One of the things about this site is that it can make you impatient. After speaking with some very helpful members I made the decision to skip ahead and update my theater to a 7.2.4 setup. This came with some significant challenges, which I will outline below.
The first issue was that in-ceiling speakers were not going to work. Due to where my theater is in the house I didn't have attic access above the theater. In fact, the roof of the house runs very close to the ceiling of the theater. The second problem was the discovery of a fire break in the back of the room, which would have blocked me from getting the cables easily out the back wall where my equipment is. For all of these reasons running in-ceiling cabling and speakers was going to become prohibitively expensive. The solution to that problem, after a lot of research and several conversations with both speaker manufactures and AVS members was to go with on-ceiling speakers instead of in-ceiling speakers. As I already was running a pair of SVS Prime Satellites in the back and was pleased with the quality, I decided that I would use those as my ceiling speakers. SVS suggested a wall-mount that would work with the keyhole slots on the back, and would be able to hold the weight on the ceiling. I was a little concerned with the wall anchors they provided, so I swapped those out for some toggle bolts.
The second problem that arose was not having the space necessary to get my speakers within the recommended angles that Dolby says are critical. With a lot of help for my amazing wife(whose patience for me is sometimes stunning), we used push pins, string, and a protractor to figure out how to get this to work. Ultimately the solution was that the rear height speakers would have to be mounted lower on the vaulted part of the ceiling. This meant that the rear height speakers are approximately a foot lower (measured from the height of the tweeter) then the front height speakers. It isn't ideal, but it got the angles into the range where I wanted them, and I figured it was the better compromise. My AVR can set delays and trim levels, it can’t adjust angles.
The third complication was how to run the wire and make it look pretty. I failed. Best thing I could come up with was to use conduits along the ceiling and the run the wiring along the baseboard. It's not a pretty theater; in fact, my theater is pretty damn ugly. However, it sounds awesome, and in my mind that is more important.
The final complication was that I was running EMP bi-poles on the side wall. Again after doing my research here and trying to justify a way to not replace those speakers, I finally gave in and decided to do things right. For those I went with a pair of SVS Prime Bookshelf speakers. I decided to go with the regular bookshelf and not the Satellites because the majority of content in this world is still 5.1. For those movies, I have a slightly better system then I would have had gone with the Satellites. After speaking with SVS they assured me that the Prime Satellites are timbre matched with the Prime Bookshelf speakers, so doing this wasn't going to have an effect on keeping the surrounds all timbre matched with each other.
As part of this project I also needed a new AVR and a new AMP in order to get up to 7.2.4. I went with the Denon x6200 and combined that with an Emotiva XPA-5. The x6200 is an awesome receiver, and I could write a whole other post about the benefits of Audyssey XT32. Suffice it to say my theater is now +/- 3db from 70hz down to about 14hz, a significant improvement that XT32 helped me achieve. I've got my AVR running all the surround channels, and have let the XPA-5 take over my fronts.
What are my overall impressions? This was a monster project and it isn’t something I can see that average person wanting to do. Every aspect of the upgrade was a pain, and it resulted in my theater being down for nearly 3 weeks while I set it up. I think for the vast majority of people who want Atmos, it’s going to be those speaker top modules that they buy. Sound wise it wasn’t what I was expecting, but in a good way. I don’t really notice the overheads specifically, which is a good thing. What it does do is make my theater sound big, huge even. During a movie there is sound everywhere, it completely fills the room. It’s hard to explain, other than Atmos makes the room feel big. I need to find a good demo movie that will put some really noticeable effects on the ceiling, but for regular movie watching my surround sounds much better than anything I’ve ever heard elsewhere. If you’ve got a system where you have taken care of the basics, good speakers, good dual subs, and room treatments I think Atmos is an awesome upgrade. However I think I would stress to people that money is better spent first by taking care and making sure that you’ve got the best 7.2 setup possible.
Rear Height Speakers.
Front Height Speakers.