Moving to Atmos

Currently have a Yamaha RXA-2030 for movies, coupled with Ruark Vita 100 system for front height, rear height, centre, sub, Ruark Preludes as left-right stereo, and Epilogues as rears. Got a pair of Crusaders becoming available shorty.

This system is separate to my Naim stereo music system.

Am planning to move to an Atmos setup, since my room will allow it, but I have to fit speakers onto or into the ceiling as it’s vaulted so bouncing off it with up firing ones doesn’t work.

Am I best off re-purposing my current speakers, all from same manufacturer though different series and different price points, or selling them all and buying a 5.1 and additional 4 health speakers for a 5.1.4 setup? And if so how much am I looking at spending to get better sound quality than at present? i.e. are the integrated systems e.g. Q Acoustics, Monitor Audio Silver, going to be better?

Note that the current system is good, but dialogue isn’t as great as it might be, and the impact from the sub and surround is ok, but not epic…

Finally, any recommendations for a replacement AV amp. Am looking Yamaha and Denon as main contenders, though Arcam have impressed in the past…

I did plunge in with denon4500 and small focal sib evo, added a second sub and 2 extra speakers which I already have

To be frank I hear no sound coming from top but I needed a 4K receiver so that’s why I made the change

I had the same experience with upfirers when I set up my amp by microphone. Similarly, the centre speaker was also set low. I remedied both by accessing manual setup and increasing the centre channel a little and the Atmos speakers a lot. That solved the problem. I suspect the problem rests with the microphone analysing the test signal at the point it is coming from (on top of your front speakers) rather than where you want to hear it from (the ceiling). Experiment with manually settling levels by ear is my best suggestion. I can also recommend the Denon range of AV amps.

I moved from a Yamaha THX receiver to a Denon one 5 years back and the improvement in sound quality was shocking. I don’t think I’ll ever look at Yamaha again (though it served me well for 9 years).

As for Atmos, obviously the disc needs to be Atmos encoded otherwise you’ll get nothing from the ceiling mounts. So don’t confuse a movie that was mastered with Atmos for a disc that has it. Also important to note that Atmos is not about creating effects above you. The ceiling 2/4 speakers provide the top of a semispherical soundstage with you at the centre and base. Steering data aims to place individual effects (not chanbels) at a pinpoint 3D location within that space, which could be fully above you, but usually isn’t.

A bit problem is that home Atmos is just a subset of theatre Atmos. There are no 64 discrete channels with steering metadata on BRD. It just won’t fit. Instead it’s more commonly packed into a regular 7.1 stream with effects grouped together and Atmos steering metadata for that. Which is still pretty good.

Herein lies the real problem. A proper 5.1 or 7.1 implementation has the side and rear speakers above ear level, closer to the ceiling than the floor. But Atmos shifts the placement fundamentals to 5.1 speakers around you at ear level with ceiling mounted 2/4 units. In other words you cannot get the best of both worlds and have to choose.

However, Atmos processing is damn smart. It knows where your speakers are (if you set it up right) and will work with what you have because the steering metadata gives a location, not a channel. As mentioned, for home formats, it’s squeezed into a DTS-MA ir Dolby TrueHD 7.1 stream usually and they will play back perfectly brilliantly without Atmos enabled on the receiver.

To that end, it’s my opinion that the sweet spot for home theatre is a 7.2 setup with the rear and side speakers being position higher up in non Atmos configuration with nothing on the ceiling.

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