Front Height vs Rear Surround - Page 3 - AVS Forum
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post #61 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

They're as active as the sides but do they offer much of a perceptible improvement over two speakers that whole time?

4 surrounds offer perceptible improvements over 2 surround speakers: better wrap-around envelopment (4 speakers can literally 'surround' you better than 2 speakers can), more precise directionality (side-vs-rear and left-vs-right), and greater imaging stability (sounds at your sides and behind you are locked in those directions for all listeners because you're using hard sourced and not relying on phantom images). These improvements are audible the whole time.
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Is four speakers in back, three in front, and none up high really the best improvement?

Depends on whether you can set it up properly and your personal preference. In your particular case, there wasn't enough space behind you to set up rears properly. And even there was, you may still have ended up preferring heights. For the moment though, your decision was driven solely by placement limitations. So I don't know whether you were (understandably) trying to make yourself feel better about it when you posted your original comment, but the only reason I replied is so that those who do have the option to do rears understand that those speakers aren't useful for just "minutes or seconds in the run of a movie".

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post #62 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Dennis Erskine View Post

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Presumably after Q2.2011, we'll likely find ourselves with a three-way conundrum: Where to place the Front Height speakers for an AVR equipped with all three of the Audyssey DSX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, and DTS Neo:X processors?

I think if you'd take a typical residential space and do the geometry (or trig if you're bold), the differences between the three is rather tiny.

Thanks! However, as my post was responsive, [intentionally] Socratic/expansive, and rhetorical/reflexive, your commentary might be [have been] of more use to someone 'jumping into the thread' had you included my entire post, plus the preceding post by Roger Dressler, viz:

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Just to make a small clarification, the DSX height positions will work swell for PLIIz, too. Dolby have said:

---the height speakers may be positioned directly above the Left and Right mains, or for even better performance, located wider than the Left and Right mains

---an ideal location for the height speakers would be to position them at a 45 degree position relative to the listener (sweet spot)

Presumably after Q2.2011, we'll likely find ourselves with a three-way conundrum: Where to place the Front Height speakers for an AVR equipped with all three of the Audyssey DSX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, and DTS Neo:X processors?

Hopefully there will be an overlap in the setup location criteria for Front Height speakers which will satisfy all of the Audyssey DSX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, DTS Neo:X, and Yamaha CinemaDSP post processors. So far, it seems that 'something like' ±45° from the centerline, and +45° elevation will do the job...?! If that's true, then we can all avoid '(post processor) vendor lock-in' () when we buy a new AVR.

[Conveniently, my Home Office system Front Heights are already located 'close to' {±45°,+45°} . . . and will likely still remain unmoved when they are asked to become Top Front Left, Right speakers (TpFL, TpFR) in some "next decade" surround system! ]


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post #63 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 06:18 PM
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sdurani, thanks, looks like I haven't been giving rear speakers enough credit. I just might setup another pair of speakers and set my receiver to IIx rear to get a taste of it.

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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

For the moment though, your decision was driven solely by placement limitations. So I don't know whether you were (understandably) trying to make yourself feel better about it when you posted your original comment

I don't think this is fair though, as my interest in front height speakers over rears predates both my IIx/IIz equipped receiver and current sofa placement. I think the case can be made on theory that heights should be better than rears. Even you said earlier in the thread that heights should be more noticeable. It just so happens heights are the right choice for my current room configuration regardless of theory.
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post #64 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

I don't think this is fair though, as my interest in front height speakers over rears predates both my IIx/IIz equipped receiver and current sofa placement.

Apologies if my comment appeared unfair; that was not the intent. You went with height speakers due to a placement limitation. It's not like you had the option to compare heights vs rears and then pick your preference. Since you had no choice in the matter, why try to justify it later by saying "I just have doubts about how many minutes or seconds in the run of a movie that the additional rear information would improve things"?
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I think the case can be made on theory that heights should be better than rears.

Again, whom are you trying to convince with that: yourself or others? That's not meant as a slam, just pointing out that you're defending a decision you had no choice in.
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Even you said earlier in the thread that heights should be more noticeable.

