How do I make a 7.1.4 system work in a very small room?

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Goldhamster916

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2023
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2
Location
Germany
Hello!

Disclaimer: this is a long text, feel free to focus only on one or two of the questions.



I am currently building my first ever home theater (7.1.4) with some rather unconventional needs in a small room. I have some ideas but could need some advice from experienced people if they would work out:



My room is 4x3 meters, I care only about one listening spot, with 2m to sides, 2m to front and 1m to back.

I will use a competent ported subwoofer.

I will mainly aim at rather moderate db levels (maybe 70db with effects topping out at 90db)

I will mainly use it for gaming but also some movies.

I will try to build a Auro 3D set up with upmixing from a denon x3800h. (I understand that many aren’t a fan of auro 3D but I Think it might fit my needs and will give it a try).

I only really care about ,,immersion“. So soundstaging, imaging/good panning of effects and detail retrieval matter to me most.



The Problem: the front wall:

I have a thin 77inch A95L Sony oled flat mounted against the fall and sit fairly close to it (2m). I dont want big bulky boxes sticking out from the wall into the room next to the tv. Further more I don’t want to look at a big bulky center channel directly under the tv (it would somewhat destroy the immersion for me). Because of the close listening distance the center channel would be way under ear and other speaker level, which would cause many problems for soundstaging. So no dedicated center speaker for me.





Idea 1: using the Sony A95L as a center (in case of understandable objections come in your mind please read on: it has a acoustic surface technology, which means the screen is used as a speaker Membran and emits the sound. I know it sounds gimmicky but it works. all Reviewers and owners agree that this tvs sounds way better than any other high end tv on the market and the sound is actually coming right from the screen. Also keep in mind that I sit close to the 77inch sound producing screen and listen at moderate levels. It has a center in jack and can be used as a center channel with an avr.

That being said I am not sure if I wouldn’t be better of using higher quality FR and FL to create a phantom center:

Since I don’t want regular bulky bookshelf speakers next to the tv I could use center speaker bars like the Polk Es35C, which are much less deep, vertically as FR and FL, which according to audio science review works really well with good dispersion charakteristisch. Picture below. It’s also at 40 percent discount right now on Amazon…

Do you see any problems arising from using such a lengthy speaker bar with six woofers vertically as FL FR in a small room from a close listening distance? Too many reflections maybe? Would they be good for creating a phantom center channel?


Choice of surround speakers:

For surround and height speakers I am less concerned about size:
Right now I am considering either the Polk ES series which come in white, have different size options and got a good review on audio science review Polk Signature Elite ES20 Review (Bookshelf Speaker). They cost only 200 dollar a pair for the ES15 and ES10. Since i sit close and want the 30 degree angle for auro 3d the front height would need to be placed almost directly above the outer tv corners. The ES10 would have the same slim profile of the ES35 FR and FL bar. For all the other channels I am less concerned about size. I could maybe use the es15 for side surround and ES10 for rear and height back.

The other option would be the KEF Q150 which are much bigger and cost almost twice as much as the ES 15/10 speakers. They have a coaxial driver and narrower dispersion then the es line.

I would have most surrounds at ~1.5m listening distance, do you think I should rather go for wider or narrower dispersion for good soundstage and imaging/panning? Would a coaxial driver be beneficial?



I know this is a lot to take in! I really appreciate if you read and think through to all of this!

Thanks for your time and any feedback/thoughts.
 

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In a room this small I would consider using in-wall speakers. For decent quality but economical in wall / in ceiling speakers check out Monoprice. Monoprice has in-wall / in-ceiling speakers for left, right, center, surround and in-ceiling atmos speakers with good quality and fair pricing.
 
In a room this small I would consider using in-wall speakers. For decent quality but economical in wall / in ceiling speakers check out Monoprice. Monoprice has in-wall / in-ceiling speakers for left, right, center, surround and in-ceiling atmos speakers with good quality and fair pricing.
I would second this suggestion. There are some pretty good in walls - I have not heard the Monoprice ones though their products have always been a good value. I have experience with McIntosh, Triad, Niles, and NHT in walls and all are pretty good. I have chased down many Triad inwall speakers on eBay and have been happy with them, so they are kinda my go to brand for inwalls.
 
