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MaxPlumage

5.1.2 with upfiring Atmos vs. 7.1.2?

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Posted (edited)

Hi folks, hope you are well.

 

Which would you recommend for immersion in movies?

 

I am having a hard time deciding between using front upfiring modules in a 5.1.2 atmos config or put to use an additional pair of bookshelf speakers in a 7.1 configuration. Going 5.1.2 will see me put away the 2 bookshelf speakers (for the time being) as I have only 7 channels of amplification (and therefore cannot do a full 7.1.2).

 

I will be obviously conducting some listening tests but am seeking some advice here. I feel there is less native material in 7.1 than 5.1 so maybe atmos on 5.1.2 might actually be better but am usure.

 

My room is about 5.5 x 3.5 so I can manage a bit of space behind the couch but not on the sides.

 

Thanks.

Edited by MaxPlumage

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i use 7.2 because i can not/dont want atmos.. if you can get atmos working in your room best to go for that.

 

try first using your books as atmos modules on top of your fronts.  plenty of info on google searches.

 

cant you mount your books up high?

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What speakers and avr are you currently using?

 

Upfiring atmos can be hit and miss, I find it not worth the effort. 5.1 vs 7.1 is also marginal improvement, but will improve immersion even in your smallish room. You might be better off with a 5.2 upgrade with an extra sub or a higher quality centre channel. To me centre channel and sub integration are most important for HT. Or use a speaker that can be configured for atmos or your extra 2 surround channels.

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I would not give up 7.1 for 5.1.2 with upward firing because lack amps. And wouldn’t do that under any circumstances ... will explain why when get more time ...

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, hopefullguy said:

i use 7.2 because i can not/dont want atmos.. if you can get atmos working in your room best to go for that.

 

try first using your books as atmos modules on top of your fronts.  plenty of info on google searches.

 

cant you mount your books up high?

Thanks for your input - unfortunately that is not an option at this stage. I already have atmos modules I am trying to use...

Edited by MaxPlumage

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, AudioGeek said:

What speakers and avr are you currently using?

 

Upfiring atmos can be hit and miss, I find it not worth the effort. 5.1 vs 7.1 is also marginal improvement, but will improve immersion even in your smallish room. You might be better off with a 5.2 upgrade with an extra sub or a higher quality centre channel. To me centre channel and sub integration are most important for HT. Or use a speaker that can be configured for atmos or your extra 2 surround channels.

Thanks for sounding off. I am using a 7705 prepro with 7 channels of amplification provided by Rotels. Using two 35xts for back surrounds and Motion 40s mini towers for the sides. The front firing modules are Motion AFXs and I believe these to be the weakest link as they sit on top of the fronts and are not ceiling mounted. My dual subs and center are well integrated atm - don't get me wrong I love the 7.1 for music but I think I might be missing out on the '3D' immersion from Atmos for movies with dedicated Atmos tracks - even using upfiring modules (which many say you might as well not!) I say this because Atmos effects can be 'steered' around vs. with 7.1 you are only going to hear what was mixed in those channels.

 

As I only have 7 channels of amplification I will need to choose between 5.1.2 or 7.1.

Edited by MaxPlumage

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16 minutes ago, betty boop said:

I would not give up 7.1 for 5.1.2 with upward firing because lack amps. And wouldn’t do that under any circumstances ... will explain why when get more time ...

Thanks Betty - I am certainly keen to hear your thoughts, based on your years of experience :)Please do educate when time permits.

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I went from 5.1  to 5.1.2 (upfiring ATMOS) and there was a big improvement in "immersion" for me.   I don't think 7.1 would have been as big a change, but I did not try it in my home.

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Posted (edited)

Meant to say, one interesting thing happens if you are lazy and sometimes lie down on the couch while listening.  One ear gets muffled sound, so generally not expecting any surround effect, but with ATMOS, you do !   I was picking up things happening above and behind the couch I was on.

Edited by aussievintage

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24 minutes ago, MaxPlumage said:

Thanks for sounding off. I am using a 7705 prepro with 7 channels of amplification provided by Rotels.

this is a great foundation ....

 

let me share my thoughts, why i would "not give up 7.1 for 5.1.2 with upward firing because lack amps. And wouldn’t do that under any circumstances..."

 

with regards atmos, actually lets stop calling it that ...

 

its 3D audio. as atmos is ONLY a subset and does not include DTS-X, pure Dolby Surround or DTS-neural X or for matter Auro3D - 3D audio brings the 3rd dimension (height) to surround sound and all these formats do that.

 

my understanding of this started in the early days of 3D audio, i demoed as much and all i could, fortunately i found enough retailers gone to effort to do this well with in ceiling speakers, because in early days some retailers were doing initially was the upward firing as it was quick way to get people to experience.... but i only found it in every system i experienced very hit miss.... more miss that anything.... and more for gimmick

 

and 3D audio is not about gimmick, in same ways surround sound is not about gimmick.

 

this "Sounds from above" thinking is where things i believe go wrong with thinking on 3D audio. what 3D audio does is utilise your WHOLE speaker sound stage to place objects in space. Height speakers are clearly needed to provide that height reference to place objects in the height plane... and yes you do get some sounds from up above ...but that's not what all about. but certainly if you want to pick up on the height reference for sound you do need some height differential between your height speakers and base bed.... which is where the add on modules fail (apart from the trying to bounce sounds off ceiling into your ears which is far to imprecise and ineffective). Also where some fail in their own systems even with height speakers is by not placing height at a decent enough height differential from the base. i have even seen this error done at a major show some years ago ...where heights were same level as side and rear ! :D  eg in my system i had to actually lower my rear speakers lower than what i had prior to achieve a height differential and think need about 900mm as minimum between side and rear surrounds and in ceiling ...

 

now why id never give up your rears is 2 fold. one is the we have a huge selection of material with 7.1 tracks going way back to even DVD era... remember DTS-ES or Dolby Digital EX ? that's how far goes - i remember s far back as watching lord of rings box set on dvd with rear encoded info and going wow !  and blu-ray took to another level with native 7.1 tracks and 3D sound just builds upon it..

 

remember its about immersion and envelopment. creating an experience and sound field AROUND you surrounding yourself with sound and not having rears creates a hole in that rear sound field....and where we are most weak on our hearing and why rear speakers so essential...set up well with 3D audio you feel immersed in sound in a bubble... no rears ... there will be a hole in that bubble and loose on rear sound stage...and 3D audio won't be able to utilise rear reference to place sounds down back there.

 

 i would also never give up 7.1 for 5.1.2 just because of lack of amplification channels... gosh just for 2ch of amplification ? they show up day in day out on the forum for 100s of dollars... and if running rotel amplification there are SO many really affordable good quality amps that come up on market that are very useable for those 2channels... could pick up a 1080, or if want more 1066 (though dont bridge this as ups the distortion severely) alternatively give your mains a treat and pick up a nice 2ch rotel... use existing ones for those rears or heights .... if can do run 7.1 ... you obviously have space enough for rear channels ? and if do I would certainly also consider rear heights ... grab a rotel 1075 instead for 7.:1.4 and the cost of 2 more rears while running 2 in ceiling is pretty insignificant... and id go for it...   :) 

 

 

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as an illustration of affordable amplification from rotel...

 

brand new never used rb06 180wpc $400...

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Rotel-RB-06-180W-Bridgeable-Amplifier-Never-Used-New-in-BOX/143586046984?hash=item216e653408:g:1AsAAOSwDaFenAbg

 

lack of amplification should never be a problem with the rotel options around :) shouldn't hold you back from 7.1.2

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46 minutes ago, betty boop said:

remember its about immersion and envelopment. creating an experience and sound field AROUND you surrounding yourself with sound and not having rears creates a hole in that rear sound field....and where we are most weak on our hearing and why rear speakers so essential...set up well with 3D audio you feel immersed in sound in a bubble... no rears ... there will be a hole in that bubble and loose on rear sound stage...and 3D audio won't be able to utilise rear reference to place sounds down back there.

I liked your post, but you managed to confuse me in this paragraph.  It's almost as if you are saying there are no rear speakers with 5.1.2  3D sound? 

