If you’ve been looking into upgrading your home theater’s A/V receiver, then you may be aware that the latest models from most major manufacturers sport a new surround sound technology called Dolby Atmos. Dolby’s latest surround sound magic first hit theaters in June 2012 with the launch of Disney’s Brave, and now a scaled-down version of it is headed to home theaters. Among the consumer electronics companies going all-in on Atmos is Onkyo, and it is offering an incentive to any European buyers who might be on the fence about jumping into the Atmos adventure: free Atmos add-on speakers. The question is, is this really an enticing incentive, and will we see the same promotion in the US?
In addition to supporting more surround speakers with granular control of where sounds come from in a room, Atmos-equipped systems rain down sound from above the listener, adding a new dimension to the home theater experience. Getting sound to come from the ceiling can be accomplished in one of two ways: either by placing speakers in or on the ceiling, or aiming speakers on the floor up toward the ceiling so that sound is reflected back down to the listener. Among audio enthusiasts, the former method is preferred, but the speakers Onkyo is giving away as part of this promotion fit into the later category which, admittedly, is a more realistic solution for those unable to mount speakers in their ceilings.
The pair of free speakers (model: SKH-410) will be offered to European customers who purchase Onkyo’s new TX-NR636, TX-NR737 or TX-NR838 Network A/V receivers between August 1 and September 30, 2014. These speakers are intended to be added on to existing speaker systems, in most cases placed on top of existing speakers or mounted to a wall. Seeing as the drivers in these speakers use the angled method to bounce sound off the ceiling to the listener, those with extremely high, vaulted, or angled ceilings are not good candidates for this particular solution.
Because these Atmos add-on speakers provide supplemental sound that is intentionally reflected off a secondary surface, a super high-fidelity speaker wouldn’t provide a significant boost in audio quality. With that said, a lousy-sounding speaker is going to sound lousy in any scenario. Given Onkyo’s track record of producing decent-quality speakers in the past, we believe these freebies would do the trick nicely. If nothing else, they may spark user interest in expanding their surround systems.
For American customers, the question remains: Will Onkyo offer the same incentive in the US and, if so, when? Digital Trends has reached out to Onkyo for comment and not heard back yet, but we will update this article once should any new information be disclosed.