Doug Schroeder Reviews the F5 for Dagogo

Sunday, August 8, 2021 F5 Classic
Publisher: Dagogo | Author: Doug Schroeder

What does an audiophile do with a speaker that tosses sound everywhere? How is the perfectionist to approach a soundstage that is bulbous, what I term the mushroom cloud soundstage? It is so obviously different that it raises many questions about its characteristics and operation in a HiFi system. A distinct subset of enthusiasts claim it is the only correct genre of speaker among the several available. I have no intent on attempting to answer these questions definitively, nor to write a history of the omnidirectional speaker. I endeavor to explore the unique aspects of this omnidirectional speaker. Along the way I will revisit an earlier model from the Ohm Acoustics, the Walsh Model F, in a fit of comparative curiosity to see how it sounds alongside the current flagship, the Beta F-5015 (At the time of publishing, the company has renamed the speaker F5 officially –pub.).

A true omnidirectional speaker is noted not so much for its timbral and dynamic characteristics, which, like any other dynamic speaker, may be exemplary or anemic depending upon the brand, but for its bulbous, amorphous soundstage. Listening to Shelby Lynn’s unnaturally outsized vocals reminded me of the time my sons and I went to the Blue Man Group show at Universal Studio’s theme park and experienced a rather unusual display. At one point the Blue men went into the audience with handheld, wireless mini cameras and unexpectedly coaxed a show goer to put his head back and open his mouth. In went the camera; the close-up images of his throat and uvula on the screen were uproarious, the audience grossed out and laughed hysterically. It is best to expect larger than life-sized imaging if you are considering an omni speaker!

As an owner of an omni speaker, the Kingsound King Tower, which I picked up from the Kingsound U.S. distributor following its appearance in two shows at RMAF, I have appreciation of the enveloping character of the omnidirectional speaker, it’s greatest attribute among fans. One does truly feel immersed in the musical event, as opposed to hearing it approach. Having an appreciation for the breadth of design in the speaker industry, when listening to an omnidirectional speaker, I readily accept the inflated scale and settle in to hear from within the performance, not outside of it. The omni does give a sense of being with the band as opposed to being segregated from it. The effect is not absolute, but much more convincing than typical speaker setups except, perhaps, nearfield listening and, as might be expected, headphones.

A new generation of Ohm speakers

By “new” generation, I am distinguishing between Lincoln Walsh’s 1970s era Model A, the later Walsh Model F spoken of earlier, and the current offerings from Ohm. My pair of Model F were about to be hauled to the dump, as they had obvious damage to one cabinet and to both speakers’ surrounds and spiders (the drivers are mounted vertically, and over time the spiders may sag from the weight of the cone). The owners recalled that I like audio, so they called to see if I had interest in the damaged speakers. They thought I might be offended, as the speakers were old and damaged. As I drove over to their home, knowing that Ohm also made some more traditional designs, I hoped that they would be omnidirectional speakers. They were surprised that I knew they were iconic, considered among the most innovative designs in HiFi speakers historically, and were thrilled that I showed interest in restoring them.

Both out of excitement to embark on an open-ended adventure in speakers, and to glean advice, I opened a thread on Audiogon wherein I discussed my options available, ranging from parts replacement to full restoration, covering a cost spectrum from less than $500 to more than $7,000! As I already owned omni speakers that were used lightly due to other fine transducers rotating through my home for reviews, I opted for the inexpensive revamp rather than a full-blown restoration. I drove two 12-hour round trips to drop off and then pick up the speakers rather than trust shippers. I was not going to chance damage to those drivers!

Very few people have the luxury of a dedicated room, much less a large one, for listening. Also, many enthusiasts fit their system into rooms with asymmetrical furniture arrangements. The Ohm speaker can have an advantage in such situations.

On the Audiogon thread one can see how enthusiasts were disappointed with my decision, but my priorities in system building are quite different from those of the average audiophile. While I cannot say the refurbishing of the speakers brought me precisely to the performance level of the original, I do believe it brought me close enough to gauge what their potential would be as fully restored vintage speakers. Thus, this discussion of comparison is between a refurbished, not perfectly restored, Walsh Model F and the current Ohm F5.

