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

Soundmixer

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Well, there’s this…

And there is this.. This is one of Dolby's theater/mixing rooms at their headquarters, and a perfect example of where the "immersive" speakers should be placed.

img102.jpg
 

jhaider

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And there is this.. This is one of Dolby's theater/mixing rooms at their headquarters, and a perfect example of where the "immersive" speakers should be placed.

img102.jpg

So what? That’s not a room in an actual human’s home. It’s an auditorium. Note also the sides are way higher than recommended at home.

I’ve yet to hear obvious impairment in an actual living room from a heights arrangement. It’s also a lot more practical in a normal human’s home because heights can coexist with a ceiling fan, whereas that is much more difficult with tips.
 
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Soundmixer

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So what? That’s not a room in an actual human’s home. It’s an auditorium. Note also the sides are way higher than recommended at home.
You are BS'ing here. We are not talking about the sides, we are talking about the tops. Notice there are no top speakers on the back wall? If you pan around the front, there are no top speakers on the front wall either.
I’ve yet to hear obvious impairment in an actual living room from a heights arrangement. It’s also a lot more practical in a normal human’s home because heights can coexist with a ceiling fan, whereas that is much more difficult with tips.
The obvious impairment is objects would travel UP the front wall rather than traveling over your head. What is more practical if you want accurate results, is to follow Dolby's recommendations rather than making up your own based on personal convenience. If you have a ceiling fan in the way, move it, or take a compromised stance which will compromise the end result.

No studio or post-production house uses front and rear heights to master and encode their Atmos content for the home. I have been doing mastering and encoding Atmos for the home for 7 years now, and I have never used front and rear heights during the process. We follow Dolby's studio recommendations which just happen to mimic their home recommendations. They don't include front or rear wall speakers even when going beyond 7.1.4. They recommend the speakers the top are closest to the front and those closest to the rear to be top-mounted, just like you see in the picture above.
 
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jhaider

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You are BS'ing here. We are not talking about the sides, we are talking about the tops.

OK...to recap. I noted your "ideal" image is not only of a room of totally different volume from the rooms we're talking about, but also the speaker placement used there is contrary to Dolby's stated recommendations for the actual rooms of interest.

You reply that we should ignore the obvious differences in speaker placement [also, unmentioned but should have been, differences in room type and scale] because that doesn't fit your narrative of that image showing ideal speaker placement.

The Auro "Combined Layout" document makes these points as well.
"The difference between Dolby Atmos installations in cinema and at home, however, are a lot bigger, often requiring mixing engineers to adjust the mix when producing the home version. One of the reasons is the difference in elevation of the Surround layers: in cinema this is much higher (25º-35º) than at home (0º-10ª)...Another reason is the placement of the Atmos ceiling speakers, which are closer to each other in the cinema, than at home."

The obvious impairment is objects would travel UP the front wall rather than traveling over your head.

That's an interesting supposition. Wrong, but interesting. Human discrimination of height from sound isn't nearly that precise, from my experience. Perhaps it a learnable skill that somebody who, e.g., mixes sound effects for living develops, but generally speaking...we're not bats. I've listened to plenty of Atmos material - admitted much more music than movies; movies have to be well written to catch my attention, and it seems that screenwriting talent has in the last 15 years or so flowed to television and late night talk shows while the movie industry has been taken over by comic books - and that has never actually happened.

Now try this one: speakers mounted in the ceiling, but of a design that allows them to be aimed at the listening position (at a point slightly ahead of the MLP, because of the polar response of the coaxial MF/HF unit) above the left and right speakers front and rear, at a 30deg give or take elevation.

What is more practical if you want accurate results, is to follow Dolby's recommendations rather than making up your own based on personal convenience. If you have a ceiling fan in the way, move it, or take a compromised stance which will compromise the end result.

I think one reason there are so few full-bore home immersive setups is the setup requirements are counterintuitive and asinine. When "if you want Atmos, you have ditch the 'personal convenience' of a ceiling fan" is something an advocate writes, you know that whatever she's writing about is never ever going to see wide adoption.

Never mind that, given the high percentage of program actually enjoyed is 2-channel material upmixed using Auromatic, why would one compromise playback of that over potentially/debatably compromising on placement of special effects on movies you don't watch?

No studio or post-production house uses front and rear heights to master and encode their Atmos content for the home.

Noted.

