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What's the optimum number of speakers for your home theater, 1 to 34, and counting

No doubt about it, adding speakers produces superior sound envelopment, but maybe one speaker is all you need.

Dolby's latest advance in surround sound technology, Atmos, debuted in movie theaters in 2012, but now that it's coming to the consumer market the maximum number of home theater speakers has jumped way up, to 34! Of course, that's at the extreme high-end, most Atmos home theaters will do fine with "just" nine speakers, which is a traditional 5.1 channel home theater array, augmented with four Atmos "height" or "overhead" speakers that will produce a more immersive sound experience with Atmos encoded films, played on an Atmos enabled receiver. Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer, Yamaha and other brands will release Atmos receivers in the coming months.


Dolby readily acknowledges that most home theater enthusiasts won't be able to mount overhead speakers, so a number of speaker companies will be offering specially designed Atmos enabled speakers with integrated height drivers. With these, just five speakers and a sub will serve as a complete Atmos home theater speaker system!

An Atmos super system can be configured to run as many as 24 standard speakers, and 10 more height speakers, for a total of 34 speakers for very large home theaters! One or more subwoofers would also be used in such a system.

Atmos Blu-ray discs, receivers, and speakers will arrive in the near future, but will they tempt buyers who have already found the perfect number of speakers for their home theaters, and decided the perfect number is: one. For them, one sound bar nestled under the screen provides enough of a "room-filling" sound for movies and TV shows. Who knows, an Atmos sound bar may eventually arrive to serve those folks. I'm perfectly happy with my stereo home theater, which uses a pair of speakers and a subwoofer.

Or, you may feel your 5.1 channel home theater produces immersion enough. No doubt about it, more speakers produce more sound, and at its best a Dolby Atmos home theater can produce truly three-dimensional soundscapes, literally filling the height, width and length of a room.

How many speakers are enough? Share your thoughts in the comments section.