5.1-channel surround sound is so 2013. Dolby Atmos is coming to Australian cinemas, but soon enough you'll be able to get it in your living room as well. Later this month, Onkyo will be the first company with home theatre equipment that works with new Dolby Atmos surround speakers.
In a home cinema environment, Dolby Atmos adds an overhead pair of speakers to the regular surround sound lineup, giving an extra ambient or surround sound effect channel that can be used for background noise or for overhead sound effects -- think fighter jets blasting past on-screen or the twitter of birds in an outdoor setting. The new Onkyo A/V receiver range, which should be out on store shelves in the middle of this month, will be firmware upgradeable to support Atmos. Later this year, another set of new receivers will be Atmos-ready straight out of the box.
Of course, you'll either need to install in-ceiling speakers, or upgrade to Atmos-certified floorstanding front speakers, to get the full super-surround effect. Pioneer's beautiful Elite speakers are Atmos-ready, but more brands will be quick to jump on the bandwagon. If the in-receiver audio processing turns out to do a good enough job, it might just be worth making a trip down to your local high-end audio store.