Last point: the nice thing about "compromises" is, sometimes you take that route and discover that the experience is actually better in every dimension because of it. Another such example is mounting the TV higher to accommodate proper center channel placement. Turns out that's a better viewing experience (IME) than a TV at eye level, and obviously a superior listening experience as well.
 
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Nathan Raymond

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So I've gone out and done internet and youtube searches to try to figure out the heights vs. ceiling/top channel situation with Atmos vs. DTS:X vs. Auro 3D, and here's what I've gathered so far:

  • Dolby isn't mastered with height speakers, just with ceiling/top speakers in mind. Dolby doesn't refer to height speakers in any of it's recommended speaker setups. Home theater receiver manuals sometimes will specifically cover configuring receivers using height/presence speakers for Dolby Atmos.
  • DTS:X isn't mastered with ceiling/top speakers, just height/presence (typically pairs front and rear) speakers. DTS talks about how their object-based audio is flexible to work with a wide range of speaker configurations. I've read anecdotes about how DTS:X doesn't utilize ceiling speakers as well as it uses height speakers.
  • Auro 3D is about height speakers, mostly. There is a "voice of god" single "top" or ceiling channel, and while recommended, it's optional.
The common thing I've seen recommended for people trying to create a home theater setup compatible with all three formats where you don't have the luxury of doing both ceiling mounted speakers and height speakers, is to do the height speakers (ideally front and back) and point them to the listener area, foregoing ceiling speakers. That solution works well with Auro 3D and DTS:X, and works to at least some extent with Atmos as well. I have been unable to find any really comprehensive testing/comparison of ceiling vs. height speakers for Dolby Atmos in a consumer's home.

As a side note, well-heeled consumers do have the option of buying things like the Trinnov Altitude series, which apparently can remap any object-based surround format to whatever number and configuration of speakers you have, so you don't need to adhere to any particular format's recommendation. Prices start in the tens of thousands of dollars and go up, so well out of my (and most people's) reach. Personally I'm annoyed such flexibility hasn't been explicitly integrated into these formats by now, the processing power needed could be included in the $1k and up home theater receiver market without a significant impact on the bill-of-materials for the manufacturer.

Anyway, I'm going to try adding just a pair of front heights, angled at the listener area. I have the speakers to do it on hand and the mounting solution I found is inexpensive. I know it will work well for DTS:X. If I don't like the results for Dolby Atmos, I can always add Atmos bounce speakers on top of my main left and right, and I believe I can keep the front heights as well.
 

Soundmixer

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OK...to recap. I noted your "ideal" image is not only of a room of totally different volume from the rooms we're talking about, but also the speaker placement used there is contrary to Dolby's stated recommendations for the actual rooms of interest.
More BS here. This is not about room volume, it is not about the surround speakers, it is about where the immersive speakers are placed. Let's be clear about that.
You reply that we should ignore the obvious differences in speaker placement [also, unmentioned but should have been, differences in room type and scale] because that doesn't fit your narrative of that image showing ideal speaker placement.
My reply suggests you focus on the speakers we are actually discussing, and not those we are not. We are referring to very specific speakers in a very specific place, not the room, not the room volume, subs, or any other subterfuge you want to throw in the soup.
I think one reason there are so few full-bore home immersive setups is the setup requirements are counterintuitive and asinine. When "if you want Atmos, you have ditch the 'personal convenience' of a ceiling fan" is something an advocate writes, you know that whatever she's writing about is never ever going to see wide adoption.
The setup requirements are clear as pure water and designed to work with the format. Either you can follow them, or you can't. If you can't, don't cry or soil your draws. If you have a ceiling fan, there is a workaround called Dolby Enabled speakers. If you think they are a compromise, that is what you get when you worry more about a ceiling fan than getting your set up correct. It is a fact you cannot set up a full Atmos system in every room, and that is cool. You couldn't set up a 7.1 set up in every room either.
"The difference between Dolby Atmos installations in cinema and at home, however, are a lot bigger, often requiring mixing engineers to adjust the mix when producing the home version. One of the reasons is the difference in elevation of the Surround layers: in cinema this is much higher (25º-35º) than at home (0º-10ª)...Another reason is the placement of the Atmos ceiling speakers, which are closer to each other in the cinema, than at home."
I am one of those folks that adjust and optimize cinema Atmos mixes to the home, and what we adjust for has nothing to do with any of this. Sorry, nice try, but a no. It does not matter if the surrounds are higher or the immersive speakers are closer, I don't adjust the directional information when mastering and encoding for the home.

