Once and for all: Should I buy a dipole surround speaker or are they outdated?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Steve*MH, Sep 10, 2002.

  1. Steve*MH

    Steve*MH Stunt Coordinator

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    How wise is it to purchase a dipole speaker today? Some have said they are outdated with the days of Dolby Pro Logic. Some say dipoles are still the way to go for all surround applications. Some say dipoles are better for movies and not for multichannel music. Now with Ultra2, they suggest dipoles at the sides and direct radiators in the rear. Sounds like a good plan, but what about possible future 10.2? Will the future outdate and obselete the dipole speaker-or is a dipole surround speaker still a good investment? Have a Paradigm Reference front end and Paradigm only makes dipole surrounds--would have to get a different brand for monopole or one that switches.
    Any thoughts are appreciated.
     
  2. Martin Fontaine

    Martin Fontaine Supporting Actor

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    There is nothing wrong in using a regular "Front" speaker as surrounds. In your case, a Studio 20 or 40 would do just fine... Even Studio 100's could work in the back if you're anal!!! I have Titans all around and am very pleased with the sound (The way my room is designed, dipoles wouldn't be a good idea I think)
     
  3. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    Dipoles are an outdated concept in speakers.
    All started because THX wanted to emulate theatrical
    surrounds in home. This was a mistake, IMO, because all
    they were trying to do in theater was cover all those
    seats with sound as well as they could. "Diffusion" via
    speakers is a compromise that only theaters require.
    And they do it with multiple direct-radiating speakers,
    not huge dipoles.
    A recent speaker development using hundreds of DSP driven, pointsource drivers may make this obsolete for theaters as well, they might not need multiple surrounds in the future.
    Direct radiating speakers are the best for home theater
    because they properly duplicate sounds as humans hear them,
    with two ears from a single source. You don't have to rely
    on 2nd and 3rd reflections to "bolster" the sound image,
    and that is what happens when using dipoles in home.
    You also avoid some of the odd "time" errors that crop
    up with dipoles and bipoles.
    Besides, a properly designed direct radiating speaker
    has sufficient spread coverage in the upper frequencies
    to easily accommodate home theaters with multiple seating
    arrangements.
     
  4. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    I don't agree. [​IMG] Most of the info I come across these days still supports the following:
    - Dipoles are still the preferred choice for movie soundtracks. All of DPL, DPL II, DD, DD EX, DTS, DTS-ES. Dipoles are still even specifically mentioned for Logic 7.
    - Direct radiators are preferred for multi-channel music.
    But I will add the following:
    - I actually have bipolars back there, which in my rationalization [​IMG] is the best of both worlds. A little bit more diffuseness for movies, but still good imaging for multichannel music. Remember, even with today's soundtracks, most of info in the surround channels is more of an "ambience" nature, and specifially meant *not* to be localizeable. 2nd and 3rd order reflections causing a problem? Nope, your brain can very easily distinguish between those reflections and direct sound. (Richard Hardesty talkes about this at www.theaudioperfectionist.com. Maybe without the "the".)
    - Placement flexibility. Many people have a lot less flexibility in terms of where to put their surrounds than mains. The *only* direct radiating surround speaker I can think of that is designed to be placed near a wall (actually, mounted on the wall) are the VSM surrounds by Vandersteen (other than in-walls). Otherwise, direct radiators sound much better at least 3 ft from the nearest wall. Dipoles and bipolars are a lot more forgiving when placed close to any wall.
    - But bottom line? If you can: Try different speakers yourself and see what sounds best to you.
    There are a few models out there which are actually switchable.
     
  5. Tony Genovese

    Tony Genovese Supporting Actor

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    RichardMA pronounces:
     
  6. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    I was a strict dipole guy for several years, but went monopole when I recently upgraded. There were several factors involved that lead me to this decision, but I was very concerned that they wouldn't quite do the trick.

    But I've found that, on the whole, I prefer the monopoles. This may be partially due to the fact that my new monopole speakers are superior to my old dipoles, but I actually find I prefer the strengths of the monopoles, on balance, over the strenghts of the dipoles.

    In a nutshell, the monopoles do not reproduce highly ambient sounds as well the dipoles... wind noise, rainstorms, traffic, etc. On the other hand, I now get much better imaging on the sides and the rears, so much so that I removed my center-rear speaker because it was messing up my rear imaging and calling attention to itself in "point-source" sorta way. And it's not just horizontal imaging that's improved with the monopoles, but also vertical imaging.

    Finally, even though the drivers in my previous dipole rears matched my front drivers, I find that the matching monopoles in my new setup are much better matched and integrated with my fronts. I guess this is simply due to the fact that the highly diffuse nature of dipoles somehow changes the timbre to a noticeable extent, even though the drivers were the same.

