Do Atmos Add-On Speaker Modules Work?

gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
A frequent question we get asked is if Dolby Atmos add-on speaker modules work well enough to be a viable alternative to discrete ceiling mounted speakers. Many people find it difficult or impractical to wire and mount speakers in the ceiling for height effects. We discuss the trade-offs in using Atmos-enabled speakers to help you determine if they are right for you.

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Read: Do Atmos Add-On Speaker Modules Work
 
W

Winkleswizard

Audioholic
Thanks for sharing this work. Based on the previous post, I had modified my Mirage Omni 150s to be atmos speakers. They were placed on top of my front towers, but this did not work as well as I had hoped. Based on the suggestion from this post, put the speakers close to where ceiling speakers would get mounted and got much better results.

The Mirage 150 is an omnipolar design with a slanted top. I replaced the fancy tweeter with a Vifa silk dome one. They now sit on high shelves on their fronts so the drivers point towards the sweet spot. This worked dramatically better and did not have to deal with mounting speakers in the ceiling! Not sure how well unmodified Mirage would work, but am planning to try with OMD-5s. They come with a mounting bracket that allows them to be mounted upside down.

Ww
 
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Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic General
Here's the deal. It really isn't about discrete ceiling mount vs Atmos modules, for many, its about Atmos modules vs no height effects at all. I believe for most enthusiast, the only way to get the height effect is with the Atmos module. Yes, those modules might be a compromise in comparison to discrete ceiling speakers, however for some, those modules are the only option, so one must live with those compromises in order to have some height effects.
 
Stanton

Stanton

Audioholics Contributing Writer
No...there is another (option)...
I have had my overhead Atmos speakers (5.1.2 configuration) mounted high on the side walls (as close to the ceiling as you can get) for almost 3 years now with great results.
While this may not fit the purest model of "in ceiling" speakers, it sounds much better (to me) than the "add-on" modules that I've heard in other configurations. Even better, I was able to re-purpose an old set of Polk bookshelf speakers as the overheads (follow this link to a related article I wrote for Audioholics).
 
Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic General
No...there is another (option)...
I have had my overhead Atmos speakers (5.1.2 configuration) mounted high on the side walls (as close to the ceiling as you can get) for almost 3 years now with great results.
While this may not fit the purest model of "in ceiling" speakers, it sounds much better (to me) than the "add-on" modules that I've heard in other configurations. Even better, I was able to re-purpose an old set of Polk bookshelf speakers as the overheads (follow this link to a related article I wrote for Audioholics).
That's good to know, many people probably don't know about your above described speaker placement.
 
Y

yepimonfire

Audioholic Samurai
Here is the basic idea behind up firing speakers and some of the issues that may make them less than ideal. Humans locate sound via 3 mechanisms, interaural time differences for low frequencies (large enough to diffract around the head), interaural level differences for high frequencies (those too small to diffract around the head) and head related transfer function. Depending on the angle at which the sound approaches the ears, various notches or peaks in the frequency response appear, this is the primary mechanism by which humans determine side, rear, and overhead sound.

ITD and ILD primarily serves to relay left/right location.

Humans will always focus in on the first wavefront to reach the ears, considering its nearly impossible to make a small Atmos module have such tightly controlled directivity, we will always hear the sound from the speaker first, and the ceiling bounce second. This is why eq is needed, to properly mimic the hrtf of an overhead sound. It's nothing more than a well designed version of "virtual surround", for overhead effects.

I agree it's much better to actually mount speakers above vs using an Atmos module. There's many options for those who can't install in ceiling speakers. In a x.1.4 system, one could mount top front and top rears with goo effects, with a 5.1.2 system, speakers can be mounted on the sidewalls high up, this works better if the room isn't super wide and the ceiling is above 8'.

The other, and obviously best option, is to simply mount regular speakers on the ceiling where you would have otherwise installed in ceiling speakers. If you can swing wall mounts for heights or surrounds, you can easily just mount those same speakers to the ceiling. Speakers with threaded mounting hardware can be attached via an omnimount on the ceiling, this is what I've done using klipsch rb10s. For speakers without mounting hardware, the omnimount can be attached via screws directly into the speaker. One benefit of this setup is that you can use the same speaker line that you use for the LCR and surround, which offers perfect timbre matching.

Sent from my LGMP260 using Tapatalk
 
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Auditor55

Auditor55

Audioholic General
Here is the basic idea behind up firing speakers and some of the issues that may make them less than ideal. Humans locate sound via 3 mechanisms, interaural time differences for low frequencies (large enough to diffract around the head), interaural level differences for high frequencies (those too small to diffract around the head) and head related transfer function. Depending on the angle at which the sound approaches the ears, various notches or peaks in the frequency response appear, this is the primary mechanism by which humans determine side, rear, and overhead sound.

ITD and ILD primarily serves to relay left/right location.

Humans will always focus in on the first wavefront to reach the ears, considering its nearly impossible to make a small Atmos module have such tightly controlled directivity, we will always hear the sound from the speaker first, and the ceiling bounce second. This is why eq is needed, to properly mimic the hrtf of an overhead sound. It's nothing more than a well designed version of "virtual surround", for overhead effects.