That's an interesting supposition. Wrong, but interesting. Human discrimination of height from sound isn't nearly that precise, from my experience.

Interesting supposition, but also incorrect. Let me correct you. Human discrimination of height from sound isn't nearly that precise OUTDOORS. Indoors with speakers placed overhead, and your hypothesis breaks down completely, as Atmos wouldn't work if you were correct. I assure you you can tell what is flying over your head from left to right, front to back, in circles, and even diagonally with Atmos. Just get the Atmos demo disc, and it highlights all of this.
 
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Soundmixer

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DTS:X isn't mastered with ceiling/top speakers, just height/presence (typically pairs front and rear) speakers. DTS talks about how their object-based audio is flexible to work with a wide range of speaker configurations. I've read anecdotes about how DTS:X doesn't utilize ceiling speakers as well as it uses height speakers.
Incorrect. All of the movie titles that have been released in DTS:X were mixed on a system with ceiling speakers. Your anecdotes are not facts in this case. If they were mixed as you state, X would be completely incompatible with Atmos speaker setups that don't use height or presence speakers. All of the movie titles mixed, mastered, and encoded in X were mixed on a system configured just like Atmos. What DTS:X doesn't use is top MIDDLE speakers like Atmos can. The top middle would be a speaker placed between the top front and top rear speakers. However, DTS:X pro DOES support top middle speakers just like Atmos does.
The common thing I've seen recommended for people trying to create a home theater setup compatible with all three formats where you don't have the luxury of doing both ceiling mounted speakers and height speakers, is to do the height speakers (ideally front and back) and point them to the listener area, foregoing ceiling speakers. That solution works well with Auro 3D and DTS:X, and works to at least some extent with Atmos as well. I have been unable to find any really comprehensive testing/comparison of ceiling vs. height speakers for Dolby Atmos in a consumer's home.

Anytime you forgo the ceiling speakers in favor of front and rear height speakers, you will compromise Atmos. You will also compromise X as no movie has been mixed in this format with height speakers. The only way to support all of the formats is to set up two completely different speakers setups and integrate them into one system. My brother's system (he uses the Altititude32 processor) does this.
 
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Nathan Raymond

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Incorrect. All of the movie titles that have been released in DTS:X were mixed on a system with ceiling speakers. Your anecdotes are not facts in this case. If they were mixed as you state, X would be completely incompatible with Atmos speaker setups that don't use height or presence speakers. All of the movie titles mixed, mastered, and encoded in X were mixed on a system configured just like Atmos. What DTS:X doesn't use is top MIDDLE speakers like Atmos can. The top middle would be a speaker placed between the top front and top rear speakers. However, DTS:X pro DOES support top middle speakers just like Atmos does.


Anytime you forgo the ceiling speakers in favor of front and rear height speakers, you will compromise Atmos. You will also compromise X as no movie has been mixed in this format with height speakers. The only way to support all of the formats is to set up two completely different speakers setups and integrate them into one system. My brother's system (he uses the Altititude32 processor) does this.
I appreciate your clarifications. There's a lot of hearsay out there, and not a lot of solid information. When it comes to testing an Atmos/DTS:X speaker layout, do you have any recommendations for media that could be used to perform the test?
 

Adam Bernau

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I appreciate your clarifications. There's a lot of hearsay out there, and not a lot of solid information. When it comes to testing an Atmos/DTS:X speaker layout, do you have any recommendations for media that could be used to perform the test?
Don´t shoot the messenger, but you are obviously asking questions here only to answer them yourself, also your "youtube and internet searches" are clearly focused on finding answers that you want to hear. If you use this audio science forum only to talk to yourself and confirm what you already believe, perhaps it is a waste of time for you and the others who are trying to advice you.
Dolby Atmos is metadata based matrix system, and the positions and movements of the sound sources and effects are coded in those metadata, but what you hear in your existing setup in your room is just mere interpretation of those data, done by the decoder/preamp/receiver, which is trying to reconstruct the spatial effects through your more or less optimal speaker configuration.
The more you will respect Dolby Atmos recommended numbers, positions, angles and distances of speakers, the higher is your chance to actually enjoy the Atmos recordings, which were mixed on proper setups.
I would strongly advice you against any type of upfiring "Atmos enabled" speakers, they are worthless in my opinion.
I would also not waste time with your idea of "just adding pair of front heights". It simply doesn´t work like that.
If you currently have 5.2 configuration, and you really want Atmos, position the 5 channels and install 4 ceiling overhead speakers following this recommended config, so you would have 5.2.4. It is almost always possible, where is a will, there is a way. Or just do whatever you like, but don´t call it Dolby Atmos :)
 

