Winner Of The Wife Acceptance Award!
Omega TS1 Single Driver Loudspeakers
In Pearlescent Blue Arctic
by A. Colin Flood
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Sooner or later, every married or unmarried audiophile is bound to come against that wall of feminine resistance known affectionately in the audio hobby as the "wife acceptance factor"
(WAF). Of course today, with the myriad of couplings devised by the human species, it would be more politically correct to call this element a spousal acceptance factor, but WAF it is and WAF it shall remain. This immovable force of interpersonal physics is not easily swayed by the exciting qualities that make the male of the species clamor like jumbo-sized children arguing over what my wife calls, "stereo equipment".
The WAF is not moved by crossover-less, single driver, super-sensitive, gold binding posts, wide frequency, narrow tolerance, resin impregnated laminates or whizzer-cones. No, the majority of "little miss sensitive ears" - with whom I, and many of my online
compadres, share our humble and equipment-crowded abodes with, are patently immune to the finer points of the tweaking audiophile hobby! They care not for the space, décor, noise, expense, time and energy allocated to this in-home hobby.
More is the pity, too. For the ladies' higher hearing range extends further and flatter than the range of any tweaking male audiophile. This upper-end female capability results in an enviable sensitivity to tonal truth, flatness, evenness and balance in the mid-frequency range, which middle-aged tweaking audiophiles can barely remember, and yet, impossibly covet.
Little miss sensitive ears cares not that the Omega TS1s are super-efficient, 96dB/w/m, single driver models without any crossovers at a very reasonable price, or that "no crossover" means an even, seamless sound. My "little miss sensitive ears" was not at all concerned by Louis
Chochos' use of a treated 8" Fostex white paper full-range driver with an inset whizzer-cone; all this in well-made standard finish $699 loudspeaker. Nor did she care for the TS1s' 3/4" softwood MDF construction and 1" polyurethane foam damping or walls deadened with flexible vinyl copolymer.
But she did love their sound and enthuse over their relatively small size and silky-smooth, premium Pearlescent Blue Arctic finish. This is a marble pattern of mottled navy blue/gray and black flakes. Depending on the lighting of the room, this glossy treatment reflects as either a blue-gray or a dark gray. Either way, it is not startling or obvious. Either way, you will slide your eyes or hands over their silky good looks as you pause to listen.
The glossy finish, Louis says, consists of decorative 0.028 inch (0.7 mm) surface papers, impregnated with melamine resins, bonded under heat and impregnated with phenolic resins. Louis applies the laminate with polyvinyl acetate
(PVA), clamps and cauls, assuring a tight bond with no air pockets. The process takes longer than simple veneers, he says, but the results are far better. After the panels are pressed, they are trimmed, chamfered and edged. "What's great about the laminate," Louis says, "is it's a low-cost way of getting a high gloss finish with beautiful patterns not found elsewhere. It is very easy to maintain, very durable and does not fade." Surprisingly, the glossy laminate finishes, including the delightful Arctic Blue, are no extra charge.
My purist reluctance never admits that anything about a stereo component's looks ever enters into objective considerations about its sonic values. I do graciously concede that the added long-term value and extra WAF points for the premium finish upgrade are well worth the supplementary price. In other words, I too enjoyed the Pearlescent Blue Arctic good looks for such a modestly priced offering.
I personally scored points with little miss sensitive ears. Nurseries and garden shops sell white-stone pedestals in classic Grecian-styles for plants and statutes. They are two to three feet high, not too wide and heavy, like the ones in the photo above. I suggested that stone pedestals make ideal loudspeaker stands for speakers like the TS1s. Together, I said, they make a charming, practical, attractive and great sounding couple. She replied that she didn't know that she married such a classy guy!
The loudspeakers she loves are the big brothers to the Omega TS2 reviewed
two months ago). Read that review as the context for this one, for they are part and parcel of this package.
