Height of sound clarity

3D sound technology redefines the way you hear from your home theatre systems

‘Spider-Man Homecoming’ is releasing soon in a theatre in your neighbourhood. If you really want to be closer to him, we have a suggestion. Invite the Spiderman home; buy the new age 3D sound compatible home theatre system. It will play this movie and many others that are rooted in the latest audio format — Dolby Atmos, giving you a three-dimensional audio experience.

What’s a 3D sound?

Not so long back, audio experience in home theatre systems was only ‘horizontal’. Dolby Atmos, a surround sound technology, was first released in 2012 offering a 3D sound experience. It added the dimension of ‘height’, enabling you to hear sounds coming from above you.

Imagine a helicopter chasing a hero and passing over him. Audio signals in a 3D audio recording precisely configure the helicopter noise to overhead speakers, to give you the feeling of actually being below it.

With movie makers getting finicky these days, they are precisely placing and moving sounds almost anywhere, including overhead, to create an ‘immersive’ listening experience. They typically map a non-directional ambient effect such as rain and wind to overhead speakers to give you a 3D sound experience.

Dolby Atmos, however, is not the only format offering this experience. These days, movies compatible with Auro-3D and DTS: X are being released.

Bespoke

If you are planning to buy a 3D audio compatible home theatre system, the first thing you got to know is that it is all bespoke (assembled based on requirements). These systems are best installed with the advice of sound technicians.

Most of the shops that sell them arrange for a visit of their technician to your home. It is to check the acoustics and advice the best configuration of home theatre systems. Truly well designed Systems for 3D sound cost upwards of ₹25 lakh, according to experts.

Initially, you need to buy an high-end blu-ray player. The next step is to choose an audio-video (AV) processor that’s compatible with 3D formats.

AV processors

Luckily, here you don’t have to choose between various formats. For instance, Storm Audio’s AV processors plays all the three audio formats. Its 32 output channel immersive AV processor costs about ₹16-20 lakh.

However, you have to take a call on the best channel configuration. For instance, it comes as 8-channel, 16-channel and 32 channel. 3D audio systems have up to 32 channels.

Number of channels

16-channel and 32-channel processors/receivers provide for current as well as future (through software upgrades) of 3D Immersive sound formats says Sanjay Thakur, technical manager (audio) at Lakozy Electronics, a Mumbai-based electronics shop selling 3D Immersive audio systems.

Channels could simplistically be equalled to the number of speakers. And the optimal numbers depend on the room size and home acoustics. Bigger the room, more the scope for installation of speakers. However, there are many other aspects such as wall height, room dimension, and so on.

A home-theatre sound system is typically identified as 5.1 channel or, say, 7.1 channel. Here, 5 or 7 refers to the number of traditional surround speakers and 1 to the number of sub-woofers. 3D audio compatible home theatre system has a different mode of identification. 7.1.4 refers to the number of regular speakers, 1 to number of sub-woofers and 4 to the number of overhead speakers.

Usually, technicians ask users to use the speakers of the existing non-3D home theatre systems for 3D audio systems as well. However, overhead speakers need to be bought separately. A pair of Dolby Atmos Elevation Speakers, for instance, costs about ₹51,000. In addition, they might advise you to go for in-ceiling speakers.

Number of sub-woofers

Depending on space availability, more than one sub-woofers can be used to enhance your ‘bass’ experience. Contrary to intuitive expectation, some technicians believe that installing two sub-woofers gives a better audio experience than four — both in terms of cost and experience. You could align two sub-woofers — one in the middle of the front and back wall or on the sides to enhance your sub-woofer experience. However, ensure your sound technician agrees with you on this.

Moreover, you need to ask your sound expert if power amplifiers will be required. Listening habits, room size and quality of audio determines if you actually need an amplification. A high-end amplifier for 3D sound systems costs upwards of ₹7 lakh.

Sound correction

Moreover, you might have to spend a bit on sound correction. Sound travels at a speed of 761 meters per hour. In a small room where you install your home theatre system, it could reflect many times over or echo necessitating installation of sound absorbers.

From acoustic foam panels (in different shapes), ceiling panels, diffusors and bass traps, there are many ways to resort to sound correction in your home.

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