While I have a glancing familiarity with the history and models of speakers from Ohm, I am not an authority. I will not pretend that I am the “buck stops here” person for Ohm speakers. However, I do believe I can bring value added analysis to the F5, and when this article is finished, perhaps you will agree.

Rubbing shoulders with the venerated company

John Strohbeen, owner of the company and his assistant, Evan Cordes, who appears to be handling the production and email communication, were both cheerful and very laid back. The mood was definitely “no issues, no problems, we’ll get it done.” And they did — with zero stress. That was refreshing considering the occasional overbearing representatives (typically dealers or PR firms associated with a manufacturer) I encounter. I can get reviews done fine with those individuals, but there is far more worry and uptightness on their end. A few have wanted to see the review prior to publication, or to check it for more than technical errors. My answer is no, you will not. Ohm did not show any desire to direct the writing of the review, as is the case with the majority of companies I engage. Ohm speakers as a company strikes me as being similar to Pass Laboratories; they have been around for a long time, and they will continue to be around. Before I get too far afield, Ohm offers an Outdoor speaker series, legacy Parts and Service, Home Theater Systems, and an Outlet Store on the website.

Shipping and condition

Most of the time manufacturers want a reviewer to have a mint product for assessment, however, there are occasions where a B-stock unit can be utilized without harming the integrity of the assessment. In this instance, the cabinet and top module housing of the speakers showed wear, but the internals were new. It appears that Ohm took a show or demo pair, made sure the electronic portion of the speaker was new, and sent them off to me. I find that to be a sensible and perfectly appropriate decision, but a company may wish to inform the reviewer first! I was not aware just how laid back the company was in this regard, and when I uncrated the speakers I was concerned to see scratches on the cabinets and a scrape on the top of one metal top module housing. A relaxed Evan shared that they prepped the speakers in the condition as described. Perfect.

The shipping was immaculate, the entire four boxes per speaker arriving on a sizable pallet unscathed. Be sure you have plenty of space for the boxes and pallet if you are the type of owner who saves everything, just in case you ever have to move or sell them. I was able to nest boxes pretty well, and I have a habit of standing pallets of review speakers on end vertically in the garage against a wall. If necessary, I use a bungee affixed to the wall to hold the pallet snug, and so very little space is required to store it.

The construction of the speaker is robust, the cabinet with its semi-gloss black finish and the top module with flat black finish are both made with sturdy materials. This reminds me of the throw back, solid “made in America” appearance and feel that was the norm decades ago. The pair for review was finished in black and it is great to see such a solid cabinet with a fine finish reminiscent of a piece of Amish furniture. The included casters, rather than spikes, are quite tough and sizable enough not to get swallowed by thick carpeting. They also come with locks to retain speaker position.

There was one glitch in the setup, that being an inoperative top module. Evan told me that this happens occasionally, and that simply swapping the modules may fix it. I attempted to do so, but one of the wooden frames of the base of the module did not fit into the top nook of the opposite subwoofer’s cabinet. That is, there was just enough variance in the woodwork that the two tops were not interchangeable. The variance was ever so slight, and it speaks of production from a small shop as opposed to, say, a larger operation with CNC machining. Swapping speaker leads confirmed that the inoperative condition resided within the top module, so Evan instructed me to remove that module and check the lead to it from the crossover.

I have a high degree of curiosity about the operations of the equipment I review, and would have loved to access the innards of the module itself, but it is sealed up tight. Ohm does not want prying eyes inside these modules, not the least because of potential damage to them. The metal portion housing the actual hybrid omni driver is entirely sealed in the cylindrical cage, which is removed from its wooden base containing the crossover by backing out several long bolts. There is a lead which arises from the wooden box of the top module, and I could see nothing of the crossover underneath due to a sea of damping material. I did not pull at this, because I did not wish to potentially damage some aspect of the module.

I was a bit surprised to see a plastic clip connection, similar to what is seen in car engines, linking the module to the buried crossover. The fault preventing the module from operation was not immediately evident, as the clip seemed intact. But, as I rotated the module to move it aside to inspect its integrity, I noticed that one lead from below seemed to pull out from the clip slightly. I gently tugged on it and the wire came out entirely! I was initially disturbed, thinking that now I had broken it and a more serious repair would be needed. However, there was no solder on the wire, indicating that it was held in by a pressure clip. The solution was to simply reinsert the wire and push, and it held in place. The speaker was once again operational.

I will leave it to golden eared hobbyists to argue over whether the joint not being soldered is audible. The build reminds me of the methods used for the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers, which I called a quick and dirty build, because some parts are low cost and methods not industry leading. Here, too, good enough parts and assembly methods seem to dictate the build. I cannot speak to the innards of the module, nor the internals of the subwoofer, but if the link between the modules is an indication, the Ohm company operates from a perspective not unlike some other manufacturers who make assembly decisions based on theoretical and often specification-driven considerations rather than spare-no-expense assembly.

Some highly respected companies use push-on connectors. If I recall correctly, opening up the Wharfedale Opus 2-M2 bookshelf speaker revealed pedestrian wiring of similar nature to that inside the Ohm speaker, and Legacy Audio also uses pressure clips to put leads on drivers at least in the case of the Whisper DSW Clarity Edition. Some audiophiles think such things are intolerable, while others say they make no difference. I know that I can make all manner of speakers sound terrific if given the time and equipment to optimize them. Is there a sonic cost associated with such construction methods? I would need two identical models built differently —and so would you —to compare and judge. As it is, the potential buyer decides what aspects of the speaker are most important.

The aspect of the speaker’s build that balances this discussion is the price break afforded by a simpler assembly. Ohm is not charging $20K or even $15K for these speakers, and that is appropriate. It would be a problem if they were advertised as bespoke with ultimate execution of the build. That would not be defensible, but Ohm is not claiming it. They are building what would be considered by them a vastly superior design with standardized assembly. In this hobby, not only does performance have a spectrum, so does reliability and repairability, and we all make our choices. I feel Ohm is similar to Magnepan in not overcharging for the build level.

Physical description and performance differences of Walsh model F and F5

The purpose of this review is not merely a comparative discussion of two Ohm speakers of different eras, but a proper review of the F5. I will leave it to others to wax eloquence on the desirability of either design. The Walsh Model F is a full range speaker, and the vintage set has quite limited capabilities compared to the F5. For instance, the newer speaker has an active subwoofer with attendant controls to give full flexibility in rooms, and this makes it suitable for higher level HT applications, both in terms of configurability and LF output. After all, the bass/subwoofer module has an impressive 15” downward firing driver with a 500 wpc ICEpower class D module. Few specifics are shown on the Ohm website; in keeping with the culture of the company, their message to customers is, “Let us handle the specifics; it’ll be good enough for you.” To all but the most hard-boiled audiophiles, it will be.

The active bass module uses a typical 15A IEC power cord, which I strongly suggest be replaced with a premium aftermarket cord. As with other powered subs, the F5’s subwoofer is influenced sonically by the power cord, the Clarity Cable Vortex Power Cord offering better fullness of low end, and the Belden BAV Power Cord offering a touch more linearity with less weight toward the bottom.

There are a couple of other significant design differences between the legacy Walsh Model F and the current F5, including completely reworked primary drivers (note the plural “drivers”), an extensive set of four contouring controls for those drivers, and an enclosure over them. The F5’s top driver assembly is ensconced in a metal meshed housing that does not allow for unrestricted wave launch, which was a hallmark of the Model F. The F5 has both grill cloth and metal mesh barriers, not the best for absolute cleanness, detail presentation, etc. In defense of this build, that sturdy cylinder houses both a delicate dual driver system that can be damaged quite easily, and a sensitive switching network for contouring the sound. It is difficult to envision how durability and ergonomic efficiency could be optimized in a different package.

John Strohbeen, owner of the company and his assistant, Evan Cordes, who appears to be handling the production and email communication, were both cheerful and very laid back. The mood was definitely “no issues, no problems, we’ll get it done.” And they did — with zero stress.

Readers should not, however, conclude that the Walsh Model F is superior in terms of detail retrieval and overall cleanness to the F5 simply because its grill can be lifted off to reveal the naked driver. In fact, when it comes to absolute precision, the Model F is rather poor in comparison to the F5, despite its freedom from having a permanent grill. How can that be? Speaker systems are a combination of many different parts and design decisions, and it is common for vintage speakers to holistically underperform contemporary designs. The absence of a grill is not enough of an advantage for the older speaker to outperform the newer. Would a restored, not simply refurbished, Walsh Model F or similar compete well against the F5? Perhaps, but I was not going to spend better than $7K to find out. A fair comparison in terms of speakers having grills would be between the F5 and a speaker such as the Paradigm Persona 9H, as both utilize metal mesh covers and have powered woofers.

In a departure from the full range omni driver, the F5 uses a similar but smaller downward-firing full metal cone, but its radiation pattern is constricted partially toward the rear by acoustical attenuators, which appear to be widened frame assemblies that hold the driver above the bass cabinet cavity and allow alignment of the surround, and vertically by a collar called a Tufflex Transmission Block. This collar sits atop the driver to ensure it does not simply blast waves vertically, as do the Model F drivers. In addition, a tweeter has an associated circular metal plate —would it be crass to call it a blast shield? — bent at a 90-degree angle to create a floor and back wall for that driver, forcing the wave launch forward toward the inside front corner of the speaker’s cabinet. Consequently, the F5 is properly a hybrid omni speaker with controlled directivity downward and outward, and particularly forward via the high frequency driver.

One might say that the company currently sells in the F5 an omnidirectional speaker with limited vertical dispersion and directed tweeter response. Is it better or worse than a true omni? It is not as good as the Model F in one parameter: creation of the mushroom cloud soundstage. However, it exceeds the Model F in all other performance parameters. Though the F5 does not have the classic mushroom cloud soundstage, neither does it have all the stray reflections associated with it. It has far more adjustability and contouring controls to make it mesh with a very wide array of components and rooms. It is also a much more visceral speaker, with macrodynamic capacity that dwarfs the Model F. There is a fundamental, perhaps even radical, performance differential between these two speakers, both by Ohm Acoustics, but built in different eras of the company’s history. It provides a reminder to the uninitiated that simply buying a speaker on impulse due to name recognition does not ensure one understands its performance capabilities.

Shuffling a deck of settings on the F5

Card games are enjoyable because of low probability of predicting combinations, or hands. An enjoyable aspect of HiFi is the ability to contour the sound, to build different combinations of gear, resulting in previously unheard combinations of sound characteristics making even familiar music seem fresh. When favored combinations are found, they are said to have high synergy. Most speakers are quite limited in the degree to which they can be contoured compared to the F5. One of the most limited is the Walsh Model F mentioned above. In stock form it has no adjustments for its full range performance. While I was having the drivers repaired, I had the fuse holder bypassed, which puts the drivers at risk in situations where there may be an upstream problem, and eventually removed half of the dense fill inside the bass cabinet. These were effective changes to these speakers, bringing them further along toward the sound I wanted, but such adjustability pales in comparison to the F5.

I keep speakers on hand and revert to them to refresh my memory of their performance. It would be impossible to retain a perfect acoustical memory of their performance after shuttling between other speakers without having capacity to return to the reference. Audiophiles often display arrogance when they declare how a speaker performs in comparison to one that they have not heard in their room, or have not used in several years, perhaps not even with the current set of equipment! Hold tentatively any assertion that an audiophile knows the sound of speakers being compared if they are not actually compared. That, however, can be a bit of an advantage to the owner of the F5, because as the speaker’s sound is manipulated, the range of performance is so great that when dialed in to preference, the sense of it sounding correct is strong. The flexibility of controls between the top and bass modules nearly ensures a pleasing result.

How does one isolate the innate sound quality of a speaker that has 81 settings and is used in a myriad of rooms? Aside from nearfield measurement of drivers it is not possible; all that can be done is to find the general capabilities of the speaker, as opposed to one with far less functionality. Given the chameleon-like character of the speaker, I do not dare to make absolute pronouncements regarding its performance, but will discuss the general performance associated with the systems I set up, and concrete conclusions as to the speakers’ performance in different physical locations in my room.

Amplification considerations

While the F5 is rated at 88 dB sensitivity and 6 Ohm impedance, it is not the easiest to drive, but because it has an active sub, it does not preclude use of lower powered amps. However, I have found with all genres of speakers that more power and current are always beneficial. I do not necessarily consider it advantageous to select a tube amplifier to drive the top module of speakers such as the F5, because in opting for lower power in search of better tonality, often there is a tradeoff in terms of diminished dynamics. No longer does the hobbyist have to make such a sacrifice. I suggest serious consideration be given to matching the F5’s ICEpower subwoofer amplification to a new generation of ICEpower-based class D amp. I have in mind here the Legacy Audio i·V2 Ultra, which I reviewed the i·V4 Ultra, which has four channels, a design I have found nearly unassailable. Having both high current and high power, it is ideal for driving a speaker such as the F5, and it will do so with lower noise and distortion than the preponderance of class A or A/B amps.

