If you decide you want it, your biggest investment will be extra money for an Atmos compatible soundbar or a AV receiver with a full surround speaker. But even then you are only halfway there. You also need Atmos TV programs and movies to run it.
Sure you can invest in standard andmany of which have Atmos audio tracks, but streaming is the future of home theater. The good news is that the number of streaming services that deliver Atmos has risen over the past year, and now there are four: Netflix, Apple's iTunes, Walmart's Vudu and Amazon Prime Video.
The bad news? Not every streamer supports Atmos on every service. Let's break it down.
Wait, what is Atmos?
Dolby Atmos is a surround sound format that goes beyond the 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital to add "height" channels for enhanced realism. Atmos is a competitor of atmospheric formatwhich has much less disk-based content than Atmos, and no streaming support (yet).
Although some televisions have built-in Atmos, you need an AV receiver with atmosphere and extra speakers in addition to the standard center, right, left, sub and surround speakers for a standard home theater system. Some sound bars like($ 1300), ($ 1000), ($ 800) and ($ 500) will also do Atmos.
Do you need it? Like most advanced formats, the answer is an explicit "no". Standard Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound provide a fantastic experience, and even a good pair of stereo speakers or a basic sound field is enough for many. But atmospheric hardware becomes more affordable, and in some cases the extra-height effects and atmosphere can be really cool.
The Big Four
Dolby says that between Blu-ray and streaming, more than 500 movies have been created for Atmos in the home. Apple's iTunes has the largest streaming selection, with more than 250 Atmos movies. Vudu also has a very large selection of Atmos movies.
Netflix has more than 100 hours of Atmos content, including Mowgli Legend of the Jungle,and . Amazon is relatively new to the game – currently only has Atmos – but don't be surprised if its Atmos support is increasing too soon.
But there is a catch. Just because a streaming device or Smart TV has Atmos support doesn't mean you can actually watch Atmos on it. Here's a look at which of the great streaming devices that deliver Atmos today, on which apps.
Dolby Atmos streaming support
|Apple TV 4K||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Amazon Fire TV||No||No||No||Yes|
Apple TV 4K FTW
If you want to get Atmos from most possible services, Apple TV 4K ($ 179 at Walmart) is your best bet. It's the only device that includes iTunes, the biggest source of Atmos movies, and it's one of only two that supports Netflix in Atmos.
Coming in the second,with three of four Atmos streaming sources. Note that Sony PlayStation 4 does not support Atmos at all.
The biggest surprise – and frustration – for people who want to stream Atmos is that apart from the two devices, no stand-alone streams in the United States support Atmos from Netflix. I asked a Netflix representative why and was told: "We have some product and technical requirements for Dolby Atmos support, and we have continued to add more units over time since we started it a year and a half ago."
Please note that the above list does not include smart TVs. Buying a new 4K HDR TV to make Atmos a lot more expensive than just buying a new streamer (even a $ 180 Apple TV 4K), but it's worth noting that many newer Smart TV streaming apps have support for Atmos.
For example, 2017 and newer LG TVs, as well as 2018 and newer Sony TVs, Atmos from Netflix supports. If Atmos support will be included inis unclear. We asked Samsung but did not hear back in time.
Dolby says it works to expand Atmos support, so expect the list above and the number of titles available, to continue growing. We keep the list up to date when it happens.