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Definitive Technology BP9080x, BP9060, CS9060 Dolby Atmos Speakers Review

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Definitive Technology 5.0.4 Dolby Atmos Speaker System

Definitive Technology 5.0.4 Dolby Atmos Speaker System

  • Product Name: BP9080x, BP9060, CS9060, A90
  • Manufacturer: Definitive Technology
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: February 05, 2019 22:00
  • MSRP: $ 6,395/5.1.4 system (2xBP9080, 2xBP9060,1xCS9060)
  • Buy Now

BP9080x Specifications:

  • Height with Base: 51.75" (131.45 cm)Width with Base: 12" (30.48 cm)
  • Depth with Base: 16" (40.64 cm)
  • Base Material: Aircraft Grade Aluminum
  • Front Array Driver Enclosure Type: Acoustically Tuned Vent
  • Front Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome - Tweeter;
  • (2)  5.25" (13.34 cm) d (Round) - Midrange; (2)  12" (30.48 cm) d (Round) - Bass Radiator ; (1)  12" (30.48 cm) d (Round) - SubwooferRear Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome - Tweeter: (1)  5.25" (13.34 cm) d (Round) - Midrange
  • Top Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome Dolby Atmos / DTS:X Height Module - Tweeter: (1)  4.5" (11.43 cm) d (Round) Dolby Atmos / DTS:X Height Module - Mid/Woofer
  • Total Frequency Response: 16 Hz — 40,000 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms 

  • Max Sensitivity (1 watt @ 1 meter): 92 dB

  • Internal Amplifier Class: Class D



BP9060 Specifications:

  • Front Array Driver Enclosure Type: Acoustically Tuned Vent

  • Front Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome - Tweeter; (2)  4.5" (11.43 cm) d (Round) - Midrange; 2)  10" (25.4 cm) d (Round) - Bass Radiator;(1)  10" (25.4 cm) d (Round) - Subwoofer
  • 
Rear Array Driver Enclosure Type: Acoustically Tuned Vent
Rear Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome - Tweeter; (1)  4.5" (11.43 cm) d (Round) - Midrange
  • 
Total Frequency Response: 18 Hz → 40,000 Hz

  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms 

  • Max Sensitivity (1 watt @ 1 meter): 92 dB
  • 
Amplifier Class: Class D



CS9060 Specifications:

  • Height: 5.95" (15.11 cm
  • )
Width: 20.75" (52.71 cm)
  • 
Depth: 12" (30.48 cm)

  • Weight: 26 lbs (11.79 kg)

  • Materials: Aluminum 

  • Enclosure Type: Acoustically Tuned Vent
  • 
Front Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome - Tweeter; (2)  4.5" (11.43 cm) d (Round) BDSS Bass - Mid/Woofer; (1)  8" (20.32 cm) d (Round) - Subwoofer
  • Total Frequency Response:  32 Hz → 40,000 Hz

  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms 

  • Max Sensitivity (1 watt @ 1 meter): 91 dB
  • Amplifier Class: Class D

A90 Dolby Atmos Enabled Speaker Modules

  • Height: 3.75" (9.53 cm)

  • Width: 6” (15.24 cm)
Depth: 13" (33.02 cm)

  • Weight: 6 lbs (2.72 kg)
  • Materials: Aluminum 
Top Array Driver Complement: (1)  1" (2.54 cm) d (Round) Aluminum Dome - Tweeter; (1)  4.5" (11.43 cm) d (Round) - Midrange
  • Total Frequency Response: 86 Hz → 40,000 Hz

  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms 
Max Sensitivity (1 watt @ 1 meter): 89.5 dB

Pros

  • Deep, huge, larger-than-life soundstage
  • Excellent full-range response
  • Can deliver home theater joy without the footprint of additional subwoofers

Cons

  • Bipole design can't produce pinpoint imaging like direct radiating speaker designs.
  • If fabric wrap suffers damage, entire speaker must be sent back to the factory for repair.
  • Each speaker requires an electrical outlet.

