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Dipole effect speakers
Diffuse sound dispersion through effect loudspeakers
When mixing soundtracks, the sound engineer assumes that the back part of a cinema will contain an array of loudspeakers attached to the walls. This arrangement ensures that the sound reaches the listeners from different sources so that it can’t be localized. Only then with theater goers enjoy an immersion surround sound experience that puts them right in the action.
Every modern cinema has a multitude of side and rear speakers responsible for the playack of surround sound effects. So that the sound appears to originate naturally within the room, the sound engineers mix the soundtracks in such a way that a great number of reflections will create an impressive surround sound atmosphere.
In a home cinema, this elaborate loudspeaker arrangement cannot, of course, be replicated. The solution, therefore, is to employ full-range dipoles. Full range dipoles are special loudspeakers that radiate sound forward and backwards. If positioned correctly, the result will be an immersive sound with no individual parts being localizable by the listener.
When purchasing dipole speakers, it’s important to pay special attention to the technical descriptions, because not all loudspeakers that call themselves “full-range dipoles” actually are. Some manufacturers save on the midbass drivers by not including this important transducing element on one of the dipole sides. The lack of the lower midrange is usually compensated for by an extra tweeter - not an arrangment that is likely to produce a realistic soundstage.
Because dipole speakers are so important for creating a cinema atmosphere, it would be wrong to replace them with direct sound transducers in the back. Direct sound transducers will not offer the same diffuse character and atmospheric associations that the sound engineer intended his or her soundtrack to have. Only diffusely radiating effect channels allows a dimensional atmosphere to come into being, and this is true regardless whether a Western prairie or crowded disco is being depicted on screen.
Tips on dipole speaker setup
It’s possible to imitate the exact effect of multiple side and rear speakers as used by cinemas at home with just two rear effect speakers, but the result is best when the back speakers are dipoles. Since they have baffles on opposing sides, dipoles are able to radiate sound to the front and back of the room resulting in an excellent surround sound environment. The only precondition is that you have space to position these speakers properly in your living room. Dipoles should be placed parallel to the listening position and there should ideally be at least 50 cm of space between them and the back wall so that the sound can radiate without hindrance. If you need to sit directly against the wall, it’s recommended that the dipole speakers be placed at an angle. Even if the distance to the wall is only a few centimeters, the surround sound effect created by rear effect dipole speakers will be better than with conventional direct sound transducers.
Of course, regular speakers that only radiate sound from one side can also be used as rear effect speakers. Included in this category are even compact floor-standing and bookshelf speakers. There are, thankfully, acoustic tricks that can be employed to create a more diffuse and 3-dimensional sound with just about any speaker, such as angling the baffles towards side walls or the ceiling. By directing the sound towards a surface, it’s possible to create an impressive surround sound with even smaller budget speakers.
Independently of whether you use dipoles or direct sound transducers, the following applies: Surround sound speakers should never be positioned in such a way that they radiate directly into the ear of the listener. If the sound reaches the listener directly, it can be more precisely localized and the impression of being inside an expansive soundstage will diminish.
It’s also important to bear in mind that exaggerated sound from the rear effect speakers can cause the soundtrack to lose its feeling of authenticity. It’s therefore a good idea to precisely adjust the levels of your loudspeakers. A level meter will give you the best results.
Before purchasing speakers, you should answer the following questions:
Will I be sitting close to the speakers?
Does my living room contain a lot of curtains and carpeting that could dampen the room acoustics?
If you answer yes to either, it is especially important that the surround sound speakers radiate their sound indirectly towards the listening position, something that is best achieved by dipoles. If, however, you are able to sit further away from the rear speakers or if your room reflects sound well, you can employ regular speakers in the back as well.
How to achieve high-impact surround sound at home
With multichannel audio technologies such as Dolby Digital or dts, surround sound for music playback is becoming increasingly popular. With multichannel music playback, the rear speakers perform a job very similar to their use in movie sound: They are responsible for creating a diffuse and spacious atmosphere. The main strains of the music is mostly carried by the front speakers. The odd exception such as Denon’s experimental Mahler Symphonie No. 5 produced in Dolby Digital prove the rule.