Upgrading to a 4K TV and a Dolby Atmos sound system (Week 54, 2020)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 54, 2020

Q. My Panasonic TC-P50ST30 plasma TV is getting a bit long in tooth so I purchased a Sony A8H OLED to upgrade to 4K. Back in 2011 I added an Onkyo TX-SR604 receiver (your recommendation back then) along with a Paradigm 6.1 surround speaker set to create my home theater system. Will the Onkyo be capable of passing the 4K signal from my DISH Hopper set-top box to my new TV, and if I upgrade my receiver should I get Dolby Atmos? I was looking at the NAD T 758 V3 receiver and it looks great, but very expensive at $1,499.

To create an Atmos system I would also have to purchase at least two ceiling speakers. The Paradigm ceiling speakers are pretty expensive. Amazon sells the Micca M-8C ceiling speaker for only $40 each, and it has received good reviews. Would those be OK for Atmos speakers?

-T.Z., Pittsburgh, PA

A. Your Onkyo will not pass a 4K signal so you will need to upgrade your receiver. Before I discuss specific recommendations I am going to explain Dolby Atmos to readers who may not be familiar with it. I’ve seen an increasing amount of inquiries lately about home theater systems with receivers and speakers and while I love the simplicity of soundbars and their capabilities get better every year, they still cannot match a receiver paired with good speakers placed around the room.

Dolby Atmos is a surround format from Dolby Laboratories. In addition to the normal set of front, center and surround speakers Dolby Atmos employs additional speakers that are placed above to radiate downwards towards the listeners, or pointed upwards to bounce sound off the ceiling. I was a bit skeptical of Atmos when it first came out as I thought home surround systems were complex enough for the average consumer to deal with. Hearing is believing though, as Atmos creates an incredibly immersive surround field that locates objects with 3D sonic precision. I do think that a configuration with ceiling speakers radiating downwards performs better than systems designed to bounce off the ceiling. I have an Atmos soundbar with wireless Atmos surround speaker and while it is very immersive, I do not get quite the same experience as I do with a system using Atmos speakers.

The NAD T 758 V3 is outstanding in all respects. It has 7 channels of potent amplification that can be used to drive 1 center channel speaker, 2 front speakers, 2 surround speakers and 2 Atmos speakers. This configuration is called. 5.1.2, the 5 standing for the normal 5 speaker set, the 1 for the subwoofer connection and the 2 for the Atmos speakers. A 7.1.4 Atmos system would have 7 speakers with a subwoofer and 4 Atmos speakers.

The NAD T 758 V3 also includes Dirac, one of the best automatic setup and room correction systems on the market. It is definitely worth the $1,499 asking price and you get the cachet of a high-end brand as well. I’ve used NAD gear for decades and have never been disappointed. nadelectronics.com

You have been well served with your Onkyo so I recommend you also check out the Onkyo TX-NR595, widely considered the best mid-price choice. They are in short supply given the pandemic but Costco has them for $399 and onkyousa.com has refurbished units for $419.

The Miccas will do fine for Atmos speakers. Enjoy your new system!

Tribit coupon code problems: numerous readers reported the Tribit Audio coupon code did not work. I am looking into it and will have answers next week.