back to article Pimp my lounge and pierce my ceiling: Home theatre goes OTT

As Steve May wrote in the previous Breaking Fad, Dolby Atmos for the home is an impressive sound system, and this year will see the release of a range of kit that supports it from several manufacturers. Wired for sound Multichannel hi-fi upgrades are getting more and more complex Does that mean it's going to be the next …

  1. Tom 38 Silver badge

    9.1? I'm going the other way

    When my 5.1 setup dies, I think I'm going to be replacing it with a nice 2.1 system.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: 9.1? I'm going the other way

      That's not quite far enough. I replaced by functioning 5.1 system with a set of very good headphones and then ditched the speakers after about 6 months due to a total lack of use.

      Much, much better surround sound (with decent headphones!), the sound quality is indistinguishable from the speakers and you won't upset your partner/neighbour with playing something loudly.

      Personally, I think speakers are in trouble. The only problem is being able to listen to it with somebody else, but that's what splitter cables were made for.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: 9.1? I'm going the other way

        You could be right there, Peter2. Though I've not tried Atmos, I have heard object based audio through headphones at the BBC labs, and it's a pretty amazing effect.

        And, the quality of much UK housing stock, with crappy thin walls, does mean that for a lot of people, listening to something at a pleasing volume for themselves is far from pleasing to the neighbours.

      2. AceRimmer

        Re: 9.1? I'm going the other way

        "Much, much better surround sound (with decent headphones!)"

        Which surround sound headphones did you get? Are they 5.1 compatible?

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: 9.1? I'm going the other way

          You don't need them; while the latest object based recordings are an improvement, there have been attempts to encode spatial information for headphones for quite a while - check out "Dummy Head Recording" for more info.

  2. GreggS

    I love

    a party with a happy ATMOSphere

    1. dogged

      Re: I love

      Russ Abbott? Showing your age...

  3. Down not across Silver badge

    Processors and HDMI

    I finally upgraded it when it became useful to have a lot of HDMI connections, and then I had to buy an AV receiver, adding a tuner I never use, and front channel amps I never use, because no one seems to make stand-alone processors any more.

    Hear hear!

    I'm still clutching on to my AVC-A1D that I bought back when it was released and refuse to upgrade although I would love to have bunch of switchable HDMI inputs. Yes it is only 5.1, however it sounds absolutely great (both music and movies).

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Processors and HDMI

      The old E-800 didn't have any HDMI at all, so for a while I had an external HDMI switch (which also switched optical digital), and a mish mash of things hooked up in different ways - some direct to the TV, some via the AV processor, some with HDMI to the TV and optical audio via the switch into the processor.

      It got to the point, however, as I acquired more bits of kit, that even with a Harmony remote attempting to set everything to the right inputs, it was becoming unmanageable, and I couldn't get surround from some kit because it lacked an optical out.

      If it hadn't been for that, I'd probably still be using it. Must pop it on eBay actually - I can probably still get almost what I paid for it on there in the first place.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Processors and HDMI

      Also, perhaps worth mentioning in case it's useful to other people who want to extend the life of their non-HDMI kit, that the switch I used to help solve this was a Thor HDC100 - four each of HDMI, co-ax and optical digital inputs, and one matching output. Worked pretty well for me.

    3. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Processors and HDMI

      I would love to have bunch of switchable HDMI inputs.

      My Onkyo receiver has 6 HDMI inputs and with my Harmony One remote to select the right one based on chosen activity I'm happy. Everything I own goes through the receiver which distributes the audio to my speakers and (if required) video to the TV.

      The only slight complication is that originally my Sky HD didn't support 5.1 over HDMI so it sends audio to the receiver via TOSLINK. I think Sky HD boxes do now support that so I could probably unplug that..but as it means ferreting around in the cable pile behind the equipment I can't be bothered.

      1. Gazareth

        Re: Processors and HDMI

        They do, but only for certain models.

  4. Whiskers


    I´m still catching up with this new-fangled stereo stuff. Mono with clear dialogue and subtitles that are legible would be better targets to aim for than any of these special effects. There is no room in my flat for a herd of speakers - and I can really do without my neighbours using adjoining flats and stairs as resonant chambers for their ghastly bass amplifiers.

  5. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Eastenders in HD 4K and in full 22.3 audio glory! Can't wait!

    1. Chris Parsons

      Re: YAY!

      Exactly! No matter how good the sound, the programmes are complete shit.

  6. groovyf

    I'm still hanging on to my trusty Yamaha RX-V650... just has enough optical/coax inputs to suit my current needs. One more device adding to the mix and I'll upgrade to something that has HDMI inputs.

  7. Fenton

    time to seperate switching amplification and processing

    Maybe it's time to move processing back into the source. Have a separate device for HDMI switching (and basic audio pass through) and have an amp with 7/10/12 channels with no processing.

    You then have an optical connection from source to amp. With a connection to the switcher to determine which source isin use.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

      I'm sure I'm not the only person around who'd like something like that, or an 'add on' type of processor like the DSP-E800, which enabled people with a perfectly good stereo system to add just enough to handle surround sources as well, without replacing everything. The even older Decoder One did the same, but for pro-logic, providing rear and centre amps, and no video switching at all.

      Unfortunately if you want to go that route now, manufacturers seem to assume you want to step into the world of expensive high end kit; Yamaha has a separate processor, the CXA5000, but it's around £2,500.

      1. karlp

        Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

        While having a separate processor is mostly relegated to the high end these days, Outlaw Audio makes a model 975 which does what most of you seem to be wanting for a relatively modest amount of money.

        Still probably cheaper to use one of the recent onkyo or denon receivers, but if you love what you have......

        Karl P

    2. Geoff Campbell
      Thumb Up

      Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

      I think a lot of TVs can achieve this already, having an optical output that can act as passthrough for whichever HDMI input is active at the time. I've not got around to trying this on my current TV, but the theory looks good, and if it works it'll simplify things enormously.


      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

        I think a lot of TVs can achieve this already, having an optical output that can act as passthrough for whichever HDMI input is active at the time

        If only we could get reasonably priced TVs without all the 3D/app/smart/etc gubbins and just bunch of HDMI inputs (not the meagre 2-4).

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

        I do that with my Panasonic Plasma (Optical output for selected input channel). Also has the advantage, that it is not smart and does exactly nothing except display pictures and has a digital tuner. It also outputs the audio on one of the HDMI inputs, but my amp does not have HDMI, so I don't use it.

        An advantage of it is that it also delays the optical output by the same amount as the time taken by the video processing to maintain lip-sync.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

        My new Panasonic TV and others I tried don't pass through 5.1 sound from HDMI to optical, only downmixed stereo.

      4. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: time to seperate switching amplification and processing

        @Geoff C: Yes, some of them can, but this is where you run into various problems.

        For example, you could plug a Freeview HDMI receiver into your TV, but the TV will tell the Freeview box that it's stereo; even if you can persuade it to pass through a 5.1 signal via HDMI to the TV, you'll likely only end up with stereo PCM via the optical link. That's because there's not sufficient bandwidth for 5.1 in PCM via the TOSLINK specs. The TV's not going to be able to encode it to AC3, which is what any AV kit relying on optical will require - if it understood HE-AAC or Dolby Digital Plus, then you probably wouldn't be having to fudge an optical input in the first place.

  8. MJI Silver badge

    New amp

    I know the feeling, there is a new one out there for me, mine has

    No HDMI switching.

    Too many surround inputs needed

    Remote starting to die

    But mine sounds great

    Only got room for 5. not 7. anyway

    Currently doubling up on inputs, DVD is fed coax from DVD and optical from PS3. PS4 and Humax share vie a crap optical switch the TV in.

    I do need in near future 4 HDMI switching, and I still need coax in, and phono in

  9. stucs201

    Some potential benefit from atmos without more speakers

    For home use the most interesting aspect of atmos might not be that it supports extra speakers, but that it can encode based on where sound should come from, not which speaker - re-mixing at playback time based on where the speakers are.

