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Ohm Acoustics F5 speaker Review

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What does an audiophile do with a speaker that tosses sound everywhere? How is the perfectionist to approach a soundstage that is bulbous, what I term the mushroom cloud soundstage? It is so obviously different that it raises many questions about its characteristics and operation in a HiFi system. A distinct subset of enthusiasts claim it is the only correct genre of speaker among the several available. I have no intent on attempting to answer these questions definitively, nor to write a history of the omnidirectional speaker. I endeavor to explore the unique aspects of this omnidirectional speaker. Along the way I will revisit an earlier model from the Ohm Acoustics, the Walsh Model F, in a fit of comparative curiosity to see how it sounds alongside the current flagship, the Beta F-5015 (At the time of publishing, the company has renamed the speaker F5 officially –pub.).

A true omnidirectional speaker is noted not so much for its timbral and dynamic characteristics, which, like any other dynamic speaker, may be exemplary or anemic depending upon the brand, but for its bulbous, amorphous soundstage. Listening to Shelby Lynn’s unnaturally outsized vocals reminded me of the time my sons and I went to the Blue Man Group show at Universal Studio’s theme park and experienced a rather unusual display. At one point the Blue men went into the audience with handheld, wireless mini cameras and unexpectedly coaxed a show goer to put his head back and open his mouth. In went the camera; the close-up images of his throat and uvula on the screen were uproarious, the audience grossed out and laughed hysterically. It is best to expect larger than life-sized imaging if you are considering an omni speaker!

As an owner of an omni speaker, the Kingsound King Tower, which I picked up from the Kingsound U.S. distributor following its appearance in two shows at RMAF, I have appreciation of the enveloping character of the omnidirectional speaker, it’s greatest attribute among fans. One does truly feel immersed in the musical event, as opposed to hearing it approach. Having an appreciation for the breadth of design in the speaker industry, when listening to an omnidirectional speaker, I readily accept the inflated scale and settle in to hear from within the performance, not outside of it. The omni does give a sense of being with the band as opposed to being segregated from it. The effect is not absolute, but much more convincing than typical speaker setups except, perhaps, nearfield listening and, as might be expected, headphones.

A new generation of Ohm speakers

By “new” generation, I am distinguishing between Lincoln Walsh’s 1970s era Model A, the later Walsh Model F spoken of earlier, and the current offerings from Ohm. My pair of Model F were about to be hauled to the dump, as they had obvious damage to one cabinet and to both speakers’ surrounds and spiders (the drivers are mounted vertically, and over time the spiders may sag from the weight of the cone). The owners recalled that I like audio, so they called to see if I had interest in the damaged speakers. They thought I might be offended, as the speakers were old and damaged. As I drove over to their home, knowing that Ohm also made some more traditional designs, I hoped that they would be omnidirectional speakers. They were surprised that I knew they were iconic, considered among the most innovative designs in HiFi speakers historically, and were thrilled that I showed interest in restoring them.

Both out of excitement to embark on an open-ended adventure in speakers, and to glean advice, I opened a thread on Audiogon wherein I discussed my options available, ranging from parts replacement to full restoration, covering a cost spectrum from less than $500 to more than $7,000! As I already owned omni speakers that were used lightly due to other fine transducers rotating through my home for reviews, I opted for the inexpensive revamp rather than a full-blown restoration. I drove two 12-hour round trips to drop off and then pick up the speakers rather than trust shippers. I was not going to chance damage to those drivers!

On the Audiogon thread one can see how enthusiasts were disappointed with my decision, but my priorities in system building are quite different from those of the average audiophile. While I cannot say the refurbishing of the speakers brought me precisely to the performance level of the original, I do believe it brought me close enough to gauge what their potential would be as fully restored vintage speakers. Thus, this discussion of comparison is between a refurbished, not perfectly restored, Walsh Model F and the current Ohm F5.

John Strohbeen, the current owner of Ohm Acoustics Corp., has written the highlights of the early company history in an article, “The Early Days of Ohm.” Link to it here:  I also recommend curious parties look at the company page, “The History of Ohm Speaker”:  This will be of keen interest to some, but unexciting to others who simply want to know the performance characteristics and potential success of this speaker in my system. While I have a glancing familiarity with the history and models of speakers from Ohm, I am not an authority. I will not pretend that I am the “buck stops here” person for Ohm speakers. However, I do believe I can bring value added analysis to the F5, and when this article is finished, perhaps you will agree.

3 Responses to Ohm Acoustics F5 speaker Review

  1. Lash says:

    10k for that? No thanks.

  2. Paul says:

    I really enjoyed this review because it gave me a great picture of what the speakers do well, don’t do as well, and would be like to live with. I wish all reviews were this helpful.

  3. Jerry Hajek says:

    Still imho, the F5 will still remain in the shadows of its’ namesake. The Fs’ and A s’ were hobbled by the technology of their era, the remaining suffering from that and their sheer age.
    There exist better examples of Walsh drivers; they still remain a bit ‘esoteric’ for many.
    But, not all shoes fit all feet, either….;)

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