Omnidirectional speakers are not immune to the effects of amplifier selection. Lower powered amps may impart more bloom or blossom than a solid-state amp, but with a speaker such as this, why bother? With 81 settings to mimic such characteristics, it would be a shame to lose the precision and power advantage of an amp such as the i·V Ultra.

Systems for assessment

The systems that were used with this speaker tended to be streamlined, involving a DAC to amplifier setup. One method I use often is to use a dedicated DAC, such as the Eastern Electric Minimax Tube DAC Supreme, with various discrete opamps rolled in along with the Legacy i·V4 Ultra. Such a setup requires use of software volume control, which is provided through a setting of the source, the Small Green Computer sonicTransporter in combination with the SONORE Signature Rendu SE with systemOptique. This arrangement allows for the user to go into the settings of the Roon software via the sonicTransporter home page at Small Green Computer’s website and select between Hardware and Software volume controls. This allows for use of either a dedicated (no volume control) DAC or an integrated DAC with a volume control.

When I wish to alternate, I replace the EE DAC with the likes of the COS D1 DAC+ Preamplifier. Then I select the “Fixed” volume setting of the sonicTransporter’s output of the signal and use the volume control of the D1 DAC. It all works splendidly as long as you remember to change the setting of the sonicTransporter’s operations! If you fail to choose the Software option and restart the sonicTransporter, you can have a situation where, upon startup of music, it is completely unattenuated, a nasty loud burst for the speakers. Even when I am quite sure of the settings, I always have my finger ready to hit the pause button in Roon’s playback window, just in case. Often there is a telltale loud hiss emanating from the speakers that indicates the signal is unattenuated; listen closely to see if there is such a hiss, and if so, recheck your settings. Paying attention to how quiet the supposed silence is can save you a lot of grief.

One of the advantages of the F5 is that it offers a bail-out for less than ideally matched sets of components. With 81 settings covering the majority of the frequency spectrum, a much larger than average number of combinations of gear can be optimized. This feature can be a game changer for persons who are tired of blind matching of gear. The speaker is inherently friendly to persons who are more interested in vintage, affordable and DIY gear, as it can stretch far beyond speakers with a fixed personality (crossover, drivers, etc) in making components play nice with each other.

Listening to three room placement options

Audiophiles’ rooms are unique, so the following may need to be considered in the light of one’s own listening space. My room forms a nearly perfect rectangular space, so the three options for locating the speakers are simple. One involves placement approximately one third the distance out from the front wall, tucked in quite tightly against the side walls; another uses the same distance from the front wall but pushes the speakers inward to remove the side walls’ direct influence; and the last follows the suggested location by Ohm: pushed far into the front walls’ corners. Placement of the speakers is discussed in the Owner’s Manual, with the last of my three options recommended.

I started with the speakers at the position I use for monitor/bookshelf speakers and the Kingsound Tower omnidirectional speakers, about 8’ into the room from the front wall and about 4’ from each side wall. This creates a smaller triangle between the listening chair and the speakers, close to an equilateral shape with the speakers approximately 6’ apart and the listening chair 8’ away. As would be expected, even though these are hybrid omni speakers, the effect of closer positioning to each other and my chair results in a denser, more solid sound. All speakers sound more forceful when positioned closely versus farther away, so it was no surprise that the F5 was more dynamically immediate and had imaging, even though bulbous, that was relatively solid versus atomized, like the Kingsound King III electrostatic, a dipole speaker.

The inclusion of a directed tweeter brought more attention to the front of the performance as opposed to the completely exploded soundstage of the Model F. There is a nudge toward a location of performers with the use of the tweeter and its backing shield. I thought it would be fun to arrange the speakers opposite of the arrows directing the tweeters inward, and so I positioned them with the arrows outward. The outcome was not good; not only was the imaging poor, but it verged on being random. I cannot imagine anyone liking such skewed performance.

