I, for one, am very excited about the recent introduction of Dolby Atmos surround sound on Blu-ray. I’ve been making plans to upgrade my A/V receiver to an Atmos model, and have taken some preliminary steps to prepare my home theater room. However, rumblings that new competing sound formats may be available next year make me hesitate. Is this a bad time to upgrade? Would it be smarter to wait another year?
The first Atmos equipment hit the market a couple months ago, and thus far the only available Blu-ray with an Atmos soundtrack is ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction‘. (Technically, that’s two titles if you count the 2D and 3D editions separately.) A few more movies with Atmos tracks have been announced for the near future (‘The Expendables 3’, ‘Hercules’, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘Step Up All In’), but none that excite me very much. From the perspective of content availability, we’re still in the very early days. Jumping in so soon seems perhaps a bit hasty.
On the other hand, I’m confident that more Atmos Blu-rays will be announced soon. Over 100 movies have existing Atmos theatrical soundtracks that could be ported to disc. (I’d kill for ‘Gravity’ in 3D with Atmos!) Atmos receivers also have the ability to upmix standard 5.1 or 7.1 soundtracks to the greater number of speaker channels through the Dolby Surround decoder, and I’ve heard a lot of encouraging reports about the quality of that.
Yet now Barco intends to bring its Auro-3D 13.1 sound format to the home. At the same time, DTS is rumored to introduce its own Atmos-like, object-based sound format called DTS-UHD sometime in 2015.
Honestly, I’m not overly concerned about Barco’s product. Auro-3D is basically an also-ran format in cinemas and I don’t expect it to gain much traction on home video. DTS, however, is a major player on Blu-ray with a lot of firmly-established Hollywood studio ties. A new DTS format could be a very big deal.
But has Dolby gotten the jump on DTS this time? With Atmos already available, has DTS missed its window? Can the market really support two very similar object-based sound formats? I don’t have any answers to questions like these.
Upgrading an A/V receiver is an expensive proposition and a big hassle. If I buy into Atmos now, I don’t want to have to repeat the process all over again next year to get DTS-UHD. Could current Atmos receivers be upgraded by firmware to support DTS-UHD if it becomes available? Maybe, but I doubt that we can count on that happening.
In short, I’m torn in this decision. I have the upgrade itch big-time and don’t know if I can wait another year for a new format that may or may not even happen.
What are your plans, if any?