New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS

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zmaggio

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New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« on: 18 Sep 2019, 06:46 pm »
Very happy to finally have occasion to post in this forum, on which I've been lurking for quite some time.  I just acquired a beautiful pair of customshop SAM XRS speakers from their original owner.  My road to Omega is a long one, but the short version is that a move to a new apartment (NYC) has required a downsizing of my system.  I was driving Harbeth SHL5+ with tube monoblocks previously, a setup I'd had and enjoyed for the past few years.  But moving my entire setup into a tiny listening room compelled me to downsize to an integrated amp and speakers that might play better in a smaller space.  I picked up a Line Magnetic ML-218ia, became intrigued by the single driver concept, became downright obsessed with Omega and Louis' much-praised work, and here I am!

I knew there would be some psychoacoustic adjustment needed after switching to a single driver design after having listened to Harbeths for years.  And indeed, it is a vastly different presentation.  The first thing I'm struck by is the amount of detail the Omegas retrieve from the recordings.  The Omegas absolutely best the Harbeths at conveying the detail and air of percussion, acoustic instruments, etc.  And I was surprised to find the bass quite sufficient (the XRS design helps in this regard); even having just switched from the SHL5, I'm not feeling that I'm missing any bass.  The realism and immediacy of good recordings is startling.  Just how bad a poor recording can sound is depressing - I do not find the Omegas forgiving in this regard!

The only issue I'm having right now, and it's a minor one, and keeping in mind that the speakers are still very new to me - is some excitable higher frequencies that occasionally leave me wincing.  This particular happens with horns playing in higher registers, or flute. And I should mention that I am particularly sensitive to brightness.  The Harbeths were such a warm, colored speaker (IMHO) that they pretty much dispensed with any brightness in recordings (despite having no tweeter, the Omegas seem twice as "sparkly" as the Harbeths!) Most recordings are fine, but every now and then a horn solo hits those frequencies that have me scrambling for the remote.  The Omegas are just that revealing!  If the recording is bright, that's what I get.  So I'm not blaming the speaker or the design - it's the recording, and very likely my untreated room with some nasty reflections.

I am experimenting with position and toe-in, and I think this issue will eventually resolve itself.  (I may just "get used to it" and eventually find it to be a welcome byproduct of a revealing speaker.)  But I'm very happy to be an Omega owner, and to be posting on this forum, and I look forward to hearing any thoughts or tips others may wish to share - on this topic or others.

Thanks!
Zach





nature boy

Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #1 on: 18 Sep 2019, 10:20 pm »
I fiddled with SAHO toe-in for a couple months. Found that having drivers aimed just outside my ears resulted in the best sound and a rock solid soundstage. Also have the middle of the drivers as close to ear level in your sitting position as possible.

I also highly recommend using Gingko Audio Arch 1 vibration control arches under the speakers. These really tighten up the bass and provide an even clarity. A great investment for these rather light speakers.

Enjoy your speakers.

HK
« Last Edit: 18 Sep 2019, 11:37 pm by nature boy »

pstrisik

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #2 on: 18 Sep 2019, 11:01 pm »
Downsizing to a 77 pound amp!  :P

Your speakers and amp seem like they would not be the culprits.  Do you have good room treatment, particularly some absorption at first reflection points?  What about source?  What are you playing and what's the DAC (unless you're all analog)?

I've been somewhat sensitive to highs but don't experience that shrillness with my SAM's.  The final improvement, and a substantial one, came when I stepped up to the Auralic VEGA G2 streamer/DAC.  Smooooooooth!

I'm sure I speak for many here....  photos?!

