Dolby has announced its plans for a new technology that will enable users to place wireless speakers around their living room for a customized spatial audio experience — it’s called Dolby Atmos FlexConnect and it’s coming first to TCL TVs in 2024.
The way the technology works, according to a press release sent by Dolby, is that you’ll be able to buy wireless FlexConnect speakers that will sync up to a TV’s built-in speakers. These speakers can go anywhere in the room and will automatically be calibrated to fill the room with Atmos sound. Dolby Atmos, for those who’ve never heard of the technology before, is a better version of surround sound that adds a sense of height and depth to an audio mix.
Unlike some of the best soundbars that will turn off the TV’s built-in speakers, FlexConnect will use the TV speakers to augment the surround sound. It’s similar to what we’ve seen in LG’s WoW Orchestra, Samsung’s Q-Symphony and Sony’s Acoustic Center Sync technology, though each of those required a matching soundbar and TV from the same brand.
Once it’s rolled out to more TV models, any FlexConnect speaker would be compatible with any FlexConnect-enabled TV — so you won’t be locked in to any one brand — and would be available at a number of price points.
Analysis: Wireless speaker technology is the wild west of AV
While interoperable wireless Dolby Atmos speakers sound incredible, we’re not going to line up on day one to buy them — FlexConnect is just the latest in a long line of wireless audio technologies that promise a lot and deliver too little.
Other brands that have tried something similar to this include DTS Play-Fi and WiSA, the latter of which feels eerily similar to Dolby FlexConnect. The problem with these technologies is that they’ve always required specific TVs and speakers to work — and knowing which speakers and TVs support the technology has been a hassle.
To Dolby’s credit, however, Atmos is now nearly universally supported on new 4K TVs. The technology is supported on some of the best TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, Hisense and TCL as well as many of the best soundbars and AV receivers. In short, building a Dolby Atmos system has never been easier.
If Dolby can get its partners to all support FlexConnect and get some decent audio manufacturers on board with the plan, there’s a good chance that in the next few years we’ll all have calibrated wireless Dolby Atmos speakers in our homes.
Until it proves that it can get the rest of the industry on board, however, we’ll stick to the best soundbars like the Sonos Arc.