Sure, our human hearing is better in front of us than around or behind us. But noticeable doesn't automatically equate to better. The movie industry, for example, has gone from one surround channel (Dolby Stereo) to two surround channels (DD/DTS 5.1) to three surround channels (Surround EX) to four surround channels (discrete 7.1 last year). During that same period, there's been negligible attempts at using additional channels for height. And it's not asthough the folks that handle movie sound aren't aware of where our hearing is best.

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post #65 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

Apologies if my comment appeared unfair; that was not the intent. You went with height speakers due to a placement limitation. It's not like you had the option to compare heights vs rears and then pick your preference. Since you had no choice in the matter, why try to justify it later by saying "I just have doubts about how many minutes or seconds in the run of a movie that the additional rear information would improve things"? Again, whom are you trying to convince with that: yourself or others?.

I love what the height speakers add, better than I had expected even. I'm not trying to "justify" that. In fact I DO have the option to do some rearranging in order to properly accomodate rear surrounds. I just felt that more likely than not it wouldn't be worth the trouble, and quite likely an overall downgrade. I also feel I properly qualified this as assumption based on no experience.

I'm open to the idea of rear surrounds though, especially as you've indicated that my expectations of them were too low. I can change up my theater room now if I want, or more importantly, I'm not tied down so I won't always be in the same room (I've moved my theater between 3 rooms in 2 houses in the last 9 months). So regardless of my current setup, I'm very much interested in the question of which is better. Though given my love of what I get from the front heights, it sounds like if I really like rear surrounds too, I'll have to get a 9.1 set up down the line!

You're not really staking a clear position though. Heights should be more noticable, but the movie industry knew what it was doing in expanding surrounds. So, you think rear surrounds are ultimately a better option? Remember the title of this thread: "Front Height VS Rear Surround!" It's entirely possible that someone, or me eventually, will find themselves in a room which could accomodate one just as much as the other.
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post #66 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

You're not really staking a clear position though. Heights should be more noticable, but movie industry knew what it was doing in expanding surrounds. So, you think rear surrounds are ultimately a better option? Remember the title of this thread: "Front Height VS Rear Surround!"

The whole point of surround sound is immersion; to keep the viewer entertained by mating sound that matches the images on the screen so that they're into the movie and not noticing the mechanisms behind the reproduction. The ideal is a proper setup all around; rears, heights, wides, whereever you can put speakers in a seamless soundstage. Noticeable can be good if it assists the immersion, but it can also be a distraction (improper placement, etc.)

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post #67 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

The whole point of surround sound is immersion; to keep the viewer entertained by mating sound that matches the images on the screen so that they're into the movie and not noticing the mechanisms behind the reproduction. The ideal is a proper setup all around; rears, heights, wides, whereever you can put speakers in a seamless soundstage. Noticeable can be good if it assists the immersion, but it can also be a distraction (improper placement, etc.)

In my experience with front height speakers, they definitely provide a noticeable improvement that assists the immersion; not a distraction. Everything just sounds more real and natural to me. Height speakers pass on this point, I think. Ideally I would have more speakers, but remember this thread is about one versus the other.
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post #68 of 85 Old 03-02-2011, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

You're not really staking a clear position though.

Right, because there is no clear position when it comes to personal preference. Suppose you had to choose between height or rears, and were able to give each one a fair shot, how am I supposed to know which one you (or anyone else) will prefer?
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Heights should be more noticable, but the movie industry knew what it was doing in expanding surrounds.

It was just an example of "more noticeable" not necessarily being a priority when it came to adding more channels.
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It's entirely possible that someone, or me eventually, will find themselves in a room which could accomodate one just as much as the other.

Then that someone will have to listen for themselves and decide which one they prefer. Stop thinking in terms of what's "better" and instead consider what you like. The whole purpose of your home theatre is to please you, not anyone else. If you're going beyond 5.1 speakers, a modern 7.1 receiver will let you choose between wides or heights or rears. Is it so unreasonable to let your personal preference decide which one rather than rely on someone else's idea of what's better?

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post #69 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

Right, because there is no clear position when it comes to personal preference. Suppose you had to choose between height or rears, and were able to give each one a fair shot, how am I supposed to know which one you (or anyone else) will prefer?

Certainly, personal preference trumps what others think. But I think a discussion of which one everyone prefers and why would be interesting. Perhaps help to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of each for the curious. Why not share which one you prefer personally and why?

Example, ice cream flavors. I prefer cookies and cream because the cookies provide a sweet chocolately crunch without being as disruptively hard as chocolate chips.
See, no harm done.
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post #70 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 05:45 AM
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

The whole purpose of your home theatre is to please you, not anyone else.

Late Addition here, but I'm reminded that this is not always the case, at least for me. Last weekend I had some friends over for video games (Castle Crashers and Little Big Planet 2; laughed so hard my throat hurt). I moved the seating around so that my guests could share the sweet spot while I sat off to the side. Indeed, sometimes a home theater is intended to entertain guests rather than me myself. I want them to enjoy the audio visual experience to the fullest. I want to impress. This means putting my personal preferences aside. This is why I want to know the personal preferences of other people. If, for example, the majority of people prefer rear surrounds over front heights, then I would like to include that setup in my party preparations.
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post #71 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 06:49 AM
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Dear all - here are just two cents worth from sunny but still cold Norway

My vote is clearly for rears, as opposed to front heights!

First of all Sdurani is of course 100% correct - the only thing that really matters is what YOU like best!! With that said I do believe that in most cases what the producers have provided of content actually gives the best results. In other words, when going past the traditional 5.1 setup into 7.1 then all the Blurays out there have discrete side surround and rear surround tracks - but no front heights (or wides).

I have recently upgraded from 5.1 to 7.1 (changing all speakers and choosing a pre/pro and power amps over a receiver). Before making the decision based on the above "theory" I went to friend of mine who have heights installed for a listening session. He is also very happy with the heights, as several here are, and it probably works well in his small room (12 feet wide by 10 feet deep, and the couch against the rear wall). I was not that impressed though. We watched several movies and listened to some DVD/Bluray concerts while changing from a normal 5.1 and 5.1+DPL IIz but I must admit that I did not really notice that much of a difference.

I got my new system, using dipoles as rears (mainly because they are quite slim fit nicely on my rear wall), and configured everything in my 13 feet wide by 15 feet deep room. It is not ideal though as I have the couch with the sweet spot being just 1,5 feet from the rear wall. However, when I turned it on the immersion and feeling of being truly surrounded by the movie experience was astounding. It was really far above the 5.1 sensation I had before - even more than I had expected (which is good when you spend all that money upgradeitis causes)

DPL IIx does a great job actually for 5.1 discs and normal TV watching. But, my real AHA moment came a few weekends ago when I watched the first 7.1 Bluray, The Expendables - with true 7.1 discrete channels - using rears, as intended - I just loved it

Just my experience - but there is no wrong or right here - what YOU like is what is best for YOU - good discussion though, it is always educational to hear other people's experiences!!

Regards Skule
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post #72 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

In my experience with front height speakers, they definitely provide a noticeable improvement that assists the immersion; not a distraction. Everything just sounds more real and natural to me. Height speakers pass on this point, I think. Ideally I would have more speakers, but remember this thread is about one versus the other.

That's fine, but for whatever reason the movie industry went with rear surrounds first. Considering they do everything with the idea of maximum return on investment in mind, I can't see that being an accident.

It's all academic, IMO. Front heights and rear surrounds are both here now, and can be in the same setup. Yes, it's more expensive, but 7.1 was initially more expensive at first, and now all but the most entry level of receivers have rear surround capability; at some point 5.1 receivers will go the way of the ProLogic receivers. If you want both front heights and rear surrounds but it's a bit pricey now, wait a few years and 9.1 receivers will be more reasonable.

Of course by then you'll want 11.1 or 13.1, but hey, baby steps.

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post #73 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

Why not share which one you prefer personally and why?

I've done that before (this topic has come up previously), but am happy to share again. I prefer rears, for several reasons:

My system is used primarily (90%) for listening to music in surround; movies are a distant second priority. So having the ambience wrap around me (side and rear speakers) enhances that particular experience more than the effect of a really tall soundstage. My front speakers are all slightly above ear level, so adding height doesn't make a big difference. My side speakers are a tad forward of the listening position, so adding rears helps fill the sonic hole behind me (and improves high frequency envelopment). I've had a 7.1-speaker layout since the early 1990s, so I've become used to the sound of four surrounds for almost two decades.

Content-wise, there are over 300 titles on Blu-ray with four surround channels (including several musical/music titles), but none with encoded height channels.

Philosophically, I've discussed heights vs rears with the CTO of Audyssey in the big Audyssey thread. They believe adding more speakers where our hearing is strongest lets you appreciate them more than adding them where our hearing is weaker. So they would go beyond 5.1 in the following order: wides first, then heights, with rears last (going from most noticeable to least noticeable). So if you had 9 speakers, they would recommend placing 7 in front of you, leaving only 2 speakers to create the entire surround field. A little lopsides in my opinion.

To me, adding more speakers where our hearing is best is like giving crutches to people with the strongest legs or prescribing glasses to the people with the clearest vision. I'd rather add more speakers where our hearing is weaker, to give greater imaging stability. Well, up to a point: after 4 surrounds I think I would start adding more speakers up front (heights, then wides). So it would be the opposite order that Audyssey prioritizes. Not better or worse, just a different philosophical approach, based on a different preference.

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post #74 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 05:04 PM
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Tulpa- I wonder if maybe theaters went with more surrounds because heights could be difficult to implement? Some people are seated high, others low. For many seats, the front mains are probably already located a bit above. People in front would have front mains that are above them, and front heights that are more above them. Those in back would have mains in front of them (or even below depending on the theater design) and heights pretty much still in front of them, not above. In contrast, they can put rear speakers in back and they'll be appropriately rear for everyone. Maximum return on investment, given the challenges of theater design perhaps.

Thanks sdurani and Pinarello for your thoughts. Pinarello, I'm particularly interested to hear that the rears work great for you with only 1.5 feet in back. I've currently got 2 or 3 feet in back and assumed it wouldn't work very well. Unfortunately my receiver can't do discrete 7.1, only rears through IIx, but I'm convinced now I at least have to try it. Do a quick setup with my room as is, give it a week, and I'll see where I end up.
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post #75 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 05:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airion View Post

Tulpa- I wonder if maybe theaters went with more surrounds because heights could be difficult to implement? Some people are seated high, others low. For many seats, the front mains are probably already located a bit above. People in front would have front mains that are above them, and front heights that are more above them. Those in back would have mains in front of them (or even below depending on the theater design) and heights pretty much still in front of them, not above. In contrast, they can put rear speakers in back and they'll be appropriately rear for everyone. Maximum return on investment, given the challenges of theater design perhaps..

Commercial theaters are different from home theaters, though. Commercial theaters didn't get 7.1 sound until last year (Toy Story 3), whereas 7.1 has been available on Blu-ray since 2006 or so, and 7.1 itself has been available since the mid-80s using various matrixing technologies. The surrounds in commercial theaters were/are still using 5.1 soundtracks with two surround channels, despite using multiple speakers.

So, no the commercial theater had no influence on the heights vs. rear surround preferences.

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post #76 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 06:03 PM
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It seems to me that rear surrounds over heights is natural because horizontal cues exist in the 5.1 tracks and surrounds were already trying to image rear sounds. The rears are taking information from the left and right surrounds and imaging it where it "should" be.

There are really no cues for heights because there's not a vertical array of speakers, so unless something is coded for them, I don't see how anything can be imaged there with accuracy to the original source. As far as speaker position, it's different with DSX wides, because those are on the horizontal plane as well.
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post #77 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 10:18 PM
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Commercial theaters are different from home theaters, though.

