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I'm debating making the change, permanently in my Denon config, from tops to heights, but having trouble rectifying the following two comments (which are from different people, granted, but seem to be contradictory):

I don't believe my comment is contradictory with that of Batpig. Batpig does a very good job of pointing out what is happening in each setup. I simply point out that different people have different tastes as to what they want to hear, and should try each setup and decide what they personally prefer. Arguing personal preferences is an unwinnable argument.
 
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I'm debating making the change, permanently in my Denon config, from tops to heights, but having trouble rectifying the following two comments (which are from different people, granted, but seem to be contradictory):
There's a lot of misinformation out there, IMO and some of it is anecdotal or even purely hypothetical. I try to correct some of it, but ultimately some with their own issues ignore me entirely on here or purposely tote older advice with no proof or testing of their own to back it up so it things continue to propagate over and over that should have been settled long ago, IMO and of course some may disagree with me, but I'll give you my take and you can decide for yourself. Sorry if it's a bit ing, but I think this wil clear it all up for you and you won't need to wonder anymore about Tops Vs Heights.

The main thing is this notion that's been going around for a long time now that "Tops" are necessarily better or somehow more accurate for Atmos.

Contrary to the belief of some on here, "Heights" (defined by Dolby for one row of seats as being 30-45 degrees elevation relative to the listener's ears at the MLP or 20-45 degrees with Top Middle added) ARE an official rendering position for Dolby Atmos. With a Trinnov that supports all official Atmos speakers, you can have BOTH Heights and Tops at the same time with the renderer differentiating correctly between the two. (Tops are 45-55 degrees so 45 itself is an overlap point which should tell you something)

The simple fact is that if you only have one or the other, the renderer folds the information in overhead channels into the nearest ones available (DTS:X and Neural X try to simulate the correct positions) so you end up with little or no output differences for most objects in those channels. There may be some minor differenced near the bed boundaries, but I've only heard one small difference in the various official Atmos demos using the Tops setting instead of Heights here and if my Top Middle speakers were in perfect alignment (they're mounted as side heights so they're "outward" 2.5 feet relative to the front/rear heights and 7 inches lower due to the steel beam box in the way), I seriously doubt I would have noticed at all (The helicopter seemed to move down slightly and then up again towards/after the mid-point where the speakers sit slightly lower in "Tops" rendering versus Heights where it was virtually unnoticeable.) The helicopter traveled the same distances in both modes, etc.

The biggest differences are in the physical locations. 45 degrees typically sits 1/4 the way into the room on the ceiling in both directions while heights are often at or closer to the room boundaries (similar to the bed level distances at either room end). It should immediately be obvious that Tops only use up to 1/2 the room/ceiling with the same signals for heights!

That means you'll get more Atmos sounds that are in the overhead channels more directly overhead than with heights (some people prefer that) whereas Heights use the entire ceiling just like bed level speakers (One reason Auro-3D demands heights is the "layer" alignment needs the speakers closer to the same plane). Delays could align the wave arrivals, but that won't necessarily change the apparent position of the speaker itself, only stop the precedence effect from making panning uneven between speaker pairs. Some on here have argued against this, but you only have to try it to see it's true. If you want full ceiling coverage and screen alignment you really need Heights speakers. To get proper overhead sounds, the total angular distance between the front and rear speakers shouldn't exceed about 120 degrees without a bridging top middle set and hence the 30/-30 guidelines for Heights and another reason many prefer Tops in larger rooms as there are few models and not all titles support top middle simultaneously with front/rear heights. You can get around this using steering extraction or matrixing to extract more channels instead of rendering them (That's what I do) as it doesn't count towards the receiver renderer as it doesn't even know they exist. DTS:X Pro does this internally to generate the extra channels with Neural X so it's not so strange even if it sounds like it might be.

Meanwhile, what those two quoted messages are referring to are two different things. The first seems to imply Tops are the preferred Atmos location and that Heights are some compromised inferior thing only there to accommodate Auro-3D or DTS:X or something. This is not so. As discussed above, Heights are a real Atmos location. It is entirely subjective which is "preferable" for Atmos signals for the above stated reasons.

