Before I can get to what the Arvus H2-4D does and how well it does it, I have to explain why I think it's an important product. I spent years as an advocate for multichannel audio for music, based on discrete, lossless sources such as DVD-A, SACD, and high-quality downloads. All of these were either PCM or DSD and were accessible via a wide range of disc players, DACs, and local file playback apps.
I am well aware that the majority of Stereophile readers are not (yet) into multichannel, but two-channel and multichannel audiophiles have long relied on similar media and components. Some of us have added more channels. In parallel with this, the home theater world was committed to multichannel (or surround sound), but instead of DSD and PCM, they spoke multiple dialects of Dolby and DTS. Those oft-compressed formats required proprietary decoders for each dialect, which their developers were happy to license for use in AVRs and preamp/processors.
The entertainment industry noticed that the newer sound formats that support many horizontally and vertically arrayed sound sources, such as Dolby Atmos, Sony 360 Reality Audio, DTS-X, and Auro-3D, were natural for cinema and home theater, since they could create a more convincing experience of being present or immersed in the action. By applying these immersive technologies to music, the music industry could entice music buyers to purchase new equipment and music, including a back-catalog of music they already own in other formats.
I came away from the 2019 AES Convention fascinated by these new options for encoding, mastering, and distributing music. "Instead of multiple masterings and formats for binaural, stereo, and multichannel," I wrote in January 2019, "a single-format release can be played on any suitably equipped system." It would be the equivalent of a "single inventory" for the streaming and distribution sites for all formats.
It has taken almost three years, but Dolby Atmos is now permeating the music-streaming sites; note that most of the recent Grammy winners are available in Atmos.
Up to now, access to Atmos has been largely restricted to HT hardware; its success for music will depend on wide availability and non-HT options for audiophile music lovers to stream and to play discs or files in Atmos, especially in lossless versions (footnote 1). Enter the Arvus H2-4D.
What is it?
There are three basic sources for Atmos playback: web streaming from an app or a device like an AppleTV, local discs, and local files. But without an Atmos-enabled AVR or pre/pro, there has been no simple way to decode these streams (footnote 2). The Arvus (footnote 3) H2-4D is a simple solution to this problem. Its compact, nondescript 1U chassis contains an HDMI input and digital, analog, and LAN outputs. It decodes and renders all extant varieties of Dolby (including Atmos), DTS (including DTS-X), and stereo and multichannel PCM (up to 24/192). The only front-panel features are a power switch and multicolor LED that indicates power, signal lock, and data format; once set up, it should require no user attention.
The rear panel contains, on the far left, a single HDMI input and a word clock input; on the extreme right is a place to connect a wall-wart power supply. In between is an array of outputs, all active simultaneously. The outputs include (from left to right): two HDMI pass-throughs (one full A/V, one audio-only), 16 channels of AES3 outputs via a DB25 connector, 16 channels of Dante outputs and inputs on a single RJ45 connector (footnote 4); 16 channels of balanced analog output via two DB25 connectors, and a data connection on RJ45 for setup and control via the local network.
A one-page GUI (above) is accessible from any device on your LAN, for accessing the Arvus from a computer, but I found my iPad most convenient. The GUI lets you select an input (HDMI, ARC/eARC, Dante) and a loudspeaker configuration. You can choose among settings for Mute, Standby, and Global Delay (useful for video sync), LAN settings, and individual speaker delays for each channel. There is also a Global Volume control, which is necessary if you are using output devices that lack that feature, as when you're feeding an array of active loudspeakers. (Essential as this is, it is not ideal: Tapping on a screen in 1dB increments is tedious; Arvus has promised new possibilities in the next firmware update.) The GUI also displays the firmware version, allows you to update the firmware with a click, and allows for a factory reset. It also shows the codec in use, which is useful, although it doesn't show the sample rate.
