Are you feeling like you’re missing out on the full Dolby Atmos experience due to a low volume?
If so, you’re in the right place. When listening to Atmos tracks and watching movies with Dolby Atmos sound, I often find that the average volume of the audio is much lower than when using a multi-channel stereo.
In this blog post, I’ll be diving into the issue of low Dolby Atmos volume and exploring why it happens and how to fix it.
First, let’s get to basics and know about Dolby Atmos and how it sounds so quiet or bad.
So, what exactly is Dolby Atmos, you ask? It’s a revolutionary sound technology that creates an immersive surround sound experience by using multiple channels and speakers. Whether you’re watching a movie or listening to music, Dolby Atmos transports you right into the action with its crystal-clear audio and precise sound placement in virtual 3D space.
So, what does it feel like to watch Dolby Atmos content at low volume? Well, it can definitely take away from the overall enjoyment of the movie or music you’re listening to. Imagine trying to have a conversation with someone while standing on opposite ends of a football field, you’d have to strain to hear what they’re saying, and it wouldn’t be a very enjoyable experience.
The same goes for Dolby Atmos, if the volume is too low, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the immersive surround sound and all the hard work that went into creating it.
Why is Dolby Atmos volume lower than other audio formats?
Now, on to the issue at hand as to why Dolby Atmos feels so quiet or low.
One reason for this is that Dolby Atmos uses an Object-Based format unlike the Channel-based stereo and surround sound formats to create a more realistic and immersive soundscape, which means it doesn’t need to rely on cranking up the volume to achieve this effect.
Some receivers also have preset settings that automatically adjust the volume slightly to compensate for this difference.
Dolby Atmos tracks are generally quieter than regular stereo mixes due to the threshold of -18 dBfs set by Dolby. This is done to allow for a greater dynamic range and a better listening experience.
The low volume level requires listeners to turn up their system in order to hear the same average loudness, but this results in improved sound quality and clarity when compared with traditional stereo mixes.
The dynamics, such as changes in tempo or intensity, play an important role in creating an immersive atmosphere with Dolby Atmos editions of albums as well as content like movies, making it more enjoyable for audiophiles than regular stereo recordings.
But that’s not all, Dolby Atmos also includes a feature called dialogue normalization, which plays dialogue tracks 4dB quieter than other audio formats. This was implemented to make dialogue more audible and consistent across different devices and platforms as well as content scenarios, but it can lead to an overall lower volume when compared to other types of audio.
The loudness normalizer applied by streaming services makes sure that you don’t experience drastic changes in average volume when switching between tracks. This is done by lowering the overall volume of each track to create headroom, which ensures a consistent listening experience regardless of the song.
Moreover, Dolby Atmos adds an additional layer of complexity due to its 3D soundscape and immersive audio quality. Different mastering techniques are used to ensure that these subtle nuances are not lost in translation when streamed through different platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.
This means that some of the intricacies may be dampened by the loudness normalizer, resulting in a quieter listening experience compared to other formats.
However, despite being quieter it doesn’t mean that you don’t get an equally powerful experience from Dolby Atmos as a multi-channel stereo.
How To Fix Low Volume Over Dolby Atmos?
- Increase the volume on the receiver or device playing the Dolby Atmos content.
- Enable ‘Sound Check’ in the music settings to normalize volume across all audio on Apple devices.
- Disable Atmos to receive surround sound (Dolby 5.1 and 7.1) without Atmos metadata.
- Tweak Audio Settings on the TV and Receiver
Increase the volume
One simple solution to low Dolby Atmos volume is to simply increase the volume on the receiver or device that is playing the content.
This can usually be done either via increasing your TV volume or the receiver’s volume.
Keep in mind that you may need to experiment with different volume levels to find the sweet spot that works best for your specific setup.
Enable ‘Sound Check’ (For Apple Users)
If you’re an Apple user, you can try enabling the ‘Sound Check‘ feature in your music settings to normalize the volume across all audio.
This means that songs with louder or quieter volumes will be adjusted to a consistent level, making it easier to listen to your music without constantly having to adjust the volume.
- To enable > “Sound Check“, go to “Music” app > “Settings” > toggle on “Sound Check“.
If you’re experiencing low Dolby Atmos volume and don’t mind sacrificing the Atmos metadata, you can try disabling Atmos and just using the surround sound (Dolby 5.1 and 7.1) instead.
This can be done through the settings menu on your receiver or device.
Keep in mind that you will still get a high-quality surround sound experience, but you won’t get the added immersion provided by the Atmos metadata.
Note: If using external speakers, make sure to switch back to the TV’s internal speakers, make the changes, and then switch back to the external speakers.
There are several reasons why Dolby Atmos may feel quieter than other audio formats, including the use of Object-Based formats instead of Channel-Based, the presence of dialogue normalization, and individual listening habits. However, with some adjustments to the volume and settings, it is possible to fully enjoy the immersive audio experience offered by Dolby Atmos.
Here are the key takeaways from the above guide:
- Due to being Object-Based to create an immersive soundscape, Dolby Atmos results in a lower overall volume than Multi-channel stereo.
- Dolby Atmos receivers have presets that adjust the volume slightly down to compensate for the difference in volume.
- Due to Dolby Atmos’ dialogue normalization feature, dialogue tracks are 4dB quieter than other audio formats, adding to the perception that Dolby Atmos is quieter.
- Dolby Atmos volume perception is also affected by individual listening habits, such as how we used to listen to high-volume stereo tracks.
- Dolby Atmos content is affected by the volume of the surrounding environment and other audio sources (such as music or commercials).
To quickly wrap it up, The best way to get this sorted is to turn up the volume, disable Dolby Atmos metadata, tweak the audio settings on your receiver, and turn on “sound check” if you are streaming using Apple TV.
Why do Atmos Music Tracks Sound Quiet?
Dolby Atmos is quieter because it’s mixed at a natural volume level to avoid the Loudness Wars of the 1990s, where music was excessively compressed and limited for louder playback on radio and streaming services. This results in cleaner, more dynamic sound from your audio tracks.
Does Sound Check Degrade Music Quality?
There is a misconception that the ‘sound check’ feature degrades sound quality, but this is not true. ‘Sound check’ simply adjusts the volume of each track to a consistent level, so that all songs play at a similar volume when played in sequence.