The Omega TS2s are efficient, single driver models without any crossovers. The model's greatest strength is an organic wholeness, very good expression of musical details and quick dynamics born from its easy to drive nature. It does not sound, or act, like the vast majority of conventional loudspeakers in its price category. Louis Chochos' $579 entry model in the craft of loudspeaker design yields a competently solid loudspeaker with endearing musical qualities.
The exterior of the TS2 standard model resembles any other very well made, solid, smoothly finished quality speaker. The models provided to us were average size bookshelf speakers finished in a Cherry wood. The wood is not like a burgundy colored finish. The Cherry is such a light red that they seem more like an Oak with a reddish henna applied for highlights.
The front panel is a black grille clothe which covers most of the front, though the TS2 looks good enough without it. Peeling off the panel reveals quite a different engine under the hood. Staring back at you is a white driver with a whizzer cone center. The TS2 employs a single 6.5” Fostex driver modified in an unspecified manner by Louis Chochos. The driver covers most of the frequency range of music. Well, a respectable 58Hz low to a typical 20kHz, anyway. A sub-woofer really helps them out in the bottom end. The driver is a light paper cone with another, smaller matching cone set on the dome in the center of the first cone -- a whizzer cone. When working, they both buzz like bees.
The combined cones in one driver provide wide range, high sensitivity, speed, transparency and very good detail. A paper cone tends to be less stiff than other materials such as B&W's yellow Kevlar or Klipsch's copper-colored metal. Paper though, does not have the shimmer or ringing resonance often found in Kevlar and metal. Below the white driver is a simple round tube of a port. Many cone speakers claim to need a long break-in period. Generally, I do not find my initial first impressions changing substantially after using a speaker or amp in various configurations over a period of time. The speakers seem to need less break-in time than the listeners need time to describe what they are hearing.
Warm Them Up
I did however, notice a big difference with the TS2s before they were broken in. They sounded stiff, harried, jostled, rushed and pressured to do more than they can when they are first put to work. Be sure to give the TS2s the recommended 30 to 50-hour workout before you sit down to critically judge their sound. The loudspeakers are easily placed. Tweaking audiophiles are strongly encouraged to follow George Cardas' simple application of Golden Ratios, was discussed here. Once the TS2s are in position, I recommend darkness with a single candle and a favorite beverage.
There is no crossover in the TS2s. Power from the amplifier goes straight through a pair of gold binding posts to the driver. Single driver speakers are the hallmarks of simplicity themselves. At $579 a pair, the TS2s are notably less expensive than most full range crossover-less loudspeakers on the market. In fact, they have few of the small loudspeaker woes of which I lament in my review of the little and low cost Axium M3T (reviewed here) is.
The Omega series of speakers, now two models in two classes of elegant finishes, are the hand made creations of Louis Chochos. This is his first foray into the wholly world of loudspeaker design and it is a solidly competent achievement. That's it for the construction part of the story, but that is not all of the story. In two months, I will review the TS2s' bigger brother, also a single driver loudspeaker. Loudspeakers with only one driver are uniquely different in many practical ways, and that is where much of the story is...
In 2000, a personal survey rated the published efficiencies of 49 different loudspeakers, ranging in price range from my daughter's Sony boom box at $300 to $20,200 for Wilson Watt/Puppies. The efficiency ratings of the majority of mass-market home and audiophile loudspeakers ranged from 86 to 88dB. In fact, most of the speakers which Stereophile magazine reviews form a distinct beer-belly bulge at the inefficient left end of the sensitivity chart. What that means in terms of loudspeaker sensitivity is that the majority of speakers are not "very" sensitive.
Here are some rough theoretical calculations at a listening spot some three meters away from the loudspeaker. A typical loudspeaker of 85 Decibels per watt per meter (dB/W/m) efficiency will use as little as a 1/8 of a watt to reproduce average music levels at a 70-75dB volume. This is for much of the music, at the listener's seat. It is on musical peaks that the staggering differences in speaker efficiency become apparent. Louder musical passages about 15dBs higher on a CD for that typical loudspeaker may require instantaneous power pulses of about four watts. Microsecond musical peaks at normal levels may require quick pulses of perhaps 128 watts to fully recreate the waveform of the note. Which is not at all impossible with the amplifier and receiver specs published today.
But, pump up the volume to an 88dB average musical level though, which is starting to sound loud, and you begin to need some serious power. The average efficiency speaker at that volume, in an ideal anechoic chamber setting, will need about four watts just to play normal musical passages. It will ask for about 128 watts for the loud passages. Yet, it may require nano-second flashes of up to four thousand watts in order to faithfully reproduce dynamic peaks 30dB higher!