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18 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

I liked your post, but you managed to confuse me in this paragraph.  It's almost as if you are saying there are no rear speakers with 5.1.2  3D sound? 

no rear surrounds in 5.1.2 that is quite correct...

 

https://www.dolby.com/us/en/guide/speaker-setup-guides/5.1.2-overhead-speaker-setup-guide.html

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 12.31.30 pm.png

 

5.1.2 Overhead Speakers

The configurations noted in this speaker setup guide are illustrative. We recommend that any overhead speaker installation be performed by professional installers with experience in installing overhead speakers.

  1. Seating position
  2. Left and right speakers
  3. Center speaker
  4. Subwoofer
  5. Left and right surround speakers
  6. Left and right top middle overhead speakers

 

 

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1 hour ago, betty boop said:

this is a great foundation ....

 

let me share my thoughts, why i would "not give up 7.1 for 5.1.2 with upward firing because lack amps. And wouldn’t do that under any circumstances..."

 

with regards atmos, actually lets stop calling it that ...

 

its 3D audio. as atmos is ONLY a subset and does not include DTS-X, pure Dolby Surround or DTS-neural X or for matter Auro3D - 3D audio brings the 3rd dimension (height) to surround sound and all these formats do that.

 

my understanding of this started in the early days of 3D audio, i demoed as much and all i could, fortunately i found enough retailers gone to effort to do this well with in ceiling speakers, because in early days some retailers were doing initially was the upward firing as it was quick way to get people to experience.... but i only found it in every system i experienced very hit miss.... more miss that anything.... and more for gimmick

 

and 3D audio is not about gimmick, in same ways surround sound is not about gimmick.

 

this "Sounds from above" thinking is where things i believe go wrong with thinking on 3D audio. what 3D audio does is utilise your WHOLE speaker sound stage to place objects in space. Height speakers are clearly needed to provide that height reference to place objects in the height plane... and yes you do get some sounds from up above ...but that's not what all about. but certainly if you want to pick up on the height reference for sound you do need some height differential between your height speakers and base bed.... which is where the add on modules fail (apart from the trying to bounce sounds off ceiling into your ears which is far to imprecise and ineffective). Also where some fail in their own systems even with height speakers is by not placing height at a decent enough height differential from the base. i have even seen this error done at a major show some years ago ...where heights were same level as side and rear ! :D  eg in my system i had to actually lower my rear speakers lower than what i had prior to achieve a height differential and think need about 900mm as minimum between side and rear surrounds and in ceiling ...

 

now why id never give up your rears is 2 fold. one is the we have a huge selection of material with 7.1 tracks going way back to even DVD era... remember DTS-ES or Dolby Digital EX ? that's how far goes - i remember s far back as watching lord of rings box set on dvd with rear encoded info and going wow !  and blu-ray took to another level with native 7.1 tracks and 3D sound just builds upon it..

 

remember its about immersion and envelopment. creating an experience and sound field AROUND you surrounding yourself with sound and not having rears creates a hole in that rear sound field....and where we are most weak on our hearing and why rear speakers so essential...set up well with 3D audio you feel immersed in sound in a bubble... no rears ... there will be a hole in that bubble and loose on rear sound stage...and 3D audio won't be able to utilise rear reference to place sounds down back there.

 

 i would also never give up 7.1 for 5.1.2 just because of lack of amplification channels... gosh just for 2ch of amplification ? they show up day in day out on the forum for 100s of dollars... and if running rotel amplification there are SO many really affordable good quality amps that come up on market that are very useable for those 2channels... could pick up a 1080, or if want more 1066 (though dont bridge this as ups the distortion severely) alternatively give your mains a treat and pick up a nice 2ch rotel... use existing ones for those rears or heights .... if can do run 7.1 ... you obviously have space enough for rear channels ? and if do I would certainly also consider rear heights ... grab a rotel 1075 instead for 7.:1.4 and the cost of 2 more rears while running 2 in ceiling is pretty insignificant... and id go for it...   :) 

 

 

Thank you very much for this detailed post, Betty! I found it very useful. I am now convinced I need to hang on to my 7.1 bed channels and when the time is right I will consider a 2ch amp for my upfiring modules, and eventually move to in-ceiling.

