An open baffle speaker uses a board to mount the loudspeaker to keep the soundwaves from the front and back apart. It’s one of the simplest, most straightforward ways to enhance this technology’s performance.
An open baffle speaker is sometimes called a doublet. That’s because the board creates a barrier between the different frequencies to ensure listeners can still distinguish the bass from the upper end.
Although the open baffle design isn’t always helpful for small drivers because the mounting board needs to be thicker than the installed unit to ensure cancelation, it does have benefits when looking at stage applications.
When you have prominent speakers and baffles, you’ll notice a significant performance improvement. If it is correctly installed, the distance that the front and rear sound must travel before meeting increases, ensuring that the listener receives a positive audio experience.
Are Open Baffle Speakers Bad?
Open baffle speakers use a flat board to contain the drivers instead of using a box to manage them. Although they offer some installation challenges, you can also find some impressive advantages with this design when used on the soundstage level.
Open baffle speakers can include bipolar and dipolar options. The design uses an upright board to hold the drivers, creating a slimmer profile for the home, stage, or studio for producing sound from various sources.
Even though the dipolar design seems like it wouldn’t work with this design, the front still pushes air out from the speaker while the back is pulling it in for sound generation.
The best way to think about the board mount with this design is that it is like a backyard clothesline. When you use clothespins to affix shirts and pants to the line, they flutter in the breeze while staying connected.
If you were to hit one side while it billows, the opposite end would still extend outward. You always have a front and back wave, which is typical of equal amplitude.
It’s the back waves that provide the perceived volume to the listener, creating an experience that makes the sound feel like it is bigger than the room.
You can also encounter issues with open baffle speakers because of how they’re placed in the room or the frequency response needed for the audio. When the wavelengths are long, as they are when you play the bass guitar, it is possible for the front and rear waves to cancel out at some frequencies.
They could also reinforce themselves at other frequencies, developing an odd EQ for the listener that produces peaks and valleys. Instead of having a smooth response, the charting would look more like a 12-month stock tracker.
Are open baffle speakers bad? Not necessarily, but you’ll need to think about your application before investing in this design. You can avoid the EQ effects by purchasing a product designed to work with a subwoofer or digital signal processing that addresses the frequency cancelation.
Open Baffle Speakers vs. Sealed Closed Box Speakers
When you look at the two mounting options that most people use for their drivers today, it is either a sealed box or the open baffle design. Both choices are highly attractive because of the features they offer.
There isn’t a “right” or a “wrong” answer to consider when looking at open baffles or sealed closed box speakers. Your choice is dependent on your placement needs, performance desires, and intended use.
Here are a few comparison points to consider when looking at the differences between open baffle speakers and box loudspeakers.
■ Key Differences Between Open Baffle Speakers and Box Loudspeakers
|Crucial Points About Open Baffle Speakers||Crucial Points About Box Loudspeakers|
|• An open baffle speaker can reproduce bass frequencies while having less room interaction, making it more articulate than what box speakers offer.|
• When the dipole behavior can cover the entire frequency range, the room response becomes perceptually masked due to the direct audio.
• The radiation from the cone’s rear cannot be absorbed to hear the full response, but it must also have the nearest reflecting surface be a minimum of three feet away.
• Dipole open baffle speakers require a six-decibel boost toward the lower frequencies to drive the maximum excursion and EQ. Since amplified power could be an issue as the rates come higher, cone acceleration must be a considered feature.
• An open baffle speaker is typically more inefficient than a sealed box when evaluating mechanical movement, including measurements taking at the panel for vibrations.
• The installation and maintenance for the open baffle option are the easiest to manage when installing loudspeakers with your system.
|• A smaller box has fewer issues with cone re-radiation, polar response, and panel resonances.|
• Box panels will radiate additional audio at specific frequencies than when they come from the cone alone.
• It prevents the sound that originates from behind the driver from coming back through the cone.
• Bass frequencies from box speakers tend to have more punch than they do from the open baffle design, but it is also less airy.
• Any venting from the box can impact the resonant structures employed, creating inaccurate reproductions of the audio waves getting sent through the loudspeaker.
• Most listeners find that the best results with this design come from close-distance listening as it minimizes the masking that happens from uneven room responses.
• It is possible to combine two drivers of different sensitivities within a sealed box to create an omnidirectional response that enhances depth and clarity.
Everyone has a unique preference for how they listen to music. An individual’s ideal conditions can also change at a moment’s notice.
That’s why an understanding of these two common designs is essential for your personal needs. If you can recognize what is lacking, it is much easier to adapt to your current circumstances to improve your listening experience.
How to Find the Best Speakers for Your Setup
Let’s face it. There aren’t many things better in life than listening to or creating music. If you can play a favorite song or album, you have the chance to transport yourself somewhere new with your imagination.
The only thing that can disrupt the experience is a poor speaker design.
Part of what makes a listening experience so rewarding is how your speakers interact with the room or stage where music is happening. You can even find drivers and tweeters working together to maximize the frequencies you prefer to hear with each instrument.
That’s why you’ll want to consider these key points when shopping for open baffle speakers today.