Can brief musical peaks and energy demands range from average 88dB valleys to momentary 110dB mountaintops? "Why, certainly!" Much of the music’s emotional content is in the dynamics of the sound. High-efficiency speakers articulate a startlingly real illusion of the power and majesty of musical instruments, from the liquid lushness of a solo soprano to the fast punch of kick drums and bass guitars. Super high loudspeaker efficiency, says this tweaking audiophile, is a gateway for the full dynamic and emotional palette of reproduced music, but not always the timbre accuracy and tonal refinement. Therefore, it is no wonder that esoteric magazines, such as the venerable Stereophile, love super-expensive and massive power amplifiers; the loudspeakers which they review require major electronic and financial commitments to make high-quality sound.
But wait! What if you want to go a different route? Enter entrepreneurs like Louis Chochos with his Omega series speakers. His TS2 speakers are rated at the high, or very high level, of 94dB/W/m efficiency; just one decibel shy of the "super-efficient" appellation. (Their bigger brothers are super-efficient. The larger TS1s: use a 8" white whizzer-cone driver to give noticeably more bass; have greater presence and detail, enjoy almost twice the sensitivity, at an amazing 96dB/m/w; for less than two hundred dollars more in price.)
All That Power
What high-efficiency means is that even the theoretical 94dB speaker system will use as little as a 1/3 of a watt at normal volumes for much of the music, most of the time. Rapid CD musical peaks about 15dBs higher will require instantaneous power pulses of about only one watt. Microsecond musical peaks at a normal 70dB listening level may require quick pulses of about 32 watts. A lot more reasonable requirement, isn't it? In fact, lower, more reasonable power requirements for the accurate reproduction of musical peaks opens up new vistas for providing amplifier power.
With high-efficiency speakers, you’d think you could use any old amplifier and have plenty of power. Sadly, that is not the case. Using a cheap amplifier to drive these high-efficiency speakers, just because you don’t need much power is the wrong approach. What you need is a quality high-current amplifier, like some of the new, powerful models coming out today, which can deal with difficult loads without introducing other problems.
Enter the tube amplifier. These high-fidelity power plants of your father's era can be moderately priced, high current amplifiers. They deal with difficult loads in widely varying degrees of proficiency. One thing they all do however, is make the type of harmonic distortion that we subconsciously identify with musical instruments; reproduced music is always listenable.
Now add the flea-powered Bottlehead Paramour tube monoblock amps into the mix. The Paramours are 3.5-watt hobbyist kits, each unit with an 2A3-output bottle. With the full twist of the dial, the fragile Paramours still only push a maximum of 6 watts. Topology of the amps is Class A Single Ended Triode (SET). In my room, half-power produced fast music peaks at about 92dB at my listening position. SET amps use a single triode tube in the output stage for both the positive and the negative portions of the musical waveform. SET amps have little power compared to the gargantuan amps available today. Most are below 10 watts. Yet, for many tweaking audiophiles there is no going back to push pull tube or SS amps after hearing what a SET can do with the right speakers. But, the choice of loudspeakers is drastically limited if you choose the SET route. Enter Lois Chochos again and his Omega TS2s.
Yes, No And Maybe
Whew! Now we are back to the speakers. So if you have high-efficiency speakers like the Omega TS2s reviewed here, or their big brothers coming in another review, and you have a delicate-sounding flea-powered tube monoblocks like the Bottlehead 2A3 Paramours; then you have a wonderful combination, right? Well... yes, no and maybe.
The combination of the easily driven TS2s with the flea-powered Bottlehead Paramours was indeed a pleasing one. The TS2S do offer an amazing amount of detail, speed, dynamics and musical involvement, especially for a loudspeaker of that size, driver and price.
A pair of TS2s with a nice integrated tube amp would make a very charming system. One with some definite qualities that many tweaking audiophiles will appreciate: a smooth mid-range, a seamless integration of low, mid and high range, easy load, reasonable cost, small, well-made size with no obnoxious and distracting sonic effects. Yet, the low power of the Paramours is still not enough to drive the last Nth degree of musical resolution from the efficient TS2s at the loudest volumes. To effectively scale the peaks, more power, or more drivers, is required. The TS2s on the other hand, do not benefit from the gobs of power of a monster amplifier like the Pass Laboratories Supersymmetry™ Balanced Single-Ended Class-A Stereo X250 amplifier, nor can they play extremely loud on mere 2A3 bottle power. Either combination is not particularly well suited to Rock N' Roll parties. The TS2 is not any less of a party loudspeaker though, than most other $500 off-the-shelf loudspeakers - the exception being the "ready-to-rock" $279 Audio Axioms M3Tis.
