Open Baffle. Why are they mostly limited to DIY?

I see a few hybrids from Vandersteen and Spatial Audio, but not much else. 
Don't forget that the first open baffle speaker was the Dahlquist DQ-10. Woofer in a sealed box and 4 drivers (mid, upper-mid, treble, super-tweeter) mounted above in a horizontal array. A favorite of both Harry Pearson (TAS) and Peter Aczel (The Audio Critic). It resembled the Quad ESL (a favorite of John Dahlquist) and was about the same size. The DQ-10 was the first sophisticated speaker to appear in the mid-70's and was a commercial success! I still own an upgraded pair.
Open baffle designs remained niche market products because of the inherent conservatism of the speaker companies.  John Dahlquist later produced the DQ-20 and DQ-30. After he sold his company and it closed his associate Carl Marchisotta went on to found Alon (now Nola) and continues to develop and market OB speakers. 
Lest we forget (again!) Bob Carver developed and marketed (successfully!)   the Carver Amazing Speaker in the mid-80's. Two versions, the Platinum (4 12inch woofers and a 60inch ribbon) and the Silver (3 12inch woofers and a 48inch ribbon). Both designs were OB trapezoid shaped. And sounded better than anything else of that era! Still competitive today against multi-kilobuck speakers!
Well, they are different, they are large, and they need a lot of power. Other often praised examples would be the designs by Siegfried Linkwitz:
GR Research offers many OB speakers, but they are offered as kits only. You get the drivers, x/o parts, baffle damping material (NoRez), and baffle making plans. You then either make the OB baffles or buy them from one of the woodworker/cabinet builders who offer them to GR Research customers. If you can solder, you can build the simple cross-overs; if not, there are GR Research Audiocircle Forum members who will do it for you. The open, transparent sound of OB speakers (no enclosure colorations and resonances) at very low cost. If you don't have room for the generally large planars (ESL, magnetic-planar, ribbons), the smaller-sized OB's are a great alternative.
Open baffles existed long before dahlquist  I have one from the 1930s as far as DIY I think many look at a OB thinking its a easy build and it can be, but if done right it can be as complicated and material intensive as any other design if not more so. I do know of a good num of OB on market today but the nature of the OB means baffles should be large and large is a hard sell in loudspeakers. 

'Well, they are different, they are large, and they need a lot of power..'

Yes, can be, not necessarily. Single driver full range OB designs are neither large nor inefficient. I think the main reason for the lack of popularity is esthetics. They "look" too simple and too crude for most people and WAF is below the line. They are also not very versatile and sound best only with certain type of music and certain upstream gear. I just recently built a pair for the first time using the Tang Band W8-1808 full range drivers and they sound real nice but only with jazz, blues, folk vocal  type of music and at moderate volumes. Could be my amplifiers since all I have are high powered SS amps.

I just recently built a pair for the first time using the Tang Band W8-1808 full range drivers and they sound real nice but only with jazz, blues, folk vocal  type of music and at moderate volumes. Could be my amplifiers since all I have are high powered SS amps.
The problem with this pairing is that the open baffle with the Tangband drivers is likely needing a lower damping factor to sound right. This is why they are often used with tubes. To simulate that, you might consider putting an 8 ohm resistor (probably about a 10 watt device) in series with the speakers, and see if the bass improves. If you play it too loud you might burn up the resistor, but this will give you some idea of what some of the issues might be.

There is no reason an open baffle design can't work- I think the biggest impediment is their appearance, which includes the backside of speaker drivers.
I suspect that another issue for companies that make and sell loudspeakers is the reputation for open baffles like planars and stats needing 3-5' of space. This is a pretty big market limiting factor (fewer possible buyers).... so maybe not the easiest segment to enter and have a viable business???
This is all interesting. I would be surprised if buyers of planars and stats considered open baffle, even though they all need lots of space and none of the technologies are known for being lookers. 
There's also Emerald Physics, from the guy who went on to found Spatial.

To your point, seanheis1, OB's are thought of only in terms of having all cone-type drivers, but some of the best actually use at least one ribbon, magnetic-planar, or similar type driver, usually a tweeter of course, in combination with a cone woofer. And many OB enthusiasts are also planar fans, some having a pair of those as well as OB's. I mean, planars are just OB's with non-cone drivers!

And snapsc, you're exactly right, OB ownership places the same demands upon one as do planars---3 to 5 feet minimum from the wall behind them.

One incorrect thing said above is that OB's require a lot of power. Actually, one thing OB users like is the design's generally high sensitivity. Many owners pair them with low-power single-ended amps. One exception is the Linkwitz OB's, which require not a lot of power over-all, but a separate power amp for each driver. A fairly complicated x/o is a big part of his designs.