High end audio stalwart Definitive Technology is back with a Dolby Atmos system that will make even the most demanding home theater enthusiast salivate. Definitive sent us a 5.0.4 Dolby Atmos setup—that zero means sans external subwoofer. No subwoofer might seem surprising at first—especially considering that Definitive Technology’s subwoofers were commissioned for the digital organ at Trinity Church in New York City. But Definitive wanted to prove a point: That their tower speaker solution can compete with and even outperform some of the most ambitious 5.1.4 or 5.2.4 systems you can assemble for the same price point.

Lest we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a deeper dive into Definitive Technology’s distinctive approach to speaker design and the unique feature set of each speaker in our review setup. Then you’ll have a better idea why Definitive Technology was so bold in their approach.

Definitive's Bipole Approach and Its Advantages

There are two main traits that separate Definitive Technology speakers from the competition. The first is their bipolar speaker design.  Definitive's bipolar speakers have drivers positioned in both the front and rear of the speaker, radiating sound in phase in both directions. Definitive's bipolar design has the distinct advantage of creating a huge, deep sound stage that most direct radiating, traditional speaker designs just can't match. That feature alone has an addictive, realistic quality that has entrenched Definitive Technology’s status in enthusiast circles.

Definitive BP9080x with center channel

Definitive Technology's powered, bipole speakers have a slender styling

No speaker design is perfect. The downside is that bipolar speakers can’t quite achieve the pin-point imaging of direct radiating speakers. There are tradeoffs in any technology, including direct radiating or bipole speakers.

Definitive’s tradeoff, however, is euphonic. A large, deep soundstage is addicting. Such a large image presents music and movies with a more lifelike sensation. (Allow me to note that Definitive’s center channel speakers are not bipolar). Your personal listening tastes will determine if Definitive Technology speakers are ultimately your cup of tea. It’s worth noting that back in the day, the Bose 901 employed a rear-facing driver, but probably went too far in the forward-facing and rear-facing design.

To get the most from Definitive's bipolar design, you cannot put the speakers directly against a wall. You'll need to give at least 6-inches of breathing room behind the speakers to let them do their magic.

What’s the Difference Between Bipole and Dipole?

Now, whatever you do, don’t confuse bipole with dipole. Home theater enthusiasts will recall we had dipole designs in older, triangular-shaped surround speakers. In dipole designs, one set of drivers produced sound in phase while a mirror set of drivers delivered the same signal out of phase for a diffuse soundfield. Dipole speakers were originally intended to create a diffuse sound field for smaller rooms. However, with today's multichannel, discrete soundtracks and the pioneering research done by Dr. Floyd Toole on acoustics and psychoacoustics, you rarely see manufacturers offering such designs in surround speakers any longer.

Bipole speakers usually feature two arrays of drivers which face in opposite directions but unlike dipoles, they are in phase with one another. The idea is to fire the surround information into the seating area, but not directly at the listener, to avoid hotspotting.

For more information, see: Bipole vs Dipole vs Monopole: Which Surround Speaker is Best

No External Subwoofers Needed

The second distinctive trait of Definitive speakers is that they have built-in subwoofers powered by a Class D amplifier. This is a huge advantage that can't be underestimated. We know from the pioneering research done by Todd Welti at Harman International that multiple subwoofers deliver smoother and more consistent bass response across multiple seating positions.

Let’s emphasize the point: The goal of multiple subs isn’t to get louder bass. Rather, multiple subs (when properly placed) produce smoother bass across multiple seating positions in your room. Multiple subs help eliminate nulls, which you can’t correct completely—even with the best room correction software. Physics is physics.  To be technically correct, let me note that the best place to locate subs in rectangular rooms, (room corners, 1/4 and 3/4 points of the walls, or opposing middle of the walls) may not necessarily match where you’d place a set of Definitive Technology speakers.

Definitive Technology BP9080x volume control and LFE input

The BP9080X, BP9060, and CS9060 all feature an LFE input and volume control.

