• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Omnidirectional speakers and or surround sound

milezone

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
May 27, 2019
Messages
40
Likes
6
#1
Omnidirectional speakers like MBLs seem to inspire lots of debate and skepticism. The variables -- room reflections -- that emerge from omni-speakers lead me to wonder whether such a design is worthwhile. Peter Walker, the designer of the original Quad electrostatics, whose opinion I trust... said the best speaker transducer design is a pulsating sphere -- a single omnidirectional point source. It seems this notion has become an obsession for some in the audiophile community. I suppose this makes sense outdoors or in infinite space but does such a design make sense in a room with walls and finite boundaries that can pose issues with regards to reflections. The advantage theoretically is perfect dispersion.

I've never heard a pair of MBL speakers, however it seems the non-skeptical and or ignorant audiophile with deep pockets, unanimously settles on these as the greatest speakers around. My enjoyment of various dipole speakers -- electrostatic speakers and ribbons -- and my observation of many favorable opinions, leads me to believe I would enjoy MBLs. The size -- seemingly an overbuilt implementation of an interesting idea as the compact point-source idea which I envision as a small sphere, is lost in their enormous design -- aesthetic which is not my taste, and high price are frustrating. In addition, the praise that these speakers receive, despite the obvious complex variables that emerge due to room reflections, is also curious and frustrating. Has anyone had a chance to compare these to other omni-directional speakers -- namely the RAAL Eternity, Beolab 90, or something more traditional like a Shahinian Diapason 2? I would think the RAALs may be superior, or does the 'magic' lie in MBLs VBT Vertical Blimp Technology?

I'm lead to wonder, can the same or superior immersive omni-directional experience be achieved through a surround sound implementation -- 5.1 setup with conventional speakers? And furthermore, would a surround sound setup featuring omni-directional speakers like MBLs have advantages over using conventional speakers in said implementation or vice versa. And does a stereo system featuring omni directional speakers have advantages over either aforementioned surround sound systems, for conventional music listening that was recorded for stereo playback?

I'm not a huge fan of the idea of a surround system for music listening as it seems excessive though I'm curious to hear opinions, and experiences, and suggestions as to how to achieve the immersive experience of an MBL system while not succumbing to a product that feels a bit like snake oil, looks ridiculous in my opinion, and is unfortunately expensive.

Smart speakers like the Home Pod, and the not very good Devialet Phantom Reactor (at least in appearance -- not a true omni), provide affordable omni-speakers to mass market. It will be interesting to see how these designs evolve.
 
Last edited:

thewas_

Active Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
239
Likes
461
#2
My enjoyment of various dipole speakers -- electrostatic speakers and ribbons -- and my observation of many favorable opinions, leads me to believe I would enjoy MBLs.
Please keep in mind that most electrostatic and magnetostatic speakers are quite the opposite of an omnidirectional speaker, namely strongly beaming the higher the frequencies are.

Since you mention the Beolab 90, it can be switched from omnidirectional to wide to narrow dispersion, according to B&O the omnidirectional is more for parties when many people listen and do not sit at the exact middle, for classic stereo listening the other modes are rather recommended.
https://www.bang-olufsen.com/ContentV3/downloads/BeoLab90/bang-olufsen-beolab90-whitepaper.pdf

Also for multichannel audio rather dry room acoustics are preferred compared to stereo where side wall reflections can be helpful, as the enveloping and ambient sounds should rather come from the various additional channels.
 

Kal Rubinson

Major Contributor
Industry Insider
Joined
Mar 23, 2016
Messages
1,437
Likes
1,479
Location
NYC/CT
#3
Omnidirectionals, like the MBLs, can provide thrilling performance in the right environment but they do not, as a stereo pair, convey the spatial information with the proper directional cues as does a 5.1 system. That said, I am skeptical about the potential effectiveness of omnis for use in 5.1 although I've never heard such. The BeoLab90, otoh, uses extraordinary technology to create a controlled-dispersion source similar to but better than passive conventional designs. Using it in its omni setting, only serves to demonstrate the superiority of its controlled dispersion modes in reproducing stereo in a normal room (i.e., mine). I imagine that five of them in a 5.0 or 5.1 system would be awesome but, again, I've never hears such.
 

milezone

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
May 27, 2019
Messages
40
Likes
6
#4
True about beaming in the high frequencies with regards to panel speakers. I guess the similarities I'm referring to is what some call the 'room coupling' effect (not sure what that means), where the sound field around the listener and outside the listening area becomes more alive/ambient/'wet' compared to conventional speaker designs in the same room -- by virtue of rear reflections propagating into the room. Interesting about the BeoLab 90. I wasn't aware that it had switchable modes though I suppose they're on the same page with regards to the advantages and disadvantages of an omni speaker. Is the technology in the Kii Three and Dutch and Dutch 8c similar to how the Beolab 90 works in non-omni mode?
 

Kal Rubinson

Major Contributor
Industry Insider
Joined
Mar 23, 2016
Messages
1,437
Likes
1,479
Location
NYC/CT
#5
Is the technology in the Kii Three and Dutch and Dutch 8c similar to how the Beolab 90 works in non-omni mode?
I would say that they are all attempting the same outcome but with different technology.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom