Skip to main content
home theater with sound diffusers and screen

Home cinema speakers come in many forms, shapes, and sizes. With today’s multiple channel systems, each channel or speaker set up when considering  home cinema speakers must be examined on its own and what function it is performing in the total multi channel experience. We have left and right channels along with side and rears, We now with Dolby Atmos have those standard channels along with overhead speakers or speakers that send energy from the floor to ceiling to try and indicate image height. We also have subwoofers which generate the lower frequencies for car crashes and explosions. Home cinema speakers perform multiple functions. Todays’ home cinema speakers are full range and produce low, middle and high frequencies from numerous room locations.

crazy dolby atmos system

We have our standard left and right channels which we are all used to with stereo reproduction in our systems. We also have the center channel which is positioned over the screen or under it. If you really want a coherent and smooth front of the house channels array, take the center channel signal and spit it to a left center and a right center speaker. Make sure the new center channel speakers match the left and right channels. This setup will provide a much more coherent front of the house sound especially for musical presentations. The sides and rear channels must also be the same speakers. Achieving balanced sound fields within a theater room must start with equal amounts of energy by all of the speakers. Now, we must think about overhead sounds with the Dolby Atmos system.

dolby atmos
Dolby Atmos is the same basic system speaker set up with left, right, and center channels along with the sides and rears. We now add speakers that can radiate energy into our sound fields from the ceiling to the floor. These overhead speaker channels  are installed in the ceiling area and radiate energy down towards the listening position. I just recently saw side and rear channel speakers that had speakers in the tops of each speaker with a firing pattern towards the ceiling. This is an attempt to mimic the direct sound from the overhead speakers. These speakers send energy towards the ceiling where a reflection occurs back to the listening position. Reflected energy is never as clean and clear as a direct energy signal. Reflected energy from the ceiling brings into the equation a form of distortion. Stay with the overhead speakers that direct fire at the listening position.

Subwoofers are a big component in any home cinema speaker system. They provide the low – frequency energy for car crashes and explosions. They produce long waves of energy that never fits in most small rooms.  The number of subwoofers, the diameter of the drivers, and the position of each subwoofer is critical within the home theater room regardless of any other home cinema speaker set up. The subwoofers are a beast unto themselves. They produce such large amounts of energy within a small space requirement, that any amount of energy they produce will immediately overload the room. Low-frequency distortion is sometimes called “bass boom”. It is the sound produced by the room which does not like anything that comes out of the mouth of any subwoofer.

room modes

With all of this energy produced within our rooms from multiple channels along with the monster subwoofers overloading the dimensions of our room, the need for absorption and diffusion technologies becomes more relevant if anything is to be heard correctly from any of the channels. We need sound absorption technologies to absorb all of the excess energy from 7, 8, 9 ,10 and sometimes more channel systems. At Acoustic Fields,  we have created our own unique absorption and diffusion treatments.  Absorption technology must manage the lower frequency energy. Absorption must also manage middle and high frequency energy. Both of these energy treatments are completely different and require different amounts of space within our rooms. Diffusion is another technology which takes a small room and makes it sound larger. Diffusion in theaters should be placed on the rear wall and the ceiling for maximum effect.

Dennis Foley

I am an acoustic engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the business. My technology has been used in Electric Lady Land Studios, Sony Music of New York, Cello Music and Films founded by Mark Levinson, and Saltmines Studios in Mesa, Arizona, along with hundreds of others.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.