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Top Gun Then & Now: How Top Gun Has Influenced Home Theaters for over 30 Years!

by Ann Ferguson

There's no mistaking it — Top Gun: Maverick has blown everyone away with its superior sound presentation and the artful mix of nostalgia and action, which isn't surprising since the first Top Gun film did something similar at the time.

But the amazing draw of the franchise wasn't just watching fighter jets zoom across the sky — it was hearing them! We're not talking just a little vroom of an engine, but a full-on mixture of sounds that puts you in that fighter's cockpit.

From the first Top Gun 36 years ago to today's Maverick, we'll show you how much these films have greatly affected home theater sound!

The Original Top Gun: How the Sound Engineers Reinvented Mixing

When Top Gun first came out in 1986, movie sound was still in its infancy. To get the desired effect of having fighter jets flying overhead, sound engineers had to record audio from real planes, then mix them with other elements like engine noise, wind, and music. It took a lot of trial and error to perfect this technique, but one strategy that proved invaluable was keeping the hard splices from physically cutting the film strips so that the audio had more punch.

The result? A revolutionary top-notch surround system for Top Gun that made it feel like you were right there on the battlefield! Thus, Top Gun became a pioneer in the sound world, inspiring many future filmmakers to go beyond just recording audio — to actually creating the sound they wanted through mixing and adding special effects.

Top Gun & Surround Sound

Retro home theater setup

You may have heard the "THX sound" tossed around, but what does it mean? It's a bit of movie theater tech that provides extra dynamics and realism to audio. In Top Gun, they used THX sound to create an even more immersive experience, especially during those iconic flight scenes, making it the movie to watch in theaters.

But unfortunately, if you wanted to get the Top Gun surround system experience back in 1986, you had to wait for the home video (remember VHS?) and have a top-of-the-line surround system. And once you had everything set up, you could queue up those first four minutes of Top Gun and crank it up until the windows rattled! Trust us; everyone did this back in the day.

Maverick: It Just Gets Better

It's been 36 years since Top Gun first made its debut, and now we have Top Gun: Maverick! The sequel improves on the first by taking it to unbelievable heights with a truly immersive viewing experience.

The film ups the sound ante by upgrading the original sound mix to Dolby Atmos. That means everything from engines roaring to communication chatter in cockpits is more realistic than ever. Plus, combined with improved flight photography and actual recordings of military aircraft, you're getting an incredibly realistic audio-visual spectacle!

Maverick & Dolby Atmos

As mentioned above, Top Gun: Maverick is recorded with Dolby Atmos in mind. This means every sound byte, from dialogue to the music score, was planned within a virtual bubble of sound. That's because Dolby Atmos provides the overhead height element that was missing from the original, so now you can physically feel like the planes are flying over your head.

This setup makes the sequel even more believable because you can hear the distinct thrusts of the engines/afterburners or the drifting sound of the missiles. And in theaters with 36 surround sound speakers equipped with Dolby, this sound only gets better.

Even with great audio (or the greatest audio in this case), you won't have much of a film without a stellar picture. Luckily, Maverick succeeds with Dolby Vision bringing HDR image quality, resolution, color, and contrast. With both audio and visuals coming together in harmony, Top Gun: Maverick provides an unbeatable cinematic experience!

How to Experience Top Gun at Home

Brand new home theater setup

Sadly, Top Gun: Maverick is no longer in theaters, but that doesn't mean you can't experience it all (again) at home. And we're not talking about your basic TV setup; we mean having a home theater that can do it justice. For instance, you could go with a big-screen 4K TV or top that experience with a home theater projector. This way, you'll be closer to an actual theater experience.

And, of course, we can't ignore the sound. Your typical LCR channel surround won't be able to do the film justice. Not unless you have Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers placed above and around your listening position so you can experience that virtual sound bubble right at home!

Time to Fly

Fighter jets in flight

The Top Gun franchise has come a long way since its first release over three decades ago. Top Gun continues to amaze, from reinventing mixing techniques to perfecting THX sound systems to utilizing Dolby Atmos for an unparalleled viewing experience. So, why not take the chance to upgrade your home theater setup at Toton’s TV and be amazed all over again?

We'll help you create the best viewing experience right at home. But if you have any questions, don't hesitate to call or stop by!