    I was sceptical, second-guessing myself all the way. Now I'm very happy I went with the monopoles. I'll never go back to dipoles.
     
  7. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    That Tom Holman advocates dipoles is REALLY odd since
    he's the one pushing for 10 channel surround! Do we
    really need dipole spread with 10 speakers?!!
    Imagine the mushy, smeared sound images THAT would produce!
     
  8. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    IMO if you're running a 5.1 set up then maybe dipoles aren't for you but if you are running a 6.1 or 7.1 system having dipoles (or bipoles) on the side with direct rears is a fantastic sounding setup (yes its what I'm running right now)
     
  9. Joe Cole

    Joe Cole Second Unit

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    I have definitive bpx speakers for my rear center in a 7.1 setup.

    They do ok. I have been wondering what speakers would be a good replacement for them. Can anyone make some suggestions?

    I have Martin Logan for my 5.1 set up with aerius i speakers as the side rear. More MLs are not a realistic option due to cost.

    Thank you,
     
  10. Tony Genovese

    Tony Genovese Supporting Actor

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  11. Mark Russ

    Mark Russ Second Unit

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    Go to hometheatermag.com as there is an article about a test they did with a panel of 4 or 5 people about this very subject. You can do a search and find it in the archives. I think it was called surround speaker format wars, or something like that. In short, the majority of the panel liked bipole/dipoles at both side and rear positions, and if a monopole (or direct radiator) has to be used, put them on the sides. That having either one or two monopole direct radiating speakers in the rear was the least favorable option of the panel out of the four possibilities of combinations (direct sides/dipole rears, all monopoles, all dipoles, or dipole side/monopole rear) either with only one rear speaker or two. With 2 rear monopole direct radiators, there is something called the placebo effect (or something like that), where if the human ear hears the exact same sound from 2 different identical sources, it will only hear it from the one closest to it, so if you weren't sitting in the dead center "sweet spot", you would obviously notice it. So if you do use monopole direct radiators, then one is probably better than having two of them.
    I also personally think that for movies anyway, bipole/dipoles are definietly the way to go.

    Here is exactly what the four people in the panel said (notice how 4 out of 4 picked rear dipoles)

    Face Off: Surround-Speaker-Configuration Wars: Page 6

    What Do You Think?
    I've always been big on clear, distinct, directional sound. I want to hear exactly where sounds are coming from. Once the terms monopole and dipole were explained to me, I assumed that monopole speakers were for me—they shoot the sound right at you, so you can hear where it's coming from. This is why I was so surprised with the results of this blind test. I consistently preferred configurations that included dipole speakers. Ultimately, I preferred the all-dipole configuration; however, having at least one set of dipoles (either on the sides or in the back) still filled in the gaps and made me feel like I was a part of the action.
    When it came down to picking between one surround back speaker or two, I definitely preferred two. I still want distinct, directional sound, though. With the rear monopoles, sounds that I thought should be directly behind me often seemed to come from one side. I was pleasantly surprised to find that using dipole speakers in the rear eliminated this problem.

    Of course, the sound is also affected by the listener's location. I happened to be sitting in the exact middle of the room, and the room was a perfect rectangle with no open doorways or windows. (These people at HT take their listening seriously.) From this location, I definitely preferred all dipoles with a dual-rear-speaker configuration. However, I also thought the sound was good with monopoles on the sides, as long as dual dipoles were used in the rear.—Brandon Dahl

    I showed up at the studio on a sunny Saturday afternoon, ready to sacrifice my day to the cause of better sound. After eating a Carl's Jr. Superstar and fries (Mike's bribe to get us there), I was ready to sit back and let my ears do the work. We compared the common 5.1 speaker setup with 6.1- and 7.1-channel configurations and then compared both dipole and monopole versions of those arrangements.

    Unlike the other listeners, I liked having just one speaker for the back channel, although I did like the sound of the dipole more than that of the monopole. With two speakers in the back, there was almost too much going on. Sound seemed to bounce around. In a room larger than the one I was digesting in (which was 21 feet by 15 feet), two speakers may be necessary. But in a room the size of HT's listening room (or smaller), one speaker was just fine. With one dipole, I thought the sound was clearer, but not to the point of being distractingly obvious. It seemed to add a more even flow when sounds traveled from the right surround speaker to the left. I'd say that you can't really go wrong either way. Two surround back speakers are better than none, but, in my opinion, one was simply more satisfying.—John Martorano

    Apparently, we didn't have any die-hard Quadraphonic fans on our listening panel. Whenever I espouse the benefits of dipole speakers for surround sound, I'm usually yelled at by some older (or, shall I say, more chronologically experienced) gentleman who says that Quad was the best. These folks always insist, sometimes violently, that surround systems should, like old Quad systems, consist of five identical full-range loudspeakers. These people seem to forget that five full-range speakers are impractical for the vast majority of users and that Quad was, like 8-track, a colossal failure.

    That being said and having witnessed the outcome of our direct-versus-diffuse, single-versus-dual Surround EX speaker configuration Face Off (by far the most wordy Face Off title ever), I can continue to recommend dipole speakers for the majority of installations. Sure, for the handful of action movies that utilize discrete effects for a small portion of the film, monopole speakers might be better. However, to me, the benefits these speakers may add to those scenes don't outweigh the distractions they cause with other, more-ambient sounds. Dipoles, on the other hand, only soften the more-discrete effects while enhancing the majority of diffuse sounds. Besides, since the people who like the bizarre or, as Jason put it, "creative" mixing of some 5.1 music CDs are likely the same people who liked Quad stereos, I don't care if they complain. They were going to anyway, assuming they even made it past the first paragraph. For the rest of us, dipoles will offer enveloping sound that won't distract from the action onscreen. —Mike Wood

    Of the various surround setups we listened to, I preferred the dual rear Surround EX speakers, as opposed to the single one. I liked the fuller, more-enveloping sound. Even though the EX channel is a decoded mono channel, the two rear speakers seemed to create a rear stereo effect.

    In the dual-rear-surround speaker configuration, I preferred monopole side surrounds with dual dipoles in back. This seemed to offer the best of both worlds on software that has discretely placed surround information and software that has diffused ambient surround sounds. However, the all-dipole surround system came in a very close second and seemed to do almost as good on making the discrete/localized information just as aggressive and exciting. More tests with other EX software might be helpful.

    I preferred monopoles for the multichannel music software that was "creatively" mixed with a different instrument in each channel and dipoles for the traditional "ambient/audience/ reverb" surrounds.

    All things considered, I'd go with the monopole side surrounds and dual dipole back surrounds, as this setup offers more flexibility. And, if you can switch your speakers like the M&Ks, all the better.—Jason Koehler



    If you have a denon 3802, you can hook up 2 different pairs of back surround speakers and then simply switch between them. Why not get both a pair of monopole direct radiators to put on stands at ear level in the back corners for future 5.1 music only sources such as DVD audio/SACD, AND a pair of bipole/dipoles to put towards the center of the rear wall, along with a side wall pair of dipole/bipoles? That way, you can have the best of both worlds for both music and movies. You could also do this with any other brand amp/receiver by simply adding a speaker selector to the rear channel.
     
  12. Phill O

    Phill O Stunt Coordinator

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    Just to keep it short. I'm with RichardMA on this issue.
    Oh yeah we both share similar views on THX as well.
    I guess I'm a direct kinda guy[​IMG] But if YOU like dipoles,
    then that's OK too. I don't live in your house...Unless
    you want to sponsor a starving student[​IMG]
     
  13. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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    I use direct-radiating surrounds, and a single omni-polar speaker in the back (essentially a bi-polar speaker with woofers firing up/down and tweaters firing left/right at an angle). I think this combination works well for me.

    I've always thought that the suggestion of using dipoles on the sides and direct-radiators in the back was strange; it seems to me you want the "better" speakers on the side since they'll be most responsible for imaging, directional effects, and music in the soundtrack. The back channel is mono-aural, and seems to be weaker in most of the mixes I've heard, consisting mostly of ambient noise and "filling-in" the gap between the l/r surrounds for panning effects. Also, as others have mentioned, direct-radiating l/r surrounds make the most sense for multi-channel music.
     
  14. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    I'm with Richard,
    The surrounds play certain sources sometimes like a raptor screeching. What happens is our ears perceive this info from both surrounds and the image of a single raptor is put directly behind the listener (or on top).
    With a dipole you get a wider image of a raptor behind you, but so do the rest of the ppl in the HT.
    I think dipoles are more like Bose-type direct/reflect speakers. If you like the multi-tweeter sound in a surround then I guess it fits. Dipoles are perfect for rain and ambient noises that really fill up the environment. But for discrete noises I think direct speakers are better.
    I guess you guys will have to wait for the new surround format that switches from dipolar to direct sounds during a movie. [​IMG]
    Soon it'll be like: I have L and R center + L and R for the fronts. I have dipole surrounds and direct surrounds + a L/R/C for the back channel and sub. (11.1)
     
  15. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Mark- Thanks for putting that info in here.

    If/when I go 7.1 from 6.1, it will be with bipole sides and dipole rears...
     

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