Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (2023)

I'll be honest, nothing scares me as much as all the things that go wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams. It is not so much that they are wrong, but that they are useless. Dolby should set the standard for these graphics. You should be able to use these as a template for configuring your speakers. But instead I spend more time than I should trying to convince people that it is, even if it looks like it on the chart.not what dolby meant. So here are all the things wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams.

Update 12/28/2021:An attentive reader (thanks James) found some old Dolby graphics that were much better. I added them at the end.

Unreal room size

Discover this room:

Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (1)
(Video) Home Theater Speaker Layout Options

This room is about twenty feet high. Maybe bigger. How many of us have rocked ceilings that high? I wouldn't dare too many. Now consider all the space around the speakers. There's a small couch (actually a loveseat) that feels like it's 10-15 feet from the screen, and there's at least 5 feet outside of each speaker. Also, the speakers are all on bookshelves in the middle of the room. If you're single, you can get away with this setup. But if you have a partner, a pet, or a child, it's a recipe for disaster.

Point the speakers at a seat

That's really the big problem with these charts. Most people take one look at Dolby speaker layouts and immediately (incorrectly) copy what they see in the diagrams. You don't actually read the angles or even the accompanying text. They just look at the chart and try to imitate it in their rooms.

Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (2)

Let's be clear: almost NO speakers are designed to be pointed directly at the center of the couch. Almost nobody. If this were the "best" orientation for a speaker, only the person sitting in the middle would get the "good" surround sound. Most speakers are designed to do this.Off-axis experience. This gives the speaker the ability to create one big sweet spot that can span an entire sofa.

(Video) One Speaker Layout: Atmos + Auro3D Home Theater [sponsored by Bosma]

Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (3)

But Dolby constantly sends people the wrong way by showing the layout of each speaker in its diagrams as directed directly at the center seat. This is neither helpful nor correct. It would be better if they pointed each speaker directly into the room. This orientation is more often correct than when each speaker is directed towards the center of the couch.

Subwoofer placement

In all three speaker layout diagrams above, Dolby has almost certainly placed the subwoofer in the wrong place. The subwoofer is always placed at the front of the room, just to the left of the screen, between the screen and the front left speaker. While this might be a perfect spot for some people, it's by no means the best spot in any setting.

I wish Dolby would add a disclaimer. They should state somewhere in their graphics which subwoofers should be placed in the room based on their performance (i.e.relatively easy to determine by users). What they are doing now is having all the rooms professionally furnished. That's an excuse, and a lame one at that. Few people actually have their speakers set up by professionals, and why would they? It's not hard to do (if you don't provide misleading diagrams) and it just takes time. But what would really solve this problem is:

Missing dual subwoofers

How about if Dolby had already jumped on the dual subwoofer bandwagon? It is a well-known fact that in most rooms, dual subwoofersmore consistent bass experiencefor each. Also, while they represent unrealistic space, you can also make a closed rectangle out of them. So it's easy to put two subwoofers. Place one in opposite corners or in the middle of opposite walls and voila. Not only are speaker layout diagrams no longer wrong, you can show people exactly how to set up two subwoofers correctly. How heavy is it?

(Video) Ep. 47 Dolby Atmos Setup Major Mistakes | Fix your Home Theater and drop Jaws!! Home Theater Gurus

Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (4)

Dolby has never seen a sofa

The most ridiculous aspect of the Dolby speaker layout diagrams is how wrong they are about the sofas. Take a look at Chart 1 above. The surround speakers are all at ear level. They are the same height as the front speakers. This means that Dolby not only thinks you're always sitting in the middle of the couch (because that looks comfy), it also thinks you're sitting on a really weird couch. That's weird? The weird:

Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (5)

This is from the Dolby's Atmos Speaker Placement PDF (SHORTCUT). In real life, people want their back and head to be supported when they sit down. In a real room, the surround back speaker (#6) would radiate to the back of the sofa and the front speaker would be very loud. This applies to all other surround floor speakers. For this reasonWe recommend increasing it a littleso every speaker on the couch has a clear line of sight to each ear.

(Video) 7.2.6 Theater Room Speaker Layout: AH SmartHome

If you place your side surround speakers as shown in Diagrams 2 and 3, anyone sitting next to you will block information from the side surrounds. Therefore, not only do you have to sit like a maniac on a sofa whose back is barely higher than your hips, but you also have to do it yourself. Honestly, if you're sitting like this, you're probably alone.

Screen size is ridiculously small

My final concern is certainly one more detail. Dolby tries to show you (very wrongly) how to set up your speakers with their speaker layout diagrams. The screen is really just there to tell you where the front of the room is. I understand, but does it have to be that small? Based on my recliner calculations, the screen shown in each of these diagrams is approximately 65 inches diagonally. That's not tiny, but it is if you're sitting (which it feels like) about 15 feet away. That's 18 degreesfield of vision. That's very little, and far less than any recommendation you'd get from THX (minimum 36 degrees) or SMPTE (minimum 30 degrees). While it may be realistic how people (depressingly) actually configure their spaces, we're aiming for a cinematic experience here. Dolby would need to make the couch (and screen) wider or shorten the distance to the current screen to display the correct field of view.

the summary

I'm sure there's a reason why Dolby did the things it did with its speaker layout diagrams. Probably because they are trying to be as clear as possible for the neophyte. But in their effort to be clearer (if that's what it is), they also got more wrong. A quick perusal of any home theater forum or subreddit will reveal frame by frame of people trying to replicate what Dolby showed. Do they get surround sound? Yes. But could your systems sound better if the speaker placement were different? Also yes. come dolby you can do better

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below!

