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Surround Speaker Height (1 Viewer)

smithbrad

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My first surround sound system was 5.1 in an open room back in 1997. My current setup is a 7.1 setup in a dedicated HT I built in 2004. Way back then I recall the Dolby recommendation being that surround speakers should be above ear level but not so high as to be close to the ceiling. I don't know when, but it appears somewhere along the way Dolby switched it to ear level. When did this happen and why the switch?

My current room has sound treatment (1" thick rigid fiberglass) across the entire front wall and ear level down on side walls and the back wall. Personally, I've always been happy with the surround being higher, less direct, and where the walls are more reflective. My surround speakers are of a Tripole design. I also think it works better with the end seats that are only about three feet away from the side walls/speakers.

I'm asking this since within two years we will be building our retirement home and that means building a new HT. I'm just thinking ahead about how I may want to approach sound treatment in the new HT. I'm not sure I want to invest the time, effort, and cost I did the first time around to gain the same coverage. Instead, I may just build some acoustic panels to cover the more reflective aspects of the room. The question I'm trying to work through is whether to stick to reflective areas ear level and below, or to stretch it up towards where the surround sound operates?
 

JohnRice

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The height of surround speakers only changes with Atmos/DTS:X systems. If you're staying with 7.1, then they should still be 1-2 ft. above ear level. One thing which has changed through the decades is that dipole (out pf phase) surround speakers used to be preferred, but now either bipole (in phase) or monopole speakers tend to work better. Fortunately, many multi-faceted surround speakers can be switched between dipole and bipole. Also, a little known detail is that in a 7.1 system, when using dipole, the rear surround speakers are actually supposed to be reversed. As in, the "left" speaker should be on the right and "right" speaker should be on the left. However, with current, discrete surround soundtracks, it's generally preferable not to use dipole anyway, and there are no designated left and right orientations with bipoles and monopoles.

So, if you upgrade to Atmos, ideally your surround speakers are lowered to ear level, to create more separation between them and the overhead ones. And, this is important, the Atmos speakers should be overhead, in or on the ceiling, not just high on the side walls.

The question then is, do you want to go to Atmos in your new home?
 

smithbrad

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The height of surround speakers only changes with Atmos/DTS:X systems. If you're staying with 7.1, then they should still be 1-2 ft. above ear level.
That makes sense.
One thing which has changed through the decades is that dipole (out pf phase) surround speakers used to be preferred, but now either bipole (in phase) or monopole speakers tend to work better. Fortunately, many multi-faceted surround speakers can be switched between dipole and bipole.
Yes, I believe mine have the option of dipole, bipole or tripole.
Also, a little known detail is that in a 7.1 system, when using dipole, the rear surround speakers are actually supposed to be reversed. As in, the "left" speaker should be on the right and "right" speaker should be on the left. However, with current, discrete surround soundtracks, it's generally preferable not to use dipole anyway, and there are no designated left and right orientations with bipoles and monopoles.
That actually rings a bell. I've been using my sides and back as all tripoles.
So, if you upgrade to Atmos, ideally your surround speakers are lowered to ear level, to create more separation between them and the overhead ones. And, this is important, the Atmos speakers should be overhead, in or on the ceiling, not just high on the side walls.
Also make sense.
The question then is, do you want to go to Atmos in your new home?
That is a question I have not decided on yet. My current projector is 2K and I likely won't be upgrading for several years. My watching interest has not promoted any serious look into UHD, at least at this time. I suppose it makes sense and wouldn't hurt to at least wire it accordingly, but I likely won't have an interest for a decade or so.

Thanks, for the response.
 

JohnRice

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What I suggest for the surround speakers is that you configure them so all the drivers are in phase, and see how it works. I don't have any experience with tripoles, and it's difficult to get details on exactly how that works or what it is.

One of the big advantages to UHD is that that were a LOT of blu-rays released, especially early in blu-ray, that were downright awful. In a lot of cases, the UHD release is a substantial improvement, even if you scale them down to HD. The problem is, that doesn't always play well with the HDR on the UHD disc. In most cases, the blu-ray included with a new UHD disc is the same one that's always been available. For a lot of people, a "Faux" 4K projector is a good solution.
 

smithbrad

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What I suggest for the surround speakers is that you configure them so all the drivers are in phase, and see how it works. I don't have any experience with tripoles, and it's difficult to get details on exactly how that works or what it is.
It's been a while since I checked but I believe I recall setting them to bipole so that the sides are in phase, which also makes them in phase with the front firing driver.
One of the big advantages to UHD is that that were a LOT of blu-rays released, especially early in blu-ray, that were downright awful. In a lot of cases, the UHD release is a substantial improvement, even if you scale them down to HD. The problem is, that doesn't always play well with the HDR on the UHD disc. In most cases, the blu-ray included with a new UHD disc is the same one that's always been available. For a lot of people, a "Faux" 4K projector is a good solution.
Generally, I've been more of an early than later adopter for audio/video technology (e.g., going from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray). However, it didn't happen that way with UHD, even though I know the benefits. The difference is that in the past my watching preference was geared around new titles and the established catalog titles from the 70's and up with a few earlier titles I saw growing up to fill out the rest. I collected them in VHS, then upgraded them to DVD, and then Blu-ray. Funny thing happened on the way to UHD. First, I found that I watched these titles far less after each upgrade even with the technological advances in playback (e.g., how many times can one watch Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, movies etc...). Second, I discovered whole new genres of movies from the 20's up to the 60's, as well as classic TV shows from the 50's and 60's that were brand new to me. The last decade or so I've been focused on these earlier titles, in some cases just making their way to DVD and then Blu-ray. Fact is, it isn't that UHD doesn't interest me, but it is the lack of titles to warrant the cost to upgrade at this time that has me passing. That may change somewhere down the road, but not likely in the near-term future.
 

smithbrad

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Umm…… a bunch? I watch the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones trilogy (I don’t bother with Crystal Skull) at least once a year.
My apologies, I should have just simply stated that for me...finding a surplus of movies I have never seen before was more important than rewatching one's I've seen many times.
 

Reobert_002

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Okay, it appears that there is a lot of confusion on this subject. The proper way to calculate surround height (especially when there are multiple listening positions) is to calculate how high the tweeter needs to be in order to have "line of sight" to every listener's head. If you have multiple listening areas and depending on the layout of your room, placing the surrounds at ear level will most likely result in the sound being significantly blocked by someone's head. This is the primary reason for the "12-18 inches above ear height" recommendation, but the reasoning is rarely well explained.
 

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