Old 5.1 vs EX/ES 6.1 vs true 7.1 speaker placement

Where do you put the back speakers relative to the listening position for older and newer decoders? Have things changed?

I have an old 5.1 decoder that was a pure manual setup with only 5.1 outputs. It had surround settings for rear speaker placement that included to the side, in line with the listening position to truely behind the listener, but with ample separation. The rear delay, along with some virtual rear speaker (effects) settings. With this system, I had my rear speakers some distance behind me. IMO the sound was great. I later graduated to two different 6.1 EX/ES systems. These were 6/7.1 channel systems, but the 6th channel is derived mono for a speaker or speakers directly behind the listener (surround back, SB, speakers). Are the regular surrounds supposed to be in line with the listener? Are there generally set up options for this? What about true discrete 7.1 systems? I could never get these new systems to sound just right. The distances were right, but something still sounded off, no matter what setting adjustments I tried. I am wondering if speaker placement was the cause.

Similarly some of the older DVD sound better than the newer 7/9.1 discrete ones on either setup. Did some of the coding change with regards to speaker placement?

Comments

  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,628
    edited August 22
    Not exactly sure what it is your asking. Speaker placement varies, depending on the amount of speakers your system has. Rear surrounds though, shouldn't change. Basically though, no....the newer surround codecs don't require you to re-position speakers. If they are set up properly from the gitgo, shouldn't matter.

    That said, some disc's with newer codecs vary in the quality of the surround information. Some better than others, nothing you can really do about how it was recorded. You can maybe bump speaker levels to those positions you feel are weak, but that's about all.

    What it sounds like to me anyway, is the receiver your using is outdated for the newer codecs like Dolby digital + or DTS HD Master audio. That might explain why they don't sound as good as they probably should.
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  • ZLTFULZLTFUL Posts: 4,169
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

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  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 510
    edited August 22
    After thinking about it further do people running a 5.1 set up these days have the speakers more at the sides, inline with the listening position vs behind. Is that where they should be? If there are no back surround speakers, do most decoders now just ignore the back channels or do they try and simulate it some how with the speaker set up?

    @ZLTFUL thanks. That never came up in my searches. That will be a good reference to explain things. My 5.1 setup had the rear speakers placed like the back speakers in the 7.1 setup (closer to the 150 angle, and a little further back actually). The processor is a Sony SDP-E800. I had two set up options for the rear speakers, Side and Rear. The side fell into the 90-135° range, and the rear 135-160° range. I never had my rears in the side range. I could also adjust time delays. There was no distance setup.

    The panning and overall surround were great. This unit still has the best effects I've heard. They are good enough that they can add to the experience if you so choose.
    There was a little wish for a 7.1 matrix setup with speakers at the sides. At the time a few processors could fake the sides from the 5.1 information and delays. What I noticed is sound really seamed to come from the back, like what you would experience in theaters. Even if you moved the speakers closer behind, you could set the delay to a greater amount. This unit still does a decent job at newer releases. The main issue is it runs SUPER hot, only has a few inputs, and :p does not have on/off in the remote.

    The newer ones are all based on distance. I would guess that it assumes the sides are a perpendicular distance away, so there is no real way increase the delay, other than maybe tell the HTR the speakers are closer. I have tried this, and not had good results.
  • rpf65rpf65 Posts: 1,428
    The current distance is the same as the delay setting in your older AVR. Telling the AVR the speakers a 5 feet from the listener will cause a shorter delay than 10 feet would. Same concept; different name and slightly different algorithm.

    Placement for surrounds depends on really only 2 things. Where your room allows you to place the, and what you think sounds best. I personally use FXI A6's for side surrounds. The tweeter is about 5 1/2 feet above the floor and slightly behind where I sit. There positioned there because the right one is at a doorway, which sets it behind the MLP, and there that high because that just happens to be where they sound best.

    When I had the RTI A3's in that position, they didn't sound quit as good as the FXI's do, and I kept hitting my head on the one by the doorway. Still, whichever speaker was there still messed with whichever dog my cousin brought along. Was kind of amusing watching them look for whatever was making the noise.

    Same with rears. Some people like them spread apart, some fairly close together. Still your room will only let you place them in certain areas, so when your at 7.x, it's a good bet that you'll slightly vary from Dolby's optimal speaker placement.

    As far a various effects go, some modern AVR's have more choices than others. Most people either don't care for them, or may like one or two depending on what there watching. Yamaha probably offers the largest assortment of these various "enhancements". Again, I personally don't use them vary often, but occasionally I'll watch a movie using one, just for a different experience.

    If your system sounded good with an older AVR, and you didn't move your speakers when you tried a newer AVR, it is more likely that you simply just don't like the way the newer AVR sounds. Even buying the same brand that is as little as 5 years newer may have a slightly different sound signature.

