How Many Speakers Are Too Many? - AVS Forum
View Poll Results: How Many Speakers Are Too Many?
9 122 20.93%
11 103 17.67%
22 166 28.47%
45 46 7.89%
You can never have too many speakers 146 25.04%
Voters: 583. You may not vote on this poll

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Community News & Polls > How Many Speakers Are Too Many?
Scott Wilkinson's Avatar Scott Wilkinson 03:52 PM 03-28-2014

The big buzz in audio these days is so-called "immersive audio," which goes beyond conventional 5.1 or 7.1 to surround the listener in a more-or-less hemispherical soundfield. Examples include Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D in commercial cinemas, both of which include speakers on the ceiling, and Audyssey DSX and DTS Neo:X in home systems, which support up to 11 main speakers with extra front-wide and height channels.

 

The Advanced Rendering Lab at SRS (now owned by DTS) included 20 main speakers when I visited a few years ago.

 

Of course, one could even go beyond 11.1—NHK has demonstrated a 22.2 system at the NAB show, and I've heard systems with as many as 45 speakers in the walls and ceiling. But at what point does this game go too far? How many speakers are too many for a home-theater system?



boguspomp's Avatar boguspomp 04:03 PM 03-28-2014
I really am a fanatic about sound and picture and quality. But even though I understand that to get the immerse effect one needs to have LS's all around, I think a 7.2/7.4 setup is all that one needs. Are we grown ups really watching all the time Transformers and similar, where it is oh so important where the crashed cars are flying to? And how many fighters are flying around and around from right to left and front to rear? I enjoy more and more the movies with a lot of dialogue and less with kawoom. The HD music also comes mainly in 5.1 so we are happy with our setup and I voted that 11 are too many already.

cheers
tomtastic's Avatar tomtastic 04:04 PM 03-28-2014
As far as discrete channels I think 5.1- 7.1 is sufficient. 11.1 might take awhile yet and I doubt will catch on as it will only be appealing to those with large dedicated theater rooms. If you don't have the room and your setup is fine then don't add more just to keep up. More isn't always better.
peschiNL's Avatar peschiNL 04:09 PM 03-28-2014

I think one of the reasons immersive audio would take off if wireless speakers would be more common (and with better quality). I can see less hassle if you want to place a system bigger then a 7.1 in a room without the need of working all those cables.


olletsoc's Avatar olletsoc 04:12 PM 03-28-2014
i think the size of the room defines how many speakers are needed and what is too much.
Scott Simonian's Avatar Scott Simonian 04:13 PM 03-28-2014
[Dr Evil]One Million speakers[/Dr Evil]

Bring it.
popalock's Avatar popalock 04:25 PM 03-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Simonian View Post

[Dr Evil]One Million speakers[/Dr Evil]

Bring it.

All my speakers have big freak'n lazers...
psychdoc's Avatar psychdoc 04:26 PM 03-28-2014
The only downside to this is once you hear a full 11.4 system that is great you only want more. I'm hoping Neo X will merge with something like Auro or Atmos for home use so sound can come down from above. I'll still need to figure out what to do regarding the star ceiling but I always look forward to the next incremental improvement.

A great movie soundtrack on my 11.4 system makes two channel audio seem barren and dull. Just my .02 smile.gif
sdurani's Avatar sdurani 04:34 PM 03-28-2014
If "immerisive" audio is the goal, then I think 7.1+4 would be the point at which diminishing returns kick in for me.

7.1 does a good job creating a 2D ring of sound around me. Maybe a pair of wides (between the fronts and sides) to make the ring a little more seamless, but not something I would consider critical.

To turn the ring into a 3D bubble of sound, 4 speakers spread out above would be a good start. More height speakers, while welcome, would yield smaller & more incremental improvements.
sage11x's Avatar sage11x 04:40 PM 03-28-2014
More and more consumers are going for sound bars and cute little 2.1 systems. Shouldn't we be circling the wagon of true 5.1/7.1 instead of trying to convince everyone they need speakers on the ceiling?
Scott Simonian's Avatar Scott Simonian 04:42 PM 03-28-2014
Obviously not.