Looks like I misunderstood what you were saying. I thought you were talking about the movie industry in terms of commercial theaters, rather than the movie industry in terms of Blu-ray. The point of my post was that commercial theaters are different from home theaters, so you're response here truly puzzled me. Figured it out now though.

Of course, the movie industry can only support what's available, and front heights are still new and only matrixed. I don't think they had much of a choice between 7.1 rears or 7.1 heights back in 2006.

So the question is why was something like Prologic IIx developed before IIz? It might be that they felt rears offer the best improvement. It could also be that it's easier to pull rear information from the existing left and right surrounds, rather than pull height from no speaker in particular. So perhaps we got rear surrounds first because it was simply easier/quicker to develop.

One other possible reason I would suggest is that it's simply easier to sell the idea of rear surrounds to your average consumer buying a theater in a box. I think a lot of ordinary people (not anyone here on these forums) associate awesome surround sound with speakers behind. Upgrade a layman's 2.0 TV speakers with a 5.1 system and they'll be amazed that there's now sound coming from behind them! I've never heard anyone say "Wow, a center speaker!" So speakers in back equals awesome. More speakers in back equals more awesome! Show them 5.1 plus front heights and they'll just wonder why they now have two front rights and two front lefts. Heck, I've seen people install their front left and rights in the upper corners of the room, exactly where front heights would go!

All speculation though. It could well be that they developed rear surrounds first because they thought that would sound better. But I don't think it's necessarily a safe assumption.
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post #78 of 85 Old 03-03-2011, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Airion View Post

So the question is why was something like Prologic IIx developed before IIz? It might be that they felt rears offer the best improvement. It could also be that it's easier to pull rear information from the existing left and right surrounds, rather than pull height from no speaker in particular. So perhaps we got rear surrounds first because it was simply easier/quicker to develop.

Very astute observation, sir. PLIIx was motivated by a growing number of "EX" AVRs utilizing the recommended dual rear speakers (a single rear speaker does not image well, and no theaters use a single speaker for the rear channel). But with two amps driving two rear speakers, the need was ripe an waiting for a decoder to take full advantage. Having said that, the precedent was laid long before by Logic7.

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All speculation though. It could well be that they developed rear surrounds first because they thought that would sound better. But I don't think it's necessarily a safe assumption.

Not better than heights, but better than two surrounds. In a 5.1 system the surrounds are placed at the best compromise for envelopment (sides) and rearward directional effects. It does both well, but both can be done better by using sides and rear speakers--hence 7.1. And with more folks doing home theaters with 2 rows of seats, it's a must. One pair of surrounds simply cannot cover it.
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post #79 of 85 Old 03-04-2011, 10:06 AM
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....and before all that was ambisonics (z)

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post #80 of 85 Old 03-04-2011, 01:42 PM
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....and before all that was ambisonics (z)
...perhaps to return once more when the time is right! [thus proving the rubric "Everything old is new again!"]
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BBC Research & Development on Ambisonics and Periphony
A video and two articles from BBC Research & Development on the topic of Ambisonics and Periphony, and which (I guess) were intended as a (November 2010) recap of some current BBC thinking on future "sound issues" affecting both BBC TV and Radio broadcasting. I thought the video in particular provided a good survey/summary of the issues involved in moving beyond the "2.0/5.1" audio environment.

Ambisonics and Periphony (13 minute video)

Ambisonics and Periphony [part 1]

Ambisonics and Periphony [part 2]

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post #81 of 85 Old 03-17-2011, 09:52 PM
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So, no the commercial theater had no influence on the heights vs. rear surround preferences.

Maybe not... in developing blu-ray 7.1 support, studios were undoubtedly looking toward the theater->home video release cycle, and likely opted for a channel layout that matched the one that would most logically be implemented next in the theaters.

