Want Dolby Atmos sound without the Dolby Atmos hassle? With its latest tech, Dolby Laboratories is looking to bring its immersive 3D audio format to more living rooms with a setup process that doesn’t involve rearranging your décor.
Slated to make its debut at IFA 2023 in Berlin next month, Dolby Atmos FlexConnect is designed to work with the speakers on a FlexConnect-enabled TV paired with “accessory” wireless speakers. TCL will be the first TV manufacturer to incorporate Dolby Atmos FlexConnect into its sets, Dolby says.
With a TV and its speakers connected to the auxiliary wireless speakers, Dolby Atmos FlexConnect (which we have yet to hear in person) is designed to “intelligently” optimize the sound, adapting the audio to the room layout and position of the speakers.
In addition to its new Dolby Atmos FlexConnect-enabled TVs, TCL will be making its own wireless speakers that work with Dolby’s FlexConnect technology, according to Dolby.
This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best soundbars.
The FlexConnect setup process will be “simple and fast,” Dolby says, employing microphones in the TV to map the position of each wireless speaker and then automatically calibrate the sound.
The Dolby Atmos FlexConnect feature will also spread the audio across your speaker setup depending on the location and “capabilities” of each speaker.
Technical details on the Dolby Atmos FlexConnect technology are sketchy for now. We still don’t know which wireless technology–or frequencies–Dolby is using to connect TVs and the “accessory” wireless speakers together, nor do we know much about the speakers themselves.
A Dolby rep said that “design and performance capabilities” of the accessory speakers are “made by the manufacturer,” and that TCL would reveal more details about its Dolby Atmos FlexConnect speakers at a later date.
An illustration provided by Dolby (shown above) depicts a tall cylindrical speaker sitting on a tabletop, with what appears to be audio being emitted from the top. Whether the speaker delivers surround sound as well as height cues remains to be seen (and heard). Dolby says its technology can work using as few as one of the speakers, but “can easily expand to more speakers.”
While the Dolby Atmos FlexConnect technology can work with a flexible number of the accessory speakers, it can’t work with your existing home audio speakers, Dolby confirmed.
Once a format reserved for movie theaters, Dolby Atmos has become increasingly ubiquitous in the home, with dozens of soundbars now employing Atmos via either upfiring drivers (which bounce height cues off the ceiling) or Atmos virtualizers.
Of course, you’ll get the best Dolby Atmos performance by installing height speakers in your ceiling, but many users (understandably) are reluctant to perform–and finance–that kind of installation.
And while Dolby Atmos soundbars offer an easy alternative to installing in-ceiling Atmos speakers, only the most expensive models come with room-calibration features that tailor the audio to your living room.
Dolby Atmos FlexConnect could make for the easiest–and cheapest–way yet to bring Atmos audio to your home, although we’ve leery of FlexConnect’s use of (typically tinny) TV speakers to do the job.
We’ll have more detail thoughts about Dolby Atmos FlexConnect once we’ve heard the technology in action, so stay tuned.