And 'need' is such a strong word.
KingLeerUK's Avatar KingLeerUK 04:44 PM 03-28-2014
I've been running a 7.2 system at my home for several years now and I don't think I've ever found it to be lacking. If there was one area I'd like to explore a bit more into it would be front-height channels but my motivation to do so is tempered a bit by all of the current consumer 9.x options being a "derived' format since the source material maxes out at 7.1 discrete channels. Movement towards object-oriented audio could change all of that though - but it will be a few years before that can be commercially viable in the average home.

I do find that 7 traditional speakers does push the bounds of what is aesthetically acceptable in a non-dedicated room. Moving all of my source components into a dedicated equipment closet was supposed to get rid of the "Death Star" effect for the entertainment area, but having 7 "black boxes" in prominent locations throughout the room does undermine that goal a bit; "sounds great, but looks like a showroom". If I had a dedicated space that was purpose built then I'd have no reservations about going overboard with the loudspeaker count.
pokeme's Avatar pokeme 04:51 PM 03-28-2014
I don't think you can have too many, if your space can support it. Mine doesn't support more than 7.xx (I've even got them suspended on wire...), so I've oped for the "immersion" of bipole speakers in the surround positions, at a bit of an accuracy hit and am quite happy with the results.

What its like to see is better use if the channels we do mostly all have such as the 3d stereo that has been in works and floating around youtube for some time. Heck most of us don't even have good room correction yet....
sdurani's Avatar sdurani 04:56 PM 03-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by sage11x View Post

More and more consumers are going for sound bars and cute little 2.1 systems.
To replace crappy speakers in modern ultra-thin flat-panel displays.
JimShaw's Avatar JimShaw 05:52 PM 03-28-2014
Years ago, I started with a 1.0 system. Then moved to a 2.0, Then a stereo in a box. I moved finally to a 5.0, then upgraded to a 5.1 system. Oh, what a sound. Then I upgraded the speakers and sub a couple times. I then moved to a 6.1, then a 8.1. And now a 8.3 which I love until I get the bug to add more.

Never enough!
larryep's Avatar larryep 06:16 PM 03-28-2014
Maybe 1 continuous speaker that rolls out and goes around the room like wallpaper
Jedirun's Avatar Jedirun 07:22 PM 03-28-2014
I have never heard more than a 7 speaker system so I may be speaking from ignorance, but in theory, I would think that for a reasonable budget 7 solid speakers would be a better use of money than a higher number of lesser speakers. This statement applies more to the home than a commercial theater, where they have to do something special to make it worth it for us to leave our home theaters.
dnoonie's Avatar dnoonie 07:35 PM 03-28-2014

I agree with some of the previous posts here.

 

1) 7.1 seems plenty capable in a properly treated room

2) And it depends on the room size to some extent

 

I have a 5.1 system and I can see where a 7.1 may in some rare cases may be more immerse except that my room is really too small for a proper 7.1 setup.  I may play with 7.1 when I upgrade my main LR fronts.  Perhaps if my room were properly engineered I'd find my 5.1 setup plenty sufficient.

 

In my room I can play a wonderfully engineered stereo track and get 175 degrees of immersion, that's just with stereo.  I get wonderful 360 degree sound from my 5.1 setup.  I just think that more than 7.1 and the sound will just be too cluttered with too many reflection points and simply smear any immersion/imaging out of existence.

 

More speakers is not better.  A properly engineered room is better than more speakers. 

