Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are often brandished across film, television, video games, and streaming. The Dolby name is a common denominator, and both are often paired with descriptions like “4K” and “HDR”. However, they cover two completely separate functions and require completely different setups. So, what’s the difference between Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision?

Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are just two of the latest updates in a long line of innovative audio and display technologies, by Dolby Laboratories which has been around since 1965. In our Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision, we can begin to see what sets them apart. Let’s take a closer look at their key differences, explain their respective histories and, see their pros and cons.

Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision: Side by Side Comparison

Dolby AtmosDolby Vision
DeveloperDolby LaboratoriesDolby Laboratories
First Introduced20122014
Function3D surround soundHDR video
Setup Requirements5.1-9.1 surround sound speaker setup with additional height channelsDolby Vision-enabled display technology
PredecessorDolby DigitalNone
ImplementationsHome theaters, smartphones, headphones, speakersHome theaters, smartphones, monitors, gaming consoles

Key Differences: Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision

Cinema with LED lights and Dolby Atmos
Dolby Atmos expands existing surround sounds by adding height channels for a true 3D audio experience.

Function

Dolby Atmos builds upon the idea of surround sound by incorporating height channels to the equation. By doing this, Dolby Atmos effectively interprets surround sound in three different dimensions. With this, the technology can basically envision “objects” in a room to direct sound at. It works with 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 setups alike, so long as the consumer has the proper number of speakers in their surround sound setup. To function properly, a Dolby Atmos-enabled home theater or a cinema would need several ceiling speakers for the height channel.

Dolby Vision, on the other hand, delivers High Dynamic Range (HDR) video to home theaters, cinemas, and the like. In other words, Dolby Atmos exclusively pertains to audio while Dolby Vision is specific to displays. Its tech is proprietary, meaning that no other manufacturer or developer can use it without Dolby’s cooperation and permission. That’s not to say all HDR is inherently Dolby Vision. It is just one of several different methods of delivering HDR video in today’s world.

Setup

A Dolby Atmos setup demands several key components in order to work properly. Firstly, you’ll need a Dolby Atmos-enabled receiver to hook the speakers up to. Secondly, you’ll need five to seven speakers, a subwoofer, and two to four ceiling speakers. Thirdly, you’ll need a display technology capable of delivering Dolby Atmos sound. Lastly, you’ll need to set it all up according to Dolby Atmos standards. Only then will you have a true Dolby Atmos setup. Needless to say, it’s quite a process. For cinemas, it’s even more complex: they need up to 64 different speakers.

Whereas Dolby Atmos requires a network of speakers and a receiver to work, Dolby Vision simply needs enabled display. Whether it be a cell phone, a video game console, a smart TV, or a desktop computer monitor, Dolby Vision is built right into the display technology. Many streamers, video games, and home videos utilize Dolby Vision. All you need to do is hit play or insert a disc and enjoy the HDR display that follows. No need for half a dozen or more pieces of supplemental hardware.

5 Must-know Facts About Dolby

  • Dolby Atmos allows for up to 128 sound objects and as many as 64 different speakers.
  • In 2014, Dolby Vision was the first HDR format to hit the consumer market.
  • Dolby Atmos was first introduced at the premiere of Disney/Pixar’s Brave in 2012.
  • To create 3D surround sound, Dolby Atmos incorporates new height channels on the ceiling.
  • Dolby Vision supports as many as 68 billion distinct colors.

History of Dolby Atmos

In 2012, in conjunction with the release of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures’ film Brave, Dolby Laboratories debuted the latest and greatest surround sound technology. They called it Dolby Atmos. It basically added a brand-new dimension to surround sound tech. Through the incorporation of height channels to the setup, Dolby Atmos allows for even more immersive sound than ever before. It was first installed at the the El Capitan Theater in L.A., where Brave had its premiere. From there, Dolby expanded Atmos availability to 25 other theaters across the globe before the year’s end.

By the end of 2013, Dolby Atmos had expanded to more than 300 theaters. By the end of 2020, that number increased to over 6,000. Dolby Atmos isn’t exclusive to movie theaters, however. Several of the top smartphone brands also incorporated the tech into their latest releases starting in 2017, including the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy. Additionally, Dolby Atmos can be found on television shows such as Starz’s Power and HBO’s Game of Thrones. Likewise, many bands have taken to mastering their albums in Dolby Atmos. R.E.M. was the first with their rerelease of 1992’s Automatic for the People.

Dolby Atmos is the go-to surround sound technology for home video and gaming alike today. Netflix, Disney Plus, and HBO Max all rely on Atmos. The same goes for the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S, which also incorporate Dolby Atmos in their consoles. Dolby Atmos incorporates as many as 128 audio tracks and relevant spatial audio descriptions to bring height to traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound layouts. Specifically, the technology supports as many as 128 discrete audio tracks with as many as 64 separate speaker feeds.

History of Dolby Vision

home entertainment system in a room
Home entertainment systems like TVs and players typically use Dolby Vision.

Whereas Dolby Atmos deals with sound, Dolby Vision deals with visuals. It covers all the bases, including content creation, distribution, and playback. First introduced in 2014, Dolby Vision effectively kicked off the HDR craze in consumer technology. As a matter of fact, Dolby Vision was the first HDR format commercially available. It uses dynamic metadata to tweak and perfect every frame of an HDR video. This metadata allows content creators to optimize their videos to consumers’ display.

Similarly to Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision is not exclusive to one forum. It can be found in cinemas, home theaters as well as home video and video games. If a content creator were to max out all the specs available with Dolby Vision, they could put out a maximum resolution of 8K with a color depth up to 12 bits. Likewise, a maxed-out Dolby Vision can put out a maximum peak brightness of 10,000 nits. However, it’s unlikely anyone would crank up all the levels like this. It’d probably look pretty garish. Besides, most consumer’s TVs wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Your average Dolby Vision metadata is probably going to be somewhat throttled. The technology’s truly capability far exceeds what modern consumer electronics can display. This isn’t a bad thing as it means Dolby Vision is future-proof. As technology advances, Dolby Vision can remain the standard for HDR displays. Streaming and home video technology is everchanging, so being future-proof is a major advantage. Like Atmos, Dolby Vision is found on smartphones, streaming services, gaming consoles, and TVs.

Pros and Cons: Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision

Dolby Atmos

ProsCons
Adds a new dimension to surround sound by incorporating height channelsA sound source must be Dolby Atmos enabled to enjoy it
Virtually targets “objects” to better enhance the surround sound experienceRequire a set of different speakers
Becoming more widely adoptedNot all smart TVs and streaming services work with Dolby Atmos
Works excellently in conjunction with Dolby VisionA ceiling must be flat for Dolby Atmos to work best

Dolby Vision

ProsCons
Future-proof, allowing for up to 8K displays and a brightness of 10,000 nitsNot all televisions or other consumer tech can support Dolby Vision
Doesn’t require additional tech setupBasically very similar to other HDR tech such as HDR10+ or HLG
Already installed in many TVs, consoles, and moreContent also needs to be Dolby Vision-enabled in order to work
Works well when combined with Dolby AtmosSometimes looks garish when optimized incorrectly

Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision: Which Is Better?

Needless to say, both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are two essential technologies for audio-video setups. From optimal sound to top-of-the-line video, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision deliver the best, most cinematic home theater experience around. Even so, the question remains: Which is the better technology? Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision? Truthfully, the two are better together. However, if you had to pick one, it’d probably be Dolby Vision.

Visual quality is easier to judge than audio quality. Surround sound can still be achieved outside of Dolby Atmos. Dolby Vision comes pre-enabled on many smartphones and televisions. There’s no need to purchase additional hardware to make it work, Dolby Vision is future-proof, and looks to remain the industry’s standard for years. Not so with Dolby Atmos. Of the two, Dolby Vision is more innovative and is created HDR. Atmos merely enhances existing surround sound technology.

As the superior technology, Dolby Atmos beats Dolby Vision in terms of specs, delivering the better movie experience.

Dolby Atmos vs Dolby Vision: What’s the Difference? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is the most state-of-the-art surround sound technology available today, creating 3D sound by incorporating height channels on the ceiling.

What is Dolby Vision?

Dolby Vision is essentially HDR display technology, serving as the first commercially-available HDR tech on the market in 2014.

Who invented Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos was invented by Dolby Laboratories in 2012.

Who invented Dolby Vision?

Dolby Vision was invented by Dolby Laboratories in 2014.

Is Dolby Vision the same as HDR?

Dolby Vision and HDR basically mean the same thing, but HDR is not exclusive to Dolby Vision. HDR10+ and HLG are competing HDR offerings.

About the Author

Follow Me On:

LinkedIn Logo

More from History-Computer

  • Dolby Available here: https://www.dolby.com/technologies/dolby-vision/
  • Dolby Available here: https://www.dolby.com/technologies/dolby-atmos/
  • Dolby Available here: https://www.dolby.com/about/leadership/ray-dolby/#gref
  • PCMag Available here: https://www.pcmag.com/news/what-is-hdr-high-dynamic-range
  • Tom's Guide Available here: https://www.tomsguide.com/reference/dolby-atmos-what-it-is-and-how-to-get-it