So think about it for a second. With a Definitive 5.0.4 setup, you are getting five on-board subwoofers with your speakers as part of the cost of the speakers. Now think through the practicality of putting two, three, or five subwoofers in your listening space. How many of us truly have the room (or the aesthetic tolerance) for multiple subwoofers? Further, how many spouses will tolerate speakers and subwoofers in a typical living space? For enthusiasts who crave maximum performance in an aesthetically confined space, this Definitive Technology solution is a dream come true. The huge advantage Definitive brings to the table is that you get true full-range speakers via Definitive’s multi-sub approach without taking up an inch more of floorspace. Addressing the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) and value proposition in a single package? Now that’s worth noting.

And don't mistake Definitive Technology’s approach to calling large drivers a subwoofer. On the contrary, the on-board subwoofers are driven by a dedicated Class D amplifier embedded into each speaker. You also get all the benefits of a true subwoofer too—including an optional LFE input and volume control. The volume control is strictly for the bass notes and doesn’t muddy up the midrange.

Note: For this review, following Definitive's recommendations I set the Denon AVR-X7200WA to a 5.0.4 configuration with all floorstanding channels set to large and the subwoofer output off in the AVR). In case you’re wondering, there’s no dedicated subwoofer phase control or low pass filter on the Definitive speakers. In discussions with Definitive, I should note that if you do plan to use the LFE channel, and have the ability to adjust phase in your AVR, processor, or external EQ, leave phase in the positive setting. If you have the ability to pull measurements you can feel free to experiment to see which setting yields the best integration between the subwoofers, drivers, and other speakers. As always, listening tests with bass intense source material that you're intimately familiar with should help you confirm the proper setting.

Definitive BP9080x atmos module (angled view)

View of the BP9080X's integrated Dolby Atmos height-enabled speaker. Notice how the driver is angled to fire sounds towards the ceiling.

Let me emphasize that the speakers are treated as a composite whole rather than a monitor and subwoofer combo. In fact, if you want the best performance, Definitive Technology recommends that you do not use the LFE input. The powered subwoofer is there to make the tower speaker truly perform across the audio band and into subsonic frequencies. Here at Audioholics, we have some additional recommendations that you can check out in our YouTube Video posted here below:

How to Set Up Powered Towers YouTube Instructional Video

Of course, should you wish to tweak or experiment, you can feed the Definitive Technology towers via the LFE input and treat the subwoofers independently. You could then use your AVR's on-board room correction suite to adjust phase, etc. The pros, cons, and nuances of this approach and are far beyond the scope of this review (but addressed in our YouTube video above). Suffice to say, it’s there if you want it but it’s not recommended by Definitive.

For more information on setting up multi-subs, see: Bass Optimization for Multi-Sub with mDSP

Historical Side Note

Definitive Technology pioneered the approach of building a subwoofer into a tower. Definitive demonstrated the first powered towers, the BP2000 at the 1995 CES. I'm told by someone who worked on the CES show samples that Don Givogue, one of Definitive Technologies co-founders had said, "I want to build a PF1500 subwoofer into a BP30 tower."  With that, Don Givogue and Bob Johnston came up with the design and engineering. They were granted a patent on the built-in subwoofer with the BP200 being reviewed by Julian Hirsch in Stereo Magazine and Brent Butterworth in Home Theater Technology magazine later that fall (you can read the original reviews here).

The reviews were stellar with legendary audio reviewer Julian Hirsch noting:

The Definitive Technology BP 2000 is the first speaker I have been able to audition in my own familiar surroundings that has given me that special thrill that usually costs ten or more times its price to obtain. When I heard it demonstrated at the 1995 Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, I knew it was something special, and the more I listen to it now the more that feeling is confirmed.

Definitive's approach was pioneering at the time.  Other companies tried to follow suit. During the peer review of this article, Audioholics own Steve Feinstein noted that Boston Acoustics had ‘powered towers’ a few years later in 1998, the VR960/965 and 970/975. Steve served as Boston Acoustics’ product manager and these were his design. They had a control called “Active Bass Contour.” Even though the woofers (powered by on-board amps) crossed over to the mids at 150Hz, the ABC control only affected the bass below 60Hz. No mid interaction at all. Also, these speakers had both LFE line inputs and regular speaker-level inputs. Most customers used speaker-level connection, but the LFE option was there if you wanted it.