The H2-4D in my system
I set up a system to audition remote streaming, disc playback, and local file playback in Atmos, DTS-X, and PCM via the Arvus. For the input end, I acquired a Marantz VS3003 3 in/1 out HDMI Switch ($199), which supports the same audio formats as the Arvus. I connected the HDMI outputs from my Apple TV 4K, my Oppo BDP-105, and my PC/Windows-based streamer to the Marantz. The Marantz's output fed the input of the Arvus, and the HDMI output of the Arvus went to my Toshiba PC monitor so that I could see each user interface as it was selected.
My regular speaker system setup is 5.1, consisting of five full-range speakers plus a trio of subwoofers run via the BassQ controller. For this review, I added PSB Imagine XA and Atlantic Technology 44-DA Dolby-enabled speakers, relocated from my Connecticut to my New York City system, as front and rear height speaker pairs, respectively, each driven by a Parasound Zamp.
I began using the Arvus's AES3 outputs because my DACs have volume controls, and when the Arvus first arrived, its volume control had not yet been implemented. With the assistance of Mogami's Phil Tennison (footnote 5), I obtained a custom Mogami Gold AES TD DB25XLR snake to connect to the AES3 connector on the Arvus. I then plugged XLRs 14 to the Okto DAC8 Pro and XLR 5 into a Mytek Brooklyn+ DAC. I assumed that software would route the appropriate channels through to the power amps, as would typically happen with a pre/pro. But when I switched everything on, with the Arvus set to output 5.1.4, I got 5.1 correctlyplus Front Height sounds out of the Rear Height speakers and nothing from the Front Height speakers. If I switched the Arvus to output 7.1.4, I got the usual 5.1 plus Rear L/R channels out of the Rear Height speakers!
Here's why. The order of the channels in Atmos world is fixed, and you must connect your DAC/amp/speaker to the correct physical channel even if the intervening channel cables are left unused. The Arvus was designed for studio professionals, who would know this. For reference, here is a list of the default AES3 outputs; the asterisks indicate channels used in my 5.1.4 channel setup:
1 Left, Right *
2 Center, LFE *
3 Left surround, Right surround *
4 Left back, Right back
5 Top front left, Top front right *
6 Top side left, Top side right
7 Top back left, Top back right *
8 Left wide, Right wide
Thus, in my setup for the digital outputs from the Arvus, outputs 13 and 5 went to the Okto for 5.1 and the front heights and output 7 went to the Mytek for the rear heights.
Later, after the central volume control was added to the Arvus, I used direct balanced connections from the two analog output connections using a pair of DB25-to-8XLR snakes. Of course, with analog, there is one XLR per channel; the ones I used are listed below.
Balanced Analog (18): 1 Left, 2 Right, 3 Center, 4 LFE, 5 Left surround, 6 Right surround
Balanced Analog (916): 1 Top front left, 2 Top front right, 5 Top back left, 6 Top back right.
Streaming Atmos with the H2-4D
I acquired an AppleTV 4K some time ago (footnote 6), for the express purpose of streaming Atmos from Apple Music; since then, the amount of Atmos content has exploded. Browsing the Classical repertoire, a randomly chosen recording is almost as likely to be available in Atmos as not.
I clicked on . The Arvus recognized it as "Dolby Atmos (Multi-CH PCM)" at 48kHz, but to me the sound was completely new. The transition from stereo to "immersive" was startling. From the opening tambourine fanfare on through, the experience was much more "you are there" than the "we are here" of the stereo depiction (24/96 download, Alpha ALPHA757). The recorded, reproduced ambience completely replaced any awareness of my listening room. The two performers were steadfastly stationed up front, where they should be. I have no information on how the recording was mastered for Atmoswhether it was mastered for Atmos in the studio or by some automated process (footnote 7). Apple Music's Atmos is lossy (footnote 8), but I find it a credible alternative to the high-rez stereo release (24/96 in this case), swapping the latter's clarity and immediacy for a huge enhancement in the acoustic space. Moving to music that is already familiar in multichannel,
Footnote 1: Some music labels, most notably 2L, still offer discrete 7.1.4 channel files in WAV format for download. These can be played back on systems with the requisite number of channels without any decoding.
Footnote 2: Dolby offers desktop/DAW software licenses only for the professional market.
