Now, here’s something you don’t see too often; an omni-directional loudspeaker. The Duevel Enterprise features two drive units that point upwards, with the high frequency unit having a cone-like device immediately above it to help disperse the sound over 360 degrees. The aim is to produce a more even distribution of energy in all directions, and create a more homogenous integrated sound.
Loudspeaker design was (and is) hugely influenced (restricted?) by the perceived ‘needs’ of stereo. But how might things have developed had twin channel Stereophonic sound not made such a big impact in the late 1950s? For starters, stereo made it necessary for speakers to be made smaller. But there was another more important consideration...
In the Mono era, loudspeakers were often of the direct/reflecting Omni type; designed to create a degree of ‘spread’ in order to disguise the lack of width inherent with single channel reproduction. With single channel mono, the last thing you wanted was a highly directional loudspeaker, because this created a cramped ‘narrow’ sort of sound that lacked breadth.
As stereo gained acceptance and popularity, more and more speakers were designed to be directional in order to maximise the impression of left/right separation, and the positional accuracy of voices or instruments in the soundstage. Having invested heavily in expensive twin channel equipment, listeners wanted the stereo effect to be clear and obvious.
Equally, having initially cut their audio teeth on single channel/single speaker mono, early stereo listeners would have demanded that their stereo system be able to deliver a solid narrow central image on (say) a solo piano or centrally-placed voice. Directional loudspeakers did this splendidly, but (alas) in the process tended to make mono recordings sound cramped and undernourished.