I attempted out Dolby Atmos FlexConnect

As a part of TCL’s announcement of its frankly mind-boggling X955 Mini LED TV, Dolby launched particulars of Dolby Atmos FlexConnect, a brand new know-how that may be launching with the TV in 2024. I’ve already had a primary hear, and this might be one of many greatest leaps ahead in dwelling cinema sound since Atmos first made it into our residing rooms a decade in the past.

As its title would possibly counsel, FlexConnect goals to ship larger flexibility than present encompass sound setups can provide, by combining a suitable TV’s sound with plenty of suitable audio system.

Customers have full management over the place these “satellite tv for pc” audio system go, in order that they need not sit at sure factors in your room, they usually do not even must be in pairs, and even all the identical speaker. It was steered to me in my demo that originally FlexConnect would assist one or two audio system, however this might be expanded to 6 and even eight in time.

I believe that the most well-liked setup would be the decrease numbers although – in any case simplicity is essential right here. The objective is to not create 5.1.2ch, 7.1.4ch, or another variation of the standard at-home Atmos arrange that you simply is perhaps used to – you may already get that if that is what you need. However FlexConnect is about transferring previous that prescriptive pondering and creating probably the most expansive sound attainable in the most straightforward method, utilizing the (suitable) audio system you could have at your disposal.


The pliability of the system means it might react rapidly to new additions, and in addition alter if a speaker falls off the community too – plus you may transfer your audio system round as your room and desires deem essential, and the FlexConnect system will mechanically adapt.

At the moment, Dolby has mentioned it is not planning to make its personal FlexConnect audio system, however speaker producers will be capable to embody the know-how of their audio system. There can be minimal necessities, after all, although precisely what that appears like hasn’t been formally determined but. The engineer who ran my demo mentioned he anticipated there to be a spread of audio system in numerous sizes to swimsuit completely different rooms and budgets.

As a part of these minimal necessities, it additionally hasn’t been determined but if a speaker might want to have upwards firing drivers to essentially drive dwelling that Atmos impact, or if it might be one thing that is achieved nearly, like some soundbars at present provide. Personally, I hope Dolby shoots for the easiest efficiency right here and enforces these upwards-firing drivers in FlexConnect audio system – the Atmos at-home expertise is so significantly better when you could have them.

Testing it out

As TCL would be the first producer to launch the know-how in its TVs – a key a part of the setup – it had the honour of exhibiting off the primary demos at its stand at IFA 2023.

Settling all the way down to hear, the setup I heard comprised a TCL TV (not the X955, because it occurs, however an unnamed present technology mannequin that had been modified to work with FlexConnect) and two prototype TCL Tutti Choral audio system – fairly chunky audio system with a considerably fascinating design, however crucially, which function two angled, upwards firing drivers in its five-driver setup.

Dolby Atmos FlexConnect 4

Once I sat down, each audio system had been forwards of my viewing place, one in what is perhaps thought of a standard front-left place and the opposite a lot additional away from the TV, in all probability about half method between me and the display screen.

To get the system to carry out its greatest, a fast calibration, managed through the TV and its distant, finds the situation of the opposite audio system within the room and understands their capabilities.

Some brief audio tones are performed, that are registered by microphones inside the TV the place the calculations are executed. Primarily based on what’s heard, the TV will tweak its personal inside sound in addition to that within the audio system to assist the general system sound balanced and at its greatest. This would possibly sound difficult, however the calibration I sat via took round 12 seconds to be accomplished – so no nice inconvenience in any respect.

Dolby Atmos FlexConnect 2

As soon as the calibration was full, a graphic appeared on the display screen mapping visually the place the audio system had been within the room, so you may affirm its findings (although the Dolby engineer did stress that the demo calibration software program might change its design earlier than it involves market).Now it was time to hear, and I heard a number of clips – the traditional Dolby Atmos Amaze demo was first up, and contemplating there was no subwoofer in use right here, the load and authority the system was able to with simply these two audio system and the TV sound was actually spectacular.

After all, it is the expanse of sound that is most of curiosity right here and the setup created a very room-filling sound, with results that stretched out broad, far above my head and – most impressively – gave a way of sound coming from behind me that even the best Atmos soundbars wrestle to breed.

Dolby did concede that, although the system would do its greatest, the place the audio system are positioned in a room will nonetheless have an effect on how properly these encompass sound results are reproduced – one thing I found when the front-left speaker was moved to alongside my viewing/listening place and the identical demo was replayed.

The calibration system ran once more, mapping the brand new speaker place, after which when the demo replayed, the encompass sound results had been all of the extra convincingly reproduced, with sound of birds swooping behind my head with appreciable depth.

Dolby Atmos FlexConnect 3

We then switched to a soccer match, the place the system did job at passing off the group noise to the audio system on the perimeters and filling the area above and round me with cheers, all whereas protecting issues like voices of the commentators and the principle of the on-pitch motion centered in direction of the entrance.

Contemplating the audio system had been at completely different, unparallel positions within the room, the system did an incredible job of masking this, so I may by no means pinpoint the place the sounds had been enjoying from. It actually does current as a cohesive, room-filling sound – and Dolby says this ought to be the case even if in case you have mismatched audio system of various sizes.

The top of soundbars?

Simply how good the system is was additional introduced into focus by switching off the FlexConnect tech completely and reverting to the TV audio system. As you’d count on, all of the ambiance, the depth and physique to the sound and naturally, the immersion that FlexConnect provided was sucked straight again into the tv.

The sound from the TV by itself wasn’t horrible by TV requirements, however by with the ability to move off different frequencies to the exterior audio system and give attention to what’s most wanted by the built-in audio system, the general expertise is made so significantly better. And that is even at appreciable quantity – it by no means sounded pushed such as you’d usually count on from TV sound.

It is true that we have had wi-fi encompass audio system bundled in with soundbar packages for some time now, however the simplicity and suppleness here’s what makes FlexConnect so interesting – to not point out you do not want the expense of a soundbar pushing the value up.

With extra TV producers anticipated to be introduced within the close to future, and speaker producers too, FlexConnect exhibits actual potential to make Atmos within the dwelling extra accessible than ever. For somebody contemplating a soundbar for delivering Atmos with comfort, that is arguably extra so, and – at first hear no less than – simpler too.

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