Honestly, will Atmos speakers really improve my HiFi?
Because my Denon AVR-x4500h has the capability of running a 9.1 channel setup, I figured it would be worth the investment to try Dolby Atmos height speakers. These speakers sit quite large on top of my Concept 40s, which is rather unattractive in my lounge room.
The challenge that many of us have is that we can’t necessarily install Dolby Atmos Height Speakers in the ceiling, or even screw them in at the top of the front and back walls of our media rooms or lounges.
Part of this challenge is that we can’t get the all-important (WAF or PAF) wife-acceptance-factor.
For most people, the first thing that they spend their money on is a nice set of surround sound speakers. Increasingly, these are wireless but still many of us have our wired setups, and some of us have even added wireless modules to allow our rare surrounds to be wireless.
Immediately, it’s obvious to me that surround sound speakers certainly add a wonderful room-filling dimension to your surround sound movie watching or music listening experience. Whether that be 5.1, 5.2, 5.1.2, or similar.
Dolby Atmos speakers on the other hand, perhaps don’t add quite that much of a new dynamic to the room when you add them to your existing system.
I think it’s fair to say that most of the audiophile community agrees that height-facing Dolby Atmos speakers are not incredibly effective at improving the overall surround sound, room-filling music experience.
But yet, I persist with my Klipsch because I feel that they certainly do add an element to the room that is missing when they’re not there.
Tuning your Dolby Atmos height speakers
Using a speaker top reflective sound model, requires a great deal of fine-tuning, especially if you’re obsessed with your sound.
If you can’t screw your height speakers to the ceiling, then the options you have really are to put them as a speaker top unit. From there, there are quite a few things you can do to try and improve the value they add to your surround sound system.
Try angling your height speakers
The first is related to angle. Keep a close eye on Dolby Atmos’ example diagrams to understand that the sound bouncing off the ceiling ideally will fall to you at a certain angle. So, you may find that raising or lowering the front or back of the speaker unit may help throw the audio better to you wherever you’re sitting in the room.
Increase the volume to your Dolby height speakers
The other thing that you can do to improve the sound profile is to manually adjust your volume settings. So, while many of us use YPAO, Y-P-A-O, and Audessy, A-U-D-E-S-S-Y, I have found that these automatic room-tuning acoustic packages leave the Dolby Atmos height channel at a volume lower than is useful, especially, if you’re bouncing the sound off the ceiling.
It’s also important that you use a height speaker that has sufficient wattage to be driven…to drive enough sound, to create the Atmos effect. In general, you need to remember that height speakers, like surround speakers, add ambient improvements to your movie soundtracks and music. There are many sound effects such as the plane going overhead, bullets flying by, or rain dropping on the roof or from the sky that they can help enhance.
Overall, it’s easy to understand why many manufacturers of speakers have not focused on independent Dolby Atmos height speakers. And while I’ve done a full list of what’s available on the space, most of these speakers were developed back at the origin of Dolby Atmos height-speaker releases which is closer to 2016.
Many new speaker developers, including Amazon and Apple, have included Dolby Atmos in their new smart speaker lineups. But this is usually achieved by including other smaller speakers in the speaker array of the speaker cabinet, that fire sound in directions to help enhance the Dolby Atmos surround experience of your music and movies.
I’m a little old-fashioned and still believe that a wired Hi-Fi system provides a much better audio experience than some of these all-in-one speaker boxes.
But, for many of us that have smaller rooms, or have limited space, or can’t get the wife acceptance factor, a soundbar or all-in-one smart speaker that includes Dolby Atmos is certainly not a bad choice if it still sounds good.
So, summarise, is it worth having Dolby Atmos Height Speakers?
In summary, the question is, is it worth having Dolby Atmos height speakers at all? And is it worth having them, especially if you’ve got them on your front cabinet or on top of your front-firing speakers?
I believe that the question for me is yes, but it’s really a question of money.
A set of Dolby Atmos height speakers starts at around $150, which is not an enormous amount to spend. And if you’re okay with the form factor and look that they add to the room – adding extra height and bulk to your front-firing speakers then why not?
If you’re a movie lover, then I see no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy spending a little bit more money to add them to your setup (assuming your HiFi amp can handle it). Just make sure you fine-tune them with the right audio mix, and the right angling to get the perfect outcome for you.
Ideally, if you can, secure them to the top or back walls, depending on how many surround speakers or height speakers you’re adding is ideal.
Ceiling speakers are another option. But that’s a big commitment just to hear a little bit of extra rain coming down from the roof.
Any questions and comments, please fire away in the comments section below.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2022-12-08 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.