The other is referring to Atmos folding information only/mostly into the overhead channels while DTS:X tries to simulate the other location using bed channels to lower "Tops" to the "Heights" physical position. The issue is that speakers that aren't well matched may make a poor phantom image and thus sound like two speakers playing the same thing rather than a single phantom image for both. I think in practice this often more true for test tones like pink noise than real sounds, but so goes the argument against using "Tops" setting for DTS:X rather than Heights so it doesn't do that. Turning off Neural X for DTS:X might get rid of it for DTS:X soundtracks, but certainly not Neural X upmixed ones.

Thus some save two settings to be "optimal" for both while others recognize there's little difference in practice to using "Heights" with Tops speakers since Atmos folds both into the available channels regardless. Some claim they get more overhead with the Tops setting even with Heights speakers, but that has not been my experience at all here with a Marantz AVR, at least.

If I were you, I'd just set it to Heights and forget it, but feel free to run your own tests and decide for yourself. You're the one that needs to be happy with it not anyone else here. 🙂
 

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This is because of some quirks of DTS:X "mapping" which differ from how Atmos works.

- First, DTS:X (unlike Atmos) renders a "dome" of sound with concentric circles
- Second, DTS:X hard-codes height information to 4 height "channels", not dynamic objects like Atmos
- Third, DTS:X assumes those height sounds are located "outward" of where the "top" speakers are located
- Fourth, DTS:X uses ear-level speakers, combined with overheads, to phantom image the sounds where they are "supposed" to be location

So if you look at the diagram above, notice the "tops" are on a more inner ring of the "dome" than the height speakers. So let's say there's a sound that's supposed to come from the "left rear height" location. You have a "left top rear" speaker, however, so DTS:X will mix some of the sound into the left surround + surround back speakers, and the three speakers will in theory product a phantom image of the height sound at the "correct" location (somewhere in between the physical top rear left speaker and the location of the surrounds closer to ear level).

This behavior is the origin of all the hand-wringing about heights vs tops in an immersive audio setup. The behavior is extremely audible if you have a DTS:X demo disc with the channel call-outs, if your speakers are set to top and you play the height speakers call-outs, you can hear the sound come out of ear level speakers in addition to the overheads.

I need to verify this on my setup, but I'm betting if you have a 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 layout with Top Middle, the phantom image "remapping" will also happen, vs Atmos which just collapses the overhead sound to the Top Middle speakers only.

In theory, it's "a good thing" because the sound is rendered at the more correct location. In practice, it tends to "smear" the sound a bit and make it sound "less overhead" and less precise when you play DTS:X content with overheads set to "top" instead of "height".

Atmos is more benign in this respect, it doesn't bleed sound down to the ear level speakers to remap height sounds (which makes more sense in its "room box" rendering, vs the concentric dome framework of DTS:X). If you only have 2 height speakers, and the sound is supposed to be above you, that sound goes to the height speakers. Done. If you have 4 height speakers, and a sound is supposed to come from the upper left front corner of the room, it's going to be played by the front left overhead regardless of whether it's set to top or height.

Since Atmos is more "forgiving" in this respect, and especially when you add in Auro3D mandating "height" designation, most people who care about cross-format compatibility with immersive audio just call them "front height + rear height" and move on, it's the simplest solution if you don't want to have to switch layouts to accommodate different audio codecs.

This is very informative. Thank you batpig for taking time in explaining how exactly both the formats work. I really appreciate it :) I did few tests for Dts:X with that demo audio as a reference.

So in my case, with 2 overhead speakers set to top front, I could hear sound on both my speakers combined if the audio is coming from either left rear or right rear height.
In case of front height position, left and rear height audio is heard only in my surround speakers like I mentioned in my previous post.
And in case of top middle position, left and right front height audio is heard only in my front speakers while the top rear heights are coming in overhead speakers.

So in top front position, there's more sound getting played from above compared to heights. And I get more immersive feeling in this case too.

When it comes to atmos, it's just like you said. Whatever audio that is supposed to come from above, it sounded the same irrespective of the positioning.
 

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I don't believe my comment is contradictory with that of Batpig. Batpig does a very good job of pointing out what is happening in each setup. I simply point out that different people have different tastes as to what they want to hear, and should try each setup and decide what they personally prefer. Arguing personal preferences is an unwinnable argument.

