The original concept that launched Ohm was a Lincoln Walsh design of a single driver, full frequency range, omni-directional speaker. The objective was simple enough, create a live-listening experience by eliminating the narrow listening area and the “tiny sweet spot” that is the weakness of many conventional speaker designs. Ohm Acoustics Corp has been producing speakers based on the original Lincoln Walsh design and patents since the early 1970s. Of course, the Ohm speaker has evolved a great deal over the years, the present-day models are easier to drive, have improved on their ability to generate a stereo image in a large listening area are much more tolerant to placement with respect to the front wall. Over the years Ohm speakers have received many very positive reviews so I decided that it was time that TNT-Audio had their say on the matter.
Ohm offers a wide variety of speakers, and, since 1999, Ohm has moved to factory direct sales which includes a 120 day trial period. Ohm also offers custom modified drivers in order to match the speakers to your listening room. The Walsh 3000 model under review is part of the “Tall” family; a set of 5 floor-standing models designed specifically for seated, stereo listening or to be used as the left and right channels of a surround system. The Tall series ranges in size from the smallest, the 1000 to the largest, the 5000, so the 3000 review model is about in the middle.
Setup and Initial Notes
At about 80 pounds each it wasn’t too difficult to get them downstairs to my listening room. The speakers arrived triple boxed, very well protected but not at all difficult to unpack. My demo set has a Rosewood finish which I understand is no longer available, at least for this model. There are 11 finishes available according to the web site. The finish is excellent and the rounded corners are a nice touch. Never hurts to be a bit different! The cabinets are basically a 30.5-inch-tall square tube with the driver assembly mounted on top. The unit stands on a black enamel base with spacers that provide about a 1.25-inch opening all around the bottom of the tube. There is also a top cover that hides the driver unit and gives the speaker a more conventional appearance. The driver assembly is an all-in-one unit housed in a metal cage which is attached on top of the speaker cabinet with seven large screws. Ohm indicates this assembly to be acoustically transparent. There is a sketch of this driver assembly on their web site.
I found the Walsh 3000 to be quite different than what I am used to. The soundstage is big in every direction. It seems to go all the way to the ceiling!
They were installed in just a few minutes and running on my NAD C 320BEE. Ohm specifies the speaker to deliver 88 dB at 2.8 Volts and to require a minimum of 45 Watts to fire it up. At only 50 Watts my NAD was certainly on the small side but it was all that I had available at the time as my new 150-Watt Parasound amp had not arrived yet. To put it mildly, the sound was not great. OK, it was terrible! Rough in the high end and loose and heavy in the low end. Very mushy, washed-out, bloated bass, I had to move the speakers more than 2 ft from wall to reduce the bass somewhat (not recommended in the Walsh manual). A week later, when the new 150 Watt/35 amp Parasound newClassic 2125 V.2 arrived, it became clear that the main problem was a lack of horsepower. My conclusion is that the Walsh 3000 needs more than 50 Watts to function adequately.
The photo below is, of course, not the speakers I have reviewed, it is provided simply to shown what the wT-3000 looks like with the cover removed. The black cylinder on top is the driver can.
The rest of this report is based on the performance of the speakers connected to a Parasound newClassic 2125 V.2 amplifier.
Here is what Walsh had to say regarding break-in:
“The only “break in” we recommend is 100 hours of listening to material you’re familiar with at your usual volume, in order to give your ears time to adjust to the new speakers. As I’m sure you know, the Walsh series are very unlike conventional speakers in that they utilize room reflections to create their signature soundstage. If you have a lot of experience listening to live, unamplified acoustic music, most people consider the break in process to happen very quickly.”
For about a century people have been inventing new and innovative ways to do basically the same task, convert an electrical signal into sound waves. Sealed boxes, ported boxes, tapered quarter wave pipes, flat panels, and the list goes on and on. Each design has it’s characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Today we are working with a pair of omnidirectional speakers and the same thing situation applies, and, one could argue, to a much greater extent. Walsh speakers sound significantly different, so much so that they felt the necessity to recommend 100 hours of listening just to get used to them!
As advertised, I found the Walsh 3000 to be quite different than what I am used to. The soundstage is big in every direction. It seems to go all the way to the ceiling! With my Coincident speakers, standing up or moving a couple of feet out of the sweet spot brings an immediate drop off in the sound. Not at all the case with the 3000. One can move pretty much anywhere in the room and get approximately the same sound level and soundstage. Yes, there is a bit of loss of focus as one moves away from the middle of the room but not really significant. The other side of that coin is that a pair of 3000s does not produce a very tight focus to start with. Not to say the focus is poor, it is simply not one of their strong points. No doubt an inevitable result of the omnidirectional design.
As is illustrated in the link provided above, the driver can (Ohm’s term) contains an inverted full-range driver and a supertweeter. Ohm is pretty secretive when it comes to the characteristics of the supertweeter. It has been incorporated into their speakers since the ’70s and is applied to reinforce the highest frequencies and add clarity. The supertweeters are installed pointing outwards from the front-inside corner of each driver can. The manual instructs that they be “aimed towards the centre of the room”. Listening to the speakers, it certainly feels like the supertweeters add focus. Placement is important with these units; they must be not more than 2 feet away from the front wall and there should be no obstructions between them. They need to “see” each other. A separation of 6 to 12 feet is recommended and it was found that the overall sound was more interesting as separation was increased.
