Q: I loved your column last week on cost-no-object amplification. What would be your top recommendation, cost no object, for stereo speakers for music only? And how about for a surround system to play movies?
A: My top recommendation, cost no object, for stereo and surround systems is Ohm Walsh speakers, made by Ohm Acoustics (www.ohmspeakers.com). And even though this is a cost-no-object recommendation, these unique speakers sell for much less than exotic high-end brands and are within reach of almost anyone looking to invest in fine sound that will last for decades.
Ohm Walsh speakers sound like no other speakers because they are made like no other speakers. The name "Walsh" comes from the Walsh driver, a unique speaker driver developed by acclaimed engineer Lincoln Walsh.
A Walsh driver is a single, downward-facing cone mounted on the top of the speaker cabinet. Rather than move back and forth in piston action like a conventional speaker, the Walsh driver ripples and radiates sound into the room, reproducing 100 percent of the audible spectrum. This design can reproduce difficult waveforms more accurately than any other speaker design and has a clarity and presence that must be heard to be appreciated. You feel like you can reach out and touch the music.
The original Walsh designs, the Ohm A and Ohm F, were large, fragile, extremely expensive, hard to place in a room and required a lot of power. In the 1980s Ohm updated the design and used the Walsh driver to reproduce the great majority of the audible spectrum, combined with a supertweeter to fill in the very highest frequencies. The sound dispersion was controlled so the sound is spacious, yet it has pinpoint stereo imaging that can be experienced anywhere in the room. (In audio, this is having your cake and eating it, too.)
This design, while not a pure Walsh speaker, provides the benefits of Walsh sound while eliminating many of the drawbacks.
Ohm Walsh speakers don't sound like speakers. They sound like music — music you can listen to for hours on end without getting fatigued. It's like a massage for your ears. I've owned Ohm Walsh speakers since I bought my first pair when I was in college in 1986. Those speakers, the Ohm Walsh 1, are now doing duty in my home theater as the main front speakers. I compared them with a number of late-model speakers, and in this particular room, the Ohms sounded the best even though they were almost 30 years old. Few speakers today, at any price, can match the sound of a vintage Ohm A or Ohm F.
My collection now includes a pair of Ohm As and Ohm Fs, as well as a pair of Walsh 5000s I listen to every day. When people hear my sound system their mouths drop open, even if they are not audiophiles.
Ohm Acoustics is based in New York City, and all the Ohm Walsh speakers are handmade in the United States. They are sold factory-direct with a 120-day home trial. Prices start at $1,120 per pair for the MicroWalsh Tall and go up to $6,600 a pair for Walsh 5000s. Surround speakers and subwoofers are offered for home theater systems, and more than 10 wood veneers are available. Ohm offers service and support for every model it has ever manufactured, and the service is exemplary in all respects. It's a great product from a great company that I can recommend unhesitatingly.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.