Best pick? ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Dolby Atmos Speakers

9.5

Features

10.0/10

Build Quality

10.0/10

Sound Quality

9.0/10

Look & Feel

9.0/10

What we like (Pros)

  • Nice visual profile compared to most
  • Second generation of an already good speaker
  • ELAC - good brand, good sound
  • Great build quality
  • Good price point compared to others including Klipsch

What we like less (Cons)

  • Branding badge on the front - could be a positive if you like that kind of thing.

Dolby Atmos height speakers for home theatre – which ones to choose and how do they work?

Having recently come into the possession of a 9.2 Denon AVR 4500h has opened up the door to getting Dolby Atmos speakers added on. Dolby Atmos has been used in cinemas for a long time so I’ve been pretty keen to get it set up at home.

These Atmos height speakers or Atmos modules as some people call them can be added on to an existing system and are generally placed on top of your existing floor standing speakers. If you don’t have floor standing speakers you can fix them to the wall.

It is possible to buy Dolby Atmos speakers with height modules built-in but for most of us, we already have a set up that we just need to add the Atmos height speakers too.

Hopefully, my journey through this process will be useful for you so read on.

The first thing to say is that most of the Dolby Atmos speakers have not been updated much since they all flooded the market around 2015-2016. Some newer units have been released or updated (like the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2) but mostly they have retained the same range. 

One of the complaints from home theatre fans is that for a long time there were limited options for Dolby movie titles. Fortunately, this is changing with most new blockbusters being released with Atmos soundtracks. There is always a fear that you are jumping on a dying technology but for all intents and purposes, it seems like Atmos will be with us for a long time. And if Atmos was to pass on, there is still DTS:X format and Auro-3D® which will also utilise the same speakers you’ve invested in.

This list of Dolby Atmos soundtracks from IMDB (link below)  is encouraging enough to make you feel like investing in a set of atmos up-firing height speakers is a great idea.

https://www.imdb.com/search/title/?sound_mixes=dolby_atmos

What do all the numbers mean? 5.1.? and 7.2.? etc

When looking at the numbers for a multi-channel home theatre system it’s quite easy to understand how it works. The Atmos set up means they add a couple more numbers to the end. This will be dependent on what your home theatre amplifier can handle.

This usually looks like this:

A common 5.1 system would include 5 main speakers.

  • 2 front
  • 1 centre
  • 2 surround sound speakers

This adds up to 5 with:

  • 1 subwoofer (which is the .1 in 5.1)

A 5.1.2 would include all of the above but also maybe have 2 Atmos height speakers. That is the .2 at the end of 5.1.2

It is possible to have 5.1.2 or 5.2.2 or 7.2.2 or 7.2.4 etc etc. Once you get this it helps to understand how it all works.

There are two basic types of Dolby Atmos speakers for home theatre set up. 

1: Ceiling mounted Dolby Atmos speakers

The first is a ceiling-mounted down-firing speaker that is placed in the ceiling in one of two main positions. Generally, the ceiling-mounted speakers are placed slightly in front of the listening position and firing straight down above you. Depending on how many channels you have will also indicate how many ceiling options you have. There is no doubt that this is the ideal set up for Dolby Atmos height speakers 

2: Reflective up-firing Dolby Atmos speakers

Most of us can’t just cut holes in the ceiling or get out partners approval to screw speakers into the ceiling. Fortunately, there is a middle ground that, while sacrificing some audio quality, is an acceptable workaround. These up-firing Atmos speakers work by shooting height sounds (rain, aircraft overpasses, birds in trees etc) from the front speakers up against the roof which then reflects down to the listener’s ear. 

It ideally works with a 12-14” ceiling height and to date one of the best ways to put Dolby atmos speakers into a vaulted ceiling is to suspend a front-firing unit suspended from the ceiling with cables and angle it to shoot straight down. The benefit of this is that is is a closed box unit.

Are Dolby Speakers different? Can I just use bookshelf/surround speakers for Atmos height channels?

We tried using bookshelf speakers to test the Atmos channel and see if this Atmos stuff even works. Surely you could use any small speaker to project the Atmos height channel, right? In theory, yes, you could use a different speaker to shoot the sound of the ceiling and down to the listener but after some research (re: audioholics) it turns out that Dolby licensed speakers (yes, you have to be licensed to build Atmos specific speakers) have a very complex crossover configuration. As a purist, this leads me to believe that there is some benefit to buying a legitimate license Atmos speaker for my home theatre. There are two reasons for this:

1: It’s more foolproof – less need to fuss with setting frequency crossovers etc. Plug and play.

2: These things are designed to sit nicely on your existing floor standing speakers or be mounted to the wall. Putting our bookshelf speakers on our floor standing speakers was a ridiculous idea. It looks stupid, was probably dangerous for small beings and we’d prefer to use our bookshelf’s elsewhere.