Footnote 3: Arvus is a 40-year-old independent company with deep ties to the music industry. Its earlier products include many loudspeakers and an 8-channel HDMI to AES3 digital audio converter that has long been described as "unobtanium" in the US.
Footnote 4: Due to a surprise visit from COVID, I was unable to use the H2-4D in a Dante environment, but I hope to do so soon.
Footnote 5: When I explained what I was doing, Phil swiftly realized the stock cables would not suit. "Normally, AES DB25 cables have 4 XLRs out and 4 in. Yours has 8 out, so it deviates from the normal configuration. More like a Tascam Analog cable using AES cable." He was right.
Footnote 6: In 2019, my Marantz AV8085 pre/pro was updated to support Atmos and Auro-3D, and I was greatly encouraged by the first immersive audio recordings I sampled.
Footnote 7: Mastering engineers have told me that these days an Atmos mix is an essential deliverable in most studios, which argues for the former for recent releases like Sol & Pat.Jim Austin
Footnote 8: In Apple Music, lossless and Atmos are two distinct formats.
The difference between the two systems is that the Dolby Digital Plus allows speakers to be placed vertically and horizontally. On the other hand, Dolby Atmos only supports the horizontal placement of speakers. The setup of Dolby Digital Plus usually ranges from 2.0 to 7.1 channels.Which is better Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital Plus? ›
Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology built on the codec of Dolby Digital Plus (Dolby Digital Plus is also known as Enhanced AC-3). In addition to the multi-channel surround sound capabilities of Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos adds additional height-based audio channels.How do I know if Dolby Atmos is working on Sonos arc? ›
Listen to Dolby Atmos on Arc
Arc must be connected to your TV's HDMI-ARC input to play Dolby Atmos content. If Arc is receiving an Atmos signal, we will display that within the Sonos App on both the "Now Playing" screen, and within the settings portion of our app.
Most Dolby Atmos audio can be played through HDMI-ARC using the Dolby Digital Plus codec. HDMI-eARC is required to play lossless Dolby Atmos audio using the Dolby TrueHD codec.Which Dolby Atmos mode is best? ›
Dolby Atmos - use Music mode at all times
Auto sometimes made my music / movies sound honky, with a slight bump in the mids. Movie and Voice modes have a weird mid scoop, which makes audio sound a bit "hollow" to me. Music seemed to be the best out of the bunch — and for every type of media, too.
Does Dolby Atmos Really Make a Difference? Dolby Atmos really makes a difference as it brings a higher sound quality and makes it seem like the sound is coming from all directions. It is the benchmark for theaters, so it makes a huge difference to your home setup.What is the highest Dolby Digital? ›
The maximum audio bandwidth of Dolby Digital 5.1 on a Blu-ray disc is 640 kbps – although encoded bitrates may range from 384-640 kbps. On DVD, the maximum bitrate for surround sound is 448 kbps. The bitrate for stereo Dolby Digital will usually be around 192 kbps.Does Netflix support Dolby Atmos? ›
You can watch Netflix in Dolby Atmos audio on select TV shows and movies. You need: A Netflix plan that supports streaming in Ultra HD. A Netflix-capable device that can play Dolby Atmos.Does my TV support Dolby Atmos? ›
If you want to transmit Dolby Atmos from your TV to your AV receiver or soundbar, your TV must be equipped with at least HDMI ARC. As we mentioned above, HDMI ARC works with Dolby Atmos/Dolby Digital Plus, but if your TV is equipped with the newer HDMI eARC standard, it will also work with Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD.How do I know if I'm listening to Dolby Atmos? ›
How can I see if a song is available in Dolby Atmos? Play the song, then check for the Dolby Atmos badge in Now Playing. If every song on an album is available in Dolby Atmos, you'll see the Dolby Atmos badge on the album's detail page. Some songs are available in Dolby Atmos only on a particular version of an album.
If your TV doesn't support ARC/eARC — don't worry — you can still enjoy the crystal-clear audio of your soundbar enabled with Dolby Atmos. To get started just make sure your soundbar has at least one HDMI input, and a dedicated HDMI output.How do I test Dolby Atmos on my TV? ›
Press the Audio, Info, or Menu button on your TV remote to bring this text up. Look for a reference to Atmos or Dolby Atmos. Check your AV receiver. If you're using an AV receiver, look at its display to see what audio it's detecting.Do I need a special HDMI cable for ARC? ›
Using HDMI ARC does not require a new HDMI cable. Any HDMI cable should be able to cope with the requirements – it's only when we move on to eARC that this could (potentially) become an issue.What's better HDMI ARC or optical? ›
So which one is better? HDMI ARC or digital optical audio? HDMI ARC is a better option. It supports Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos, and up to 7.1 channels of uncompressed audio while Digital Optical only supports Dolby Digital and up to 5.1 channels of uncompressed audio.What is the difference between Dolby Atmos on ARC and eARC? ›
The main differences between ARC and eARC lie in bandwidth and speed. The enhanced version of the Audio Return Channel has a much higher bandwidth than its predecessor. Bandwidth represents the range of frequencies or amount of data that is being transferred at a time.How can I make my Dolby Atmos sound better? ›
To get the best Atmos experience with your TV, you should send the audio output to a soundbar or AV receiver. For this, you will need an HDMI ARC connection and Dolby Digital Plus audio support.How many speakers do you need for Dolby Atmos? ›
We recommend installing four Dolby Atmos enabled speakers whenever possible. The use of four speakers will make the placement of overhead sounds more accurate, and you'll get more precise, realistic sounds when an object, such as a helicopter, passes overhead.What is the difference between Atmos and Dolby Atmos? ›
Dolby Atmos takes Dolby's traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound setups a step further by adding a third, overhead dimension. You're no longer constrained to a stereo system or standard six- or seven-channel arrangement.Does music sound better with Dolby Atmos? ›
With Dolby Atmos Music, the experience is better. Artists can create soundscapes that are much more seamless and compelling. They can precisely place sound “objects” in your listening space and engage your imagination by moving the objects around.Should my soundbar have Dolby Atmos? ›
If you're a gamer or enjoy watching the latest blockbusters, then yes, a Dolby Atmos soundbar is worth paying more for. But you need to make sure that you have a TV with an HDMI ARC port (for Dolby Digital Plus) and a Dolby Atmos-capable source such as the Xbox Series X or the latest Roku streamers.
Dolby Atmos for Headphones will work with any headphones, since the software still outputs to just two channels to simulate sound from all directions.What is higher than Dolby Atmos? ›
Dolby Atmos requires two to four height channels, while DTS:X keeps height channels optional. DTS:X has a far higher bit rate than Dolby Atmos, raising questions about why the latter is largely preferred over the former.Which Dolby is best for TV? ›
- Sony Bravia KD-50X80K. The Sony Bravia KD-50X80K features a 50-inch 4K display with Dolby Vision and a 60Hz refresh rate. ...
- LG 55BXPTA. ...
- Hisense 55A73F. ...
- TCL 65C715. ...
- Redmi X65|L65M6-RA. ...
- LG 55A1PTZ. ...
- Hisense 4K Ultra HD Smart Certified Android LED TV. ...
- Hisense 126 cm 4K Ultra HD Smart Certified Android LED TV.
The Right Subscription Plan
Netflix hosts a few different subscription plans for its users. You'll need the Premium subscription plan which gives you access to Dolby Atmos and Ultra HD (4K) content.
Amazon Prime Video offers Dolby Atmos as part of its standard subscription. To fully experience Dolby Atmos, you need to first make sure you are watching a series created in the audio format. Be sure to look for the Dolby Atmos badge on the title pages of your favourite series.Does Roku support Dolby Atmos? ›
The Roku Ultra offers everything we want in a streaming box. Roku's current flagship is also the best bet for most people. It supports 4K/HDR (including Dolby Vision), Dolby Atmos sound and an impressive selection of streaming services, including Apple's own TV app.Can any ceiling speaker be used for Dolby Atmos? ›
DOLBY ATMOS CEILING SPEAKERS
When installing two speakers as Dolby Atmos channels the speakers should be almost directly overhead and, in this case, any ceiling speaker with a reasonable sound dispersion can be used.