The thought struck me that perhaps the speaker could be made to operate somewhat more akin to a dynamic speaker if the side wall boundaries were used to force concentration of sound waves toward the center. It worked! Never had I heard an omnidirectional speaker that could produce a reasonable effort at a conventional soundstage, with discernible Left/Center/Right localizing of instruments and singers.

This is not to say the F5 was superior in that regard, as it was not. Traditional dynamic speakers are simply better at creating that experience, but the F5 was not designed to do so, which makes it all the more impressive that it can mimic a traditional soundstage. It is great that curious and bored audiophiles can get a significant shift in system performance simply by rolling the speakers in or out from the side walls.

The settings of the top module are supposed to correlate with the room size and position of the speakers nearer or farther from the walls. I found that since they primarily adjust frequency bands, I did not necessarily prefer the suggested settings relating to whether the speakers were near walls or corners. I adjusted them as I saw fit, and my enjoyment was enhanced when I did so. I see these settings as most beneficial when used in a pragmatic way, a “whatever works” arrangement. I paid more attention to the balance between highs and lows to avoid a shrill or thin result, instead of being constrained to only settings deemed appropriate by the indicators with each switch.

When I rolled the speakers into the corners the shift in their output and personality changed dramatically. As might be expected, I had to rework all the selector settings to recapture my satisfaction. The subwoofer was overwhelmingly powerful in the corner, whereas, in the middle of the room, it was strong but not violent.

Ohm wishes for owners to have the speakers near highly reflective walls, but in my case, as I have sound absorption panels affixed into the corners, the results may vary a bit from other users. I do not think that negates my impressions, but those with hard, highly reflective walls will want to consider that the performance will vary. Ohm suggested that I remove the wall panels for the review, and I understand that request from a speaker maker’s perspective, but I am not interested in violating my room for any piece of equipment.

That is not to say the outcome was poor. Quite the contrary, I felt the speaker did well in the deep corners. All I needed to do in order to compensate for the sucking up on some frequencies by the panels was to move up one or two settings on the switches controlling the mid and high frequencies. The high configurability allowed the speaker to be positioned anywhere I wanted and with pretty much an identically satisfying mix of attributes in terms of frequency, impact, and soundstage — as I wished.

It’s not a coffin or a door

It is a cement mixer, and the aggregate sound tumbles out at you. In somewhat volcanic action, but with a limiter on the height dimension, it is ejected with a volcano-like power and with widespread general dispersion like an ash cloud and localized center imaging like a lava flow. It does not have the boxiness of a dynamic speaker (derisively called “coffins”), nor the wimpiness of a dipole (derisively called “doors”).

What kind of music would this benefit? The answer may depend upon your ideals, whether you want a larger-than-life character to your listening experience. To a greater degree with dynamic speakers, and to a somewhat lesser degree with dipole speakers, the boundaries of the performance are set in space with fairly defined limits. The omnidirectional speaker violates such limits, somewhat like a probe that is launched beyond the solar system. Parts of the performance extend beyond where one expects, especially vocals and solo instruments; they seem everywhere.

Vocals of live performances as heard through the F5 can have a spaciousness that eludes studio recordings, as evidenced by Eva Cassidy, Ginny Owens, Seal, and other artists with well recorded live albums. The F5 expands the already generous-sized orb of the singer’s voice to make it much larger, extending perceptually quite a bit beyond the width of the speakers. The concentration, or what is often called image density and focus, is lessened in favor of this expansion.

Left and right signal information also is blended more than with a traditional transducer. They meet in the middle and the performance has an acoustic feel more like watching a waterfall, where the curtain of water has no distinct partitions. If you want a hard delineation between performers on the stage (L/C/R), then an omni is not for you. However, if you are concerned less about that and wish to have much more of the sense of immersion into the event, then you likely are a good candidate to seek an omni speaker.

Blow-the-doors-off listening is a great goal for such speakers. Movies with big soundtracks will sound limitless. Discarnate productions, such as electronic music and epic soundtracks, also fare very well with the F5. Yello, Jean Luc Ponty, Third Force, Craig Chaquico — a plethora of atmospheric and nebular tracks will enthrall a person who cannot get enough hugeness.

