Solved! Budget 5.1 System for Odd Room Layout


Jul 18, 2012
I am looking into upgrading my Aunt’s sound system. They currently have a cheap sound bar that’s not loud enough, and they have a hard time hearing dialog in certain movie scenes. There is currently no subwoofer. I was thinking of doing a 5.1 setup. But their budget is around $500, maybe slightly higher if really necessary. I think this would put a receiver with a passive sound bar combination out of reach. A SONOS Beam and 2 PLAYS:1s in the back would probably be obtainable within budget on black friday, but the SONOS subwoofer would put the system way over. And they don’t need the system for music, just TV. Is there a system where both rear surrounds can wirelessly communicate independently? I looked into Bose sound link a while back, but it had almost no customization for balancing things and stuff.
I also looked into doing in ceiling speakers to get more control over speaker placement (front speakers further apart)). This is a retrofit, and the joists in the picture run left to right. So I can run the speaker wire behind crown molding vertically down the room and horizontally through each bay. But since each speaker would end up in a separate bay, if there turn out to be pipes or something in one of the bays, that would really mess things up placement wise. For this option, I was thinking $180 to $220 for a refurbished 5.1ch receiver, 5x $40 8inch ceiling speakers ($200), a subwoofer ($100), plus the little things like speaker wire.
The dotted line in the pictures is a wall up to about waist height, one of the speakers would sit on it, at or slightly below ear level when sitting.
Any feedback?

Example photos here:



A 5.1 system won't help much with dialog since it would still come out mainly on the center channel, just like with the sound bar. You may want to check out some sound bars that have a dialog booster option, or move the speaker closer to where they sit.
Is the old system not loud enough or not clear enough? Or both?
They are not the same thing. From your description they need clarity not more volume.
I would forget about the surround speakers right now since they won't contribute at all to clarity and not very much to overall volume since they won't play at all most of the time.
If you want to go with Sonos I would just get the Playbar. It sounds better and plays louder than the Beam. Add the sub next and the surrounds last.
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