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Ten Speaker Layout Tips for Dolby Atmos, DTS.X & Auro

Dolby Atmos has been a big thing with our client base. Since the format was announced >80% of our theaters have been designed to support Atmos and other next-generation audio formats such as DTS.X and Auro.

Here are some of our learnings and recommendations based on these experiences:

    • Ensure there is a clear line of sight from all surround speakers to all seats.  Just because we have some new audio formats does not mean we should throw away the good speaker layout practices from the last 20 years of surround sound. High frequencies are easily blocked by seat backs, heads and other obstructions. To get balanced direct sound you need a clear line of sight to the speaker from each seat.


    • Do not put surrounds at ear level. See above. CEDIA (the industry trade association for contractors in the home theater design and installation market) is going to be updating their recommended audio practices to reflect this exact point later this year.


    • Keep surrounds as low as they can go without causing other issues (e.g. too much SPL variation over audience). Why? Because you want to keep the separation between the bed layer (the lower set of speakers) and the height layer (the ceiling speakers).


    • Make sure surround speaker locations work for the speakers you are using and their coverage pattern. Don’t use dipoles for spatial audio, as by design they do not provide consistent coverage or support localization in the dipole “null”. If you are using narrow dispersion horns for surrounds then make sure will provide adequate coverage of each seating row. This is not really a new requirement, but with spatial audio being able to localize discrete effects in the surround field is more important.


    • You may need to use “pan and tilt” speaker mounts to direct speakers at the right place (not necessarily the main listening position; there may be other locations that work better for best coverage). If you have two rows then a position between the two rows often works best in terms of where to point the speakers.


    • Place ceiling speakers so they meet published standards but also provide good front to back angular spacing.  See below.


    • If the front LCR and rear surrounds are raised above 0 degrees (likely) then the position of the ceiling speakers should change to provide more even spacing front to back. The screen LCRs are often raised above ear level in most dedicated theater in order to provide a good direct sound field to the second row. The rear surrounds are also often raised in order to provide clear line of sight over the seat backs of the second row to people in the first row. If you follow the Dolby Atmos layout angles exactly in this kind of configuration then you won’t have much angular separation between screen and first ceiling row and between rear surround and back ceiling row.


    • More than two ceiling rows may be necessary for best coverage. If you are trying to provide a consistent experience in a multi-row home theater then you may need a third set of ceiling speakers. Generally you would position the first and second row of ceiling speakers based on the angles for the first row of seats. But if you do this then the second (and other) rows may have less-than-great angular spacing front-to-back (see above). A third row often helps ameliorate this issue.


    • Ceiling speaker coverage requirements are challenging and with the exception of a coaxial there are going to be coverage holes due to crossover lobing and other things that need to be worked around. Ideally you need speaker off axis measurements (both horizontal and vertical) to do this. The main challenge is the need to provide great coverage both front-to-back in the room and left-to-right. This requires that ceiling speakers have a conical dispersion pattern. Most speakers are multi-way designs, using separate high and low frequency elements. These often have off axis phase cancellation issues, and it is important to know where these are. Speaker manufacturers are playing catch up with the dispersion requirement for spatial audio formats at the moment, so there isn’t much out there that really fits the bill for ceiling speakers. Note that we see many using mis-matched sets of speakers for spatial audio, such as LCRs and surrounds from one manufacturer and in ceilings from another. For spatial audio this is a big mistake, because soundtracks will increasingly have audio objects (the key part of these next generation formats) that can move from any speaker to any other. You do not want the timbre of that sound to change as it changes position spatially.


    • You may need to use pan and tilt brackets on the ceiling too. Because of the dispersion requirements, you may need to angle and point the ceiling speakers to provide good audience coverage.


92 thoughts on “Ten Speaker Layout Tips for Dolby Atmos, DTS.X & Auro”

  1. I have really been struggling with figuring out the proper surround speaker height placement. Your first three bullets seem to contradict each other. The Dolby Atmos specs say to place the surrounds at the listening level but that would most certainly mean that someone sitting next to you will block the sound coming from them. How do we reconcile this? It’s very confusing. Thanks!

    1. Hi Bill, thanks for reading. The first three spatial audio layout tips are not contradictory if you ignore what is written in the Dolby Atmos specifications. Basically put the surround speakers as low as they will go whilst still maintaining clear line-of-sight to each listener. There is a CEDIA working group involved in updating recommended practices for spatial audio, and they are recommending NOT to follow the “put surround speakers at ear level” part of the specification. Hope that helps, please post any follow up questions!

      1. Nyal, that helps a lot. Thank you for the reply. It just didn’t make sense to me for Dolby to recommend putting speakers at ear level. That would really stink for the poor guy in the middle of the row! In my room, I need the speakers about 2 feet up from ear level to provide line of site.

        Another issue is that my front speakers are right at earl level (the tweeter I mean). Will this cause a problem when my surrounds are basically 2 feet higher than those? Also, do you still recommend that surround backs and surround sides all be at the same level? I tend to think about the speaker heights in terms of angles, not distances. Distances just don’t make sense when the side walls are at a different distance from the main listening position that the back walls. My rear walls are double the distance from the MLP than the side walls, if I put them all at the same height, that would mean the sides and rears are at greatly different elevations. Does that make sense?


    2. I’m installing a 5.2.4 Atmos system. When using Atmos enabled modules, Dolby labs recommends having a minimum ceiling height of 7.5 feet. My ceiling is only 7.0 feet high. Would it be beneficial to slightly raise the back ends of the modules from horizontal and thereby bring the reflected acoustic angle from the ceiling more into the listening area?
      I’m at a further disadvantage in that my ceiling is acoustical tile. Again, Dolby labs suggests placing foam core board at the four acoustical reflection points on the ceiling. Is foam core board the same thing you purchase at craft stores, that is , a sheet of foam covered by paper on both sides?