The Ohm speaker experience is rightly considered the antithesis of the petite, full range, frequency limited, near field listening experience. In that kind of setup the listening space is reduced in many dimensions, often to capture a magical midrange. The F5, in contrast, relies upon its dispersion and the room’s reflections to push the boundaries outward perceptually. It can take higher listening levels without sounding distorted because of the degree of interaction with the room. I have heard many smallish speaker systems sound strained and distorted when they were pushed hard. The F5 does not sound constrained when pushed hard, which makes it a compelling choice over fine bookshelf/monitor speakers in the same price range.

Real world considerations addressed

Very few people have the luxury of a dedicated room, much less a large one, for listening. Also, many enthusiasts fit their system into rooms with asymmetrical furniture arrangements.The Ohm speaker can have an advantage in such situations. The bulbous nature of the soundstage is agreeable to uneven placement in the room, i.e., where the speakers are not equidistant from the listener, or have an impediment such as a chair in line with the wave launch. Such things can devastate a dynamic or dipole speaker’s perceived performance, but the omnidirectional can roll with it.

As many today spend their time watching movies as opposed to purely listening to stereo, the F5 can admirably do both without the need for an extra set of subwoofers. A person may even get away with adjusting the spatial settings on the surround processor to see if surround speakers are immediately needed. I cannot speak with experience in that regard; I have not used an omnidirectional speaker in a home theater setup without surrounds, but it would certainly be worth exploring.

Given the anticipated longevity of service life of the F5, the flexible room placement options, the built-in prodigious subwoofer, and many settings to contour the speaker to the environment and user’s preferences, it offers an extraordinary set of features for a speaker at the $10K/pair mark. Like other venerated American speakers, Ohm Acoustics continues to offer a large serving of big scale, big experience sound that no doubt will appeal to many. It is a viable alternative to Magnepan speakers, with what I consider more aesthetic appeal and more powerful performance. If the sky is the limit on the scale of the music, this speaker may be your OHMYGOODNESS perfect choice!


Source: Small Green Computer sonicTransporter AP I7 4T and SONORE Signature Rendu SE and systemOptique

Streaming Music Service: Tidal premium

DAC: COS D1 DAC + Pre; Exogal Comet DAC and Plus upgrade power supply and Pulsar IR receiver; Eastern Electric Minimax DSD DAC Supreme with Burson, Sonic Imagery and Sparkos Labs Discrete Opamps

Preamp: TEO Audio Liquid Preamplifier

Amps: Legacy Audio i·V4 Ultra (pair, totaling 9 channels); Exogal Ion (PowerDAC, used exclusively with Exogal Comet DAC)

Integrated: Redgum Audio Articulata; Kinki Studio EX-M1+

Speakers: Aspen Acoustics Lagrange L5 MkII; Salk Sound SS 9.5 custom; Kings Audio Kingsound King III; Legacy Audio DSW Clarity Edition; PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn 1; Pure Audio Project Quintet15 Horn1; Kings Audio King Tower omnidirectional; Ohm Walsh Model F (refurbished)

Subwoofers: Legacy Audio XTREME HD (2)

IC’s: Iconoclast 4×4 “Generation 2” XLR and 1×4 “Generation 2 RCA”; Clarity Cable RCA with Audio Sensibility Y Cables; Schroeder Method Audio Sensibility RCA; Schroeder Method Clarity Cable XLR with Audio Sensibility Y Cables; TEO Liquid Splash-Rs and Splash-Rc; TEO Liquid Standard MkII; Clarity Cable Organic RCA/XLR; Snake River Audio Signature Series Interconnects; (Schroeder Method, self-assembled with Audio Sensibility Y Cables used with several brands)

Speaker Cables: Iconoclast by Belden SPTPC Level 2 Speaker Cables; TEO Cable Standard Speaker; Clarity Cable Organic Speaker; Snake River Audio Signature Series Speaker Cables;

Digital Cables: Clarity Cable Organic Digital; Snake River Audio Boomslang; Silent Source “The Music Reference”

USB: Clarity Cable Supernatural 1m

Power Cables: Belden BAV (Belden Audio/Video) Power Cord; Clarity Cable Vortex; MIT Oracle ZIII; Snake River Audio Signature Series; Anticables Level 3 Reference Series

Power Conditioning: Wireworld Matrix Power Cord Extender; Tice Audio Solo

Copy editor: Dan Rubin