(Video) The 5 Step Home Theater Upgrade Plan | 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos System

Updated on 12/28/2021

An attentive reader James unearthed someold dolby diagrams. They predate Atmos a long time ago and show the speakers placed in more precise positions. Look at her:

Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (6)
  • Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (7)
  • Updated: Everything is wrong with Dolby speaker layout diagrams (8)

While these aren't the most exciting diagrams, they do provide a more detailed look at how the speakers should be placed. The speakers fire into the room rather than the listener. The surround speakers are slightly raised. The 7.1 plot still has the rear surround speakers very close to where we'd place them in an Atmos setup. Those are much better graphics. Thanks again Jaime!


What is the proper Dolby Atmos speaker placement? ›

For optimal effect and to minimize direct radiating audio at listener level, place Dolby Atmos enabled speakers at or slightly above the height of your ears when seated. Avoid placing the Dolby Atmos enabled speakers higher than one-half the height of your wall.

What is the best layout for 5.1 surround sound? ›

In a 5.1 system your surround speakers are best placed to the left and right of your listening position. Space them apart the same distance as your front speakers (or a little wider), and face them toward you.

Should Dolby Atmos speakers be angled? ›

As quoted above, Dolby recommends a 45-degree angle of elevation from the listening position to the overhead speakers (with 90 degrees being straight up). According to Dolby, there's some wiggle room there, and anything from 30 to 55 degrees is acceptable.

How can I make my Dolby Atmos sound better? ›

To get the best Atmos experience with your TV, you should send the audio output to a soundbar or AV receiver. For this, you will need an HDMI ARC connection and Dolby Digital Plus audio support. Most newer TVs will be fine, but anything before 2018 may have problems.

What is the best placement for surround sound speakers? ›

Surround Speakers: Surround speakers work best on the left and right of your listening position, either directly in line with that spot or a little behind it. You can also place them behind that spot facing to the front if it isn't possible to place them at the side.

Is 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound better? ›

7.1 systems, on the other hand, make their advantages known immediately. Increasing the number of speaker channels gives you richer surround sound, and at the price ranges they usually operate at, the speaker build quality and audio capabilities are usually way, way ahead of any 5.1 system.

Which configuration is best for speakers? ›

Speaker configurations

A good 5.1-channel system will give you a full surround sound experience. Most DVD and Blu-ray™ media, some Super Audio CDs (SACDs), broadcast TV, and many streaming sources are in 5.1-channel format.

Should rear speakers be at ear level? ›

How high should i place my surround speakers? Ear level is the “go-to” but you can put them at any height as long as the tweeters are pointed to ear level. In relative to the middle of your seat, Dolby gives a recommended angle range of 110 degrees to 120 degrees (from a horizontal line through the lounge).

What are recalibrating speakers? ›

The main purpose of speaker calibration is to ensure that a specific metered audio level in your DAW or on your mixer equals a predetermined SPL in your studio environment.

How do you equalize Dolby Atmos? ›

Open Settings > Sound > Audio Settings.

Tap Dolby Atmos. Make sure “Use Dolby Atmos” is turned on. Tap Advanced Settings to open the Graphic Equalizer. And you can swipe on the bar of each band to set the level of them.

How do you fix Dolby audio? ›

  1. Open Device Manager. Select the Search icon. ...
  2. Navigate and expand Sound, video and game controllers.
  3. Right-click High Definition Audio Device, then select Properties.
  4. Select Update Driver under the Driver tab. ...
  5. If the audio driver does not reinstall correctly or the Dolby issue still persists, try Option Two.

Should Atmos speakers be front or rear? ›

If you only have two Dolby Atmos modules, then it is recommended to place these on, or near, your front left and right speakers. If you want four modules, you should place the rear pair on, or near, the rear back surrounds in a 7.1 system – and on/near the rear surrounds in a 5.1 system.

Which seat is best for Dolby Atmos? ›

Sitting in the centre of the theatre prevents you from accidentally sitting directly beneath one of the side speakers. If you're sitting too close to a speaker, the sounds from that speaker may drown out the other speakers in the theatre. You'll want to sit a few rows back from the front.

Do you need 7 speakers for Dolby Atmos? ›

While two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, modules, or overhead speakers will deliver a compelling experience, we recommend using four if possible. This will deliver more precisely located and realistic overhead sounds.

Should Dolby Atmos be automatic or always on? ›

Choose Automatic or Always On. Automatic: Plays Dolby Atmos whenever iPhone is connected to compatible headphones such as AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max, or to speakers or receivers compatible with Dolby Atmos. Always On: Plays Dolby Atmos on any headphones or speakers.

