Do I need to buy new speakers to use Dolby Atmos?

If you found this article via Google search, you already know what Dolby Atmos is. If you found it while visiting another page on our site then let's get you a brief explanation on what Atmos does. 

Dolby Atmos is designed to deliver depth of sound stage in the vertical space. Meaning it increases the height of the sound stage. Imagine the sound of rain falling from the ceiling, a helicopter hovering overhead or someone shouting from a rooftop. There is a whole bunch of tech stuff on their site which is mostly geared towards selling producers on the effect but needless to say when working well with great content, it can add a dramatic effect to your listening experience. 

What kind of speakers should I use for Dolby Atmos?

According to Dolby you can use any pair of in-ceiling speakers or special Atmos speakers that have drivers pointing UP at the ceiling. I prefer the in-ceiling configuration but some might argue the down firing sound might interfere with the soundwaves coming from your main left and right channels. Most people would not notices is my guess.

Bottom line, if you love your main speakers as they are get a good pair of in-ceiling or flat panel speakers for the height. If you're in the market for a new pair of speakers there are some really nice Atmos speakers available on the market today. Don't forget you need an Atmos enabled receiver as well. 

My favorite Atmos speaker is made by Pioneer believe it or not. No haters please. LOL (shown above)

Visit Dolby Labs Atmos page for more information. 

Do My Speakers Sound Good?

Do my speakers sound good is a question I get on a fairly regular basis from friends and acquaintances who know I once ran a speaker company. I typically respond, "What do you think?" in a typical psychotherapist manner. Usually I get a bewildered look. The friend is usually looking for support in the buying decision they made or validation that they have excellent listening skills. While there are some other friends of mine who might offer a long response to the question, I prefer to punt. Do your speakers sound good? How would i know! Heck I'm not even sure when we both look at something "blue" we're seeing the same color! my point is that sound and sound perception is subjective. Here are just a few reasons why. What are we doing? If you're chatting at a cocktail party does it really matter is there is a boombox or a two thousand dollar pair of speakers playing?

Here is a practical guide on what might sound good in different situations, at least for me personally.

  • Background music while studying, reading, cleaning around the house or cooking - spend less for these rooms/situations. Most bluetooth or small bookshelf will do.
  • Music for a party, outside or in may require a little more bass to keep people bouncing, so choose something larger that can deliver some volume and reasonable bass. This eliminates almost all bluetooth speakers within the reasonable cost range (except the Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Mini which for the money packs a punch!) But here you might want to go with nothing short of a six inch bass driver in a decent bookshelf, maybe even a subwoofer. 
  • Serious music listening. If you are lucky enough to have time where you can sit and just listen to music, really listen, then your a lucky person. This is where an investment in something YOU think sounds good. Don't worry about specs, wattage capacity (which is BS) or size. Listen too it and if you like it and it reproduces your favorite tunes the way you think they should sound, you're good.
So there you have it. The no-tech guide to buying speakers that sound good without hurting your head. BTW, I of course do have opinions on if the speakers sound good, to me that is. 

Bluetooth Stereo Amp for Real Speakers

The sales of bluetooth speakers that sound great is permeating the market. Yeah like a 4" by 2" speaker is going to give you anything but background music. If you want to enjoy music you should really invest a small amount of money and purchase a decent pair of bookshelf speakers and a bluetooth stereo amp. Even then the compromises are everywhere. First the files or streaming audio you're listening too are compromised, then bluetooth does a number on them and off to a dinky little speaker that you think sounds great.

The $260 setup that will blow away your $300 pill, Jambox or other tiny speaker
 First start with a  Grace Digital GDI-BTAR512 100-Watt Digital Integrated Stereo Amplifier  with a pair of Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Bookshelf Loudspeakers. Though not portable this combination will let you hear things in your favorite tunes you've likely never heard.

But What about My Beats Headphones, aren't they better?
Don't get me started on Beats headphones. Don't. That issue aside, listening to sound coming out of a nicely balanced pair of speakers sounds dramatically different than what you'll hear in a headphone.

Neither of the two components listed above are audiophile quality but guys, I'm not talking to you at the moment. But the Pioneer speakers I've had tested and I can tell you they are a small miracle for the price.So go ahead and splurge, Kick back, pop open a beer or a nice chardonnay and actually listen to some music.

Why Bluetooth Speakers Suck

...for serious listening. I had to add that caveat because not all bluetooth speakers suck, and it depends on why you're listening. If you're tooling around the house or cooking a Christmas turkey, then there are quite a few bluetooth speakers that will fit the bill of supplying decent music reproduction even for a closet audiophile. What bluetooth speakers do suck at is producing audio that can be tolerated for more than a few minutes if your intent it to simply listen to the music.

