Are directional ceiling speakers best for Atmos? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 05:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Are directional ceiling speakers best for Atmos?

I have been under the impression that a correct Atmos ceiling speaker was one that fired directly downward to the floor.

But in this speaker forum I am seeing references to the RSL C34E which is directional and the Klipsch CDT-5800-C II which has both woofer and tweeter directional abilities. I am questioning my assumption and wondering where I got that impression; I think it was Dolby's website that got that started.

I am re-designing my HT from a 7.1 to a 7.2.4 and I already own 4 of these Sonance HomeTech HT-Oval speakers. I have not drywalled the ceiling yet and can still make changes. They are fairly nice and I'm thinking about re-using them.

What is everyone's thoughts as to directional ceiling speakers vs. straight downward firing for the Atmos channels? Thanks.

Specs: digilake.com/as/product_info.php?info=p3548_HomeTech-HT-OVAL-6-1-2-Inch-2-Way-Oval-In-Ceiling-Speaker--Each-.html&XTCsid=c672bf707f56551d1bf9d0c20d87c962

Edit: I have low ceilings (86" or 7' 2") which are flat horizontal. There are no risers, and just one row of seating.
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post #2 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 05:57 AM
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I'm hanging onto this thread, as I have similar questions.

One question to put out there... how high are your ceilings? Horizontal or vaulted? Do you have a riser that would put your ears closer to the ceiling?

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post #3 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 06:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny14o View Post
I'm hanging onto this thread, as I have similar questions.

One question to put out there... how high are your ceilings? Horizontal or vaulted? Do you have a riser that would put your ears closer to the ceiling?

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Those are great questions so I've edited with the answers. Thanks!
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post #4 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 06:49 AM
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I have a RSL C34E speaker on hand that I was testing against a Micca R-8c and in my own personal experience now, directional drivers are not as beneficial as you might expect them to be for Atmos.

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--------------------------------------------------
Source: HTPC w/madVR, Video: Epson 4000, 150" 16:9, Audio: Onkyo RZ 830 avr, 5.1.4 Atmos setup. 5 speaker Energy C Series: L/R C300's, C C-C100, SR/SL C50's, 4 in-ceiling Micca R-8c. Subwoofer: MiniMarty um18 w/NX3000D.
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post #5 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 07:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidinGA View Post
I have a RSL C34E speaker on hand that I was testing against a Micca R-8c and in my own personal experience now, directional drivers are not as beneficial as you might expect them to be for Atmos.

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Since you have experience, what type/model would you recommend?

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post #6 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 07:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny14o View Post
Since you have experience, what type/model would you recommend?

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It's not a simple question to answer, as I don't know your setup or expectations.

I tested the c34e vs the budget Micca with a fairly strong bias against the Micca knowing its a low-end speaker. I came away more than a bit surprised at how small the differences were between the two. I thought for sure the better angle design of the c34e would make it the clear winning (plus the higher grade components in the c34e), but it really didn't make too much of a difference in my hands-on comparison.

I might suggest you buy a couple different models you're interested in and test them for your self (that seems to be the one thing no one shopping for in-ceiling speakers is willing to do for some reason). Build a simple box for the speakers and compare them in your space.

If you have an average setup I'm sure the Micca R-8c would meet your needs, I know it will meet mine and I definitely didn't expect it would before testing...

--------------------------------------------------
Source: HTPC w/madVR, Video: Epson 4000, 150" 16:9, Audio: Onkyo RZ 830 avr, 5.1.4 Atmos setup. 5 speaker Energy C Series: L/R C300's, C C-C100, SR/SL C50's, 4 in-ceiling Micca R-8c. Subwoofer: MiniMarty um18 w/NX3000D.
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post #7 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 07:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DavidinGA View Post
If you have an average setup I'm sure the Micca R-8c would meet your needs, I know it will meet mine and I definitely didn't expect it would before testing...
If we could move away from specific models here, the question at hand is "directional vs. not". I found your comment telling:

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Originally Posted by DavidinGA View Post
...directional drivers are not as beneficial as you might expect them to be for Atmos.
This sounds like you expected directional to outperform and that is where I am stumbing here. Is Dolby silent on the directionality issue? There isn't anything in the 7.1.4 guide either way ( dolby.com/us/en/guide/speaker-setup-guides/7.1.4-overhead-speaker-setup-guide.html ).
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post #8 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidTheGeek View Post
If we could move away from specific models here, the question at hand is "directional vs. not". I found your comment telling:



This sounds like you expected directional to outperform and that is where I am stumbing here. Is Dolby silent on the directionality issue? There isn't anything in the 7.1.4 guide either way ( dolby.com/us/en/guide/speaker-setup-guides/7.1.4-overhead-speaker-setup-guide.html ).