 

You shouldn't hear your speakers you should simply hear sound all around.


skater2's Avatar skater2 09:03 PM 03-28-2014
I think Jedirun hits a critical point here. While commercial theaters, as money-making entities, have an incentive to add more speakers if it will help revenue, most of us have to work within relatively fixed budgets, albeit at different levels for each of us. Even if an 11.x or 22.x system becomes an option, is it a better use of constrained funds to spend more money on fewer speakers of higher quality? Maybe at higher budgets, the gains in speaker quality diminish, and more (speakers) is a better use of your next $10,000 than evermore audiophile quality speakers, but I don't think that would be the case for more constrained budgets (say, <$3-5K for speakers), and putting the money into 5 or 7 speakers of good quality is of more benefit than spreading the money out over cheaper speakers.
fierce_gt's Avatar fierce_gt 09:03 PM 03-28-2014
i think there is a limit. but we're not there yet.

and I'm talking about channels, not speakers. you can add speakers based on room size, but I think more channels that include height is a welcome upgrade. I'd love to see a system that 'requires' in-ceiling speakers as part of its design to really give you the fly over experience.

all this being said though, I can't imagine ever being in a position to be able to afford a room and equipment to support more than 15 or so speakers. even at the current 11, it's at the point I'm doubting the investment is the best place I could spend my money
musicalfox's Avatar musicalfox 09:31 PM 03-28-2014
I think what will be interesting to see is whether Dolby Atmos or Barco Auro (if they become available) will be scalable in the home, as I believe they are in theaters.

For example, if object-based audio becomes a reality in the home, then maybe just adding, say, two ceiling speakers to a 7.1 layout could make a lot of sense and add substantial dimension. Anyway, I guess we will all have some time yet to see how it all pans out, but thinking of that Gravity soundtrack tracking across the ceiling and around the sidewalls does get me quite excited!
blastermaster's Avatar blastermaster 09:40 PM 03-28-2014
I said 22 was too much, simply because of the lack of space in many (my) home theaters today, not that 22 speakers wouldn't sound better than 11. I will say that since I have started investing in home theater stuff, ignorance is truly bliss. You will not know how much better something can be until you actually try it. So to say 7.1 is the best and it can't possibly get better is only because people haven't been given an opportunity to hear better (read: more speakers). I thought my original home theater speakers sounded great. Then I upgraded and laughed out loud at how much better the new ones were. Those have since been sold and I'm now on my third iteration of home theater speakers. I can't fathom how it could sound better, but I'm fairly certain that if I added wides and highs to my setup, I would notice a difference for the better.

What I wonder may come into play is diminishing returns. At what point does investing a large sum of money into more speakers yield a very minimal sound improvement? From what I've heard, adding wides to make a 9.1 setup really does add to the mix, making the sound from the rears to the fronts sound more seamless. So that's my next step in the game.
tenthplanet's Avatar tenthplanet 10:53 PM 03-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by olletsoc View Post

i think the size of the room defines how many speakers are needed and what is too much.
Exactly.
brwsaw's Avatar brwsaw 11:03 PM 03-28-2014
I'd like to build a sphere, use a speaker and a capable sub every 15° on all axis.
Add a AT screen and single seat in the exact center of the sphere and call it a day.
Oh! Almost forgot the beer fridge.
I didn't do the math but I am salivating....

Edit the edit
dnoonie's Avatar dnoonie 11:15 PM 03-28-2014

The more I think about this the more I think more speakers is very much a bad idea. 

 

What do theater owners think?  How will theater personal maintain that many speakers?  The last action movie I saw in the theater the sub-woofer was not working.  What's up with that?  More speakers will create a maintenance nightmare.  I'm nearly done going to the local multiplex theater because every other time I go something isn't working.  If theater owners and movie makers want more people to go to the theater maintain what you got better, don't create a maintenance nightmare.  And do both an audio and video calibration every week, or if an outside company uses your theater for an event calibrate after every outside event.

 

What do sound engineers think?  How will a 20+ channel mix translate to a 5.1 or 7.1 system in a 15'x21' home theater room with an 8' ceiling?  Not well or not at all I'm think.  Will there be a dedicated 5.1 or 7.1 mix done as well at the 20+ channel mix?  How much attention to detail will be given to the 5.1 or 7.1 mix verses that 20+ channel theater mix?  And if there's a channel or two missing?  There goes that audio queue to watch out for that thing coming from behind.

 

I'm afraid the more audio engineers become dependent on discrete speakers placed at specific points in a room the less they will pay attention to creating a psycho-acoustic creation that mimics sound placement with fewer speakers.  5.1 and 7.1 mixes will suffer as will the sound for people not in ideal locations in the theater. 

