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Atmos/DTS:X height channel physical placement in an old house...

Nathan Raymond

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I'd like to get a pair of physical speakers in place for the height channel for Atmos and DTS:X. Right now I am running 5.2 physical speakers with virtualized height channels with my Denon AVR-X3700H receiver. House is 100+ years old, walls are lathe and plaster, ceiling is plaster. I'm not going to attempt to cut into the ceiling, and I'd rather avoid cutting into the walls since the living room is not an ideal layout for a home theater, so I consider our current A/V configuration a compromise, and don't know if we'll stick with it long-term (walls have old wallpaper on them that was at some point painted over, so repairing any large holes would be a fairly major project I'd want to avoid).

I have my old first pair of Wharfedale bookshelf speakers spare (Diamond 6R, made in the UK even) and since they are front ported and not too big, they could work pretty well for a height channel I think. Question is, how to mount them? I could try to prop/wedge them on top of the main left and right speakers, but I'm not sure how to achieve the proper angle while looking presentable. I've pondered getting new dedicated Atmos speakers, but these are currently only available in white (the reest of my speakers are black) and if placed on top of my main left and right speakers would overhang them by about an inch, so they won't deliver much of an aesthetic win:

https://www.wharfedaleusa.com/products/d300-surround-speakers

I could get something like the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 which has a concentric driver but I'd rather not mix and match speaker brands. So that leaves me wondering, is there some way I could mount and angle my old Wharfedale Diamond 6R bookshelf speakers as height channel speakers without drilling into my walls or ceiling? Anyone have any thoughts/experiences, home-built solutions or made-to-purpose products?
 

Soundmixer

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I could get something like the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 which has a concentric driver but I'd rather not mix and match speaker brands.
Since you have already decided to compromise by using upfiring speakers as opposed to ceiling-mounted ones, there is no harm at all mixing and matching different speakers to do that chore. You absolutely could angle your old speakers to do the chore since it is upfiring anyway.
 
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Nathan Raymond

Nathan Raymond

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Since you have already decided to compromise by using upfiring speakers as opposed to ceiling-mounted ones, there is no harm at all mixing and matching different speakers to do that chore. You absolutely could angle your old speakers to do the chore since it is upfiring anyway.
My understanding is that I could also mount an additional pair of speakers high on a wall (say, above my TV) and angle them at the listener area. No bounce in that case, which I assume would mean better sound quality... but I would either need to wall mount, or get/create a high stand. Maybe there is some sort of high (7ft) pro stand that could elevate and angle downward a speaker? I have about three feet of space behind the TV.
 

Soundmixer

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My understanding is that I could also mount an additional pair of speakers high on a wall (say, above my TV) and angle them at the listener area. No bounce in that case, which I assume would mean better sound quality... but I would either need to wall mount, or get/create a high stand. Maybe there is some sort of high (7ft) pro stand that could elevate and angle downward a speaker? I have about three feet of space behind the TV.
Unfortunately, that wouldn't really be Atmos. Atmos is not based on front or rear heights, it is top front and top rears. Auro uses front and rear heights. What you are actually setting up is a half-Auro system.
 
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Nathan Raymond

Nathan Raymond

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Based on my reading, I have reservations about using speakers that don't attempt to have an Atmos target curve in the upfiring/bounce role. For instance, take a look at Archimago's review and measurements of the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Atmos Speakers:

https://archimago.blogspot.com/2021/01/measurements-elac-debut-20-a42-atmos.html

Specifically:

So what's going on here?

