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What Type of Surround Speakers Do You Use?

Back in March, I asked what is your main speaker configuration, and 52 percent of respondents picked 5.1, with another 28 percent saying 7.1. So now I wonder what type of surround speakers you use—bipole, dipole, and/or monopole.

What's the difference? Bipole and dipole surround speakers include two sets of drivers that fire more or less in opposite directions—with bipoles, the drivers are in phase, while a dipole's drivers are out of phase, creating a null region along the central axis between the drivers. Monopoles are simply conventional direct-radiating speakers with a single set of drivers that many prefer for multichannel music, but they don't create a diffuse surround soundfield that benefits most movie soundtracks.

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice, especially if you use a combination in a 7.1 system. What combo do you use, and why?

What Type of Surround Speakers Do You Use?
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Jarod's picture

I currently use monopole speakers for my surrounds in my 5.1 system but I am saving to replace them with bipoles as I have found I prefer the sound of the latter for movies. Scott I noticed in the diagrams that the dipole/bipole speakers are not directly across from one another on the walls. Is this the prefered setup for di/bipoles? I will be installing bipole speakers on my side walls shortly and I was going to put them directly across from one another. Is that not a good idea? The model I am purchasing is the Polk Audio FXiA4 and they will be 20 ft apart. Thanks.

uavK.Reid's picture

Definitive Technology BPVX Surround Speakers - Full Range surround speakers are great for uncompressed audio in movies. When I switched to these, I noticed a marked increase in the surround envelope. It was a wow moment.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
The diagrams here show the typical placement of dipoles (directly to the sides of the listening position) and bipoles (somewhat behind the listening position). In both cases, the side surrounds are directly across from each other.

The FXiA4 has a switch that lets you select bipole or dipole operation, but that applies only to the tweeters, which face in more or less opposite directions. However, there is only one woofer, and the manual says nothing about whether it should be facing forward or backward (assuming they come in mirror-image pairs); if they are not mirror-image pairs, it doesn't matter. Select dipole for a more diffuse surround soundfield and place them directly to the sides of your listening position; select bipole for a less diffuse soundfield and place them somewhat behind the listening position but still directly across from each other.

Steve27's picture

My first system had bipoles as surrounds.
These were replaced with monopoles a few years ago.
The monopoles are positioned slightly behind and angled down towards the listening position.
I find that you can hear all the detail in the surround mix with the monopoles.
The bipoles gave a more diffuse surround sound and lost about 50% of the detail.
I like using my system for multi-channel music as well and so for these reasons it has to be monopoles.

Apone's picture


I use MK SS150 Tripole surround speakers. They are an older model that can be switched between Tripole mode, a THX Dipole mode and as a Direct radiator.

My couch is against a back wall on the room. In Tripole mode, they work as a direct radiator (monopole) that fires straight across the listening position when placed to the sides of the listening position AND have two side firing drivers that fire to the front of the room and the rear.

I had the speakers to either side of the couch (3ft above seated ear height) in a Tripole mode for years and years. Recently i changed the position of the speakers to go on the floor behind the couch firing up along the rear wall.

I never thought it would work but i am blown away on how much better the surround soundfield is! :)

I get better sense of surround information now and also 'height' information that is behind me even though the speakers are sitting on the floor and the speakers are now 'behind' the listening position instead of above it and to the sides.

This goes against conventional wisdom in the positioning of these surround speakers (or any on wall surround speakers i think) but the effect produced is uncanny, it really is. The couch is leather backed and the back wall is brick so i also use an Audyssey Sound Equalizer for all 5.1 channels.

This method of use was recommended to me by Barry Ober who was Cheif Technical guru at the old US M&K Sound speaker company. He said i would be suprised and boy am i suprised!


Jarod's picture

Cool thanks for the help Scott!

JustinGN's picture

I use B&W 685s for my surrounds, bi-wired with some nice Belden cable from BJC. They're monopole, but in my small room (and their current placement), the surround field is almost perfect (there's a small gap in the precise back center of my head, where they can't reach due to position of the speakers relative to the rear wall and sofa). In smaller rooms, I think a good set of bookshelf speakers used for the rears is a better proposition, but that's my personal preference. Were I to build out a proper, dedicated theater, I'd probably make use of the dipoles B&W makes, like their DS3, so I could have a solid "sphere" of audio. I'd also make use of a dipole if I expand my current 5.1 to a 6.1 setup.