Nor does little miss sensitive ears care that a frequency response graph can reveal some idea of what a loudspeaker is trying to do in your room. It can show what the loudspeakers' open air, pure response might be. However, the graph will not let you know what the actual in-room response really is. Your actual response will be a combination of the room acoustics and the abilities of the loudspeakers. (For the context of my reviews, including my unique combination, see
The WAF gives no additional marks for my primitive measurements. Yet, the flea-powered Bottlehead 2A3 Paramours confirmed the smooth, well-behaved TS1 response. What I heard was a speaker that was balanced and even, without sounding flat, recessed, dull or clinical. This is a loudspeaker that communicates much of the emotion and recorded information.
The TS1s measured notably flat within a wider than expected range. With a dip at 400Hz, I found them to be pleasingly level and probably within the important ±3dB range. Allowing about 2dB for measurement errors and room anomalies, the TS1s are flat for most of the musically critical area, from
125Hz to 5kHz. (See our musical scale by clicking here).
The TS1s may bump up a bit at 80 to 100-Hz, which helps the illusion of mid-bass, but they disappear quickly below that. Even without a tweeter, the single white driver still extends to 12.5-KHz, as most multiple driver loudspeakers do.
Another important parameter is speaker impedance. A speaker with flat impedance is quite beneficial. "What constitutes a flat impedance?" Speakers are typically rated at 4 or 8 ohms, but these values are rarely constant. Due to the actual driver and crossover components, this value will vary with frequency. A loudspeaker can be rated at 8 ohms nominal, but might dip down to 3-ohm range, as the
Newtronics Skates did last month.
Impedance dips are typically in the low frequency range, where the low woofer impedance makes driving the bass more difficult. Check the manufacturer for an impedance chart.
For single-ended (SE) amplifiers, you want to avoid speakers that possess deep impedance dips. An 8-ohm rated loudspeaker, for example, that dips to 3-ohms at 50Hz, or a 4-ohm rated speaker that dips to 1-ohm at 60Hz. Because these dips suck energy out of your amplifier, resulting in soft bass output and loss of dynamics at those specific frequencies. Therefore, a speaker with high and fairly flat impedance is a great match for low powered tube amplifiers. A model whose impedance fluctuates only a few ohms, even 2-ohms or less, would be a very good choice.
Coincident Loudspeaker Technology, out of Ontario, Canada, makes such loudspeakers. High efficiency loudspeakers, they are intentionally designed for single ended amplifiers. A pair of Triumph Signature UHS is poised to enter my listening room. They look surprisingly similar to the
Axiom Audio Millennia M3ti Bookshelf Loudspeakers reviewed in April, 2002. The Signatures are also cherry red, with a woofer, tweeter and angled front edges. The most obvious physical difference is that the woofer is black instead of white. It will be very interesting to hear how different these Signatures sound from the Omegas, at twice and thrice times the price, and the M3Tis, at three times the price. Look for The Signature review in two months.
Since little miss sensitive ears is crowded-in by big old Klipsch corner horns, the TS1s' smaller size rated quite high in the
WAF. Though many low-cost bookshelf speakers suffer from more faults than strengths, these well-constructed models had few of those problems. The cabinets and drivers are first-class, not lightweight, thin or flimsy. Separation between instruments is good, though not as excellent as big old horns or the refined Vince Christian E6c system
Although separation was not exceptional, neither was it congested. Rest assured, you will hear all of the instruments on the recording, but the notes are not painted with an aisle-wide floor broom. Orchestral music, in particular, will benefit from the wraparound soundstage effect that the E6c system can create with a massive power amplifier. Folk music and small group ensembles will benefit from the same smooth and even balanced mid-range as many systems that are far more expensive. I frequently found myself listening to female vocalists.
The snap and pop of dynamics of TS1s can open the magical gateway for musical enjoyment and provide a much-needed dose of realism. More with the Paramours than with the SS amplifier, the TS1 dynamics are very good to excellent, beaten only by the punchy little Wave
8 amplifiers (reviewed here) or ultra-efficient horns. Without little miss sensitive ears saying so, this feature probably adds to the WAF score.