Well, remember that these Atmos speakers were not designed to be "high fidelity" transducers like your main speakers with the aim of achieving relatively flat frequency response on-axis or within a typical "listening window" like +/-30°. Check out the Dolby patent for their "Virtual Height Filter for Reflected Sound Rendering Using Upward Firing Drivers". In particular, we see this diagram for a theoretical Atmos speaker:


As you can see, the curve labeled as "908" is basically the theoretical EQ target that these small Atmos modules are aiming to reproduce. On the low end, we see the crossover around 200Hz (the ELAC starts dipping off below 200Hz). And in the high frequencies, Dolby implements a "virtual height filter":
"... derived from a directional hearing model based on a database of HRTF responses averaged across a large set of subjects. The black lines 303 represent the filter PT computed over a range of azimuth angles and a range of elevation angles corresponding to reasonable speaker distances and ceiling heights. Looking at these various instances of PT, one first notes that the majority of each filter's variation occurs at higher frequencies, above 4Hz. In addition, each filter exhibits a peak located at roughly 7kHz and a notch at roughly 12kHz..."
While not precisely as described, for the ELAC, above 4kHz we do in fact see a local peak at around 7kHz and a dip at 11kHz. The measurements for these speakers also show a dip around 2kHz which is not part of the Dolby specification.

There have been controversies around whether the HRTF is needed. I don't know if that question has been resolved with any satisfaction over the years.

The more I think about this, the safe bet is to use my bookshelf speakers as "Front height speaker left/right". Denon's manual has this suggestion for FHL/FHR placement: "Place the FRONT HEIGHT left and right speakers directly above the front speakers. Mount them as close to the ceiling as possible and aim them towards the main listening position." I assume the reason for pointing them to the listener is to improve the frequency response the listener hears across the spectrum by keeping the speaker as on-axis as possible and to reduce unnecessary reflections off the ceiling.

So maybe I should use some rare earth magnets to determine if there are studs in the right places in line behind my front left and right speakers, then see if I can find angle speaker mounts that only need two screws so I can mount them to the studs. I realize I have another speaker option at hand - a pair of Infinity Primus P143 two way bookshelf speakers. A bit smaller (4" main driver), also front ported, with an important advantage - threaded socket in the middle so they could mounted to an angle bracket very easily and neatly. Maybe that would be the best option?
 

Soundmixer

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Denon's manual has this suggestion for FHL/FHR placement: "Place the FRONT HEIGHT left and right speakers directly above the front speakers.
That is for Auro, that is not for Atmos. Dolby has very specific mounting places for the Atmos speakers, and directly above the front speakers is not one of them.
 
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Nathan Raymond

Nathan Raymond

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Unfortunately, that wouldn't really be Atmos. Atmos is not based on front or rear heights, it is top front and top rears. Auro uses front and rear heights. What you are actually setting up is a half-Auro system.
My Denon doesn't have Auro, but it covers FHL/FHR setup in the manual, so I assume it can process the Atmos and DTS:X content such that front height channels are utilized effectively. I've read lots of anecdotes from people who've reported Atmos uses their FHL and FHR speakers, and I haven't found anything that says it will sound a lot worse than ceiling mounted speakers.
 

HighImpactAV

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That is for Auro, that is not for Atmos. Dolby has very specific mounting places for the Atmos speakers, and directly above the front speakers is not one of them.
The Atmos overhead speakers are not above the front speakers, but the Atmos front height speakers are supposed to be directly above the front speakers. From the Dolby Installation Guidelines:

"The left front height and right front height speakers should be mounted on the front wall (instead of on the ceiling) in line with an approximately 30 degrees horizontal from the center-front reference. This places the left front height and right front height speakers directly above the left and right speakers."
Atmos Front Height.jpg
 

Soundmixer

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The Atmos overhead speakers are not above the front speakers, but the Atmos front height speakers are supposed to be directly above the front speakers. From the Dolby Installation Guidelines:

"The left front height and right front height speakers should be mounted on the front wall (instead of on the ceiling) in line with an approximately 30 degrees horizontal from the center-front reference. This places the left front height and right front height speakers directly above the left and right speakers."
View attachment 164349
This configuration is not supported by most pre-pros and AVR's in the marketplace. Only the high-end pro-pros that support more than 16 channels support this configuration, so this is a poor example to demonstrate speaker placement for the most common configuration found in most AVR's. The most commonly support speaker format is 7.1.4, and the top heights are not located over the front speakers, and the rear tops are not over the rear speakers. Also, look at the statement "this refers to how many OVERHEAD or Dolby Atmos-enabled (upfiring) speakers you use.