polmuaddib

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I remember when Immersive formats were starting that some German guy from Auro, in an interview with Gene from Audioholics, said that an Auro setup can be used to enjoy Atmos and DTS-X both.
Now, I am not sure if he meant only the physical setup or you have to turn on Auro upmixer with Atmos track.
I also don’t know if Auro upmixer can utilize Atmos metadata or ignores them and just upmixes Dolby track that contains metadata.
 
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Nathan Raymond

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Don´t shoot the messenger, but you are obviously asking questions here only to answer them yourself, also your "youtube and internet searches" are clearly focused on finding answers that you want to hear. If you use this audio science forum only to talk to yourself and confirm what you already believe, perhaps it is a waste of time for you and the others who are trying to advice you.
Dolby Atmos is metadata based matrix system, and the positions and movements of the sound sources and effects are coded in those metadata, but what you hear in your existing setup in your room is just mere interpretation of those data, done by the decoder/preamp/receiver, which is trying to reconstruct the spatial effects through your more or less optimal speaker configuration.
The more you will respect Dolby Atmos recommended numbers, positions, angles and distances of speakers, the higher is your chance to actually enjoy the Atmos recordings, which were mixed on proper setups.
I would strongly advice you against any type of upfiring "Atmos enabled" speakers, they are worthless in my opinion.
I would also not waste time with your idea of "just adding pair of front heights". It simply doesn´t work like that.
If you currently have 5.2 configuration, and you really want Atmos, position the 5 channels and install 4 ceiling overhead speakers following this recommended config, so you would have 5.2.4. It is almost always possible, where is a will, there is a way. Or just do whatever you like, but don´t call it Dolby Atmos :)
I don't think you understand how financially constrained some people can be... I just bought my first house, I work for a public school, and I have two young kids. The house I bought was not my ideal home but the best I could do in this crazy real estate market. There have been and continue to be a lot of expenses as a first-time homeowner, things I have to purchase that I can't delay or put off. I bought my Denon AVR-X3700H last year before we bought our home after retiring my 10-year old Harmon Kardon receiver (which I had bought as a factory refurb). I've been enjoying virtual Dolby Atmos and DTS:X on the Denon, though from my pre-pandemic memories of being in good movie theaters the virtual height channels are not as good an experience. As mentioned I have some spare speakers, and thought I could use them to improve my home theater sound. My wife and kids don't seem to care much about audio in general, but they do enjoy movies, and since my youngest isn't eligible for the vaccine yet, we're still spending a lot of time at home together to stay safe. I think we're all losing our minds a bit spending so much time together, but I'm trying to make that time together as good as it can be. I hope you can understand I'm not just trying to find answers I want to hear, but trying to find the best compromises I can for myself and my family.
 

polmuaddib

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I understand the financial constraints. Why not wait a while and add 4 height channels later? When the time is right.
I had 2 height channels and it doesn’t bring a lot to the table. Four or nothing, in my opinion.
 
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Nathan Raymond

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I understand the financial constraints. Why not wait a while and add 4 height channels later? When the time is right.
I had 2 height channels and it doesn’t bring a lot to the table. Four or nothing, in my opinion.
Yeah, I might as well postpone making any big changes right now until I finish all the other projects... my wife would be psyched if I replaced the weather stripping on the doors, replaced the kitchen faucet that has the broken aerator and leaky sprayer, fixed the bathroom faucet so hot was hot and cold was cold (and not reversed), got the fridge water dispenser to stop leaking and the ice maker working again, integrated the smart locks and new smart smoke detectors into security system, etc. etc. I've got my work cut out for me everywhere I turn!
 

