Since those early formative days, I’ve run across many ‘non-traditional’ loudspeaker designs, ranging from electrostats to horns to the needs-no-description B&W Nautilus. However, that first encounter with a pair of Ohms has always left unanswered questions in my mind: What were those? Is Ohm even still around? Ohm is, indeed, still around and produces a full line of products for two-channel and home-theater customers. When I was given the opportunity to review a pair of their speakers, I jumped on it.
Ohm focuses on selling its speakers directly to the end-user via mail order, offering a 120-day in-home audition program as well as personalized assistance to help customers select the Ohm design that will work best for their room, equipment, and musical tastes. After consulting with Ohm President John Strohbeen, SoundStage! elected to review the Ohm Walsh 100 Mark 2, the entry-level model to the Ohm Walsh line of speakers.
I was instantly struck by the level of instrumental detail that the speakers revealed. Many details that were either murky or completely unheard previously leapt out to take their rightful place in the musical presentation. Intrigued, I fiddled for a few minutes with the speakers’ orientation, aiming the fronts of the speakers more directly at my listening position. I was immediately rewarded with a wide, expansive soundstage, with instrumental positions hovering clearly in space. Thrilled, I proceeded to spend the rest of the evening running through my CD collection.
I’m an imaging addict, and in this regard, the Ohms really floated my boat. The amount of time needed to place these speakers for optimum sound is ridiculously small (I spent less than 30 minutes total adjusting the placement, thanks in part to the casters), and once placed, the Walsh 100 Mk 2s throw a deep, clear soundstage. I perceived the soundstage in a deep arc, curving from the left speaker away from me into the corner, then curving back toward me as it ended in the right speaker. There was depth in all parts of the curve, with instruments distinctly registering their front-to-back positions throughout – but the forward-most image was deeper between the speakers than along the edges of the soundstage. Placement on the left-to-right axis in the soundstage was phenomenal; instruments appeared distinct and clear without being unnaturally highlighted.
One of my current favorite reference tracks is Orbital’s “The Girl With The Sun In Her Head” (In Sides [FFRR/Internal, 697-124 087-2]). The track opens with a series of sweeping, low-midrange “whooshes” which track across the soundstage, building a framework upon which layers of electronic chords are slowly built up, finally culminating in a pounding beat with layers of pulsating notes whirling throughout the soundstage. The Walsh 100s handled this song superbly, with the high-pitched notes trilling clearly out of the dark electronic rhythmic space generated by the drum machines. Their positioning was crisp and tactile, to the point that you almost thought you could touch them. The noises themselves were full-bodied, with a level of detail and character that I’d previously not experienced.
As mentioned above, the speakers matched their incredible positional imaging with an excellent sense of instrumental detail. The electronic noises on “The Girl With The Sun In Her Head” growled, hissed, pulsed, rang, and throbbed, with their harmonic overtones fully preserved. A similar effect was noted on ‘This Is The Night’ from The Dusk [Epic/Sony UK, EK 53164]. The honky-tonk upright piano chords rang, with the entire sound of the piano’s keys, body, and hammers on strings. Matt Johnson’s voice hissed and gasped from the center of the stage, with the rest of the instruments taking their rightful place in a wide, detailed soundstage.
No matter what I listened to, I was continually impressed with the level of instrumental detail, particularly on acoustic instruments. In addition to how they handled the instruments, the Ohms also provided an excellent sense of the recording space itself. On live recordings such as the aforementioned Dusk, or Viva! by Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra [Epic/Sony EK 66455] the hall acoustic was a vivid, real thing.
The Ohm Walsh 100 Mk 2s overcome their slightly dated and unusual appearance with a swinging, musical, detailed presentation that really made music an enjoyable, right-brain experience. To my ears, they bested the PSB 1000i in nearly every regard, no mean feat when compared to one of the finest values in $1000 floorstanders today. The only bit of the Walsh 100 Mk 2’s nature that gave me serious pause was its bass performance, but that could very well be ameliorated some by room treatments, more suitable listening rooms, or larger Ohm models.
All in all, I was extremely impressed by this unassuming little floorstanding loudspeaker. I only wish I had the time and opportunity to experiment with Walsh 100 Mk 2s in a more ideal listening space to see if their bass performance could be brought in line with their other delightful musical characteristics.