My Denon doesn't have Auro, but it covers FHL/FHR setup in the manual, so I assume it can process the Atmos and DTS:X content such that front height channels are utilized effectively.
One of my Denon receivers also does not support Auro, but it also has a setting for front and rear heights. That refers to the top rear and front speakers that are placed OVERHEAD. Atmos is specifically designed to place objects OVER YOUR HEAD, not over your front or rear speakers. So your assumption is wrong here. When a Denon receiver refers to height speakers, they are referring to speakers that go overhead, not over the front speakers. If you have one set of speakers for your Atmos speakers, they should be placed from 80-100 degrees OVERHEAD, not over the top of the front speakers.

 
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Nathan Raymond

Nathan Raymond

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This configuration is not supported by most pre-pros and AVR's in the marketplace. Only the high-end pro-pros that support more than 16 channels support this configuration, so this is a poor example to demonstrate speaker placement for the most common configuration found in most AVR's. The most commonly support speaker format is 7.1.4, and the top heights are not located over the front speakers, and the rear tops are not over the rear speakers. Also, look at the statement "this refers to how many OVERHEAD or Dolby Atmos-enabled (upfiring) speakers you use.


One of my Denon receivers also does not support Auro, but it also has a setting for front and rear heights. That refers to the top rear and front speakers that are placed OVERHEAD. Atmos is specifically designed to place objects OVER YOUR HEAD, not over your front or rear speakers. So your assumption is wrong here. When a Denon receiver refers to height speakers, they are referring to speakers that go overhead, not over the front speakers. If you have one set of speakers for your Atmos speakers, they should be placed from 80-100 degrees OVERHEAD, not over the top of the front speakers.

I'm not really concerned with what's supported by "most pre-pros and AVR's", I'm concerned with my Denon AVR-X3700H. Right now I am running Atmos and DTS:X with 5.2 speakers with virtualized height channels (no physical speakers, uses HRTFs to create the illusion sounds are coming from above). I didn't see anything mentioned about Dolby Atmos height virtualization in the PDF you linked to, and it is 3 years old so I'm not sure it is up to date.

Ceiling mounted speakers are not an option for me. Virtual height seems unlikely to be better than physical height speakers, unless perhaps physical height speakers act too much like point sources and don't provide diffuse enough sound? My choices for physical height speakers are FDL/FDR (i.e. purchase something like the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Atmos Speakers which bounce sound off the ceiling) or FHL/FHR (and I have bookshelf speakers already that will function well in that role if I mount them high on the wall and point them at the listener area).

These speaker mounts look like they'll work well for my old house since they just require two screws each that can go into a stud, can hold up to 10 lbs, and have a 1/4"-20 thread size that matches the back of a pair of Infinity Primus P143 speakers I have:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008J56UH0/
 

keenly

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I'd like to get a pair of physical speakers in place for the height channel for Atmos and DTS:X. Right now I am running 5.2 physical speakers with virtualized height channels with my Denon AVR-X3700H receiver. House is 100+ years old, walls are lathe and plaster, ceiling is plaster. I'm not going to attempt to cut into the ceiling, and I'd rather avoid cutting into the walls since the living room is not an ideal layout for a home theater, so I consider our current A/V configuration a compromise, and don't know if we'll stick with it long-term (walls have old wallpaper on them that was at some point painted over, so repairing any large holes would be a fairly major project I'd want to avoid).