How to Dolby Atmos speakers work?

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are different from regular old 5.1 mixed soundtracks. Atmos is about the position of the sound object in the room and the Atmos-enabled amp just places the sound there with the speakers adjusting almost as if they were acting as one. 5.1 required sound engineers to select which sounds travelled down to which speaker. You would think Atmos would be easier for audio engineers to mix but this is not the case – it’s actually quite expensive and time-intensive. 

Dolby Atmos height speakers take these high ‘objects’ (think bird noise, train track clanking, plane up high) from the soundtrack and play them from an elevated position. If you have ceiling speakers the sounds come down from the roof – like rain falling, a plane flying overhead, ambient noise, a bird flying overhead etc. If you have up-firing atmos speakers they drive the sound at the roof and it bounces off and comes down to the seated position. As this is mostly ambient noises only it doesn’t need to be as clear and distinct as a direct sound like voice track.

Example of a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos set up with the two front up-firing height speakers sitting on top of the front floor standing speakers firing up.

Do Dolby Atmos speakers work?

Yes – ceiling mounted work best but in our experience, up-firing units work too. If you have a sound room set up a system like audessy (Denon et al) or YPAO (Yamaha) on your home theatre unit you can trust it to configure these correctly. You might want to play with the angle of the speaker depending on how far your listening position is.

Which Dolby Atmos speakers should you choose?

Atmos heigh speakers are fundamentally quite similar. They focus on a key frequency range, have Dolby approved crossovers and circuitry and are designed to fill the room with noise. Using the recommended Denon Atmos testing tracks are good fun to play with when you have it all set up. This includes the leaf trailer and the amaze trailer. If you want to impress your friends and family once your home theatre is booming then definitely go for the amaze testing track and turn it up loud.

https://www.dolby.com/us/en/guide/dolby-atmos-trailers.html

Where to buy Dolby Atmos speakers?

Your local HiFi store should stock a version of Atmos speakers but due to their limited audience (mostly as people don’t have Atmos-enabled HiFi amplifiers), you might find slim pickings. Amazon has the widest range available to review. Both on Atmos speakers Amazon US and Atmos speakers Amazon UK. We’ll detail these more below.

Best Dolby Atmos speakers for home?

Here is a list of Dolby Atmos speakers available for home – designed to be added to your existing setups to support a height channel. 

I’ve included links to amazon for US and UK where possible to make it easier to check prices and availability. Any prices I post now will change too often. I’ve also ranked these in order of best based on my extensive research. Best meaning sound quality, reviews and price. 

Something worth noting is the coverage area for up-firing speakers differs so if you have a large space to cover it’s worth noting what might not work for you.

ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 Dolby Atmos Modules

Elac Debut 2.0 A4.2

US pricing | UK pricing

Sony SSCSE Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers

Sony SSCSE Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers

US pricing | UK pricing

Pioneer SP-T22A-LR Add-on Speaker Modules (designed for use with the  SP-FS52 and SP-BS22-LR but can be used anywhere)

Pioneer SP-T22A-LR Add-on Speaker – by Andrew Jones

US pricing | UK pricing

NHT Atmos Mini Add-On Speaker for Dolby Atmos (be careful as this is a single unit item so you need to buy 2, unless otherwise stated)

NHT Atmos Mini Add-On Atmos Speaker 

US pricing | UK pricing

Klipsch RP-140SA Dolby Atmos Speaker (Pair)

Klipsch RP-140SA Dolby Atmos Speaker 

US pricing | UK pricing

Onkyo SKH-410 Dolby Atmos-Enabled Speaker

One of the first and most widely purchased units.

Onkyo SKH-410 Dolby Atmos-Enabled Speaker

US pricing | UK pricing

Klipsch R-14SA Surround Dolby Atmos Speaker 

Klipsch R-14SA Surround Dolby Atmos Speaker

US pricing | UK pricing

SVS Prime Elevation Speaker

SVS Prime Elevation Speaker (Pair) 

US pricing | UK pricing

Definitive Technology A90 High-Performance Height Speaker Module

Definitive Technology A90 High-Performance Atmos Height Speaker

US pricing | UK pricing

Klipsch RP-500SA Dolby Atmos Surround Sound Speakers

Klipsch RP-500SA Dolby Atmos Surround Sound Speakers

US pricing | UK pricing

Dolby Atmos speaker set up

Once you have your speakers and are ready to set them up then visit the Dolby Atmos set up page at Dolby.com, sit back and feel impressed by the ambient all-encompassing sounds.

https://www.dolby.com/us/en/speaker-setup-guides/index.html

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *