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Bipole or Multiple Direct Radiating Surrounds?

4480 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Chris in Dallas
I'm building a fully active HT system, and am planning to use identical speakers all around. They would be bookshelf-size, with response down to about 60 Hz, crossed into a pair of sonosubs around 70 Hz. I have plenty of amplifier channels, so that is not an issue at all. The room will be roughly 14x20, oriented the long way. Ceiling height will vary from about 9' at the center (across the short span) to about 6'4" at the front and back. Currently planning on two permanent rows of seating (with room for more temporary seating, such as pillows on the floor in front).

My question is this: Should I go with multiple identical direct-radiating side surrounds, or with single (or multiple) bipole side surrounds? What about in the back? I can also use direct radiating speakers, but wire them out of phase with each other to create bipole speakers in separate cabinets, effectively.

In commercial theaters, they use multiple identical direct radiating surrounds to create a diffuse effect. Can I, should I, go for the same thing? I find the idea of 9 or 11 identical speakers appealing, and it sure would make building easy.
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If you are only going to have two surround speakers on the sides, go with a dipole setup. That will create the best diffuse soundfield for the rears at multiple listening positions.

If you are going to have just two speakers on the back wall, then direct radiating would most likely be better, but not necessarily as diffuse (i.e. you can localize the point source).

If you can go with four speakers, you can put dipoles on the side walls and direct radiating in the rear for a 7.1 setup.

As for the "real theater" setup. They have much larger volumes to fill and the speakers are farther away from the listening positions. This gives more time/space for all the speakers to integrate in your brain and make them sound diffuse. It also lessens the likelihood of being exactly halfway between two speakers and getting a weird interference pattern. In a much smaller room with only a few speakers lining the walls, you stand a good chance of being in a weird peak/null between two speakers.

Of course, this all being said, I have seen each of the arrangements I just mentioned in actual houses and they all sounded pretty good. I definitely prefer the dipole rear sound over the others, though.
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