The Walsh Ohm speakers have always been a highly venerated line of high-end omnidirectional speakers.
Ever since Lincoln Walsh introduced his Ohm speaker design in 1972, they have had a rather cult following among audiophiles, and the line has expanded from the original Ohm A, with subsequent designs getting more sophisticated and better sounding. I’ve spent many days evaluating the Walsh 3000 speaker, a $4000 stereo pair, to see if the kudos given this design are correct.
The Walsh 3000 speaker is not the top of the line of this brand, and it’s far from the lower end. Walsh speakers run from about $700 a pair to more than $5,000 dollars. The Walsh 3000 is a fine example of the Walsh omnidirectional design. I was astounded by the Walsh’s accuracy and ‘you are listening to live music’ presence in my living room. Compared to the competition, it is not overpriced, and a pair will outperform many other speakers being offered to the audiophile community at similar prices, largely because of its omnidirectional design.
- Extremely well crafted and lovely to look at
- The Walsh 3000 frequency response is wide
- Capable of deep bass with no subwoofer needed
- Images have a front to back depth and a solid stereo image with excellent program material
- Not hard to drive but higher-powered amps will make for a more impressive presentation
- The speakers are heavy and it’s a two-man job unpacking and placing them properly
I’ve heard about Ohm speakers for years, almost as soon as Lincoln Walsh brought them to market, but except for one impressive demonstration in an audio salon many years ago, I had not heard them with my choice of music or in a home environment. Walsh relies mostly on word of mouth on these speakers, and there’s no shortage of positive comments about them in audiophile circles. I’d heard good things about the new Walsh line, and I was anxious to get a pair in my home.
The Walsh 3000 loudspeaker was a pleasant, and actually, a rather thrilling surprise. In a word, this speaker is musical. It handled any kind of music I threw at it with aplomb.
I’ve heard so many speakers over the years. Some have been standouts; most I’ve heard at showrooms, in friends’ homes, and speakers I’ve been sent for review. Mostly what I hear is generally good to very good, but not different or thrilling enough to stay in my memory.
From the start, the Walsh 3000 speakers have been memorable. Their omnidirectional design has a legion of devotees, and the company still does business from its original home in Brooklyn. The company is now run by John Strohbeen, who still interacts with customers looking at his products. He asks interested people asking about the speakers for pictures and measurements of the listening room and asks enough questions to suggest the right Walsh speaker. In addition to the Walsh 3000 featured in this review, as I’ve noted, Ohm makes smaller and larger versions of the speakers for different size rooms, as well as center channel and surround speakers, all using the Walsh design, for home theater applications.
The company went factory direct in 1999, and offers a 120 day home trial, knowing that customers will need to hear speakers in their own listening environment. I should note that the speakers are built to order and that the wood cabinet comes in a variety of colors to match your decor. John Strohbeen will send potential customers a set of wood samples so you can accurately gauge the finish you’d like.
The Walsh 3000 speakers are based on a design patented in 1969 by Lincoln Walsh called the Coherent Line Source (CLS) driver. The company says the original driver covered the frequency range of a full-range speaker, yet it has a single source driver with no crossover network. At the same time, Ohm speakers deliver their sound in a 360-degree radius.
In recent years, the design has evolved, and now Walsh speakers include a super-tweeter that further extends the frequency response of the line. The driver itself is located in a black metal case atop the main body of the speaker, and that case is covered by an easily removable cloth cover.
The goal of the design is to present a balanced sound field that is much wider than conventional speakers. There is a sweet spot with Walsh speakers, like any speaker design, but even while walking around a room a listener gets a stereo presentation that is balanced even as your location changes. This is similar to the effect of a live performance.
Ohm calls this ‘controlled directivity’, not a bad name at all for the result. The Ohm CLS Driver under the black case is, the company says, a vertical line source that combines what it claims is perfect time and phase alignment and uniform polar frequency response. These characteristics are vital for the recreation of a three dimensional (3-D) sonic image and they cannot all be achieved with conventional speakers.
At the source, the sound originates simultaneously from the face of the super tweeter and the top of the inverted cone driver. The same sound travels down the cone surface faster than it can travel in air (supersonic). The sound radiating from the cone surface and the sound radiating in the air remain vertically aligned as they arrive perpendicular to the rim simultaneously and expand continuously in all directions.
At the higher frequencies, the sound is more directional, radiating in the general direction of the super tweeter. Furthermore, the unwanted rear output from the inverted cone driver is blocked by Tufflex sound barriers to eliminate the close-order reflections that would confuse imaging. As a result, all sounds are perfectly in time and phase alignment as if they radiated from a perfect vertical line source, yet create no false images from nearby surfaces or baffle boards.
Bass frequencies come from the main driver pointed down into the wood box-shaped stand. There is a vent for air at the bottom of the Walsh 3000, and the resonance of the speaker’s main body contributes to the bass. I asked CEO John Strohbeen about the bass design.