 

I am concerned the room is getting a bit too overcome with speakers :) I don't have too much room behind my couch, I measured 65 cm (2 feet approx). I have my rears behind, but my sides are just forward of the rears and are facing forwards (as they are towers there is not enough space to turn them sideways to face MLP). My sides have been elevated though, so the high and mid range frequencies are not overly obscured by the couch itself. With this sort of a layout (space starting to crunch in) is 7.1 still ideal if you can manage it?

 

I can hear the separation very well on all channels without localisation and hotspots at the MLP.

 

I know this is not exactly as per Dolby spec, but it's the best compromise at the moment without me either pulling the couch forwards further or downgrading to a 3 seater.

 

Choices! Thanks again for your input.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, betty boop said:

no rear surrounds in 5.1.2 that is quite correct...

 

https://www.dolby.com/us/en/guide/speaker-setup-guides/5.1.2-overhead-speaker-setup-guide.html

 

 

 

 

 

OK.   I am used to thinking of the left and right surround speakers as rear speakers, just because they are behind the listener.  Hangover terminology from earlier days of surround sound I guess.

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9 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

 

OK.   I am used to thinking of the left and right surround speakers as rear speakers, just because they are behind the listener.  Hangover terminology from earlier days of surround sound I guess.

yes can understand given the early surround days where for 5.1 could plonk them up back !

 

side surrounds these days can be to the side of listener to slightly to the behind but still to the side not rear. 

 

eg in 5.1 setup side surrounds can be 110 - 120 deg so slightly more behind than sides in 7.1 setup which can go 90-110 deg. but we are still not talking rears which are in the 135-150 deg so genuinely in the rear :)

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20 minutes ago, MaxPlumage said:

Thank you very much for this detailed post, Betty! I found it very useful. I am now convinced I need to hang on to my 7.1 bed channels and when the time is right I will consider a 2ch amp for my upfiring modules, and eventually move to in-ceiling.

yeah if managing it now with the benefit. dont give it up :) definitely move the up firing to top front heights... and id go the top front height than top middle. ie id stick to as close as per recommendations,

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 1.04.31 pm.png

 

24 minutes ago, MaxPlumage said:

I am concerned the room is getting a bit too overcome with speakers :) I don't have too much room behind my couch, I measured 65 cm (2 feet approx). I have my rears behind, but my sides are just forward of the rears and are facing forwards (as they are towers there is not enough space to turn them sideways to face MLP). My sides have been elevated though, so the high and mid range frequencies are not overly obscured by the couch itself. With this sort of a layout (space starting to crunch in) is 7.1 still ideal if you can manage it?

 

2ft is enough in my opinion for rears.... ive been in setups with this style config. for sides  if they are towers and taking up significant space have you considered stand mounts ? they can be a little less imposing on floor space. and give you a tad more in space to move around if that is a concern ? is wall mounting of surrounds an option is moving more to sides a possibility ? as we have seen eg in few setups you really dont need heck more in space for sides.. and indeed can elevate them out the way ... and leave as much as possible height differential so heights indeed can work in heights.

 

30 minutes ago, MaxPlumage said:

I can hear the separation very well on all channels without localisation and hotspots at the MLP.

this tells me your setup of bed speakers is working now ... and all adding with heights is the height perspective... but yes i would err not on adding 2 rear heights as that would just have speakers upon speakers not really room for them to work. and stick instead just to the front heights.

 

31 minutes ago, MaxPlumage said:

I know this is not exactly as per Dolby spec, but it's the best compromise at the moment without me either pulling the couch forwards further or downgrading to a 3 seater.

moving couch forward is probably going to give SO many gains if can get to 2/3rd room depth.... something indeed to consider... it makes your screen look bigger :D  helps with bass, coherency of vocals because not so close to the back wall.. and will indeed give even more space down back...so if possible definitely do it :) re couches we use a large freedom 3 seater... and  we have both us and both kids (one teen one nearly) in there quite often all cosy... depends what chasing :)

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21 minutes ago, MaxPlumage said:

With this sort of a layout (space starting to crunch in) is 7.1 still ideal if you can manage it?

