Mirage OM-7 loudspeaker Page 3

I was happily surprised when my favorite "visual" records were nicely rendered by the OM-7s. The horn and whip snaps (or whatever they are) during "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" were placed where I've grown used to hearing them—behind and to the outside of the speaker positions—while the hand-drumming was pinpointed in the middle and mid-right. Little percussive tidbits—bells, blocks, things that go click and pop, as on "Bird on a Wire" from Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat—tended to localize well with most good-quality speakers, and did so with the OM-7s.

It was also interesting to note that the soundstage didn't change much with changes in my position in the listening seat—or even as I moved around the room. Some speakers cause shifts in focus or tonal balance even with slight head movements, but the Mirages were rock-steady.

Comparison with the Thiel CS.5s, imaging champs that they are, was instructive. The Thiels draw each instrument very precisely; through them, I hear a very vivid rendering of each contributor. With the OM-7s, instruments were equally well placed, but not outlined so exactly. But that wasn't all bad; the overall acoustic signature—the feel of the instruments and voices as part of an acoustic space—was quite convincing.

More complex material, such as "Tourist Point of View," from Duke Ellington's The Far East Suite: Special Mix (CD, Bluebird/RCA 66551-2), displayed this soft-focus effect as well. Contrasted with the Joseph Audio RM-7si monitors, the OM-7s, besides having more weight and authority, portrayed the orchestra as more of, well, an orchestra than as a group of individual instrumentalists. Oh, sure—with the Mirages I could pick out any player and identify approximately where he was; but with the plucky little RM-7si's, the level of detail was uncanny.

The somewhat more diffuse acoustic signature became more apparent as the volume level increased. Two recordings of manly men—Leonard Cohen smooth-talking his way through "Tower of Song," from I'm Your Man (CD, Columbia CK 44191); and the Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts' basso absurdo reading of "Superman's Song," from Best of Mountain Stage, Vol. Three (CD, Blue Plate Music BPM-003CD)—illustrated the effects of higher volume via the OM-7s. At moderate levels, the singers appeared as I've come to expect them: as well-focused central images. Raising the volume seemed to draw the accompanying acoustic space up around each singer, blurring where the men left off and the sidemen began. This didn't happen with the Thiels or the Joseph Audios.

Less subterranean vocals, such as Dan Hicks' and Maryanne Price's on "Crazy—'Cause He Is," from Hicks' It Happened One Bite (LP, Warner Bros. 3158), had a natural timbre, Hicks' laconic tenor contrasted nicely with Price's lively, higher-pitched style. The small acoustic ensemble framed the two singers well—a slightly-larger-than-intimate setting that seemed ideal fare for the OM-7s.

Cymbals, sibilance, and other things that go tizz were mostly kept in proportion, but had a tendency to get a little hard—again, as the volume rose. On "Andy's Chest," from Lou Reed's Transformer (LP, RCA AFL1-4807), the hi-hats via the OM-7s had a metallic sparkle that became a bit over-the-top when played loudly. At similar volume via the RM-7si, they were just louder. The sax and trumpet solos on "Way Out Basie," from Farmers Market Barbeque (LP, Pablo 2310-874), displayed a slight "whitening" in their harmonics through the Mirage—a tendency not displayed via the RM-7si. Similarly, complex material, especially that with significant upper-mid/high-frequency content, tended to sound a bit congested at higher volumes.

I have to wonder how much these volume-related changes were due to the coupling of my room and the OM-7s and how much they were due to the speakers themselves. My guess—and it is a guess; I had no other room to try them in—is that it was the former, or at least some of both. My room still tends toward liveliness, despite my efforts to tone it down. The speaker-room interface, always a primary determiner of a system's sound, is even more critical with an omnidirectional speaker. A speaker like the Mirage OM-7 and a bright environment might not be the most synergistic of matches. That said, this wasn't a problem at my preferred moderate listening levels.

The Mirage OM-7 is a unique speaker, the result of a quest to perfect a technology conceived more than 15 years ago. It would appear that, in engineering terms, Mirage has succeeded. The OM-7 is also a lot of speaker for the money—for $2200 you get five drivers, a large, solid, floorstanding cabinet, and substantial biwirable binding posts.

As for musical enjoyment, that's in the ear of the beholder. There is no more highly variable family of components than the loudspeaker clan. Digital vs analog, tubes vs solid-state, and push-pull vs single-ended are high-profile religious debates, but at least the lines are well-drawn. With loudspeakers, there are almost as many conceptual camps as there are audiophiles. With which should one align?

Is your calling awaiting you in the Order of the Omnipolar? Depends. If you're a PIF (Precision Imaging Freak), then probably not—the OM-7s image surprisingly well, but not in that hyperreal way that can be so spooky (if unreal). Also, he who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw down long green for omnidirectional speakers; in fact, in an environment that reflective you'd do well to consider forgoing all speakers and switching to headphones.

But if you've got a room that can handle deep bass and isn't too lively, and you like a more natural, relaxed take on the stereophonic imaging thing, then the OM-7 is definitely worth a listen. It may be just what you were looking for but didn't know it—because an Omnipolar speaker's like virtually nothing else.

3641 McNicoll Avenue
Scarborough, Ontario M1X 1G5
(416) 321-1800