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Walsh 300 Mk-2s, The Audiophile Voice, James T. Frane

Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Walsh 300 MK-2
Publisher: The Audiophile Voice | Author: James T. Frane

“The size of these speakers (49-5/8 inches overall height by 13-5/16 inches wide by 17-5/16 inches deep) doesn’t exactly permit them to fade away into visual nonexistence, but the quality of the sound that emanates from them encourages a lot of oversight. To my eyes, they’re not beautiful; to my ears, they are. But really, that’s what speakers are all about–making good sound–and these do.”

“Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of these speakers is that they produce very deep bass without boosting the mid-bass to upper-bass frequencies. The bass is heard only when it is really present, unlike some speakers that provide an illusion of bass by boosting the 60-Hz to 80-Hz region. Even male voices sounded natural. The enclosure is tuned to 16 Hz, and I measured output at 25 Hz within 1 dB of the 1-kHz output in my room with very little variation between! This clean bass increases the feeling of involvement in music that contains truly deep low frequencies, such as much acoustic jazz and classical orchestral music. Bass is outstanding for it tautness, depth, and power, as well as for not muddying the lower midrange.

“The sound stage forms a horizontal arc from one speaker to the other; i.e. the stage center appears farther from the listener than do the edges. The Ohms also image very well, making differences in recording and mastering quality evident.

“The 300s displayed excellent dynamics; a case in point was Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’ performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein (Time-Life CMD-01A). The cannon had a solid impact with no apparent distortion, although the amplifier meters were registering past the 400 watt/channel marks.

“The 300s recreated an extremely involving orchestral spread with well-recorded music, such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Serge Prokofiev (Mercury Living Presence 432 004-2). The placement of the instrumental sections was correct and the balance of frequencies was very good. The 300s did not call attention to themselves as specific sound sources, but evenly distributed the sound across the space between them. While they didn’t create a holographic image forward of the plane of the speakers, they certainly could do so between and behind them.

“On the Chesky ‘Jazz Sampler’ and Audiophile ‘Test Compact Disc, Volume 1’ (JD37), there are a number of tests that help in the evaluation of speakers. In the left-right imaging test, the positions of the speaker vary from center to beyond the left and right speakers. The 300s did very well in this test, making it easy to identify the announced position. The off-stage right and left positions can be vague with many speakers, but were specific with the Ohms. The ‘Up’ test (a rising sound) curved slightly inward at the top, and ‘Over’ formed a shallow vertical arc.

“The performance was often beyond the outside edges of the speakers, as on ‘Two of a Kind’ with Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan(RCA 9654-2-RB). Highs were always smooth and extended, with good integration of the super tweeter with the main full-range driver. Sound was good from any position between the speakers. If you like to listen at live levels, the low sensitivity will probably make you want a powerful amp.

“The sound of ‘I’m Confessin’ from ‘Jazz at the Pawnshop’ (Prophone PRCD 7778) was as if I was looking through a wide doorway, defined by the width of the speakers, into the performance space. The ambiance and sense of room size were marvelous. The vibes seemed just a few feet away. Janis Joplin’s soulful voice and her back-up instruments and singers were only a few yards in front of me (Janis Joplin, 18 Essential Songs on Legacy/Columbia CK67005). Her voice sounded right, but sometimes either the mix allowed it to wander or she moved.

“Yo Yo Ma seemed to occupy a space in my room, with the presence of the full richness and texture of the cello (‘Bach, Six Suites of Unaccompanied Cello’, CBS Masterworks M2K37867).”

“The 300s are not intended for background music because they encourage you to stop reading or writing or talking and just listen, they can be that involving. There are many good performers in these speakers’ $4,000 price range, but I believe the Ohm 300s have only a few sonic peers at the top of this group. They are a pleasure to listen to.”