RDavidson

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #3 on: 19 Sep 2019, 01:12 am »
Definitely no shrillness here with my CAMs and my system is very resolving. Note I don't listen to much brass. What I think is happening is that your ears are not accustomed to the natural "bite" of horns that your Omegas are capable of revealing. Of course bad recordings definitely exacerbate the issue. I think others are right. Play with toe in and take care of room reflections. Different cabling could be super helpful too. What worked well with your Harbeths might not be synergistic in your current set-up. I very highly recommend talking to Dave at ZenWave. Let him know your system and listening goals/preferences and he'll send you some cables for trial.

zmaggio

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #4 on: 19 Sep 2019, 02:00 am »
Thanks everyone for your thoughts, they're very helpful.  I feel that I should clarify my comments and emphasize that my observations are in no way meant as an indictment of the Omega speakers, which from the outset I find almost magically capable of delivering immediacy, presence, and musicality.   Any issues I have with high frequencies is undoubtedly due to the room and my ears.  The point I was actually rather clumsily trying to make was that my perception of what high fidelity music should sound like was probably excessively influenced by the Harbeths, as smooth and relaxed as they are.  To echo RDavidson's perceptive comment, my ears have "forgotten" what the timbre of certain instruments should actually sound like when reproduced faithfully! 

(Interestingly, I never used the term "shrill", although it's been mentioned in a number of replies.  I would never accuse these speakers of being shrill, which I take to imply a certain abrasive quality.)

I listen in a highly compromised space, to be generous about it.  The room is tiny, almost a perfect square, and full of modes.  Treatment is a difficult proposition: the room is a 2nd bedroom, one side wall of which is hung with an art collection (lots of glass) and the other side wall occupied by a massive murphy bed (again, NYC!).  Because of the dimensions of the room and the bed, any speakers have to live relatively close to the front and side walls - they are relegated to corners, basically.  The room requires that I listen in the nearfield.   Any acoustic treatment needs to be approved by the wife, which is daunting - she is already living with two sets of speakers and a 77-pound amp in her bedroom!  ;-)

Pstrisik, the DAC is a TEAC UD-501.   Interesting, I hadn't considered making a change in the DAC.  I'll have to investigate that, thanks for sharing your experience - can others comment on how changing the DAC affected their systems? 

I am also very interested in changing the cabling (currently use Audioquest type IV, ready to move on).  Thanks for the ZenWave recommendation.

And RDavidson, I agree with you 100% -  I think much of what I'm perceiving is due to needing to adjust to a more revealing presentation.  I think what I now perceive as occasional brightness will manifest itself as exceptional clarity, in short time.

pstrisik

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #5 on: 19 Sep 2019, 02:30 am »
My comments were partially about your description of "excitable higher frequencies that occasionally leave me wincing".  My interpretation of that is the occasional distortion at particular higher frequencies.  Flutes and violins can generate that for sure.  I can experience that on occasion.  But I have hearing aids (They are tuned for music with minimal digital processing, etc.), and I attribute the phenomenon to some limitations with them, like input overload.

I had never thought the SAMs to be shrill or harsh at all.  But the several improvements I've made since I got them have just smoothed and relaxed the sound further.

I didn't realize you were near field listening.  That's a whole different ball game!  And I don't think room treatment is as critical in that arrangement. 

Sounds like you already are... my suggestion is to listen for a month or so, then decide what is needed (if anything... well, I guess there always is something!).


zmaggio

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #6 on: 19 Sep 2019, 12:03 pm »
When I said "leave me wincing", I mean that some frequencies physically hurt me. Not the speaker/amp's fault, just my sensitivity to those frequencies (hyperacuisis), and any speaker accurately reproducing certain horn/string registers can trigger it for me.  The Harbeths almost never did, so take that however you will as a comment on their accuracy! (Keeping in mind that I am a long time lover of Harbeths and what they do.)

