Dolby Atmos


Why did the new Playbase not integrate Dolby Atmos?

62 replies

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Hi Gwoodster,

Here's some details we've shared around Dolby and our decision around it.

Dolby Atmos is an attempt by Dolby to standardize cinema sound from production to theater exhibition to in-home distribution. More than just a codec, Atmos is an authoring language for cinema sound. In theory, Atmos allows a sound designer to specify the location of a specific sound in a 360 degree sphere and then render that sound ‘accurately’ whether a given room has 1 speaker or 64. You can think of Atmos like a ‘vector’ graphic format such as EPS which is a series of instructions for how to render an image vs classic Dolby Digital which is more like a GIF.

In the home context, Atmos is often described as a way to create a sphere of sound where certain sound effects appear to be located above the listeners. However, ‘ceiling sound’ is only one aspect of the Atmos format.

At Sonos, we are intrigued by the future applications of Atmos in the home context, however like most new codecs, Atmos is only as good as the content which is encoded and mastered for the format. Today, native Atmos content is very limited. Like DTS, most Atmos content is found on Blue-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray physicals discs. Only a limited amount of streaming content from VUDU uses Atmos. As Sonos is focused on modern listeners who predominantly steam, we have decided not to support Atmos at this time. We will continue to monitor the state of home entertainment to determine if Atmos is a feature that will improve the experience for the majority of our owners.
Userlevel 2
Hi Ryan,

all that you say is completely true. The problem with this argumentation is, that Sonos is trying to avoid telling their customers, that by not supporting DTS, DD+, Dolby Atmos they end up with simple stereo sound or no sound at all.

The marketing from Sonos around the Playbar and Playbase is:
- "Two-in-one. Full-theater sound for your TV. Streams music, too."
- "Add SUB and two PLAY:1 rears for wireless 5.1 surround sound."

This is what your customers understand (based on the comments here):
- Full-theater sound = surround sound provided by the sophisticated soundbar/soundbase
- Wireless 5.1 = full 5.1 sound using Play 1/3/5 as rears speakers and a sub

The problem is:
Your customers are not typically tech-nerds. I doubt that the majority can even tell the difference between DD and DTS or why DVDs and Blue-Rays can lead to a different experience when played.

Sonos unique selling points compared to the way bigger companies in the market are:
- Sonos is easy
- We take care of the complexity.
- We enable you to integrate all of the streaming content in our system.
- We give you the best home theater experience without caring about a complex setup.
- We give you the best experience regardless of the technical complexit.

That is why we ask you to spend your money on our products.

There is the possibility to do all this. Transcode the different formats into something your playbar understands and you provide 5.1 sound, but you are not doing this. You just fall back to simple stereo sound. No other company who sells soundbars is doing that.

The answer to the question from Gwoodster should be:
No, we do not support Dolby Atmos, but if you use the 5.1 setup you will get true 5.1 surround sound and not some virtual 5.1 based on a stereo signal.
Userlevel 7
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I_want_coffee wrote:

The answer to the question from Gwoodster should be:
No, we do not support Dolby Atmos, but if you use the 5.1 setup you will get true 5.1 surround sound and not some virtual 5.1 based on a stereo signal.



I agree fully here.

DTS and PCM 5.1 should easily be supported, whether they're used in streaming or not. These are formats that have been around for YEARS and are part of the surround sound landscape. Just about EVERY device capable of playing a movie - streaming or physical media - can output PCM 5.1... and while yes, DTS may only be used on physical media, about half of the movies in circulation use some form of DTS encoding. You're requiring your customers to jump through complex hoops to get the audio converted to Dolby Digital 5.1 so that they can enjoy their media the way it's intended to be experienced.

EVERY other sound bar by a major manufacturer that is on the market today - stereo or surround - supports DTS. Period, plain and simple. Your soundbar and sound stand are both a lot more expensive than any other soundbar or sound stand on the market, yet you lack this BASIC functionality. As a consumer, it shows me that you're not serious about the home theater market.

And one last point... no TRUE movie enthusiast relies SOLELY on streaming. Downloaded and streaming movies are compressed 4-5x more than the video on a Blu-Ray, and it can easily be seen in the output (many just choose not to notice). By choosing to focus solely on audio formats that are available through streaming movies, you're completely ignoring a market segment that would be more than happy to spend large amounts of money on gear so that they can get full enjoyment out of their media.