So far, I have auditioned loudspeaker systems for Enjoy the Music.com™ at the $279, $549, $1,100 and $4,090 price levels. (Lucky me!) There is nothing like enjoying the music with a variety of different style loudspeakers, a choice of three competent amplifiers and your own musical favorites! Sometimes, when your pits are damp from hefting one loudspeaker into place after another, or when "little miss sensitive ears" is not annoyed because the house is filled to bursting with loudspeakers and their empty boxes; sometimes, this job is quite enjoyable! Yet, even with flea-power, especially with flea-power, properly positioned and sub-woofer supported TS2s compared very favorably to the:
* Urbane Vince Christian E6C satellite system, priced at $4,090 (reviewed here in July)
* Newly introduced folded transmission line Newtronics Skates MkIIs, priced at $2,000 (enthusiastic review coming next month)
* Six-driver Axiom Audio M80Ti towers, at an amazing $1,100 per pair (review forthcoming)
So far, each loudspeaker in the price scale is different than the one before it. Each one has its strengths, each one has its values. Each loudspeaker can also alter the music so much that it seems like another recording. It is a funny thing about the audio industry, audio marketing, audio physics, modern recordings and electronics; that such small, simple and inexpensive speakers could keep up with such larger, more sophisticated fare.
The TS2 acquit themselves quite well: Much better than most off-the shelf loudspeakers in this price range. They are not however, a spectacular loudspeaker in many audiophile or showroom terms. They lack rumbling or punchy bass, and don't have the sparkling high end which many tweaking audiophiles love. Neither is their tonal balance so unique as to win them many instant converts. Their soundstage is not extra-ordinarily huge and imaging isn’t extraordinarily precise. The immediately obvious difference between the TS2s and the very good to almost excellent loudspeakers listed above, is the all-important region of the bass, of course. The bass is where the chef either makes the meal, or fails the course.
Compared to the E6c system, which needs a sub-woofer; or the Skates, which sound like they have their own sub-woofer; or the M80Tis, which has two woofers and two mid-range drivers in each cabinet; the smaller and less expensive Omega TS2s speakers are simply out-classed. On their own in my bedroom size office, the TS2s often surprised me with low moans of deep bass, but not with any upper punches from the mid-bass area.
When I think of bass, the low booms from the Skates, the mid-bass punch of the M80Tis or the sheer dynamics of my big old Cornwalls excel over the little TS2s. In the upper and mid-bass region, the little TS2 was quite competent, but not overly generous. If it did not have the deep reach of the almost twice-the-price M80Tis or almost four-times-more-expensive Skates, the TS2 did have a satisfying combination of bass definition. The mid and upper bass is there. It just doesn’t punch like the M80Tis or rumble like the Skates.
The bass guitar does not suffer from unmusical mid-bass boom; it and other instruments are well balanced across their ranges. While no particular notes stick out more than others do, the foreground instruments do take the stage in front of other instruments. This is in stark contrast to the genteel Vince Christian E6c three-piece system, which placed instruments in their soundstage so well that the E6c system rivals a few dream systems many, many, times their price.
When I think of delectable treble, the metal ringing of cymbals on Cornwall horns or the shimmering of the dual M80it tweeters comes first to mind. The TS2 have treble of course, just not overly bright or obvious. There was none of that brightness, edginess, or metallic flavoring common with metal-dome tweeters. That's not to say that the treble was perfect, just not heavily flavored.
When I think of lush and rich mid-range, JM Cobalt loudspeakers fronted by YBA or Audio Refinement, come first to mind. In this current review group, the Skates win out, and the E6c system would get high marks for accuracy and imaging. The TS2 do have a very good mid-range, it is just not overstated, remarkably forward or noticeably laid back either. Yet, the mid range of the T2S is almost, but not quite, as good as the more than seven times-more-expensive E6c system. Especially when coupled to the delicate Bottlehead Paramour amplifiers.
It is not so much that the TS2s are out-classed in the bass or treble departments, as they are simply out of their league. In fact, the major differences between these Omega boxes, with their big white eye, and the other assorted boxes lined up for review in my living room is one of absences. Not absences like the neutral transparency of the E6c system, but an absence of sonic effects. Easy going, easy to listen to, not bland or dry, but not strikingly remarkable either. More even or balanced throughout, more like the sophisticated and genteel E6c system than any of the others. This is probably the "uniformity or cohesion" some reviewers use to describe the sound of single driver speakers.
