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Dolby Atmos: Determined At All Costs (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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ATMOS: Determined At All Costs
by Ronald Epstein
April 2016


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The first time I had the opportunity to hear Atmos was at a New York City press event hosted by Dolby. Seated in their state-of-the-art screening theater, we were treated to a string of Atmos encoded theatrical film clips. The rows of speakers situated above our head provided an ambient effect that I had never quite experienced before. What Dolby had managed to do was create an environment where sounds were not only emanating around me, but overhead as well.

I was impressed at what I had heard. But, in July of 2014 when I first came to know Atmos, I was quite confident that this would not be something I would be wasting my time investing in. The thought of buying and installing in-ceiling speakers were just too overwhelming for me to consider. I didn't even have a room to put this kind of elaborate setup into. Nope....Atmos was not going to be something I would be considering any time soon.....

Less than a year later I turned my dingy basement into an elaborate home theater. It took months of hard work to put together. It was a labor of love. Some members of Home Theater Forum warned me that I could not pull it off due to the wall covering and resulting acoustics in the room. When it was completed, and I had the chance to sit and watch a film on a huge 110" screen with a 7.1 Dolby lossless mix, I knew that I had made the right decision.

I will warn anyone who puts this kind of theater together that you will never be satisfied with what you have. Anytime one has the opportunity to replicate a movie theater in their home, that person is going to want to mirror that theatrical experience as closely as possible.

I knew sooner or later I would have to upgrade to Dolby Atmos.

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The first thing I did was purchase a Denon 7500 Atmos capable receiver. It was a costly investment, but to date, this is absolutely the best-sounding receiver I have ever owned. The difference between the 7500 and other Denon receivers I have listened to throughout the years is night and day.

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The reason I have placed logos for Outlaw and Atlantic Technology is because a huge amount of thanks must be given to Peter Tribeman for his assistance and personal advice in getting me started on this project. Having already owned Atlantic Technology H-PAS speakers, and being a huge fan of their brand, I knew these were the speakers that would become part of my upgrade. I reached out to Peter, who went out of his way to reserve me an Outlaw 5000 amp and 4 IC6-OBA in-ceiling speakers.


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The Atlantic Technology IC6-OBA ceiling speakers were beautiful. However, because of my total lack of knowledge of how these should be installed, I came to my first roadblock in completing my Atmos setup. The installer who came to my home informed me that there was too much duct work going on beneath my drop ceiling tiles. For that reason, these speakers could not be installed.

I was heartbroken. My dreams of building an Atmos capable theater were now shattered. I had 2 sets of in-ceiling speakers I could not return and a brand new amp that would never be used.

Then it dawned it on me....


Hanging speakers. What if I could hang speakers from the drop ceiling structure? Searching the Internet, I found pictures of quite a few home theaters that were using outdoor speakers and hanging them by their brackets. I made some queries on several websites including Home Theater Forum only to come to my second roadblock in completing my Atmos setup. My home theater was too small. It did not meet Dolby Atmos specs. The ceiling was only 6'3" high. There was not enough room between my seating and back wall for proper speaker placement. Home Theater experts were advising me not to even attempt to do Atmos in my theater under these conditions.


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I wasn't going to take "no" for an answer. I was determined to do Atmos in my theater whether it met proper specs or not. I immediately went to Amazon and ordered two sets of Atlantic Technology AW-5 outdoor speakers.

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I am really proud of what the photo above represents, though most of you won't immediately figure it out. I actually took these outdoor speakers and their hanging brackets and attached them to my drop ceiling using nothing more than ordinary zip-ties. I was fortunate enough that my drop ceiling structure was strong and secure enough to hold these 5lb. speakers without any give.

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I significantly brightened the above photos so you can sort of see an outline of both hanging speakers at a 45-degree angle a few feet in front of the seating area. The back AW-5 speakers are much closer to the seating area, just above the rear channels. While I must admit that the speaker placement should be much higher and further from the other channels, this was the best arrangement that I could do under the limitations of the room itself.


The End Result


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Before watching my first disc, I did a complete Audyssey calibration of the room. This ensured that all the speakers would be in proper DB levels.

The very first title I put into my Oppo Blu-ray player was John Wick. I had been told that this was a film that had a tremendous Dolby Atmos track. I would absolutely recommend this film for starters.

There is a scene, near the beginning of this film, where John Wick attends the funeral of his wife. The pouring rain could clearly be heard coming from above me. In fact, I replayed this scene several times, turned the lights on in my home theater, and walked around to each speaker. It was quite astonishing for me to hear how Dolby isolated the sound of the rain into the 4 upper height channels. The Dolby Atmos mix was working in my home theater environment.

The Outlaw 5000 multi-channel amp, which I used to support the height channels, did a terrific job of filling my moderately sized theater with dynamic sounding audio. The clarity of sound from the AW-5 height speakers was simply remarkable. I have to give credit to Outlaw Audio and Atlantic Technology for again providing powerful amps and quality speakers that really perform. Hearing the separation of elements was truly astounding to the senses.

Despite warnings I received, none of the channels drowned out the others. There were concerns that because the speakers were too close to each other, I would lose a sense of immersion in the room. However, all the surround channels worked perfectly with none of them being drowned out by competing speakers.


