In 2015, we saw a slew of new speakers that could bring Dolby Atmos sound into the home. Even better, we saw a ton of Dolby Atmos-enabled Blu-rays that you could actually enjoy on those new equipment purchases.
If you aren’t familiar with Dolby Atmos, know that it’s an “object-based” sound format that can deliver a whole new dimension to your movie-watching. Most audio formats assign sound to channels in your system, but with Dolby Atmos, content creators can actually assign it to objects on-screen. That means spaceships will sound like they are flying overhead, from one end of the room to the other. You know, like actual spaceships. Of course, it works on birds, helicopters, explosions, and so much more. Dolby Atmos movies provide the most immersive viewing experience you can have at home, with sound coming from every angle—including above.
To experience Dolby Atmos movies, you will need an AV receiver that can decode the format, as well as additional speakers. Dolby recommends several different options to set up an Atmos system, including the installation in-ceiling speakers; however, there are also Atmos-enabled models that can process the format, without having to be placed on the ceiling. For instance, the Klipsch RP-140SA elevation channel speaker can sit atop any flat speaker (or surface) and project the audio to make it sound like it’s overhead, without having speakers that are actually over your head. There are also speakers like the Klipsch RP-280FA floorstanding speaker, which features a built-in elevation channel.
While your old Blu-ray player will work fine with Dolby Atmos, not every Blu-ray comes packing that type of format. There are so many good ones, though.
It should be noted that some Dolby Atmos-enabled receivers have the capability to improve ALL of your content, not just specifically encoded materials, thanks to “upmixing.” Upmixing allows you to hear height/elevation effects, creating a much more immersive, true-to-life experience versus traditional surround sound. This isn’t gimmicky technology. You will notice the benefits immediately. It will reinvigorate your existing movie collection, television programs, video games, and music collection.
Need a reason to upgrade? Take a peek at some of the best Dolby Atmos movies from 2015.
If you haven’t experienced Dolby Atmos movies at home, this should be the first disc that you purchase. After all, the blockbuster took home multiple Oscars, including ones for Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Music (Original Score). In other words, you should know that it’s going to be one that will blow you away, from an audio standpoint. That’s a good thing too, since Sandra Bullock and an immersive audio track are basically the main focus of the movie. Released in 2015, the Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition is gripping from beginning to end. That opening scene alone should be enough to hook you, but the aforementioned score, the explosions, and plenty of other atmospheric effects are pretty cool as well.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This isn’t just your average reboot. This one was helmed by George Miller, the same guy who directed Mel Gibson in the first three installments of the Mad Max saga. The faces may look a little different here, but this movie shows that the franchise hasn’t missed one maniacal beat. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fight across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to stay alive and protect some precious cargo. All the while, the Dolby Atmos track is assaulting you (in a good way!) with crazy cars, flying motorcycles, explosions, gunfire, and flailing guitar solos. It’s not just one of the best Dolby Atmos movies out there, but it’s one of the best films of 2015—and has an Oscar nomination to prove it!
Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated look at the life of Chris Kyle is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Some of that is due to Bradley Cooper, who perfectly plays the late U.S. Navy SEAL. Of course, it also has to do with the suspense and action in the film, which is backed up by an awesome, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos track. Rolling tanks, gunshots, and explosions come from every angle, but that climactic sandstorm scene is the one that will get your adrenaline (and your AV system) pumping.
From the people who gave us BBC Earth and Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, this BBC joint probably isn’t too well known to U.S. audiences—at least the ones without Dolby Atmos. That said, it features Idris Elba narrating an up-close peek at seven realms of Africa. The film also has some incredible AV, which includes eye-popping 3D effects. Of course, the Dolby Atmos track is the icing on the cake here, with spewing volcanoes, rumbling thunderstorms, crashing waterfalls, and immersive wildlife. It just may be closest you’ll ever get to the African jungle (and in some cases, the closest you’ll ever want to be).
Game of Thrones
Did you know that TV shows can benefit from Dolby Atmos as well? Well, not just any TV shows. To date, this is the only show that features a Dolby Atmos track—and it will completely spoil you. The action, the sights, the sounds, and the acting are all very elaborate on this show, so it makes sense that it would get the best-of-the-best when it comes to the sound. In 2015, HBO re-released the first two seasons as Steelbook Collector’s Sets, each with a new Dolby Atmos track. Whipping winds, bloody battles, blood-curdling screams, the occasional dragon swooping in, and even the show’s theme song all sound stellar, thanks to the addition of that extra dimension.