I agree it's much better to actually mount speakers above vs using an Atmos module. There's many options for those who can't install in ceiling speakers. In a x.1.4 system, one could mount top front and top rears with goo effects, with a 5.1.2 system, speakers can be mounted on the sidewalls high up, this works better if the room isn't super wide and the ceiling is above 8'.

The other, and obviously best option, is to simply mount regular speakers on the ceiling where you would have otherwise installed in ceiling speakers. If you can swing wall mounts for heights or surrounds, you can easily just mount those same speakers to the ceiling. Speakers with threaded mounting hardware can be attached via an omnimount on the ceiling, this is what I've done using klipsch rb10s. For speakers without mounting hardware, the omnimount can be attached via screws directly into the speaker. One benefit of this setup is that you can use the same speaker line that you use for the LCR and surround, which offers perfect timbre matching.

Sent from my LGMP260 using Tapatalk
That 5.1.4 system with speakers placed high up front and high in the rear is a DTS-X based layout and not Dolby Atmos. In Stanton's link, he was showing a DTS-X based speaker system. Dolby recommends the ceilings or the modules to simulate the ceiling placement.


 
Y

yepimonfire

Audioholic Samurai
Atmos isn't limited to overhead on ceiling though, and unlike DTS X claims to do, actual will adapt to any combination of floor/ceiling speakers so long as it's in a specified location. Atmos supports a maximum of 10 speakers (5 pairs) in the height layer, at any combination. This includes front height, top front, top middle, top rear, and rear height. So long as you tell the renderer where those speakers are placed, it will appropriately render the objects using any available combination of speaker pairs.

See the official Atmos home theater installation guidelines for more info.


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R

RodLW

Audiophyte
I am not a sound engineer; however, I do listen carefully and am discriminant in my evaluative observation of cinema sound. A few years ago I researched Dolby Atmos speaker technology. I was interested after purchasing an amp with ATMOS capability. I previously had a 7.2 system in my home. The room had a cathedral ceiling but otherwise worked well with that system. We moved and the new home had flat 9’ ceilings. According to the specs, the ATMOS enabled speaker towers would work. I could not listen in the store due to ceiling, space and other issues for ATMOS. I ended up trusting Dolby’s ATMOS description and the product literature and went forward with the purchase. I set the speaker system up as a 5.2, calibrated and equalized the speaker volumes and purchased some ATMOS movies.

The sound stage addition was immediately apparent on background sounds, voices, particular miscellaneous sounds. It gave a depth to the sound quality that was new to me. I post to let others know that ATMOS enabled speakers do in fact do what ATMOS is supposed to do- reflect from the ceiling to the listener. I do not agree that dedicated wall mounted ATMOS speakers are the ONLY working solution as some state. I do believe that ceiling geometry is critical in any sound stage and since ATMOS is ceiling reflected sound, that factor determines its effectiveness.
 
E

Endaar

Enthusiast
In a x.1.4 system, one could mount top front and top rears with goo effects, with a 5.1.2 system, speakers can be mounted on the sidewalls high up, this works better if the room isn't super wide and the ceiling is above 8'.
Having been in that situation, I think the other caveat is that if the heights are not directly overhead, it is even more critical that the sides and surrounds are mounted at ear height, which creates another challenge for anyone with an older layout with the surrounds higher up.


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H

Hobbit

Full Audioholic
After doing a lot of reading about the bouncy speakers, I decided to give it a go. Albeit, after reading about them I decided to go on the inexpensive side. There just weren't enough wow responses to warrant buying a more expensive, and matching my mains, pair. Therefore, I bought a pair of the Elacs. My thought was if these worked great I would upgrade later.

It was an incremental improvement. Nothing ground breaking, however. i will stick with the Elacs for now.
 
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Gmoney

Gmoney

Audioholic Ninja
After doing a lot of reading about the bouncy speakers, I decided to give it a go. Albeit, after reading about them I decided to go on the inexpensive side. There just weren't enough wow responses to warrant buying a more expensive, and matching my mains, pair. Therefore, I bought a pair of the Elacs. My thought was is these worked great I would upgrade later.

It was an incremental improvement. Nothing ground breaking, however. i will stick with the Elacs for now.
Post up photos!!
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
Having been in that situation, I think the other caveat is that if the heights are not directly overhead, it is even more critical that the sides and surrounds are mounted at ear height, which creates another challenge for anyone with an older layout with the surrounds higher up.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Did you increase the volume level of those Atmos modules like +4dB above everything else? :D

Even for my 4 in-ceiling Atmos speakers, I have to increase the volume level above the other speakers.
 
E

Endaar

Enthusiast
Did you increase the volume level of those Atmos modules like +4dB above everything else? :D

Even for my 4 in-ceiling Atmos speakers, I have to increase the volume level above the other speakers.
I don't recall how they were set. My new location has 7' ceilings, and while I'm running the heights a little hot, it's definitely not 4 dB lol. Not sure I'd hear anything else.


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