I have my old first pair of Wharfedale bookshelf speakers spare (Diamond 6R, made in the UK even) and since they are front ported and not too big, they could work pretty well for a height channel I think. Question is, how to mount them? I could try to prop/wedge them on top of the main left and right speakers, but I'm not sure how to achieve the proper angle while looking presentable. I've pondered getting new dedicated Atmos speakers, but these are currently only available in white (the reest of my speakers are black) and if placed on top of my main left and right speakers would overhang them by about an inch, so they won't deliver much of an aesthetic win:

https://www.wharfedaleusa.com/products/d300-surround-speakers

I could get something like the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 which has a concentric driver but I'd rather not mix and match speaker brands. So that leaves me wondering, is there some way I could mount and angle my old Wharfedale Diamond 6R bookshelf speakers as height channel speakers without drilling into my walls or ceiling? Anyone have any thoughts/experiences, home-built solutions or made-to-purpose products?
Yes

I have SVS elevation upside down scrweed into make shift ikea cd racks.

You can create a shelf off the wall and put speakers under it. A shelf of a wardobe or whatever. No need for putting them into actual ceiling.
 

Dj7675

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Unfortunately, that wouldn't really be Atmos. Atmos is not based on front or rear heights, it is top front and top rears. Auro uses front and rear heights. What you are actually setting up is a half-Auro system.
My understanding is Front Height/Rear Height is an acceptable Atmos layout. Is that not correct? On all of the Denon’s I have owned it is there as an option and it is there On my Storm MK2 as well.
 

HighImpactAV

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This configuration is not supported by most pre-pros and AVR's in the marketplace. Only the high-end pro-pros that support more than 16 channels support this configuration, so this is a poor example to demonstrate speaker placement for the most common configuration found in most AVR's. The most commonly support speaker format is 7.1.4, and the top heights are not located over the front speakers, and the rear tops are not over the rear speakers.
I wasn't emphasizing the configuration - just the location of the heights. I have a StormAudio ISP with the 24 channel decoder and a Denon X3700. The StormAudio's front heights decode the same as the Denon's front heights and the StormAudio's top fronts decode the same as the Denon's top fronts. If you do 7.1.4 and select the .4 as heights in the Denon, you do not get the top channels. The exception is movies with a 7.1.4 printout and the .4 will play in either the heights or the tops depending on which is selected.

You can see on this chart that the X8500H can decode to either tops or heights. The X3700H does the same.

Heights.jpg
 
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Nathan Raymond

Nathan Raymond

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I wasn't emphasizing the configuration - just the location of the heights. I have a StormAudio ISP with the 24 channel decoder and a Denon X3700. The StormAudio's front heights decode the same as the Denon's front heights and the StormAudio's top fronts decode the same as the Denon's top fronts. If you do 7.1.4 and select the .4 as heights in the Denon, you do not get the top channels. The exception is movies with a 7.1.4 printout and the .4 will play in either the heights or the tops depending on which is selected.

You can see on this chart that the X8500H can decode to either tops or heights. The X3700H does the same.

View attachment 164576
That chart is interesting, and I haven't been able to find the equivalent in the AVR-X3700H manual, which seems vague on how height channels are utilized by Atmos. Here is a link to the PDF:

https://manuals.denon.com/AVRX3700H/NA/EN/pdf/AVRX3700H_NA_EN.pdf

On page 136 in "Description of sound mode types" under Dolby Atmos it says:

"It decodes Dolby Atmos content and its positioning data in real time and outputs audio from the appropriate speakers, creating natural audio images regardless of the speaker layout. Use ceiling speakers and/or Dolby Atmos Enabled speakers to realize a three-dimensional sound field. An immersive audio experience can be enjoyed from traditional speaker layouts that do not employ overhead or Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers by selecting the Speaker Virtualizer feature."

There is an absence of any mention of height speakers, instead the rather specific, "ceiling speakers and/or Dolby Atmos Enabled speakers". On page 137 under DTS:X it says:

"It decodes DTS:X content and its positioning data in real time and outputs audio from the appropriate speakers, creating natural audio images regardless of the speaker layout. Use height speakers to realize a three-dimensional sound field."

That just says "height speakers", which seems to indicate that DTS:X can work with whatever type of height speaker (front height, rear height, ceiling, and I guess up-firing angled Atmos?)

Now I would expect that if you only have front height speakers and if the Dolby Atmos content can't use them that you could at that point enable the speaker virtualizer to give you psychoacoustic height channels, but page 173 seems to indicate that is not possible because it explicitly says:

"Usable when not using height, ceiling or Dolby Atmos Enabled speakers, or when not using surround speakers."