You mentioned “directors intent” and “accurate”. Those were the phrases I fixated on. That sounds more like reference to me, not personal preference. Hence my confusion.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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You mentioned “directors intent” and “accurate”. Those were the phrases I fixated on. That sounds more like reference to me, not personal preference. Hence my confusion.


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I should have worded it better. Hindsight is wonderful! The "director's intent" and "accurate" are what they are. Most people want those things, but do not want to change their settings every time they switch between DTS:X and Atmos. So, what I think we are really talking about is the best compromise for watching either DTS:X or Atmos without changing any settings. Then to complicate matters, I also use Neural:X to to put sound into the overheads for the 5.1 or 7.1 mixes. The compromise I prefer is to set the overhead speakers to "Heights." Others may prefer to use the "Tops" settings. There also are many other variables, such as room acoustics, and system differences, that are unique to each setup. This is why I always recommend others to try both settings and make their own decision as to which they like the best on their system.
 
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I have a traditional Atmos speaker layout with top fronts and top rears. Based on this, do you recommend I change my Denon config to call my speakers front height and rear height instead of the top front and top rear I’ve been using?
Yes. Atmos and DTS:X have 4 overhead speaker locations in common, at roughly 45° elevation forward & rearward of the listener. That's the good news (same placement satisfies both formats). The bad news is that Atmos labels those locations Tops while DTS:X labels the same locations as Heights. The Atmos & DTS:X decoders in your receiver don't know where those speakers are, they rely completely on the labels you assign to them.

If you label them Tops during initial speaker set-up, that will be correct for Atmos. However, the DTS:X renderer will assume they are at 60° elevation, which is the location of the DTS:X Tops. So the DTS:X re-mapping function will leak some of the height info downward to the main speakers so that those sounds phantom image below the Top speakers, where it thinks the Height speakers should be.

If you label them Heights, that will be correct for DTS:X. However, the Atmos renderer will assume that they are at the front & back walls of the room, which is the location of the Atmos Heights. So the Atmos re-mapping function will leak some of the height info inward to the opposite speakers so that those sounds phantom image between the front & rear Heights, where it thinks the Top speakers should be.

So the compromise with labeling them Tops is that you'll get height info in the base layer when listening to DTS:X tracks. The compromise with labeling them Heights is that the overhead sound won't have as much front-back spread when listening to Atmos tracks. But the height info will stay up there, never leaking down to the base layer speakers. As such, I agree with the other recommendations to label them Heights. Better of the two compromises (height info doesn't come from your mains). Plus, those labels allow you to use Auro3D, which uses the Heights designations as well.
 

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This image is only intended to help augment the excellent discussion above, and it originally came from AVS threads but with my own annotations.

 

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What should I set my speakers to if I only have 2 speakers on the ceiling directly above the seating to the left and right.

I currently have them set as top middle.
Top Middle is correct. :)
 

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As for recent comments made by Sanjay about "Tops" rendering "inward" in Atmos compared to Heights with the same speakers using that setting instead, my testing here does not support this at all. Atmos appears to fold the Heights into Tops when there are only Tops and the Tops into Heights when there are only Heights. The output then appears to be either identical or nearly identical. If there were a significant difference, the placement difference would be easy to hear. I've compared all Atmos demos using both settings and some movies with extreme overhead information. They render in the same position regardless of the setting. This makes sense because if you have only side surrounds, all rear surround information is moved to the side surrounds. You cannot move side surrounds to rear surrounds as the renderer requires side surrounds to be present first (you can however move them to the rear location and get the same result as you would theoretically get moving sides to rears instead). Dolby does not try to "simulate" the correct room positions. They only "fold" the information into the nearest available channels (and overhead information only folds into bed level if NO overheads are available; otherwise testing clearly shows even "Front Height" will play in the Rear Height speakers if those are the only speakers configured (as opposed to using a bunch of bed level L/R mains as DTS would do).

Thus, it makes no real difference whether you select "heights" or "tops" with Atmos that I can tell. You'd need a processor that can run both heights and tops to get a different result as only then would it not fold them into the nearest speakers. You might get something different with one or the other if Top Middle was added to the renderer, but I have no way to test that here. I think people should test the modes they claim do certain things before speaking about them like they know it's true. My tests show no difference in the front-to-back position of overhead objects with the heights or tops settings. Only the physical location makes a difference unless you have a Trinnov Altitude 32 (the only processor I know of currently that can render them both at the same time) as far as I can tell. I certainly cannot detect any audible difference in location rendering comparing settings with the same speaker locations being used. I'd be curious to hear from someone that say they can and what demo material to try so I can test/verify it here myself. Thus, it appears the only consideration in rooms in regards to tops/heights is DTS and/or Auro-3D.

