Common question, what is the best setup for a small cinema room, 5.1.2, 7.1 or 7.1.2


Novice Member
Hi all, I know this question has been asked so many times but there is so much different information I am looking at what the best speaker setup is for my small sized cinema room.

The room is approximately 3m x 4m, the sofa is positioned 20cm away from the wall (as far as the wife would allow it), the viewer will seat approximately 3m away from the screen. I currently have is setup as 5.1 as follows:

AV Receiver = Denon avr-x2700h
Front left & right + centre channel = Monitor Audio in wall speakers WSS230
Surrounds = Cambridge Audio Minx 11
Sub = REL Acoustics Quake

So I want to expand the system, with a bit of work I can add some speakers in the ceiling for 5.1.2, reading lots of views not sure if it is worth it, a lot point to Atmos requiring 5.1.4 to really notice the different which in my room layout cannot be achieved. Another option is 7.1, but again if I understand correctly the sofa needs to be at least one metre away from the wall to properly achieve this? Are there any achievable work arounds to achieve 7.1 providing an improvement over 5.1, speakers behind the sofa on the floor pointing up, more in wall speakers behind the sofa, speakers higher up etc. Or is the best I can achieve with this layout 5.1.2?

I currently have the option to upgrade the amp as it was only recently purchased to the Denon AVC-X3700H which would allow the extra channels for 7.1.2 but do not want to spend the extra £400 if the layout is just not workable.

I look forward to knowing what people think?

Zombie Twin

Well-known Member
They layout I used to have in a room rather similar (until the spare bedroom became available for turning into a dedicated home cinema) was to have 5.1.2 and put the height speakers at the top of the back wall pointing downwards at the listening position. It gave pretty good results, and was the best option when the sofa was against the wall rather than the desired middle of the room. MY old amp had a "Top Back" option when selecting location of height speakers, but most (including its replacement) make do with "Top Middle", which works just as well.

The spinner at the start of Blade Runner 2049 credibly flew overhead, the voices of Deadly Sins in Shazam! came from every part of the room without locating themselves (as they should) and Mad Max: Fury Road was pure sonic bombardment.

The ones I was using had a pretty wide dispersal on them, but you might have to be a little more careful in how you angle yours.

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Novice Member
Thanks for the reply, so this is a different speaker position that what Dolby recommend, is that to do with the sofa not being near the wall in Dolbys charts?

Based on my room limitation would you say there isn't a need to have more channels than the 7 available on the 2700 and the £400 extra for the 3700 is not worth it?


I currently have the option to upgrade the amp as it was only recently purchased to the Denon AVC-X3700H which would allow the extra channels for 7.1.2 but do not want to spend the extra £400 if the layout is just not workable.
There's more to the X3700 than just the additional channels. More headroom, better EQ in Audyssey XT32 and a full set of pre-outs. It will also give the option of going further than 5.1.2 if you do decide to try it out.

The back of your sofa should be a metre from the rear wall, in a perfect set up. However we all have to live with some kind of compromise given the size or shape of room. In that situation many members use bi or tri-pole speakers such as the MA FX speakers that sit flush on the rear wall. You would then bring the surrounds onto the opposite walls to the sofa roughly where a seated head would be when watching the screen.

If you wish to expand to a full 7.1.4 then those rear Atmos speakers can be placed between the seated head position and the back wall. Personally I would go for the best layout without a compromise and that would be a good 5.1.2. The Minx could be repurposed as ceiling speakers in the correct Atmos position, they are certainly small and light enough.


Novice Member
Thank you for your detailed reply it is appreciated.
So based on your personal opinion, that I am best to go for an uncompromised 5.1.2 layout which the X2700 is capable of delivering, do I still upgrade to the x3700. It is nice to have the extra headroom but if I am never going to use it it then it may seem a waste and I would be better upgrading the surrounds instead.

In two identical 5.1.2 layouts is the sound improvement of the x3700 noticeable and worth the upgrade it it's own right?

Just for extra information, I have ordered some monitor audio C165s to use as two atmos speakers in the ceiling. If I did go for the 3700 I would experiment location before installation. Again being the novice that I am until more research I wasn't aware that you cant easily expand a 5.1.2 to 5.1.4 as the required speaker positions are different. Looking at the info on a .2 layout, I would have the ceiling speakers above my legs ish and in the .4 layout the ones in front go further forward to a top middle location, in my configuration this works out around 1.2M forward. If I went for a compromised 5.1.4 setup and used the minx 11 as close to back wall as possible so 40-50cm behind MLP, do I stick with the correct Top middle position as recommended by Dolby or put them somewhere different to compensate the rear position?
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The decision to have a 5.1.2 is really rather fixed because you will be making holes in the ceiling. Although ceiling is the best position for Atmos then you simply have to get it right first time. If you go for a 5.1.4 with Minx as the rears you could move those front Atmos a little closer to the MLP. If the front Atmos are then fixed in their holes and the Minx don't really work a solution would be to move the sofa closer to those ceiling speakers.

It's not an insurmountable problem the way you want to go. Buying a X3700 with a 5.1.4 and then finding 5.1.2 is really the best option then apart from initial hit to the pocket you're not going to lose anything audio wise. It's that decision with the ceiling speakers that is driving the choice at the moment.

If you use the Minx, they are popular with members for Atmos duties, fixed high on the rear wall and angled towards the MLP could very well work for you. The X3700 would be easy to configure for such a set up with inceiling being TM and the Minx being Rear Height.

I didn't have that dilemma. My wife would let me nowhere near the ceiling to make holes. My forte with tools was a sledge hammer and large axe, I was damn good on those. Hence the upfiring speakers in my set up. :lesson:


Novice Member
Thanks for the advice, it is a tough call, as you say I don't want to be cutting wholes in the ceiling twice. I am lucky in respect I have options, this is an garden room designated as TV/Cinema room so have a bit more free choice. The only rule though is the sofa cannot come forward, I managed to get it 20cm forward just so the surrounds are better but this is as far as I am allowed... Like you say money no object the 3700 is the way to go and then just play around with setup (before holes are cut). Although the other rule is not to waste money!

Another thought with the 3700 is go for 5.1.2 and then use the last two channels for some outdoor speakers utilising the second zone. Although best place for outdoor speaker is nearer the house and speaker cables would be 20M which I am guessing would be too long.


Active Member
I had a 5.1 which was just fine. Didn't notice too much difference going to 7.1 as I could not put my sides/rears where I really wanted, so I went 5.2 and it was the addition of decent sub's that made it all 'feel' better. Went for some refurbed Arendul's from the manufacturer. The sub makes more difference than everything else to my set up.

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