5.1 newbie - rear speaker position questions


I have always been a 2-channel audio purist. Well, not anymore. I am going to morph my old two channel equipment with newer surround equipment and even listen to my records and CDs with rear recovery and a center channel. I am really having a hard time figuring out where to mount my rear channels. I know that ear level straight across from one another going right through my ears would be close to ideal, but I can't approximate that at all. The best that I seem to be able to have is the rear speakers mounted just under my 8-foot ceilings (kind of high). I think that I can fudge around to at least keep them roughly equidistant from my listening position. Will this be any good? Or, is this what pretty much everyone that can't afford an in-home theatre has to deal with? Are the results worth the effort and expense, seeing that the setup is sub-optimal (at least theoretically) ?

I wouldnt mount them low, you want the sound diffuse so higher is better, this is for mostly ambient depth.

According to the experts, the 2 surround sound or rear satellite speakers should be located directly to the sides of the listener at the walls (listener sitting in the middle of the room of course) or slightly behind the listener and 2' above the listener's head when seated. I would not mount them just slightly below your 8' ceiling. That could wash them out and you would not have true surround sound audio. I too was a 2 channel hobbiest for over 30 years but now I love having the music all around me in a 5.1 configuration. Have you selected an A-V receiver yet? If so, which one did you go with? Just curious.
When Sony and Phillips developed SACD, they included a small pamphlet with their discs which recommended that main speakers be located 30 degrees each from the forward position of the listener, the center channel straight ahead, and the rear channels 110 degrees from center, with each speaker equidistant from the listner; i.e., on the circumference of a circle, with the listener at the center of the circle. All speakers are recommended to be a ear level. I prefer my rear speakers elevated, however, finding this improves the surround soundstage.
If you want the best multi channel MUSIC you may not want to use reares.Most of the time sounds awful.I sold Hi-end 2 ch and A/V systems for years and the best music I heard was with Meridian pre-amp which has patented "Trinaural Sound" which is the best 3 channel (front only) I have heard.Some A/V receivers may have a lesser version of this (many have 3 channel stereo mode) but if you had opportunity to hear the Meridian stuff you'd want it.I know a company makes an add on Trinuaral processor box for $1K though name escapes me know.I am going to probably keep my ubes and horns in office/bedroom and get used Meridian up front.Like I said if you ever got chance to hear it think you'd be impressed but main point hear is no matter what you get just using center fill channel maybe better than 5.1 o 7.1.And you may like many decide to just listen in regular stereo mode because most surround music mode does not "get it right".if Bell Labs which invented stereo in 30's had kept it a 3 box system the way it developed would have been very different but marketing types told engineers two boxes would sell better when they eventually got o market in early 50's.
If you are using the system predominatly for music, do not mount the speakers high...at all. Keep the position the same as the rest of the speakers, ear level. 3 to 5 feet above the listening position is the textbook answer for using dipole speakers.

Using rear speakers is ESSENTIAL for surround sound. Not just for ambience, but for soundstage depth, imaging and frontstage localization. Do not get tricked into thinking its only for echo. Thats a farfetched tale. If your rears sound horrible, its more than likely user error. Something is not correctly set.

Meridian's Trifield is great. However, its leaning more to the side of ambisonics, which is another beast in itself. Chazzbo is right; really worth the listen.

Pzuckerman has given you a very consise intro. These are the keys to get you started. A lot also has to do with processor settings too; compensating for the difference between the physical speaker distance to listening position and how it can effect the soundstage in relation to main speakers that are at a lesser or greater distance.

If you want to get surround for music right, you have guidelines that you must abide by. When you start adhering to the guidelines, you will understand why they are so important. There are many others on audiogon that listen to music (2Ch and MC) in surround sound. They hold a wealth of information. I'll email you soon!
I have a room that won't permit the proper placement of the surround speakers. I hung them 10" from the ceiling and on the 90 degree axis,this is a solution but a barely acceptable one! Getting the proper "feel" with this dosen't happen. I have an Onkyo NR 905 with Audyssey MultEX XT which helps make it liveable. Read Kam Rubinson in Sterophile Jan. 2008 he was impressed by the Audyssey.
Slightly behind(1-2 ft) rear most seating position of room and about 5-6 ft high pointed at listener.