The treble doesn't hiss at you as some loudspeakers can. It doesn't have the realistic ringing of big old horns, smooth flow of the E6c system or the tantalizing sizzle of next month's remarkable values, the Axiom M80Ti line driver arrays, with their double tweeters. Yet, their gentle treble definition makes for good WAF marks, probably due to the lingering treble sensitivity of little miss sensitive's youthful ears. The TS1s do however, and the WAF score is quite high in this regard,
capturing the joyous essence of music. They are NOT "spec heavy" loudspeakers that only imitate the sound.
I was pleased by the speakers' ability to follow the vocal line with ease, though instruments are mixed together - they are closer spatially - than multiple driver speakers. The distinctive vocal timbres hold together with adroit competency. The vocals are among the best that I have heard and they rank especially high on the scorecard below. The dramatic jazz renderings of Diana
for example, was well delivered, robust, well defined, with an absence of misdeeds, and without an of the ringing/ large-hall reverb effect.
TS1 mid-range is satisfyingly open and airy, without muddiness. The highs neither pull apart, nor stand-alone, from the musical mix. Their flat mid-range response opens up a charming, easy-to-listen-to, timbral palette. Theirs is not a cold, sterile, or monochromatic musical world. Because of their even balance throughout the mid-range, coupled with the quickness of their super-efficiency, the TS1s midrange is involving, natural and musical.
Percussive instruments are rendered unusually clean and quick, without a lot of compression or edginess. The vast majority of popular recordings are artificially and unpleasantly brightened, yet the balanced TS1 treated them quite forgivingly. They are fast enough to catch the fingers of nimble pianists. They give an attractively lively quality, with electric-guitar, vocals and string tones from well-recorded folk or jazz music among the most natural of any loudspeaker, including big old horns and "I've got-too-much-money" dream systems.
The blue marble loudspeakers do NOT have an immediately intoxicating midrange. The Omega Ts1s do not have an amazing showroom repertoire. These are the kind of hard-to-discover loudspeakers that slowly grow on you. Much like the tube amplifiers with which they so aptly couple, the TS1s never wear out your ears and always provide a polite, levelheaded sound. Of all the loudspeakers reviewed so far, these are the ones that tempted me the most often into late-night, low-light, cold glass of beverage with the feet-up folk or jazz listening sessions.
Adding to the Wife Acceptance Factor is that the TS1s do not sound, or act, like the vast majority of conventional loudspeakers in its price category. 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. Louis
Chochos' $699 entry in the craft of loudspeaker design yields a competently solid loudspeaker with endearing musical qualities.
The TS1s suffer only from poor extension into the lower ranges for low-level articulation, particularly on pianos, kick drums and double bass. The Omega loudspeakers can't approach any multiple driver loudspeaker's bass extension or sparkling high-ends, but with tube amplifiers, they certainly "get" the critical mid-range.
With only a single driver, the TS1s' audibly flat response and seemingly lean mid-bass could sometimes sound somewhat thin overall. Some might even say they are "muted or recessed," especially if you are a bass loving man, such as I.
Indeed, many tweaking audiophiles may prefer the deep reaching bass, lofty highs, and the enjoyable full range of something like the Audio Physic Avanti IIIs or the similar Newtronics Skates
MKII, mentioned above.
Unlike most moderate-priced small loudspeakers, the upper bass of the TS1s does not die on the vine. But neither is it filled with power and control, even with the fusion power of the authoritative Pass X250 amplifier
as reviewed here.
An audio novice, who compares the TS1's bottom to booming ghetto blasters, might ask "where's the beef?" Instead, I recognized upper-bass with a nice, polite tone and mid-bass with pleasant weight and size. Because of the speed of the single, super-efficient driver, strings plucks resonating over wooden bodies are quick, with easy leading-edge transients. I did not hear the box resonating to create booms, no matter where I set the volume. Nor did I notice the chuffing sounds that ports can make at loud volumes.
