We recently had the opportunity to visit Dolby Studios in Soho Square, London for a demonstration of their new Atmos surround sound format and to talk about the best ceiling speakers for Atmos. This was courtesy of Onkyo, whose latest range of home cinema amplifiers is designed to provide Dolby Atmos decoding and processing.
The new format steps away from simply adding more audio channels to the well established 5.1 to 7.1 configurations. Instead it focuses on adding a third vertical dimension using in-ceiling or upward-firing speakers, and the configuration now becomes 5.1.2 or 7.1.2. Sound can now be directed from overhead allowing a greater sense of sound placement within the listening area than ever before.
The demonstration was very impressive with the additional height of the sound placement really adding to the viewing experience. Both in-ceiling speakers and Atmos-enabled upward-firing speakers were demonstrated and there was little to choose between the performances of both speaker types.
Best Ceiling Speakers for Atmos
Of course our clients are often already keen to use in-ceiling speakers rather than traditional freestanding cabinet speakers for their home cinema system. Many use in-ceiling speakers for the rear surround channels and we asked Dolby how the new Atmos configuration could be best integrated into that system.
Their recommendation is to use the 2 additional in-ceiling speakers for Atmos above the front left, centre and right speakers but slightly forward towards the viewing position. This gives the added height differential between the front soundstage and the ceiling speakers, whilst still allowing use of in-ceiling speakers at the back of the room for the traditional surround and surround back speaker roles.
Unfortunately with an all-ceiling speaker based system you don’t gain any height differential when you add another pair of Atmos ceiling speakers. This is because all the speakers are at the same height in the room. Instead, look at incorporating in-wall (or on-wall) speakers for your front left, centre, and right channels to create that height differential.
Dolby has not defined any specification for the in-ceiling speakers to be used in a Dolby Atmos system other than to state that speakers with a wide dispersion pattern are desirable. This leaves you free to choose from the vast majority of our range when choosing in-ceiling speakers for Atmos, however our favourites are the Monitor Audio C265IDC, which offer an exceptionally wide sound dispersion.