Are any/all of the receivers out there with Atmos capable of defining where you put your speakers? In other words, if you bought a 7.1.2 receiver could you tell it to have one (mono) height speaker in the front of the room and one in the back of the room instead of left/right (stereo) only in the front? I'm looking at receivers now but it's not clear to me how flexible the system is (as currently implemented).
I was under the impression that Atmos itself doesn't care what kind of crazy arrangement of speakers you want to set up; you just tell it where the speakers are for a given number of channels and if a given sound effect is in that area it pans between the nearest speakers as needed for the effect. But reading any number of Atmos receiver threads, it sounds like most models are set up with RIGID configurations that are nearly exactly like the channel based rigidity that Atmos was supposed to eliminate (i.e. if you buy a receiver with 5.1.4 capability, you MUST use 4 channels for height and they MUST be left/right pairs; you can't just space wider dispersion speakers in a straight line across a 30 foot room and tell the receiver to do ultra-smooth pans down a 4 speaker line in a row. It seems like that should be EXACTLY what you could do with 4 height channels, but then why should a 5.1.4 setup need to have 4 height channels? Why not two extra pairs of side surrounds on a long room or some floor speakers? Just tell the Atmos decoder where you put your speakers and it uses them as-is, right? No? If not, what's the freaking point of an effect based system instead of a channel one if you have to use some pre-defined rigid standards?
The problem is, of course, that 7.1.4 systems aren't exactly cheap and yet 5.1.4 isn't entirely desirable when you've already set up for a 6.1 or 7.1 setup and you have more movies in 7.1 than Atmos, but having 7.1.2 instead leaves you with height only in the front of the room (the helicopter suddenly sounds like landed/crashed when it moves into the back of the room because the only speakers back there are at ear level?)
I'm currently using a 6.1 setup because that's what fits in my room (there's a sliding door and an addition behind it in the back of the room that all but makes it impossible to do a 7.1 setup without blocking the doorway area, but 6.1 works well with a center rear speaker). I'm using an old Yamaha receiver that pre-dates Atmos and even HD-MA/True-HD formats and I'm looking to upgrade my sound system now that I upgraded my projector from a 10-year old Panasonic PT-AX100U to an Epson 3100. My speakers are PSB Image models (3 identical L/C/R B12 satellites with S50 side-wall bipole surrounds and another B12 in the rear center position) with a Def Tech Powerfield 1500 sub. There is a Imagine S surround by PSB I could swap out to that offers a "7.1" mode (front baffle drivers are side surround and back baffle drivers are rear surround) that could get around my 7.1 issue in a way, but I don't really know how "good" that would sound like that (it might just sound more like a two foot difference between the channels for all I know instead of sounding like it's coming from the back area of the room). I don't really want to mount height channel speakers on the ceiling either. PSB makes a newer XA Atmos enabled speaker that bounces off the ceiling and in my room would probably work well, but given the expense of the 7.1.4 receivers (often needing another amp to boot) it seems like you could get 80% of the effect of 7.1.4 if you could only set a 7.1.2 receiver to use the height channels as mono front/back instead of stereo one zone left/right. But somehow I doubt the likelihood that many (if any) receivers can configure such a setup. So I figure this is the place to ask from people that have used these Atmos based receivers and know what their capabilities are.
Ideally, a 6.1.2 configuration would work best in my room with an XA speaker on the center middle and the rear middle to reflect evenly back to the listening area for height. 7.1.2 would require getting the aforementioned Imagine S surrounds (only real place there's room for them) and 7.1.4 would need two sets of XAs and again, I'd have the placement issue in the back of the room (either little to no separation of the speakers or I'd be blocking the sliding glass door which opens to one side of the back wall, not in the middle or anything). It's not ideal, but then that far back in the room the side surrounds panning to a rear center gives some left/right clues and up until now 90% of my movies don't even make use of 7.1 or 6.1 (I think I have 5 DTS-ES 6.1 titles, several EX faked ones and maybe two dozen 7.1 titles (with or without Atmos and/or DTS:X) that I can't take advantage of until I get a new receiver.
While 5.1.4 might work (although with some placement issues of the rear speakers unless I could aim them from behind my couch area to bounce the ceiling in reverse and still sound right somehow), going down from even 6.1 to 5.1 is a loss (e.g. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children does have a DTS-ES core (at least my 3D BD does) and and an object lands in the back of the room at one point in the movie. In 5.1 it couldn't land anywhere but just behind my couch instead at best (room layout has couch in center, surrounds on side walls just behind the couch and a rear center speaker in the back of the room and normal L/C/R identical channels sitting underneath the 93" dropdown screen in the front of the room).