Believe it or not, a movie about the 1996 Mount Everest disaster is exactly the type of movie you want getting the Dolby Atmos treatment. It’s filled with famous faces, emotion, and action. Even better, it’s filled with tons of overhead sound effects. There are helicopters flying around, howling winds, thunder, and even falling snow that seems a bit too close for comfort. The big storm is definitely the highlight here. It’s sad, scary, and exactly the type of scene you want to have on hand for showing off just how awesome it is to have a Dolby Atmos system.
It’s nice to see Emily Blunt in such a kick-ass role, especially when backed by a cast that includes both Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. This critically acclaimed drama finds the three fighting in the war against drugs, but all is not what it seems to be. There are plenty of interesting twists and turns, but even better, a lot of great Dolby Atmos sound. It may not be as immersive as the last one on our list, but Sicario definitely has plenty of explosive moments and atmospheric sounds to immerse the listener. Heck, even some of the quieter, suspenseful scenes make this one a real standout for our list.
This may not be a great movie, but it’s a great example of how Dolby Atmos sound can elevate an entire movie. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a likable fireman, who wants to save his family from a natural disaster. It’s got helicopters, crashing glass, crunching metal, blaring sirens, and crumbling buildings aplenty. It also has the immersive rumble of earthquakes. Plus, about every two minutes, someone or something is falling, so don’t be surprised if you spend most of this movie’s 114-minute runtime ducking for cover.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
This fifth installment in the MI franchise has Tom Cruise out to protect the world and his band of merry IMF misfits. It’s a surprisingly, super-fun adrenaline rush with an excellent soundtrack. It’s not exactly a non-stop barrage like San Andreas—and that’s okay. Instead, this track uses those height effects wisely, packing a punch only when necessary. The heavily hyped scene that has Cruise hanging from the side of a plane is worth the purchase price all on its own, but there are plenty of other thunderous effects, including car crashes, gunfire, immersive opera music, and one killer scene with some immersive Halo 5 gaming action.
The Fifth Element
So technically, this isn’t a 2015 movie; it’s not even movie from this decade. However, it is one of the biggest sci-fi cult classics, and often the first movie that Blu-ray fans reach for when demo time comes around. In 2015, Sony released the “Cinema Series” version, which adds in Dolby Atmos sound—and it’s simply mind-blowing. The studio actually managed to take a demo-worthy movie and make it even better, thanks to spaceships, explosions, music, and more, all with the magic of Dolby Atmos.
Upcoming Dolby Atmos Movies
Looking for even more Dolby Atmos movies to enjoy? Dolby and major movie studios are announcing new Atmos-enabled Blu-ray titles all the time. We’re still frothing at the mouth for Game of Thrones Steelbook Collector’s Editions for seasons 3, 4, and 5. Those are expected at some point, but don’t have exact release dates just yet.
This year, several companies are planning to re-release movies in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format, complete with Dolby Atmos audio. A few interesting selections worth the AV upgrade include Sicario (March 1, 2016), Ender’s Game (March 1), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (date TBD). Otherwise, we can expect Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea to rock the room with Dolby Atmos sound on March 8, with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 franchise finale to follow on March 22.
Of course, while you wait for new discs, you can actually stream Dolby Atmos movies through VUDU. The streaming service currently has several 4K-enabled movies available for streaming with Dolby Atmos. That lineup includes several of the titles out on Blu-ray, as well as others like Man of Steel, Edge of Tomorrow, Pacific Rim, Entourage, and more.
Before you start collecting movies, you’re going to need to upgrade your equipment. A Dolby Atmos-enabled receiver is an absolute necessity. There are several models available, from different manufacturers at various price points.
Of course, you’ll also need the speakers. If you aren’t looking for reasons to get up on a ladder, Klipsch Reference Premiere Dolby Atmos-Enabled speakers can add this exciting technology into almost home theater setup.
As mentioned earlier, the Klipsch RP-140SA elevation speaker can add Dolby Atmos sound capabilities to your current passive speakers. The company’s Reference Premiere RP-280FA floorstanding speaker packs that module right into the RP-280F floorstanding speaker for a complete sound solution. And rounding out the setup is the Reference Premiere RP-450CA, which matches the special finishes of the RP-280FA speakers.
While Dolby does not yet certify architectural speakers as Atmos-enabled speakers, many in-ceiling speakers match their specs. Any of the Klipsch in-ceiling speakers will do the trick, including the CDT-5650-C II and CDT-5800-C II in-ceiling speakers, two particularly great speakers for Dolby Atmos because of their Controlled Dispersion Technology.
Consult Dolby.com for a list of compatible makes and models of equipment, as well as speaker configurations and installation tips. You won’t want to miss out on the next true revolution in home theater sound since surround sound.
What were you favorite Dolby Atmos movies of 2015? Post your opinion in the comments below!