The Audiophiliac gets an earful at the Ohm Acoustics Brooklyn factory.
MARCH 9, 2019 6:52 AM PST
Ohm Acoustics is one of those perpetually under the radar speaker companies. Founded 1971 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the company specializes in hand-crafted omnidirectional speakers. Chances are you’ve never heard an omni model, so some explanation is in order: Most “normal” box speakers only project sound forward, but Ohm’s omnidirectional Walsh speakers have 360-degree radiation, so they produce a bigger soundfield. Ohm speakers sound great over a much wider area than most audiophile products. You’re not locked down to one “sweet spot.”
I recently visited the factory where they not only build new speakers, but also repair and even update older Ohm speakers with the latest technology so customers get the equivalent of a new speaker. Ohm’s customer service extends all the way back to the very first Ohm speakers from the early 1970s! New speakers are sold with a 120-day home trial return policy.
I listened to two different sets of Ohm speakers, the Walsh Tall 1000 ($2,000 per pair) and the F-5015 ($11,000 per pair), and loved the sound. Ohm speakers use a single Walsh Coherent Line Source (CLS) driver that produces bass, midrange and treble frequencies radiating in a 360-degree pattern, and the highest treble frequencies are more directional for precise stereo imaging. While most audiophile speakers are optimized for placement away from walls, Ohm speakers are designed to sound best near walls.
And indeed they do. When I played audiophile recordings the Walsh 1000s’ sound blossomed and projected the music forward into the room. The speakers really do disappear as sources of sound. British experimental pop band Let’s Eat Grandma’s album I, Gemini is loaded with textures and ambient space, and with the Walsh 1000s the music had more room to breathe. The speaker is 38 inches tall and 7.75 inches wide and deep, so it’s not very big, but the room-filling sound is. The main limitation is dynamics; I felt the Walsh 1000 was holding back.
The much larger Ohm F-5015 had big-speaker grace under pressure thanks to its built-in 15 inch Xtreme Xcursion 500-watt subwoofer. The sound was effortless, and the speakers’ bass prowess at high listening levels was thrilling.
That combined with the huge soundstage on Us, the last track on Spoon’s Hot Thoughts album, had me scribbling notes on the sound. This instrumental track has twin saxophones careening in a deeply reverberant soundscape.
I’ve played this tune on countless speakers, but they didn’t come close to the spatial ecstasy I encountered over the F-5015s. With these speakers music is a visceral experience.
The F-5015 is part of Ohm’s Beta line, new models that are just now coming out. The F-5015 stands 45 inches tall and is 18 inches wide and deep.
I noticed that with the Walsh 1000 and F-5015 the soundstage focus varied with my distance from the speakers, but still sounded great as I moved around the room.
Ohm speakers are built to order from a broad range of real wood veneer finish options, and if you need the speakers’ size altered Ohm will custom-build speakers for you. Ohm has been one of the best-kept secrets in high-end audio, but maybe that’s about to change.