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HELP! I'm having a difficult time trying to decide how to set up my 5.1 speaker system in our family room given a number of constraints:


First and foremost is that there are a large number of bad acoustics, from hard, uneven surfaces (brick fireplace, hardwood floors, cementitious plaster walls, bifold exterior door opening to outside, etc.)


Second, that the space is long and narrow and is shared with our dining area (again, hard, uneven surfaces)


Third, is that my wife has requested either smaller speakers, or in-wall / in ceiling speakers. The surrounds would need to be in ceiling anyway because of the bifold door which would cause a floor standing or bookshelf to be in the way


I'm currently running an Onkyo tx-nr656 with 2 channels going outside into the garden, leaving 5.1 for the inside. The surrounds would also be used for ambient dinner music


I've been looking at the B&W 7 series in wall/in ceiling with a floor mounted subwoofer
I'm also considering Triad and KEF in wall/ in ceiling


Any thoughts/suggestions on what might work best given these challenges?


I've attached a picture for reference.

Thank you in advance.
 

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Epson 5050,120' screen, AA towers/Horizon w Raals, SVS Subs, Pallisar seating
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First thoughts are: on a positive note, rectangular rooms are good and every "living" space has it's acoustic challenges.

Keep in mind that first and foremost you should be trying to get good sound to your listening position...don't expect good sound everywhere in the room. Personally, I believe that hands down, the best bang-for-buck way to begin to compensate for the many realities in a living space that can affect acoustics in detrimental ways is to apply the best equalization you can afford... that will give you the best possible balance, frequency response, detailed front sound stage and surround sound movement at your seating positions.

Having used the proprietary systems from Yamaha, Onkyo, and Denon, my personal preference is Audyssey HT. It's considerably more refined mainly because it uses a lot more dedicated processing power. It allows you to do-it-yourself, or use a sound professional if you want more measurements and a "greater state" of tuning and equalization in your space. Otherwise, your next steps are to start moving furniture, pictures, sound traps, curtains, yada, yada, yada and most people don't want to do that to their living space. Acoustically speaking, it's all about compromise (for all of us) in rooms not specifically designed for listening. Best advice, read and become familiar with the basics of surround sound, speaker positioning. Good surround sound reproduction really is all about proper speaker placement in relation to seating.

I understand fully why folks go for in-walls, on-walls and ceiling speakers. In many living spaces the esthetics and/or space savings they offer takes priority. They just don't offer the frequency response, dispersion or accuracy (think distortion control) of well designed enclosed speakers...it's simple physics and it is what it is. Good Luck
 

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IF you're going with in-ceiling surrounds, install them as far apart as symmetrically possible, so they sound more like they're high up on the side walls rather than overhead. This will also help maintain good left-vs-right stereo separation in the surround field. Get the kind of in-ceiling speakers that have angled baffles and/or point-able drivers, and aim each surround speaker towards the listener on the opposite side of the room to reduce distraction to nearby listeners. Don't worry about the uneven surfaces on the walls (might not be as problematic as you think).
 
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