Auro-3D and Dolby Atmos: A sonic revolution for the home

posted on Monday, 23rd June 2014 by Steve May

Datasat  Auro-3D 


Dolby Atmos is coming to a home theatre near you soon. Long rumoured, Onkyo has become the first AV receiver brand to confirm that it will be releasing compatible AVRs. Other well known AVR suppliers will shortly announce that they too are joining the party. The Dolby Atmos announcement follows that made earlier this year by rival Auro-3D. The development could potentially re-energise the home theatre market, but perceived complications involved with a 13.2 speaker deployment may prove both a boon and a deterrent to widespread adoption.   

While AWE MD Stuart Tickle doesn't believe that the announcement of Dolby Atmos and the arrival of Auro 3D will impact on the the mainstream, he suggests it's implications for CI are huge.  "It's plain to see that in GFK terms, sound bars are in massive growth and bigger scale AV systems with discrete channels and speaker systems are in decline," he told Inside CI.  "For that mainstream market I don't think 3D sound is a game changer as the public already have quality options that they are not buying in favour of neatness and price so it's just another few numbers on the sticker and a more spatial experience.  However, for the Home Theatre market fulfilled by installers, it is very significant.  The audible results from 3D audio are substantial and you will benefit most from having a quality AV amp with dedicated speakers. It provides a step change opportunity to claw back some value."

Dolby Atmos _V10

Pulse Marketing has been an early advocate of 3D sound, offering the Datasat LS10 (pictured below) and RS20i processors. Barry Sheldrick, UK Sales Manager told Inside CI: "We see the 3D audio formats as a great thing for the industry and a real differentiator in terms of immersion and experience. We have already designed a number of Auro-3D systems, along with installing our own here at the office. Our focus so far with 3D audio has been on Auro-3D, they will be first to the market place with a 3D audio format and so have been the most forthcoming with speaker layouts and so on. With Dolby Atmos for home, this will only help 3D audio to gain more traction and acceptance from the market place."

He expects installers to be quick to adopt the new sound formats. "The nice thing with Auro-3D is the relative simplicity of the layout. We have been recommending our dealers to run 4 core cable to each of the existing speaker locations. This means that wherever you have a front left channel, you potentially have the cable to add a front left height channel too. If we expand this out we will have cables in position for the centre and right height channels, along with the surround left and right height channels. The final recommendation is to 4 core cabling above the listening position. This will give you the scope to run one or two 'top/voice of god' channels at a later date. By running with this configuration, it's a simple case of adding speakers and an amplifier to drive the additional height layer."

LS10 Rear View

One key aspect of the Datasat processors is enhanced bass managed for the entire soundfield, which gives considerable flexibility in terms of speaker sizes. "We can potentially use much more compact height channel speakers and run them on a higher cross over frequency than the main channels (100-150Hz instead of 80Hz for example), optimising their output," he explains.

"In line with Auro-3D's recommendations, we steer our dealers to position the height layer 30 degrees above the 'standard' 5.1 or 7.1 layer. We are also able to demonstrate this layout in our large cinema at our HQ as visitors can see the front sound stage layout behind the screen and the same with the surround layout too."

"I guess the key message is that with careful consideration to the design, 3D audio will be a must have for any dedicated cinema room," says Sheldrick. "The level of installation quality that the dealers we work with are capable of means that the additional speakers will be easily hidden from view and no more obvious than a 5.1 or 7.1 system would be." But to gain consumers traction, 3D audio can't just a case of filling their room with ugly speakers, he adds. 

 "The placements are incredibly important and a discrete installation is very easy to achieve so that you are surrounded by high quality, immersive sound; not speakers. In our opinion this is very custom installation dependant; without a decent installer working on the project to manage installation and placement of these speakers the results could be rather variable!"

Of course, overall interest will ultimately be determined by how much material is released on Blu-ray with Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D mixes. In the meantime, much depends on the quality of audio upscaling by the new systems. "With Auro-3D's "up mix" ability, we aren't reliant on content to deliver a great experience," suggests  Sheldrick. "Wilfred and his team have worked hard to ensure that the up mix feature will allow you to enjoy any existing content in Auro-3D. This will really enhance the high resolution DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD tracks we enjoy on Blu Ray. Up mix will also work on two channel audio and of course the original DTS and Dolby Digital sound tracks so back catalogue, and anything watching on Apple TV, Netflix etc, will get the immersive overhaul too. It should also expand our gaming horizon by breathing a new dimension into our PS4 and Xbox One games!"

For more on Datasat and Auro-3D, visit our partner page here. For more on AWE's product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here.

Also read:
Why height is the missing dimension in sound

StormAudio launches Auro-3D home cinema processor

Datasat signs UK distribution deal with Pulse Marketing

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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