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Why are there so few omnidirectional speakers?

Newman

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having had direct experience comparing omnis with direct radiators

Sighted direct experience in comparing omnis with direct radiators... ;) …it’s even easier to place your claims in context.

We’ve had this sort of exchange before, Matt. And on the same topic too! The reason being that you write like a monumentally-biased pro-omni fan, and there is no limit to the amount of scientifically-irrelevant verbiage and inappropriate appeal-to-authority ‘evidence’ you will use to defend them from appropriate criticism.

Here’s how to do appeal-to-authority correctly: share the views of an acknowledged authority on a topic that is close to his or her expertise. Eg a link to a post by Floyd Toole where he summarises his views on omni speakers. Even if the expert authority has not conducted extensive controlled tests of that speaker type, we (ought to) trust that he only offers a view if he feels it is warranted, and that his vast knowledge of loudspeakers, and psychoacoustics, and the interface between those fields, combines with his luminary status and reliable reputation to give his considered view extraordinary weight. Only the most denialistic of omni fans (and former manufacturers, LOL) would try to dismiss the expert view with whatever nitpicking excuses they can come up with in a moment of high stress.

And here is how to NOT do appeal-to-authority correctly: take a specific long-past purchasing decision by an acknowledged authority completely out of context, make assumptions about how and why he chose it, and try to insinuate and imply that it means he still tries to capture that sound today. When made aware of the above-linked comment, Dr Toole wrote, quote, “I hate it when people speak for me when they don't understand what I think! Omni speakers are playback manipulations, and if you like them, fine. If not, also fine.” Having Toole hate the way you use his name is quite the achievement. Way to go, dude Duke!

As for your taunts about having more experience listening to omnis, sighted of course, I draw your attention to Toole’s comments along the lines that the longer one lives with a speaker, the worse judge one becomes of its sound quality. (So very easy to put your carryings-on into context…;) )
 
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oivavoi

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He is a former manufacturer of bipolar speakers. Which puts his defensiveness right into context!
You are confusing Duke and Matt. Duke is a former manufacturer, afaik not Matt. Btw still awaiting a reply to my comment on the research on omnis.
 

Recluse-Animator

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He is a former manufacturer of bipolar speakers. Which puts his defensiveness right into context!
I was only asking because of this:
(In fact, recently I put a diffusor behind and between my speakers which has perceptually added more "high frequency" air and brightened up the sound).
And now as I read it again I realize I read it wrong.
I thought he meant that the diffuser made the speaker sound more bright.
...
 

MattHooper

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You have omnidirectional speakers?

Not any more. They were MBL 121 radialstrahler monitors that I owned for about 10 years, which I had to sell to afford the larger floor standing Joseph Audio speakers I now own. I didn't want subwoofers in my room for various reasons and the Joseph speakers got as close to the MBL sound but with deeper richer bass as I could find.

(But the MBLs were just one of many speakers I owned simultaneously over the years - so I had speakers by Audio Physic, various Thiel, Spendor, Hales, Waveform and others, to compare).
 

Byrdsmaniac

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There are many highly regarded top end Omni or Bipole/Dipole speakers.

Contrary to popular belief (by the Monopole majority) - they can and do sound great, and can do superb imaging - some of them have a narrow sweetspot, others a sweet spot you can walk around in.

They key with these designs is always the room - you have to consider the reflections as integral to your setup - they are desirable as long as they are sufficiently delayed so they don't interfere with the imaging... which means the speakers have to be located far enough from the closest walls to ensure that delay - if that cannot be achieved, then absorbers/diffusers need to be placed on the walls that are too close.

Omni/Di/Bipoles energise the room very differently from monopoles - at one stage I ran a 4.1 all electrostatic surround setup - all speakers were well out into the room, it took a LOT of space - but it sounded fantastic... - the space and the sense of being overwhelmed by large monoliths, ended up getting them replaced with more traditional speakers... but in terms of the sound, I miss them.
This has been my experience as well. Well designed Omnis need a lot of real estate to be heard at their best. They generally aren't cheap either.
 

MattHooper

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Sighted direct experience in comparing omnis with direct radiators... ;) …it’s even easier to place your claims in context.