1. Size matters when shopping for your speakers.
The goal for your new open baffle speakers should be to match the room’s size with the driver’s profile. Since this design is similar to what floor-standing products deliver, you can expect natural sounds with a solid bass when you keep the back of the board at least three feet away from a reflecting surface.
If you have a smaller room or stage to use with your open baffle speakers, you might want something with a smaller board or drivers to install with your system. When you reduce the size, you’ll experience less bass – which is why many products with this design get designed to route with a subwoofer.
2. Think about the volume.
Some people love to crank up their favorite songs for an imaginary jam session. Others prefer to kick off their shoes, put up their feet, and let the rhythms take them away to a place of relaxation.
If you fall into the latter category, open baffle speakers might be overkill for your general listening needs. You’d be at a greater risk of overbuying while pursuing this design option.
When you want to listen loud, you can benefit from the driver mount on the board if your room or stage is large enough to accommodate the frequency generation.
3. Review the speaker specs.
Although you can find several potential benefits with an open baffle design, the speaker specs set the good choices apart from the bad ones. You can sift through a feature filter, have a price ceiling, and read all of the customer reviews, but that information doesn’t matter if you don’t get enough power.
When you shop for open baffle speakers, here are the crucial specs you’ll want to consider after you’ve set a specific price range.
- Frequency Response. This information gets measured in Hertz (Hz) to tell you the tone range for the speakers. The first number (i.e., 20 Hz) tells you the lowest part of the tonal range, while the upper number looks at the highest frequencies. A more extensive spread between the two measurements indicates a fuller sound.
- Speaker Sensitivity. With this info, you can tell how effective the product is at converting power to volume. When you see a higher rating, the drivers will produce louder sounds. It’s usually taken by measuring decibels from one meter away. It often helps to look for units with high sensitivity ratings to get the most out of the system.
- Power Handling. This information shows you how strong your amp should be for your speakers, with the lowest number indicating the minimum wattage needed for a successful result. The upper rating lets you know how long the speaker can operate at its max.
- Speaker Impedance. With this measurement, you’ll know how much electrical resistance gets presented to an amplifier. Since music and audio cause this spec to fluctuate constantly, a median with a nominal impedance is usually given as a rating. If you buy a product with 4 ohms (low impedance), it could be problematic to work with amps or receivers that aren’t designed to deliver continuous current in large amounts.
- Product Materials. The drivers mounted to the open baffle board can get made from several different materials. You can find products constructed with rubber, plastic, paper, and metal in this category, with each one having unique sonic properties to consider. Although there are exceptions to every rule, you’ll find that premium materials typically yield better results.
4. How much do aesthetics matter?
An open baffle speaker design creates a unique visual for your space. Instead of seeing the traditional cabinet, you’ll be looking at a modern board with almost the entire driver exposed. Although your first shopping filter should involve specs and performance, you’ll want to think about how an item would look in your home.
If you don’t like how your speakers look once they’re set up with your system, you’ll be less likely to use them.
5. Do you need a subwoofer?
If you’re getting an entry-level open baffle speaker set for your home, you might need to buy a subwoofer to get the bass frequencies right. When you need to add this asset to your listening experience, the Klipsch Reference R-10SW delivers an impressive result.
This 300w powered subwoofer is rated as an outdoor speaker, ensuring that you get the quality you need for the open baffle inclusion. It uses a 10-inch, copper spun sub with a front-firing design to ensure the bass frequencies deliver the vibrations you want.
The Klipsch sub uses Line/LFE inputs that ensure compatibility with almost any receiver. When you pair it with your new open baffle drivers, the sound and power you feel will be unlike anything you’ve ever felt before.
6. Think about including some form of speaker protection.
When you install open baffle speakers in your room, the drivers could be at risk for some forms of damage more than a sealed box design would be. If you have pets or small children living with you, this design could require careful mounting or placement to keep everyone safe.
If your open baffle design comes with a tweeter, you’ll want to protect it from damage. A simple grill can keep away curious fingers or paws that want to touch it.
You’ll also want to think about your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy when you upgrade your listening experience. Don’t forget to take pictures of your new equipment so that you can file a claim if something happens.
It helps to keep your purchase receipts for about 36 months on high-end equipment to ensure you get as much of the replacement value as possible if something happens.
A Final Thought About Open Baffle Speakers
Although you can find applications where open baffle speakers would be bad, it’s not the technology that ends up being the problem.
It’s how you place the open baffle speakers on a stage or in a room that matters more than the overall design.
If you place the board too close to a wall or a reflecting surface, you’ll experience muddiness in the mix while producing peaks and valleys in the detectable audio waves. Not only are you causing the waveforms to get absorbed by natural materials with this issue, but you’re also canceling out the frequencies that listeners want to hear.
The baffle design is not typically well-suited to the average home. If you have an open design concept and want music to be heard throughout the space, you’ll get fullness with this speaker option that a sealed box cannot deliver.
If you’re in a small space, a sealed box might work better because the cabinet’s vibrational qualities can mask the inadequacies of the environment.
Your decision starts when you set a budget that you can afford. Once you know what is manageable, it’s much easier to find a speaker design that meets your needs.