Why? There are very few, some would argue no, bluetooth speakers that can accurately produce sound worth sitting down to listen too if listening is your primary intent. The primary reason is bass response. With most small speakers having a maximum size of 2.5-3 inches there is NO way you'll get even a remotely decent bass response. This is simply a matter of physics. A speaker that small cannot move enough air to create satisfying bass. Some companies, looking at you Bose, trick your ears into thinking you're getting really decent (debatable) bass from their tiny speakers but in fact you're only hearing one low frequency note. Every low note is the same. Not literally because they will still push the higher end of that note to make you think you're hearing the entire pitch but you're brain is really doing all the heavy lifting to make you "think" you're hearing different low notes. Now there is nothing wrong with this, if you're cooking the aforementioned turkey.

Are there any good small speakers?
There are several decent sounding bluetooth speakers you can pick up for casual listening. But if you want to get the complete sound the artist intended you to hear there is no escaping getting at least a pair of 2 or 3-way bookshelf speakers or a pair of small tower speakers. If you don't have the space there are some reasonably priced in-ceiling speakers that could do in a pinch. So go get your turkey speaker, (ah, that didn't come out right) and pick up a pair of bookshelf speakers for when you really want to hear your favorite song.

 Click to see some good bluetooth speakers
Click to learn more about 2 and 3-way Speakers.

Subwoofers and In-ceiling speakers

Summer is often a time when folks decide to install architectural speakers in their homes. In-Ceiling Speakers & In-Wall Speakers can give you the same sanctification of quality sound as bookshelf speaker without taking up space. People often ask if they need to install a subwoofer with their installed speakers.

As with many things in the audio world the answer is a resounding, maybe. It all depends on a few things:

  • What type of music are you listening too?
  • Is this a home theater setup?
  • Is this background music or are you sitting and listening?
  • How much do you like heavy bass in your listening?
Straight forward questions you likely know the answer too off the top of your head.
  • If this is a home theater setup, yes, get a subwoofers
  • If you're only using the speakers for background music, you likely don't need the sub
  • Depending on the type of music you listen too it might not require deep bass to be satisfying
  • And of course if you really like lots of bass, you already know the answer 
  • Do you have room to put another box on the floor? (only you know this answer)
 Also don't worry so much about the 5.5 inch or 6 inch in-ceiling speakers being too small to deliver any reasonable bass. Properly installed speakers will deliver an amazing amount of bass for their size. This is due to the fact that they are installed in the structure of the home and can use it to help carry the bass in a similar way that bookshelf speakers do with their enclosure.

Proper installation is the key here however. Also consider closed back speakers for more accurate sound.

You can in most cases add the subwoofer later depending on the location of your amp. In either case if you purchase high quality speakers, you're sure to get years of enjoyment out of them.

Replacing a Subwoofer Amp

On most occasions when your subwoofer blows it is the speaker that needs to be replaced. Sometimes when your subwoofer blows it's not the speaker but the amp. But from time to time it will be the amp. On most home theater subwoofers the amp is a one-piece device that is screwed on to the back of the subwoofer. You can find replacement amps from lots of places including parts express.

Is it hard to replace a subwoofer amp?
Replacing the amp is not difficult and requires only a screwdriver and some common sense. Here is the common sense part.
  • Unplug the subwoofer from the power outlet.
  • Don't touch any part of the inside of the amp, the capacitors may still have a charge in them.
  • Don't try to Fix the amp unless you're a qualified repair person, which you're most likely not
  • Don't even attempt this unless you are at least moderately handy.
Ordering your replacement amp
  • When you order your replacement amp be sure that the size of the faceplate matches the one on your current unit
  • If possible make sure that it also matches the screw holes on the back of your unit. Remember subs do a lot of shaking and you don't want this thing falling out.
When installing your new amp Follow the Instructions. Really, read them before taking the unit out of the box. Go have lunch and then read them again. Then you're ready to try this.

Disclaimer: If you get hurt doing this in any way, you're on your own. I don't recommend messing with an amp replacement I'm just letting you know you can if you really really want to.

That said, here are some amps to consider.

Dayton Audio SA240-B 240W Subwoofer Amplifier with BoostDayton Audio SA240-B 240W Subwoofer Amplifier with Boost

Bash 300W Digital Subwoofer AmplifierBash 300W Digital Subwoofer Amplifier

Bash 500W Digital Subwoofer AmplifierBash 500W Digital Subwoofer Amplifier
100 Watt Subwoofer Amplifier Module100 Watt Subwoofer Amplifier Module

Want to purchase a new subwoofer instead? Click here

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