The omnidirectionality of the Walsh 3000 speakers coupled with their punch, speed and dynamic power produce a rare and wonderful listening experience.
In any stereo system, the room is an integral part of the system and the 3000s were specifically designed with that in mind. Room reflections are essential in creating the “Walsh sound”. In my case, two salient characteristics were revealed; the speakers were found to be a bit too much for the room, and secondly, there was a significant imbalance towards the bass end of the frequency spectrum. After some email exchanges, Walsh decided to send me a pair of new driver cans modified to produce a more balanced sound (I don’t know what they did to them). I was not told if these units produce less bass or more treble, however from my listening time it seems clear that the bass was significantly cut back. It only took a few minutes to install the new cans and the change was quite significant. The overall sound was very much more balanced and I was able to move them closer to the front wall as per Ohm’s standard placement recommendations. However, the impression still remained that these speakers were a bit too much for my room. In hindsight, possibly the 2000 model would have been a better choice. That being said, the review sample available was the wT-3000 so that choice was not available. For the record, my room is 30 feet long and 16 feet wide (where the speakers are placed) but only 7.5 feet high. Walsh seemed to think that the relatively low ceiling would not be an issue but I can’t help thinking that the “too much bass” problem had something to do with the low ceiling vs. vertically-mounted drivers. I should be noted that I don’t own any bass traps, a DIY project that I have been considering for a while.
The photo below shows one of the driver cans received from Ohm in order to tame the bass on my review sample.
The 3000s do a lot of things well. Not surprisingly many of them have to do with spatial characteristics. You can’t be a bystander when these speakers are playing, this is in your face, full immersion music. The sound is big, really big. There is a feeling of being in the music instead of in front of the music. Buckle up, you’re going for a ride. My first experience with this feeling was when I played Exodus from the Bob Marley Legend album. I was taking notes and I had to stop, the music compelled my complete attention. I just sat there for the whole track, and the rest of the album, my body trying to dance and sit at the same time! Other strong attributes of these speakers are punch or slam, big dynamic range, lots of power and a penetrating mid-range. Things like solo voices and brass instruments have an imposing presence.
Space, air, reverb, sustain are all strong points. On Nick Cave’s 2019 album, Ghosteen, Nick’s voice gets a heavy helping of reverb and the 3000s serve it very well indeed. Allmusic has listed this album in their Best of 2019, with good reason. It’s sparse instrumentation featuring mostly keyboards up-front and Nick’s heavily reverb-ed voice generates a beautiful sense of space and depth. The Ohm speakers are the perfect playmate for this album.
A lot of my ’50s jazz albums were recorded with all the musicians in one room and only 1 or 2 microphones. The 3000s let the listener experience the depth and width of the room. Non-electrified instruments such a bass drum, timpani, bongos, acoustic bass and cymbals all have an expansive, airy presence.
You can’t be a bystander when these speakers are playing, this is in your face, full immersion music. The sound is big, really big. There is a feeling of being in the music instead of in front of the music. Buckle up, you’re going for a ride.
About half way through the review process I played “A Decade of Steely Dan”. After listening to about 4 or 5 tracks I came to the conclusion that this album was all I really needed to write this review. Punchy, dynamic, tight and crisp, beautiful and precise rhythm section. Some tracks showed a bit “less than perfection” on the high-end, a bit of a tendency towards brittle or edgy, however, at this time I am unable to determine if this is coming from the speakers or the new amp.
Playing the superbly recorded Harmonia Mundi vinyl edition of Vivaldi, Un Art de la Fugue, the speakers did a good job all the way through from violins to contra-bass, performing well on multi-instrument passage as well as solos. Its powerful dynamic range was a definite plus for this type of classical music.
The omnidirectionality of the Walsh 3000 speakers coupled with their punch, speed and dynamic power produce a rare and wonderful listening experience. If you are looking for speakers to use in a party room filled with dancers, this is the one for you. Put these in your home entertainment system and forget about surround speakers. No need for five speakers or a subwoofer, the 3000s will take care of it. If you listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé this may not be the first choice for you but is you prefer a more lively and powerful brand of music you’ll love the Walsh 3000. Clapton, Marley, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull (yes, I am that old!) bring them on.
Some audiophiles may find them a bit over exuberant and/or less than perfection in the highs however the Walsh 3000 outperforms in overall sound quality compared to a lot of it’s competition at this price point. The factory direct sales model allows the price to come down significantly and this could certainly account for some of that performance advantage. Combined with Ohm’s offer of a free home trial period and the possibility of having a tailor-made set of drivers to fit your room, The Ohm speakers are an appealing option. Keeping in mind that anyone who is considering the custom-made route should have a discussion with Ohm to clarify how this impacts the trial and return offer.
Here is a partial list of music played for this review.
- Jennifer Warnes: The Hunter.
- Tracy Chapman: Our Bright Future.
- Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited. 24/96 flac
- Vivaldi: Un Art de la Fugue. Vynil.
- Steely Dan: A decade of Steely Dan. Vynil.
- Massive Attack: Mezzanine.
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen.
- Steve Earl: Copperhead Row. Vynil.
- Bob Marley: Legend.
- Earth Wind and Fire: I Am. Vynil.
- Keith Jarrett: Best of Keith Jarrett. Vinyl.