I originally posted this review on the Steve Hoffman forum, but thought I'd share it here as well...
I’ve had my Omega Super Alnico High Output XRS speakers for about 7 weeks now, so thought I’d write down my thoughts and impressions for those who are interested. I researched high-efficiency speakers for about a year, with Zu, Tekton, and Klipsch all under serious consideration. Ultimately I landed on the Omega’s, as they’re popular with other Decware amplifier owners (Decware even sells an Omega model through their website), and I prefer their aesthetic over those other brands. When I called Louis at Omega to place my order, I told him that Imaging was important to me, so he suggested setting the drivers diagonally on the broad side of the cabinet rather than vertically on the narrow side as seen in the pics of the standard Super Alnicos on the Omega website. Other mods/upgrades to the base model include ¾” plywood front baffles, upgraded internal damping material, and propeller style binding posts. The cabinets are veneered in gorgeous curly walnut.
My previous speakers were Tekton Lores, which I used in my system for about 5 or 6 years. Previous and concurrent to those I owned Tekton M-Lores, various vintage models, and a few mid-fi speakers including Pioneer and Bose (I was young and didn’t know any better, lol). Needless to say the Omegas are my first pair of high-end speakers, so this review may not hold much weight for some of you. That said, I’ve attended AXPONA for the last 5 years, and auditioned several high-end speakers in the listening rooms of the two audio stores here in Madison, so I have a decent sense of what high-end sounds like.
Other than the Omegas, my system consists of the following gear:
- Decware Super Zen SE84UFO2 SET Amplifier, 2wpc
- Rega RP3, hot-rodded with TTPSU, Groovetracer subplatter and delrin platter, and Cardas tonearm wire and cartridge clips professionally installed by Brit Audio.
- Hana SL cartridge
- Rogue Triton phono-preamp
- Cambridge Audio Azure 651 CD player
- Blue Jeans speaker wire and interconnects
And here are the Omega Super Alnico High Output XRS (man, that’s a mouthful) specs from the Omega website: Sensitivity:
97 dB (though the label on the back of my Omegas say 98 db) Impedance:
4-6 ohms Driver:
Twin Proprietary 6.5" Omega Alnico HempCone (1 whizzer, 1 dustcap) Frequency Response:
(without spikes) 38"H x 9"W x 14"D Weight:
50 lbs. each in a shipping box Power Requirements:
as little as 2 watts Crossover:
I’ll get in to how the Omegas sound now, but real quick I just want to say that Louis at Omega is awesome and really took care of me. He’s a true professional and a talented engineer and craftsman.
So, funny story to start off with. When I first connected the Omegas, they didn’t sound good. They were detailed, but the treble was grainy, and the mids were soft, sibilant, and hissy (vocals sounded like air being let out of a balloon). I’d read that Omegas have a break-in period, so I decided to ride it out (bear with me, this doesn’t turn out to be a break-in issue). I left EDM on at high volume for several days to foster break-in, but only heard minor improvements in bass, and a worsening of the treble and mid-range problems. I started to get a little anxious. These speakers were supposed to excel at midrange, but that’s not what I was hearing. I was pretty worried that I’d just spent close to 5k on a bad set of speakers. I even sent Louis a few panicky emails looking for reassurance.
After a couple weeks of struggling to mitigate the grain and hiss, it finally occurred to me that bad tubes can sound hissy (duh). So, just as an experiment, I replaced the rectifier tube in my amp, and BAM, the treble was clear, bright, and smooth, the mids beautiful and lush, and the bass punchy, deep, and tight. It was my rectifier all along. I suspect the rectifier had been going bad for a while, but the problem wasn’t evident through the Lores. The Omegas were telling me what the Lores couldn’t. I guess this is what Reviewers mean when they say gear is transparent.
To be fair, I don’t really fault the Lores, as they’re recommended to be driven by 20wpc minimum and I was only giving them 2. If I’d been using them as intended, I’m sure they would have exposed the bad rectifier as well. Despite their 98db efficiency rating, I’ve read that Lores have a complicated crossover that isn’t suitable for low-powered amps. This is the main reason I was looking to upgrade and settled on the Omegas, which are crossover-less and therefore supposed to be better suited to my 2wpc Decware.
Anyway, once the tube issue was resolved (I’ve since replaced all the tubes in the amp just to be safe), I could hear what the Omegas actually sound like. Thankfully they’re fantastic in pretty much every way. Starting at the top, the treble is smooth, clear, and bright without being harsh.The bells and alarms at the beginning of “Time” from DSOTM have always sounded great, but the Omegas bring them to life. They seem to actually exist in the space between my sweet spot and system. My Lores image well, but this is on a different level.
Midrange is wonderful. While researching the Omegas, I’d read that they’re especially good at reproducing mids, and this is my experience as well. Vocals are clear and lifelike, and acoustic guitars sound more believable than I’ve ever heard them from my system. Neil Young isn't at Massey Hall in 1971, he’s in my living room in 2019 (or maybe I’m
at Massey Hall in 1971).
Bass has surprised me the most. The impression I got from the forum on AC is that many users run subs with their Omegas, so I wasn’t expecting deep or impactful bass. I was wrong to assume this. The bass is actually much deeper than I was getting with my lores, and has way more weight and slam. I suppose this is also due to the fact that the Lore’s needed more power than I was giving them, but I was still surprised at the difference.
I’m not sure if the Omegas would be considered forward sounding or not. Like I’ve mentioned, they can do an impressive job of projecting the music into my listening space, but on some recordings they can also create the illusion of a deep and wide soundstage, as though you’re sitting about 7 or 8 rows back. No matter what’s playing, they pretty much disappear. Rather than forward, I’d say they do what the recording tells them to do.
To offer a nutshell comparison, I'd describe the Omegas as more dynamic, detailed, clear, and holographic than the Lores (and by a wide margin).
The craftsmanship of these speakers matches their sound quality. The veneer is beautiful with tight, seamless corners, and I appreciate the matte finish as opposed to the glossy, overly-varnished finish I’ve seen on other wood speakers. One of the secondary reasons I went with Omega is that I dig the look, which fits in nicely with my Scandinavian furniture.
The only drawback so far to the Omegas is the grills. They look good and complement the cabinets, but the magnets that attach them to the front baffle are a bit weak. If the grills are bumped even slightly they fall to the floor. I’ve just learned to be careful not to bump into them, which I should be doing anyway.
That’s about all I’ve got. I’m knocking around the idea of adding a pair of matching subs -- not because the bass is lacking, but because it would be fun to see what they’d add to the listening experience. If I end up pulling the trigger, I’ll report back.
Many thanks for reading, now please enjoy the obligatory pics:
Full listening space: