Omnidirectional vs. Directional: Which One is Right for You?
Avoiding problems like this starts with thorough customer qualification. The client’s speaker appearance preference is probably the most important consideration. But, if the client is looking for guidance from you beyond the looks, you have to ask some critical questions before you spec the system. For example:
- Who is going to be using the system besides you?
- What are their expectations?
- How far away are the listeners going to be from the speakers?
- Is the homeowner expecting to crank Led Zeppelin at concert level volumes while playing air guitar?
- Are the speakers near an area where only adults will be enjoying jazz while eating gourmet food and sipping fine wine?
Even if the client says, “We don't play our music very loud,” you are not off the hook to specify a robust system. Always keep in mind that it is much harder to achieve even moderately loud sound outdoors than indoors. Without the benefit of reflecting walls and ceilings to contain the sound waves, the Inverse Square Law of rapidly diminishing sound pressure over distance is fully in effect. Sometimes you need to dig deep to uncover the real uses and expectations – but it’s worth it.
We are enormously proud of our omnidirectional IG series speakers, but they’re not for everyone or every installation. The same can be said for the NEAR LB and VM series models. The key to knowing which models to spec on a given job is to understand what each type of speaker does particularly well.
Omnidirectional speakers, sometimes referred to as "Low Q" designs, like the IG8s2 and IG6s2 are great for creating a uniform “blanket” of sound so that as a listener moves around an area, the music level remains uniform with minimal “hot” or “dead” spots. As the speaker’s energy is diffused over 360-degrees, sound pressure level (SPL) at any one point in the arc is lower than it would be with a direct radiating speaker. Figure 1 is a simplified depiction of an IG series speaker’s SPL distribution and a listener, and Figure 2 is the IG8’s polar plot. Given the omnidirectional nature of the speaker, only one third of its energy is directly reaching the listener.
Compare that to Figure 3 and Figure 4, which are illustrations of a 120-degree dispersing LB8, a somewhat directional "Medium Q" design . You may be wondering why there is any energy at all outside of the 120-degree dispersion window on the LB-8; it’s because all speakers are omnidirectional at low frequencies. Over the same arc, 66% of the forward radiating speaker’s output reaches the listener. It is easy to see that to deliver equal volume level at the listener position, the IG speaker has to work twice as hard as the LB8.
Placement is another consideration when choosing between direct radiating LB series and omnidirectional IG series models. Sometimes surface mounting is the only option, so LB or VM speakers are the only choice.
Lastly, consider bass. In-ground IG speakers will always produce deeper, louder bass by virtue of the huge (infinite) baffle area of the ground. If the client is interested in bass performance, the IGs will probably be the better choice, especially if there is no room in the budget or area for one or more subwoofers.
Which is the better speaker to spec around a pool in a house with teenagers? Which is the better choice for the dining area of a gourmet cook and wine aficionado who likes to entertain business associates? How about outdoor theater? Understanding the client’s needs and sound aspirations is the key.
The decades of experience we have in designing outdoor audio systems for residential and professional users is always available to NEAR dealers—FREE. Just call (855) 350-6327 or email us anytime to help you specify the ideal NEAR system that will delight your clients and save you from future service calls.