      1. You should be able to use any hard, non-absorptive material at the ceiling reflection points for your Atmos enabled speakers. Foam board will work (yes, it is foam with thin cardboard on each side), or corrugated plastic.

  2. Hi Nyal.

    Great article. Some questions if I may.

    1- When adjusting the position of the overhead speakers to compensate for higher placement of the traditional bed layer speakers. Would it be best to adjust all the speakers together or by keeping the ratios constant or would you recommend just moving the nearest set accordingly?

    By this I mean, for instance, my SBR&SBL pair will be 10deg above ear height. So would you recommend to a)move only RHR&L forward 10deg or b)adjust all the speakers forward by 10 deg or c)move all speakers but keep the separation ratios the same – so from 45deg for FHR&L and RHR&L the spacing goes from 45:90:45 to 42.5:85:42.5.

    2 – Does this concept also work across the room when taking into account the RS and LS speakers also being above ear height? Should the overheads then be moved closer together, or kept in line with the FR and FL?

    Actually, working on the basic concept of a stereo pair and given that currently we’re unable to tell the processing component (engine?) which angles we are using. Would it be best to just work up from the bed layer in all directions and equally space the height channels keeping all the angles the same. So for sake of ease, say all bed speakers are at ear height. Would the best separation be with 60:60:60 front to back and also side to side. I guess the ideal separation would be to mirror the mixing studio layout. But which angles do they use…

    Kind Regards.


    1. Thanks for reading!

      I would advise adjusting all speakers so that the angles between speakers provide consistent coverage. At minimum you want 30 degrees separation between bed surround and ceiling. You’ll end up with a large hole between the two rows of ceiling speakers (it’s 90 degrees in the Atmos layout drawings). Ideally we’d have another ceiling row to provide better angular coverage front-to-back.

      You should also consider what the angular coverage looks like across the width of the room. However you also want to make sure the ceiling speakers are placed for smooth front-to-back pans.

      There are no “hard” guidelines, you have to lay things out for each room, where the seats are, how many channels you have, etc.

  3. …or d) shift RHR&L forward 10deg and FHR&L back 10deg, thus keeping centrally located height objects central.

    Hmm, it appears that unless you have one seat in the ideal position in an ideal room, you have to choose between accurately smooth panning objects or accurately placed objects…

    1. If you have enough speakers then there is no compromise. That’s the benefit of using 16 or 24 or 32 channels. Not only does the MLP have a great experience but other seats do as well.

  4. Thanks very much Nyal.

    Ok, so when an object pans overhead in an Atmos track. That extra separation as suggested by Dolby is part of the mix. So the transition from bed to overhead is relatively faster than from overhead to overhead. Thus the overall effect is a nice steady pan. Moving those channels physically closer together would effectively mean that the pan speeds up in the middle and this is why we should aim to keep the ideal ratios that Dolby suggest and shrink each angle accordingly?

    So in order to have a smooth pan in a more ‘regular’ home theater (wish I had the room for 32 channels!) you have to keep the ‘ratio’ of the Dolby recommendations the same and position the best seat forward into the centre of the overhead channels or alternatively lift the LCR?

    How does moving SR and SL forward of the MLP affect things 🙂

    Kind regards.

    1. Hi Andrew…interesting point about keeping the ratios consistent, I had not considered that. The ratio in the “ear height” layout is 1:2:1 (45 bed to overhead, 90 from overhead to overhead, 45 overhead to bed, all front to back). After laying out a number of theaters I’m leaning towards layouts that can be expanded to a 9.1.6 setup, with wides and 6 overheads. In a 6 overhead situation the ratio is 1:1:1:1, i.e. take the angle from fronts to rears and divide by four, and use that angle between each speaker.

      SR / SL should be behind the first row in a modern layout to allow room for the wides. Previously I was putting SL/SR slightly ahead, at say 80 degrees, but with wides a position around 100 degrees makes more sense. Then with wides you have 0-50 (wides)-100 (sides)-150 (rears) or 0 – 55 – 110 – 155.

  5. Hi Nyal, I’m currently doing a 9.1.6 layout in a 12x12x8ft room with a single row of two seats. I have two different options when it comes to the bed channels 0-25-50-100-142 or 0-30-60-100-150. The heights will be 45-80-125. I use a 60″ flat panel TV that will be upgraded to a 65″ OLED at some point. Which layout would you recommend?

    1. Laterally: 25, 50, 100, 150?

      Vertically: depends on the vertical angle of your LCR and rear speakers…divide the remaining angle equally.

      Ensure you pay attention to the dispersion characteristics of the speakers, which may mean angling some. Target -3dB at 4kHz or better relative to on axis.

  6. Nyal,

    Very informative post. I’m upgrading to Atmos with a 11-channel receiver. I’ve been struggling between 9.1.2 and 7.1.4. Most seem to choose 7.1.4 but I really like the filling in of the gaps between fronts and surrounds that have always existed. Do you recommend one over the other? Also, someone above mentions 9.1.6; how is this possible with current receivers?

    Most importantly, Dolby shows ceiling speaker placement almost completely on the side of the ceiling where I would have thought they’d be much more centered. What is the reasoning for this and should ceilings be on axis towards center or straight down?

    Thanks for your time and knowledge.

    1. I don’t know of any receivers that will do 9.1.2 … to my knowledge everything is 7.1.4 except if you go to the very high end pre-pros (Datasat or Trinnov).

      Dolby recommend about 30 degrees minimum angular separation between the surrounds and ceiling speakers. The idea is to spread the speakers out both front-to-back and side-to-side so that you get consistency of coverage. Remember that a phantom image only works to about 60 degrees angular separation (at least in the front lateral plane), beyond this the sound will jump from one speaker to the other without smoothly panning through it.