FINAL THOUGHTS


Throughout the process of building my dream home theater, I had too many people tell me it would not work. When I posted pictures of my basement, I had a few members of this forum tell me that I did not have the proper acoustic structures in place. I ignored their advice and went ahead with my plans nonetheless. When it came time to upgrade to Dolby Atmos, I had people tell me my room and ceiling were too small and it would not work. I ignored their advice and went ahead with my plans nonetheless.

So, I sit in a home theater with Dolby Atmos that doesn't quite live up to specs. Yet, I am enjoying an audible experience that goes beyond anything I have ever had in my home before. What it has proved to me -- and hopefully to those of you who are reading these thoughts -- is that you can go against all the obstacles that stand in your way and still create a dream home theater that will inspire you to want to spend all your free time sitting in enjoyment of it.



 
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DaveF

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Ron, so glad to read your successful conclusion! I'll have some follwup questions later. But for now, fantastic!
 

ArmSC

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What a cool story of overcoming what they said couldn't be done. I love the "I'm going to make it work at all costs" attitude and use of zip ties in the process! To see that you were able to get what you wanted is just awesome. Congrats on you dream system Ron.
 

Josh Steinberg

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So glad it worked out Ron!

My approach to home theater setup - heck, my home anything set up, could probably be summed up as "don't let the perfect by the enemy of the good" - there are a lot of people who I think get hung up over specs and the exact perfect way to do something, to the point where I think they miss out on potentially enjoyable things. It's really cool to see that you were able to ignore the naysayers and get a setup that worked perfectly for you.
 

Robert Crawford

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My interest in Dolby Atmos is not quite high for the moment. If I move to another residence then I might revisit it with how I can handle Dolby Atmos setup at the new residence. I suspect I'll probably buy a 4K/UHD display before I make this audio format change.
 

Martino

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Ron - congratulations on the setup -- looks like you figured out the connection issues you were facing...
 
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Ronald Epstein

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For the record I never said it wouldn't work, just that it would be challenging :)

Actually, I wasn't thinking of you. Someone on another site told me basically to forget about doing it with my room size.

My interest in Dolby Atmos is not quite high for the moment. If I move to another residence then I might revisit it with how I can handle Dolby Atmos setup at the new residence. I suspect I'll probably buy a 4K/UHD display before I make this audio format change.

Right now, Atmos was the cheaper thing to do. 4k doesn't have its shit together both on the hardware and software side. I think it's going to be another year at least until I even consider that. However, I understand your circumstances.

Ron, so glad to read your successful conclusion! I'll have some follwup questions later. But for now, fantastic!

Uh-oh. That might be challenging. :)
 

PaulDA

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I have similar challenges (small room, drop ceiling, low ceiling--though not as low as yours). I'd abandoned the idea unless I set up in another house some day. But you've inspired me to re-examine my options. Time constraints mean it won't be all that soon but now I have something to shoot for. Thanks for posting this (well, mostly--my wallet is less happy :laugh: ).
 

Ronald Epstein

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Paul,

I am glad that I could inspire you on this issue.

Whether the specs are exactly what they should be, I am still enjoying the benefits of overhead speakers in a low-ceiling room.

Good luck with your venture! Please post back here when you set your theater up and let us know what the results are.
 

PaulDA

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I made some rough measurements and I have roughly 8 feet between my front and rear L/Rs (5.1 w 2 subs running on one channel). With such a short space I think 2 overhead speakers would do it. I also tested my drop ceiling supports and they can easily hold the outdoor speakers I've been eyeing for something else--PSB CS500. I have Imagine Bs in my 2ch rig (reasonably close sonically to my BA VR-Ms in the "cave") so I expect I'd be happy with them for Atmos and DTS/X duties--someday.
 

Ronald Epstein

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My second Dolby Atmos film, SICARIO.

Firstly, I watched this on a newly purchased Oppo 103D. The previous BDP-93 would not properly play Atmos discs due to the older chip inside that model. I was getting significant audio dropouts.

So, on my newly purchased 103D, I watched this very brutal and excellent film.

Loved the mix that pushed effects over the viewer's head. From helicopters to exploding glass, this was a very robust Atmos mix. Even moreso, the 7.1 mix was very active with effects emanating across all the channels. One memorable effect was a barking dog in a car during a crucial border crossing sequence, that moved from channel to channel.

In all, I would rate this an EXCEPTIONAL Atmos watch. The film is quite good, so it's a win/win in both entertainment and sonic value.
 

Rachael B

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I think that Sicario is the best Atmos disc I have. The beginning of Unbroken rivals it but after the B-24 scenes are over, the Atmos amazement is over.
 

DavidMiller

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I know there has been conversations about what speakers to use, etc.. A friend of mine post a chunk of the installers guide from Dolby.

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I thought it had some moments to back-up some of my comments around Timbre matching. Also that you should go out and buy the cheapest speaker you can fine.
 

Aaron Silverman

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I am really proud of what the photo above represents, though most of you won't immediately figure it out. I actually took these outdoor speakers and their hanging brackets and attached them to my drop ceiling using nothing more than ordinary zip-ties. I was fortunate enough that my drop ceiling structure was strong and secure enough to hold these 5lb. speakers without any give.

So the zip ties are solid enough to prevent the speakers from vibrating or buzzing?
 

Ronald Epstein

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So the zip ties are solid enough to prevent the speakers from vibrating or buzzing?

Absolutely. Remember. you are only securing the holding brackets. If the zip ties are pulled tightly closed, they offer a strong binding between the bracket and drop ceiling frame.
 

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