3 speakers, 2 amps, 1 dac - Omega Super 3U, Overnight Sensations MT, and Fostex P1000-BH shootout

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by thegunner100, Nov 16, 2016.

  1. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    Last Sunday, @Hooncake invited me, @SteelCannon, and @sphinxvc over to his house for a listening session. I had three goals in mind:
    • To find out the advantages/disadvantages of a full ranged speaker and to determine if I could live with the sound
      • To figure out the full ranged sound, we had two pairs of speakers: the $220 Fostex P1000-BH horn loaded kit (4” drivers), and the $800 Omega Super 3U (4.5” drivers). We also had an ideal amplifier for them: a First Watt F3 with its 15w/8ohm, fed by a Schiit Sys.
    • To find out if the OSMTs scaled beyond the Odyssey Stratos
      • The NY guys are all mostly familiar with the OSMTs and how they sound, especially when fed by a high quality source like the Yggdrasil and a high quality amp like the Stratos.
    • The benefits of a simple circuit, low powered amp vs a well-built, high power amp
    Disclaimer: No bits were harmed during our listening sessions. Yggdrasil + Lynx AES16 was used as the dac the whole time. Please be aware that evenness to the whole FR spectrum is the first thing I listen for when evaluating gear. If there is a significant shift from neutrality or a severe rolloff on either ends, then any technical capabilities the transducers may have will not matter to me. Hence why I own the hd650s, UERMs, OSMT, and soon the Andromedas.

    Fostex P1000-BH
    WP_20161113_15_49_13_Pro.jpg

    I’ve already posted my thoughts on this pair of speakers and the First Watt really didn’t change my opinions on them. Its performance was quite laughable, as Sphinx actually LOL’d when he played his test track and heard the pathetic bass coming out of them. “pft pft pft”. One of the weaknesses of full ranged drivers is its extension on both ends of the spectrum. In the case of the Fostex, both the bass and treble were very lacking in extension. Even though the sound was mainly mids, the mids sounded very hollow without the body of the bass to go along with it. There’s really nothing redeeming about this pair of speakers except for its small-ish size and entry level pricing.

    Omega Super 3U
    WP_20161113_16_03_17_Pro.jpg WP_20161113_16_13_27_Pro.jpg

    I’ve always wanted to hear for myself what the Omegas sound like, and I finally had a chance thanks to Hooncake and Steelcannon. I came over to Hooncake’s house a day earlier to drop off my stands and help him play around with positioning. I also brought over my Virtue one.3 to do some initial listening. We found that the Omegas really didn’t benefit much in the bass region from being placed right against the wall.

    Anyways, I wasn’t very impressed by the Omegas with either the Virtue or the FW F3. Overall they did sound better than the Fostex: More resolving, better imaging, wider soundstage, and slightly better extension on both ends of the FR. I could detect hints of sparkle in some tracks, which may be attributed to a spike somewhere in the treble region (more on measurements when Hooncake posts them). Even though the bass on both the Omegas and Fostex measured similarly, the Omegas subjectively sounded like they had a bit more bass.

    Despite the improvements going from the Fostex to the Omegas, the lack of bass was still too apparent. The mids, while very clear, were still lacking the body to accompany it. It wasn’t a realistic sound at all, especially when playing piano music.

    The Super 3U is rated 45hz-20khz. It is very misleading because the specs say 45hz but doesn't say -3dB, -6dB, etc down from 1khz. Based on listening to tones and measurements, the bass starts to drop off around 140hz. Those who have seen Hooncake's speaker measurements before are aware of the bass issues in his room, namely the 70hz peak. With the terrible bass extension on the Omegas and Fostex, I joked that they didn't go low enough to trigger the room mode :).

    It’s often recommended that full rangers be paired with subwoofers, but I’m not sure if that they would solve the problem. With the 4.5” RS5 drivers dropping off in bass so early, the sub would have to be crossed over somewhere between 100-120hz. While there will be subbass, I think that it won't help with the lack of bass punch or mid’s body. I could be wrong though. Adding subwoofers to the setup means addition costs and setup required.

    Supertweeters are also often used with a full ranged system. I’ve only had a limited experience with them during the LA meet so I can’t comment much on them.

    Overnight Sensations MT
    WP_20161113_16_46_51_Pro.jpg

    I’ve owned these speakers for a little over 2 years now and the best I’ve heard from them was with the Stratos until this meet. We had the chance to use the FW F3 with the OSMT and it was the most surprising sound of the day. The 15w @ 8ohms with the 83dB/1w @8ohms wasn’t meant to be a match on paper. While we were limited on volume with a passive preamp, the SQ that we heard from the OSMT was amazing. Coming from the Stratos, I heard a sense of grandness in the soundstage that I didn’t hear from the Stratos. I felt that the OSMTs were able to fill the whole width, depth, and height of the small/medium sized room. Imaging and center stage become more precise and locked in. Vocals were especially full and beautiful. On the other hand the Stratos had more authority in the bass and portrayed dynamic shifts better, likely due to the extra power reserves. Despite the differences, it was hard to tell if the F3 was more resolving or not. I think we were really reaching the limits to how much the cheap drivers can resolve.

    Compared to the Omegas, the OSMTs had a livelier sound with much better bass extension and treble sparkle. Despite the small 4” drivers in the OSMT, they produced bass that the Omegas could never dream of producing. I thought that the OSMT’s had a bigger soundstage and filled the room better than the Omegas. Imaging between them was close, and I couldn’t give a win to either of them.

    Back to the goals now:
    • To find out the advantages/disadvantages of a full ranged speaker and to determine if we could live with the sound
      • Full ranged pros
        • Coherency due to a single driver and no crossover
        • Well layered soundstage and imaging
        • Easy to drive
        • Speed
      • Full ranged cons
        • Lack of extension on both ends of the spectrum
        • Hollow mids
        • Subwoofer a must (imo)
        • Cannot be played loud (mids overwhelm everything)
        • Does not handle complex music as well as multi-way designs
      • As I’ve said in my disclaimer, FR is the first thing I look for in a transducer. I don’t think I could live with full ranged speakers (without a sub and possibly supertweeters) for more than a day. For me, the cons far outweigh the pros in full ranged speakers. To this extent, I think most people (especially those coming from headphones) will prefer the traditional multi-way speakers over a full ranger. Sphinx has said that out of the two evils: crossovers and full ranged drivers, crossovers seem to be the lesser of the two. I have to totally agree with him on this point.
      • The best full rangers w/ super tweeters I've heard was during the LA meet built by @JK47 and ??? (Sorry I'm forgetting the user name here). They did not exhibit the hollow midrange that was apparent on the Fostex and Omegas. While the full sized speakers certainly had more bass presence, I still think they could have used a sub to complete the sound. Keep in mind that this setup costs A LOT more than the Fostex and Omegas.
    • To find out if the OSMTs scaled beyond the Odyssey Stratos
      • Yes they do, but there is a limit to how much these cheap drivers will resolve. I asked Sphinx how much it would cost to buy an amp with the SQ of the First Watt but with power output along the lines of the Stratos. I think he told me about 5k or 5 figures? I forgot which one, but I was sorely disappointed. An improvement in SQ going from the Stratos to the F3 was at least $1000 and even then, there were tradeoffs (mainly volume and dynamics). Maybe Schiit and the Vidar can help break the price/performance barrier that speaker amps suffer from.
      • For now, I will stick with my Virtue One.3 until I try the Vidar with the OSMTs. Yeah it’s a T-amp, but I find the sound to still be very good in my small bedroom. It’s tiny and doesn’t produce too much heat. Good enough for me!
      • An interesting point was brought up by Sphinx once again: In the headphone world, there is no true upgrade to the HD650s in that there are always tradeoffs when going to something like the HD800s, Utopia, Stax, Planars, etc. With the OSMT, we’re not sure if there is something that’s a true upgrade as well (within a reasonable price range). It would be nice to have an improvement in SQ while retaining a similar size and amping requirements. The Philharmonic BMRS can be considered an upgrade in SQ but they demand a powerful amp, a larger room, good stands, and room treatments. Perhaps Paul Carmody’s other designs can best the OSMT? I would love to hear an Overnight Sensations TMM Towers one day.
    • The benefits of a simple circuit, low powered amp vs a well-built high power amp
      • To this end, I described what I heard between the two of them. The F3 was clearly my preferred amp but it was just lacking in power output. I think I could probably live with the F3’s volume in a near-field setting using an active preamp.
      • I’m still curious as to the benefits of different amp designs and topologies, which is why I’ve posted another thread on the topic.
      • I can see why people like to get high efficiency speakers and pair them up with low powered tube amps or First Watts. There's something special to the simple circuit, low powered designs. I think this might be my goal when/if I ever get to move out to my own place. I won’t be getting full rangers, but maybe something along the lines of Tekton or Devore Fidelity would suit my needs.

