AVSForum member wired1 asked:
“Do you think 5.1.2 is the new (or will be) 5.1? Or is a higher speaker count bound to be the new norm?”
While it’s going to take a while, I can certainly see 5.1.2 becoming a very popular option. Because of the strong installed base of 5.1-capable speaker systems, the ease of adding reflecting Atmos-enabled speakers to the top of your front mains, and increasing support for Atmos-encoded discs and streaming content, momentum seems to be moving in that direction.
Certainly, there will continue to be the dedicated enthusiasts, particularly here on AVS Forum, who will opt for a larger speaker count. The beauty of Atmos and DTS:X is that they can grow with you as you add more speakers. Even better, unlike previous encoding format transitions, Atmos and DTS:X won’t require you to completely replace your content library to enjoy the full advantages of the technology. Because of the object-oriented nature of the technology, the same Atmos-encoded discs (or streams) will simply get better and more immersive as you enhance the speaker count of your system.
Having said all that, there are still costs and other issues involved. While Atmos-compatible receivers and soundbars are coming down in price, if you invested in a nice AVR that doesn’t support Atmos or DTS:X, you may not be ready to jump in for a while. Also, depending on how speakers are housed in your system, it may not be possible to add something to the top of your main left and right speakers and ceiling-mounted speakers also may not be an option.
Given the growing popularity of soundbars and the appearance of several Atmos-enabled ones from vendors like Sony and Samsung, we may actually start to see other types of configurations, ranging from 7.1.4, to 3.1.2 or even 2.0.2 systems that use nothing more than a TV and a powered soundbar. (And even audio enthusiasts may want to consider that option for a second system, say, in a bedroom.)