 

What about occlusions, such as sound behind you behind a wall?  Or footsteps to the left around a corner in a dark room?   What about a sound that's coming from miles away?  Or sound that's right in front of your face?  Little sonic morsels that create understanding or suspense.  I don't think more speakers will help sound engineers create these types of sounds.  I've  "heard" sounds from far away and right in my face with a 2 channel mix.  Sound engineers have lots of tools at their disposal to create a sonic reality with very few speakers.


sdurani's Avatar sdurani 12:32 AM 03-29-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnoonie View Post

I get wonderful 360 degree sound from my 5.1 setup.
The goal of the upcoming immersive audio formats is to turn that wonderful 360 degree ring of sound around you into a spherical bubble of sound. For your system, that might mean just another pair of speakers placed high above the listening area. That could be enough to separate sounds coming from around you vs sounds coming from above you. Is it really that unreasonable to add 2 more speakers to your current set-up?
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnoonie View Post

How will theater personal maintain that many speakers?
Same way they currently maintain all those arrays of surround speakers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnoonie View Post

How will a 20+ channel mix translate to a 5.1 or 7.1 system in a 15'x21' home theater room with an 8' ceiling?
Same way a discrete 7.1 track mixed for a commercial auditorium translates to a stereo set-up or soundbar at home.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnoonie View Post

And if there's a channel or two missing?
This hasn't been a problem for consumer audio during the last two decades, since downmixing doesn't result in channels going missing. That won't change with additional channels.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnoonie View Post

Sound engineers have lots of tools at their disposal to create a sonic reality with very few speakers.
With newer immersive audio tools, sound engineers have technology at their disposal to create sonic reality with as many speakers as they choose, not longer constrained by the limitation of very few speakers.
Scott Simonian's Avatar Scott Simonian 12:36 AM 03-29-2014
Thank you, Sanjay. smile.gif
sdurani's Avatar sdurani 12:52 AM 03-29-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by brwsaw View Post

I'd like to build a sphere, use a speaker and a capable sub every 15° on all axis.
That would be awesome!

The real trick is figuring out how few speakers can you get away with using and still get close to a dome of sound.

If you started with a dome of 44 speakers, would it really be noticable if every other speaker was turned off? I'm guessing a 22 speaker set-up would still get you 95% there. What if you cut that down to 11 speakers (7.1+4)? You might get 85-90% there. That's not bad, considering you're using only a quarter of the speakers you started with.

That's not an unreasonable number, considering that 11.2 receivers have been available for a few years and some AVS members already have 11-speaker set-ups.
Scott Simonian's Avatar Scott Simonian 12:55 AM 03-29-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

That would be awesome!

The real trick is figuring out how few speakers can you get away with using and still get close to a dome of sound.

If you started with a dome of 44 speakers, would it really be noticable if every other speaker was turned off? I'm guessing a 22 speaker set-up would still get you 95% there. What if you cut that down to 11 speakers (7.1+4)? You might get 85-90% there. That's not bad, considering you're using only a quarter of the speakers you started with.

That's not an unreasonable number, considering that 11.2 receivers have been available for a few years and some AVS members already have 11-speaker set-ups.

I'm starting to wonder if Dolby has hired you yet for their home PR. Especially to market Atmos to consumers.

Something to think about. wink.gif

Btw. I really love these (at this point) 7 of 94 votes for: "45 speakers is too much".

So it's like...

"Forty four speakers? Totally reasonable."

"Forty five speakers? F*** that!"

tongue.gif
sdurani's Avatar sdurani 01:10 AM 03-29-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Simonian View Post

I'm starting to wonder if Dolby has hired you yet for their home PR. Especially to market Atmos to consumers.
I'll take their money. I ain't too proud.

I must be missing the 'outrage' gene that others seem to have whenever new technology shows up. What, moar speakers!!!

Rather than get upset at the advent of immersive audio, a more fun exercise would be figuring out ways to adopt it to our rooms. What's the minimum number of speaker needed to get the effect? How can you get the impression of sound overhead without speakers on the ceiling? Etc.
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