Both stylish and functional, sound bars offer home theater enthusiasts a great way to enjoy action-packed movies and bass-thumping music with little to no setup. And with the ever-increasing amount of films and music being released in the Dolby Atmos® format, they provide a fully immersive audio experience, literally taking sound to new heights.
Ready to find out more? Read on …
First introduced in 2012, Dolby Atmos provides object-based surround sound. Unlike standard 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, where the sounds are “fixed” to each speaker in the array, object-based multichannel technology can produce up to 118 sound objects simultaneously, feeding up to 64 speakers! This allows for those mixing audio in the production process to place individual sounds with pinpoint accuracy … and without being limited to certain speakers in the system. What’s more, these sounds offer additional width, depth and height over conventional surround, and can be set to fixed locations or moved with the action, creating a more fluid listening experience with full sonic envelopment.
Up until recently, this technology was mostly used for film releases, but these days, it’s not just for movies. Dolby Atmos Music offers thousands of specially mixed music tracks in the Atmos format, created in studios around the world by top producers and audio engineers. These tracks can be streamed via services like Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal. Game publishers are offering an ever-increasing universe of titles in the Dolby Atmos format too.
These are exciting times for home theater enthusiasts who love surround sound! And with the wide array of Atmos-compatible sound bars now available, you no longer need a full Hi-Fi setup with ceiling speakers to enjoy a fully enveloping listening experience.
How does a sound bar handle Dolby Atmos technology? While models vary, depending on cost and options, a basic Atmos-compatible sound bar will generally utilize a single center unit outfitted with a combination of full-range front-firing speakers and built-in subwoofer speakers to fortify the low end. It may also include speakers designed to fire upwards, off the ceiling, adding an element of height. More advanced models may include a separate wireless subwoofer, helping to take the load of bass off the sound bar, or even a set of rear speakers for additional envelopment.
“Sound bars were born out of necessity, as users needed an easy and affordable way to get acceptable sound for their TV viewing,” says Phil Shea, Marketing Communications Manager of Consumer Audio at Yamaha Corporation of America. “The common thought, a few years ago, was that a great sound needed a receiver and 5.1 speaker package for starters. With the recent integrations of Dolby Atmos into sound bars, the performance gap between entry level component systems and sound bars has narrowed.”
Yamaha has long offered sound bars with Dolby Atmos capabilities, the latest of which include the entry-level SR-B30A and SR-B40A. In addition to being able to play back Dolby Atmos soundtracks and music, both models have built-in Bluetooth® so you can stream music directly to them without the need for any additional gear. The SR-B30A includes dual built-in subwoofers, while the SR-B40A adds a 100-watt wireless subwoofer that can be placed anywhere in the room to get maximum bottom end.
In addition, there are two new high-end Atmos-compatible sound bars: the True X Bar 40A and True X Bar 50A. The True X Bar 40A has dual built-in subwoofers, while the True X Bar 50A comes with both dual built-in subwoofers and a separate wireless sub. Both feature Alexa compatibility for voice control.
As shown in the cutaway illustration below, both models incorporate upward-firing drivers, designed to bounce sound off the ceiling. “That will get you a much bigger sound with much a more enveloping presentation, giving you a more realistic 3D sound from Dolby Atmos mixes,” says Shea.
In addition, you can pair True X Bar sound bars with wireless Yamaha True X Speaker 1A portable speakers, allowing you to place your surround speakers anywhere in your room. The 1A is a true dual-purpose speaker. With a push of a button, it can be switched into Solo mode, which converts it to a standalone Bluetooth speaker that you can take into your backyard in order to listen to a podcast or some music. When you’re ready to sit down and enjoy immersive audio again, just take the speaker back into the living room and switch it into Surround mode to instantly reintegrate it into your home Atmos setup.
“Everything is wireless in the whole system,” Shea explains. “You simply plug in the sound bar, then use an HDMI cable or optical cable to connect it to your TV. The True X Speaker 1As are wireless and have rechargeable batteries in them; when fully charged up, they provide to 12 hours of power. They can be placed wherever it’s convenient — on a coffee table or bookshelf, anywhere in the room.”
From action-packed movies to high energy gaming and all styles of music, immersive sound bars can cover it all. It’s like having a full performance audio system that just happens to be packaged into one easy-to-setup, fully flexible device.