Apple is working on adding Dolby Atmos support to HomePod, which will work in conjunction with Apple TV 4K models. This feature, available in a future software update, will allow users to create a home cinema experience with the combination, and along with Dolby Atmos, support 5.1 and 7.1 channel audio output.
As noted by The Verge, the feature will only work with HomePod, the more expensive model, but not with the recently announced HomePod mini. HomePod mini lacks the spatial awareness smarts that its larger sibling features.
The audio output feature will work with tvOS 14.2 when it’s released to the general public. It will allow Apple TV to set up HomePod as their default audio output, whether it’s a single HomePod or a pair in stereo mode. Upcoming Dolby Atmos and multi-channel output will be built upon this feature.
HomePod mini will also work as default audio output from Apple TV, even in stereo pairs, however, it will not get support for the home cinema feature. Apple also does not support pairing HomePod mini with a HomePod, so there will be no support to mix and match, or set them up as satellite speakers for a complete home cinema experience.
This is great news for Apple TV users who use it as their primary device for watching content and own a HomePod or two. However, for people who have more than just Apple TV as their device for media consumption, this will limit how their audio setup can be utilized. Currently, how Apple TV works, it will only allow for content that is streamed through it, such as Apple TV+ or iTunes movies, to take advantage of Dolby Atmos output. Any other device such as a PlayStation, Xbox, or DVD player will not have access to this home cinema. Whether Apple will allow its home cinema to be access by other devices in the future is yet to be seen.