  7. Nyal,
    Though I’m struggling to keep up, these discussions have been as helpful as anything as I try to design my 7.1.4 Atmos system (ceiling firing). I’d certainly appreciate your thoughts on my proposed speaker setup. I will have two rows of seating and my origin point is the center of the first row. (Room is 15’ wide, 13’ deep, 9’ high)
     To maintain 30 degree separation and have my sides slightly behind the first row I propose the following: front ceilings at 65 degrees; side surrounds at 95 degrees; back ceilings at 125 degrees; rear surrounds at 155 degrees.
     The surrounds will be as low as they will go with a clear line to all seats. I’m assuming the rear and side surrounds do not need to be on the same level.
     The ceiling speakers will be aligned with the front left/right speakers (as per the Dolby diagram)
     My plan is to raise the front L/R speakers (probably Martin Logan 60XT) with stands 12” to 16” high. (Want to improve lines of sight but concerned about separation from surround bed and ceiling speakers.)

    Very grateful. Basil.

    1. Seems like you have a good grasp on things…but you should definitely sanity check the dispersion coverage of the speakers you are planning to use. If you are using Martin Logan Electromotion in-walls, note that they don’t have great dispersion (a limit of the AMT design)…it’s around 80×80 at high frequencies. That means I would try and keep all seats (or at least all key seats) no more than 40 degrees off axis, and preferably no more than 20 degrees off axis…see Dispersion Requirements for Dolby Atmos (beware, somewhat technical…)

      I’ve done a theater with ML 60XT before, and yes, I ended up raising it on a stand and also blocking the ports. It was placed behind an AT screen in a baffle wall. The acoustical center of the speaker wants to be 1/2 to 5/8 screen height.

      1. Thanks Nyal. Very helpful advice regarding the Martin Logan speakers. The Martin Logan rep with whom I talked was pushing the Electromotion speakers, but for the ceiling, the Helos 22, with its wide dispersion (though curiously, no spec), seems to be the better choice. I’ll probably also choose the Motion FX instead of the Electromotion FX-2 for my surrounds because of the dispersion specs. Great catch, and again, many thanks.

        1. Helos vs EM for ceiling would depend on the speaker position relative to the seats. Certainly for the front ceiling row EM is probably the better choice. For the rear ceiling row the angled orientation is not great if you have two seating rows….better to do a speaker that’s pointing downwards. What I’ve done before is used EM-IC for the front ceiling and EM-IW for the rear.

          1. HI Nyal,

            I’m looking at getting 4 Martin Logan IW speakers for the surrounds (left Sur, Right Sur, SBleft, SBright). I will only have 1 seating row. Do you think tis would sound pretty good?

          2. Let’s see…

            1. Follow speaker placement recommendations:

            2. Check resulting speaker placement against speaker dispersion specification: If you are using the Electromotion IW those are quoted at 80 degrees coverage, so for best results position listeners no further than 20 degrees off axis (or as the measurements reveal as described in the linked blog post)

            3. Timbre match to LCRs. Ideally this means using speakers from the same “family” i.e. same / similar drivers and conscious decision by the manufacturer to timbre match.

            4. Position vertically in the correct location (see the recommendations in this article, particularly bullet points 1-3)

  8. What about the crossover settings I have enabled front speakers on top of my floor standing speakers klipsch all around including 7.3.2 onkyo 1030 reciever

    1. You should review the settings recommended by the manufacturer. I believe most Atmos enabled speakers need a quite high crossover point (120Hz?).

  9. Good info I live in a condo apartment . I have the speaker configurations for ATMOS 5.1.2 one pair of tops on my ceiling front . AURO at 10.1 my receiver as a stand alone does nine but for the tenth channel it’s runned by a separate amp. DTSX I select 9.1 my AVR can give me back surrounds but my room doesn’t support good for that my home theater is designed sideways not vertical . My AVR is Denon . Andrew .

  10. Really happy to find this article. Did CEDIA ever publish guidelines on this topic? I am just moving to Atmos. My theater room has pretty much impossible to change acoustic panels and moving my 4 surround speakers horizontally or vertically is going to be minimally difficult and quite expensive. I am hoping I am not too far off of the CEDIA guidelines as the Atmos guidelines clearly do not anticipate stadium seating (I only have two rows, but nonetheless).

    1. The CEDIA guidelines have not been formally published, but have been available to CEDIA members for well over a year. The CEDIA guidelines include provision for tiered seating. Essentially you position the ceiling speakers for even front-to-back and side-to-side coverage…because the front stage and rears are often above ear level you don’t have 180 degrees front to back anymore, so you divide up the angle evenly. Optimally you’ll likely end up needing 15+ channels for consistent coverage, though today most AVRs and pre-pros max out at 11 channels.

      Note that the room acoustic treatment will likely need to change for spatial audio. Surround localization rather than just envelopment becomes more important with spatial audio soundtracks, and so the acoustic design needs to become more absorptive and also be as consistent as possible for the surround speakers.

      If you want to do it properly and are aiming for the best results then you may want to consider the upgrade to spatial audio as a major theater remodel, rather than just tacking it onto what you have now and hoping for the best.

  11. Hi Nyle
    Will a CD horn with a wider dispression 90 *90 ( jbl pt wide coverage wavegiude from Jbl AC16) is preferred on a 90*50 horn for atmos (18 sound XT120)?
    I have a single row position 30 deg to ceiling speaker The vertical plane if the horn covers the front to back and I have wooden floor. The room is relatively small 21*16*8
    I am planning to build my own speaker and use a simmular compression driver used for my front LCR speakers qsc sc 1120.

