Can I Use Ceiling Speakers as Surrounds in an Atmos Setup?

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Q I want to install a Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 speaker configuration using ceiling speakers for both overhead height effects and the left/right surrounds. How would you recommend I go about positioning the speakers? —Tuck Seng

A Dolby’s installation guidelines specify the use of ceiling speakers to convey the overhead height effects in Atmos soundtracks. For a 5.1.2 speaker setup, you would install a pair of ceiling speakers slightly in front of the main viewing position as shown in the above illustration.

While you could get away with using ceiling speakers for the surrounds in an Atmos setup, Dolby doesn’t recommend it. The company’s installation guidelines instead suggest that surround speakers should be installed in pairs at the same height level as the main left/right speakers at the front of the room. Why? Clear separation between the sound coming from the overhead height-plane and the listener-level speakers is required to get best performance from Atmos. With both speaker types bunched together on the ceiling, the system’s ability to clearly convey height effects in Atmos soundtracks will be reduced.