I would second this suggestion. There are some pretty good in walls - I have not heard the Monoprice ones though their products have always been a good value. I have experience with McIntosh, Triad, Niles, and NHT in walls and all are pretty good. I have chased down many Triad inwall speakers on eBay and have been happy with them, so they are kinda my go to brand for inwalls.
Monoprice even has in wall subwoofers at reasonable prices which would really maximize a small room.
I used to have four Kef THX in ceiling speakers for Dolby Atmos but switched them out to the Monoprice In ceiling speakers because the Monoprice speakers were at an angle and could be aimed and adjusted to the main listening position. More expensive in ceiling speakers like Triad are adjustable - not just the tweeter / aim but not at the price of Monoprice speakers.
 
@Goldhamster916
Your room size is very similar to mine. I have 5 speakers on floor, 4 speakers in ceiling and 3 subs. the front left sub and rear right are LFE connected, the front right sub is connected to the center channel speaker terminals. DAC's, amps, cords, cables, blah, blah.
The most significant money spent, a must in my opinion, is acoustic treatment, mine came from GIK Acoustics.
I spent approximately 2 months building and 3 months tweaking and going crazy.
In the end, I had to let go of some things and realize it is great, if I would stop listening to the equipment and start listening to the music.
I see by your posts your aesthetics are different than mine, and my aesthetics was very important to me, I wanted to see all the big Hot Rod equipment.
My room size is 12' the TV wall X 14' length window wall. Sounds bad ass, cranks like nobody's business with no ear fatigue and at low level listening levels sounds beautiful. Always a very nice immersive atmosphere regardless of ATMOS or other surrounds/stereo.
I originally used Audessy room correction but over the last few years I think it is probably more personal to me, with adjustments I have made. My rig/room is not the Lamborghini that I have seen pictures of on QQ but it is a smokin' muscle car, that really puts out well.
BTW, when I listen to my music collection it is 100% of the time ripped.
A few people have been over here and always reaction is WOW, but in the end it is just me and my wife, she just watches TV, no music.
Good luck, it is certainly adventure for all of us that have built a room, regardless of size.

The photos below give it a narrow squished look, but in real life it looks wider. But you can see the general layout.
IMG_4912.jpg

IMG_4913.jpg
 
Hello!

Disclaimer: this is a long text, feel free to focus only on one or two of the questions.



I am currently building my first ever home theater (7.1.4) with some rather unconventional needs in a small room. I have some ideas but could need some advice from experienced people if they would work out:



My room is 4x3 meters, I care only about one listening spot, with 2m to sides, 2m to front and 1m to back.

I will use a competent ported subwoofer.

I will mainly aim at rather moderate db levels (maybe 70db with effects topping out at 90db)

I will mainly use it for gaming but also some movies.

I will try to build a Auro 3D set up with upmixing from a denon x3800h. (I understand that many aren’t a fan of auro 3D but I Think it might fit my needs and will give it a try).

I only really care about ,,immersion“. So soundstaging, imaging/good panning of effects and detail retrieval matter to me most.



The Problem: the front wall:

I have a thin 77inch A95L Sony oled flat mounted against the fall and sit fairly close to it (2m). I dont want big bulky boxes sticking out from the wall into the room next to the tv. Further more I don’t want to look at a big bulky center channel directly under the tv (it would somewhat destroy the immersion for me). Because of the close listening distance the center channel would be way under ear and other speaker level, which would cause many problems for soundstaging. So no dedicated center speaker for me.





Idea 1: using the Sony A95L as a center (in case of understandable objections come in your mind please read on: it has a acoustic surface technology, which means the screen is used as a speaker Membran and emits the sound. I know it sounds gimmicky but it works. all Reviewers and owners agree that this tvs sounds way better than any other high end tv on the market and the sound is actually coming right from the screen. Also keep in mind that I sit close to the 77inch sound producing screen and listen at moderate levels. It has a center in jack and can be used as a center channel with an avr.

