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Bipole and dipole surround speaker designs are fraternal twins: both have identical speaker drivers mounted to opposite sides of the speaker cabinet (their only distinguishing characteristic is polarity).
In a Dipole arrangement, the front and rear facing speakers are wired out of phase, that is, while one set pushes out the other pushes in. In a Bipole surround speaker, however, the two sets of drivers are wired in phase and both sets move in and out together.
Some higher end surround sound speakers allow you to switch between dipole and bipole operation--this enables you to tailor the speakers to your home theater. These speakers sound best mounted above or below ear level but a few feet down from the ceiling. Dipoles are excellent when they are placed near the listening areas because you can aim the "null" at the listeners thus, you can achieve high levels without blasting you in the ear.
Bipoles and dipole surround speakers can sound good either on the side walls or the back wall of a home theater--the overall shape of the room will decide where they should be placed. Bipoles are a poor attempt at omnipoles (having dispersion/cancellation problems). Audition a couple familiar movies with different surround sound speaker placement before you decide on a permanent location.
In all cases, having surround speakers well above or below ear height with give the best results. In general, the further away from the listening area the speakers are placed, the better.
If the surrounds have to be very close,consider dipole speakers. With direct radiating speakers, aim them to bounce off walls to the ceiling before meeting your ears.
Sound created a direct radiating surround speaker is very directional (it's easy to locate the source of the sound). For this reason, direct radiating surround speakers work best in a very big space for surround sound. If you own a pair of direct radiating surround speakers, try aiming them into the back corners of the room. This will bounce the surround sound off the back walls and create a more diffuse rear surround sound. You'll even get a little natural time delay to add to the sense of space.
There are a few things you can do to improve the performance of your surround speakers, and your entire home theater. Most surround receivers have a time delay function which allows you to delay the music signal to the rear speakers by a few milliseconds which gives the impression of a much larger listening room.
Experiment with different settings to see what sounds best in your homes. Speakers are acoustically tied to the room they play in. Thus, by treating the room you can improve the sound of your home theater. Try to get a balance of sound reflective surfaces like bare walls and hard wood floors and absorptive materials like rugs and drapes. A few well placed 'sound traps' will improve your system's performance.
When setting up a home theater, most people make the mistake of buying a 'one size fits all' surround sound system before taking into account the type of environment it will eventually play in.
• Does your home theater have wall to wall carpeting, or hardwood floors?
• Are there any windows, artwork, or drapes to affect the sound dispersion from your speakers?
• What shape is your room?
• How tall are the ceilings?
These are questions you need to explore before buying your surround sound speakers. Hard surfaces (like ceramic tile, wood floors and bare walls) tend to reflect sound. Soft surfaces such as carpeting and drapes absorb sound. There are surround sound speaker designs to fit any need. Ideally, the sound produced from your surround speakers should offer the same fidelity as your main and center speakers but generate a diffuse sound field. In other words, you should not be able to 'place' the source of the surround program material.
To acheive the utmost in diffuse surround sound, some people choose to go with a speaker of omnipole design. This type of speaker radiates sound in 360 degrees, creating very life-like surround effects. Omnipole speakers work incredibly well for small home theaters because they radiate diffuse sound in all directions and give a sense of a much larger space.