Adam Bernau

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I don't think you understand how financially constrained some people can be... I just bought my first house, I work for a public school, and I have two young kids. The house I bought was not my ideal home but the best I could do in this crazy real estate market. There have been and continue to be a lot of expenses as a first-time homeowner, things I have to purchase that I can't delay or put off. I bought my Denon AVR-X3700H last year before we bought our home after retiring my 10-year old Harmon Kardon receiver (which I had bought as a factory refurb). I've been enjoying virtual Dolby Atmos and DTS:X on the Denon, though from my pre-pandemic memories of being in good movie theaters the virtual height channels are not as good an experience. As mentioned I have some spare speakers, and thought I could use them to improve my home theater sound. My wife and kids don't seem to care much about audio in general, but they do enjoy movies, and since my youngest isn't eligible for the vaccine yet, we're still spending a lot of time at home together to stay safe. I think we're all losing our minds a bit spending so much time together, but I'm trying to make that time together as good as it can be. I hope you can understand I'm not just trying to find answers I want to hear, but trying to find the best compromises I can for myself and my family.
Of course i understand that, but i am really certain that it is not necessarily matter of money, you could get very good second hand overhead speakers for a few dollars literally, if you decide that this is the way to go. You can do amazing system for a very limited budget, if you do it right.
And you can also do absolutelly terrible one, and spent hunderts of thousands.
Your Denon AVR-X3700H is not only supporting four overhead speakers, but it is also ultimate, almost miraculous bargain for the money.
I will gladly try to find some directions for you to demonstrate my point, just show some existing setup pictures, and perhaps a simple floorplan with the positions, if you want.
 
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Soundmixer

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I appreciate your clarifications. There's a lot of hearsay out there, and not a lot of solid information. When it comes to testing an Atmos/DTS:X speaker layout, do you have any recommendations for media that could be used to perform the test?
Both DTS and Dolby have X and Atmos demo discs. That is what I use for post-listening tests after calibration.
 

Soundmixer

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I understand the financial constraints. Why not wait a while and add 4 height channels later? When the time is right.
I had 2 height channels and it doesn’t bring a lot to the table. Four or nothing, in my opinion.
One of my immersive systems has only two top speakers directly over the listening position as per Dolby's recommendation for two overheads. Because Atmos is scaleable, it brings the same to the table as four overheads. If you listen to the Dolby Demo disc, I could hear no difference between two and four height speakers. On one of his vlogs for installers and integrators, Anthony Gramani said that rooms less than 16 feet in length really only need two height speakers. Four speakers tend to muddle the effect in small rooms, and I happen to agree with his statement.

https://www.grimanisystems.com/dt_team/anthony-grimani/

 

Soundmixer

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I remember when Immersive formats were starting that some German guy from Auro, in an interview with Gene from Audioholics, said that an Auro setup can be used to enjoy Atmos and DTS-X both.
Now, I am not sure if he meant only the physical setup or you have to turn on Auro upmixer with Atmos track.
I also don’t know if Auro upmixer can utilize Atmos metadata or ignores them and just upmixes Dolby track that contains metadata.
Auro cannot use Atmos metadata, but it can adapt (not upmix) a Dolby Atmos track to its speaker set up.
 

Alice of Old Vincennes

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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?
Repairing cutouts in plaster is not a major repair. Repair cutouts with powder 90 minute plaster. I have repaired plaster instead of drywall replacement. It is quick and simple. Many YouTube videos available. My home is 100 years old. I plan adding 4 ceiling speakers on first floor. Only need one ceiling cutout to wall because ceiling trusses are perpendicular. You can fish speaker cable between speaker cutouts. Drill hole at top and bottom of wall and fish down.
 

Adam Bernau

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One of my immersive systems has only two top speakers directly over the listening position as per Dolby's recommendation for two overheads. Because Atmos is scaleable, it brings the same to the table as four overheads. If you listen to the Dolby Demo disc, I could hear no difference between two and four height speakers. On one of his vlogs for installers and integrators, Anthony Gramani said that rooms less than 16 feet in length really only need two height speakers. Four speakers tend to muddle the effect in small rooms, and I happen to agree with his statement.

https://www.grimanisystems.com/dt_team/anthony-grimani/

Well, that seems strange to me, because onyl two pair of overheads at least are allowing the Atmos decoder to position and move sound sources above your head, and it is doing so a lot. You simply can´t make for example airplane effect flying above you from behind to the front. I think that the issue of four overhead channels causing problems that you are mentioning could be perhaps mainly caused by too wide radiation patterns of the speakers used in the setup, wrong positioning and lack of absorbtion materials in the room?
 

Adam Bernau

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To all Atmos and other immersive formats enthusiast- here you have most of the DTS/THX/PRO LOGIC/ Dolby Atmos Demos and trailers that i have found. Thank me later! :D
 
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