We’ve had this sort of exchange before, Matt. And on the same topic too! The reason being that you write like a monumentally-biased pro-omni fan, and there is no limit to the amount of scientifically-irrelevant verbiage and inappropriate appeal-to-authority ‘evidence’ you will use to defend them from appropriate criticism.

How dare I enjoy omni speakers and report what I liked about them! Awful isn't it?

But of course you leave out that I have written enthusiastically about the sound of various types of speakers. So...no I'm not just a one-note omni fan. But then you've been temperamentally incapable of representing anything I argue accurately, which is why, yes we've had types of discussions before.



Here’s how to do appeal-to-authority correctly: share the views of an acknowledged authority on a topic that is close to his or her expertise. Eg a link to a post by Floyd Toole where he summarises his views on omni speakers. Even if the expert authority has not conducted extensive controlled tests of that speaker type, we (ought to) trust that he only offers a view if he feels it is warranted, and that his vast knowledge of loudspeakers, and psychoacoustics, and the interface between those fields, combines with his luminary status and reliable reputation to give his considered view extraordinary weight. Only the most denialistic of omni fans (and former manufacturers, LOL) would try to dismiss the expert view with whatever nitpicking excuses they can come up with in a moment of high stress.

And here is how to NOT do appeal-to-authority correctly: take a specific long-past purchasing decision by an acknowledged authority completely out of context, make assumptions about how and why he chose it, and try to insinuate and imply that it means he still tries to capture that sound today. When made aware of the above-linked comment, Dr Toole wrote, quote, “I hate it when people speak for me when they don't understand what I think! Omni speakers are playback manipulations, and if you like them, fine. If not, also fine.” Having Toole hate the way you use his name is quite the achievement. Way to go, dude!

And, naturally, there isn't one iota of "inappropriate appeal-to-authority" you can find that I've made in regard to omnis, either in this thread or elsewhere. More made up B.S. And that's all red herrings.

You made a very specific claim. Here it is again:

"All the work that the production crew put into imaging and soundstaging will be largely wasted, and that’s a pity if one is into high fidelity."

I'm asking you to back up that claim using either measurements or citing blind tests.

How in the world would the "work the production crew put in to imaging and soundstaging" be "largely wasted" by an omni speaker? (Remembering again "wasted" is a qualitative/value statement!)

Again, the scenario is not simply "take an omni, put it near walls in a lively room and wash everything out." We are talking about owning an omni and being able to set it up in a good sounding (designed with an acoustician) room with the flexibility of seating distance/positioning and some level of control over room reflectivity. I was about 6 1/2 feet from the omnis so getting a lot of direct sound (if you want to cherry pick Toole, remember his remarks about the prominance of direct sound for perceiving the character of a speaker?). I set up the speaker positioning and room acoustics to get the best (I could) out of that speaker. For my forward radiating speakers, I do the same given their characteristics. As it should be with any different speakers.

Let's take a classic recording: Miles Davis Kind Of Blue, track So What.

I play it on my forward radiating speaker box speaker (e.g. Thiel or Joseph Audio). What do I hear?

Paul Chambers bass is set back in the soundstage, slightly to the left, playing quietly to begin. Bill Evans piano is staged further to the left, just "behind" the left speaker. I can hear the light studio reverb on each. The two saxes enter quietly, Coltrane's sax panned left, Adderley's panned right. Jimmy Cobb's drums are panned right, behind the right speaker, playing a very light ride cymbal at first, and then switches to playing a ride cymbal that is more present and vivid.
Miles' trumpet enters in the center, in it's little own alcove of centered reverb surrounding it, distanced further back than Evans' piano and the sax/drums.
Each sax solo is panned hard left (Coltrane) and right (Adderley) and much closer to the speaker and more present than Mile's trumpet. The room verb around Coltrane's sax is quite audible on the left side, when Adderley plays his sax "ignites" reverb right across the stage in to the left channel in a stronger way.

Etc.

Now...what happened when I played that same track on the MBL omnis (which I did, in comparison, many times, since this was one of my test tracks)? I heard the SAME soundstaging/imaging/room reverb characteristics described above. All the instruments placed the same exactly as described above, and no the room didn't wash out the captured acoustics in the recording. It was plainly audible too just as described above. The main difference was the absolute freedom from any sense of "box" enclosure and hence the sense of 3 dimensional "holograms" AND the audible recorded acoustic space appearing around the speakers.