This appears to be verified in the Atmos home guideline PDF (https://www.dolby.com/us/en/technologies/dolby-atmos/dolby-atmos-home-theater-installation-guidelines.pdf) which clearly states on page 7 that overhead speakers in Atmos should ideally be at 45 degrees, but deviations of 30-55 are acceptable. The document doesn't even consider that range to be "heights" which are mentioned far later on page 14. They are simply overhead speakers with an ideal and acceptable range of physical operation. With more speakers added, the notion of heights or top middle come into play. Heights are defined on page 14 in this way. They are defined as Dolby IIz type speakers and that they are only preferred in larger rooms when more than four overheads are being used (i.e. 6, 8 or 10 channels overhead), probably due to the poor overhead imaging in all but very small length rooms with only 4 speakers overhead at lower angles (i.e. >120 angle separation will start to dissipate the imaging directly overhead). Adding Top Middle and/or having Tops in addition to heights in the same processor (Trinnov) rectifies this by closing the angles to well below 120 degrees. I personally use 6 overheads and so Heights + Top Middle gets me imaging across the entire 24' long ceiling and it's awesome to hear, but is seriously deficient without Top Middle (halving the room to only 12 feet long coverage provides good imaging with only 4 overheads by comparison using front height + top middle). Newer guidelines from Dolby lower the 'heights' elevation angles to as low as 20 with Top Middle present. This allows imaging right off the screen in many rooms while maintaining the full travel distance. Tops alone at 45 degrees give up half the ceiling distance for panning.


In conclusion, this notion that Atmos somehow renders significantly differently with the setting on an 11-channel type AVR just doesn't seem to be true, not on my Marantz 7010 or 7012 at the very least. I've not heard a Yamaha or Onkyo to compare, but I don't see why there'd be any difference. Folding missing channels into other channels at the same plane (bed/overhead) seems to be what Dolby does when all possible channels aren't available while DTS:X with Neural X tries to simulate missing channels when possible. Thus, it is for DTS:X and/or Auro 3D's sake that the settings are used. I didn't believe this to be the case, but after exhaustive demo testing, I cannot detect any significant differences in sound object locations when switching between the two settings. For example, the 'bird' at the early part of the Dolby Atmos "Conductor" demo flies directly overhead my 37% seating location with both settings. It does not move to 25% or 50% when switching to Heights or Tops. It appears in the same location with both settings. Changing the speaker locations will alter the result (e.g. Front Height + Top Middle with speakers in those physical locations). The bird then will fly closer to the 20-25% point in the room (estimate) where one of my overhead lights resides. If someone else is getting that bird in that demo (or some other demo to be pointed out) that changes with the Heights/Tops setting, I'd love to hear about it so I can test it myself. I've been unable to find a significant difference at all between the two settings on an 11-channel AVR.

I would be curious to know where it renders in a 10-channel overhead Trinnov system since it would not fold any sounds into other channels but let the objects render precisely where their coordinates are defined.


What should I set my speakers to if I only have 2 speakers on the ceiling directly above the seating to the left and right.

I currently have them set as top middle.
It won't make any difference for Atmos for the reasons I alluded to earlier. Atmos folds the overhead channels into the only two overheads available. It may very well affect DTS:X/Neural X results by picking different bed speakers to engage, however (see my post above).
 

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What should I set my speakers to if I only have 2 speakers on the ceiling directly above the seating to the left and right.

I currently have them set as top middle.

Why don't you do some testing on your own and find out? It's your setup and ultimately you are the one who needs to be satisfied ;) There's already enough information from our experts here, so all you have to do is keep that in mind and perform some testing. For DTS:X, there are some demo audios available on the internet. Search for callout and object emulator. They could really help you decide which one to choose, like it did to me :cool: I too have 2 overhead speakers placed at the same location as yours, but a little bit in front of my seating position and I set it to top front.
 
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