It's like you said: return on investment. If you've already generated a 7.1 mix utilizing rear surrounds, a home release with matching channel layout means you only have to *remaster* for blu-ray rather than *remix* and generate new discrete content.
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post #82 of 85 Old 03-18-2011, 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by thebard View Post

Maybe not... in developing blu-ray 7.1 support, studios were undoubtedly looking toward the theater->home video release cycle, and likely opted for a channel layout that matched the one that would most logically be implemented next in the theaters.

The BD format supports not only the 7.1 layout used here, but all 22 channel options in SMPTE 428M (which defines D-cinema speaker options).
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post #83 of 85 Old 03-18-2011, 01:07 AM
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Originally Posted by thebard View Post

Maybe not... in developing blu-ray 7.1 support, studios were undoubtedly looking toward the theater->home video release cycle, and likely opted for a channel layout that matched the one that would most logically be implemented next in the theaters.

That layout has been around in consumer audio for a quarter-century. Fosgate came out with their first 7.1 pre-pro in 1986; Lexicon in 1988. Both use that same channel configuration: 3 fronts, 2 sides, 2 rears.

Then Blu-ray started using that channel layout in 2006, with the release of their first 7.1 titles.

Finally theatres started using that layout in 2010, with the release of 'Toy Story 3'.

So it wasn't like Blu-ray "opted for a channel layout that matched the one that would most logically be implemented next in the theaters". Instead it was the other way 'round: consumer gear -> home video -> movie theatre.

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post #84 of 85 Old 03-18-2011, 04:32 AM
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I haven't read the last few pages, but posted a few months ago that I was trying heights in my setup. I gave it a few months and last week switched back to rear surrounds. Thought I'd report here that, in my room, heights had a very small impact in relation to what rear surrounds are giving me.

Two possible reasons that I can guess. My mains are large, fully horn loaded (LaScala), and just have a "big" sound character. Whatever that means, LOL. And two, my room has three rows and is 32' in length. No way the side surrounds could cover all that. The rears are about 12' behind my main LP, which gives great depth to the surround environment.

Maybe I'm off on the reasons, but that's my perception. I feel no reason to explore height channels in the future.

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post #85 of 85 Old 03-18-2011, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by tony123 View Post
I [. . .] posted a few months ago that I was trying heights in my setup. I gave it a few months and last week switched back to rear surrounds. [. . .] [In] my room, heights had a very small impact in relation to what rear surrounds are giving me. Two possible reasons that I can guess. [. . .] And two, my room has three rows and is 32' in length. No way the side surrounds could cover all that. The rears are about 12' behind my main LP, which gives great depth to the surround environment.
A similar need to retain rear envelopment while simultaneously adding height effects within a 6.x (7.x) playback environment seems likely the reason that Digital Music Products Inc (DMP) experimented with a 6.0 SACD speaker layout consisting of: Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, Raised-Height Center Rear Surround 'near the ceiling', and Right Surround. (Alternatively, DMP suggested content intended for the Raised-Height Center Rear Surround speaker play through either an actual Overhead Height speaker or a Center Rear Surround speaker located "EX/ES style" at the same floor level as the other speakers.)

[Note: I'm quoting Roger here out of context. ]
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Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post
The BD format supports not only the 7.1 layout used here, but all 22 channel options in SMPTE 428M (which defines D-cinema speaker options).
Unfortunately, SMPTE 428M, etc., did NOT enumerate an elevated rear surround speaker name/location. That deficit has been removed in the standard which supersedes it, SMPTE 2036, which makes provision for a Top Back Center (TpBC) speaker (plus several other new elevated speakers).

However, there already existed the capability to deliver height and extended surround content simultaneously within a 7.1 AVR environment; DTS offered the option of both authoring and playback of BDs in either of its 7.1-Center_Overhead or 7.1-Center_Height speaker configurations (which somewhat resemble the IMAX theatrical channel layout). For whatever reason, they did not find favor with the AVR manufacturers!



[Aside: As I had been running a 6.x system prior to upgrading to a 7.x AVR, I would have liked to have had the option to just add an elevated speaker! ]

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"My AV systems were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many speakers. And they have . . . A PLAN."

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