What Is Dolby Atmos? Dolby Atmos Vs Dolby Digital

Dolby Atmos is a familiar word now. When buying TVs, speakers, subwoofers, soundbars, or any other audio digital item, Dolby or Dolby Atmos is mentioned somewhere in the specifications.

However, what does it really mean? Is Dolby Atmos different from just Dolby and Dolby Digital? Let’s find answers to these questions and a lot more.

What is Dolby Digital?

Dolby Digital is the very first version of multiple-channel audio technology. Any audio technology that came after it was its improved versions.

Dolby Digital is the first surround sound format that allowed listeners to experience a cinematic experience at home. It made use of stereo sound i.e., audio coming from more than one channel.

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a successor of Dolby Digital. Between these two, there is Dolby Digital Plus as well that makes use of up to 7 channels to produce surround sound, i.e., 7.1 surround sound system.

On the other hand, Dolby Atmos is an object-based audio technology meaning it supports 3D surround sound. A Dolby Atmos-supported device will be able to provide a more immersive and realistic sound effect.

This sound technology was initially released to be used in cinemas. A technology made for cinema halls means superior sound quality that is too expensive to be sold individually. However, it is now available in some of the finest sound quality devices like speakers, home theatres, smartphones, and other devices, making it affordable for many.

Dolby Audio Atmos
Dolby Audio Atmos


Surround Sound

The primary and topmost difference between Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos is the surround sound layout they can support.

Dolby Digital supports 5.1 surround sound, whereas Dolby Atmos can support 7.1. surround sound layout.

A 5.1. surround sound layout means using five main channels (speakers) and one low-frequency channel like a subwoofer. This layout is mainly used for creating a home theatre experience, where you will find the five speakers positioned all around the listener. The two will be placed behind the listener’s seat on either side. The rest can be placed near the audio device positioned as front left, center, and front right.

A subwoofer can be placed anywhere.

Dolby Atmos, on the other hand, supports 7.1. surround sound.

A 7.1 surround sound layout means using 7 main channels and one low-frequency channel like a subwoofer. These 7 main channels are all around the listeners’ seat as well.

Four of the main speakers will be kept behind the listener’s seat such that the sound is equally distributed. The rest three are placed in a similar way as in 5.1 surrounds sound i.e. front left, center, and front right.

The degree placement matters a lot.

Sound Experience

Dolby Digital is a 2D surround sound format.

Dolby Atmos is a 3D surround sound format, contributing more to immersive sound experience than the Dolby Digital.

The difference lies in the number of channels and their placement. With Dolby Atmos, one can Immersive sound experience due to the placement of speakers that are kept in a way to create a 3D space around the ear of the listener.

This puts users close to a realistic visual experience. A thunder and lightning scene would feel more real as you are placed in the middle of all the action. The virtual feel with Dolby Atmos is at its all-time high which makes users delve better into scenes.

With Dolby Atmos, users also make use of overhead speakers to turn their home theatre systems into immersive sound systems. You can add up to 4 overhead speakers with Dolby Atmos, making it a 7.1.4 system.

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Speaker Arrangement

In Dolby Digital, all the speakers placed around the listener are kept in a horizontal direction only.

On the other hand, in the case of Dolby Atmos, the speakers can be kept both ways, horizontal and vertical. Thus, they are better known for providing a 3D sound experience to users, a step closer to reality.

Speaker And Object-Based

Both of the audio technology can also be differentiated in terms of their audio base.

Dolby Digital is a channel-based or speaker-based technology. This means in the case of channel-based audio,  the sound is thrown to a particular speaker if a particular sound needs to be created. For instance, in case of creating an illusion of pouring rain, thunder sound, etc. To produce such background sound, the sound is sent to speakers placed at the back of the listener.

Dolby Atmos is object-based audio. This means when needed to create a special background sound, the sound is not thrown on a particular speaker but over a 3D space. The object-based audio system enables the sound to be pushed to the right speaker as per the needs.

This makes the object-based audio system more flexible and better when providing personalization audio. The customers can create the audio experience as per their own needs and preferences by making changes to specific audio objects.

This also makes it possible for many companies to make use of Speech enhancement features in their products with Dolby Atmos. It allows the listener to listen better to the dialogues and less to the background noise.


This was everything about Dolby Digital and its successor Dolby Atmos. When having to choose between the two, Dolby Atmos is considered superior and with better sound experience.

However, when creating an affordable home theatre experience, either of the two will work well. Depending on your budget and area, both the audio technology is preferable when backed up by quality source material and setup.

You can easily find audio devices like soundbars, AV receivers, TV, and others that support Dolby Digital or Dolby Atmos. Dolby audio formats are used widely by a wide range of businesses now, from OTT platforms to smartphones, they are highly prevalent now.

Both of them are dominating and also hails from the same company Dolby.

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