Using in ceiling surround, shall I upgrade?

I have an ANTHEM MRX-300 with Simaudio Titan 5 channel, running a 7.1 setup with 4 x ATLANTIC TECHNOLOGY in-ceiling 6" speakers, I have been using these surround for 4 years since I moved in this new house. It is a open room with living room and dinning room adjacent to each other, I gave up my dipole speakers to in-ceiling to make the room look more tidy which pleased my family members.

Now after 4 years, day in day out I always wonder about how much SQ I actually surrendered so far, can anyone comment if there is big difference in enjoyment if I change all these 4 to drop down surround dipole speakers, are in-ceiling surround so bad when compare with any drop down ones? Thanks.
I do not know anything about "drop-down" speakers but I have always been unhappy with in-ceiling speakers for anything other than background music (which I hate anyway). Speakers should be at ear level or slightly above if all the sound is not to be perceived overhead. In-wall or, even, very small unprepossessing speakers are better, imho.

for "drop down" I mean the typical surround speakers hanging on ceiling or stick on side walls. Isnt it surround speakers are suppose to provide a surrounding effects only, I thought in-ceiling are able to do that.

I have both atlantic technology in wall and in ceiling in my secondary setup and revel ceiling in my primary. I did this because of the absence of walls in an open space. No choice. I did have revel s30 surrounds on furniture stands prior and focal on wall surrounds in my Previous home.

So I can speak from experience and tell you the following:

1) if you have no choice, then in ceilings will work well as surrounds if they are high performance speakers and preferably angled to point at the listening seat (which my revels do).

2) you can use in wall Atlantic dipoles in-ceiling. You just keep the null point consistent as you move up the wall into the ceiling. It's not ideal but works. It works better if the speakers are not too close to the listening seat either.

3) comparing the revel s30 on wall vs the in ceiling ic15 I can say that there is a bit of a difference in the fullness of the sound and in some instances, the sour round effect is probably better with the setup when it had the S30s. But, not by much. It will be impacted more or less depending on ceiling height and whether you have the speakers at 90 degrees or behind the listening position. There is only one movie, and I can't remember which, where I thought the surround effects were impacted a big due to the placement in ceiling. Listen, I'm too finicky about audio to let a sub-par setup rule my primary listening. It works in my setup but I spent a ton of time measuring out distances and angles before I cut the speakers in.

So, in summary, no, the surrounds do not need to be in ceiling or ceiling mounted. The standard specs call for wall mount about 2-4 feet above listening seat and slightly behind. However, if you cannot do that, then in ceiling can and do work well but you need to really take care to measure and setup properly. Otherwise, it will be a terrible experience that is hard to fix once the holes are done. If you can quantify your displeasure then it may come down to the fact that you would prefer a different brand of speaker. My Revels and Atlantic tech speakers sound very different. Simaudio stuff is great. So your electronics are multiples more than the cost of your speakers.

Thanks for the detail reply. That was 4 years ago I installed the Atlantic tech, at that time my concept was surround speakers are not too essential to the whole thing, now I doubt that is the drawback of my whole system, don't you think so? That is why I started this thread to confirm I had done it wrong, and I need to convince myself to put up wall mounts on the ceiling while it took a lot of efforts and spending, not to mention a wall mount speaker drop down in the middle of a open space ceiling.
Do you think Atlantic tech was a rather inferior speakers in terms of my gear? It was kind of rush while purchasing the in-ceiling surround due to I was too busy to deal with the renovation detail of whole house at that period, I didn't check many others before I pulled the trigger.

" However, if you cannot do that, then in ceiling can and do work well but you need to really take care to measure and setup properly." Does the MEASURE mean the speaker distance?
Dear Grantech,

Lots to dissect in your response. Let me start with the speakers. There are some who are very passionate about brand XYZ. Some will bash some brands and extol others. I'm not of that perspective for a very simple reason: everyone's hearing is different and audio is subjective. That's just fact. So the question in my mind is not whether Atlantic is inferior or superior but rather do they sound good to *YOU*. If you got the speakers without listening then that may be the casebuti have haunch and you tell me if I'm right.

1) I am inferring that your fronts are not Atlantic Technology. If your fronts are different then yes you have a timbre difference and that is certainly going to be a problem. So it's not a question of the Atlantics being good or bad; it's just that they are different. Put a 3k in-ceiling and it will sound different too.

2) The question of measurements has three parts: the first is the angle of each speaker relative to the primary listening position. The second is the distance of each speaker from the primary listening position. The third part and often not talked about is the distance measured in proportion to the incremental steps your Pre-pro can handle. My anthem for example handles distance in .5" increments so I kept my distances to that tolerance.

For angle, I followed the DTS/Dolby lossless codec setup. You can see one here: My setup follows this. It's not a perfect circle, but it works wonderfully well.

4) I doubt theatlantics are angled in-ceiling so you are also getting off-axis issues that also affect the tonal quality of the setup.

So, if I'm right you have a mismatch in your setup and that's your primary source of displeasure. Secondly you have possible measurement issues and off-axis issues also affecting the tonal quality. Those two factors will not make you happy and YES the surrounds do matter. Play the first 3-5 minutes of Star Wars Episode III. If you can grin after that--especially when the star destroyer explodes and you fly through it, then you know everything is setup properly. If you can't play that scene then, that's your surround litmus test.