So now, with my claims you can do two things:

1. Accept that they are essentially accurate. But then try to explain why, still, somehow, the efforts of the engineers in soundstaging and imaging is somehow largely wasted. How would that not amount to a wild exaggeration?


2. You can try to dispute my account of the soundstaging above. But, how will you do that? You've tried to wave it away as a claim not based on blind testing.
But sorry, that's not good enough to back up your own claim in response. Since you were the one claiming omnis would "waste" the soundstaging/imaging created by the engineers, you'd have to show why my account is IMPROBABLE. So...where are the blind tests establishing what I heard could not have been heard? Not there, right? (And remember, we are talking about a specific set up optimizing for those speakers). Ok, how about measurements? If you want to say what the imaging and sonic characteristics I just described from the omni are impossible, or improbable...go ahead and show this via measurements. Can you show that Mile's trumpet wouldn't have been centered and more distant than the saxes and drums on L/R channel? The bass wouldn't appear more distant and less panned from the more closer-sounding, more present saxes in the L/R channels? Measurements demonstrating that, in MY set up, all recorded reverb would be rendered inaudible, Etc? Just how plausible can you make this by appealing to measurements, so that you can demonstrate my description has to be inaccurate?

Hint: You can't.

You can't do it with citing blind tests, nor measurements, nor sound byte appeal to authority, nor especially from any experience of your own (you didn't hear the omnis in my room set up).

And most important, you were ultimately making a qualitative claim that can't be backed up.
 
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MattHooper

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You are confusing Duke and Matt. Duke is a former manufacturer, afaik not Matt. Btw still awaiting a reply to my comment on the research on omnis.

Indeed he is. Which is bizarre. It's simultaneously getting my position wrong and Duke's wrong!

He's often sloppily made misleading statements about me on this forum, unfortunately. But perhaps anyone who may disagree with him "Looks the same". ;-0
 
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MattHooper

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This has been my experience as well. Well designed Omnis need a lot of real estate to be heard at their best. They generally aren't cheap either.

I don't discount your personal experience as to how Omnis have sounded best to you.

But I have found they do not "need" a big room to sound excellent. I guess it somewhat depends on your goal. If you want to use omnis to created the biggest, most open and expansive and "live in the room" feel, then sure I can see engaging larger room characteristics will do that. (Or you may want to use a larger room to actually give more prominence to direct radiated sound, where you may sit closer and increase the delay of the reflected sound...depends).

On the other hand, if you want to avail yourself of the "boxless" quality of omnis like the MBLs, the wide even dispersion (instead of head-in-vise tonality/imaging of a super narrow dispersion), then they can work very well in a smaller room, if speaker/listener position and acoustics are acounted for. I found they sounded stellar in my 15' x 13' room, and in fact the most impressive demo I ever had of the bigger MBL 101D omnis were in a reviewer's tiny room, smaller than mine, but heavily treated. There were just "no speakers there," just the sense of instruments appearing in their recorded acoustic. It was mindblowing.
 

Duke

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He is a former manufacturer of bipolar speakers. Which puts his defensiveness right into context!
You are confusing Duke and Matt. Duke is a former manufacturer, afaik not Matt. Btw still awaiting a reply to my comment on the research on omnis.
Duke still manufactures his speakers doesn't he?
@Duke

(I've always wanted to listen to them too, but I'm not aware of any in Australia :( )

To the best of my knowledge @MattHooper is not a speaker manufacturer.

I used to manufacture bipolar loudspeakers (art imitates the artist??). I may do so again some day - there are some things they did very well.

I have been manufacturing loudspeakers since late 2005, mostly multi-directional or otherwise unconventional designs. (So I'm technically not a "former manufacturer", but I am a "former manufacturer of bipolar loudspeakers".)

@Sir Sanders Zingmore, I have two pairs of speakers in Jakarta, Indonesia, but that's the closest to you that I'm aware of.
 