    1. If you can point the speaker at the listening position then 50 degree dispersion may be enough, but I’d suspect 90 degrees would be better. You’d have to map it out in CAD to know for sure.

  12. Thank you for this article, pretty helpful. I have a question, I am setting up a 5.1.4 configuration in my family room with 4 ceiling speakers for atmos (and thankfully based on what I just read my surrounds are just above ear level).

    My concern is the fact that I can’t move my couch forward so my seating position is pretty much against the back wall, I seem to be getting conflicting info as to whether I can still use a 4 ceiling speakers or just 2. From what I have seen published by Dolby, optimal placement for a .4 setup is with one set of speakers is ahead of you while the other should be behind you.

    Any suggestions? my installer is coming in a couple of days and i’d like to decide if i’m doing 2 or 4. Not sure if this helps but my AV receiver supports Audyssey MultEQ XT 32 calibration.

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

        1. Unfortunately not a great place for speakers. You need minimum 3′ preferably 4′ to prevent surround speaker localization (i.e. speaker blaring in ear syndrome).

          1. Nothing is very good to use in close seating proximity! Get the speaker farther away or move seating is the answer.

  13. I’ve heard at least one person saying to time-align a pair of dolby-enabled speakers to the path length of the reflection from the ceiling, not to the path to the listener. What concerns me is this (and this is my question): A lot of the frequencies covered by these speakers are localized by human hearing based on time of arrival of the incident wave between the two ears, and for much of this spectrum, the human brain will process two like sounds arriving just a few milliseconds out of sync, perceiving the first as “real” and the second an “echo”. How does one combat this, with speakers that depend on a reflection that is supposed to cue the audience to direction? In other words, how do you cue to height if you perceive it as an echo? Are the dispersion patterns on these speakers really so narrow, to make up for the dB differences you would have to have, I guess, to overcome the tendency to perceive the direct sound as the “real” sound and the ceiling-reflected sounds as the echo? Studies I vaguely remember suggest that at vocal frequencies, you may need the “echo” to be over 10dB louder than a sound arriving just a few milliseconds later, to overcome the perception of it being an echo of the first. So, how does one deal with this, if it is real? How do you anchor the sound to the ceiling? And if you are time-aligning to the reflection, then how do you avoid every height channel sound robbing various audience-level speakers of their perceived direction, because the Dolby speakers are firing “first” all the time, and cuing you to the front even other speakers are providing localizing information?

    1. I’m not sure from your comment if you have tried out the approach of “dolby enabled” speakers or it’s more of a theoretical question you are asking. The technology definitely works, in that you will get a sense of sound coming from the ceiling. The “height” module has a narrow enough directivity at the frequencies where humans localize sound that we don’t perceive the sound coming from the speaker…it comes from the ceiling. With a narrow directivity speaker, and where you are positioned off axis of the driver, the sound may be 6 or 9 or 12dB down at the frequencies where we are localizing sound, and so the sound coming off the ceiling is higher in amplitude even though it has further to travel. Many of these types of speakers also include a baffle that blocks the direct sound path of sound coming from the height array directly to the listener, for example look at how this Triad speaker is designed. If you are sitting with the tweeter at ear height then the upward firing drivers are obscured by the way they are recessed into the top of the cabinet.

  14. I’m expanding my set-up from 5.1 to 7.1, plus adding (for now) 1 set of height speakers. A second set of height speakers will be added at a later stage.
    My question is therefore, with just one set of wide dispersion and downward-angled height speakers, where would they be most effective? Front, middle or rear?

    1. Reference the Dolby Atmos recommendations for two height speakers – they are recommended at 80 degrees from horizontal, i.e. just in front of the listening position. I’ve done a few rooms with two heights and they work well in this location.

      1. Hi..I have two Polk speakers that I am using as overheads but I cannot mount them on the ceiling but on the side walls instead . How far forward of the main listening position and up the side walls should they go Also I assume they should be pointed at the main listening position? Thank you..

        1. I’d suggest reviewing the Auro layouts and seeing if you can find a position that gets you close to their recommendation.

  15. I purchased Klipsch Dolby Atmos speakers (R26-FA), a center speaker, and a sub. Do I really need the rear speakers to enjoy Atmos? I have a smaller space and I think it might be overkill.


    Jon L.

  16. Dear Nyal, unfortunately I do not have an ideal setup for Dolby atmos either as my couch is up against my back wall. I have a Polk audio sound bar that I like just fine and was going to buy 2 Polk audio bookshelf’s for my surrounds placed on both sides of couch just above listening area. I have 2 Bose am5s mounted high on back wall for surrounds now. Was going to get rid of them. My biggest problem is I have a ceiling that slopes from 8ft (where my couch is) to 12 feet at about a 45degree angle. I would like to install 2 or 4 motorized speakers that will give me horizontal speaker placement. I’m just not sure where to install them in the ceiling. I know this isn’t optimal but sure would like some sense of Dolby atmos sound. Should l put them in the ceiling against the back wall, probably about 2 feet from listening positions (couch) and then 2 more in front of couch or should I just use 2in ceilings and forget the other 2? Or do you have any better suggestions?

    1. I’m not sure on the exact specifics of your room but it sounds like a 5.1.2 might give good results. The side surrounds would be in-ceiling.

  17. Hi I am about to install 5.1.4 in my 13×13 room with the couch being only 20 ” from the back wall. 8 foot ceilings. The LCR are at 36″ tweeter height and LS RS are 8” higher at 44. ( no rear)
    I am stuck about the placement of the 4 Atmos ceiling speakers (KEF Ci200RR THX) specifically the rear height placemnt. The trade offs are between how close to put them to the rear wall, versus keeping them at least 5 feet from the listener and within the angle of 35-55.
    At 18 ” from the wall while on the axix of the front LR spekers the rear height speakers would be at 125 angle only 5 feet from the listener. is that OK? Am I better of putting the rear height closer to the wall or farer and having an angle closer to 100 or even 90? How far should i then put the front height from the rear height? What should be the separation in feet between the front height and rear height? Dolby always has the rear height behind the speaker but i have seen drawings with all 4 height speakers being in front of the listener dividing the room in 1/3 and 1/3. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Difficult wire runs and install in very old house.