In my 7.1 set up to keep everyone happy in the 'House of STROP' I have placed surround rear speakers on the floor firing upwards behind the couch, works extremely well when people don't know how that jet or artillery shell is coming from behind, kinda scares the cr*p out of them 😎

 

Being rear surround speakers that you can't see being placed on the floor in my system they add that immersion factor without WAF being involved...

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3 hours ago, betty boop said:

2ft is enough in my opinion for rears.... ive been in setups with this style config. for sides  if they are towers and taking up significant space have you considered stand mounts ?

Thanks Betty. I would like to use the towers because these used to be my mains...I don't have any other stand mounts other than my previous 2 side bookshelves that have now moved to rear surrounds.

 

I'll keep experimenting. When watching DTS Master Audio 7.1 or 5.1 do you recommend Neural X (or any) upmixing? I don't quite get why or how upmixing would work when you already have a 7.1 set up and the bluray is also DTS HD 7.1...so what is exactly is the upmixer doing in that case?

 

Thanks!

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1 hour ago, MaxPlumage said:

Thanks Betty. I would like to use the towers because these used to be my mains...I don't have any other stand mounts other than my previous 2 side bookshelves that have now moved to rear surrounds.

maybe worth switching between the sides and rears ? if gives a bit more scope with the sides ? anyways you have them so easy enough to try if have the inclination :)

 

1 hour ago, MaxPlumage said:

'll keep experimenting. When watching DTS Master Audio 7.1 or 5.1 do you recommend Neural X (or any) upmixing? I don't quite get why or how upmixing would work when you already have a 7.1 set up and the bluray is also DTS HD 7.1...so what is exactly is the upmixer doing in that case?

with dolby surround ....if you play non native 3Daudio ie say just plain trueHD it will up mix from the 5.1 or 7.1 track upto 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 or what ever your setup is. similarly with DTS-HDma tracks it will up mix using DTS neural X. it is absolutely amazing what this achieves and in most cases... what it is doing ... is same as all surround decoding has done over the years... pick up wiht analysis on clues to height information and using it to effect ... even if not a native 3D track. and this can be indeed to very good effect. you can be even watching TV and its raining and it sounds like rain dropping down from above ... all around ! or a great example is mr and mrs smith blu-ray and in the car scene when brad is on the roof... even though just a dts-HDma track the neural x upmixing in this case does a great job so you actually hear brad rustling around up there hanging onto the roof and sliding around ! 

 

if you want to see what the up mixer is doing pull up the info button on the marantz... you will see the incoming signal and what outgoing is going to be with upmixing...

 

 

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I have a 6.25 x 4.3 x 2.7 room and I have gone from 7.x.6 down to a 5.x.4 setup.

I found that 7.1 gave a more complete ambient soundfield but only with the surrounds directly to the side or slightly in front (80deg). But I also found the room too narrow and the surrounds were too close and you could identify the speaker way too easily (hot-spotting).

So even though 7.1 was superior it was only just a little bit better and not enough to justify the extra expense and hassle. Discrete or distinct surround sounds sounded exactly the same in 5.1 as they did in 7.1 p it was simply the ambience that was improved.

With such limited space behind and having to run the surrounds behind the listeners I would suggest to run just 5.1.

The extra 2 speakers being used as heights will add a lot more than running them as rear surrounds. Think about it - an extra pair at the rear for similar surround sound or an extra pair for an additional height layer - personally I think it is a no-brainer.

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5 minutes ago, niterida said:

Discrete or distinct surround sounds sounded exactly the same in 5.1 as they did in 7.1 p it was simply the ambience that was improved.

Very interesting for me as I have wondered, especially in the less than ideal room situations some of us have to contend with, whether we were getting past the number of discrete channels that really are needed, or that matter in a home situation.

 

Maybe  5.1.2,   enhanced by some of the DSP "effects" that come with modern gear, especially when the sound is up mixed from a less then 3D source, is as good as it is going to get?

 

Now if I have a proper, purpose built theatre with proper proportions and acoustics, maybe...

