Do Wall-Mounted Speakers Work in an Atmos Setup?

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Q I’m upgrading my home theater for Dolby Atmos and have noted that various speakers are now being specifically marketed for this purpose. For example, I’ve seen compact speakers with sloped, downward-pointing baffles that are designed to be wall-mounted near the ceiling. Are these as effective in delivering overhead effects as an in-ceiling or Atmos Enabled speaker? Also, could an Atmos Enabled speaker be mounted in the same manner near the ceiling? —R. Hatton, via email

A The compact speaker that you’re referring to sounds like the Prime Elevation from SVS. As you say, such speakers offer an alternative to in-ceiling speakers and Atmos Enabled modules by providing a wall-mounted option that angles down toward the listener from a position near the ceiling. According to SVS, the Prime Elevation provides a superior option to Atmos Enabled modules since it delivers full-range output directed at the listening position. The output of Atmos Enabled speakers, in contrast, has a “shaped” frequency response that’s meant to enhance the reflection of sound off the ceiling. Furthermore, Atmos Enabled speakers rely on optimal room conditions — specifically, a room with a high, flat ceiling — for best results. While Sound & Vision hasn’t yet reviewed a system with SVS Prime Elevation speakers, the company’s 45-day in-home trial makes it a compelling option.

As for mounting an Atmos Enabled speaker in the same manner near the ceiling, that option is a no-go. Atmos Enabled speakers are specifically engineered to bounce sound off of the ceiling. (Some companies — Klipsch, for example — say their Atmos Enabled modules can also be used as surrounds.) If your ceiling’s shape — a cathedral-type, for instance — poses a problem for installing in-ceiling or Atmos Enabled speakers, I’d check out the Prime Elevation.

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