They are also not very versatile and sound best only with certain type of music and certain upstream gear.
Can you elaborate further? Thanks.

and they need a lot of power
Not necessarily. What makes you say this? Thanks.
Open baffles don't always need a lot of power. I heard the spatial audio turbo m3 in salt lake at their assembly facility through the 25 wpc Rossi integrated.  They easily played at 90+ db 14 feet back. They sounded really good. Very smooth, detailed and huge sound stage. 
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I’ve never heard an open baffle subwoofer but those who have say the bass can’t be beat because it doesn’t disturb the room modes or nearby neighbors and the tone and texture is life like. 
Based on Clayton shaw's comments from this link.  Spatial audio intends to sell the bottom half of their X2 model as an open baffle sub

seanheis1, an open baffle sub, or even woofer, has advantages and disadvantages in comparison to boxed ones, whether sealed, ported, or infinite baffle. No enclosure resonances (though even the baffle, if insufficiently engineered, can itself be resonant), no room loading in the side-to-side plane (due to the figure-of-8 radiation characteristics of all dipoles, even at low frequencies), both making possible less boomy sound. But the stopping and starting characteristics of the woofer driver is a determining factor as well.

The disadvantages include the less-maximum-output-capability of OB designs. Once again, the intrinsic capabilities of the driver is a prime determiner in the quality of the sub or woofer.

Now, imagine taking the intrinsic advantages of the OB woofer, and combining that with the benefits of servo-feedback, long used in some very high quality woofer systems (including the bass columns of the Infinity IRS and RS-1b loudspeakers, as well as the well known subs of Velodyne). Such was the thinking of Danny Richie of GR Research, who specializes in OB speaker design, when he learned of the new servo-feedback system by fellow Texas resident Brian Ding, designer and owner of Rythmik Audio. The two put their two big heads together, and the result is their State-Of-The-Art OB/Dipole Servo-Feedback Subwoofer, the only such design in the world, co-marketed by both companies.


The original Quad ESL and the Wharfedale SFB/3 were both mid 1950's open baffle products.


There are many ways to skin a cat, or a loudspeaker. Baffle-less designs are out there, from the semi-kit products like Pure Audio, to finished louspeakers like Emerald Physics. But other designs are also baffle-free, or partially baffle-free, like most omnis. And a full range planar speaker is also free of a baffle.

I have been using Ohm Walsh 2000s since 2009, and before that, Vandersteen 1Cs. So, you can count me in as part of the anti-baffle crowd. IME, a speaker with a baffle can sound baffle-less, but heroic efforts must be made to make the cabinet inert and avoid diffraction. That always means big bucks. For those of us with limited resources, baffle-free loudspeakers offer a cheaper way to take the box out of the equation. They’re not for everyone, of course, but unless I could spend a lot of money on a pair of speakers, I will stick to baffle-less designs.

david_ten, my remark about the versatility of OB speakers was admittedly only limited to single full range driver designs. The multi drivers like Pure Audio project, Spatial or hybrids with sealed box woofers like Tekton OB, etc., are much more forgiving in terms of music genres that sound good even when played loud.   

atmasphere, thanks for the tip. I read something similar in Nelson Pass's technical article about current source amplifiers and full range drivers. Makes a lot of sense.

@kalali  Thanks for clarifying. Appreciate it.
So here is a "no risk," return it if you don't like it, $450 chance to try an open baffle, full range driver, no crossover loudspeaker that got a pretty good review.. (watch steve deckert's video midway down the page

Yes, I decided to go DIY with OB subs in order gain fill-in from an open floor plan. So, no corners for my main speakers. In my case, speaker distance from my front wall was not an issue, so the subs are over four feet out.

As bdp24 mentions above, I went with the GR Research/Rythmik solution, and I used Jay (captainhemo) who offers the cabinet kits. I had him assemble mine, because he also had the veneer work done and finished for me to match my main speakers. Not just great sound that solved my issue, but I love how these OB subs look, but realize that's subjective. I will be adding grills as I'm trying to pull off a sixties British/American look (LOL). I have construction and finished pictures in my system's page if anyone is interested.
The Gradient OB's have been available for some time! I recall they made an OB woofer for use with Quad ESL's.
Correct roberjerman, Gradient made dedicated OB/Dipole subs for both the Quad ESL63 and original ("57"), which doubled as stands for the speakers. The GR Research/Rythmik is similar in basic design and style, but quite a bit more advanced. Better designed H-frames, higher-quality drivers, and more powerful plate amp. The amp also contains not only Brian Ding’s patented Direct Servo-Feedback system, but also a dipole-cancellation compensation shelving circuit, which corrects the front-to-back cancellation (and resulting loss of output with declining frequency) endemic to all dipole speakers. A brilliant design!
A pity Gradient did not design one to work with the more modern Quads. They still do a standalone generic one, but it is huge and expensive.
Gradient needn't bother. The GR Research/Rythmik OB/Dipole Sub is far superior!
Kenny, your system looks incredible, congratulations. Nicely done.
Thanks, it's been over 50 years in the works. I'm not a man of great means, so doing the slow crawl forward.
I'm close to getting there, I mean for real for me!
Open baffle combo guitar amps and speaker boxes have been around seemingly forever, and I prefer them over closed boxes these days, except for bass amps.
Another reason not mentioned is the imaging...most prefer what they know and an instruments sound, in stereo world, that seems to not come from a particular point bothers some...or at least i opine. i enjoy my 12" audio nirvana f.r. ob with a sub... i know its not high end but i think the sound is very lifelike with the music i prefer.  We have been sold on the idea of exact focal points and tbh in many live situations the sound is not at all 'stereophonic'. the return is correct time/phase alignment and a small set tube amp is more than enough. ymmv
Alon, Nola have been around for a while also.  You can build your own field coil speakers and they will sound fantastic!
I stopped into the DIY room at this year's Capital Audiofest and they had a low-powered tube amp driving an open baffle pair of DIY speakers, with a 12" Tannoy driver facing the listener, and an 18" down firing driver for the low bass.
I was really impressed with the sound they produced!  I asked the builder what he had in them and he said "about $1700", and further explained that the only reason the amount was so high is that Tannoy apparently doesn't sell individual drivers, so he had to purchase a pair of their speaker and remove the drivers from the cabinet.
Very impressive sound!  Even more impressive for the price!
I have a pair of Spatial M1 turbo and must say they are not power hungry! I am fan of concentric twitters and I like the bass too ! The only thing with OB is the size of drivers and not very dense sound like high end speakers! I think you should not judge OB speakers if you have not heard any good one!
Yeah I imagine that a lot of sound is lost due to cancellations, unless DSP is used. 
Frustrated with what I hear as colouration from traditional speakers during a 40+ year search for the ’perfect sound’ (including expensive & well reviewed B&Ws, JBLs, Shahinians, Dalis, Royds), I started building Open Baffle speakers during 2012. Last year I finally managed to create something that sounds closer to reality than I have experienced anywhere else.

These are my own hybrid 3-way design based on Pure Audio Project Trio15s & are run as a fully active 5-way system in tandem with twin subs below 50hz, powered by HDP-5 and HDP-3 DEQX processors with multiple power amps. Crossovers, frequency, phase, timing are all handled digitally (although my preferred and most listened source material tends to be vinyl).

Imaging, soundstaging, transient attack and dynamics are simply astounding and I cannot find fault with the speakers, room or system regardless of source material or volume. Well implemented OBs can sound truly remarkable although the lowest bass frequencies remain challenging without assistance.

I love OB, but I did find most things, like the Emerald Physics line for example, to be way too expensive and relatively not-so-well implemented for my tastes. So I eventually moved into DIY. I'm currently still building a pair based on Danny Ritchie's "Wedgie" speakers, but attempting to add horns into the mix. Using OB ribbon tweeers and Danny's LGK mids (MMTMM).

OB bass is handled by 2 Hawthorne Audio 15" "Augies", but they are not so much subwoofers here as they are simply part of a 3-way design. Digital crossovers, delay, gain and EQ...(but not phase) all fully adjustable make implementation a dream. Then lots of a singularly good conditioning solution I've found thrown at the whole system that takes the "digititis" and more completely away.

OB bass here is great. It's true that it doesn't disturb room modes or neighbors and that the texture and tone are the best. And as has been said before, it turns the "duhnn, duhnn, duhnn..." of boxed designed bass into the "dahh, dahh, dahh..." of OB - waaay more like real music. When you hear that for yourself, you suddenly understand the underlying reason why it is that 'too much is never enough' when it comes to boxed bass sound and one key reason why everyone seems to be on that endless quest for mo' better bass. When the bass sound is freed from the addition of the "duhnn" sound being imposed onto the decay trail of a deep drum and the sound is likewise freed from the artificially induced dynamic, gut-level "punch" being added to the initial attack of a standup or electric bass line...then the bass instruments are finally and fully 'separated out from each other' and the real sound of each instrument is allowed to come through unedited. Then it can hit you that this level of transparency in the bass can, finally, be made to be Exactly on par with the transparency throughout the rest of the range. Search over. Only the problem of the lowest frequencies remains. Although here that has been far from any kind of deal breaker for me.
Since they don’t disturb room modes would it be safe to say that they are less picky about placement? Or do they need to be loaded in corners? 
Open baffle speakers must be a nightmare to design (bandwidth and cancellation) otherwise they would render all box speakers obsolete.