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40 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

Very interesting for me as I have wondered, especially in the less than ideal room situations some of us have to contend with, whether we were getting past the number of discrete channels that really are needed, or that matter in a home situation.

really comes down to whether you can meet close to the recommendations. it makes no sense to put speakers on top of speakers. eg in OP case, id never suggest 7.1.4 and instead  7.1.2 given he is indeed getting benefit of 7.1 now. you dont suddenly loose the benefit of 7.1 by adding two front heights :D the front heights just add the height dimension....

 

id certainly never suggest anyone 7.1.6 either. the two additional top middle wouldnt id suggest make any sense for most folk. not a room big enough.... or unless running VERY big home theatres...

 

indeed depends what can fit in but in my domestic setup am certainly very much enjoying 7.1.5 that is in reality 7.1.4 and the .5th is really for auro 3D which might not be a priority for most 

 

40 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

Now if I have a proper, purpose built theatre with proper proportions and acoustics, maybe...

I dont think that is an absolute necessity, infact from all my demoing and own experience i would suggest most folk even with a typical lounge room (if willing to accomodate) can get away  7,1,.4 its jsut that many folk want couches up back of the wall and such and will preclude running rear speakers let alone rear heights. 

 

there is a lot of misunderstanding i would suggest - even in people doing this for a living, example the major show that were doing height speakers at same height as other surrounds.... :D

 

however i think if can in my homely surrounds and even given all limitations, suspect most can....  

 

every room i have ever come across even dedicated rooms have some limitation or other. just matter of making best of it. 

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, aussievintage said:

Maybe  5.1.2,  is as good as it is going to get?

No, 9.x.7 will be as good as it gets (assuming a 'normal' sized home theatre). More speakers will always be better (assuming setup correctly and quality speakers).

With my reasonably extensive testing of 5-7 base level and 2-6 height level speakers I came to the conclusion that 5.x.4 is the best value for money/hassle as each step above that adds only a little but can cost a fair bit more (in money, time and hassle).

As betty boop says - 7.1.4 is probably the setup to aim for at home. I would run 7 myself but my room design means I can't put the surrounds in a decent position in a 7.x.x layout (entry is at the rear so the sides of the seating are aisles so there is no room for speakers). So I have opted to run 5.x.4 because I can put the surrounds slightly behind me (and out of the walkway)  in that layout.

I suggested 5.1.2 for you because you don't have the room behind you to do  7 base or 4 heights. But if you can move the seating forward and extend to a 9 channel AVR then 4 heights would be a lot better than 2. You will get front to back as well as side to side over head sounds - so basically twice as good.

If you can't get the rear heights at the recommended angle but you can still get them somewhere behind you and can afford it then I would do it. Currently my rear heights are only 450mm behind me (bookshelf speakers aimed directly across the room and angled down to ear height for MLP) and the fronts are 3600mm in fornt of me (top corners of the ceiling and aimed directly at MLP). It works and is maybe 90% as good as when I had the rear heights 2600mm away in the rear corners.

 

So the moral of this story is more is better, perfect positioning is better but whatever you can afford and fit in your room will still be good :)

Edited by niterida

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All great input from everyone - thank you.

 

I have 65cm behind my couch (I had to pull it forwards) and managed to use bookshelves for side surrounds toed in from room corners and tower speakers now for the rears (thanks Betty). They barely fit with room, but I managed to put them together. All four speakers are positioned such that no matter where one sits on the couch, there is no speaker directly behind you - less localisation and more dispersion. I have removed the front upfiring atmos modules for now.

 

First impressions are spectacular. I watched 1917 on BluRay (my AVR decided on Atmos upmixer when I chose auto). The separation that 7.1 provides  really does make a difference, as Betty said that 'hole in the rear sound field' seems to be plugged. Obviously dependent on mixing, but I will try out with other material moving forward.

 

Next was music (Karen Souza, Katie Melua). I prefer Auro 2D for music generally (sorry, purists!) but the ambience was terrific, it felt like the performers were there in front of you - and Auro 2D is never aggresive just very subtle but the surrounds enhanced the body and presence.

 

Once I switched to stereo still great, but lost a lot of the sheen - it felt like the sound stage just shrunk and felt one dimensional.

 

I guess I was surprised at the difference those rear speakers made despite having not much room to breathe. But here we are.

 

If you can wing it - go for 7.1.x

 

 

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