(Their bigger brothers, the more-efficient, better sounding TS1s, did much better. Tweaking Audiophiles with flea-powered amplifiers, who are considering the charms of a single driver loudspeaker, should not hesitate to step-up the bigger brother. They are well worth the price differential. I can't wait to cover the TS1s in detail; but not next month, September, but the month after that.)
Surprisingly, the small Omega models did not mate well with the punchy little $99 ASL Wave 8 amps (reviewed here). Nor did they do anything special with my low-powered solid state Class A Pioneer amp. Nothing was missing when used with these amplifiers, but there were few important features to point at which would easily recommend the TS2s over other speakers at that price. No crisp sound or harsh sizzle, but no blare, boom or punch either. (Many purists no doubt will find this a very good thing.) As unlikely as the combination is, the only benefit of putting a superb monster amplifier like the Pass X250 amplifier (drooling reviewed here), which is capable of pushing out a clean 500 watts into a 4-ohm load, onto a sweet little speaker like the TS2s is to discover any hidden flaws. It is like putting them under the microscope.
But, it is not a winning combination. The awesome power, authority and control of the Pass X250 did as little for the TS2s as they did for my big old horns. Anybody attempting the combination for the sheer pleasure of the sound is likely to switch the speakers (not the 100-pound amplifier) pretty quickly. The sound, one friend said, is "not integrated." The TS2s loudspeakers share most of the same characteristics as their bigger, more-efficient brother. They come across as mellow-balanced. Not rolled-off, as such, but mellow nonetheless. Their smooth treble and bass response was quite acceptable, since it never seemed as if I was missing any of the detail of the recordings.
The tonal balance was noticeably neutral. The lower mids were neither bloated nor excessively lean. If anything, a little more punch in the upper mid-bass would have been nice. That is very much a personal preference. (While it is a common preference, which loudspeaker designers wisely design for, it is not one that everybody shares.)
Stereo imaging isn’t as wonderful as the smooth E6c system either, with the soundstage narrower and shallower than the E6c. Image depth was also good, rather than excellent. But don’t forget this is a very efficient, single driver loudspeaker priced at only $579 a pair. Off-the-shelf loudspeakers at your local Audio/Visual boutique are only beginning to sound competent at this price range. Most of them suffer far greater, and more annoying, problems than the TS2's minor deficiencies.
For example, I found the TS2s mellow efforts, without any attention getting bass or treble, initially too understated, when compared to the obvious charms of the M80Tis or the Skates. Extended music and HT use acclimated me to its thoroughly competent character. I came to appreciate its smooth, detailed presentation and its very good mid-range. At a time when anybody with woodworking skills can crank out a stuffed box loudspeaker, it's refreshing to see something a little unique in design and valuable in price. The TS2 is an well-engineered effort. Louis Chochos' effort in the craft of loudspeaker design yields a competently solid loudspeaker with endearing musical qualities.
I liked the TS2s' bigger brother even more so. On the Enjoy the Music.com reviewer's scale, a score 50 is passing, about average. The TS2 ranks well about that in every category. Their less than ideal marks below reflect the flirtatious charms of their bigger brother. The larger model is a much better loudspeaker for a little more money. One short route many tweaking audiophiles choose to audio nirvana is a tube amplifier with super-efficient, crossover-less loudspeakers. If you are going that way, the vastly improved bass, aural presence, efficiency and bopping dynamics of the TS1 - not to mention the gorgeous finishes available - make the larger model a far superior choice.
The TS2s' greatest strengths are an solid construction, seamless transition across most of the music range, very good expression of musical details and convincing dynamic quickness born from its easy to drive nature. It does not sound, or act, like the vast majority of conventional loudspeakers in its price category and suffers from few of their problems.
One of the best things to say about the budget priced TS2 on a good tube rig is that it seems as if you are listening less to the equipment or the recording and … enjoying more of the music.
Amen to that.
Driver: 6.5" Full Range with no crossover in 2" ported cabinet design
Frequency Response: 58 to 20KHz
Impedance: 8 ohms
Power Handling: 3 watts minimum, 60 watts maximum
Termination: Gold plated five-way binding posts
Cabinet Dimensions: 16 x 8.5 x 10.5 (HxWxD in inches)
Cabinet Construction: 3/4-inch softwood MDF
Weight: 18 pounds each
Warranty: 10 Years, 45 day in-home trial/audition
Omega Speaker Systems