    To conclude, this shootout has been quite the learning experience. I think my tastes aligned the most with Sphinx’s, but the two other guys had differing opinions. I’ll let them write up their own impressions and leave you guys off with a silly picture of Steelcannon using the Omegas as face tweeters.

    WP_20161113_16_25_43_Pro.jpg

    Thanks again to @Hooncake, @SteelCannon, and @sphinxvc for bringing the gear necessary to make this shootout happen. The rest of the NY guys will have a chance to hear some reasonably priced speaker setups in about 2 weeks.

    Quote of the day: "I think we're losing bits" [email protected]
     
  2. Hooncake

    Hooncake Mid-Fi Purgatory Redemption

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    Fostex P1000-BH - Don't buy this. 1/10.
    Omega 3U - Very fast and clear midrange but don't expect to hear below 100 Hz or above 12k Hz. This is the FR. Can't turn volume up to hear the bass or you get drowned in the mids. I could live with this if somehow the amp, dac, pre-amp can provide more bass. Don't know if that's possible and must pair with a subwoofer for any kinda listening. 5/10
    [​IMG]
    OSMT - FR like the HD650. I liked it paired with First Watt F3 more than Odyssey Stratos. It was more musical and enjoyable. The subtle shift in notes coming in and out, very delicate and smooth. Volume was a bit low though. Didn't know too much decrease in macrodynamics compared to the Stratos. The comparison was a bit short and not ideal. 8/10
     
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  3. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    The Omega's that are back ported, almost need about 3 to 4 feet from the back wall at the very least to have a natural bass response. At least, that is what my findings were with my Super 8 Alnico's I used to own. They reacted VERY heavily to what they are placed upon and the way that are coupled to that base. I had stands from Skylan ( http://www.skylanstands.com/ ) and filled with sand. Once that was in place, I experimented with HOW to couple the speakers to the stands (Starsound Sistrum were the best, after trying all sorts of coupling devices).

    Good sound takes work, effort to maximize the potential of a given design. It takes time to live with the speaker and to understand the strengths and weaknesses. Some speakers sound fantastic with little to no work. Others reward the owner when care is taken. In the pictures above, the placement, the way things were setup in the room simply won't allow you guys to hear what the speakers are capable of.

    I understand that headphones AVOID the room interactions completely. Speakers do not and will not. The room is as much a part of the sound as anything else in the system. In fact, it is the MOST sonically visible part of the sound.

    Hope you guys had a good time!
     
  4. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    We did try the Omegas further from the wall when I went over a day earlier. I couldn't really tell a significant difference between having them close up or having them further from the wall. Louis recommended that the Super 3Us be placed closer to the wall for bass reinforcement. Might be different for the Anicos. @SteelCannon can probably comment more on that. We took measurements of different locations actually, but Hooncake accidentally turned off his PC before saving them. From what I remember, the measurements didn't show much of a change in the bass region either.

    The cheap stands that I lent Hooncake could have contributed to the sound as well. However I am still under the impression that while those two things would have made a difference, they still won't mitigate enough of the downsides of full ranged speakers for me. Neither changes will bring the bass up by 6dB.
     
  5. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    Totally agree on the bass with full rangers. I feel, some of the more elaborate cabinets really take those bass frequencies to dig into the lower levels, but still nothing like a true bass driver for filling in those bottom octaves. The idea is that you let the full range driver go linearly low as possible and as high as possible. Then have natural crossover slopes and frequency to tie in the bottom end. A super tweeter on top also helps to re-enforce the midrange and top end if done properly.

    Thing is, the magic that comes out of a full range, single driver setup is very hard to recreate using multi driver speakers. The magic of the single driver is very real... also the reason I love my second speaker rig just as much as the main one. They pull on different heart strings.
     
