Speaker placement is the hardest part of building a Dolby Atmos setup. If you aren’t willing to rearrange your furniture or test the limits of your spouse, you’re basically stuck with sub-par audio quality and unconvincing surround sound. Dolby hopes to solve this problem with Atmos FlexConnect, a new technology that automatically adapts wireless speakers to your room, regardless of their placement.
As explained by Dolby, the Atmos FlexConnect system relies on an array of calibration microphones that are built into your TV. The process is pretty straightforward; you place some wireless Atmos FlexConnect speakers in your room, pair them with your TV, and sit back for a quick calibration process. Your TV will figure out where each speaker is placed in the room and adjust audio quality accordingly. This isn’t just a quick EQ process, either. Dolby claims that Atmos FlexConnect will shift where sounds are located in your spatial audio environment, delivering a proper surround sound experience even with a totally unconventional speaker arrangement.
Technically speaking, this idea is nothing new. Digital room correction technologies like Audyssey began appearing in AVRs about 20 years ago. And plenty of modern wireless sound systems, including those from Sennheiser, Sonos, and Sony, can measure room acoustics to optimize wireless speaker quality. But Atmos FlexConnect is notable for a few reasons—first, it’s owned by Dolby, so there’s a strong possibility that it will become an industry standard. And, importantly, Atmos FlexConnect uses your TV to perform room correction. It may pave the way for more affordable, higher-quality wireless surround sound systems, as manufacturers won’t be forced to cram calibration microphones or powerful DSP chips into their Atmos FlexConnect speakers. (That said, manufacturers must pay to license Dolby technologies, so it’s hard to guess how this will turn out).
There’s one important thing that we still don’t know yet—if you buy Atmos FlexConnect speakers from two different brands, will they work together? Dolby is showing off Atmos FlexConnect at the IFA Berlin conference, so we’ll ask the company’s representatives in person.
Dolby Atmos FlexConnect will debut in TCL TVs next year. Of course, TCL will offer a line of Atmos FlexConnect speakers to accompany its new TVs.
UPDATE: 2023/08/30 10:49 EST BY ANDREW HEINZMAN
Dolby tells us that FlexConnect devices from different manufacturers may be compatible with each other. So, if you buy one brand of TV, you may not necessarily need to buy the same brand of FlexConnect speakers. But this decision must be made by manufacturers, and at the time of writing, TCL is the only brand that has announced FlexConnect support for upcoming products.