I think it's sound advice to take some time and adjust myself to the presentation of the Omega before making any major changes.  Still plan to upgrade the cabling soon, so actively soliciting recommendations there.

rollo

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #7 on: 19 Sep 2019, 12:44 pm »
 


Zach curious as to how many hours you have on the speakers ?

seikosha

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #8 on: 19 Sep 2019, 01:09 pm »
Welcome to the Omega forum Zach.  I too had Harbeths before I switched to Omegas and I know exactly what you are describing.  The Harbeths made all recordings sound good but at the same time, they sort of can impose that signature lush sound over everything and start to hide things on recordings and as you know the Omegas won't do that.

The Alnico does have a narrow range of upper frequencies that are accentuated.  Each of the Omega drivers that I have display this characteristic albeit in different ranges.  As some others have mentioned, the first way to correct this is to play around with your ear position relative to the center of the driver.  By making sure that the direct line of the driver is not a straight line into your ear will help quite a bit.  Fool around with it in both the vertical and horizontal axis.  Treating room reflections also will go a long way in ameliorating the issue but at the end of the day, a bad recording will sound like a bad recording; much more so with the Omegas than with the Harbeths.

Good luck with the new setup!  Hopefully it provides you with as much joy as mine does to me.

   

richidoo

Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #9 on: 19 Sep 2019, 02:22 pm »
The peaks could be on the recording and you're just hearing it now because the new speaker is more detailed in upper midrange than Harbeth, and the SS amp has far more electrical damping than the tubes, so you're getting a lot more upper midrange detail now and hearing the recorded piano and flute peaks. Paper cone might have some breakup modes in the 3-5k area that get lit up with the flute and piano spikes. In normal music (dynamic compressed signal, and without flutes and piano spikes) the paper cones sound great to audiophiles who like extra detail up there. Harbeth plastic cone drivers deliberately dumb down the upper midrange to make a comfy sounding speaker. People seeking to avoid harshness love it, usually audiophile types don't because too much information is filtered out. But since you have hyperacusis then you may need less energy at the frequencies to which humans are most sensitive, 2-5kHz. I have several friends with this sensitivity, they walk out when I play violin music, or brass too loud. Or you can add a notch filter to your new speakers to tame any breakup mode that might be there, to which you are hyper sensitive.

You can also reduce the amplifier damping across the whole bandwidth by adding a high power series resistor of 1-3 ohms to the positive speaker cable. This will make it sound more like the tube amps you are used too. Single driver speakers shoutyness often respond well to less electrical damping. Nelson Pass has written about using current source amplifiers (w/zero damping) with his full range speakers in his first watt articles, and he makes F1 and F2 current amps for this purpose. I think the low damping helps because it doesn't feed current into the break up modes and allows then to die quickly. Current amp is totally blind to the load. A cone in resonance will back feed voltage to the amp. A voltage amp must react and this exacerbates the resonant break up mode, while current amp can't react and ignores it. A bit esoteric, but something to consider if other fixes don't work.

If the peaks are coming from the room then it's probably the corners, especially tri corners. Jam pillows up into them to see if it helps. If it helps then treat as much corner seams and tricorners as possible.

Treating my 10' ceiling with binary amplitude diffusion seemed to help with the flute/piano peaks. Not sure how or why, but I think it did help.

effluviography

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #10 on: 19 Sep 2019, 04:07 pm »
I have a custom alnico monitor setupI use near field in a small room, with the speakers close to the wall. So similar setup. I use a Decware Mini-torii to drive them, so pretty different amp. However, I can get some brightness too on certain recordings that can be a little hard on my brain as well - same kind of acute issues with certain sounds driving me crazy. Room treatment is minimal. My approach is different than the current suggestions - I got an EQ from Schiit, the Loki. Doesn't affect the sound when it is in bypass and I can dial down the brightness when needed. It's inexpensive and effective. I know EQ is sacrilege for some in the audiophile community, but it works. I've used the EQ in Audirvana in the past too as a way to dim the brightness. Usually I have it in bypass, but it's nice to be able to tweak something when necessary. Helps with some recordings when using my ZMF Atticus headphones too.

