5.1 or 5.1.2 with in-ceiling surrounds (sofa on back wall) - Does Atmos make sense?

BP1

Novice Member
Hi everyone,

I have a question I'm hoping you can help me with! I am currently renovating my house, and plan on having a home theater installed in my family room. But given the constraints of the room, I am trying to determine whether it makes sense to go with a 5.1.2 set-up (or whether I should just stick to a 5.1 set-up).

My room is about 20 feet wide, 15 feet deep, 11 foot ceiling height. Sofa on back wall (sitting about 15 ft from the TV). I will be using a PASSIVE soundbar for front left, center, right (soundbar is relatively large at just over 61" wide). I will be using in-ceiling speakers for surrounds (placed close to the back wall). My question is - does it make sense to install atmos speakers as well? Based on my research, it would seem that atmos speakers would need to be placed no further than about 4 ft in front of the listening position. But then I assume there would be very little separation between the atmos and the in-ceiling surrounds (since the surround and atmos speakers would only be about 4ft apart, both in-ceiling). So is there any point? Would I simple 5.1 sound and look cleaner in my case?

Please let me know if you have any thought, suggestions, or comments.

Thanks!
 

gibbsy

Moderator
There is little point in having an Atmos layout if any of the base speakers, your surrounds in your case, are also in the ceiling. There must be a separation between that base level and the Atmos domain to be able to attain that 'bubble' of sound. All the base level speakers should be at a seated head height with the surrounds slightly above that.
 

Mr Wolf

Well-known Member
If the current in-ceiling surrounds are directly above you then you could use these as the Atmos speakers and add a pair of bed level surrounds at ear height. Unlike Dolby's guidance, based on its testing THX actually recommends that the tops in a x.x.2 system are directly above you, not in front of you.
 

BP1

Novice Member
Thanks gibbsy and Mr Wolf for your responses. Currently, the room is gutted, so the speakers can be placed anywhere. I thought about installing the surrounds on the side walls (at a lower height) then having the atmos come from above. But "for aesthetic purposes" I don't think I'll be allowed to have any speakers in the walls. Ceiling only, unfortunately. Would a 3.1.4 channel potentially work? Or a 7.1 set up (with the 4 surround in-ceiling speakers pushed forward, since my sofa is against the wall)? Or is my best option 5.1 if I'm limited to ceiling speakers? Thanks again for the replies!
 

Mr Wolf

Well-known Member
What about a pair of small bookshelf speakers on stands as ear level surrounds?

If you really cannot have any ear level surrounds at all then I would go for 5.1 with the ceiling surrounds.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
If you can get around the aesthetic problems (it's OK to say the wife:)) then your 11 ft ceiling is perfect for inceiling Atmos speakers and you should get very good results.
 

BP1

Novice Member
Ha, I'll see if I can push the envelope! One last question, assuming I'm stuck with in-ceiling, would a layout where I have in-ceiling surrounds then Top Front (as opposed to Top Middle), potentially work? Top Front would allow more separation between the atmos channel and surrounds (they could be placed more forward in the room).
Thanks again
 

gibbsy

Moderator
You want your surrounds in a 5.1 or 5.1.2 to be slightly behind the main listening position, the idea is to take the audio past you for effect, such as a car driving off from front to back in the soundstage. With the Atmos speakers I always advocate them being in the ceiling roughly above where your knees are when seated. They should be in line with the front and left speakers although this would be impossible with a passive soundbar.

To be honest that soundbar is the elephant in the room and a poor substitute for single passive speakers correctly spaced.
 

Harkon321

Well-known Member
If you're surrounds are in ceiling then don't bother with atmos.
 

BP1

Novice Member
Hi gibbsy - I hear you. Unfortunately, even though the width of the room is nearly 20 ft, the wall with the TV only has about 80" of usable space - to the left of the TV is a glass door then built-in millwork. To the right of the TV is a large window, nearly floor to ceiling high. So there is no where to position speakers. I only have the 80" wall. Hence the decision for a large, passive soundbar. It's not an ideal "theatre" room, but want to do the best I can with the limitations I face. The installer I'm buying the equipment from was still recommending atmos speakers, even though my surrounds were spec'd as in-ceiling. Logically, this didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, which is why I wanted to reach out to you guys for your advice.
 

Mr Wolf

Well-known Member
I had in-ceiling surrounds in a (non-Atmos) 7.1 system in my last property. All four surrounds were in the ceiling. My experience is that they were nowhere near as good as when positioned at the usual 2-3’ above seated ear height. They worked OK for ambient surround effects (rain, wind etc.) but were terrible for discrete effects like gunshots and voices. They were good speakers too - very expensive B&Ws with 8” drivers and directional tweeters and were well positioned in terms of the azimuth from the MLP. I’m not trying to be negative and am only saying this to encourage you to try find a way of accomodating surrounds lower down if you possibly can.
 

Harkon321

Well-known Member
You’re installer doesn’t sound like he knows what he’s doing, beyond selling you more speakers….
 

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