Can I Use Bipolar Side Surrounds in an Atmos Setup?

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Q I read your response to a reader who asked about using dipolar speakers as surrounds in an Atmos system. You recommended “losing any side-mounted dipole surround speakers in the system and replacing them with properly positioned direct-radiating models.” Does that same advice hold for bipolar surrounds? My system has Definitive Technology Bipolar towers up front and I had planned to replace the existing rear surround speakers (Polk 6-inch, 2-way direct-radiating bookshelf models) with Def Tech bipolar speakers. Should I retain the Polks as surrounds, or move forward with my plan to go all-in with bipolar? —Darryl Brooks, via email

A You could easily keep your Polk bookshelf speakers to use as the surround speakers in your Atmos system, but there’s also no reason why you couldn’t use bipolar speakers as surrounds. Unlike dipolar surround speakers, a now-outmoded design that was meant to produce maximum ambience and minimal sound localization in typical home viewing environments during the Dolby Pro Logic era, a bipolar speaker offers most of the same performance characteristics as a direct-radiating speaker. Bipolar surrounds likely would also make a better sonic match with the Definitive Technology bipolar towers in your system.

To quote Sandy Gross, founder of Definitive Technology and a longtime advocate for bipolar designs, who commented on the item referenced above: “A bipolar speaker, unlike a dipole, has the front and rear drivers in phase with each other, rather than out of phase. It is in some ways similar to an omnidirectional speaker with some drop off to the sides but not full cancellation as you get with a dipole. Bipolar speakers normally would be oriented with the front drivers pointed at the listener and work fine as surround speakers in all surround setups.”

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