    Given that many surround systems installed in a living room won't have ideal speaker placement this opens up the possibility of making better use of the speakers that are there with only a receiver change. This of course assumes that the receiver has some way to specify where you've put the speakers, rather than assuming they're in their nominal positions.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Some potential benefit from atmos without more speakers

      Specifying the positions can probably be done automatically, in much the same way as many AV receivers now come with a microphone on a long wire, which you stick in your favourite armchair, before pressing the setup button.

      I would imagine that with suitable software included in the test routine, this should allow the system to figure out how best to represent the positions of objects, based on the number of speakers and the position of the comfy chair.

  10. Suricou Raven

    Missing a point.

    How many home-cinema-kit-owners actually get any benefit beyond placebo? Most people wouldn't be able to tell mono from stereo without listening carefully. Home cinema is a niche, and atmos and such are a niche within that niche. The vast majority of people use the speakers built into the telly, no matter how bad they are, and don't even notice any distortion.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Persons not familiar...

      There's way more than a placebo effect; I was watching a film with a friend who was visiting, and jumped out of his seat at a noise from the rear, thinking it was someone at the front door. His surprise at the technology reminded me a little of the sign at Dublin airport:

      With the built in speakers on a TV, sure, you might have trouble telling mono from stereo on a lot of material. And yes, a lot of people listen to nasty distorted sound without complaining. But that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of people who do want something better - the number of sound bars sold is at least a partial testament to that.

    2. roger stillick

      Re: Missing a point, pt 2...

      SR, until i read your comment, was talking about watching network TV shows of the DirectTv receiver...

      IMHO= watching movies by Netflix here at home is our only movie option... we dumped all that Blue-Ray, DVD player noisy disc drop outs nonsense and went to Net flix on a game machine / hi def monitor or a laptop... movies on PPV cost too much, movies from Red Box take a trip to a store we don't normally shop at...or, we have no use for a home theater movie system just to watch movies... had one and sold it as the pgm media was hopelessly flawed...RS.

  11. Frankee Llonnygog


    Maybe you could have ceiling transducers emitting a fixed ultrasonic frequency and a central unit beaming audio modulated ultrasonics at the fixed transducers. The resulting beat frequencies would appear to originate from the ceiling transducers, which could be powered from the lighting fixtures

  12. Elmer Phud Silver badge


    First I need to move to somewhere I can afford a place with a lounge. Next, it has to be big enough to soundproof-- then we can look at a new system.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Lounge?

      And of course we're not going to be installing ceiling speakers in a rental property either.

      (Fortunately I don't need to worry about soundproofing as I live on the end of a terrace with two thick walls and a room between me and the neighbours)

  13. Dan Paul

    How about a firmware update?

    Bought a really nice network reciever from Yamaha RX-V773wa; has 6 HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs. All the peripherals go into the reciever and the output to the TV. Has the slightly newer HDMI 1.4A capabilty so full pass through, 4K resolution, etc works fine but it always seems to think I want audio through the TOSlink fiber from the TV, not from the HDMI cable. A firmware update to the CEC profile would likely take care of this but NO,,,, I bought it a year and a half ago and they don't have another firmware out for it.

    Newer equipment doesn't mean better, just more features that may or may not be useful. Another type of Dolby doesn't warrant a new device but I'd be willing to pay for an update.

  14. ADRM

    I can distinctly remember 20 years ago being sent out from my job as bench engineer to fix many "surround sound" issues on Toshiba 25" to 36" TV's that we serviced on behalf of the manufacturers and also audio receivers. The systems were set up properly. Laserdisc & VHS movies encoded with surround worked great. Mono NICAM TV shows did not. They went to the center speaker and only the center speaker. The answer was of course to adjust the audio mode on the remote. I wonder how many surround sound systems in the hands of the great unwashed are still set to pseudo surround so there is always noise from every speaker bearing little relationship to the original material.