DaveC113

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #11 on: 19 Sep 2019, 05:36 pm »
I've heard a few models of Harbeth and Omega, so I get what you're experiencing to some degree... I have had customers with a sensitivity to certain high frequency ranges as well, some that can't tolerate certain types of speaker drivers or anything remotely "bright".

Single drivers can have break up as well as fairly uncontrolled highs at the very high frequencies, but otoh they don't have the same issues as metal domes or ribbons which sometimes just can't work for folks with sensitivities.

I'd look at speaker toe, maybe try them perfectly straight with no toe-in at all. Also make sure your room isn't too reflective, if you clap your hands the sound shouldn't echo around for very long. Also placing the speakers too close to reflective surfaces like glass is not ideal, adding some absorption for 1st reflection points might help.

I also think an EQ can be a very good idea as sensitivities are often confined to a narrow bandwidth that can be attenuated with EQ. If you get a hearing test done you can identify exactly which frequencies you're more sensitive to and simply dial them back using EQ.

Finally, cables and noise in your AC power can be issues, clean AC power can get rid of some nasty sounding distortions and sometimes cables that use lower quality silver, silver plating, or lower quality brasss/bronze connectors, especially with anything but gold plating can cause issues. Cables can also smooth out harshness if they're warm sounding cables, and this can make major difference with folks who have sensitivities, a high quality copper cable with gold plated plugs can really help here. There's a trade-off as far as resolution, but imo a system that causes listening fatigue is unacceptable and I'd recommend toning it down to the point you're not experiencing fatigue even if it costs you some resolution.

I think Omegas are a good choice for folks with high frequency sensitivities as tweeters can often cause issues, but they're not quite as forgiving as Harbeth so I can see some adjustments may be needed.

rollo

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #12 on: 19 Sep 2019, 11:50 pm »
  Is it possible The Harbeths were taming the top end. Now the new speaker reveals all. That has happened numerous times with our customers. Sometimes a new  ???? exposes sound not heard before.
  I would play the new speakers for 300 hours. Then after that re-evaluate. No band aides for now.


charles

roscoe65

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #13 on: 20 Sep 2019, 12:42 am »
I will concur with Charles regarding break in.  I’ve owned a number of Omega speakers and they require at least 10 hours before they begin to even out.

Another factor is that the alnico drivers have whizzer cones.  My experience with Lowther, Fostex and Omega has been that careful system matching is important to avoid exaggeration in the upper midrange for a number of reasons.  The old Lowther guys used to go to great lengths to tame that region.  We also need to keep in mind that Omegas are quite revealing.  Both your source material and your signal chain need to be compatible.  Your LM amp is should be fine.  I would rethink the Teac if possible.  I’ve found the best sound from a DBAudio Labs Tranquility SE NOS DAC, but have also enjoyed the sound from Chord as well.  Both of these options tend to have a more “natural” high end. 

Kalali

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #14 on: 20 Sep 2019, 04:08 pm »
Great thread. I recently moved from Vandersteen 2Ci speakers to the older Super6 Alnico Monitors and my experience was initially somewhat Similar to Zach's except I listen in far-field at about 10' away with the drivers at ear level and roughly 8' apart. I was able mitigate this slight edge by not pointing the drivers directly to my ears and rather just about 10 degrees out of direct line. I have also noticed the sound is much more coherent and smooth top to bottom if the listening levels are kept within reasonable levels. As said before, moving from multi-driver speakers to a single driver, especially something as revealing as the Alnicos, does take some adjustment in the ear/brain circuit but is very rewarding. I'm hearing all sorts of new sounds from the recordings that I'm very familiar with and it is very exciting.
As for the DAC, I've a mid-fi Cambridge Audio unit as well as a Schitt Audio Modi Multibit and have tried a few different brands mostly borrowed from friends, and the unit that sounded best and seemed to round the rough edges was an MHDT Orchid. The rest of my system except the streamer is all tube; Aric Audio tube preamp and a KT88-based SEP delivering 18 wpc.

zmaggio

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #15 on: 20 Sep 2019, 06:43 pm »
I really appreciate everyone's insights, I'm finding this a very valuable discussion.  It seems like the conversation has coalesced around a few key points: 1) the importance of speaker positioning and room treatment (if possible); system matching to find the right combination of components, cabling, etc. and 3) perhaps most importantly (for me), the psychoacoustic adjustment inherent in transitioning from multi-driver designs to a single driver.