So if you REALLY love the sound of your fronts then work your way up and buy good in-ceilings for those and ideally get angled speakers so that the tweeter can hit the listening position.

Finally, remember that if all of us bought solely on brand and perception of sound quality, then we'd all have Bose systems ;-)
I admit the tonal difference for different brand to my front could be a drawback, but I have no idea how much it is. I guess I will never know unless I experiment with same brand, but do you have experience how that would improve?

You didn't seem to oppose using in-ceiling, which I was thinking to get rid of. It is just a matter of whether the in-ceiling speaker can have angled tweeter that can be point at the main listening position, does the rear speakers also do the same? I also heard that the surround and rear speakers shall not be too directional to the listening position in order not to give the listener sense the speakers ARE THERE kind of feel, thats why a bipole speakers are being developed, isn't that contrary to what you just said?

For OFF AXIS, my perception to this term is all diagonal speakers (except center) will cross at one point which shall be the MAIN listening position, (e.g.F/R TO R/L, S/R to S/L)am I correct? Well, I never thought of that when I built them. Is this crucial?
I use direct radiating and not bipole speakers. With in ceiling if you want the bipole effect you aim the tweeter away from the listening position to the wall. I didn't do that and have my tweeters aimed at the listening position. I listen to multichannel music and movies and with music the direct radiating is better than dipole. Some companies don't even make nipples and Revel's top of the line doesn't have bipoles. So no, I don't think dipoles are as "mandatory" as you might think. It's more about placement and configuration. In my Preamp you configure dipole or direct. The difference is that direct gives you the ability to enter in distance.

The timbre between speaker brands can be significant. What do you have for fronts? The difference between my Atlantic tech and Revels is significant. They would not mate well at all. Years ago as I was building out my system I had mated my Revel fronts with Focal dipole surrounds and Cambridge sound works rears. Yuk. Anytime there was a surround effect panning across speakers you could tell right away there was something not right. Even the Focals--which are simply excellent speakers--did not timbre match the Revels. I could tell. And they were wall mounted and not ceiling mounted. Remember: I'm hearing you say that the sound isn't good, not the effects.

So, if you can answer "yes" to all my assumptions in my previous post then, in my humble opinion that's what you should do. 1) make sure you like the sound of your speaker brand. 2) if so match it all the way around.

I am not disagreeing with Kal's point and post about in-ceiling vs. wall mount. I'm simply saying that if you need to have aesthetics, in-ceilings can indeed work very well and effectively.
With that level of front end, I think you should get some nicer surround speakers.
I think this general question is related to this thread but feel free to move it not. I ask as general rule, what does one do the brand of front channel speakers you are using does not offer surrounds -or say you already have holes in the ceiling where prior owner used in ceilings -or where WAF will not allow for installation of onwalls. Is there any way to try and match timbre?
Kbuzz, you will have to make some concession. If its a larger company they may have a different line of speaker that offers in walls. Otherwise ask your dealer for a good compromise brand. If you are not dealing with a dealer then post your speakers and ask the community for suggestions. The way to handle it is that the architectural speakers of a brand should be timbre matched. Therefore if the free standing sound close to you then the in ceiling should be close.


Thanks for the post. I did not want to hijack the thread which was why i did not post more specific info. My situation is rather unique but in brief, i moved recently and bought a pair of ohm microwalsh talls on a whim to use in my small family room as a stereo pair. I liked them so much i plan to order an OHM center.

This family came with a set of in walls already in installed, and i wanted to keep the rear in ceiling surrounds (or replacements) as wifey is objecting to on walls. OHM does not make in walls Hence the post.

My front speakers are Thiel CS3.7

If for timbre matching, besides Thiel surround speakers (it doesn't convince me that it will be a big step upgrade based on the look of the built, unless someone can tell me otherwise), is there any particular suggestion for brands of in-ceiling or bipole speakers?

To tell more my comment on the issue, it is like the surround speakers are not as dynamic and powerful enough for some big action scene, even if I turn up the level for surround and rears, it doesn't help much. Hence this post.

Your comment about the dynamics, looking up the theil model and my own experience with the Atlantics tell me that your surrounds are overmatched by a 12k pair of fronts. My suggestion is to go with a highly dynamic pair of in ceiling. Triad, Revel, B&W come to mind immediately. Your Atlantic tech are also likely only able to go down to 80hz, as most of their stuff crosses over at that point. You may be having some room response issues as a consequence. The only way to know is to do a room response graph for those speakers via the anthem. See where they are getting crossed over. It may be that they are getting crossed over at 120hz or higher and the sub may only be going up to 80. Thus, you might have a frequency gap. But look at the anthem post correction graph to see what's what. In fact, take the next step and post the graph on the AVS forum for the anthem AVM50/D2 forum and see what other opinions you get. While I certainly do think that it is a speaker matching issue, it may also be another issue related to the room. Again, I'm assuming you have property run ARC.
And are the in ceiling dipole or monopole/direct firing?