Country of Origin


El hefe?

The boss. Yes chef! For me, 2023 was about wearing both sides of my heart on the sleeve. I dared to bare it by going open-backed. Following last year's adventures in cardioid bass thanks to Martin Gateley of sound|kaos' dual 15-inch subwoofer, this year brought further confirmation for dipole radiation's benefits higher up in the range. The speakers in our main system are Qualio's IQ, an unusual hybrid whose open-baffle top fades out 1st-order at 600Hz—that still has it well audible two octaves below—whilst the 9½" ported woofer taking over bleeds in 2nd order. I then fade it out again at 100Hz/4th-order to let the special dipole sub complete the bandwidth and due to its special radiation pattern, virtually eliminate two room modes. It's also why I stuff IQ's port with the included foam bung. Late this year I had opportunity to review IQ's 6" 2½-way Quantum sibling which uses the same tweeter and midrange but only runs its Mundorf AMT in open-backed fashion. Wherein packed my Aha! moment. A big benefit of dipole radiation lives above the frequency where out-of-phase cancellation creates the so-called 'figure 8' pattern. It's lack of box talk.

Box talk is one of those cryptic things which few listeners identify. It's baked into 99.5% of all speakers so endemic. That ubiquity renders it fait accompli just like a fish in water doesn't recognize it as such until he's hung out to dry on a hook. For the box-speaker fish to skip aquatic familiarity for strange dry land requires living with a dipole speaker. Then compare it against all box comers. As I learnt, no matter their pedigree or particular aces, if a midrange driver loads into a box to absorb its rear wave, a very specific wide-open, deep-throated or gushing quality shrinks. With Quantum being identical to IQ above 600Hz other than its dipole bandwidth and the tweeter coming in an octave sooner, I had my proof. All other things being equal, box loading really does have a tell-tale effect on ultimate midrange clarity.

Recognizing box talk via A/B subtraction showed me how losing the box across the vocal range has advantages. They add themselves to a dipole's loss of about half the typical room gain in the bass. That reverberant gain causes time blur and late stoppage from omni reflections. John Darko and I touched on some of it in a recent podcast. Where to shop for back-less suitors becomes a good question. From dynamic open-baffle stalwarts Emerald Physics, Linkwitz Audio Labs, Spatial Audio and now Clayton Shaw Audio Labs to more luxurious entrants like Diesis, Kyron and sound|kaos, there's also Nola by Carl Marchisotto as our IQ's closest hybrid kin. There'll be more to obviously include planarmagnetics, ribbons and electrostats but this list isn't exactly long. If I may suggest a New Year's hifi resolution? In 2024 book yourself an open-baffle spa day. I'm not suggesting you'll convert. I don't know you. Implementations and tastes differ. I am suggesting that educating ourselves on different ways to skin the acoustic cat is never bad. So dipole it for a few hours or days. Tick off another rite of audiophile passage. Consider yourself better for it. At least on the open-baffle subject you can then say, been there, done that. You'll have an educated opinion so something meaningful to contribute to this conversation. Actual personal experience in such matters really is boss. El hefe!

Are you intrigued yet?