  18. Hi..I am setting up a 5.1.2 theater with an ATMOS enabled receiver. Mounting the 2 x height speakers in the ceiling is not an option. Is it better then to place the 2 height speakers along the side walls just below the ceiling and pointing downwards or to mount them on the front wall as height speakers? Thank you…

    1. It does depend on how high and wide your room is and therefore what kind of angles each placement option gives you. I would pick the placement that gets you closest to layout standards.

  19. Hi Nyal, I intend to set up a 5.1.2 – however, I intend to install ceiling speakers for my rear surround. The atmos overhead speakers will be installed in front of listener. Both set of ceiling speakers will be angled towards the listener. How can I overcome the issue of bed and height speakers in the same vertical position? For example, would separating the 2 sets of speakers further apart help? Or can I move the rear set further from the listener, with a more acute angle and increasing the sound levels – to simulate “lower height speaker”?

    1. We’ve done a few rooms with that kind of layout. Position the sides at 110 degrees lateral but on the ceiling and the tops at 80 degrees vertical. Then move the sides back away from the tops until you get to around 30 degrees or more angular separation (ideally as measured in 3D space).

  20. Hi, Odd room layout: Room 13’x19′ ceiling around 8′, LCR set on short wall (13′ wall), opening to side DinRm 10′, MLP starts 7′ from LCR. Surrounds are .5′ higher than ear level on stands on 45 degree access pointing into listening area, secondary lp is forward on either side of room. Measurements are usually taken at chair at rear of lp (considered actual MLP). I want to setup 5.1.4 but may go with 5.1.2. Can I setup Atmos Enabled on surrounds and get enough of effect? Going to 5.1.4 may be more costly at this point and ceiling mounts out of question. I could place height speakers on axis at start of wall after DinRm opening pointed downwards into MLP zone but one seating position is under that point on either side of room (worried these positions may not get true effect).

    Between LCR and back of listening area is approx. 13’x14′ spance.

    1. Hi Vince

      I’m not clear if your surrounds are behind you at the correct angle (110 degrees lateral, or there abouts)? If so then a 5.1.4 should work well, you would put Atmos modules on top of your left and right speakers and also on the tops of the surrounds.

  21. I am installing/upgrading my system from a 5.1 to either a 5.2.4 or 7.2.4 Atmos system. I have four pairs of identical bipole speakers (I’m positive they’re not dipoles). I currently use one pair of the bipoles as my surrounds in 5.1. I’ve read that in Atmos, it is better to use direct radiating instead of bipoles/dipoles. What has your experience been in this area? I’d really like to not sell my four pairs to buy in ceiling for the height and direct radiating for the surrounds but if it will make that much of a difference, I’ll do it. Also, it is a bit difficult to find ceiling speakers that match the timbre of the surrounds and keeping my bipoles ensures that the timbre will match as well. My room is relatively small at 12’x16′. Thanks for the help, -Joshua

    1. Bipoles and monopoles are both fine for Atmos. It’s the dipoles that you should stay away from. Bipoles have wider dispersion than monopoles, but you can use either. Ideally you would use the same speaker in all surround locations but that’s pretty hard to do, and often the tops have different requirements, like benefiting from an angled baffle to disperse sound towards the listening area instead of straight down.

  22. I am trying to set up Atmos (Marantz 7012) in my mothers house for Christmas (were still allowed to say that, right?). The issue is the room is relatively large as it has two couches facing each other with a coffee table between them and the Plasma TV is above a faux fireplace mantle with cabinets R & L which hold the front and high surround Speakers, not ideal I realize. The center is above the TV even higher still. Please try to get an idea at my attempt at diagraming the room below, that is, of the format is not completely messed up after submitting this post??:

    _______. __________
    |. |. HW. CTR. HW. |. |
    |. |. FL. ____TV____. FR. |. |
    |. _________. ________. |
    |. C. ______. C
    |. O. |. |. O
    |. U. |. |. U.
    |. C. |. |. C
    |. H. |. |. H

    Being that the room is 20’wx40’L and 18′ ceilings including the open kitchen and due to the fact I cannot place any stand up speakers in the room, my idea is to add some surround speakers in the ceiling at around 90*. Lying on the couch, my idea is to trick the ears into hearing the surrounds from the ceiling. The question is do I place them directly overhead slightly offset to roll off tweeter or to set them wide and try to angle them inwards pointing to center?? I would like to add maybe a pair of down firing Atmos drivers as well as a rear pair or either rear surround or rear Atmos. There is plenty of room for me to set up the speakers above the room in the rafters, but I’m certainly concerned about having big square holes in the ceiling even though that might be best sound. Flush mounting the speakers would look best, at least have the grills mounted flush and maybe angle the speakers to be directed to center as one would in a typical setup. The question is can one make this setup work even close???? Any idea’s on speakers brands and placement would be most appreciated.

    1. I’d likely try to add 4 surround speakers in the ceiling, so you have backs and sides. I’d position them away from the seating area a little. Because the room is high you may not need angled baffles to get good coverage of the seating area (you’d need to check speaker dispersion angles to figure that out). Then you can add another pair of speakers as tops (the .2) in front of the couches towards the L/R speakers. I’m not sure on what to do with the existing height speakers above the L/R as you may not have enough angular separation to get any real benefit from them. If you position all the surrounds correctly you should be able to maintain 30 degrees angular separation between them and the tops and the fronts as well.