Features

My 5.0.4 review setup consisted of a pair of BP9080x towers (for the left and right main channels) with built-in Dolby Atmos speaker modules; two BP9060 towers along with a pair of A90 Dolby Atmos enabled speaker add-on modules; and Definitive's CS9060 center channel speaker.

Definitive BP9080x atmos module built in

The BP9080X has a built-in Atmos-enabled module with a magnetic grille cover.

All in all, those five discrete speakers can theoretically deliver a maximum 5.5.4 system (5 speakers, 5 subwoofers, and 4 height channels)—or variations in-between. As I mentioned, each tower speaker (and the center channel!) has a discrete LFE input should you choose to use it.  Definitive Technology recommended that for optimal performance I not use the LFE input for the review and connect them in a traditional manner, using the speaker’s internal crossover. That’s exactly what I did. My review system was thus configured and tested as a 5.0.4 setup with speakers set to large and the subwoofers turned off in the AVR. The sonic results spoke for themselves.

Note: For more advanced users that employ manual PEQ, you may still wish to run ALL 5 subs through LFE input to do global EQ to the system. The choice is there for you. This would also allow all 5 subs to receive LFE signal instead of just the front two speakers when the AV receiver is set to "large fronts" and  "no sub" in the bass management.

Definitive BP9060 A90 Atmos module adapter

The BP9060's top aluminum plate lifts off to reveal a plug for the A90 Dolby Atmos enabled speaker height module.

Definitive's Speaker Lineup

But before we get to the listening tests, let's take a deeper dive into each speaker model.
 

BP9080x

Definitive Technology BP9080X

The nearly 52-inch tall BP9080x ($3,498/pair MSRP) feature a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, two 5.25-inch midrange drivers, two 12-inch bass radiators and a single 12-inch subwoofer driven by a 455-watt Class D amplifier. The rear driver array, which handles the bipolar aspects, consists of a 1-inch dome tweeter and 5.25-inch midrange driver. As you'll see with Definitive's design, the front tweeter and midrange are mirrored on the back. The speaker is easy to drive with a sensitivity of 92db and an impedance of 8 ohms.

The BP9080x’s top sports an embedded Dolby Atmos enabled speaker. You cannot remove the Atmos module nor can you order a BP9080x without the Atmos enabled speaker. The BP9080X’s Dolby Atmos enabled speaker consists of a 1-inch aluminum tweeter and 5.25-inch mid/woofer. It's the same driver configuration as the A90, which I describe in more detail below. There are two sets of binding posts on the lower rear of the speaker. The top set is for the Atmos-enabled speaker and the bottom set is for the tower. You cannot biamp any of the models. The BP9080x boasts a total frequency response of 16Hz-40kHz. Definitive technology does not provide consumers with a ±db rating.  Some manufacturers provide frequency measurements at ±3db, others at ±6db, and we've even seem some rare cases of ±10db. We want to call out Definitive Tech on this issue and that they should be more transparent with the consumer about their measurements. Irrespective, many tower speakers and dedicated subs don't achieve those specs. You'll have no problem playing the deep notes of Saint Saëns Organ Symphony with these babies.

BP9060

The BP9060 ($2,198/pair MSRP) is a smaller sibling of the BP9080x. Each speaker sports a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter with two 4.5-inch midrange drivers, two 10-inch bass radiators, and a 10-inch subwoofer driven by a 300-watt Class D amplifier. The speaker's rear bipolar array is comprised of a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch midrange driver.  The system's total frequency response is rated at 18Hz-40kHz (again there's no ±db rating mentioned) and it’s easy to drive with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms and a sensitivity of 92dB. You can use the BP9060 as a traditional tower speaker or, if you lift off the speaker's top aluminum panel, it exposes a slick dock to house the complementary A90 Dolby Atmos enabled speaker module for height effects. There are no cables to connect, the dock for the A90 is literally plug and play. As with the BP9080x, there are two pairs of binding posts with the top pair handling the A90 module.