The problems of getting cone drivers to work perfectly in a box are infinite. Box speakers will always be flawed though some try very hard - Harbeth, Wilson, Magico Fujitsu Eclipse etc. 
seanheis1: Many OBs need space to breathe and should ideally be kept well clear of front and side walls.

One other comment about bass & the reason I use subwoofer reinforcement below 50hz:
Much live music is amplified through horn or box speakers so we often don’t hear vocalists or instruments ’naturally’ anyway. Even using four 15" OB drivers as I do, this cannot recreate the depth of live sound or indeed something as subtle as a foot stomp on some solo acoustic albums. OB bass gives the speed and transient attack of real instruments and correctly blended sub bass the final sense of realism.
From the standpoint of room modes they're less picky about placement, but they do need room to breathe away from the front wall of course, like 3-5ft out into the room. Corner loading is not particularly necessary normally, but corner loaded designs could be good.

I think what most people who don't have that much experience with OB bass tend to assume about it is that somehow the OB bass sound is dialed back or deficient in all areas across the board...that the whole bass output is insufficient in all areas, or that the lack of low end is egregious - it isn't. It's only lacking compared to other designs when it comes to low frequency extension **given the same woofer diameter of boxed designs** IOW, If you are looking for a certain low frequency depth compared to 8" woofer in boxes, you might need to be looking at 10" woofers to get a more directly comparable LF extension in OB. Or, for LF extension of 10" boxed woofers, you might more directly compare to 12" OB, and so on. Otherwise, well implemented OB bass is just as dynamic, punchy, forceful and has about as much slam as boxed. Maybe the only other catch is that it's rather necessary to only use drivers that either happen to be suited to OB use or were specifically designed for OB use to start with...of which there are still not all that date, anyway. Other than that, they are not any harder to design, really. In fact they are easier overall.

Why they have not yet caught on like other designs (but seem to be steadily gaining) may have more to with non-listening related factors, I suspect...WAF and the need to be placed out into the room and so on. But, they make an excellent choice for a dedicated room for example, and IMO sound-wise they are underrated when well implemented...but then again, I suppose about any speaker is underrated when well implemented.
Open baffle speakers must be a nightmare to design (bandwidth and cancellation) otherwise they would render all box speakers obsolete.
They really are not that hard to design. But if you want to do it right, they are going to take up some space, and unless carefully built, the WAF is not as good as 'ye olde box'.
The ultimate "Open Baffle" system involves simply hooking up "raw" drivers and giving them the freedom to bounce around on the floor unattached to anything but the wire from the amp. Anything else is simply baffling.
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thanks for the suggestion on the gtaudioworks. Those look like Magnepan killers. 

Yesterday I received some Betsy open baffle speakers made by caintuck audio from an Agon seller and I can't stop listening to them. They are laughably good for the money.

It does sound like the band is playing in the room. When you hear a speaker without a crossover, you learn what coherence is. When you hear a speaker without a box, you learn what the box sounds like. When you hear a good speaker without a box or mid/tweet crossover, you begin to question conventional designs.

This speaker does need bass reinforcement though. At some point today I plan to add my REL to see how it blends.  


@gnjtack. you are SO right about the OB sub and dipole speaker pairing being a great one. There are a number of us Maggie/Eminent Technology/Quad speaker owners using a pair of the GR Research/Rythmik OB/Dipole Servo-Feedback Subs with them. But as you said, it is a DIY product, the woofers and dedicated servo amp available as a kit only. However, there are a few woodworkers making flat pack OB frames to install the parts in, the flat packs pretty easily assembled.

Linkwitz Lab offers it's own OB/Dipole sub as part of complete OB speakers systems, but again as a kit only. The top model is tri-amped, the consumer required to provide three stereo amps (or six mono), including the one for the woofers. That can get expensive!

I made an enquiry to Spatial's European distributor last week, as I'm very interested in the Lumina. 
Unfortunately received the response that they are not currently available like for like in Europe, the distributor is working his own variants and is still navigating EU approval on the bass amplifiers.
 Very disappointed 
I love open baffle speakers. All of the speakers I would own are open baffle and I have been using nothing but since 1978. Having said this open baffle or dipoles subwoofers is a silly notion even from a DIY perspective. The way you control bass dispersion into a room is by careful placement against walls and into corners using multiple drivers. 
In 1982 or so I built dipole subwoofers for my Acoustats falling for the reasoning that they would be easier to match up with dipole speakers. The experiment lasted 6 months and was a total and complete failure as far as real low bass was concerned.