“It is a vented system with a pretty big cabinet volume and medium to low efficiency. We tune the system much lower than typical and expecting the doubling effects of two speakers, the floor, the back wall, the ceiling, etc. to fill in the lowest octaves — and it works pretty well.” That’s really an understatement. The bass is solid, and surprising with the Walsh 3000 10” driver.
This is hardly a conventional speaker design, but Ohm Acoustics has been at it for years. It’s unconventional but pays big dividends when you hear them.
Putting on a high-resolution file with a single singer and an acoustic guitar was stunning. It did sound like a singer in the room, eerily located between the two Walsh 3000 speakers. I also listened to some large choral works, and again, the realism was very striking with voices placed into their proper position.
The speakers arrived via a very unhappy UPS driver who had to get them up the long path to my front door. Packed, the speakers weigh about 89 pounds apiece. Getting the speakers out of their cartons and into my living room was a two-man job, and luckily I had an able volunteer. The speakers are nicely packed with three surrounding boxes. Just when we thought we would see the speakers, another box appeared inside. Finally, at the end of that process, the speakers were wrapped in clear plastic. It reminded me of those Russian Matryoshka Dolls, with another and another inside.
Once the speakers were roughly in place, about 8 feet apart and 17 inches from my wall, I plugged them into my video/audio system with my banana plug connectors.
Ohm recommends the speakers not be more than 2 feet from the wall, a difference from what many speakers designers like to see. Generally, speaker designers like the speakers to be well out form a wall. The speakers also have an arrow under the top cap identifying where the speakers should be pointed, which is toward the listening position. It’s a good thing I checked the setup instructions, as I initially had the speakers in exactly the wrong position.
The Walsh 3000 speakers defied my expectations. For many years I’ve lived with a pair of Magnepan 3.6r flat panel speakers, with bass reinforced with a PSA XV15. My processor is an Emotiva XMC-1 with front channel amplification from an Emotiva XPA-2 (250 Watts into 8 ohms), an amplifier that falls well within the specifications to make the Walsh 3000 happy.
For my listening tests, I simply moved the Magnepan speakers to another room, disconnected the subwoofer I was using, and reset my processor to tell it the subwoofer was no longer in the system.
First impressions of the Walsh 3000 were interesting. The superb bass response was surprising and positive. I’ve heard that the Walsh speakers really don’t need a subwoofer, and that was the case, certainly for music listening, even when the music was challenging at the low end. Even knowing how Ohm Acoustics manages to get such clean and deep bass out of these speakers, I thought the bass extension was a marvel.
I wasn’t as happy with the high end. My room seems to eat high frequencies. I had the same issue with the Magnepans. Luckily my processor sports Dirac room equalization, so I did the required microphone measurements and applied the new room curve to the Walsh 3000s and low and behold the high frequencies were there.
Ohm provides tips on getting better high frequencies by moving the angle of the speakers to your listening position, but I thought Dirac was a better way to go, and after letting it match the Walsh 3000s to my room, all was well.
The Walsh 3000 speakers demonstrated a sonic image that was taller than the speakers themselves.
Ohm claims the speakers really don’t depend on the listener sitting in a narrow sweet spot, and I can concur. I have a long, L-shaped couch in my listening room, and no matter where I sat I got good separation. It was like being in a live music venue, where there is no sweet spot either. I did find imaging slightly better when sitting in the position I equalized for, but the differences were minimal.
I would have thought that the omnidirectional design of the speakers would blur the 3D imaging I like to hear in a high-quality speaker, but that was not the case at all. If anything, the design sharpens the positions of the instruments and voices, giving some front to back depth as well.
Switching the room equalization out and listening to the speakers natively never sounded bad, but matching them to the room was definitely preferable. If you can’t equalize for them, changing the distance to the back wall and rotating the speakers slightly will give you different curves to explore. It’s going to depend on your room.
Other things I noticed were imaging and height. Putting on a high-resolution file with a single singer and an acoustic guitar was stunning. It did sound like a singer in the room, eerily located between the two Walsh 3000 speakers. I also listened to some large choral works, and again, the realism was very striking with voices placed into their proper position. The Walsh 3000 speakers also demonstrated a sonic image that was taller than the speakers themselves. The image also extended slightly to the left of the left speaker, and slightly to the right of the right speaker.
Originally the imaging wasn’t as good, but reading the manual that comes with the speaker I was told to not have objects between the 2 super tweeters. My 55-inch flat-screen TV was indeed obstructing the ‘view’ between the two super tweeters, so when I pulled the speakers a bit forward the imaging became excellent. Little details in placement can make a big difference.
Compared to my beloved Magnepan 3.6r flat panels, the Walsh 3000 presented a smoother, and I would say a more coherent sound field. With the Magnepans, I always heard a slight but noticeable discontinuity between the ribbon tweeter and the midrange. Same effect with the 3rd party subwoofer I added.
