12 channel Atmos on a budget, 7.1.4 Guide

So! This post is a follow-up and guide for setting up a DIY Atmos system. If you didn’t see the video, here’s the link: I built an INSANE speaker system CHEAP - YouTube

Here’s what I used, but you can mix this up and use different parts:
2X u2audio7-1 DAC
12X (6 pairs) Dayton B452 airs
Dayton MA1240a (amplifier)
A subwoofer of your choosing
5X minidsp 2x4
speaker wire
speaker stands
Dayton Umm6 measurement mic

Software:
MacOS
Loopback
REW (room EQ wizard) (free)

This 7.1.4 is set up like a normal 7.1 system but with 4 additional speakers above you (top left and right, back left and right)

Mounting the speakers on the ceiling is up to you, I used PVC pipe with 3D printed brackets to keep it cheap.

The each day gets a few set of 3.5mm to RCA cables coming out, these signals pass through the miniDSP 2X4 (two channels per miniDSP, channel 1 and 2), then into the Dayton speaker amp.
Each miniDSP will need USB power to function, BUT it only needs to be plugged into a computer during configuration. Once it’s configured you can plug it into a USB brick on the wall. There are some USB bricks on amazon that have 6-8 plugs pretty cheap.

Connect to each miniDSP and make sure they’re set to stereo (system settings tab in the miniDSP software)
Next make sure ALL of the crossover filters are bypassed on out 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Do this for each miniDSP.
The 12th channel is for your subwoofer.

Once this is done you can install the loopback software and connect your dacs. Here’s some helpful pics of the setup process.


NOTE: We’re creating a virtual 16 channel interface but we only need to set up and route 12 outputs. Don’t ask me why because I’m not sure why, but it needs that virtual 16 channel interface to work well (even though we only route and use 12 channels)


you’ll probably have to click around and shuffle the speakers, basically you’re running the test tone and selecting new channels till you hear the test-tone in the correct position of the room.

These screenshots are from an Apogee PDF on how to setup their symphony IO interface with Atmos, I’ve just adapted their instructions and included dad aggregation.

One troubleshooting note, Ive set this up twice and on the first system it wouldn’t let the 2nd dac hold enough channels so I had to plug up 2 random dacs laying around to fill in the remaining channels and combine them in loopback, this is a simple process but just know if you have a problem with the 2nd cheap dac not working on enough channels, you may have to plug in an additional dac for a few more outputs.

After this you can go one at a time in REW. Before you start running sweeps go to the back of the amp and turn the channel’s volume pot up while playing a test tone in REW (you’ll have to do this with each channel 1 at a time to match volume and get it to a level you want, then start your sweeps measuring the speakers and DSP correcting them with the MiniDSPs. It’s a long process but WELL worth it.
It’s also worth noting that from here on out you’ll be using the volume control on the computer as the master system volume.
(don’t forget to DSP correct your subwoofer also!)

After all this, you should be ready to stream Atmos music and movies in 7.1.4 with 12 channels.

Happy listening! If you have questions I’ll try to check in here occasionally and answer them as well as in the YouTube comments.

12 Likes

Superb work, man. Gosh do I know about what feels like waisting hours upon hours when nothing seems to be working. I was under the impression that mini-dsp (don’t know the brand name) would have some way of resolving all this in one of their gadgets. Great job. Would looove to hear that!

1 Like

Really really cool idea. I might attempt this myself. 1 question though. What speaker amp are you using? That isn’t listed. Because it still needs to be able to power 11 speakers from 1 amp, right? And my follow up question is, how much money does it save versus just getting a 7.1.2 channel atmos receiver? That configuration can get you everything except only 2 height speakers instead of 4 and some are as “low” as $1,200. Do you think the 2 extra height speakers are worth the extra effort?

But really ambitious project. Mad props to you, it must’ve felt so euphoric when you got it to work. Congratulations.

@Jason_Koester It appears this is the amplifier used in the video (AMZN link): https://www.amazon.com/Dayton-Audio-MA1240a-Multi-Zone-Amplifier/dp/B003DKVZHQ

Question as I also have 0 knowledge in this area, what was the mic used for?

1 Like

So this setup is for a 7.1.4. Is it significantly different from a 7.1 setup? I imagine it would be cheaper to only need 4 pairs and find an 8 channel amplifier (if one even exists)

@Jason_Koester @kagome Welcome to HiFiGuides!

1 Like

the .4 is the 4 top speakers. Without any top speakers its not at Atmos setup. You get get by with 2 minimum, but there’s also smaller atmos setups like 5.1.2 and 5.1.4 which are significantly cheaper and have “off the shelf” decoders at reasonable prices.

1 Like

The mic is for measuring the speakers using REW (room EQ wizard) so I can calibrate them (EQ them)

1 Like

Oops! Yes this is the correct amp.

1 Like

This is awesome.
You said that it was cheaper then 2000 dollars, but how much did you pay in the end?
Also could this work for an ‘home cinema’?
(I also know next to nothing about audio systems)
thanks in advance

Great job!
Now that you know it works, would you upgrade the B452s for a home setup? And to what?

(As soon as we talk multichannel I gravitate towards coaxials like my my KEF 5.2)

@Tiarnan_Vanhaverbeke Welcome to HiFiGuides!

Very interesting stuff indeed.

I would guess they where chosen for a combination of price/performance/size. they have nice drivers in a crappy box with none existent crossover(its like 1 cap or something). with help, they sound better then their price. and that crappy box weighs nothing, making it easier to hang. with say magnets from the ceiling. @DMS props on the creative solution.

Someone mentioned it was less than 2k…? But how much.
The thing is there are Dolby receivers in the 2K range also… that are next to “all in one solutions” or plug and play.

Spending maybe that few hundred more to get that all in one and much more simple solution. Would think thats worth it. I would.
7.2.4 solutions are hard and complex to set for the avarage "joe"s out there so DMS solution aint any simpler even if its more budget.

Also maybe the 7.2.4 aint the system for you if saving few hundred breaks the bank?

Well DMS shows us all the components used. If you put it all together, it’s like $1,800, give or take. I can’t find a good looking 7.1.4 receiver (or 11.2 receiver as many places call them) for less than $2,400. And that’s of course not factoring in the cost of speakers. So I’d guess DMS’s approach saves at least $1,000. Which is significant. That’s about a 33% discount.

A big thing I pointed out tho is you can get a 7.1.2 (9.2) channel av receiver for FAR less money. I’ve seen them as low as like $1,200-$1,400. And that will give you everything except you only get 2 vertical speakers instead of 4. And I would think that will still get you 98% of the effect. So honestly if I did it, I’d probably go that route. Or wait awhile until Atmos becomes more established and undoubtedly it’ll become cheaper too.

I think my most important takeaway from this video and this setup, is how good Atmos has the potential to be. I’ve been listening to some Atmos mixes on my headphones, and there’s some that are really good. But I imagine it will sound better on speakers. Because I’ve tried Atmos on my wireless Sony xm4 buds, and they do NOT sound good there lol. So soundstage and spacial sound is definitely needed.

there are options as far as the atmos end is concerned. that doesnt give you dsp though to perfect the sound to your exact taste.

I think DMS did an absolutely wonderful job. Yes, you can spend more, and yes, that would make it sound better most likely, and be easier. But, this is tremendous at the price point. and it allows you to place the speakers roughly where they need to be and let the software do the rest. also means it works much better for a room that isnt a perfect rectangle.

also, if you want to really be cheap, and save a few hundred more, you could skip the dayton 12 channel amp and use 6 mini power amps.

I think this is just a processor only, not an amp. Meaning you would either need all active speakers, or a separate amp. Which would have you end up well above $2,000 again

1100 for the emotiva, 30-40$ for a chifi 50wpc amp x6. looking at around 1300$. the dayton amp is 630, + 5x mini dsp at 120$ each + 2x 38$ dac is about 1300$ as well. but like i said, you dont get the dsp. but you do get more channels.

not trying to sell anything here, reinforcing the fact that i think DMS’s setup would be hard to beat. You could get other versions, that require less effort on the setup, but will also perform worse.

1 Like

Well i should have pointed to used markets, forgot to mention.
Just found a Marantz 11.2 amp for 1.200$ for like 4min searching
Edit: 4min more and one for 700$… so.

New markets are of course pealing the cream with new thing this and new thing that and fancy words.
Have had Atmos 11.2 AVR for like +8 years so they are there for Atmos / channels in mind.
Good looking AVR? Well they all are big vented boxes lol they wont win any beauty bagents any time soon.

Plus the amp that was mentioned.
Dayton MA1240a (amplifier) its 40 Watts per channel RMS at 8 ohms…
Just cant see this powering anything to quality movie levels… mice movie theater?