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Klipsch/Dolby Atmos Demo: Duck, Dodge, And Hide

Dolby Labs and Klipsch co-hosted an impressive demonstration of the power of Dolby Atmos object-based surround at Dolby’s offices in Manhattan.

Just one word: Duck!

The turret gun of a World War II bomber whirled around above me in an “Unbroken” clip while flak (not FLAC) exploded overhead. Water rushed around and over me in a clip from “Game of Thrones.” And in Dolby’s Atmos demo disc, rain fell on the roof above me.

And that was without in-ceiling speakers.

The demos featured a Klipsch 7.1.4 Atmos speaker system that included a pair of new $2,400/pair RP-280FA towers with built-in Atmos elevation drivers. Those left-right front speakers were supplemented by two new RP-140SA Atmos elevation modules sitting on top of Klipsch’s RP-260F floorstanding speakers used as surrounds. Klipsch RP-250S side surrounds and a new center channel filled out the speaker complement.

The A/B demo of Atmos vs. traditional 5.1 floored me.

Just as impressive was a briefing by Mark Casavant, Klipsch’s global product development senior VP, and Brett Crockett, Dolby’s VP of sound R&D.

By the numbers: Crockett pointed out that more than 40 Atmos-enabled Blu-ray Disc titles have become available globally in less than a year. More than 300 films have been released with Atmos soundtracks, and more than 1,200 cinema screens worldwide have installed or plan to install Atmos sound systems. More than 100 mixing facilities are equipped to mix films in Atmos.

Atmos is also coming to the gaming market, he noted. An Atmos-enabled version of “Star Wars Battlefront” will be available for PC playback for the holidays, extending Atmos to gaming.

Other facts at his fingertips: 31 home-audio products, from AVRs to speakers, incorporate Atmos technology and are currently available from 15 brands, with AVR prices starting at $479 and add-on Atmos elevation modules starting at $199/pair.

He also said the technology is ready for streaming sites to streams movies with Atmos metadata embedded in Dolby Digital Plus audio tracks.

Legacy advantages: Crockett also had some good news for people with legacy content and legacy speaker systems.

Atmos audio components upconvert any audio content that you own, including music on CDs, in what Crockett  called a “very tasteful way,” extracting ambience in the original soundtracks so as not to distort the content creator’s intentions.

He also said consumers assembling an Atmos sound system over time will hear clear benefits when playing Atmos soundtracks through an Atmos decoder even if they haven’t yet shelled out for in-ceiling speakers or for in-room speakers with elevation drivers.

For one thing, bass will be louder and deeper because Atmos mixing studios put more bass into surround speakers (given that Atmos-equipped cinemas have improved their own surround speakers). Dialog will also be clearer because mixing studios are better able to keep dialog-masking sounds out of the center-channel speaker. Greater resolution will yield greater separation of sounds and improved clarity. It’s like taking cotton out of your ears, he said.

Without elevation speakers, sounds won’t move above you, but whey will still “come into the room” and move closer and farther away from you. And panning of sounds from speaker to speaker will be far more fluid.

For consumers upgrading to a complete Atmos system over time, Atmos offers a smooth upgrade path.