- Sony X85K BRAVIA 55 Inch 4K HDR Google TV. ...
- Sony A80K BRAVIA XR OLED 65Inch 4K HDR Google TV. ...
- Sony X80K BRAVIA 50 Inch 4K HDR Google TV. ...
- Sony X90K BRAVIA XR Full Array LED 55 Inch 4K HDR Google TV. ...
- Hisense A9H 65 Inch OLED 4K Smart TV. ...
- Panasonic LZ2000 Master OLED Pro 55 Inch 4K HDR Smart TV.
Connect the HDMI output (ARC) port from the soundbar to the HDMI (ARC) or HDMI (eARC) Audio-Return Channel enabled port on your TV. This allows Dolby Atmos audio to flow from the TV apps or other devices connected to the TV via HDMI. Although most new TVs are capable of this, older models may not be.Does Dolby Atmos work with optical cable? ›
Dolby Atmos content is not delivered through optical connections or through wireless connections of Bluetooth, AirPlay, or Chromecast. Most video streaming services that offer Dolby Atmos content use the Dolby Digital Plus codec.
A Dolby Atmos-capable streaming device like the Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield TV/Shield TV Pro. You'll need a streaming music app from one of the services that has an Atmos Music catalog (Apple Music, Tidal, or Amazon Music) and a subscription level that gives you access to the Dolby Atmos Music tracks.Does Dolby Atmos make music quieter? ›
Like, it's a night/day difference in terms of max volume compared to standard. As soon as I enable Atmos, songs get so much quieter. Switch it off, and you can hear “real” full volume again. is a perfect example of this.Does Hulu have Dolby Atmos? ›
Unfortunately, Hulu does not support Dolby Atmos. Hulu streams most of its content, including live shows, in 2.0 stereo sound. However, select on-demand titles and live playbacks support an alternative, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound.Should Atmos soundbar be above or below TV? ›
Make sure to place your soundbar below and in front of the T.V. If your configuration uses upward firing hardware elements, clear the sound's path from the drivers to the ceiling. Large ornaments like chandeliers or fans can interfere with the projection of sound.Do all soundbars play Dolby Atmos? ›
Many 4k Blu-rays and even some streaming services like Netflix support Dolby Atmos—but not all soundbars do. The ones that do tend to be more expensive than most, but if you're after a more natural listening experience, they're worth considering.How to get Dolby Atmos for free? ›
You can also use Dolby Atmos for Home Theater for free. To connect your soundbar or home theater with Dolby Atmos support, go to the Products page in the Dolby Access app. Select the Dolby Atmos for home theater option and click on Setup.Does Paramount plus have Dolby Atmos? ›
You can also stream select Paramount Plus titles with advanced Dolby Atmos sound on some devices. Dolby Atmos is supported on iPhone and iPad as well as on Apple TV.What happens if I don't have an HDMI ARC port? ›
Connect the TV's HDMI eARC port to the soundbar's eARC port using an Ultra-High-Speed HDMI cable. In the rare case that your TV does not have an HDMI port labeled eARC or ARC, connect the HDMI cable from the soundbar's HDMI TV port to any HDMI port on the TV.How do I know if my HDMI cable is ARC? ›
To determine if your TV supports HDMI ARC, you can look at the HDMI ports on the back of the TV. If an HDMI connector is labeled with “HDMI ARC” or “ARC,” the TV supports it. Additionally, if your TV was made after 2009, it's likely that it will have HDMI ARC.What kind of HDMI cable do I need for eARC? ›
Do I need new HDMI cables to use eARC? eARC should work over a standard HDMI cable with Ethernet, or a High-Speed HDMI cable with Ethernet. You don't need to upgrade your cables to Premium or Ultra High-Speed HDMI to use this feature.
