Now that I’ve selected my center channel speaker, it’s time to decide on those Dolby Atmos speakers. There are three options to consider for Atmos. I can get free standing floor speakers which fire up to the ceiling. I could also go for those same type of up-firing speakers as an add on to existing floor speakers. Finally, I can get speakers mounted in the ceiling. For more information and a guide to setting up your Atmos system, Dolby has you covered.
Now I know, those up-firing speakers sound fantastic and there is little difference between them and having the speakers actually above your head. However, to me it’s more important to have the full effect rather than a simulated experience. Also, when mounted in or near the ceiling I can basically choose any speaker I want. No special technology is necessary. Although, Dolby strongly recommends wide sound dispersion as well as adding four speakers rather than just two. As usual I’m going to leave no stone unturned. I’ll review a couple different options in each category before making a decision.
Speakers with Integrated Up-firing Drivers
Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73 – No need for an extra Atmos module or to install anything in the ceiling, these tiny speakers from Pioneer would allow me to mount on the wall and cover two channels at once. The SP-EBS73 could serve as both my front and surround speakers. It features a 4″ Concentric Aluminum Mid-Range with 1″ Tweeter and a 5 ¼” Aluminum Woofer, along with an extra 4″ Concentric Aluminum Mid-Range with 1″ Soft Dome Tweeter mounted on top to simulate the overhead sound effects. These are small but definitely affordable.
Klipsch RP-280FA – A much more powerful option in this category, this bad boy features a 1″ Titanium Dome LTS Tweeter with Hybrid Tractrix Horn for high frequencies and dual 8″ Cerametallic Cone Woofers for low frequencies. This one too has a built-in height speaker which makes use of a 1″ Titanium Dome LTS Tweeter with Hybrid Tractrix Horn and a 6.5″ Cerametallic Cone Woofer for the overhead effects. The RP-280FA is big in terms of size, visual presence and price. It currently sells for roughly double the price of the Sony. Obviously, I would need to keep this one on the floor.
Add-on Speakers with Up-firing Drivers
Onkyo SKH-410 – Onkyo makes a great receiver, but how are their speakers? This model is designed to be added on to already existing floor speakers. Naturally, this requires selecting separate front and rear channel options. This would be a great choice if I had my heart set on a particular set of speakers for those channels. Each module contains a full-range 3-1/4″ driver. The drivers are angled upward and feature controlled dispersion. This means it can reflect sound off of my ceiling and back down to my listening position. The SKH-410 is easily the most affordable of all the Dolby Atmos speakers I’m looking at.
Klipsch RP-140SA – Now here is a very attractive option. These Klipsch speakers can be added to the top of existing speakers or mounted up near the top of the wall and pointed at the ceiling. Supposedly, the RP-140SA includes proprietary Klipsch technologies which are designed to work specifically with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Each has a 4″ woofer and a Hybrid horn tweeter on the top of the speaker. Like the Onkyo, the drivers are angled and feature the same controlled dispersion, reflecting sound off the ceiling and down. If I am going to opt out of ceiling mounted speakers, this would be my top choice.
Ceiling Mounted Speakers
Klipsch CDT-5800-C II – The first set of ceiling mounts I’m looking at are relatively inexpensive and quite nice. The CDT-5800-C was designed with Dolby Atmos in mind, so should have the required sound dispersion. The speakers feature a 1″ Titanium Tweeter and an 8″ Pivoting Cerametallic Woofer. These have come down in price recently making it a great bargain for some very high performing speakers.
JBL Control 226C/T – Yup, I think I’ve found the ultimate Dolby Atmos speakers for my theater. The JBL’s deliver amazing performance and feature the best pattern control available. This will allow for a more consistent sound throughout my listening area. Their wide coverage is exceptional which can make it seem as if there are twice as many speakers throughout the room.
The Control 226C/T has a 165 mm (6.5″) Kevlar-reinforced low frequency driver coupled with a 25 mm (1 in) exit titanium compression driver. This system is designed for years of use with no maintenance required. This is important for speakers that are mounted in the ceiling and not so easily taken out or replaced. Best of all, these speakers are not nearly as pricey as you might think. Check them out.
Well there you have it, my choice is made. It’s the JBL Control 226C/T for me and my theater. If I decide to upgrade in my living room with one of these receivers, I will probably add the Klipsch RP-140SA to that set up too.