On-wall speakers

Satellite Speakers for Atmos? Will It Work

We all know that products are rebranded and repackaged. Often times that leads to higher prices. Take the “pink tax” for example. It’s the same product in a different packaging at a higher price. Atmos speakers often feel that way. Is there something so special about Atmos positions that the speakers need to be unique and (more importantly) more expensive? Satellite speakers look remarkably similar to Atmos offerings. Could they work just as well? There are many more satellite speakers on the market and they tend to be less expensive than the Atmos offerings. Could it work? Let’s discuss!

Short Answer – Yes!

The very easy answer is that there is nothing special about Atmos speakers in how they create sound. They aren’t sonically different from other speakers. If you place an Atmos speaker next to a normal satellite speaker, chances are they will sound the same or the Atmos speaker will sound worse.

Worse! Why?

Good question! The answer is simple. Atmos speakers don’t need to play very much of the frequency range. Speaker designers know what frequency range Atmos speakers are required to play. In particular, they know that Atmos speakers will never have to play very low bass. Satellite speakers on the other hand are often used in many different positions. Sometimes even as fronts. Satellite speakers can be much more capable than Atmos offerings.

Further reading: Best Atmos Speakers for Home Theater

Downsides of Using Satellite Speakers for Atmos

The big downside of using a satellite speaker in an Atmos position is mounting. Satellite speakers often have options for mounting on the wall, but rarely to the ceiling. They are easy enough to mount in the front for heights but often require special mounting options for ceiling positions. This is where speakers designed for Atmos really shine. They usually have solutions for both ceiling and wall mounting. They often also mount more cleanly and look more natural in those positions. Satellite speakers often protrude too far and definitely look odd.

Further reading: Our Favorite Small Home Theater Speakers

The one position we’d warn you about when using a satellite speaker for Atmos is front heights. Satellite speakers are meant to be placed fairly close to your listening position. If you are seated fairly far away from your TV (10 feet or so), then the distance to the front heights will be even greater. A satellite speaker may struggle to output enough volume at that distance. Check your trim level in your AV receiver after you run your room correction. If it is maxed out (or close to it), then that speaker may be too far away.

Take Away

Some speakers that are labeled “Atmos” are nothing more than less capable satellite speakers that are redesigned so that they can more easily mount on the wall or ceiling. Since they will only be playing Atmos content anyhow, they should sound just fine. A satellite speaker might be less expensive, but you may need to pay for an aftermarket mount to make it work on the ceiling (or even the wall). Sure, you saved some money on the speaker but now you have to pay for the mount. Make sure you are taking all of this into account. Even if the satellite speaker and the mount costs less, you have to take into account the aesthetics. But to answer the question directly, a satellite speaker will work just fine in an Atmos position.

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