Atmos setup for open plan living room

InitialPineapple

Novice Member
We are going through the process of renovating our home, with the designated 'home theatre' being in the living room, which is where we spend most of our time. Being on open plan kitchen/dining/living area, it's a bit challenging when it comes to the placement of some speakers, as we need to find a balance between not having speakers in the way and having a good sounding setup. I'm relatively new to home theatres, and the best setup I've listened outside of a theatre has been a 5.1 with incorrectly placed side surrounds.

This setup will be mainly used for movies and tv shows, however it will also be used as the main audio listening setup while in the kitchen/dining areas.

As you can see in the floor plan, I'm mostly settled on a 5.1.2 setup. I have already passed conduits and speaker wires for the two ceiling speakers, as well as underfloor conduits/speaker wires for the side speakers. However, since we're about to start the dry wall ceiling, I was wondering if I should plan ahead and add two rear Atmos ceiling speakers, bumping it up to 5.1.4. Unfortunately, my current budget does not allow for a 9.2 receiver, so this will just be a way to future proof (for the time being I might run the front and rear Atmos speakers in parallel, find another source for them or just leave them unused). The problem I'm having is with the speaker placement. There isn't enough space between the couch and the beam behind it, due to the space required for the drop ceiling. I also cannot move the couch any further forward since there is a floor outlet underneath it which will be visible. This leaves me with one main option, that of placing the rear Atmos speakers on top of the kitchen island. Based on the Dolby specifications, this will not be ideal unless I move the front Atmos speakers so that I can sit right in between the front and rears, which I think might ruin the 5.1.2 experience for now. While I can place the rears between the kitchen island and the beam, I'm concerned that it might look off. The other option is to also move the front's forward, and try to cram the rears, however in this scenario the rears would end up right above the main listening position. It would also make downlight placement in the TV area challenging.

At this point, I'm starting to wonder if it's actually worth adding the rear Atmos speakers at all, since it seems to come down to an almost uncompromised 5.1.2 (the front Atmos need are not exactly in line with the fronts due to space required for the drop ceiling) vs a relatively compromised 5.1.4. Will 5.1.4 really give that much of a better experience down the line than a 5.1.2?

If anyone has any thoughts and opinions, I would appreciate it.
 

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gibbsy

Moderator
I would stick with 5.1.2 provided your surrounds are set at a seated head height or just above. Having the second Atmos pair behind the beam and over the island just is not going to work. The audio will reflect badly off the hard surface of the island as well as being somewhat hindered by the beam itself. The audio would also be 'lost' in such a large open space. Ideally as well, the four Atmos speakers need to be inside the surrounds. So basically nothing says 5.1.4, quite the opposite.
 

InitialPineapple

Novice Member
Thanks for your reply, that's very helpful. Another option is to move the front Atmos pair slightly forward and adding a rear pair as close as possible to the beam (without going behind it). This way, the rear pair would end up either exactly above the MLP, or right behind it, possibly on top of the L/R surrounds, while the fronts will no longer be around the knee position but more towards the TV. Just writing that, I'm starting to think that the 5.1.2 would still be better due to all the compromises that need to be made to fit the rear pair, but do you have any thoughts on this?
 
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gibbsy

Moderator
There is no doubting that four Atmos speakers will be better than two at creating that all enveloping bubble of sound. Putting in ceiling speakers very close to the beam is going to cause boundary issues and may not be the best way to go. There is a compromise if possible and that is to use some thing like the Elac speakers actually fixed to the beam and their construction will allow the rear Atmos channel to be projected forwards and towards the MLP.

Most AV amps will allow for different types of Atmos speakers to work together so set up is not going to cause a problem. The front pair would need to be moved forward from the current position by a metre or so and the surrounds back under the beam.

It very rare you are going get a room where some kind of compromise for audio has to be made unless you have the luxury of building a home cinema room. So you work with what you've got or with what you think you can get away with. So with a little moving around you could have a 5.1.4.

This is the type of speaker you'll need. They have keyhole fittings to attach to a wall, or beam.
 

InitialPineapple

Novice Member
There is no doubting that four Atmos speakers will be better than two at creating that all enveloping bubble of sound. Putting in ceiling speakers very close to the beam is going to cause boundary issues and may not be the best way to go. There is a compromise if possible and that is to use some thing like the Elac speakers actually fixed to the beam and their construction will allow the rear Atmos channel to be projected forwards and towards the MLP.

Most AV amps will allow for different types of Atmos speakers to work together so set up is not going to cause a problem. The front pair would need to be moved forward from the current position by a metre or so and the surrounds back under the beam.

It very rare you are going get a room where some kind of compromise for audio has to be made unless you have the luxury of building a home cinema room. So you work with what you've got or with what you think you can get away with. So with a little moving around you could have a 5.1.4.

This is the type of speaker you'll need. They have keyhole fittings to attach to a wall, or beam.
Once again, thanks for your help. I'll have a look at the Elac speakers; unfortunately the beam will be covered with drywall and formed in such a way to allow space to add LED strips around the living area, so installing them might be a bit challenging. However I'll see if I can move things around slightly to accomodate them better. Would moving the front speakers so much forward result in a loss in separation between them and the front stage?

If you don't mind, as a side question, do you think that this setup will be good for listening to music when sitting at the dining table/kitchen? Since the speakers will be located entirely in the living area, I'm afraid that the sound might not be as 'enveloping' as it will be on the couch, but given that this whole open plan is around 45sqm, I was hoping that it would still be enough. One of the reasons I was considering adding the Atmos speakers above the island was to improve this when listening in multichannel stereo.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Depending on the amp you go for, you would need an 11 channel amp out of the box, then you could easily wire in ceiling speakers for casual music listening by employing a Main Zone, 5.1.4 and Zone 2 speaker set up. 11 channels amps are not cheap and you would be looking at something like the Denon AVC X6700 to be able to facilitate such a set up.

If the amp you get is powerful enough then it's possible to run most AV amps in 'all channel stereo' which will send audio to all the connected base level speakers. That may be enough.

With speakers such as the Elac being out of the question then we are back to ceiling speakers. If you think you can get around 25cm from the beam and go for speakers that allow the tweeters to be angled then again it could work for you.

We can however come back to speakers such as the Elac. If your ceiling above the living area is perfectly flat and made of a reflective material then you could use four upfiring speakers. Because of their design that can be placed on top of the fronts and the surrounds and moved to get the best bubble of sound. I've been using two upfiring KEF R50 speakers for over six years to great effect.

There are possibilities but obviously you want to get it right first time as making holes all over the ceiling isn't going to go down well with some members of the family. If your plan is anywhere near scale then placing the rear most ceiling speakers above where you have marked the surrounds then it's possible. Move the front ceiling speakers forward a metre and have them in line with the front left and right. You won't be too far away with that set up.

Best of luck.
 

InitialPineapple

Novice Member
An 11 channel amp, as you indicated, would be out of my budget unfortunately, however hopefully all channel stereo should be enough. I'll have another look at moving the front Atmos pair by around 1m to see if I can make room for the rears and decide from there. Once again, I really appreciate your help. Thanks!
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Let us know how you get on.
 

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