  23. Hi Niyal, I just stumbled across this article — perhaps too late. I am upgrading my dedicated theater room to Atmos. I have the Marantz 8805, and after some research decided to do 7.2.6 (currently running 7.2). Here’s my set up:

    1) 21′ x 16′ x 9’6″ room with 2.35:1 AT screen (so about 19′ from screen wall to back of room)
    2) 2 rows of seating with second row raised 8″ and back row is about 6″ off the back wall
    3) Surround L/R are positioned slightly behind first row of seating
    4) Surround rears are in columns right behind second row
    5) There is a light tray/soffit which runs along the perimeter of the room and sticks out about 3′ into the room. The top of the light tray is 6″ from the ceiling, so any ceiling speakers have to be slimmer than that or it will look weird. I don’t want to cut into the ceiling because it will affect sound isolation, and there is a 1 1/4″ thickness to the ceiling anyway. This limits how and where I can mount Atmos speakers.

    It was designed for the center seat in the first row to be the MLP. Problem is, I find the viewing distance a little too short, so I find myself often (or mostly) sitting in the second row (there are four seats in the second row, so not quite in the center).

    I acted a bit hastily and thought that any old speakers would do. I did not consider dispersion at all. I ended up getting Triad In-wall Bronze LCRs to mount on the ceiling in custom made speaker boxes. Now I’m told that these speakers are designed for wide dispersion in the horizontal plane and minimize vertical dispersion. I can’t find the dispersion angles anywhere on the Triad website.

    Now that I have them, I figure I will use them and if after a couple of years I feel they’re not doing the job, I’ll move them to my surrounds and get new speakers for the ceiling. So how to mount them — parallel to the seating rows or perpendicular? I figure that with 9’6″ ceiling, I will get enough horizontal dispersion along the front to back axis if I mount them parallel. Alternatively, I could mount the first row of speakers parallel, the second row perpendicular, and the back row parallel — this would maximize coverage for the first seating row center seat. But the coverage for the second row would be less than ideal, and that is where I tend to sit. I should also add that the rear speaker row will have to be slightly forward of the second seating row, again clearly not ideal for any Atmos configuration.

    So should i just maximize for the first seating row and try to train myself to get used to sitting there? Or is there a way that I can get some decent Atmos performance for the second seating row with these speakers? Thank you for any advice in advance!

    1. I hate to say it but the easy solution for this assuming you have some flexibility in your projector throw range is to get a smaller screen and sit in the front row.

      If you mainly care about your experience then I would mount the top speakers for best front to back coverage i.e. parallel to the seating rows. Depending on where you put the top rows, you may find even then you do not have great coverage from the front or back top row since they are firing straight down. Better would have been to get some angled baffle aim-able in-ceilings, like the Triad Rotosat.

      With some due diligence in the design phase, your issues could have been avoided and a better result achieved.

  24. Hi Nyal,
    Could you please provide some insight here. I want to go 5.2.4 but I am getting some push back from the retailer I was going with for all the equipment who says that may be overkill, and that due to room orientation, it might not work acoustically. This is for dedicated home theatre on the ground floor, so a little tricky with wiring. We did get some wiring done at build time (fronts, surrounds) but this was before Atmos was a thing (2013) so nothing in ceiling.

    Here is a link to the floor plan and where I have tentatively marked speaker placement (Atmos being the yellow and surrounds being green). As you can see I am a bit limited due to where the window is and the door on the other side:

    I’m not sure where you are located but the measurements in feet are: 5000mm (16.4ft) x 5470mm (17.9 ft). Ceilings are 2.7m (9 ft). The projector and screen are going to go on the walls that are 5470mm as per diagram (not to scale, just roughly placed as are the speakers).

    What the retailer is saying to me (he wants me to go 2 Atmos not 4) is that the sound from the rear Atmos may get confused with the sound from the surrounds – but I think there is enough distance, there will be at least 1m between those. What are your thoughts, is it ok to have the rear Atmos that close to the rear wall? I have already brought the seating as far forward as I really want to, as I need to take into account distance from screen (120″ BTW).

    Could you also provide some advice on height for the surrounds. I’ve heard ear level, 300ml above ear level, 1/2 way up wall, etc. Which is correct? I have tried to estimate it so that each listener on the long couch has eye of sight to the surround (but there are still many options for height in that case).

    This is what I was thinking … too high?? Too close to window?? Or would you indeed listen to the retailer and just put 2 Atmos in and have the surrounds further back towards rear?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Surrounds at 1-2ft (300-600mm) above ear height. That’s the easy part.

      For the Atmos layout….

      1) Ideally you should have a 3D CAD model of the room and look at the angular separation of surround and top speakers from each of your key seats. No seat <30 degrees angular separation between surrounds, and ideally 45 degrees. No seat >60 degrees angular. Those angular requirements ensure you get a stable phantom image if a sound object tracks between two speakers in the room [Obviously if you do not have a 9.1.6 layout you can’t meet this requirement for angular separation].

      2) Once you have found a workable speaker placement, pick speakers that will provide adequate high frequency coverage of the key seats. Our target is -3dB at 4kHz. For top speakers this normally means a round angled baffle in-ceiling, aimed towards the main listening seat.

  25. Hello Nyal,

    Excellent info on this site. I am gobbling it up. I am setting up a 7/2/4 system with a Demon x4400h and an Audiosource amp in a 16 X 24 X 7.5′ room. I have Kef 300s up front and a q600 for center. I am choosing between Def Tech Promontor 1000 and the B&W M1 for sides and rears between the Promonitor 1000 and a Kef T101 for rear. For Atmos I am between the RSL c34e and the Kef ci series but am leaning toward the x34e as they have very similar dispersion patterns.

