Dipole vs Bipole vs Direct Radiator Surround Speakers: What do you prefer?

What is the best type of surround speaker?

  • Direct Radiator or Monopole

    Votes: 14 46.7%
  • Dipole (drivers out of phase)

    Votes: 2 6.7%
  • Bipole (all drivers in phase)

    Votes: 6 20.0%
  • Hybrid (dipole/bipole) or manually configurable

    Votes: 8 26.7%

  • Total voters
    30
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
Are you wondering what the best surround speaker is for your home theater system?

Trying to decide on: dipole, bipole and direct radiators?

This article discusses the pros and cons of each.

We provide recommendations on which type of speakers to use for standard 5.1, 7.1 speaker layouts as well as emerging immersive surround formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

Rather than trying to define the “best” surround speaker, it's important to understand what kind of speaker would be the best for your application.




Read: Choosing the Right Surround Speaker: Dipole vs Bipole vs Direct Radiator
 
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j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
Rather than trying to define the “best” surround speaker, it's important to understand what kind of speaker would be the best for your application.
That's the key statement to me. It depends on the setup. I tend to pick large, open rooms and those tend to not lend themselves well to bi/dipoles, so I have been using monopoles in my setups for years with great results.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
To be honest, I think the answer is the best suitable speakers you have around.

When I did this set up the front speakers were new builds.

For the surrounds, I had a nice pair of speakers that I had used as live recording monitors.

They needed to be up high and by good luck the crossover tilt is 15 degrees downward. They used to be bolted to stands with the speakers sloping backwards.

From my previous studio, I had my nice dual TL monitors. I did not have the heart to completely dismantle them. So I redesigned and rebuilt the long line and installed them. The tweeters and mids are well above the backs of the chairs. Again the lobing pattern is 15 degrees downward. For antiphonal SACDs, this makes the rig really shine in this material.

Since they all have the same designer, they all have a tonal balance as close to identical as makes no difference. They all blend well and none stick out or attract undue attention. So I got lucky.

It is incredible on 7.1 material how they can produce seamless lateral imaging. On well engineered movies like War Horse the depth of the lateral sound field is also astonishing.

So my view is press into service whatever you have if you can and its decent.

I don't believe though that the speakers can mismatch the fronts by a very wide margin though, as little as possible. I have heard systems like that, and the surrounds and backs just draw attention to themselves and the system be better off without them.

So, I don't think you can use any old speaker. Any bad speaker in the mix is worse than no speaker.
 
j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
I think you can get away without timbre matched rears (sort of more so for movies), but I agree that it really is a benefit having them matched. With mutlichannel music, it is VERY noticeable that speakers are matched with discs that have a lot of rear content and cross and around the room moving sounds.
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
I voted monopole as it works well in my room setup.. the room not being not very big. My surrounds match my mains and front as they come from the same family.
 
lsiberian

lsiberian

Audioholic Overlord
Apparently I'm the only living person to use full-range bipoles for my front speakers. They are definitely very good speakers when properly placed.
 
G

Gabriel Hebert

Audiophyte
Great article!

I've used both direct radiating and dipoles in the past and found that dipoles had better sound at the time for the small room they were in. I decided to upgrade and I don't quite know what category my new surrounds would fit in. I have a pair of the Martin Logan Electromotion EM-FX2 surrounds and they're mentioned as being "wide dispersion" surround speakers. You can see the design on their website and although the mid-bass driver is front-firing, there is one folded motion transducer at either side, one above and one below the mid-bass and they fire somewhat to the front and side at once...is this design intended to give the best of both worlds? So far I love how they sound.

Opinions?
 
Paul Scarpelli

Paul Scarpelli

Audio Pragmatist
Great article!

I've used both direct radiating and dipoles in the past and found that dipoles had better sound at the time for the small room they were in. I decided to upgrade and I don't quite know what category my new surrounds would fit in. I have a pair of the Martin Logan Electromotion EM-FX2 surrounds and they're mentioned as being "wide dispersion" surround speakers. You can see the design on their website and although the mid-bass driver is front-firing, there is one folded motion transducer at either side, one above and one below the mid-bass and they fire somewhat to the front and side at once...is this design intended to give the best of both worlds? So far I love how they sound.

Opinions?
I haven't heard the EM-FX2, but Martin Logan makes great stuff. The wider dispersion suits most surround applications well. There's nothing in the literature or manual that states if it's a dipole or bipole, but if it's a bipole, it will probably work well in small to moderately-sized rooms. Sensitivity is rated at 93 dB, which would lead me to believe it's a bipole and not a dipole. A dipole, measured in the null, will be down 6-12 dB from what sensitivity would be if the arrays were in phase with each other.
 
walter duque

walter duque

Audioholic Samurai
I am using bipoles now. I had so many rear setup over the years. It all depends on the room. True surrounds I can't have since there is no way to mount them properly (small apartment living). I do think my last rear setup was good. Monopole for rears and custom made surround towers with side firing woofers. It's tough to set up a rear section if you don't have the proper room.

Last rear set up. Worked for me.



Now I am using these. I went from 7.2 to 5.2 for now. One day I will figure out how to wall mount them. At 62# it's not an easy task, besides I do not want to ruin the nice automotive finish on them.

 
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afterlife2

afterlife2

Audioholic Warlord
I have 2 pairs of Wharfedale WH-2 Series Surround Speakers Bi-pole and it works nicely in my 9.1 setup in my small apt.

 
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walter duque

walter duque

Audioholic Samurai
I have 2 pairs of Wharfedale WH-2 Series Surround Speakers Bi-pole and it works nicely in my 9.1 setup in my small apt.