Yes, I very much expected the directional design of the RSL to make it a big winner over the standard down firing Micca design (although it does have a directional tweeter). Also, the RSL is supposed to be the better design for dispersion (wide coverage), I didn't find this to be the case in my evaluation either.
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--------------------------------------------------
Source: HTPC w/madVR, Video: Epson 4000, 150" 16:9, Audio: Onkyo RZ 830 avr, 5.1.4 Atmos setup. 5 speaker Energy C Series: L/R C300's, C C-C100, SR/SL C50's, 4 in-ceiling Micca R-8c. Subwoofer: MiniMarty um18 w/NX3000D.
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post #9 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 07:58 AM
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It all depends on your room and seating configuration.

Using direct radiating Atmos speakers is always best with ceiling heights greater than 9 feet. However, we have been very, very successful in using Triad Bipole surrounds in or on the ceiling for Atmos in rooms with ceiling heights of 9 feet or less. The advantage here is two-fold, as bipoles can also cover a greater seating area without sacrificing channel localization.

You never want to use Dipoles however because they are too diffuse.

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post #10 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 08:17 AM
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Yes. Directional ideally with a wide dispersion and good off axis response.
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post #11 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 12:36 PM
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Dolby Atmos home theater installation guidelines:

Mounting considerations


If the chosen overhead speakers have a wide dispersion pattern (approximately 45 degrees from the

acoustical reference axis over the audio band from 100 Hz to 10 kHz or wider), then speakers may be

mounted facing directly downward. For speakers with narrower dispersion patterns, those with aimable

or angled elements should be angled toward the primary listening position.

The overhead speakers should be at a height (shown as H3 in Figure 2) between two and three times the

vertical position of the listener-level speakers. The angle of elevation from the listening position to the left

top front/right top front and left top rear/right top rear overhead speakers in a 7.1.4 reference layout

should be 45 degrees. This may be adjusted between 30 and 55 degrees if needed, as shown in Figure 2.

Figures 3 and 4 show the preferred locations of the four overhead speakers as seen from above. The

horizontal width should be about the same as the horizontal separation of left and right speakers placed

at ±30 degrees. If this guidance is followed, the overhead side-to-side separation should be 0.5 to 0.7 of

the width of the overall layout, depending on the distance to the screen and the front three speakers,

relative to the surrounds. It is best to keep the overhead arrangement centered, front to back, over the

listening area, even if the front speakers and screen are at a greater distance than the surround speakers.
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post #12 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawn Gordon View Post
It all depends on your room and seating configuration.



Using direct radiating Atmos speakers is always best with ceiling heights greater than 9 feet. However, we have been very, very successful in using Triad Bipole surrounds in or on the ceiling for Atmos in rooms with ceiling heights of 9 feet or less. The advantage here is two-fold, as bipoles can also cover a greater seating area without sacrificing channel localization.



You never want to use Dipoles however because they are too diffuse.
RBH did this as well with a bipole array they demoed for Audioholics a few years back.

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post #13 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 01:16 PM
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Generally, speakers are designed to sound best on-axis. It is possible that a flat, down-firing speaker could be designed so that it's off-axis sound is what is intended to be "normal", but we don't know. You'd have to measure.

The Dolby spec takes into practical consideration that most people would object to speakers on the ceiling that are not flat, and that is "good enough for adoption". Just my thinking.