    My questions are:

    For a 7.X.X system you seem to suggest going a little less back on the side surrounds, to maybe a 80-100 degree angle. Is this preferable to a 115 degree angle, which would be the cdlosest I can place it to use an in wall speaker? I figured that if I have the back surround info with the rear surrounds, it would make more sense to place the sides closer to 90.

    As far as atmos, the angle to my Raear and front heights (if I put them in the future, would be 12 and 18 degrees respectively. I am going with 4 top speakers but hope to go with 6 in the future. At what angle should I place them, considering my low ceiling. I already have something wired for 90 degrees which will be my top middle in the future, but where should I put my front and back tops? I was thinking 45 degrees, but since I will have a top middle in the future, should I put them at 30 degrees?

    As far as surround height. I am in a pickle because of the low ceiling. I have found that 43.5 is the middle point in height, which is right where I would but my surrounds (ear height is 37″. Should I go higher or just bring them to ear level? I am afraid that if I put them at ear level it would create strange psychoacoustic effects (read somewhere that atmospheric sounds are perceived more naturally if they come from slightly above ear level), but if I put them too high, they will deter the separation of the two beds of sound?

    1. 1) yes 80-100 better than 115 for a 7 channel system
      2) minimum 30 degree angular separation from LCR to first top row and rear surrounds to last top row. Put the middle so it splits the difference in angle between first and last row of tops
      3) good starting point is 6-12″ above ear height. Put them high enough so all seats have a clear view of the speaker, and then lay out the tops so you have minimum 30 degree angular separation to the surrounds

  26. Hi Nyal,

    I currently have a 5.4.2 Atmos set up. I also have two additional celling speakers that are positioned to maybe used a center and VOG on a Auro-3D set up.
    What is your advice/comments as to would this set up work for Auro-3D with good results?

    1. Depends on where your current tops are located…normally Auro requires a full height layer (additional speaker for each one of the bed speakers)

  27. Hi Nyal,
    I had to leave my paradigm 3.1 system in Mexico, when we sold our Condo. I have just built a new house and we have gotten our furniture from being stored for 9 years. I found I have 2 x Paradigm ADP 590 v4 dipole surrounds. I have one question: Could I use these as 2 fronts (L/R), toed in a bit. Sound would be reflected from side wall and front wall (from tweet/mid) and direct from woofer.

    Thanks for the help,


  28. hi nyal,

    your videos and tutorial are great I’ve been reading practically all of them.
    my question to you is this I have a 14 x 6 w x 13 x 8 d x 8′ ceiling room. I have an exsting 7.2 system in this room and i’m in the process of installing a 7.2.4 dolby atmos system but I have a dilemma. I want to install 4 ceiling speakers but my ceiling is concrete here in new York city. I’m going to use 4 polk atrium 6 indoor/outdoor speakers and mount them on kindorf which will be screwed to the ceiling and the polks do have a 45 degree dispersion. do I need to install these speakers directly aligned with the front speakers or can I install them a little wider than the front speakers? I only have one row of home theater seats that seat three. can I also install the ceiling speakers above each corner of the seats? my other problem is that have my left and right surrounds mounted on the side walls aligned with my home theater seats and my back surrounds Mounted on the back wall behind my seats. if install the ceiling speakers right above my back surrounds will this be a problem? or should I just install them on the side in-between my side surrounds and my back surrounds? I’ve been reading all of dolbys speaker guidelines and I need to get this right one time only I can’t afford any mistakes. is there anyway you can help me with this? at least some of your expert advice will be greatly appreciated. can also position the front ceiling speakers two feet in front of my home theater seats and to the side? please advise! thank you.

    1. Hi Charles, an important rule with the ceiling speakers is to maintain the angular separation to the bed speakers (LCR and surrounds). You need at least 30 degrees from the perspective of the main listening position…so put some painter’s tape up where you plan to put your speakers, then sit in the main seat and look at the angles from the bed to the height layer. If over 30, you are good, if less then you need to adjust. For bonus points you can check the angular separation in other seats.

        1. Hello Nyal,

          this is a follow up to our previous conversation, in regards to the Dolby Atmos on-ceiling speaker installation.
          you mentioned to me about the angular separation from the bed layer from my (MLP).
          well I followed your advise and measured the speaker angles from the (MLP) and these are my numbers using a string and a protractor.

          my BCHL is at 43 degrees, my BCHR is also at 43 degrees, my FCHL is at 45 degrees and my FCHR is at 45 degrees. I just finished running two of dolby atmos trailers from there website. the trailers are the amaze and the leaf and they both sound incredible.

          Thanks for your help on this project of mine, Greatly Appreciated.

          1. hello nyal,

            I would like to know if what I did with my system is correct. I installed 4 on-ceiling speakers facing downward and 18 inches to the side of my front and right speakers I now have a 7.2.4 system. I just feel that I”M not getting the proper effect from dolby atmos and dts-x immersive audio. like I stated in my previous reply my left and right surround speakers are mounted five feet higher than my (MLP) and I have no choice because the left side of my room has no wall. then my back channels are mounted on the back wall and are 42 inches high from my (MLP). I have no surround speakers on the bed layer because of space constraints. will I sti;; be able to get the dolby atmos effect with arc genesis calibration? please advise at your earliest convenience.

          2. Hi Charles, impossible to say without looking at the specific placement of your speakers in 3D CAD!

            The questions that need answering:
            1) Is each speaker located where it should be relative to published industry guidance (Dolby, Trinnov, Toole’s book)
            2) Is each speaker providing proper high frequency coverage at the listening area (-3dB at 4kHz)
            2) What is the angular separation between the bed and height layers (30 degrees minimum)

            So, go ahead and put your room dimensions, seat placement and speaker placement into a 3D CAD model, and compare it to the requirements above…does it meet them or is it deficient in some areas?