That being said I am not sure if I wouldn’t be better of using higher quality FR and FL to create a phantom center:

Since I don’t want regular bulky bookshelf speakers next to the tv I could use center speaker bars like the Polk Es35C, which are much less deep, vertically as FR and FL, which according to audio science review works really well with good dispersion charakteristisch. Picture below. It’s also at 40 percent discount right now on Amazon…

Do you see any problems arising from using such a lengthy speaker bar with six woofers vertically as FL FR in a small room from a close listening distance? Too many reflections maybe? Would they be good for creating a phantom center channel?


Choice of surround speakers:

For surround and height speakers I am less concerned about size:
Right now I am considering either the Polk ES series which come in white, have different size options and got a good review on audio science review Polk Signature Elite ES20 Review (Bookshelf Speaker). They cost only 200 dollar a pair for the ES15 and ES10. Since i sit close and want the 30 degree angle for auro 3d the front height would need to be placed almost directly above the outer tv corners. The ES10 would have the same slim profile of the ES35 FR and FL bar. For all the other channels I am less concerned about size. I could maybe use the es15 for side surround and ES10 for rear and height back.

The other option would be the KEF Q150 which are much bigger and cost almost twice as much as the ES 15/10 speakers. They have a coaxial driver and narrower dispersion then the es line.

I would have most surrounds at ~1.5m listening distance, do you think I should rather go for wider or narrower dispersion for good soundstage and imaging/panning? Would a coaxial driver be beneficial?



I know this is a lot to take in! I really appreciate if you read and think through to all of this!

Thanks for your time and any feedback/thoughts.
Small rooms like that make your typical Atmos type immersion hard and since the speakers have to be very directional for optimum immersion.
My advice would definitely be for dipole or quadpole for rear surround duty in a tiny space.
Maybe downscale to 5 for the bed layer
 
That's not too small a room. I have 7.1.4 in a roughly 13' x 13' room. I also have floor to ceiling corner bass traps like in @marpow's picture.

Get decent enough matched speakers. Measure and level. (So that phantom imaging is on point.) You sure won't have any dead spots in the array in that room!

I have thought of rigging up a more hillbilly Atmos system in a larger room just to hear the sound in motion embiggened. Had a plan with a friend's rehearsal space but that fell through.
 
I hid my front speakers by building a frame to hold the speakers and TV, then covering everything with speaker grille cloth. There are pictures in the built thread, which can be seen by clicking on my signature, “barfle’s bonus room bijou” below.

It took about 75cm out of the room.

And welcome to the forum. Lots of good advice here.
 
I'm running 7.1.4 in an 8.5 ft x 12.5 ft room with Dirac Live room correction and a UMIK-1 mic.
7 speakers at or near ear level, 4 overhead. All speakers pointed directly at the main listening position, tightly focused on my desk chair.
My sitting position by necessity is roughly 5 ft rear of center but the room correction helps tremendously.
I highly recommend speaker placement where it's possible to "aim" the speakers, (to me a big help in a difficult room) but I would not let that stop me from enjoying the immersive experience.
 
Biggest problem that needs solving before anything else, unwanted reflections.
It's really true.

You will not hear any boutique goodness you just spent $$$$ on if sound is ricocheting around your room wildly! You won't even hear the performance of solid pro gear with that going on. Room correction eq software will NOT help! That just makes distortion.

After that, placement is more critical than you might think. Phantom imaging collapses if the array is skewed. You could be missing a LOT of a mix! Tape measure and level. No you can not just use delays to "correct" misplaced speaker distances! (You can sort of get away with that and create a tiny sweet spot but now listening everywhere else in the room is just absurd.)

I know it's more fun reading about boutique speakers or a new phono cartridge. Pay attention to this stuff and all your gear gets better!
 
It's really true.

You will not hear any boutique goodness you just spent $$$$ on if sound is ricocheting around your room wildly! You won't even hear the performance of solid pro gear with that going on. Room correction eq software will NOT help! That just makes distortion.

After that, placement is more critical than you might think. Phantom imaging collapses if the array is skewed. You could be missing a LOT of a mix! Tape measure and level. No you can not just use delays to "correct" misplaced speaker distances! (You can sort of get away with that and create a tiny sweet spot but now listening everywhere else in the room is just absurd.)

