Dolby Atmos – Raising the Bar

The second most important decision for me after picking the right TV to buy is which receiver will power the sound in my home theater.  Whichever one it will be, Dolby Atmos is a must have.  What exactly is Dolby Atmos, other than this generation’s 5.1 surround sound?

From Dolby itself, the company who created the technology this is what it brings to the table:

  • Moves sound all around you

    Rather than being constrained to channels, sounds can be precisely placed and moved in three-dimensional space.

  • Adds an overhead dimension

    A new sensation of height immerses you in the action, creating a full audio atmosphere and realistically depicting objects moving overhead.

  • Produces breathtaking sound quality

    Dolby Atmos renders everything from dialogue to quiet scenes to whirlwind action with astonishing clarity, richness, detail, and depth.

  • Creates a powerfully moving entertainment experience

    It all comes together in sound that excites your senses and inspires your emotions to deliver the full impact of entertainment.


Sounds awesome right?  And it achieves this, other than all the technical stuff which most of us would never understand, through adding one or two sets of additional “height” speakers to the traditional 7.1 (formerly 5.1) set up.  Sound doesn’t just surround us now…it’s above, behind and completely inescapable.

dolby-atmos-7-1-4-layout
11.1 Dolby Atmos Configuration

Now the big question becomes, should I go 9.1 or 11.1?  I’m looking at three possibilities ranging from full on 11.1 deliciousness to saving a fair amount of money on a “bargain” option.  My three choices are:


Denon AVR-X6400H

Buy on Amazon


Yamaha RX-A2070

Buy on Amazon


Denon AVR-X4300H

Buy on Amazon


Denon and Yamaha are two name brands I trust for home theater receivers and I have owned several of each over the years.  The current receiver in my living room is a Yamaha.  The Denon AVR-X6400H is my top choice for an 11.1 option based on the brand name and relative affordability.  Having the height speakers set up in both the front and rear provides the most immersive sound possible.  This does come at a premium of course, with this receiver selling for about $2,200 as I write this.  I would expect prices to come down at some point for this technology…I certainly keep checking on it.

The Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A2070 (9.1) is a step down and only capable of adding one set of Dolby Atmos height speakers.  I really do love my Yamaha, so I would be very comfortable selecting this for my theater and it’s currently about $600 cheaper than the Denon.  Yamaha also makes the RX-A3060BL  which is 11.1 “capable”, but a two channel external amplifier is necessary to upgrade it to the full complement.  No thanks.

The other option I am considering is the Denon AVR-X4300H.  With this receiver I’d be settling for 9.1 channels and sacrificing a good deal of power.  This unit puts out only 125 watts as opposed to 140 on both the Denon AVR-X6400H and Yamaha RX-A2070.  The good news is that this is easily the most affordable Dolby Atmos capable receiver that I would consider buying (currently listed at around $800 as of this writing).

Update:  I just bought the AVR-X4300H for my living room and wrote about it here.

Basically three things separate these receivers and will ultimately determine which way I go.  They are, the number of channels/Atmos height possibilities, power, and price.  All three offer relatively equal surround processing capabilities and 8 HDMI inputs.  All three are compatible with both HDR and Dolby Vision.  Check out which of my favorite TVs work best with those technologies in my last write up:  To OLED or QLED .

My choice…at least for now, is the Denon AVR-X6400H.AVR-X6400HI plan to put a lot into this future basement home theater and I’ve been waiting for it for quite some time now.  Settling for less than full immersive sound and room shaking power would not properly honor my quest.


Previously I selected the best HDR capable TV for the theater
Next up I’ll choose my center channel speaker
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