General advice on 5.1 vs 5.1.2

Greyman43

Active Member
Hi guys,

Looking for a little advice from those with more experience than myself….I have a modest 5.1 setup comprising of an ageing Sony DA-2400ES receiver and a set of 5.1 Q acoustics 2000 series speakers. It’s dated but I’m overall very happy with the results I get from this system considering what it cost me and how it integrates into my room. I’ve got workarounds to get 4K HDR/Dolby Vision to my TV from all sources and it all works great. No complaints.

Looking at it though, I could quite easily and inexpensively extend this to a 5.1.2 ATMOS setup by merely swapping out the receiver and adding a couple of up firing speakers at the front. I’m fully aware this is a less than ideal ATMOS setup and wouldn’t anticipate gaining all that much from the up firers but my question is…would my system more broadly benefit from using the ATMOS codec as compared to the older ones I’m limited to at the moment?

To put this another way, if we put aside the up firing speakers does an ATMOS mix sound better than a 5.1 mix through an otherwise like for like system? The theory seems to be that the transitions between speakers is smoother through the object based ATMOS codec which leads me to believe there would be a performance benefit beyond just the addition of height channels, but perhaps the reality is not so clear?

If anyone has any real world experience regarding this I’d love to hear your thoughts, thanks!
 

gibbsy

Moderator
As far as I'm concerned Atmos, but perhaps more importantly the upmixing modes of Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X, bring far more enjoyment to the listening experience. I would never go back to a base layer speaker set up. All those options will help create a bubble of sound around and above the listener and those soundtracks that have object based audio, ie helicopters, will have you looking at the ceiling. Otherwise it can be a very subtle use of speakers for ambient sounds.

You will need a new AV amp and I would certainly avoid the Sony 1080 as this has limitations on how Atmos and DTS Neural can be portrayed in some speakers set ups.

The smooth transition of the audio between speakers is as much to do with the processors in the AV amps and how the upmixing modes are brought into play.
 

Greyman43

Active Member
As far as I'm concerned Atmos, but perhaps more importantly the upmixing modes of Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X, bring far more enjoyment to the listening experience. I would never go back to a base layer speaker set up. All those options will help create a bubble of sound around and above the listener and those soundtracks that have object based audio, ie helicopters, will have you looking at the ceiling. Otherwise it can be a very subtle use of speakers for ambient sounds.

You will need a new AV amp and I would certainly avoid the Sony 1080 as this has limitations on how Atmos and DTS Neural can be portrayed in some speakers set ups.

The smooth transition of the audio between speakers is as much to do with the processors in the AV amps and how the upmixing modes are brought into play.

That’s really helpful, thanks for your input. The more reading I do the more I hear about the benefits of upmixed content in my proposed new setup.

Cheers for the heads up on the DN1080 too as that was a potential candidate for a new receiver. I was also looking at a Denon x2500/2600 (don’t need any HDMI 2.1 features) or possibly a Yamaha RX-V6A. Any other potential candidates I should be looking at in this price range or below? Older/second hand models don’t really bother me as I can already workaround the limitations of them as far as getting 4K HDR/DV imagery to my TV.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Nothing to add really other than to avoid the Sony. Depends on what's available, the Denon X2600 is a very good amp and apart from HDMI 2.1 it's basically the same as the current model. Audyssey is better than Sony's room correction and very easy to set up and use.

If you can track down a Denon X3500 or X3600 this will give more headroom and a better quality of Audyssey plus the ability to expand beyond 5.1.2 for Atmos.
 

Sloppy Bob

Distinguished Member
I have the Sony. It sounds great, kicks well above its price for the cost of it compared to rivals when I bought it 4 years ago.

However, for all the reasons gibbsy mentions above, if it went phut tomorrow I wouldn't replace it with another one.
That and all it's rivals have had one, if not 2 replacements in the same period of time. I think the Denon has had 3 and due another next year.

Upmixing, depending upon the content, can vary from unnoticeable, barely noticeable until you turn it off and really notice what it was doing, to blowing your socks off.
My best upmixing moment was with Edge of Tomorrow when Tom Cruise was in a helicopter type thing and you could hear the blades and other noises beating above you, but it was only a 5.1 track.

Witchcraft.
 

Greyman43

Active Member
Cheers guys, I think I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a recent-ish 2000/3000 series Denon then as it seems to tick all the boxes and there’s plenty of them about second hand (although with some optimistic asking prices mostly upon initial inspection).

Appreciate you sharing your experiences, just the insight I was looking for!
 

LucaMotz

Standard Member
So I‘m just going to add my two cents here since I recently did the same thing that you are planning (only that I went to 5.0.4 instead of 5.0.2) and I can tell you that even without upfiring speaker (I hadn’t set them up yet), the experience was quite a bit better. I then added front upfiring atmos enabled speakers and I‘d honestly avoid those if you have the ability to just have some normal bookshelf speakers firing at the ceiling (even better if they are mounted a little higher up, so around half wall height). Adding a second pair of speakers in the back really was another big step for me as well. It just makes the whole experience that much better and especially so for upmixed content in my limited experience.
I am running a Denon 4700H by the way and I‘m quite happy. The 3700 model (or an older model from that series) basically does the same though.

Wish you luck!
 

Greyman43

Active Member
So I‘m just going to add my two cents here since I recently did the same thing that you are planning (only that I went to 5.0.4 instead of 5.0.2) and I can tell you that even without upfiring speaker (I hadn’t set them up yet), the experience was quite a bit better. I then added front upfiring atmos enabled speakers and I‘d honestly avoid those if you have the ability to just have some normal bookshelf speakers firing at the ceiling (even better if they are mounted a little higher up, so around half wall height). Adding a second pair of speakers in the back really was another big step for me as well. It just makes the whole experience that much better and especially so for upmixed content in my limited experience.
I am running a Denon 4700H by the way and I‘m quite happy. The 3700 model (or an older model from that series) basically does the same though.

Wish you luck!
Thanks for that, good to hear more first hand experience. Interesting you said about using bookshelf speakers rather than upfirers…so you still have them pointing at the ceiling and using them as upfiring?

I’m looking at a Denon X3300W now as it seems like it’s still new enough to have all the features I need and pretty reasonably priced.

In years to come when I redo the room I’ll be going the whole hog with speakers in the ceiling etc, but that’s still a while away so I’m just looking for a reasonably priced stop gap until then.
 

LucaMotz

Standard Member
Thanks for that, good to hear more first hand experience. Interesting you said about using bookshelf speakers rather than upfirers…so you still have them pointing at the ceiling and using them as upfiring?

I’m looking at a Denon X3300W now as it seems like it’s still new enough to have all the features I need and pretty reasonably priced.

In years to come when I redo the room I’ll be going the whole hog with speakers in the ceiling etc, but that’s still a while away so I’m just looking for a reasonably priced stop gap until then.
Yes I still have them firing up because mounting them even higher right below the ceiling wasn’t really an option. Works really well I have to say!

I think you‘ll be just fine with the way you are going. Looking forward to hearing from you again once you have everything installed!
 

Greyman43

Active Member
Yes I still have them firing up because mounting them even higher right below the ceiling wasn’t really an option. Works really well I have to say!

I think you‘ll be just fine with the way you are going. Looking forward to hearing from you again once you have everything installed!

Ah ok, that’s interesting. Putting the speaker on the wall at ceiling height is another option for me (the boss has given the ok to let me have cable trunking going up the wall) so that may be better than upfiring speakers in any case. Been looking at that also but opinions seem to be mixed on the results…common sense tells me any speakers directly pointed at the listener rather than reflecting off a surface should yield better results.
 

LucaMotz

Standard Member
Ah ok, that’s interesting. Putting the speaker on the wall at ceiling height is another option for me (the boss has given the ok to let me have cable trunking going up the wall) so that may be better than upfiring speakers in any case. Been looking at that also but opinions seem to be mixed on the results…common sense tells me any speakers directly pointed at the listener rather than reflecting off a surface should yield better results.
Well if you can have them pointing the right way, sure!
One problem you might run into is that the sound is not as diffuse. With the way I‘m doing it the upfiring speakers don’t call attention to themselves. They just add to the overall sound but you wouldn’t ever hear the individual speakers.
The problem with those atmos enabled speakers is that their output isn’t big enough (or my ceiling is too high for them I guess) and if I crank them up you can clearly hear them as individual speakers at the front. The room correction couldn’t quite fix it. Since I’ve added the bookshelves in the back (I‘ll attach a photo of how they are mounted) it’s much much better though.

28B2ADCD-6A06-43BB-8577-6E2AA69821E8.jpeg
 
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Greyman43

Active Member
Well if you can have them pointing the right way, sure!
One problem you might run into is that the sound is not as diffuse. With the way I‘m doing it the upfiring speakers don’t call attention to themselves. They just add to the overall sound but you wouldn’t ever hear the individual speakers.
The problem with those atmos enabled speakers is that their output isn’t big enough (or my ceiling is too high for them I guess) and if I crank them up you can clearly hear them as individual speakers at the front. The room correction couldn’t quite fix it. Since I’ve added the bookshelves in the back (I‘ll attach a photo of how they are mounted) it’s much much better though.

The more I’m thinking and reading about it the more I think I’ll go down the bookshelf high on the wall route, my ceilings are artex too so I imagine that will bugger up the sound from anything upfiring. In fact I think I’ll move my current front bookshelves up top and replace them with some proper floor standers at ear level.

I appreciate neither are ideal solutions but I think I’ll have more scope to dial in a respectable mix with the bookshelves up high.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
A compromise I find better for 5.1.2 than 2 front up-firing is using a pair of MINX MIN12 mounted high up on the front wall.

I have a white wall and have the white ones along with very thin white plastic trunking running up the corner of the walls and along the corner between front wall and ceiling to hide the cables and you barely even notice they are there visually.

I have tried proper upfiring and was not impressed and even tried these as make shift upfiring with a diy temporary enclosure made out of some spare wood and acoustic foam and likewise not really impressed. My ceiling is a flat plaster ceiling, so in theory exactly what these upfiring speakers are intended for.
 

Greyman43

Active Member
A compromise I find better for 5.1.2 than 2 front up-firing is using a pair of MINX MIN12 mounted high up on the front wall.

I have a white wall and have the white ones along with very thin white plastic trunking running up the corner of the walls and along the corner between front wall and ceiling to hide the cables and you barely even notice they are there visually.

I have tried proper upfiring and was not impressed and even tried these as make shift upfiring with a diy temporary enclosure made out of some spare wood and acoustic foam and likewise not really impressed. My ceiling is a flat plaster ceiling, so in theory exactly what these upfiring speakers are intended for.

That’s good to hear as that’s pretty much the route I’m going, I’ve got it all worked out now!

I just picked up a second hand pair of Q acoustics 2050i floorstanders that match my current system, these are now my front L/R channels and I’m moving the 2010i bookshelves that previously occupied those channels up high on the wall for the ATMOS channels. Have already switched these over and they’re a very nice upgrade even in my current 5.1 configuration!

Got a great deal here on a nearly new Yamaha RX-V6A receiver which is coming later this week. I know isn’t the most high end bit of kit but it’ll be more than adequate for my use case and still with most of its 6 year Richer Sounds warranty left that’s been transferred to me so can’t complain.

Once I sell my old receiver I’ll probably have spent £600 or so all told on the overhaul, I think it’ll be worth every penny of that.

I really appreciate everyone who chimed in on this, it’s genuinely been very helpful.
 

Ace Of Wands

Well-known Member
I currently have a 5.1 set up, & looking to move to 5.1.2, (upper fronts) but I was wondering about how the sound would pan. If a plane flew from behind, overhead to the front, would the sound pan from the rear lower speakers, to the upper front speakers? Or would the entire sound emit from the Upper Fronts?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I currently have a 5.1 set up, & looking to move to 5.1.2, (upper fronts) but I was wondering about how the sound would pan. If a plane flew from behind, overhead to the front, would the sound pan from the rear lower speakers, to the upper front speakers? Or would the entire sound emit from the Upper Fronts?
Atmos is not speaker based. The sound would be distributed to all speakers. If an aircraft comes from behind then the surrounds would be active with the front Atmos speakers picking up the audio in the correct position and would give the impression of passing overhead. I have a 5.1.2 and things pass between the speakers correctly.
 

Greyman43

Active Member
I’ve been meaning to revisit this thread with my thoughts on how my 5.1.2 system overhaul turned out…

Overall I’m very pleased with the results, especially considering the relatively modest cost. As discussed above I went with bookshelves at ceiling height on the wall for my ATMOS speakers. I ended up placing them a foot or so further out than the fronts and I’ve settled on pointing them slightly downwards and inwards but not directly pointed at the listener.

The limitations of this setup are that ATMOS height effects will always be subtle, it’s never totally in your face that a particular effect is coming from above but I’m still convinced I’m getting better results than I personally would’ve gotten from upfirers in my setup. The upside of this setup is a much bigger and wider front soundstage with a lot more presence! It’s totally immersive in comparison to my old 5.1 setup and MUCH closer to a real cinema experience at home than I’ve ever gotten before.

I do think the newer codecs place sounds much more accurately in general although I’ve found myself using my Yamaha receiver’s own DSP modes as opposed to the Dolby or DTS upmixers. My particular speaker layout happens to be exactly what Yamaha suggests for its DSP modes and as such I’ve found them to often yield better results than using an ATMOS upmixer this less ideal speaker layout, particularly at lower listening levels.

Overall I can HIGHLY recommend this upgrade to anyone looking to do the same. Keep your expectations realistic for the overhead effects but there’s so much more to gain than just that in my experience. Hope this helps someone else in future!
 

Greyman43

Active Member
I currently have a 5.1 set up, & looking to move to 5.1.2, (upper fronts) but I was wondering about how the sound would pan. If a plane flew from behind, overhead to the front, would the sound pan from the rear lower speakers, to the upper front speakers? Or would the entire sound emit from the Upper Fronts?

See my recent post in this thread, the sound coming from the heights in this configuration is never so obvious as to highlight this anyway, and as stated, the object based codecs sort this out regardless.

I do have my surrounds a foot above ear level pointing down so that may also be a factor.
 

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