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Radial Speakers - why don't more people buy em?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Why aren't radial speakers more popular among audiophiles? They seem to have a lot of things going for them

*Astounding imaging characteristics - every review mentions how holographic the imaging is, even in untreated rooms

*High resolution - even Maggie-freaks seem to like these speakers, and don't think they lack resolution compared to the planar's

*Wiiiiide (and deeeep) Soundstage - every review mentions this as well. Walk across the room and the stage stays in the same place. None of the "sweet spot" issues that plague many box speakers and planar panels. Sound seems to come from behind the back wall, and from beyond the side walls.

*Awesome natural dynamics - "sounds like live music" is the common phrase

Soundstage, imaging, resolution, and dynamics are some of the main criteria people use when evaluating speakers, and the radials seem to excel in all these areas. They seem to be a very affordable solution as well, given how well they pair with untreated or mildly treated rooms (the room is the biggest problem for speakers, generally speaking, IMO). The Ohm MicroWalsh model is around $1000, and with a good amp will put out enough bass to make most forgo a subwoofer. The Decware ERR is $1600, will play even lower, and features a very efficient design (93db/W). I've yet to see a bad review of either.

It doesn't seem like radial speakers lack anything, yet they're not as popular as planars or horns, not to mention box speakers. Yet they've been around for a good 30 years. Any ideas?
post #2 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamba315 View Post
Why aren't radial speakers more popular among audiophiles? They seem to have a lot of things going for them
There just aren't that many of them out there. A lot of it may just have to do with them being "non-traditional". Audiophiles can be an obstinate bunch. Take the classic M-T-M center channel, for example. It's bad design and speaker builders know it, but they have to do them anyway because that's what buyers want.

It may also just come down to preference. Omni-radiators do a lot of things well, and because room reflections work with them rather than against them, they do need less treatment than other speaker types, particularly di-poles. The Germans build omnis better than anyone else, but even the best Duevel, or German Physicks, or MBL can't beat everything else in all areas. The best point-source, line-source, and di-pole designs (dynamic, planar, or electrostatic) have their own particular strengths.
post #3 of 16
Never heard of them, and i dont think any of my local audio store have them so i can give them a listen. I wont buy them if i cant hear them.
post #4 of 16
Well, I have a pair of shahinian obelisks, which I believe qualifies as a radial speaker and I love them. More realistic and less hi fi than many more traditional speakers. I have not heard Ohm speakers in a zillion years, but liked them back in the day.

There are just not too many examples out in stores. Maggies are not quite the same, but the backwave does extend the realism of the music, compared to live, especially for acoustically generated music.
post #5 of 16
The sound presentation is something that is unnatural but some people like it some people don't.

Even with 5.1 SACD, people don't really like the presentation from traditional speakers.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by weibby View Post
The sound presentation is something that is unnatural but some people like it some people don't.
Are you saying this about radial speakers or traditional speakers?
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drag0n View Post
Never heard of them, and i dont think any of my local audio store have them so i can give them a listen. I wont buy them if i cant hear them.
The MBL Radialstrahlers are probably the best omnis built. It's worth finding a dealer or going to something like RMAF to hear what the 101s can do.
post #8 of 16
They're interesting, but I intend to stick with the Quads and Orions.
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamba315 View Post
Why aren't radial speakers more popular among audiophiles? They seem to have a lot of things going for them

*Astounding imaging characteristics - every review mentions how holographic the imaging is, even in untreated rooms
If you think about it, it would make sense for more speakers to be of a radial configuration. A microphone receives sound from 360º, therefore a speaker should too. The downsides are that reflections can come from all over the room, and the sound isn't primarily directed at your ears. So it's a toss-up. I wish I had the money to buy a pair though.
post #10 of 16
Let me guess...
* Few available makers/models.
* Low availability (few stores carry them).
* Price point.
post #11 of 16
Completely agree, the market for omnis should be much bigger than it is. Their technology is just so clearly superior to front radiators that require a sweet spot for even response. I wish there were more options than the aesthetically-challenged Walshs and the uberpriced MBLs, though I still lust for the latter.

One factor I haven't seen compared is harmonic distortion - this is where omnis might lag behind traditional speakers. Speaker driver manufacturers are getting pretty good at approaching the ideal of pure pistonic motion and I imagine that controlling unwanted vibrations would be more of a challenge in omni diaphragms.
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by weibby View Post
The sound presentation is something that is unnatural but some people like it some people don't.

Even with 5.1 SACD, people don't really like the presentation from traditional speakers.
People aren't used to diffuse sound fields and concert-hall levels of reverberation. The artificial closed-in but tightly focused imaging of stereo direct radiating speakers has supplanted the immersion of live events as the ideal reproduction. Acoustics researchers like Floyd Toole have argued that greater acceptance of multichannel audio and unorthodox speaker design will eventually overcome the antiquated stereo paradigm of hi-fi.
post #13 of 16
The only time I have heard that type is at a show and frankly it wasn't very good. Perhaps if more were available? But then again, the world is already flooded with speakers of one type or another. Perhaps aesthetics is also an issue, because the ones I saw were rather ugly and I can imagine many not wanting them in their domestic living space.

I'm not sure I agree with Floyd Toole about multichannel audio because most people that I know really don't want 5 speakers in their living room let alone 7 or more.

Perhaps radial will progress in time, but I'll be sticking with my cans for now!
post #14 of 16
What's so wrong with a sweet spot? Concert halls have some seats that sound better than others. Further, I usually listen in one position, so it's not inconvenient. If I'm moving around the room, that's almost always because my attention is on something other than the music.

Also, omnis use several different types of transducers. I haven't looked much at the MBLs, but they appear to be some kind of hybrid ribbon/planar. I've seen others that use dynamic drivers. An omni is a radiation pattern, not a different type of driver. You can configure a planar to be single ended, dipole or omni, depending on how you employ it.

Like I said, I'll stick with the Quads and Orions. For me, an omni is a solution to a problem I don't have.
post #15 of 16
MBLs use electrodynamic drivers with a conventional voice coil at the base, but radically different diaphragms vertically arranged like petals around the coil & magnet structure, flexed by tension from the top end. Ohm Walsh and German Physiks use a wholly different principle in their transmission line drivers (& offer a great writeup @ http://www.german-physiks.com/images...nology_web.pdf) Yet other omnis are traditional drivers whose output is dispersed by an acoustic lens, like Mirage or B&O Beolab 5s.

The ideal driver would mimic the dynamic patterns of dispersal unique to each instrument, but this can't be realized. Omnis are the next best thing, whether in stereo or discrete surround layouts. Although a convincing effect can be achieved with a mix of direct radiators and dipoles in a 5+ speaker arrangement, this still limits you to a specific spot in the room. That's fine for solo listening, but with family or guests or doing various activities around the room, there are benefits to going with the omni approach.

Then again, some prefer tight & focused stereo over a diffuse and enveloping soundscape.
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