Using bipoles is interesting, but costly.
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post #14 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 01:27 PM
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Most speakers sound best (i.e., have their flattest/smoothest response) when aimed at listeners. This does not change for speakers are mounted above you. They're still speakers, still just reproducing sound (Atmos didn't change the physics of sound reproduction). So if the choice is between speakers aimed towards the listening area versus speakers pointing straight down at an arbitrary spot on the carpet where no one is sitting, I don't get why you'd want to aim them at some random location.

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post #15 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 01:56 PM
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The point is to have coverage of the seating area. With a horizontal speaker, faced towards the middle of the seating area, it's fairly easy to get good frequency response. With a downward firing speaker, not so much. With the majority of speakers, the best frequency response (before starting to lose frequencies) is within 30 degrees off axis (picture a 60 degree cone of sound projected perpendicular from the face of the speaker). If all your seating is within that cone, for all your speakers, then you are probably home free.

There are some caveats. For instance, distance makes the cone area larger, so short ceilings are more problematic. In addition, the width and depth of the listening area makes a huge difference. The larger the seating area, the more important directionality becomes. Lastly, every speaker has it's own set of frequency response off axis characteristics, some narrower than 30 degrees, some greater. For instance, the Golden Ear AMT is designed to have very narrow vertical dispersion, but has larger than average horizontal dispersion (so it's more of an oval cone instead of a round cone).

Also, note that a movable tweeter does not help the dispersion characteristics of the frequencies served by the woofer. So, your frequency response might be fine down to the 3000Hz or 2500Hz crossover point, but below that it will drop off as the angle increases.

So, do the calculation of ceiling height to your seated ears in every seating position, at 30 degrees off axis (RSL is tilted 15 degrees, so you get 45 degrees to play with off axis). Paradigm has a model with a 30 degree angle built in (60 degrees of play). Triad has one with 45 degrees built in (75 degrees of play). These may be necessary in situations with low ceilings, or wide/deep seating, or issues with optimal speaker placement.
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post #16 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 03:46 PM
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Yes. Directional ideally with a wide dispersion and good off axis response.
Absolutely! Granted, a little large for my single wide, but I am the hit of the trailer park.


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post #17 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 04:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post
Atmos didn't change the physics of sound reproduction.
HA! I used the same logic when teaching my sons to drive. "The physics of this car do not change just because you got behind the wheel!"

I think the source of the confusion comes from Atmos's using "ceiling bouncing" and this concept of "don't think of discrete channels anymore, rather think of an object in a 3D space." If they use the ceiling as a reflector, its not a stretch to assume they also would use the floor.

Having said that, an "Atmos speaker" sitting on top of a front tower is indeed reflecting down and towards the seating area, just how my HT-OVAL ceiling speakers above do (see OP for pic). So actually, re-using my 4 Sonance HT-OVALs is looking pretty good.

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post #18 of 19 Old 06-27-2019, 04:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidTheGeek View Post
I think the source of the confusion comes from Atmos's using "ceiling bouncing" and this concept of "don't think of discrete channels anymore, rather think of an object in a 3D space." If they use the ceiling as a reflector, its not a stretch to assume they also would use the floor.
Using upfiring speakers to bounce sounds off the ceiling gives the impression of height information coming from above you. Using ceiling speakers to bounce sounds off the floor would give the impression of height information coming from below you. So it's kind of a stretch to assume that Atmos might be using the floor as a reflector. The source of confusion is more likely Dolby's install guide for Atmos (quoted in an earlier post), which says it's OK to use in-ceiling speakers that point straight down.
Quote:
So actually, re-using my 4 Sonance HT-OVALs is looking pretty good.
Agreed, I would use them (rather than buy in-ceiling speakers that point straight down).
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post #19 of 19 Old 07-04-2019, 06:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidTheGeek View Post

What is everyone's thoughts as to directional ceiling speakers vs. straight downward firing for the Atmos channels? Thanks.

Both types you're asking about are direct radiating speakers. For the sake of clarity, you are asking whether Atmos speakers should be *angled* towards the listening position. I plan on getting Revel F208's and the C208 for L/C/R channels and I want to stick with Revel for surrounds and Atmos. Revel's only angled in-ceiling speaker, the C763L, costs $750 each, which will put me over budget. All the other Revel in-ceiling speakers have angle adjustable tweeters, which I think will be just fine.
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