Baby got back

BMC Arcadia Speakers

Most speakers you see have an arrangement like the eyes of ours with which we see them. For the most part, speaker drivers face directly toward us, and we lie in the viewing window of their gaze.
This works, generally, until you get up from your chair to get another beer or check on the roast. As you stand up, the sound changes, particularly in the treble region. As you move further away from the speaker window, the sound changes and you lose more and more definition and musicality. When you’re standing at the kitchen sink, it sounds like you’re living next to a dance club — all that’s left to hear from that spot is bass and midbass.


Does this matter? Obviously it sounds great in your listening chair, so why should you expect better sound outside of the view of the speakers?

The fact is, losing the upper frequencies as you exit your music room is not the largest tragedy.


BUT. When you hear what a bipolar speaker does in the same position, or any speaker with a rear-firing tweeter for that matter, you realize that extra fidelity around the back and sides of the speaker is worth thinking about.

Lots has been said and written about direct versus indirect sound. Engineers at Bose famously filled speaker boxes with more indirect drivers than direct, in an attempt to re-create the natural reflections of real performance spaces.

Enough time with that approach showed us that lots of indirect sound can be fun, but it can also be hard to tame. Even though the 901 speaker from Bose was a classic and is still owned by many, many audiophiles, speaker designers have mostly taken what they could learn from the 901 and explored new directions. Nobody is chucking 15 drivers into anything except a line array these days.

But what I’ve found is you don’t need the full “Bose approach” to get some treble back in your music in the kitchen. One single driver, either a tweeter or a full range, is all that’s needed to create new sweet spots all over your room and house.

Arnie Nudell included a rear-firing tweeter in nearly every design he made for Infinity and Genesis. After recently spending some time with a new speaker design featuring a rear-firing tweeter, I’ve come to the conclusion that its necessity is borne less from the front-firing driver’s inadequacy than from the room-filling nature of the presentation with the rear-tweeter in place.

Lots of listening says it may add a little something to the sense of the recording space at your listening position, but my ears tell me it mostly adds a whole heaping ton to the frequency balance everywhere else.

We’ve got a great example of speakers with rear-firing drivers at The Music Room right now, the BMC bipolar “Batman” (ok, they’re called Arcadia) speakers (above) with their external crossovers and industrial finish. 

When you’re staring the drivers in the face, there can be real audio performance left on the table. If you’ve been considering a speaker upgrade or change, consider the bipolar approach and scoop up some new results for your music system. Besides being acoustically honest, the bipolar approach works the music into all the nooks and crannies around you. “Immersive” is a great word for it.