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  6. SteelCannon

    SteelCannon Friend

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    I was impressed by the super 3u, much more so than the rest of the nyc crew. The midrange resolution, clarity and lack of transition to highs contributed to a magical and lifelike sound. The imaging was spooky good, and I enjoyed the slight forwardness and aggression. I haven't heard another speaker with mids nearly as resolving and clear. I agree that the lows hurt the omegas. In vocals there was an absence of body and hip hop and electronica weren't doable. Subs are mandatory for sure, and I don't think it is a fair comparison against a multi way without at least 1 sub to carry the lows.

    It is hard to compare osmt to omegas because they do completely different things. The mid range of the osmts is not nearly as resolving or clear or exciting, but the omegas cant compete with the tonal accuracy and large sound stage of the osmts.

    In my room bass went down to 50 and started rolling at 70. There was a peak at 120-140 though. @Hooncake's room has a lot of bass issues so that definitely contributed. @shaizada Louis told me that these can be put up against a wall, but not sure if I agree yet. Will have to do more testing. Also, he said the bass output will get better after 100 hours of break in. Also not sure if that is true, we will have to see.

    Bottom line is that full range speakers are a completely different design and need some effort to understand their merits and get the best sound out of them. placement, amp, preamp, subs, super tweeters etc. It is hard to understand any speaker with just plug and play and fr measurements. My advice to anyone interested in a full range setup is that they are not plug and play and will require some patience to get right.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
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  7. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    My advice for anyone wanting to try full ranged speakers is to go somewhere and listen to them first. I did not hear enough potential in the Omegas to justify spending the time or money to dial them in via placement, equipment, or extra drivers. With the kind of extra money you'd need to spend on subs and supertweeters, you could probably get some really great multi-way speakers.

    Like I said, I don't mind being proven wrong but it will take a lot to convince me that full rangers are acceptable over traditional multi-ways.
     
  8. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    Jimmy, it was @struggles that built the the full rangers with @JK-47.

    Thoughts/Takeaways:
    • Despite claims to the contrary, to me, these full range monitors were actually weakest in the midrange.
    • One could argue that this is because the mid-bands are the only ones present enough to critique, but I'm not sure that's a good thing anyway.
    • Very few notes/tones/instruments are fully contained within the midrange; but these were properly rendered just as expected (think of a flute, for example).
    • To most people, vocals are a major component of the midrange.
    • Vocals extend–critically, depending on the singer–down to about 55-100hz (depending on which instrument/vocal frequency chart you consult).
    • But given the 140hz-ish roll-offs of these monitors, they struggled to convey the lows of the human voice.
    • Adele didn't sound like Adele on either full range monitor, her lower registers are weighty, full and powerful. Qualities which are lost on these monitors.
    • Piano sounded like piano emulations done on Garageband on your phone. In fact, the Fostex P-1000s were so lacking on the low end that they sounded like two very good cell phone speakers mounted on stands.
    • Many instruments cover a wide range of bands, these were inconsolably hurt by the monitors.
    • The full range towers I've heard were better in low end extension, and may be reaching just low enough (rolling off less acutely) to properly cover the human voice at a minimum.
    • @shaizada's Nagas required the Blumenstein subwoofers to sound their best, and after they were added, nothing seemed to be amiss.
    • We had conflicting reports on distance from the backwall, conventional wisdom advocating distance, subjective listening showing little to no difference, and the manufacturer advocating closer placement. These are also designed for near-field use.
    • Can we call full rangers coupled with super tweeters and subwoofers a mid-focused multiway with an unoptimized crossover?
    • I'm not a fan of off-setting coloration and deficiencies with complementary coloration and deficiencies.
    I haven't had any time to put own any detailed thoughts on the F3 since I bought it, and at this point, will probably just wait for Vidar to provide comparative impressions. One thing about the F3 though, is that it has plankton in spades. It is technically proficient, but also engaging and what I can only describe as emotionally exhausting. If anyone finds one for sale, give me a heads up so I can monoblock that SOB.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
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  9. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Thanks for the comparison guys. Horn loaded speakers are a major curiosity for me. I wonder how much of the limitations are due to the driver or because of the enclosure. I have a transmission line with a 3-inch driver and it goes far deeper then my desktop Fostex speakers. However I always think about whether making a small driver run bass frequcies causes unnecessary distortion and if I should just go with a multi-driver setup.
     