I know it's more fun reading about boutique speakers or a new phono cartridge. Pay attention to this stuff and all your gear gets better!
Yeah yeah. Everyone does not have a room to "optimally place" all speakers. If you do, then good for you.
True, room correction will not fix everything.
Saying that room correction software causes distortion is shortsighted. Nor in all rooms can all the base speakers be exactly the same level.
What is not fun is your personal opinion possibly causing others to forgo immersive sound because they can't set their audio room up 100% ideal. Where is yours set up? A pro mixing studio? If so, how many others do you think have the flexibility to do this?
 
I don't mean to suggest not trying if the situation is anything less than ideal. I'm confident no one would listen to any such thing though! :D

I'll keep repeating this because it has very high bang for the buck. Just modest room dampening and some attention to detail with a tape measure and level when placing speakers carries a lot of weight. Everyone has the flexibility to do this!

All rooms can be set up so they make sense. It isn't that much work and you don't need an expensive perfect purpose build studio room. And no I sure don't have that here! I freelance because my world revolves around music and I'm very much a scavenger.
 
I don't mean to suggest not trying if the situation is anything less than ideal. I'm confident no one would listen to any such thing though! :D

I'll keep repeating this because it has very high bang for the buck. Just modest room dampening and some attention to detail with a tape measure and level when placing speakers carries a lot of weight. Everyone has the flexibility to do this!

All rooms can be set up so they make sense. It isn't that much work and you don't need an expensive perfect purpose build studio room. And no I sure don't have that here! I freelance because my world revolves around music and I'm very much a scavenger.
OK. "level" is suggestive that all speakers must be placed on the same plane. I have no quibble with that as an ideal, but not always possible.
I don't have any problem with entering distance via measurement into the AVR/processor. But I don't see that as better than measurements made with a good mic and good room correction software.
I don't think we're far apart on what is ideal. Such is not always possible, though.
 
I guess I think there's a bit of a line in the sand as it were in going to something like a 12 channel system. 2 channels? Yeah, make it work and I absolutely don't care how! Brutal eq and everything else is on the table! (Still consider some dampening though. It's the only thing that lets you physically turn down the volume.)

Once we get into multichannel mixes though, there's so much going on in the mix and so many expectations on system calibration in order to deliver it. A wonky room with multichannel risks leading to a more crude listening experience than lowly stereo in a sane room. The stereo could be more immersive and accurate. Or... a Dolby Atmos driven downmix or binaural stereo might even be more on point. So, none of that sounds like any fun!
 
System calibration (automated) depends on a capable mic to record the response from the speakers.
I do a 13 point/mic position calibration with the Dirac Live pc software.
Agreed there are room reflections which you can't discount. Sound as we know is going to travel from the same speaker to the mic several times purely on reflection. Dirac Live at least attempts to take these out of the equation. I doubt if any room correction software can 100% do this, but it's a something.
No quibble with room treatments on my part.
 
OK. "level" is suggestive that all speakers must be placed on the same plane. I have no quibble with that as an ideal, but not always possible.
Level isn’t always ideal particularly if you have high back seats or second row of seats that are elevated from the 1st row of seats. Many people set up their surround bed layer as “line of sight” with speakers 1 - 2ft or higher above ear level. This is so high backed seating or other people don’t block the surround speakers.
 
There can always be tradeoffs in the way the audio room is set up or the sound tuned. Ask a pro that does it for a living. Some people desire to sit in a certain location (non center) and want the bass/Lfe optimized for that position, e.g.
In the end I would say whatever works for you is fine, but don't presuppose that you know what I like or what is optimal for my room. (this not directed at anyone, just saying)
 
There's a lot of grey area just to be fair. There are dry mixes that some could argue are meant to be listened to in a room that adds reverberation. And some mixes might sound interesting with unintended reverb added from just the right room.

The problem is the examples I've heard where the room takes over and I'm missing some of the intended mix now. Whereas the neutral room works for everything. A more dry, flat mix might sound a little sterile but at least you're still hearing all the mix elements as the artist intended. But you get to hear all the rest now including the dense ones that demand a more by the book system.

A lot of things can sound good. But we're not trying to just make something sound good. We're trying to do something far more difficult! We're trying to reproduce sound as someone else heard it and produced it to sound. We need some level of calibrated system (which includes the space) to do that.
 
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