Who has switchable surrounds?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ralph Summa, Apr 11, 2002.

  1. Ralph Summa

    Ralph Summa Supporting Actor

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    I will be upgrading my speakers in the next few months and have been looking for a 6.1 set-up, with bookshelf speakers as mains, that is under $2,000. I have been looking at manufacturers that feature switchable surrounds. I like the flexibility that switchable surrounds would give me for music (30%) and TV/DVD(70%).

    I am leaning toward the following Cambridge Soundworks system to go with my Yamaha HTR 5490 receiver.

    M-80 Mains

    Center Stage (for Front Center)

    MC300 Center (for Rear Center)

    S300 Surrounds (Switchable Dipole/Monopole)

    P500 Sub

    This set-up rounds out to about $1,850 shipped, using Hi-Fi.com's current promotion.

    For those of you with switchable surrounds, do you enjoy the flexibility? Would you have rather gone with a speaker that was exclusively monopole or dipole? Since I do watch twice as much TV should I just go with dipole surrounds? When I listen to music, I do use the 6 channel stereo mode on my Yamaha. Would dipole speakers be at a disadvantage in this situation?

    Thanks,

    Ralph

    Moderator, please move to speakers and subwoofers forum. Sorry!
     
  2. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    I'm afraid I'm not a big fan of either Cambridge SW speakers or the "switchable" speakers.
    To my mind, there are 2 problems with switchable rear speakers:
    - You really should change the level-adjustment when you flip from direct to indirect sound.
    - You really should mount/position the speakers differently depending upon them being direct, dipole, or bipolar.
    The Level Adjustment issue is easy. Just level adjust for direct radiation and note the numbers on your receiver. Then flip to indirect and re adjust. Note these numbers. Just make sure to reset the numbers in the receiver when you flip the mode for the speakers.
    The placement/mounting issue is more difficult:
    Direct Radiator - While they sound better with space around them, these dont depend upon the rear/side walls so you CAN mount them right on the walls or on stands pulled into the room. These are probably the most flexable & accurate type of speaker.
    Dipolar - You should mount these ON the walls, and orriented to fire along the walls (hoping you have large un-broken areas around them). You hear the sounds reflected off the walls. But due to the reflected nature of the sound, this is the least accurate type of speaker - a big problem for music.
    Bipolar - To take advantage of the bipolar nature, these speakers should really be pulled into the room 3 feet from any rear wall to give the back-echo sound a delay time. This means you need lots of space behind your seats.
    Done correctly, your room will sound larger/smaller in sync with the movie. This is a cool effect for movies, and gives you an ampatheater type sound for music.
    My system? I have bipolar towers in the front and direct-radiator bookshelves for the rears. (I have a crappy back wall and no side-walls to speak of.)
    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Ralph Summa

    Ralph Summa Supporting Actor

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    Bob,
    That helps a lot. Based on what you said, I'm probably better suited for plain old direct radiating speakers. My HT is in my livingroom and the main listening/viewing position (couch) is against a wall. I want to wall mount speakers over the couch about 9' apart, which would put the mains and surrounds facing each other in a 9' x 12' square. The room is wide open and about 24' x 12'. The mains are situated in a built in entertainment center so there is not much flexibility with their positioning. Maybe this will make it a little more clear. I plan on bringing the bookshelf speakers to the front of the top shelf so they don't resonate. (Yes those are Bose cubes and I got them very cheap through a company program when I was young and didn't know any better!) Do you see any issues with that positioning?
    Ralph
    P.S. Why don't you like CSW? I always thought of them as having a great rep for build and value.
     
  4. SidH

    SidH Agent

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    Ralph,

    I have a very similar room layout (a couch up against the rear wall) and I was mulling over precisely the same issues. In my case, the surrounds must also be mounted at least 8 feet high.

    With respect to what Bob was saying, I believe that bipole speakers meant for surround duty (e.g. CSW, Definitive, Mirage, Polk, etc.) are also designed for wall mounting. They generally have a triangular or trapezoidal shape with the driver baffles at an angle to the front axis. This is different from bipolar front speakers that fire directly forward and behind and thus really need to be away from the wall.

