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Ohm Acoustics F5 speaker Review

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Rubbing shoulders with the venerated company

John Strohbeen, owner of the company and his assistant, Evan Cordes, who appears to be handling the production and email communication, were both cheerful and very laid back. The mood was definitely “no issues, no problems, we’ll get it done.” And they did — with zero stress. That was refreshing considering the occasional overbearing representatives (typically dealers or PR firms associated with a manufacturer) I encounter. I can get reviews done fine with those individuals, but there is far more worry and uptightness on their end. A few have wanted to see the review prior to publication, or to check it for more than technical errors. My answer is no, you will not. Ohm did not show any desire to direct the writing of the review, as is the case with the majority of companies I engage. Ohm speakers as a company strikes me as being similar to Pass Laboratories; they have been around for a long time, and they will continue to be around. Before I get too far afield, Ohm offers an Outdoor speaker series, legacy Parts and Service, Home Theater Systems, and an Outlet Store on the website.


Shipping and condition

Most of the time manufacturers want a reviewer to have a mint product for assessment, however, there are occasions where a B-stock unit can be utilized without harming the integrity of the assessment. In this instance, the cabinet and top module housing of the speakers showed wear, but the internals were new. It appears that Ohm took a show or demo pair, made sure the electronic portion of the speaker was new, and sent them off to me. I find that to be a sensible and perfectly appropriate decision, but a company may wish to inform the reviewer first! I was not aware just how laid back the company was in this regard, and when I uncrated the speakers I was concerned to see scratches on the cabinets and a scrape on the top of one metal top module housing. A relaxed Evan shared that they prepped the speakers in the condition as described. Perfect.

The shipping was immaculate, the entire four boxes per speaker arriving on a sizable pallet unscathed. Be sure you have plenty of space for the boxes and pallet if you are the type of owner who saves everything, just in case you ever have to move or sell them. I was able to nest boxes pretty well, and I have a habit of standing pallets of review speakers on end vertically in the garage against a wall. If necessary, I use a bungee affixed to the wall to hold the pallet snug, and so very little space is required to store it.

The construction of the speaker is robust, the cabinet with its semi-gloss black finish and the top module with flat black finish are both made with sturdy materials. This reminds me of the throw back, solid “made in America” appearance and feel that was the norm decades ago. The pair for review was finished in black and it is great to see such a solid cabinet with a fine finish reminiscent of a piece of Amish furniture. The included casters, rather than spikes, are quite tough and sizable enough not to get swallowed by thick carpeting. They also come with locks to retain speaker position.

There was one glitch in the setup, that being an inoperative top module. Evan told me that this happens occasionally, and that simply swapping the modules may fix it. I attempted to do so, but one of the wooden frames of the base of the module did not fit into the top nook of the opposite subwoofer’s cabinet. That is, there was just enough variance in the woodwork that the two tops were not interchangeable. The variance was ever so slight, and it speaks of production from a small shop as opposed to, say, a larger operation with CNC machining. Swapping speaker leads confirmed that the inoperative condition resided within the top module, so Evan instructed me to remove that module and check the lead to it from the crossover.

I have a high degree of curiosity about the operations of the equipment I review, and would have loved to access the innards of the module itself, but it is sealed up tight. Ohm does not want prying eyes inside these modules, not the least because of potential damage to them. The metal portion housing the actual hybrid omni driver is entirely sealed in the cylindrical cage, which is removed from its wooden base containing the crossover by backing out several long bolts. There is a lead which arises from the wooden box of the top module, and I could see nothing of the crossover underneath due to a sea of damping material. I did not pull at this, because I did not wish to potentially damage some aspect of the module.

I was a bit surprised to see a plastic clip connection, similar to what is seen in car engines, linking the module to the buried crossover. The fault preventing the module from operation was not immediately evident, as the clip seemed intact. But, as I rotated the module to move it aside to inspect its integrity, I noticed that one lead from below seemed to pull out from the clip slightly. I gently tugged on it and the wire came out entirely! I was initially disturbed, thinking that now I had broken it and a more serious repair would be needed. However, there was no solder on the wire, indicating that it was held in by a pressure clip. The solution was to simply reinsert the wire and push, and it held in place. The speaker was once again operational.

I will leave it to golden eared hobbyists to argue over whether the joint not being soldered is audible. The build reminds me of the methods used for the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers, which I called a quick and dirty build, because some parts are low cost and methods not industry leading. Here, too, good enough parts and assembly methods seem to dictate the build. I cannot speak to the innards of the module, nor the internals of the subwoofer, but if the link between the modules is an indication, the Ohm company operates from a perspective not unlike some other manufacturers who make assembly decisions based on theoretical and often specification-driven considerations rather than spare-no-expense assembly.

Some highly respected companies use push-on connectors. If I recall correctly, opening up the Wharfedale Opus 2-M2 bookshelf speaker revealed pedestrian wiring of similar nature to that inside the Ohm speaker, and Legacy Audio also uses pressure clips to put leads on drivers at least in the case of the Whisper DSW Clarity Edition. Some audiophiles think such things are intolerable, while others say they make no difference. I know that I can make all manner of speakers sound terrific if given the time and equipment to optimize them. Is there a sonic cost associated with such construction methods? I would need two identical models built differently —and so would you —to compare and judge. As it is, the potential buyer decides what aspects of the speaker are most important.

The aspect of the speaker’s build that balances this discussion is the price break afforded by a simpler assembly. Ohm is not charging $20K or even $15K for these speakers, and that is appropriate. It would be a problem if they were advertised as bespoke with ultimate execution of the build. That would not be defensible, but Ohm is not claiming it. They are building what would be considered by them a vastly superior design with standardized assembly. In this hobby, not only does performance have a spectrum, so does reliability and repairability, and we all make our choices. I feel Ohm is similar to Magnepan in not overcharging for the build level.

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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