Atmos and choose a scene that has a lot of objects flying around. If you can detect individual items moving around independently of the main channels, Atmos is working. Dolby has several YouTube videos that you can use for such test.
  • Check your TV display. Most TVs will display what audio output is being used when something is playing. Press the Audio, Info, or Menu button on your TV remote to bring this text up. Look for a reference to Atmos or Dolby Atmos.
  • Check your AV receiver. If you’re using an AV receiver, have a look at its display to see what audio is being detected.
  • Does your speaker have an app? Some soundbars and speaker systems can connect to an app to manage levels and settings. These apps can often display the type of audio they’re processing such as Dolby Atmos.

What Is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a form of surround sound technology that uses object-based audio to create the illusion of individual items moving around a 3D space. For example, an action scene with Dolby Atmos audio could project audio from the front, rear, and side speakers as usual while also focusing on sound associated with a missile as it moves from one location to the next.

The Dolby Atmos sound technology can automatically upmix audio data to work with existing 5.1 and 7.1 home theater setups, a single soundbar setup, and even headphones.

How Do I Get Dolby Atmos on My TV?

To get Dolby Atmos working at home, you’ll need some combination of the following:

  • A media source that supports Dolby Atmos. This can be a streaming app, a video game, or a physical 4K Blu-ray disk that supports Dolby Atmos.
  • A device that can process Dolby Atmos. If you’re watching Dolby Atmos content via an app, the device running the app will need to support Dolby Atmos. The same goes for a Blu-ray player and video game console.
  • A Dolby Atmos compatible sound system. This could mean a Dolby Atmos soundbar or full Dolby Atmos speaker setup that’s capable of processing the Atmos sound data.
  • A compatible AV receiver. Depending on your setup, you may not need an AV receiver but, if you are, it will need to support Dolby Atmos.

It’s important to emphasize that you don’t need all of the above to experience Dolby Atmos. If your smart TV supports Dolby Atmos and you’re streaming Dolby Atmos media directly from it via an app that supports Dolby Atmos and you’re not using any additional speakers, that’s completely fine.

However, once you start using multiple devices, you’ll need to make sure that each piece of hardware and software being used is Atmos compatible. For example, even if your speaker setup, AV receiver, and 4K Blu-ray disk all support Dolby Atmos, you still won’t get Atmos audio if the 4K Blu-ray player is limited to a basic 5.1 audio output.

Which TVs Have Dolby Atmos?

A growing number of manufacturers produce TVs that support Dolby Atmos audio. Some of the more well-known brands adding Dolby Atmos functionality include LG, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Visio.

Not all TV models support Dolby Atmos so it’s important to check before making a new purchase.

Given that Dolby Atmos is a popular feature, support for the technology is often mentioned prominently within a TV’s product description online and in stores. A list of Dolby Atmos TV models is available on the official Dolby website though this isn’t an exhaustive list.

What Xbox Consoles Support Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos sound is supported on both the third and fourth generations of Xbox video game consoles. This includes the following:

  • Xbox One
  • Xbox One S
  • Xbox One X
  • Xbox Series S
  • Xbox Series X

Does Sony’s PlayStation 5 Support Dolby Atmos?

PlayStation 5 consoles don’t support Dolby Atmos but they do use Sony’s own Tempest 3D AudioTech 3D audio technology. Tempest 3D AudioTech works in much the same way as Dolby Atmos by allowing individual audio elements to move around a three dimensional space.

Does the Nintendo Switch Support Dolby Atmos?

The Nintendo Switch only supports a basic 5.1 audio output and this is limited to when it’s docked and connected to your TV.

If you have a Dolby Atmos setup and want to play a Nintendo Switch game with these enhancements, you will need to check if the game's available on Xbox or PC and play that version instead.

Does Dolby Atmos Really Make a Difference?

Dolby Atmos can greatly enhance a viewing or listening experience but the level of improvement will depend greatly on the theater setup being used and the media being played.

For example, those with a multi-speaker setup playing a blockbuster action movie will likely notice a vastly improved experience that could even rival that of going to the cinema with greater clarity between sound elements and a truly three dimensional audio space. If you’re just watching something on a Dolby Atmos-enabled TV with no additional speakers though, the improvement will be less stark.

Does Dolby Atmos Make Music Sound Better?

Dolby Atmos enhances music quite a bit as it not only clarifies individual audio elements of a performance through its object-based technology but also creates the illusion of music being performed in a 3D space.

A woman recording a song in 3D audio with Dolby Atmos.

The quality of your listening experience will greatly depend on your audio setup though.

While traditional music playback can sound rather flat, even with multiple audio channels, Dolby Atmos music feels more like being in a room with a live performance.

Apple Music added support for Dolby Atmos in early-2021 and other music services will likely follow suit in the future. A growing number of podcasts are also experimenting with 3D sound and Atmos.

Do You Really Need Dolby Atmos?

Similar to how 4K visual content automatically rescales to match older TVs and monitors, all Dolby Atmos audio products downscale to work on 7.1, 5.1, stereo, and even mono sound setups when Dolby Atmos support isn’t detected. For example, a movie on Disney Plus may have Dolby Atmos sound but you can still watch it in stereo or 5.1 surround if that’s all your setup can handle. You’ll still hear all of the movie’s audio, just without the Atmos 3D immersion.

Dolby Atmos audio automatically converts to another compatible audio output format when a Dolby Atmos hardware or setup isn't detected.

No one technically needs Dolby Atmos sound but it is undeniably a cool extra tool for those who are after a more immersive viewing, listening, or gaming experience while at home.

How Are Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos Different?

Dolby Atmos is an advanced audio technology while Dolby Vision is an HDR format for image processing. Similar to how Atmos is used to focus on individual sounds, Vision focuses on individual frames or scenes to provide a more nuanced presentation.

Example of Dolby Vision image clarity with a photo of an ice cave.

Support for Dolby Vision doesn’t necessarily mean that Atmos is also supported and vice versa. However, the two technologies are often paired together. When they are, they’re still listed as separate features on a product’s promotional materials or in its manual.

  • How do I enable Dolby Atmos on a Samsung TV?

    Press Home on your remote control and go to Settings > Sound > Expert Settings. Select Digital Output Audio Format Dolby Digital+ or Auto to play Dolby Atmos content from streaming apps. If you hooked up a Dolby Atmos soundbar through an HDMI eARC port, select and turn on HDMI eARC Mode and Dolby Atmos Compatibility.

  • How do I turn on Dolby Atmos on my Fire TV?

    First, make sure you're using a Fire Stick or Fire TV device with Dolby Atmos support and a compatible sound system. Go to Settings > Audio > Surround Sound > Best Available. Play Dolby Atmos content and then choose Options > Audio > Audio output > Dolby Atmos.

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