Equally meritorious and even bolder in its conceptual audacity is the Ohm Walsh 5. While the Allison speaker is a thoughtful elaboration of an established design genre, the Ohm is a radical departure from all norms. Based on patents by the late Lincoln Walsh, a California physicist, this speaker is shaped as a flat-topped pyramid, 43 inches high and l7 1/2 inches square at the bottom. At the top, concealed behind a fabric screen, is an unusual sound radiator, which doesn’t push the air like a conventional speaker cone. Rather, it lets the sound waves ripple along its slanted surface, and this motion communicates itself to the surrounding air.
One advantage of this approach is that all frequencies retain their original phase relation to one another, which is credited as the reason for this speaker’s notable clarity. Another advantage is that the sound is spread in a truly omnidirectional manner, emanating in a full circle all around the speaker. The result is an engulfing wash of sound that does wonders for massive orchestral works, which emerge with a remarkable aura of sonic spaciousness. To suggest the necessary direction to create a sense of left and right on the stereo stage, an auxiliary tweeter - arranged in conventional forward-facing fashion - supplements the omnidirectional sound radiator.
As for the bass, it is truly remarkable in suggesting a sense of sonic power and magnitude. Passing through a long duct within the cabinet and emerging from an opening at the bottom, the lows reach all the way down to an astounding 25 Hertz. That way, even the low notes of a large pipe organ come through with their true pitch rather than as an indistinct growl, and they are forceful enough to be felt as well as heard.
To achieve this effect, the speaker voraciously gobbles up amplifier power and requires a minimum of 50 watts per channel. On the other hand, it handles up to 500 watts of signal output without audible complaint, and this in itself gives a clue to its character. It is at its impressive best with heavy orchestrations and choral works involving large masses of sound. Such music can be truly spectacular and stirring when heard on these speakers. By the same token, music on a more intimate scale, such as string quartets or jazz combos, may be a little overhwelmed by the inherent bigness of sound in this design. To some degree, this can be modified by careful placement of the speaker in the listening room.
Audiophiles intimidated by the $4,800 price for a pair of Ohm Walsh 5’s may want to listen to several smaller Ohm models built along the same lines. The smallest of these, the Ohm Sound Cylinder, lists at $549 a pair, and while it does not approach the prodigious power capacity and deep bass response of its larger brethren, is shares their omnidirectional spread and other distinctive attributes derived from the Walsh principle.