My Maggies are pretty old, and I know newer models have successfully fixed those discontinuities, but I really enjoyed the smoother presentation by the Walsh 3000 speakers. I would bet that fans of Magnepan speakers who cherish the open airy sound would feel right at home with this Walsh offering.
I listened to many, many musical selections. Here’s a sampling along with some of my comments on how the Walsh 3000 speakers did. In general, I turned off my surround speakers to make sure I was hearing just the Walsh 3000 speakers. In my tests of movie sound, I turned on my surround speakers (Aperions) but left my subwoofer off since the Walsh 3000 low end was so beefy.
Various “West Side Story”
A wonderful CD of Bernstein along with Jose Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos and Kurt Ollman. Known as the ‘operatic’ version, it’s an audiophile knock out, with precise imaging, deep bass, and a variety of voices to judge how realistic the speaker presentation is.
Elvis Presley “Elvis at Madison Square Garden”
A 1972 recording remastered to high-resolution audio is also a stunner. You can hear Elvis move on stage, and while the instrumentation is a bit thin, the recording and the speakers capture the event very well. It’s like being there, and a tribute to the omnidirectional characteristics of the Walsh 3000 speakers.
Bartok Music for Strings “Percussion and Celesta”
Another fine remaster with Georg Solti and the London Symphony. This music has a tremendous dynamic range, and the Walsh 3000 speakers give me pinpoint imaging of the leftward and rightward string sections. The percussion is very realistic.
Anne Bisson “Blue Mind”
A CD with female vocals that sounds very realistic in my room. I’ve always thought vocals, especially female singers, are one of the best ways to test speakers, and the Walsh 3000 did not disappoint.
Fourplay “The Best of Fourplay”
Long considered a great audiophile demo CD and I agree. This jazz disc features impeccable playing from the quartet and a terrific recording. Deep bass comes effortlessly through with excellent separation.
For movies, I watched Mission Impossible IV with the amazing dust storm sequence. My room shook, and in stereo the directionality of the sound was perfect. When I added my surround speakers, the effect was astonishing, as the Walsh 3000 speakers provided all the bass needed.
I also watched an old standby, Apocalypse Now. The helicopter attack was visceral, and while I preferred my surround speakers for the full effect, just running the Walsh 3000 speakers in stereo still gave me very spacious sound. That’s the benefit of the omnidirectional nature of the Walsh design.
The WALSH 3000 SPEAKERS can offer an audio or videophile a great deal of realism and satisfaction, at a reasonable price given the performance. One can’t ask for better than that.
- Realistic, almost ‘live’ presentation of any kind of music
- Excellent build quality, with real woods and high-quality connectors
- Highs are silky smooth, the bass is deep and non-distorted
- With good program material, imaging and frequency response are superb
- Packing is first-rate. Multiple layers of boxes and spacers will assure you an undamaged speaker
- 120 day home trial is generous and needed. With no dealers or showrooms, buying speakers online can be an act of faith. With 120 days you can really listen to the Walsh 3000 speakers, let them break-in, and adjust placement.
WOULD LIKE TO SEE
- Better documentation. The accompanying material is pretty basic. I’d love to have more setup hints and get more info on the company and the theory behind how these speakers work.
- These speakers are heavy. At 86 pounds each you’re not going to want to unpack and set up these speakers by yourself.
The Walsh 3000 loudspeaker was a pleasant, and actually, a rather thrilling surprise. In a word, this speaker is musical. It handled any kind of music I threw at it with aplomb. Large classical and choral works showed fine and realistic imaging. Acoustic instruments sounded real. Vocals were realistically placed between the speakers if they were recorded that way, and accompanying instruments were rendered with realistic front to back depth. Rock music did not suffer either, and the speakers are capable of prodigious bass rolling off at just above 30 Hz.
There is no shortage of speakers in this price range, but I would have to put the Walsh 3000 speakers at or near the top of its competitors. If your room is smaller, you’ll get similar sound from the Walsh 1000 or 2000 speakers, and a larger room would be well served by the larger speakers in the Walsh line, like the 4000 and 5000. I haven’t listened to those other speakers, but given they share a very similar design, I would expect them to be very good indeed.
The speakers really came into their own after a couple of weeks of listening. Maybe there is something to speaker break-in, although I have not experienced it before. As these speakers, more than standard speakers, are dependent on room acoustics, I was happy I was able to equalize the speakers for my room. It made a tremendous difference, and a serious buyer might want to consider adding a processor or external device that will provide your desired frequency curve.
$4000 is not a small amount of money, although it’s not an extraordinary amount for sound this good. They should be used with the best high-end processors and amplifiers. I was surprised they did not require a subwoofer, but bass heads may want to go a bit deeper and augment these speakers with a hefty sub for home theater use. I listened to the Walsh 3000 speakers with my sub, and the differences were frankly slight. I found that to be the case even with movies with an extended low end.