No, eARC is not required for Dolby Atmos to work. Dolby Atmos can work with regular HDMI ARC through the Dolby Digital Plus audio codec. However, those wanting Dolby Atmos TrueHD must use eARC. You can also bypass ARC entirely by connecting the media device directly to the soundbar or AV receiver.Which HDMI cable is best for soundbar? ›
With an HDMI 2.0b cable, you can transmit the sound of your television to your soundbar. With eARC, you can listen to music without losing quality. An HDMI 2.1 cable supports eARC.Does eARC need HDMI 2.1 cable? ›
No HDMI cable is specifically rated for eARC, but HDMI eARC is only fully supported by HDMI 2.1 cables, so if your cable is an HDMI 2.1 cable, then it should support eARC without a problem.What does Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 mean? ›
Built on industry-standard Dolby Digital technology, Dolby Digital Plus as implemented in Blu-ray Disc™ features more channels, less compression, and higher data rates for a warmer, richer, more compelling audio experience than you get from standard-definition DVDs.Is Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 surround? ›
Dolby Digital Plus is the established standard for 5.1-channel surround sound on DVDs and HD broadcasts. It's part of the Blu-ray Disc standard, so you can experience the clearest multichannel surround sound from your entertainment.Does Dolby Atmos include Dolby Digital? ›
Dolby Atmos® is an immersive audio format that can be delivered via multiple audio codecs including Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD (but NOT Dolby Digital).Is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo? ›
Dolby Digital 2/0 – 2-channel stereo (left + right), optionally carrying matrixed Dolby Surround. Dolby Digital 3/0 – 3-channel stereo (left, center, right) Dolby Digital 2/1 – 2-channel stereo with mono surround (left, right, surround)What is better DTS or Dolby Digital? ›
Which is better: DTS or Dolby Digital? Based on the specs alone, DTS beats its rival with higher bit-rates that promise a more realistic movie experience. That said, other factors such as signal-to-noise ratio and speaker calibration mean that plenty of audiophiles would rate Dolby above DTS.What is the difference between 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Digital? ›
A 2.0 system generally means stereo, which uses two speakers- front left and front right. 5.1 uses five main speakers (front left, right and center, surround left and right) and one subwoofer which handles low-frequency sounds and effects.Can you tell the difference between Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus? ›
Dolby Digital Plus™ (E-AC-3) provides up to twice the efficiency of Dolby Digital while adding new features like 7.1-ch audio, support for descriptive video services, and support for Dolby Atmos (but more on that later).
Netflix works using Dolby Digital Plus (DD+). To check if the sound of a film is DD+ compatible just look at the information page for each film. DD+ works via HDMI (from version 1.3). Another requirement from the streaming service is a bandwidth of at least 3 mega bites per second (download stream).Which is better 5.1 or Atmos? ›
Dolby Atmos is better than 5.1, also known as Dolby Digital 5.1 Here's why: Dolby Atmos utilizes objects. Placement assignment. Individually address speaker.How do I know if I'm using Dolby Atmos? ›
The one surefire way to confirm Dolby Atmos is working is to check the information panel on the front of your AV receiver or your soundbar (if it has one, or perhaps an on-screen display). It should display the kind of audio signal it's currently working with.Which is better DTS or Dolby Atmos? ›
While each has its advantages, Dolby Atmos is ultimately comes out on top. Sure, DTS:X has a higher bit rate, no need for height channels, and even allows users to isolate certain sound objects like voices or sound effects. But Dolby Atmos has far more support in the home theater and cinema, and for a good reason, too.What is the difference between stereo and 2.0 surround? ›
Stereo systems have two speakers – one for the left audio channel and one for the right – which can be described as a 2-channel or 2.0 system. The '2' means it has left and right speakers for playing two-channel sound, and most music and TV shows come with stereo sound.Is Dolby Atmos a 5.1 2 system? ›
For Atmos, Dolby uses a slightly different twist on the nomenclature of home systems. Traditionally a 5.1 system has three speakers up front, two on the sides or in back and a single subwoofer. If you then added two Atmos height speakers, Dolby would describe this system as a 5.1. 2 system.