Which is better Dolby 7.1 or Atmos? ›

7.1 Surround: What's the Difference? Dolby Atmos adds overhead sound and improved calibration software, which makes the sound deeper and more precise than traditional Surround 7.1 systems.

What will replace Dolby Atmos? ›

Project Caviar is Google's plan to replace Dolby Vision and Atmos.

Which speaker is the most important in surround sound? ›

A center channel speaker is the most important speaker in a surround sound setup because it does most of the work. Most of the action, and conversation, in a movie, happens front and center on your screen, meaning that the center channel is the one reproducing it.

Where should I put my 7.1 surround sound speakers? ›

Ideal Setup for 7.1.

You will want to position your main left and right speakers at anywhere between a 45 to 60-degree angle to your listening position. The center channel should be centered on your screen. Ideally, the height of your left, right and center will be at ear level or slightly higher.

Which is better Dolby vs DTS? ›

Which is better: DTS or Dolby Digital? Based on the specs alone, DTS beats its rival with higher bit-rates that promise a more realistic movie experience. That said, other factors such as signal-to-noise ratio and speaker calibration mean that plenty of audiophiles would rate Dolby above DTS.

What format is Netflix surround sound? ›

You can watch Netflix in high-quality audio on most titles available with 5.1 surround sound or Dolby Atmos.

What surround sound format is the best? ›

Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format on DVD and Blu-ray discs. It is also the format used by most streaming and broadcast TV services. It is sometimes called AC-3. Any Dolby Digital soundtrack will be decoded automatically by an AV receiver that supports this format – which is pretty much all of them.

What is the best default format for speakers? ›

A lossless audio file format is the best format for sound quality. These include FLAC, WAV, or AIFF. These types of files are considered “hi-res” because they are better or equal to CD-quality.

Do speakers sound better in series or parallel? ›

Speakers are always louder when wired in parallel. Series wiring leads to more impedance and thus less voltage per speaker which translates to less volume per speaker. A parallel circuit reduces the resistance and impedance on each speaker and equates to more volume.

Is there a big difference between 5.1 2 and 5.1 4? ›

A 5.1. 2 system, for example, would feature the traditional five channels and a subwoofer, but it would also feature two additional speakers adding height information in stereo at the front. A 5.1. 4 system would add four additional height channels to 5.1, including two at the front, two at the rear, and so on.

Should center speaker be louder than left right? ›

In the perfect world, you want to try and get all of your speakers to the same exact level. However, we see nothing wrong with having the level of the center channel speaker be 2 to 3db higher than your left and right.

What is the best height for home theater speakers? ›

When not installing immersive audio speakers, place the surround speakers approximately two feet above sitting ear height, which is generally 6 feet. The proper height when using immersive formats is a bit contentious as some state to place surround speakers at ear height, with tolerances up to 2 feet above ear height.

What is the best height for rear speakers? ›

For best results when mounting surround speakers on a rear wall, position them so that they flank the main listening area and point toward the front of the room. They should be raised to a height of approximately six feet and should ideally have a minimum space of six feet between them, as well.

How far should I sit from Dolby Atmos soundbar? ›

For an ideal playback experience, a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar should be located at least 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) from the listener's seated position.

Where should Dolby Atmos soundbar be? ›

Place the soundbar in a position that will not block the Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers's audio path to the ceiling. To deliver the best height effects, the soundbar should be placed no higher than halfway up the wall from floor to ceiling.

How many speakers does Dolby Atmos need? ›

While two Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, modules, or overhead speakers will deliver a compelling experience, we recommend using four if possible. This will deliver more precisely located and realistic overhead sounds.

Where should you not put a soundbar? ›

Place the soundbar outside of and away from metal cabinets, other audio/video components, and direct heat sources. Keep the back side of the soundbar at least 0.4 in (1 cm) from any other surface. Blocking the rear ports will affect sound quality.

What is the best ceiling height for Dolby Atmos? ›

Height Speakers

Atmos upfiring speakers work best at ceiling heights between 7.5 and 12 feet. For best results, the ceiling should be flat and constructed from rigid, acoustically reflective material. Avoid ceiling acoustic tiles, which absorb the overhead sound.

How do I know if I'm listening to Dolby Atmos? ›

How can I see if a song is available in Dolby Atmos? Play the song, then check for the Dolby Atmos badge in Now Playing. If every song on an album is available in Dolby Atmos, you'll see the Dolby Atmos badge on the album's detail page. Some songs are available in Dolby Atmos only on a particular version of an album.

Is eARC necessary for Dolby Atmos? ›

Most Dolby Atmos audio can be played through HDMI-ARC using the Dolby Digital Plus codec. HDMI-eARC is required to play lossless Dolby Atmos audio using the Dolby TrueHD codec.

How do I know Dolby Atmos is working soundbar? ›

The one surefire way to confirm Dolby Atmos is working is to check the information panel on the front of your AV receiver or your soundbar (if it has one, or perhaps an on-screen display). It should display the kind of audio signal it's currently working with.


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