The charm of monopoles

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Cameron Yee, May 10, 2002.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer

    May 9, 2002
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    Since 2006
    Real Name:
    Cameron Yee
    Please forgive me if anyone is tired of the whole monopole vs. dipole surrounds debate. Ultimately I do believe it comes down to one's preference, so what follows will just be my personal observations and experiences with both types of speakers.

    For the past year or so I've been using a pair of Polk f/x300i dipole/bipole surrounds, trying them in different locations and in both modes. Ultimately what seemed to suit my room best was dipole mode, mounted on the side walls 8.5 feet up and in line with the listening position. Even though I found what I think is the optimal location I was still very curious how a pair of monopoles would sound, situated in their respective optimal locations. Since my main speakers are JBL S38s and an S-Center I was also curious whether timbre matched surrounds would make a difference in the overall experience.

    I've tried out pair of JBL S26s, placed 5.5 feet up, on the side walls, a couple feet behind the listening position and facing into the room (per the Dolby recommendations). After listening to my usual reference films (Star Wars Episode 1, The Matrix and Heat) I can certainly see the appeal of monopoles and might even say I prefer them to the dipoles. The surround field is much tighter but by sacrificing the expansiveness of the dipoles there's a gain in clarity of effects. Scenes like the pod race in Phantom Menace have a stronger directional force in front-to-back pans, creating a more dynamic viewing experience. Diffuse sounds are not as diminished as I would have thought and ultimately I think the combination of diffusion and directionality is more balanced with monopoles. Having direct radiating surrounds is therefore not as distracting as I thought they would be.

    Having a pair of surrounds timbre matched to my fronts also helps with the z-axis pans. The Polks always sounded brighter than the JBLs, so I was never quite happy with that obvious shift. I will of course listen to the same scenes again, many times, as well as try other material. I welcome any comments you might have on the subject!
  2. MarkFrab

    MarkFrab Agent

    Feb 10, 2000
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    I definitely prefer mono-pole surrounds in a 5.1 system. I haven't had a chance to try various 7.1 mixes and speakers - I suspect there might be some differences there but I'm not sure.
    Many people say that using bi/dipole speakers will give you more of a "cinema" experience due to the diffuse nature of the sound - kind of the Bose direct/reflecting "wall of sound"... it just feels big, you know?
    However, I am of the opinion that a decent quality home theater sound system beats the pants off the "cinema" experience. With properly configured mono-poles you can pinpoint precisely where the sound is originating.
    The benefits of this should be obvious, but how about a specific example: with my Xbox running Halo connected to my home theater equipment, I can tell that a shot came from about the 5 o'clock position behind me. I know how to turn quickly to that point and dodge while doing it... Result: one dead critter. [​IMG] With dipoles all I could tell was that there was something shooting at me from behind - somewhere. I have to duck and then look for the bad guy - wasting precious seconds and probably getting blasted in the process. Now I'm the dead critter. [​IMG]
    Why dumb-down your home-theater sound so that it's only as good as a "cinema" when it can be so much better than one?

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