Review: Ohm Acoustics Walsh 5 Series 3 Speaker
Bottom line: Yes, I think these are world class speakers that are relatively affordable, that work well with good or even great electonics, without spending a fortune, and despite the modest price, and pre-requisites in term of the supporting system, can compete with the best at most any price.
About 1 year ago, after several years of living more or less happily with my then current system, I got the urge to investigate whether my system could be improved to my ideal. Like most, I am not in a position to throw tens of thousands of dollars into my system. A few grand max is the most I could rationalize spending to achieve my ideal.
I have had the opportunity to audition many systems and components over the years, and run different speaker systems in 6 different rooms of my house.
When the urge to explore upgrades came, I had a pair of B&W P6 floor standers in one room, a pair of Magneplanar MG1.Cs in another, a pair of Triangle Titus monitors paired to an M&K v1-B sub in another (for A/V), and a pair of original Ohm Walsh 2s in yet another.
Each of these speakers had different strengths and weaknesses.
The B&Ws were beautiful, had good bass and a nice warm sound, but I could never get the transparency, imaging and detail I heard with my Maggies or good electrostatics when I heard them, like the Quads.
The Maggies were attractive looking, had the transparency, imaging and soundstage, but were lacking somewhat in the bass and hard to place optimally without being obtrusive and lacking in WAF accordingly.
The Triangle/sub combo was very smooth detailed and transparent with good low end good, very fulfilling, but perhaps a bit lacking in soundstage and the “live like being there” soundstage factor, which the Ohm Walsh 2’s owned.
The older Ohm Walsh 2’s had the most lifelike soundstage and imaging but the detail and balanced timbre was not there compared to more modern designs.
I realized at this point that the unique “live like being there” factor of the Ohm’s were the most distinctive feature of all and would be the hardest and most expensive to achieve with other lines.
So how to get all the best aspects of all this into 1 affordable package?
The solution, at least based on reading, appeared to be current line of Ohm Walsh (Series 3) speakers. From what I read and heard, these retained the unique live performance characteristics of the older Ohm Walsh drivers + 20 plus years of refinement by Ohm in timber, balance, soundstage and detail.
Ohms current line of Walsh speakers are designed to provide similar levels of performance from small rooms to large.
So if your room is relatively small, in theory you could get no compromise sound with the smaller Walsh speakers that start at about $1000. These would be the Micro Walsh models that received a sixmoons Blue Moon award (http://6moons.com/audioreviews/walsh/micro.html).
For larger rooms, the larger Walsh 300s Series 3 at about $5000 is the solution. The Walsh 5 Series 3 at $5000-$6000 dollars provides level adjustments that enable these to go in any room, small to large, and adjust the drivers to the room acoustics as the user sees fit.
So after some further lower cost experimentation with high quality monitors and the smaller Ohm Series 3 speakers in one of my smaller rooms, I determined that the Walsh 5 Series 3 drivers were the solution for me. But the $5000 and up cost was prohibitive. The solution: John Strohbeen at Ohm offered up a pair of refurbished F-5 Series 3 speakers with new Walsh 5 Series 3 drivers for lower cost. These went straight into my largest room which is about 30’X18’ but L shaped, not rectangular.
Getting the high end sound I was looking for in the L shaped family room was a unique challenge. An advantage of the Ohm Walsh CLS drivers (particularly the adjustable Walsh 5 drivers) however is that they are fairly easy to place and still get excellent results.
The F-5s replaced the Magneplanars in the big L shaped room. I loved the Maggie sound but these were very hard to place for optimal sound.
The Ohm F-5’s have all the great qualities of the Maggies, but are even better and provide better impact and dynamics, particularly in the low end.
So what do the F-5s sound like?
Well, without, trying to be coy, I’d say they sound like whatever source signal you happen to put through them should sound like in your particular room. I honestly cannot fault them in any way I can think of. Maybe they do not have the nth degree of detail of a good pair of monitors perhaps. But if so, it really doesn’t matter because when you listen, you do not get the sense that you are missing anything.
What the Ohms do perhaps better than any other speaker design I’ve heard is transform your room into a concert hall. If you think about what more can you ask from a pair of speakers than to provide the best sonic rendition possible in your particular room? Take any recording on any system or any live performing group or ensemble and put them in different rooms or concert halls to perform, and they will sound different in each room everytime. There is no ideal concert hall just like there is no ideal speaker or system. Each is different. Furthermore, you will hear something different in even a great venue depending on where you sit. So location in the room relative to the performers is a factor as well.
The F-5s sit about 4 feet apart and about 3 feet from the rear wall. The rear wall is about 20 feet wide. The Ohm CLS drivers seem to work like what I would call sound projectors.
Much like a video projector projects a picture onto a wall, the omndirectional Ohms project the sound in all directions, upward and 360 degrees around, similar to how the sound eminating from a live act is projected in all directions, reflect off the walls and other solid surfaces, and eventually reach your ears.
As I indicated earlier, what reaches your ears with the Walsh 5 Series 3 drivers is for all practical purposes whatever the music signal input was.
In my case the soundstage extends fully from left to right wall, about 20 feet, even though the speakers are only 4 feet apart. Despite the fact that my speakers location is skewed about 3 feet to the right of center, mono signals occur exactly at the mid point between the walls and extend to the walls fully both left and right. The soundstage extends well back behind the rear wall as well.
Individual instruments and recording mix elements are crystal clear and balanced from top to bottom and can be picked out easily due to the huge soundstage.
Furthermore, the soundstage and overall clarity of presentation holds up no matter where you sit in the room. Like sitting in different seats in a concert hall, you will get a different sonic perspective in each location, but the presentation is full, complete and yes coherent regardless (hence the Coherent moniker in the driver name?).
The Walsh 5 driver are only 87db efficient, however my 150 w/channel Musical FIdelity A3CR has no problem driving them to realistic listening levels. I’ve found both the Walsh 5 series 3 drivers in the F5s and the smaller 100 drivers in the super Walsh 2’s can take whatever power you thow at them and deliver the goods.
My only wonder with the F-5s is what they might be capable of if I threw a top notch high current monster amp at them. This may be the next frontier for me to explore someday.
Musical Fidelity A3CR power amplifier
Carver c-6 preamplifier
Harmonic Technology Truth Link Interconnect (re-amp->amp)
Denon CDR 1500 CD
DNM Reson interconnects (CD->pre-amp)
Linn Axis with Basik tonearm and Denon DL103R low output MC cartridge
Roku Soundbridge with Audioquest G snake interconnect
Ohm Walsh 2
Ohm Super Walsh 2 Series 3
Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MkII
Triangle Titus with M&K V1-B sub