But I guess the question is, what does the manual mean by "using"? Does "using" height speakers mean having them physically set up and connect to the receiver, or does "using" mean when they are fed a signal from the Dolby Atmos decoder? If the latter, and if Atmos doesn't feed them a signal, then I could at least use the virtualizer if Atmos can't feed a signal to front heights.

I think I may need to reach out to Denon to get clarification, because this is about as clear as mud at this point.
 
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Nathan Raymond

Nathan Raymond

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Oh and just to add to the confusion there is advice out there to actually avoid top speakers for maximum compatibility with DTS:X, like this:

https://rantingsofamadaudiophile.wo...s-dolby-atmos-is-there-any-difference-part-i/

Choice quote:

"It worth noting that Atmos seems to work well no matter what setup I choose, Top front/middle/rear, or Front height/rear. Sounds come from the appropriate location. With this in mind, I would suggest designing an Atmos/DTS:X system that includes only a single pair of height speakers with either Top fronts, or Front heights for maximum compatibility."
 

Soundmixer

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If you do 7.1.4 and select the .4 as heights in the Denon, you do not get the top channels.
That is correct because the top information is being sent to the front/rear heights which are the wrong position for objects. That is my point. I do not master and encode Atmos soundtrack for front and rear heights, I do it for top and rear heights as Dolby recommends. Dolby does not recommend front or rear heights in any of their setup instructions for 7.1.4. Beyond 16 channels, there are front and rear heights supported.
 

Soundmixer

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Oh and just to add to the confusion there is advice out there to actually avoid top speakers for maximum compatibility with DTS:X, like this:

https://rantingsofamadaudiophile.wo...s-dolby-atmos-is-there-any-difference-part-i/

Choice quote:

"It worth noting that Atmos seems to work well no matter what setup I choose, Top front/middle/rear, or Front height/rear. Sounds come from the appropriate location. With this in mind, I would suggest designing an Atmos/DTS:X system that includes only a single pair of height speakers with either Top fronts, or Front heights for maximum compatibility."
As far as I know, The Dolby Atmos mastering suite cannot produce a 7.1.4 printout, so that is irrelevant here. Having read this article years ago, I think you are totally mistaken about top speakers and DTS:X. Here is what he actually said.l;

"What about overhead sounds though? How does that translate to my Top Middle Atmos configuration? As you can see from the Object Emulator Demo, there is no Top Middle speakers, only Rear Height, and Front Height."

He is referring to top middle setting, not the top front and rear settings. So you are misreading things here. Also, he is using a 5.1.2 system, not 7.1.4 or anything higher.

Dolby Atmos will certainly work if you choose front or rear heights, but the spatial positioning of the objects will not be in the correct place.
 

Soundmixer

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My understanding is Front Height/Rear Height is an acceptable Atmos layout. Is that not correct? On all of the Denon’s I have owned it is there as an option and it is there On my Storm MK2 as well.
Front height/rear height is supported by the Atmos layout when you go beyond 16 channels. It is not supported when talking about 7.1.4, only the top rear/front is. It is the only setting that places objects in their proper spatial space. Front/rear heights will certainly produce sound, just not spatially correct.
 

jhaider

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My understanding is Front Height/Rear Height is an acceptable Atmos layout. Is that not correct? On all of the Denon’s I have owned it is there as an option and it is there On my Storm MK2 as well.

Well, there’s this…

 

Webninja

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I have the Denon x3700h and an as-close-to-possible Dolby placement for my 7.0.4 home theater. It was a remodel so I got to wire and place all overhead speakers.

All speakers are the same brand and coming from a 5.0 my thought is Atmos is over rated. Sure it’s great when a chopper is overhead and dropping shell rounds from the side mounted gun, but it’s no where as big of an improvement as adding surrounds.

Could be my room, but I would say Atmos was a small incremental improvement overall.
 
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