    If the only thing you feel is not to your liking is the rears sound a little low in volume, simply go to your speaker set up screen and increase the volume. Most AVR's allow the owner to make this adjustment.
  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 4,006
    For 5.1, you can get away with the surrounds to the side or behind. Personally, I prefer them off to the sides and slightly behind the listening position. Sometimes you just can't put a speaker in the place where you think it will sound best, and then you have to compromise. If you can run a calibration, you'll find that most AVRs are very forgiving with regard to surround speaker placement.
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  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 510
    @rpf65 I always figured telling the system the speaker was closer would increase the delay in the processor to account for the lack of delay due to distance. You are telling the processor an actual distance, the same as what the auto-calibration is trying to determine by measuring the delay of the test beeps. It translates the delay into a distance and then compensates based on a nominal delay.

    I've never got surrounds to sound good with what I would call behind, more in the surround back position. There is an effect, but the delay seems too short, even if I tell the HTR the speakers are on top of me. I played around last night with some down graded mixes, and even a re-mix from the BD player. Some of the original 5.1 downgrades maybe were a little better. I didn't notice much with the BD remix.

    I'll have to see if I can whip something up again with the surrounds at the sides. I tried a small project with some M4's, and never found a setting that was really full and had a rear effect. Some where I have some lamp cord speaker wire and will see what adding the surround backs add. I do have enough speakers now. :#

    I am thinking my older good 5.1 sound is mostly that the older processor is designed to handle speakers behind after looking at the manual again. Another part is probably studios only had 5.1 to work with at the time, and the original DVD tracks were derived from theaters with true rear speakers and matrix systems for the sides. They assumed people would have speakers in the rear. (I just realized I should try the old processor again in my current setup with the speakers programmed the sides. If it sounds similar to what I have now, this may answer a lot.)

    I am guessing, later with mass market 5.1 systems, and couches along the back wall, people placed rears more to the sides. Then studios started having many discrete surround channels in theaters. When home 6.1 surround came out, effect speakers could be placed in the center along the same wall to add apparent increased rear depth. From then on I am guessing surrounds became more "side" speakers for HTR chips.

    I should see if I can mess around with settings at BB or some other place again with a demo system and put it in a 5.1 set up and get similar sound. I remember a year or so ago that I still could not remove surround speakers without removing the back speakers as well.

    I have sort of answered my question. Seeing Dolby's change in speakers placement guides between codecs nailed that down. I am wondering if anyone has more insight about the actual processing now. It would appear newer chips can't really remix for a 5.1 system with surrounds at the side, or maybe because they are at the side, it is harder to accomplish.
  • rpf65rpf65 Posts: 1,428
    Maybe it's better if you tell us the following:

    1) Speakers- make, model, and position. Include subwoofer.

    2) General room description - size, shape, flooring type, furniture type, etc..

    3) AVR's - makes and models. Include cross-over settings and if large or small setting.

    4) What you don't like about the sound. Use your older AVR as the reference point.
    Example would be my surrounds sound a little thin compared to what I'm used to.

    Just seems that you went from wanting general information at the beginning, and now your looking at something more specific. Lot of knowledge on this site, and people are more than willing to help.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,628
    I think your over thinking this.

    If better surround information is your goal, your processor is pretty dated, time to update. Your not taking advantage of what a Bluray player has to offer.

    Today's receivers also have many ways to tailor the sound, many different forms of adjustment older HT gear simply didn't have. The auto calibration alone is something one should want.
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  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 510
    I have 11TL's in the front and 5jr's with a bit of bass boost in the rear. The center is an infinity that blends decent, but I prefer phantom center when its just me. Center on or off does not change the surround issues. The sub is not an issue. The fronts are about 9ft away, 10ft on angle. The rears are about 3+ feet back on a shelf ~5 ft away on angle.

    The main thing I don't care for is the pan from front to rear with my 6.1 processors in 5.1 mode. Explosions, flybys, and overall surround seam a little off. I did a little more playing with things this weekend. I can get the old Sony processor to sound damn good. It has an open full surround space with accurate pans. I did notice it worked better with 5.1 and matrix 6.1 signals on the disc (the max of its era) than the true discrete 6 and 7 channel sources. That makes sense.

    With the 6.1 processors, telling the processor my front speakers were further away than they actually are, seamed to have a positive effect. It created a seemingly fuller and bigger space. That worked better than telling it my rears were closer they they actually are. There were still issues with panning surround noises. They had some funny spots front to rear that did not flow. I am thinking I need to have the speakers more to the side. This will be difficult with the room layout and places to put them. I may try an put a chair closer to them to test it out.

    I am not sure if a new processor will solve things unless I move the speakers more to the sides. Eventually I will get a true 7.1 setup, but I am working with 5.1 for now. I think even with a new processor a down mix to 5.1 will assume speakers are to the sides. The old Sony has setting to assume they are in the rear, more behind the listener, closer to my actual setup. I think the answer is yes to my original questions, especially looking at the link @ZLTFUL posted.
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