If you plan on having a proper surround sound experience for your home theater that supports object-based 3D sound formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, and Auro 3D, you are going to need one of the following as an addition to your surround setup;
- Height speakers.
- In-ceiling speakers.
- Upward firing speakers.
These speakers help to add the height dimension that is recommended in these sound formats and have become synonymous with most movies/games.
Installing height or upward-firing speakers will be much easier than installing ceiling speakers.
Ceiling speaker installation can be hectic as it will involve a lot of work and money to pay professionals to do it.
Notably, these in-ceiling speakers may not achieve that immersive sound effect that we are going for, as they lack speaker cabinets. As a home theater owner, you may also not want to install ceiling speakers as a personal preference.
On the other hand, upward-firing speakers angle upwards and work by bouncing the height effect sound waves from the ceiling. However, as we know, different rooms will have different ceiling designs and different shapes which will mean different acoustic properties. The performance of upward-firing speakers is unpredictable and may not work out for all rooms.
If you are looking for a more cost-effective way to add that height effect to your home theater without compromising on the quality of the sound, you are left with one more option, height speakers. Height speakers are also easier to install than in-ceiling speakers but not as easy as placing upward-firing speakers.
Height speakers are housed in their own cabinets and are designed to achieve that 3rd dimension, the height dimension.
How many height speakers do I need?
For a fully immersive experience, Dolby recommends that you should install about 4 height speakers, 2 front height speakers, and 2 back height speakers. However, you should be able to get a great 3D sound effect from your home theater by only using the 2 front height speakers.
Where should I place height speakers?
Height speakers should be placed in a way that they provide coverage from the left-to-right and front-to-back (this is why 4 height speakers are recommended). They should be placed at an angle of about 35° to 45° off the bed of the surround speakers (listener’s ears) to ensure that there is enough space between them and they should be pointed towards the listening area.
The front height speakers should be placed between the main listening area and the display and the rear height speakers should be placed slightly behind the listening area. This will apply for a 4-height-speakers setup.
However, if you are only using 2 front height speakers, they should be installed above in the front of the room but in line with the front left and front right speakers.
After placing your height speaker, you should configure your receiver/processor and let it know that you will be using 2, 4, or more height speakers.
My ceiling is not high enough for height speakers?
If your ceiling is not high enough for the placement of these height speakers, you should place the height speakers as high as possible to maximize the distance between them and the ear-level speakers.
For example, if this recommendation puts your height speakers at about 8 feet from the floor of your dedicated home theater but your home theater is only 7 feet tall, place the height speakers at the 7th foot of the wall to maximize the distance between them and let’s say, the front left and right speakers.
Am using upward-firing speakers, what should I do?
If for whatever reasons you decide to use upward-firing speakers for your height effects, they should be placed in a way that that they reflect sound from the ceiling to the listening area. I would also recommend adding hard and non-absorptive materials such as foam boards at the ceiling reflection points to maximize the effect.
Can I mix height speaker types?
If let’s say you have a 5.1.2 set up and you decide to add a pair or 2 of height speakers you can mix different types/brands of height speakers to the already existing pair. However, each pair should be of the same type of speaker to work in cohesion.
My height speakers are not working?
If your height speakers stop working or do not work from the word go here is what you need to do;
- Check your receiver’s configuration. Make sure that you have correctly assigned the speaker channels.
- If the configuration is okay for Dolby Atmos, DTS-X or Auro 3D set up, proceed to check the audio source. Your source may be the problem or the movies you are playing may not have the object-based surround sound format.
- If your source is okay and your movies are configured for Dolby Atmos and so on, check your wiring. This may mean taking down the height speakers and testing the cables. If they work then your wires may be the cause of the problem.
- If you are using a different amplification for the height channels, you may also need to check the amplifier out.
- To test if the speakers are working, you can use a 1.5 V battery (AA, AAA, C, D) and connect each terminal of the speaker wires to match the polarity (positive to positive and negative to negative). If the speakers are working, they should make some sort of cracking/popping sound and if they do not, they may be the problem.
In most cases, you will find that it is either the wires that are faulty or are not connected polarity or your movies may not have the 3D surround sound formats.