9.1 setup wow. In 2-3 weeks I'll be picking up my side surrounds and (2) 18" passive subs for the rear section. How that's gonna work space wise I have no idea. I had to get the sides (which I really don't need) but I am obligated to get the whole systems since it is one of a kind and the price was right.
 
tyhjaarpa

tyhjaarpa

Audioholic Field Marshall
Monopole all the way for me. Using same towers as mains and surrounds. Works really well for SACD content and movies. For many this is not an option by either price or space they require. If I had to choose surrounds again now I would go the same route. For sure I will suggest at least getting the surrounds from same speaker family to match better.
 
afterlife2

afterlife2

Audioholic Warlord
9.1 setup wow. In 2-3 weeks I'll be picking up my side surrounds and (2) 18" passive subs for the rear section. How that's gonna work space wise I have no idea. I had to get the sides (which I really don't need) but I am obligated to get the whole systems since it is one of a kind and the price was right.
It's also a good thing that my speakers are small or else...Imagine if I had the funds like you and fuzz I'd buy a tech toy everyday. I really love electronics. Enjoy my friend it looks great.
 
walter duque

walter duque

Audioholic Samurai
It's also a good thing that my speakers are small or else...Imagine if I had the funds like you and fuzz I'd buy a tech toy everyday. I really love electronics. Enjoy my friend it looks great.
Both of us don't have the funds, we just have the right connections.
 
A

adidino

Audiophyte
Nice article Paul.

Triad recently started offering their current surround speakers in dipole or bipole. IMO, we will start to see far less dipole speakers in the marketplace as the newest audio codecs (Atmos, DTS-X, Aero) become more common in home installs. I wouldn't be surprised if THX releases an updated speaker layout in the near future which will not include dipole.
 
Paul Scarpelli

Paul Scarpelli

Audio Pragmatist
Nice article Paul.

Triad recently started offering their current surround speakers in dipole or bipole. IMO, we will start to see far less dipole speakers in the marketplace as the newest audio codecs (Atmos, DTS-X, Aero) become more common in home installs. I wouldn't be surprised if THX releases an updated speaker layout in the near future which will not include dipole.
Tony, when I referred to a "speaker manufacturer" in the article, it was actually David Nelson, director of engineering at Triad. The industry is moving away from dipoles, both from software and hardware makers, it appears.
 
C

Constantinos Doulis

Audiophyte
Hello there,

I hope all is well.

Long time reader, first time poster.

My setup: paradigm monitor 11 v6 LR
Paradigm cc290v6 center
Adp390v6 rears (or sides). These are dipoles with a twist, they have dedicated bass woofers on the front.
Yamaha rxv1900 as prepro
Emotiva mono block for each front L/R
Dsp3200.
Panny vt60

Room size 21x23x9. Floating floor(lam)
I have a suspended ceiling making for easy install of the rears. I have the fronts 8 inches away from the wall center 5 inches. My fronts are 75 inches appart, 35 inches from either side wall. My rears are at my sides fairly up high at 7.5 feetish per my paradigm install guide.

I have dipoles that somehow came across my lap without my wife knowing (if you don't hear back from me its because I'm a goner). I want to add them to complete a 7.1 setup. I just finished my fury road steelbook and I must say I am flustered even with Dolby truhd encapsulated in the atmos track.

Should I put my better dipoles at the back or the sides? Historically, are sides or rears used more than another, or is this purely hazardous to the source material? Please note as I sit forward in my room, 100 inches from my TV, the rears would be over 100 inches away in the rear, I estimate 150 inches away.

Thank you for your time.
 
Paul Scarpelli

Paul Scarpelli

Audio Pragmatist
Hello there,

I hope all is well.

Long time reader, first time poster.

My setup: paradigm monitor 11 v6 LR
Paradigm cc290v6 center
Adp390v6 rears (or sides). These are dipoles with a twist, they have dedicated bass woofers on the front.
Yamaha rxv1900 as prepro
Emotiva mono block for each front L/R
Dsp3200.
Panny vt60

Room size 21x23x9. Floating floor(lam)
I have a suspended ceiling making for easy install of the rears. I have the fronts 8 inches away from the wall center 5 inches. My fronts are 75 inches appart, 35 inches from either side wall. My rears are at my sides fairly up high at 7.5 feetish per my paradigm install guide.

I have dipoles that somehow came across my lap without my wife knowing (if you don't hear back from me its because I'm a goner). I want to add them to complete a 7.1 setup. I just finished my fury road steelbook and I must say I am flustered even with Dolby truhd encapsulated in the atmos track.

Should I put my better dipoles at the back or the sides? Historically, are sides or rears used more than another, or is this purely hazardous to the source material? Please note as I sit forward in my room, 100 inches from my TV, the rears would be over 100 inches away in the rear, I estimate 150 inches away.

Thank you for your time.
Assuming you are going to stay with dipoles, put the best ones at the sides, and slightly behind the main seating position, out of the dipole null. Dipole purists will disagree with me, but even ex-THX Tony Grimani has told me if dipoles are used, he prefers them slightly behind the listing position.

I notice your room is wide. If you start over with your surround speakers, consider bipoles, direct-radiating surrounds, or even Dolby Atmos. As stated in the article, the farther the seating is from the listeners; as in a wide room; the worse dipoles work. I prefer direct-radiating rear surrounds in almost any room, other than a small room where seating is near the rear wall.

And remember; no surround surround technology is inherently "better." As stated in the article, it depends upon room acoustics, listening habits, number of seats, proximity to speakers, yaddy-yaddy-yaddy.

I had a dipole come across my lap once. It was very painful and I had to see a urologist.
 

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