A90 Atmos-Enabled speaker

Definitive Technology A90 Atmos module

Speaking of which, the A90 Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker module retails for $499/pair and is timbre-matched for the BP9060 and BP9080x’s Atmos-enabled module. When it’s connected, you can’t tell aesthetically that the A90 is an add-on module.  The A90 is a significant upgrade to the subpar A60 first generation Atmos-enabled speaker that featured a 4" full range paper whizzer cone driver.

The A90 sports a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch midrange driver. As mentioned, the BP9060 has a pair of binding posts on the speaker's rear that connect to the A90. This feature keeps your speaker cabling neat and even allows you to use four-conductor speaker cables for clean runs. The A90 has a frequency response of 86Hz - 40kHz. That's a larger than expected frequency range for a height speaker. Many competing Dolby Atmos enabled speakers don't deliver as wide a frequency response as Definitive’s. In fact, most are crossed over above 150Hz so it's good to see this speaker actually has usable bandwidth almost an octave lower than most Atmos-enabled speakers.

Most people don’t know that Dolby Atmos’s spec for height speakers provides a fairly limited range. Dolby's latest Atmos specifications call for the frequency response of height speakers to be "100Hz to 10kHz or wider".  In case you're wondering, the A90 (and any Dolby Atmos-certified speaker) is compatible with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X speaker layouts.  Dolby Atmos enabled (ceiling-bounce) speakers are not compatible with Auro-3D layouts. Auro-3D requires discrete on-wall or in-ceiling speaker channels.

CS9060 Center Channel

Definitive CS9060 Center Channel

The CS9060 center channel is one model below the CS9080 for Definitive's flagship center channel. The $699 speaker isn't your typical center channel. It boasts a frequency response of 32Hz - 40kHz. The 1-inch dome tweeter is flanked with two 4.5-inch bass-mid woofers and an 8-inch powered subwoofer. The CS9060 is not a bipole design. There are no rear-firing drivers. It's therefore easy to put the CS9060 inside or on top of a cabinet.

All speaker models (save the A90 add-on) are powered by a Class D amplifier. You'll therefore need to make sure you have an electrical outlet close to each speaker location.

When the speakers receive an audio signal and turn on, Definitive Technology has a cool feature on the speakers where the letter “D” on the front base of the speaker lights up. If you’re in a dark theater environment and don’t want the distraction, you can turn the light off with a switch on the speaker’s rear panel.

Note: If you're going to route LFE to this system, I'd suggest doing it only to the BP9080x and BP9060 speakers but NOT the CS9060. The CS9060 can however be run fullrange without any issues.

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Recent Forum Posts:

TheoN posts on March 04, 2019 20:18
William Lemmerhirt, post: 1302398, member: 81215
As far as I’ve seen it’s only Disney titles, but marvel has had some duds in the dynamics dept. it’s too bad too. I think the incredibles 1 and 2 would be amazing in full range object based immersion.
That makes sense then. I haven’t seen the limitation with Marvel movies. That’s a real disappointment if that limitation exists with Incredibles 2. That has the potential to be a stellar immersive mix. I haven’t sampled the 4K edition.
Danzilla31 posts on March 03, 2019 19:11
William Lemmerhirt, post: 1302398, member: 81215
As far as I’ve seen it’s only Disney titles, but marvel has had some duds in the dynamics dept. it’s too bad too. I think the incredibles 1 and 2 would be amazing in full range object based immersion.
I've heard that that company Kaleidascape or whatever there called actually gets the actual movie files from the studio and remasterers it to where it's full uncompressed true to the source audio that the director or mixer intended. If I ever hit the lottery that's what I'd get

it would be the only way to listen to those Disney or Marvel movies the way they were intended to be heard.

It's expensive though
William Lemmerhirt posts on March 03, 2019 18:34
TheoN, post: 1302374, member: 68072
I don’t understand why some companies do this. I tested out Avengers Infinity War and I did get 7.2.6 playback on the Denon X8500H. This limitation is for purely Disney titles or does it extend to Marvel titles as well?

As far as I’ve seen it’s only Disney titles, but marvel has had some duds in the dynamics dept. it’s too bad too. I think the incredibles 1 and 2 would be amazing in full range object based immersion.
TheoN posts on March 03, 2019 17:31
VonMagnum, post: 1301417, member: 86028
Disney does not make “true” Atmos soundtracks. They lock the objects into what is essentially a 7.1.4 “channel” based system (you can make stationary objects and then mix as channels instead, which is what Disney is essentially doing). People often call this “Atmos Lite”. Thus, if you play a Disney Atmos movie, it will not use any speakers outside the 7.1.4 configuration in an AVR that uses more (not even in a Trinnov unless it's using “remapping” mode). You can get around this by using external extraction (e.g. two Pro Logic processors extracting a “center” between say front and rear height to create top middle or front L/R and side L/R to create wides) as these are made after the channels are rendered and the AVR is not aware of them. Otherwise, if you had say a Denon 8500 set to do 7.1.6, the “top middle” speakers will be silent with Disney Atmos movies.

This is a real problem if you have a room that is too long for proper phantom imaging as it will leave a “hole” overhead where the imaging falls apart. I'm using a 12'x24' room with front/rear heights going from the front of the room to the very back and the imaging gets pretty weak in the middle when configured as 7.1.4 (e.g. rain sounds like there's a gazebo or something overhead keeping the rain from hitting right over my head) so I use two Onkyo ES-600 Pro processors to extract “top middle” between them and this makes it smooth all the way across the 24' room (e.g. The Atmos helicopter demo then pans smoothly and evenly around the entire length of the room). Because it's extracted instead of rendered from the AVR, it works with these locked 7.1.4 soundtracks from Disney and gets past the 11-channel DTS limit as well.

Similarly, I use matrix extraction for front wides and surround#2 (essentially a rear wide between the side surrounds and rear surrounds) as I have three rows of seating. This gives me 11.1.6 in the room and gives rows 2 and three nice even surround (and smoother panning from the MLP as well as more depth to “stereo” mode as the wides are active with stereo soundtracks unless I turn them off). I also create my own “dialog lift” effect by using an active mixer to put some L/C/R material into the front heights (controllable via the output pots how “high” it goes) so the dialog comes from the screen instead of the three PSB T45 speakers underneath it. The matrixed “rear wides” also extends the side surrounds for Auro-3D soundtracks to almost the back which then combined with the “unified” rear heights plus the extracted top middle speakers gives Auro-3D soundtracks much closer rendering to the Atmos versions (I have a half dozen in both to compare). I can also shrink Atmos back to 5.1.4 which then over the same speakers sounds surprisingly similar to “true Auro-3D” that just uses surround height speakers. I can also send surround height to rear height at the same time (Monoprice 2-in 2-out switchbox) to mimic an Auro 11.1 theater (which copies surround height to the rear in the same manner).

This lets me compare/contrast Atmos, X and Auro-3D in different configurations and/or to give the 2nd and 3rd row more “surround” on Auro-3D soundtracks (also helps with true 5.1 in “direct” mode as the “rear wide” matrixed speaker then acts like an array copy of the side surround instead putting the combined phantom image between the two sets of side surrounds for the second row (the front wides keep it directly to the sides for the front row as the side surrounds are behind and the front wides in front of that row making the phantom image appear directly to the sides. Turning the wides off, the soundtrack then has 5.1 soundtracks “behind” the front row in the recommended location for a 5.1.4 system. Thus, all soundtracks can be played more or less as intended or stretched to 11.1 or 11.1.6 (9.1.6 in Auro-3D's case as the rear beds aren't active, although I could get another switchbox to copy them as well, but the rear wides are probably good enough since there's only one seat in the back row and side surround just in front of the seat isn't too shabby sounding either. With full 11.1.6 all seats get full surround (rear beds and heights are just behind the 3rd row).
I don’t understand why some companies do this. I tested out Avengers Infinity War and I did get 7.2.6 playback on the Denon X8500H. This limitation is for purely Disney titles or does it extend to Marvel titles as well?
VonMagnum posts on February 26, 2019 22:33
TheoN, post: 1301377, member: 68072
Could you elaborate on what you mean by Atmos being stuck with 7.1.4? Perhaps I missed something? Extracting extra channels aside, the Denon X8500H will process 7.2.6 from an Atmos track but DTS:X is limited to 11 channels max (right now) for 7.2.4 until DTS:X Pro comes to the consumer market on more reasonably priced AVRs and pre-pros.

