Dipole vs Bipole Speakers Surrounds

Why Do Some Speakers Have Drivers Pointed in Weird Directions?

Most speakers have a tweeter and some number of woofers. These are almost always all pointed in the same direction. Most people have never seen a speaker that doesn’t have all the drivers pointed in the same direction. When they first see one, they can’t help but be confused. Why would some speakers have drivers pointed in weird directions? Well, there is a reason. A few really. Let’s discuss!

Surround Speakers

When you see speakers with drivers pointed in weird directions, you often find them on surround speakers (like the ones pictured at the top of this article). These are bipole and dipole speakers. We have a whole article about them. The reason the drivers are pointed at angles is to provide a more diffuse sound. These were more popular before the advent of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Can you use them in a modern home theater system? Absolutely.

Note the side-firing woofer on the bottom

Tower Speakers

The second most common location for drivers not pointed forward is side-firing woofers on tower speakers. You’ll find these on tower and floorstanding speakers of many different price points. The idea here is simple. Bass is omnidirectional. You can install a side-firing woofer on a tower speaker to increase its bass output. There are other additional benefits. You can place a larger driver on the side of a speaker (see above) while keeping the front baffle fairly slim.

“Audiophile” Speakers

Lastly, you’ll find some speakers with drivers that are pointed at the back wall. These could be woofers but they are often not bass drivers. Instead, they are midrange drivers. Most often, they are tweeters. We call these “audiophile” speakers because they are so rare. We’ve seen drivers pointed straight up, open-baffle speakers with no back enclosure, and others. These speakers don’t just have drivers pointed in weird directions, everything about them is weird!

Open-baffle speaker with an addition rear-firing tweeter.

Usually, when you come across these speakers they’ll try to sell you on the benefits of their design. With rear-facing tweeters and open baffle designs, they’ll talk about using the room or controlling the room reflections to give a more lifelike sound. Is any of that true? Probably not. Since audiophiles don’t believe in treating their rooms, adding more drivers (or using an open-baffle design) can make them sound better than traditional speakers. Most likely, they just sound different. For some, different and better are the same thing.

Take Away

If someone is designing a speaker with drivers pointed in weird directions, does that mean that their speakers are better? You could make the argument that they are at least paying more attention to the design. There are times when bipole and dipole speakers are the best solution for your situation. There may be rooms where open-baffle speakers will work the best. Just remember that there is a reason most speakers have all their drivers facing forward. In most situations, this is the best design to get the best sound at the lowest cost. If you aren’t trying to address an issue by buying a speaker with angled drivers, then you likely should be looking for more traditional speakers.

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