    I decided against bipoles because I wasn't crazy about the idea of them firing above my head - too much detail would get lost. On the other hand, having monopoles firing directly at the listening position would go too far the other way.

    I ended up ordering some Boston Acoustics Bravo speakers, which are monopoles in the shape of a quarter cylinder. I intend to mount them where the rear wall meets the ceiling. A recent review in Sound & Vision noted that corner mounting these speakers creates a more diffused effect. I guess I'm going to find out!

    I like the idea of having speakers with switchable polar configurations, and I think they could work well in the right room. But not mine, alas.

    BTW, one thing about the S300 I didn't like was that the bipole and dipole settings use only the side-firing 2.5" drivers, so the frequency response cuts off at 10Khz.

    Sid
     
  5. Ralph Summa

    Ralph Summa Supporting Actor

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    Sid,

    I like the Bravos a lot. I really like the flexibility in positioning them, but I kind of wrote them off when I went on this switchable surrounds kick. I guess I never realized that switchable speakers would be such a pain. I may have to give the Bravos another look.

    Ralph
     
  6. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Ralph: while that is a nice looking entertainment center, it's usually a bad idea to put speakers into an enclosed "box". It will give kind of a "rock in a tin-can" echo.
    A few days ago someone with a similar setup stuffed some old blankets in the cubby's with his speaker and noticed a improvement in sound. It helped muffle the echo. You might try the same thing as an experiment. If it works, go to www.partsexpress.com and buy a roll of the acoustically-transparent cloth. Make a frame for those cubby holes and cover it with the cloth. Now you can stuff the holes and hide the speakers/blankets with the frame. This might be your best bet doing a compromise between good sound & good looks.
    A lot of people like the Swan Diva speakers. They have a rosewood finish that might complement your entertainment center. Perhaps enough to put thin speaker stands outside the center. (I'm only recommending buying speakers for the looks because a lot of people really like the way they sound.)
    Check out www.cheaphometheater.com for a speaker-comparison where the Diva's won. You can also do a search on "Diva" and find lots of discussion.
     
  7. Mark Ro

    Mark Ro Agent

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    I recently bought a pair of the M80's ($280/pair) and the MC300 ($160) for my center channel. I am very happy with the setup. Before I had a Boston Accoustic setup. The m80's are a little lite on the base but with the p500 it will be fine. The sales rep at the store near me gave me brand new speakers for the price of "B-stocks". Hope this helps.
     
  8. Ralph Summa

    Ralph Summa Supporting Actor

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    I have been thinking about stuffing those cubbies and putting speaker cloth in the opening for a while now. Once I get my new speakers, I will make the decision based on expirimenting results. I have to place the speakers on those shelves at least for now. I came to that conclusion when I found a tinker toy resting in the front facing port of my floor standing speakers! Thankfully there is a screen on the inside of the port!

    I do like the looks of the Divas as well, and the user feedback on their performance is incredibly positive. I originally wasn't keen on buying before hearing them, but they do have a great return policy. It may be tough getting a single Diva speaker for a rear center though. I struggled with that a great deal when I looked around. The C3 is way too big to be wall mounted. Would a dipolar R3 work well for a rear surround? One reason I was originally drawn to the Boston Acoustics Bravo is that it would be an easy install for a 6.1 set up in my HT.

    Ralph
     
  9. ThomasL

    ThomasL Supporting Actor

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    Ralph, I own a pair of S300s. What Sid says is correct although CSW gave me specs that said they handle up to 15Khz in dipole/bipole modes. For me, the price of a pair of these was the same as getting a pair of monopoles that would fit into the setup in my room and meet with a higher WAF rating. I have them mounted on half moon shelves in the rear corner of my room (which is 12.5 x 13.5) about 2 feet above one's ears in the listening position. It's not ideal but it gets the job done. I also have a pair of M50s inside my entertainment center much like you have. I'd just make sure that the M80s (will they fit in your entertainment center openings?) are flush with the front or stick out a little. This should help cut down on the effect Bob mentioned.

    cheers,

    --tom
     

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