  29. Nyal,

    Very informative site!

    I am setting up a 5.2.2 system in a small room 8 x15 x 7.5 high. The TV is on the 8’ wall and the main listening position is a couch about 12’ straight back and there is also a couch on the left side wall. I understand the two atmos ceiling speakers would be parallel and several feet closer to TV from main listening position – questions:
    1. how far forward from the main listening position would you recommend?
    2. Will the sound from atmos speakers distract negatively for anyone seated on left wall side?
    3. Assume adding two more atmos ceiling does not make sense given small room size but if not where would all four ceiling speakers be placed? Thanks for your expert advice.

    1. 1. At around 80 degrees vertically from the main listening position.
      2. Not distracting, but that couch isn’t in a good place for any semblance of surround sound.
      3. You could add more speakers, but I think first I would add rear surrounds rather than more top speakers.

  30. Hi Nyal,

    I found your information very useful. I am not a pro, a newbie to ATMOS. I am considering installing 5.1.4 Atmos in my small family room 14 x16′. The 14′ is where I will be in front of the TV (+ It is not a home theater room with several rows of seats. Only one couch AGAINST THE BACK WALL. On the right there is a sliding glass door that opens to the backyard and on the left there is a big opening that goes all the way to the main house entrance and hallway. Obviously I cannot accommodate Dolby’s recommendation for my room’s orientation.

    I was thinking of installing the two rear surrounds on the back wall slightly above the ear level. And two top Atmos speakers right above the couch in the ceiling and the other two Atmos speakers in the ceiling about halfway between the couch and the TV.

    I have placed an order for Yamaha RX-A3090 9.2 receiver.

    On the internet forums, everyone has a different opinion on where the top speakers should be installed. I would highly appreciate your advice on what will be the best setup for an ATMOS moives. Mostly it is just going to be my family of three watching movies.

    Thanks for your expert advice.

    1. Hi Georj

      Obviously not an ideal setup. Do the best you can relative to the limitations you have. My instinct without reviewing the actual 3D CAD model of your room: get the surrounds as far as you can away from you. Consider just a .2 instead of .4 on the ceiling. Make sure you have at least 2 subs. Make sure you pick speakers that will provide good high frequency coverage at the listening position.

  31. Hi Nayal.

    In your ten tips for ATMOS, you state that
    “Keep surrounds as low as they can go without causing other issues (e.g. too much SPL variation over audience). Why? Because you want to keep the separation between the bed layer (the lower set of speakers) and the height layer (the ceiling speakers).”

    Does this mean to keep the surround below the listening level, like more closer to the floor?

  32. hi nyal,

    thanks for the response. my question is how do I make a 3d cad? i’m not very computer savy.
    I would love to learn I went on certain websites but it’s not working for me.
    please advise if you can.

    thank you for your effort in helping me with your advise.

  33. HELP! 🙂

    Trying to set up a 5.1.4 – am I doomed????

    My Front /LR, Center and Sub are at front of room, traditional floor-standing speakers all.

    Everything else must be in-ceiling, as I’m surrounded by glass, floor to ceiling.

    That means 6 ceiling speakers. Two for Rear/LR, and Four for atmos.

    Can this be done??? Or am I wasting my time and money on a new AVR-X6700H and Martin Logan Vanquish Speakers to go in the ceiling?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Tony, yes it can be done…but I’d likely consider 7.1.2 instead.

      Placement is VERY important – need to maintain angular separation between all of the speakers on the ceiling. Hard to do unless you have proficiency in 3D CAD and understand speaker dispersion. Something like the Vanquish is a good choice since it has an angled baffle.

      Feel free to reach out if you want professional assistance.

  34. Hi Nayal,

    I have a 5.4.2 Dolby Atmos set up in my living room. I have Yamaha RX-A3080 receiver, two Klipsch R-12SW powered sub-woofers, old Onkyo SKF -550 bookshelf for LCRs, four MICA 8” in-ceiling speakers for ATMOS and two MICA 8” surrounds in the back wall. After calibrating, the sound is awesome both for ATMOS movies and music. Since I have all the latest technology equipment except the front LRC speakers, I am thinking of upgrading them with Klipsch RP-8000F floor standing speakers and Klipsch RP-504C. My room dimensions are 14’x16’x8’ (LxWxH). My listening position is 8’ from the screen and front speakers.

    On doing some research there is some confusion on matching the size of the speakers with the room size. Some say it does not matter while others are saying too big a speaker in a small room would create serious problems, My question is could the RP-8000F at 43” high with two 8” woofers and rear port overwhelm the room? Like I said the current sound is great, I am just thinking can I make significant improvement by replacing the old Onkyo bookshelf fronts with the Klipsch floor standing speakers. I would be interested in your opinion.
    Thanks in Advance,

    1. There’s some truth in what you are finding in your research. A larger speaker with more low frequency extension will add more energy to the room modes. In a small room this may create excessive energization of these room modes (and result in boominess at certain frequencies)

  35. Hi Nyal,

    What is your opinion of using 5 screen channels? Specifically, adding the LC and RC speakers from the Dolby Atmos guide. There is too little information about them. The Trinnov Loudspeaker Position Guide it says that 5 screen channels are recommended if the number of surround speakers is greater than or equal than 10 or if the visual angle is greater than +/- 35 degrees.

    Thank you very much!

    1. There will be benefits to adding speakers if the angles between the left / right and center gets too wide. This might occur if the screen is very wide.

  36. Great info. You mentioned “dipole” speakers not being ideal for surrounds because of the null. What about bipole? It’s my understanding that bipoles don’t have the null.

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