  10. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    I wonder the same thing, in general. Would be a good question for a designer.

    I asked @Marvey once in the middle of a busy dinner, but it was lost in the middle of other conversation.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
  11. Hooncake

    Hooncake Mid-Fi Purgatory Redemption

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    So once weather warms next spring, I will buy Frugel-Horn MK3 kit and we can build them at @sphinxvc 's place xD

    The midrange does sound thin not full like OSMT but I wonder how much it has to do with break-in (dont kill me @Dr. Higgs) I agree with @SteelCannon that there is some magic(plankton?) in midrange that is hard for me to let go, despite a mountain of shortcomings.
     
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  12. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    Noooo! You guys should do a Paul Carmody tower design instead xD

    This was discussed in the Audio 101 or Plankton thread I believe, but resolution isn't just in one part of the frequency range. It is all throughout and full rangers fail in resolution if we are to consider the definition. Ideally in a good system, we should be able to hear the nuances in the bass, mids, and treble all at the same time.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Full rangers or wide-banders (as I prefer to call them) definitely need help up top and below. I have Lowther and Cicada 8" drivers. Even at 8", both need help below 55Hz, and even then, they will not reproduce realistic midbass like a 12" or 15" driver. As Gaurav mentioned, heroic cabinet construction (i.e. along the lines of the Blumenstein, Nagaoka, BiB, Frugel-Horn designs) is required to get optimal bass performance; and even then, as Prashant mentioned, subs would be a necessity, ideally two subs crossed over fairly high at 80Hz for 4" driver designs. My last four wide-bander projects have been augmented with either a subwoofer or a woofer (crossed over at 330Hz). Two of them required the use of a supertweeter.

    Where wide-banders excel is at lower SPLs, closer listening distances, and the use of SET amps (super resolving flea powered simple circuit amps). Their slightly higher output impedance tends to help with bass response - dynamic speakers drivers will have a impedance bump at their resonance frequency in the bass. Wide-banders have a certain purity and coherency that multi-way speakers with crossovers will not have. Running wide-banders from merely good solid state amps is really not the way to go. You won't be hearing half of what they do well: microdynamics, plankton, and speed.

    Finally, you have to really play with the wide-bander stuff. Don't expect to put the drivers in a box and get great results. That's just the first step - a taste. But ultimately, if you don't hear potential from them (the qualities that they do well) or don't want to expend effort to work around their weaknesses with creative solutions, then they are probably not for you.

    FYI: Dave, the Frugel-Horn guy at Planet10 is currently incapacitated. He should be back in a few weeks to take orders. Just in case some of you guys tried to contact him and haven't heard back.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
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  14. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    Maybe the NY guys and I can eventually pool in some money to buy a SET speaker amp. Are there any specific models or brands that you could recommend?
     
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  15. Hooncake

    Hooncake Mid-Fi Purgatory Redemption

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    Lets wait until the meet in a week for EC studio. If we are still underwhelmed, then damn... we are going to my bedroom this time so should be better or at least different (more furniture stuff, less ringing).
     
  16. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    True, we will have @jmcmasterj's Studio at the meet. @SteelCannon any chance we can get the Skylan stands for the meet as well?
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'm actually in the design stages of a desktop speaker using those 4" Fostex drivers and those 5" Scan-Speak sticky paper drivers. The Scan-Speaks will handle 500hz and under. They have massive xmax and will go down super low for their size. (@SteelCannon should be familiar with those woofers and what they can do). Also working on a BiB box too. No idea which one will get done first, or if they will get done at all.
     
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  18. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Always good to read about the FirstWatt experience :D
     
  19. spwath

    spwath Collegiate hijinks master

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    I think, though it doesn't relate to sound, the build quality of the omegas should be noted. At least mine are beautifully built and finished. And thoes look wonderfully finished as well.
     
  20. thegunner100

    thegunner100 Hentai Master Chief

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    One thing I should have brought up is the impedance matching between the amps and Sys. The Sys is rated "5k ohms maximum" output impedance while the FW F3 and Stratos' input impedance are rated 10k and 22k ohms respectively. Both power amps are have fairly low impedance for use with a passive preamp. I do wonder how much the Sys affected the sound of the the two amps. The Saga with its 180 ohm OI should be much better in this regard.
     

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