In the end though, I just selected speakers I thought sounded best when I chose the surrounds. If they're good enough to pull front speaker duty, then you know they'll perform fantastically in a surround format. All the fancy tech in the world doesn't mean squat if it doesn't sound good, right?

Steve Caliendo's picture

My normal listening is 50% Movies/TV, 30% Games & 20% Music.

I have four Aperion Audio Intimus 4BP Bipole surrounds for both the side surrounds and the rear surrounds in a 7.1 system. The reason I chose bipoles over monopoles was because the ideal SL position for my room happens to be out in space with no side walls nearby--the SR speaker is up against the side wall as is my couch. Plus, bipoles by their nature seem to work better as surrounds in space than monopoles or even dipoles for that matter. Both my SL and SR speakers are up on stands 2-3 feet above and slightly behind the primary listening position.

The rear bipole surrounds are up even higher at the back of the room, each about a foot from the side walls and roughly 17 feet from the primary listening position.

This setup works great for me as I perceive very good surround imaging for movies/tv/games. When I do listen to music, the entire 13 x 24 space if filled nicely with sound.

The only drawback to this setup is that because my home theater room is also my family room and due to the never-to-be-discounted WAF, I do have to move the SL speaker stand next to the SR when not in use. :-)

samuels's picture

I listen to a lot of music. My surround system is mainly used for music playback. Sacd, dvda, music dvds, and music concerts on blu ray and hd dvd. And oh yes, I almost forgot, laserdisc.
I even like to view a good movie every now and then in the highest playback quaility I can provide it. But it is music my first Love. It's taken me about ten years to put together this system and I am very pleased with it. Sony ES TAE 9000ES PRE AMP,TAP 9000ES PRE AMP, TAN 9000ES POWER AMP, NS 999ES SACD DVD PLAYER ,Carver av 705 Power amp, Pioneer Elite VSX 03thx reciever, Oppo bdp-83 bluray, Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD. Speakers Polk Audio cs1000p center,lsi 15 fronts, rt1000i rear, lsi7 back, psw1200 sub,and a Cambrige soundworks psw1 12" sub. Samsung plasma 50". The Sony system is for music and the Pioneer and Oppo is for movies. I can live with whatever shortcomings for movies but for music it 's great. The music moves without gaps in the rear soundfield and sound as one.

DS-21's picture

I've found the subjectively most appealing surround sound presentation to be an unorthodox layout: constant directivity* monopole speakers (coincident or Dual Concentric drivers) mounted above the listening position and turned such that the baffles face the ceiling. That gives a nice combination of uniform spectral balance and diffuse presentation, that I've preferred in five different rooms in three different homes over the past six years, compared to the same speakers firing at the listening position or used as de-facto dipoles (two speakers wired out of phase and placed back-to-back). And yes, every time I tried them in both directions.

Perhaps someone who designed a system for movie effects might prefer a different layout. I designed mine for the enjoyment of music, both discrete multichannel and 2-channel expanded to 5.1 by matrixing (DPL2/Neo6).

The setups have included the following combinations:
Room 1:
-KEF Q15/Q95c up front, KEF Q-Compact in the side and rear spots.
-Three Tannoy System 8 NFM II's up front, KEF Q-Compact in the side and rear spots.
-Three Tannoy System 8 NFM II's up front, Tannoy i8AW in the side and rear spots.
-Three Tannoy System 12 DMT II's up front, Tannoy i8AW in the side and rear spots.

Room 2:
-Two Tannoy CPA12's with a Tannoy System 12 DMT II in the middle, Tannoy System 800's in the side spots.

Room 3:
-Three Tannoy System 12 DMT II's up front, Tannoy System 800 in the side spots
-Three bespoke speakers based on the Tannoy System 12 DMT II up front, Tannoy i8AW in the side and rear spots

Room 4:
-KEF Q-Compact and Q6c center, KEF Q-Compact sides.

Room 5:
-KEF KHT3005SE front and center speakers, KEF HTS1005 in the side spots

andrerossi's picture

Definitive Technology BPVX Surround Speakers - Full Range surround speakers are awesome for uncompressed audio in movies. I also use wireless outdoor speakers, but that's another story...

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