Poll: More Exciting Home Theater Ugrade – 4k Blu-ray or Dolby Atmos?

We’ve been anticipating big new advancements to the Blu-ray format, both in audio and video, for a while. Now they’re both finally official. The first Blu-ray discs with Dolby Atmos surround sound will arrive later this year, and a new 4k Blu-ray video format is planned for next year. Given an either/or choice, which would you rather upgrade to first?

Of course, both of these new technologies will entail significant investments in new equipment. At the very least, for Dolby Atmos you’ll likely need a new A/V receiver and some additional speakers. 4k Blu-ray will require a 4k UHD TV or projector – specifically, a UHD display capable of accepting a 4k input signal. (Many early 4k TVs cannot do this, and will not be compatible with the new videodisc format.)

Obviously, it’s very possible that you could upgrade to both 4k and Atmos if you wanted. However, given the effort and expense involved, most people will have to prioritize one over the other. So, which is more important to you, video or audio?

I typically think of myself as a videophile more than an audiophile. Even so, I’m more interested in Atmos. The practical, visible benefits of 4k over the current 1080p standard are pretty marginal, even on reasonably large screen size. In my case, a 4k upgrade would involve not just replacing my projectors (I have two in current use), but overhauling my entire system to pass the 4k signal through a new video processor, HDMI switchers and other intermediary components. I find the prospect of that daunting, to say the least.

Not that Atmos will be too much easier, but I think the improvement in surround sound audio would be more immediately apparent.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you excited to upgrade your home theaters, or will you just sit out both new formats?

Which Upgrade Are You More Excited For: 4k Blu-ray or Dolby Atmos?

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22 comments

  1. I’m rooting for 100% votes for “My VHS tapes still look perfectly fine on my 19″ Trinitron using the TV speakers. I don’t need any of this other fancy-pants crapola.”, if just to show support for Josh’s excellent taste in humor. We need more laughs in our life!

      • Deaditelord

        I as well. Especially since I owned a Sony Trinitron back in the day and was blown away by the “amazing” SD picture quality.

    • Jakdonark

      Using the TV speakers? How about using my 1981 Toshiba 19″ with one speaker? Hmm. I’m not getting any over the air channels. Maybe I’ll try switching to UHF…

      • “I also suspect that you may be legally blind.” Ooh, love the snark, Josh 🙂 It’s as good as your legendary ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ remark.

        By the way, I just bought ‘Star Wars’, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ (the 1995 tapes) on VHS last Sunday on a flea market for $0,60 combined.

        I’m actually glad to own these, because I have never, ever, seen the uncut ‘Star Wars’. Always the 1997/2004/2011-edits. (and yes, I’m aware even the 1995 version has some changes, incl. the title scroll, but at least Han will shoot first).

        • Trond Michelsen

          You don’t have to resort to VHS tapes to get the originals. They were included as bonus materials on the 2006 limited edition DVDs. Unrestored and letterboxed (i.e. no anamorph picture), so not much better than VHS. But still, DVDs are more convenient.

          (they seem to sell for ridiculus prices, though)

          • Trond Michelsen

            (they seem to sell for ridiculus prices, though)

            Uh, hang on… I was checking amazon.com. On Amazon.co.uk, however, you get them for less than £20 each. That’s not too shabby.

          • I know! I remember holding these releases in 2006, and thinking: ‘Do I really need to buy these movies for a sixth time?’. So, yeah, there is a better alternative, but $0,60 was too cheap to pass up. The videos feature lovely John Alvin artwork, too, and they’re housed in dark blue skylight boxes with stars! Quite fitting for ‘Star Wars’ movies, me reckons.

          • Trond Michelsen

            I kinda felt the same way when they were first released. Had the original versions been anamorphic, I’d probably bought them on release day. Instead I waited untll the end of October 2007, when I bought them for £5 each.

            60 cents for the VHS, though? Definately worth it 🙂

      • William Henley

        Well, I can tell you from experience that Blu-Ray looks awful on older SD televisions. I had to hook one up for my parents before they made the plunge to HDTV just so they could watch my movies, and hooked one up for a friend for the same reason. And you could complain about the artifacts on DVD. So if you are on a Trinitron, Laserdisc or VHS or SVHS or Betamax may be the best it looks

  2. NJScorpio

    Well…

    Since a major part of my film collection are Criterion collection Blu-Rays, many scanned at 2k, I’m not in a huge rush to get a 4k display. I’ve seen them in person, and they ARE impressive, but I’m run a projector setup. Even if I could afford a 4k display, it’d be far smaller than my projector’s display, and thus not where I’d be watching movies.

    As for Atmos, that IS very exciting to me, and is something that should have been done long ago, as it makes a lot of sense. The problem for me is, I live in a town house where (when watching at night) I have to dive for my remote several times in a movie to keep the dynamic range in check. I’d love booming, engulfing surround sound, but investing in such would feel like buying a 500hp car to drive around a town full of 35mph speed limits. I’d just frustrate myself.