Disney does not make “true” Atmos soundtracks. They lock the objects into what is essentially a 7.1.4 “channel” based system (you can make stationary objects and then mix as channels instead, which is what Disney is essentially doing). People often call this “Atmos Lite”. Thus, if you play a Disney Atmos movie, it will not use any speakers outside the 7.1.4 configuration in an AVR that uses more (not even in a Trinnov unless it's using “remapping” mode). You can get around this by using external extraction (e.g. two Pro Logic processors extracting a “center” between say front and rear height to create top middle or front L/R and side L/R to create wides) as these are made after the channels are rendered and the AVR is not aware of them. Otherwise, if you had say a Denon 8500 set to do 7.1.6, the “top middle” speakers will be silent with Disney Atmos movies.

This is a real problem if you have a room that is too long for proper phantom imaging as it will leave a “hole” overhead where the imaging falls apart. I'm using a 12'x24' room with front/rear heights going from the front of the room to the very back and the imaging gets pretty weak in the middle when configured as 7.1.4 (e.g. rain sounds like there's a gazebo or something overhead keeping the rain from hitting right over my head) so I use two Onkyo ES-600 Pro processors to extract “top middle” between them and this makes it smooth all the way across the 24' room (e.g. The Atmos helicopter demo then pans smoothly and evenly around the entire length of the room). Because it's extracted instead of rendered from the AVR, it works with these locked 7.1.4 soundtracks from Disney and gets past the 11-channel DTS limit as well.

Similarly, I use matrix extraction for front wides and surround#2 (essentially a rear wide between the side surrounds and rear surrounds) as I have three rows of seating. This gives me 11.1.6 in the room and gives rows 2 and three nice even surround (and smoother panning from the MLP as well as more depth to “stereo” mode as the wides are active with stereo soundtracks unless I turn them off). I also create my own “dialog lift” effect by using an active mixer to put some L/C/R material into the front heights (controllable via the output pots how “high” it goes) so the dialog comes from the screen instead of the three PSB T45 speakers underneath it. The matrixed “rear wides” also extends the side surrounds for Auro-3D soundtracks to almost the back which then combined with the “unified” rear heights plus the extracted top middle speakers gives Auro-3D soundtracks much closer rendering to the Atmos versions (I have a half dozen in both to compare). I can also shrink Atmos back to 5.1.4 which then over the same speakers sounds surprisingly similar to “true Auro-3D” that just uses surround height speakers. I can also send surround height to rear height at the same time (Monoprice 2-in 2-out switchbox) to mimic an Auro 11.1 theater (which copies surround height to the rear in the same manner).

This lets me compare/contrast Atmos, X and Auro-3D in different configurations and/or to give the 2nd and 3rd row more “surround” on Auro-3D soundtracks (also helps with true 5.1 in “direct” mode as the “rear wide” matrixed speaker then acts like an array copy of the side surround instead putting the combined phantom image between the two sets of side surrounds for the second row (the front wides keep it directly to the sides for the front row as the side surrounds are behind and the front wides in front of that row making the phantom image appear directly to the sides. Turning the wides off, the soundtrack then has 5.1 soundtracks “behind” the front row in the recommended location for a 5.1.4 system. Thus, all soundtracks can be played more or less as intended or stretched to 11.1 or 11.1.6 (9.1.6 in Auro-3D's case as the rear beds aren't active, although I could get another switchbox to copy them as well, but the rear wides are probably good enough since there's only one seat in the back row and side surround just in front of the seat isn't too shabby sounding either. With full 11.1.6 all seats get full surround (rear beds and heights are just behind the 3rd row).
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