Towers as rear speakers - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Towers as rear speakers

I found some old posts on this topic, but nothing recent. My apologies if this has been discussed recently.

what are current thoughts on having towers as rears? Overkill/not worth it? Or great if you want to spend the money? That seemed to be the general two schools of thought I saw in a few posts from several years ago.
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post #2 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 11:13 AM
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It is a fine idea, nothing wrong with it. The negatives are cost, and possible floor space needs. Since surrounds often have less audio information going to them than the front three speakers, it is probably unnecessary to spend that money if you are on a budget.
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post #3 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wnydel2 View Post
I found some old posts on this topic, but nothing recent. My apologies if this has been discussed recently.

what are current thoughts on having towers as rears? Overkill/not worth it? Or great if you want to spend the money? That seemed to be the general two schools of thought I saw in a few posts from several years ago.
Not really necessary, but nothing wrong using towers as surrounds.

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post #4 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by wookiegr View Post
Most towers don't get high enough off the ground to represent the preferred mounting height needed for surround speakers.
This is Dolby's recommendations for Atmos setups.

• All listener speakers should be at the same height, typically 3.9 feet (1.2 meters), which
is ear level for the average seated listener (as defined in ITU-R BS.1116-1).

If possible, the height of the rear speakers should be the same as the height of the front
speakers. If the room design makes this impractical or impossible, the rear speakers may be
positioned higher than the front speakers. However, we suggest that the height of the rear
speakers not be more than 1.25 times the height of the front speakers.
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post #5 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 11:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wookiegr View Post
Most towers don't get high enough off the ground to represent the preferred mounting height needed for surround speakers.
I prefer all my base layer speakers to be at ear height, and I have seen it recommended by many people, even on Dolby's website.

Edit: Someone beat me to it!
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post #6 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 12:20 PM
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Nothing wrong with using towers, so long as they have good directivity and you don't mind mounting them for best dispersion.

If you're only concerned about the sound quality at the MLP, then not much trouble. Things get tricky when you want the seat at one far side to hear the surround on the other side, but not get overwhelmed by the surround nearby on the same side. One approach is to use constant directivity speakers and aim over the near seats and towards the far seats. Line arrays tend to do this well with fairly constant volume over increasing distance, and CBT's do this very well. Not much you can do about correcting delays, but at least the relative volume will be much better.

"Towers" isn't exactly defined. Some folks might consider a speaker that's 24 inches tall to be a "tower". Since sometimes the best locations for surrounds are mounted up on walls, there could be physical limitations to getting a "tower" up to optimum height. High ceilings (or the ability to *penetrate* the ceiling!) could help.

If "tower" = "really big speaker", it may be so wide that mounting in-wall between studs is impossible. Smaller speakers can do this to save space, simplify or eliminate mounting hardware, and eliminate baffle step and rear reflections.

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post #7 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 01:18 PM
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Thinking about it some more:

Another consideration is speaker size vs. distance. Larger multi-way speakers often have large physical distance between drivers. The minimum distance for proper integration needs to be less than the closest listener. If your big surround "towers" are only 4' from a listener, but they have drivers with 3' separation, that near listener is quite possibly going to be in nulls instead of the main lobe through the crossover regions. Something like 2x the max driver separation distance is a good rule of thumb for minimum listening distance.

Steep crossover slopes (active multi-amping?) could mitigate that issue somewhat.

Big dipoles like electrostatics and planars want a good distance (two or three feet of clear space) from the walls behind them, and often need critical placement that's only acceptable for the MLP. I've seen them used as surrounds, but space requirements and cost go up very quickly. So that generally rules out an entire family of "towers".

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post #8 of 11 Old 06-17-2019, 01:45 PM - Thread Starter
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I was going to reply sooner, by my daughter took my iPad and I seem to have limited functionality with my phone. But waiting seems to have been a good idea. Based on the last post, the room is decent sized but not big enough for that kind of placement, so I’ll think I’ll stick with my smaller rears. The sound is great, I keep finding myself looking for bigger and better, but it seems like in my case bigger would make things a bit worse.

My wife will probably be happier too. She tollorates my hobby, but it’s not an interest to her.
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post #9 of 11 Old 06-18-2019, 02:05 PM
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I have Aerial Model 6's for my rear surrounds and they really work well. The rear seating and rear speakers are on a 12 inch riser, so they are the correct height, at 39" tall, for the rear seating position and slightly above my main seats. They sound great, with an expanded soundstage, from my front seats. Correctly sized towers will work well for rear surrounds but, unless you have a huge room, I can't see them working well for side surrounds.

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post #10 of 11 Old 06-18-2019, 02:15 PM
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Towers (floor standing speakers) take up the same physical space as monitors (bookshelf speakers) on stands. I use Revel F208's for front and rear L/R. We have clients who use Revel Salon2's all around.

Smaller speakers have a hard time keeping up with bigger main speakers and it can be noticeable. You don't want your surround speakers crapping out if you are playing demanding program material at high SPL's.

A three way tower speaker will handle more power and play louder than a two way monitor.
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post #11 of 11 Old 06-18-2019, 06:20 PM
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For movies most of the time the subs plus limited-LF surrounds and rears are (were) fine. But some movies have scenes with things like explosions, aircraft (fixed or rotary wing), spaceships, or what have you that are panned around the room and those are IME/IMO much more realistic with good full('ish)-range speakers all around. For music, again some mixes just include some reverb and audience noise, but by and large I've found multichannel music often seems to put more and deeper bass in the surrounds than many movies. And as Rex noted the footprint of many towers is about the same as bookshelves on stands, and the occasional loud effects in the sides and backs lose much of their impact when little speakers bottom out or all you get is "bip" instead of "boom".

I started with smaller surrounds and rears (Mirage Omnisats), went to towers (KEF and Infinity at different times), then back to limited-LF (Magnepan MC-1) over the course of perhaps 10-15 years. After living with the Maggies (my main love speaker-wise) I realized I loved the sound but really wanted more bass from the surrounds (rated to 80 Hz, but more realistically 100-120 Hz as measured in my room). Changing to floorstanders (F206's initially) was a significant change. I was able to drop the crossover a little, from about 90 Hz to 80 Hz, but there was a big change in perceived (and measured) bass with the towers. The bottom end was filled in sooo much better and the sound more immersive. I understood the change I would be making, but even so, the level of improvement caught me off-guard.

The only problem I had was that my couch was high and I needed to raise the floorstanders a little. After piddling for a year or so I finally just bought some big concrete blocks and painted them black. I had barely gotten them under the rears when a good deal came up on some blems and I replaced the F206's on the sides and rear with speakers standing a little taller. The solution is working out extremely well, but admittedly using Salon2's for surrounds and rears takes a bit more area (and budget) than using F206's. Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing, I always say... Blame John and Rex, plus some emails with Floyd (con, voted for Gem2s placed higher) and Kevin (pro, using Studio2s in his system), for the change. I placed the sides a little in front of the MLP, but I have done than more often than not over the years, both due to space constraints and because I actually like the sound stage better that way. Yes, being contrary, but that's me.

I do have a fair amount of experience using smaller speakers as the mains dating back to the 60's or 70's. I can safely say that every time I have upgraded to towers I have been much happier with the sound, and every time I have gone to smaller mains I have regretted it and longed to go back to larger mains. That bias undoubtedly contributed to my desire for large surrounds and rears, but I am happy with them. And the Revel cabinets are really gorgeous, enough so that I've a house full of them now and my wife likes them (a very tolerant soul who also appreciates good sound -- she plays piano and organ whilst I sometimes honk along).

FWIWFM - Don

p.s. For those with small, or big, kids, note floorstanders are usually more stable and harder to knock over than bookshelves. Just sayin'...
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Last edited by DonH50; 06-18-2019 at 06:33 PM.
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