  3. Jakdonark

    I haven’t even upgraded to 3D yet, I can wait a bit. My edge would be towards Atmos, I’m definitely a soundtrack guy. I got my Dolby digital receiver in fall 97 and was still using my 20″ Sharp until fall 2001 when I upgraded to a 42″ Toshiba projo. I even upgraded a DTS processor before I upgraded my tv.

    When I moved to an apartment I sold my projo and used my 21″ samsung widescreen monitor for a year before I upgraded to a 42″ Toshiba Regza. I’ve had that TV for 6 years and it’s still great. I haven’t had to buy a new receiver in 17 years either, got a DTS processor and the bluray and HD DVD players have built in processing for True HD and DTS HD MA, just run the 6 channel inputs into my receiver.

    If I upgrade to either of these new formats, I’m going to have to upgrade everything, and that will be thousands of dollars. Can’t afford that right now.

  4. Andrew

    In my opinion, on paper 4K is more impressive but in practice, Atmos would win. I don’t see myself owning a screen large enough in the near future, or the equipment needed, to make 4K standard in my home.

    As such, I vote “Wait and See.”

    • Drew

      How is 4K more impressive on paper?

      The vast majority of home theater enthusiasts are using displays 65″ or smaller.

      I have had a couple of different 4K televisions in my home for “test drives.” I can tell you for a fact that when you put a 65″ 1080P display next to a 65″ 4K display, you absolutely cannot discern a difference in resolution until you are closer than 5′ away. NOBODY wants to sit 4.5′ from a 65″ display. People would have to sit even closer to 60″ displays, and even closer to 55″…

      You get the idea.

      Now, Atmos, on the other hand, will offer discernible benefits for every person in every room configuration, regardless of the other aspects of their setup.

    • Drew

      Don’t get the wrong impression. I’ve already upgraded to a 4K projector in my primary HT, and I will certainly buy a 4K blu-ray player and 4K blu-rays. However projector owners are still a very small niche within the HT community. If my primary HT was equipped with a television less than 70″, there’s no way that I would be buying into 4K. Atmos will benefit each and every HT consumer, regardless of whether it’s a casual grandparent or the most avid enthusiast.

  5. I voted wait and see. I guess if my receiver crapped out on me, I would look into an Atmos one. If my tvs crap out, ( they’re pretty new ) maybe I’d look into 4k. I guess which ever goes first. If I had a dedicated theater room, the Atmos would probably be first priority. I havent done alot of research on either one. I’m still trying to figure out how Atmos ( ceiling speakers ) would work in my room now. They both seem like money pits to me. Not to mention newly remastered atmos versions of movies I already own, and me not being able to resist. Same goes with catalogue titles mastered in 4k on new 4k discs. It would suck to have a 4k tv and not be able to watch 4k content from a 4k player. Waiting it out until they have a final standard seems like the best choice for me. Either way, it’s going to be very costly.

  6. I’m happy to see the other features that 4K will bring to the table and should benefit picture quality for people with TVs under 80″ e.g. increased dynamic range with 10bit colour, wider colour gamut, less sub-space sampling of chrominance (4:2:2 or 4:4:4) and maybe high frame rates. These features on a 1080p display will drastically improve the picture but none of the current displays support it and nothing will for at least a year

  7. Wait and see but leaning towards 4K.

    The average person’s HT system does not have the physical space to add MORE speakers. I run a 7.0 system (the 4 corners have no problems producing Bass, do not need a .1 box) and do not see any practical placements for more speakers. Sure ya say ceiling placement but I am a true believer that all the speakers in my arrangement need to be similar models. If not, the same exact sound sounds differently between different speaker designs. My 4 corners have full size Cerwin Vegas, the center and 2 back channels are from the same series, but rather center speakers. If I bought more center speakers for the ceiling, mounting would be a challenge as well as directionality.

  8. William Henley

    I’m excited for both, and would have a 4k display already, had the Seiki’s accepted HDMI 2. As it is, they only had HDMI 1.4, did not accept 4k inputs (just upscalled to 4k), and only displayed 4k at 30Hz. I also looked at TCL. Every other screen on the market is just too expensive. So, when I had to replace my screen earlier this year, I reluctantly went 1080p. Don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of research and my 65 inch 1080p is incredible, but I would have loved to have had a 4k. Its just that there really didn’t seem to be a standard, sets were too high – it was just too early to make the jump.

    I imagine that I will make the jump to Atmos earlier. My receiver, while its a good receiver and supports 4k passthrough, was under $300, so it would not be as painful to part from. Throw in a few extra speakers, and the upgrade would be relatively cheap. Just waiting for 9.1.2 or 11.1.2 or .4 receivers to come down in price – when we see them under $600, I will make the jump to Atmos. i estimate probably around 2 years before I make that jump.

    So I am excited for both. Which one gets the upgrade first will depend on how quickly prices drop.

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