  15. Volker Hett


    Atmospheric Omission System?

    I don't want that!

    Beer because of no TARDIS Icon.

  16. Chris G Silver badge


    My TV blew up 18 months ago and I have yet to bother to replace it so TV related HDMI is out. I do route the audio from my laptop through my 20 year old Denon tuner/amp when I watch a movie or download music. For audio only, the Denon is directly linked to a Denon dual deck cassette player which works beautifully, so much so I have never bother to even think about digitalising my old tapes. Unfortunately the CD player that went with the Denon melted a CD into it's nether regions so I dug out an old Tecnics stack I had been given, I use the CD player and the parallel drive vinyl deck the rest went to the charity shop. The noise generated by these venerable items comes out of a pair of Jamo speaker cases each of which has a base, midrange and two tweeters, with the amp volume set at ten degrees from zero it is loud in my quite large office/diner, at 20 degreees it begins to piss off the neighbours in my building anything more than that is classified as (anti) social networking and all with good clear old fashioned stereo.

    The Volume still has 250 degrees to go, fortunately I'm not deaf yet.

  17. roger stillick

    My Hobby as a Mono - Maniac...

    Take a nice Toyo 100W Mono Industrial amp and hook it to pair of ancient Radio Shack Mach-1 15in Loud Speakers and my around the room ho model train layout has great sounds, in mono...

    TV at my home is watched w/sound off and close captioning on, as we are a generational household w/3 generations and 7 family members living here... out of consideration for others, we use real headphones, or buds (mine is Skullcandy w/ Subwoofer Amp)...the Infinity towers only get turned on for special occasions, mostly we use the TV speakers (DirectTv has 125 or so actual channes, most of the audio is actually mono (takes a pair of headphones to notice)...

    IMHO= TV w/good mono speaker is way better than too many little speakers to muddle any sounds coming from the actual TV networks...RS.

    caveiat= i am a member of the Hawthorne Audio builder's / exhibitor's discussion group...

  18. Gazman

    Happy Dinosaur

    Mission PCM4000 CD player (1987) (this cost me GBP399 as a first year Uni student and I am determined to get my money's worth)

    Denon DRM-10 tape deck (1990)

    Creek 4040S2 amp (1994)

    Mordaunt-Short MS10 speakers (1999)

    "Birdnest" including Telstra T-Box, Pioneer Blu Ray, Digitech A/v transmitter which also has 2(!!) HDMI inputs

    Sony SMNICBR* TV 42" (2012)

    Small Palsonic SMNICBR* TV in bedroom (A/v receiver attached)

    *stupid model number I can't begin to remember

    All in glorious STEREO thanks to RCA analogue connections as needed.

    Sadly, the CD player may have to be retired in a year or so (Blu-Ray player doing double duty thereafter) as L channel getting a bit iffy. However, this would mean entering the 'bird nest'.

    Also getting harder to find chrome/metal tapes for the Denon...

  19. Jim84

    Wires, wires, wires

    I think the biggest problem with home theater is all the wires that you need to run to connect and power the speakers. Witricity are doing some interesting stuff with wirless power, but don't yet have a product on the market. Personally I wouldn't mind getting rid of all wires in my living room if possible.

    The second problem as pointed out by the article is the absolute Zoo of content delivery systems. I think it will take something like "Apple TV with Dolby Atmos Beats fully wireless speakers" to sort this out. Or some other company like Google or Netflix could produce there own set top box and speaker package.

  20. MJI Silver badge

    Old HC kit

    I have one part of a home cinema system dating back to 1984/85

    A Sanyo HiFi VCR.

    And it still works, copied a few early rental flipper DVDs to tape to watch again. It stripped Macraprovision and also recorded the wide screen signalling.

    Pro Logic is not a patch on AC3 though!

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Im still using the Quad 33 and 405 along with the Rega deck and Ram200 speakers I bought in 1978.

    Unless they fail I will never"upgrade" as I've grown to love the sound from them and adding more ket may bring a different sound but it wont,to me,be better.

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