Not only that, but 4K streaming is highly inconsistent between different services and devices. I have a 4K Samsung TV, but the Vudu app available on it only supports HD. And Fandango Now, the only other service available on my TV that supports UltraViolet, wants to show some of the movies I own in 4K as SD. No thanks. Yet I own 8 movies on 4K Blu-Ray that I can watch in 4K and (thanks to a 4K Blu-Ray player that converts the audio to Dolby Digital) listen to with 5.1 surround sound. The only way I could get 4K streaming through Vudu is to purchase a piece of third-party hardware (Roku Premiere+ to get HDR), which I don't intend to do.
All,

Great points. VUDU now streams Dolby Atmos. I heard Atmos streamed thru Roku on a Yamaha soundbar. It was pretty impressive. Sadly, I have so much invested with Sonos, I hate to dumped it all to switch. It seems like Sonos missed with this product.
Userlevel 2
To me, this is a massive miss by Sonos and has me scrambling for alternatives.

For a product that was as forward thinking as Sonos was - it has been extremely technophobic since its inception. It seems to be hailing backward compatibility over forward progress - as if the two cannot coexist.

Yes, there is some truth to the "streaming crowd doesn't require all these bells and whistles" but there is a difference between music streaming and video streaming. Additionally, 4k streaming with Dolby Atmos is a thing - and Sonos is ignoring this fact to its detriment.

I used to want hi-res music on the system - but I've lived without it. I knew the benefits, if any, were marginal. The simplicity of Sonos does not warrant finding a different solution for just hi-res audio.

But, lack of support for leading cinema solutions is the height of absurdity and truly limits its appeal to the most entry level of home theater enthusiasts and is creating a hole in the market that other solutions can (and are) willing to exploit.

I love Sonos, but I am not above replacing the solution should another technology offer competitive advantages. As it stands, the best I've found are network playbars offering DTS ... but if I could find one that offers DTS-HD, Dolby Atmos, etc ... I'd switch all my Sonos gear the following day.
Userlevel 7
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I don't think playbar is the place to have Dolby Atmos. I would still like to see a SUPERConnect. That allows full multiroom distribution of channels to any combination of Sonos speakers. And introduce a Play-A Atmos speaker.

I still like the idea of a SUPERConnect box that is almost like an old receiver in bringing in all your sources then having the ability to distribute those sources across your Sonos network.
MauiMisfit,
The new Playbase should have integrated Atmos, not reinvent the Bose soundwave. I had hoped the announcement would for Amazon Echo integration. Denon & Marantz, Yamaha, and Defintive will beat Sonos to Amazon integration. Once that happens their edge is gone. Yamaha does have an Atmos soundbar which sounds very good. It's baffling.
Userlevel 2
Gwoodster wrote:

MauiMisfit,
The new Playbase should have integrated Atmos, not reinvent the Bose soundwave. I had hoped the announcement would for Amazon Echo integration. Denon & Marantz, Yamaha, and Defintive will beat Sonos to Amazon integration. Once that happens their edge is gone. Yamaha does have an Atmos soundbar which sounds very good. It's baffling.



It's sad, but true.

Sonos is a phenomenal product. Simple to use and elegant to look at - but it is being held back and it's unfortunate.

It's not so much that Atmos is required for good sound ... but be able to process it. I mean, the darn thing doesn't do DD+ which is a Netflix standard or Atmos which is offered by Vudu.

To say out of one side of your mouth: "We support the future of streaming" and then not ... stupid.
Netflix is now supporting Dolby Atmos through the Xbox One. Is this enough to change course at Sonos?
We won't know, until they actually release the update that might include it. They usually don't comment on what they have in the pipeline, with a few major exceptions (Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Alexa). But I'd doubt it, since they seem to be very 5.1 centric and Atmos is definitely more (9.1.2), which would probably mean a pretty substantial rewrite of the code base, not to mention a differing connector on the Playbar/Playbase, since Atmos bandwidth won't fit on an optical connection (that I'm aware of, a quick google search was not terribly helpful).
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Ryan S...can you share if this is, at least, being actively addressed?

Officially, Netflix is rolling out Atmos support, now via Xbox One, Xbox One S and 2017 LG OLEDs.

Per the Netflix Press Release, "Over time, we plan to add support to more devices, making the experience more accessible to Netflix members everywhere."

This is the future of streaming. Please offer some feedback.
Gwoodster wrote:

Why did the new Playbase not integrate Dolby Atmos?


Note that Sky has now activated atoms on skyQ boxes. This is now a mainstream technology. Sonos needs to catch up with this or else my planned purchase of a play base is going elsewhere. With multiple home treaters systems on Sonos, this is frustrating.
Sky is also now supporting Dolby Atmos - and releasing its own sound bar later this year. Seems as if I’ll have to consider a Sonos alternative for video/TV. Seems a shame but there is no indication that Sonos is interested in supporting it.
Graeme_14 wrote:

Sky is also now supporting Dolby Atmos - and releasing its own sound bar later this year. [...]


Methinks the soundbox won't turn out to be a wireless one. Dolby Atmos & Wireless = Wishful thinking.
Smilja wrote:

Graeme_14 wrote:

Sky is also now supporting Dolby Atmos - and releasing its own sound bar later this year. [...]


Methinks the soundbox won't turn out to be a wireless one. Dolby Atmos & Wireless = Wishful thinking.



Seems like Atmos is omitted...

https://arstechnica.co.uk/gadgets/2017/07/sky-soundbox/
Belly M wrote:

Seems like Atmos is omitted...

https://arstechnica.co.uk/gadgets/2017/07/sky-soundbox/


Oops... :8
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Okay, here is the deal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOSLINK
Max bitrate is 3mb/s. Thus, forget about Dolby TrueHD(which is a codec with average bitrate of 6mb/s). Dolby Atmos is not a codec, but an immersive audio format, which can be delivered with Dolby TrueHD codec and DD+(http://developer.dolby.com/News/Dolby_Audio_Over_HDMI_Part_1__Codecs.aspx).

Eventhough, the TOSLINK can handle the DD+, but it is limited to 3mb/s, thus, theoretically, Sonos can do DD+ and Atmos, but the end user will need to look for a content with bitrate lower than 3mb/s, which is not an option as in real world you do not want to go with "half supported feature)

However, there is an option. Sonos need to create a pre-processor that will connect to one of the soundbar ethernet ports and have hdmi input. Preprocessor should take TrueHD from hdmi input, convert to data, send it over ethernet to soundbar, convert it back in soundbar and play:) As far as i understood from the entire Sonos ecosystem, the only limitation is a bandwidth of the TOS and you can potentially resolve it with hdmi to ethernet convertor and new soundbar software
Atmos supports 7.1.4 speakers. That's 7 regular speakers, 1 subwoofer, and 4 in ceiling or upward firing speakers, according to Dolby's website. How much bandwidth across wifi would all of that take? i.e. I'm not convinced it's only an issue with optical cabling, although I do think it's also part of that. But with so many additional speakers, I wonder how much space their is in the bandwidth. Right now, Sonos deals with basically 3 speakers in their 5.1 system in terms of wifi, the two surrounds, and the SUB. The Center, Right, and Left are all inside the same box, and consequently not streamed on the 5Ghz that is used.

I'd love to have an engineer weigh in on how much bandwidth there is available, and how much a fully saturated 7.1.4 sound system would take.

I think at the end of the day, Sonos will have to go away from the optical connection, and provide perhaps HDMI connectors. The problem is from a marketing standpoint, where it makes the system that much more complex for the "average" user, while making the advanced users more happy. And then there will be the inevitable complainers that they don't offer more than X inputs...but I digress :)
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Airgetlam wrote:


I'd love to have an engineer weigh in on how much bandwidth there is available, and how much a fully saturated 7.1.4 sound system would take.



Well, it is not a problem for Sonos as we know it supports up to X speakers for multi room setup and 7.1.4 is basically the same. If the format is processed by soundbar than it is correctly distributed across speakers. The b/g wifi can go up to 54mb/s and it is more than enough for any format
I guess you're contending that the 32 device limit on the Sonos stream would cover all of the needs for Atmos, which I suppose is indeed possible. Hadn't thought of it in that fashion, but then with two TVs, and needing 12 speakers for each, I'd be pretty close to the limit of devices, which would cut down on my music only speakers. Interesting problem.
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Anyway, you always can choose, either you go with 1 soundbar and 32 devices or you can have 2 soundbars, 2 wifi routers and have 64:) I would say the majority of people who want Dolby Atmos will accept this kind of limitation
Userlevel 2
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Gabilin wrote:

Dolby Atmos is not a codec, but an immersive audio format, which can be delivered with Dolby TrueHD codec and DD+(http://developer.dolby.com/News/Dolby_Audio_Over_HDMI_Part_1__Codecs.aspx).



Amazing link, thankyou!
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Shame as looks like Atmos being broadcast for all UHD sports/movies on the Sky Q box...

Is this thread saying that the Sonos HW will never be capable of supporting Atmos or just that it could, but Sonos have made the concious decision not too yet...? (& could therefore develop & release as a future update?)
Yes, this thread is saying that, given the current (optical) connection. They would have to change that for it to be able to handle Atmos.
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Ok thanks - so some sort of mod/extra piece of Sonos kit or an entirely new Playbar do you think?

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