TS1s lack what tweaking audiophiles regard as mid or lower bass. To compensate for this, I placed a 200-watt mid-bass woofer on its side. Pointed the bottom-firing woofer at the listening seat for added punch, and set equalization (EQ) from 90 to 110Hz and power settings from 5 to 7. A more powerful 500-watt deep-bass woofer was set at 40Hz and about
The sub-woofer EQ and power settings must measure flat or less than flat in order to balance, but not intrude, on the TS1s' perfectly acceptable upper bass rendition. This TS1 and woofer combination filled in the bottom-end, adding texture, punch and tone to the upper and middle bass. Together with the TS1s, the bass and mid-range response was the equal of systems costing several times more. (Little miss sensitive ears did not think they required any aid at all.) Even so, the four-speaker combination handled bass loving movies like
U-571 or Matrix with satisfactory aplomb. On the DMP does DSD disc, I enjoyed fast and furious bass attacks with rumbling piano and cheerleading cymbals. The quickness and tonality was a joy to listen to.
As WAF winners, the Arctic Blue TS1s settled into a position with their drivers pointing at my ears or the back of my head. Instead of using three-foot tall loudspeakers as stands, a pair of two-foot tall models was better suited. No garden pedestals were employed.
The arrangement of stands and subs made the match of the low-cost, flea-powered Bottlehead 2A3 Paramour monoblocks with the TS1s one of the few dream teams in the moderately priced home audio market! In certain areas, the remarkable TS1s far exceed what I thought was possible for their price - or even twice their price.
My one caveat is that to fully appreciate the TS1, one must invest in front-end equipment of certain qualities to fully realize the speaker's unique capabilities. In my view, that would mean tube equipment, either low-priced or worth up to three or four times the TS1 price. If you find the low bass and high treble of loudspeakers like the Skates are initially pleasing, but not
long lasting audiophile pleasures, you may be in a decidedly unique audiophile camp. This camp values the linear truth of single driver loudspeakers and the musical effect of tube amplifiers. For this camp, the short route to audio nirvana is a tube amplifier with super-efficient, crossover-less loudspeakers.
The main problem with this short audio route is finding appropriate high-sensitivity loudspeakers. If you are going that short route, the smoothly extended mid-range, aural presence, super-efficiency and bopping dynamics of the TS1 make these speakers a superior choice. Not to mention their gorgeous finish and "two thumbs up" WAF score (for these are the ones she wants to keep).
A score of 50 is a passing average for the Enjoy the Music.com™
scale. On a rigorous Enjoy the Music.com™ grading curve, not all components can somehow be above average in every category, even the ones with notable qualities. Look for a wider range in the scores below than other reviews. I gave the TS1s better than average scores in many categories, compared to all other auditioned components. I rate these smooth mid-range charmers a 90, well above average, in many respects. In these areas, they are among the best I have heard. Only unusually superb loudspeakers scoring above 90, and costing several times more, could somehow possibly do better in an individual category. I also include a category of my own, enjoyment, to reflect my overall emotional response.
The TS1S offers a delightful combination of enticing cabinet colors, smoothness, detail, speed, dynamics, effortlessness and natural sounding musical involvement; especially for a loudspeaker of that size, driver and price! The Omega TS1s do not sound, or act, like the vast majority of conventional loudspeakers in its price category. They do not suffer from the usually small bookshelf loudspeaker problems, either.
In this loudspeaker crowded abode, the TS1s are winners of my personal difficult to please "Wife Acceptance Factor award". Their greatest strengths are: modest size, solid construction, reasonable price, exceptional pearlescent finish, excellent driver, reasonable price, seamless transition across most of the music range, very good expression of musical details, reasonable price, and a convincing dynamic quickness, born from their easy to drive nature - and all this is at
a very reasonable price.