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Dougey_Jones

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There is the Syng Cell. I think it also has things like beam steering which makes it be able to work, as its name suggests, as a series of sound sources when multiple units are used. Erin also did a review of these a while back, and thought the concept was neat overall. Linus Tech Tips also reviewed them, and wasn't so enamored with them due to their limited functionality if my memory serves me correct. Edit: I think its also a bit consumery in that the bass is excessive from what info is available. For stereo listening, though, pure omnidirectional speakers are a bit antithetical to the objective of getting good spatial imaging since the direct sound that enables you to recover the stereo cues basically becomes nonexistent due to all the reflections.

cell_alpha_full_bleed_03_04-28-2022__3_.jpg
Not this thing again..
 

MattHooper

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To the best of my knowledge @MattHooper is not a speaker manufacturer.

I used to manufacture bipolar loudspeakers (art imitates the artist??). I may do so again some day - there are some things they did very well.

I have been manufacturing loudspeakers since late 2005, mostly multi-directional or otherwise unconventional designs.

@Sir Sanders Zingmore, I have two pairs of speakers in Jakarta, Indonesia, but that's the closest to you that I'm aware of.

I just want to give props to Duke, who I have found to be one of the most thoughtful, civil people posting in any forum I know. He has articulated many technical ideas both those that are generally accepted on ASR, as well as his own experience and ideas. Even when he is defending his own viewpoints, it is done with suitable caveats, humility and civility, from everything I recall.

Cheers.
 

MattHooper

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BTW, this Floyd Toole comment was linked in an earlier post:


"All such multidirectional loudspeakers generate an expanded stereo soundstage, and those with properly tailored directivity can expand the listening area - see Section 15.3 in my book. The tradeoff is usually a slightly less clear imaging because of abundant room reflections. Some people like it, some don't. No recordings are monitored with such loudspeakers so they must be considered to be "sound effect" generators for listeners suffering from the directional and spatial deprivation of conventional stereo."

Note two things about the scale of his comments should place Toole's "sound effect generators" in context:

1. "The tradeoff is usually a slightly less clear imaging."

So if they are generating "sound effects" in terms of what that actually entails, the liability isn't described as severe at all. That hardly sounds like it endorses that production choices would have "gone to waste."

2. Generalizations, we know, can only go so far. The DEGREE to which any such image smearing may happen will, like any speaker, be quite dependent on specifics: the implementation - the acoustics of the room, the position of the speakers in the room, the position of the listener relative to the Omnis, etc. Someone sitting close enough to get lots of direct sound, while taking steps to minimize the liveliness of the room as well, is likely to get less of this "smearing" effect. Which is indeed just what I experienced: the imaging from my omnis were very much like my front firing speakers in terms of image placement and focus. This is hardly surprising: the same thing goes for controlling those elements for any other speakers I use in the room (and anyone can test this himself).

Not Toole also mentioned:

"I prefer the multichannel option, using multiple surround loudspeaker in good stereo upmix algorithms. Then the spatial enhancement can be turned on or off, up or down as the mood and music demand."

I guess someone might say that Floyd there is "wasting all the efforts of the engineers" regarding imaging/soundstaging. But I think even that would be an exaggeration. I can upmix my two channel to stereo, and I still get most of the essential image placement in the mix. (So long as I'm not using certain features that really do move discrete sounds in to the rears, vs create immersive ambience).
 

Duke

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Robert Bellair

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Omni gives a larger perspective to things like the Bose 901 , and reflection can be good only with good flat response other wise the room will sound bad. It will give the most unfocused image , the most focused is the horn. Classical is best with omni but that should your main music.
 

dlaloum

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For those who believe omni's and dipoles aren't / haven't been used professionally - The BBC used to have their studio's set up with Quad Electrostatics (starting with the original '57), BIS Records last I knew had one studio set up with Quad ESL63's,

I know there are other examples, but I can't remember them right now - and quick google searches are failing me...

On another interesting note - the Quad ESL uses electrical delay magic to simulate a point source 30 to 35cm behind the speaker - I do wonder, what the impact would be within a more rear space constrained setup (ie: closer to the wall behind it) of reversing the delay, and configuring them for a simulated point source 30 to 35 cm in front of the speaker ...

Obviously not for a near field listening setup - but in a standard setup, this might allow for placing the speakers within circa 50 to 80cm of the rear wall

Just a tangential thought....
 
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