Without a doubt, what the Omegas do well I have never heard another speaker do better.  My slight sensitivity to certain frequencies seems a small price to pay for the kind of clarity and directness I can achieve with the SAM XRS.   

After listening to the Omegas, it is clear to me that the Harbeths essentially shoehorn every recording into the same sonic signature ("lush" as seiokosha rightly put it), which is a godsend for poor recordings but also elides much of the finer detail present in good recordings.  I still admire what the Harbeths do and how they sound, it's just a totally different approach.   

So far I am finding that a minimal angle of toe-in - with the speakers firing almost straight ahead - works very well.   This is actually my usual setup, even with multi-drivers, so nothing new for me.  I plan to log some hours just listening, and then will consider some upgrades to cabling and maybe look at a new DAC.  I've had this DAC forever anyway, and have been itching to see what results I could get from a different unit.

Thanks everyone for the perceptive and insightful comments and suggestions!

-Zach


Alwayswantmore

Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #16 on: 24 Sep 2019, 05:01 pm »
Currently, I have my third pair of Omega speakers on order (they should be finished any day!). Experience so far:
First-round was the Compact Hemp (non-Alnico). I put 100 hours prior to them settling in. Even with breakin, on some material they sounded a bit bright. Yet, detail and imaging were out of this world, so I was hooked.

Next up was the original 6" Alnico Monitor with Deep Hemp sub. Never once considered the 6" Alnico to be a bright speaker.
My listening room for the Alnicos was a smallish bedroom, with GIK acoustic treatments, listening nearfield. IMO, a properly treated room may do more for improving sound than cable upgrades (at least listening nearfield).
Good luck and enjoy.


DaveC113

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #17 on: 24 Sep 2019, 07:49 pm »
IMO, a properly treated room may do more for improving sound than cable upgrades (at least listening nearfield).
Good luck and enjoy.

Possibly, but they are very different types of improvement and IMO we shouldn't get into either/or scenarios as the entire system is fairly equally important, imo...  and when it gets down to it, a great room won't make up for poor electronics but the brain can often differentiate the room effects from the music... I'd take a good system in an average room over an average system in a good room anyday.

I'd also say that when room acoustics gets really bad it can ruin any system.

So what are your new speakers? :)

Alwayswantmore

Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #18 on: 25 Sep 2019, 12:48 am »
New speakers. I’ve reached a point in life that I no longer spend time listening critically.  So I’m in the process of setting up a two person home theater. Currently I have an LG OLED, Anthem receiver, and my Deep Hemp. Louis is building the front speakers: Two Super 3 XRS, and a Super 3 for center. So it’s not really a step up in the Omega line, rather I think of it as sideways.

DaveC113

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Re: New Omega Owner - Customshop SAM XRS
« Reply #19 on: 25 Sep 2019, 03:19 am »
New speakers. I’ve reached a point in life that I no longer spend time listening critically.  So I’m in the process of setting up a two person home theater. Currently I have an LG OLED, Anthem receiver, and my Deep Hemp. Louis is building the front speakers: Two Super 3 XRS, and a Super 3 for center. So it’s not really a step up in the Omega line, rather I think of it as sideways.

That's cool, I go back and forth on how much critical listening I do but sometimes work demands it! ;)

The mids on my speaker use a version of the Omega RS5 driver, they are great! I'm jealous of the OLED though, I have an old Panny plasma that will not die.