ALL I WANTED
I have a solid month's worth of personal experience with Atmos. I bought eight (8) of the available Atmos-supported Bluray films to use for my testing so I think I have a good sense of the promise vs. the reality. Bottom line for me, it's not worth the effort for the marketed/claimed rewards. This could be primarily because Dolby Labs refuses to support their Atmos technology by explaining how it is to be used or more importantly how its use can be appreciated.
My screening room is 14 x 24 x 9. The ceiling is flat. The room is acoustically treated and includes a 15' screen and projector along with with a host of so-called top-end audio gear driving Klipsch reference line speakers. A Yamaha 3040 Aventage decoded the Atmos.
As with many readers, I conducted due diligence before purchasing the Atmos-enabled Klipsch speakers. Even though I've been in the AV game for over 30 years, my first diligence stop was on Dolby Labs website to read all available Atmos materials; i.e. installation, set up, and placement requirements. Then I visited every other available AV-related website, Blog, and YouTube channel that even remotely discussed Atmos.
The takeaway from my due diligence was that no one -- not professional reviewers, nor (incredibly) even Dolby Labs spokespeople/technicians (their interviews about Atmos are on-line if you search) -- can say with any degree of certainty how this technology will work in a prototypical (recommended by Dolby Labs) residential Atmos environment. If you listen carefully, and if you read carefully, Dolby Labs hedges all of their claims. The same is true for every other Atmos review out there.
So, how does one decide what to do in light of a lack of consensus about a newer technology? You simply have to buy the stuff, install it, and see if it performs as advertised. Which I did.
Now, I understand the puffery that goes into the development and promotion of marketing claims. But what my wallet will not accept after a $3k+ speaker purchase is a non-responsive, patronizing reply from Dolby Labs when all I wanted was a clarification of statements or omissions they make in their marketing material. My one-sentence question to them was simply: "Should there be a difference in EQ/Bass management for Atmos-enabled upward firing vs. Atmos ceiling downward firing speakers?"
"Thank you for your interest in Dolby Atmos home products. Our information shows that you have questions regarding your home system’s compatibility with Dolby Atmos, system set-up requirements, or home speaker placement. Dolby does not provide individualized end-user consultation in these areas. For your convenience, however, we do offer several general resources on our website, dolby.com, that may be useful to you. These include: An introduction to Dolby Atmos home technologies (Cinema to Home tab)*. Links to information on many of our partner products, An on-line speaker set-up guide, with a downloadable PDF speaker set-up guide, and several whitepapers on Dolby Atmos*, Our blog about Dolby Atmos for home theater. We hope you find these resources helpful. You may also wish to consult a leading home A/V retailer or independent dealer/installer for individual consultation on your specific home A/V system. Thank you very much for your interest in Dolby Atmos. * The configurations noted herein are illustrative. Dolby recommends that any overhead speaker installation be performed by professional installers with experience in installing overhead speakers."
YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN
My $3k+ Atmos adventure is over. I have returned the speakers for a full refund. In my screening room, I didn't "Feel Every Dimension" that Dolby claimed I would. I wasn't "transported into the story with moving audio that flows all around [me] with breathtaking (seriously???) realism". In short, the experience was a bust with the Atmos-enabled speakers. I would have considered installing ceiling speakers for additional testing but not after the Dolby reply. That killed any enthusiasm to engage further. That response, to me, just shows that Dolby either doesn't bother to read customer inquiries, they don't bother to read their own support materials, or worse, they have no interest in ensuring that customers "get" the promised benefit. My one-sentence question was derived directly from language in Dolby's Atmos Set-Up pdf.
The hope that Dolby Labs has for the adoption of residential Atmos installations parallels the promises made in the film FIELD OF DREAMS. Dolby apparently believes that all they have to do is build it and we will come. However, the difference is that in FIELD those who "came" had a reasonable expectation of what they were going to get. Here we have to take a leap of faith. And you better not expect clarification from Dolby. For if you engage them you will only get passed off to "consult a leading home A/V retailer or independent dealer/installer for individual consultation on your specific home A/V system". Hey Dolby Labs -- Newsflash! -- there are a ton of us out here in consumerland who actually have MORE knowledge than A/V retailers and independent installers, and it is likely only going to be us who would even bother to make the kind of inquiry that I did in the first instance.
Bottom line -- Atmos is not a significant enough improvement (not any kind of a "wow!" factor which is what I was hoping for) over a good 7.2 or 9.2 installation. I get the underlying "object" theory behind the Atmos process but in the real world, it just doesn't translate.