Analysis Audio Omega Review

Ron Resnick

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INTRODUCTION

On November 25, 2015, Peter Downs of Alternative Audio, located in a beautiful country house in a pleasantly isolated area with amazing fresh air, allowed me to audition the Analysis Audio Omega speakers, made in Greece by Tassos Hartzis. Peter was an accommodating and gracious host, picking me up at, and returning me to, the Taunton train station. Peter patiently played my LP track selections:

I played:

"The Rose" by Amanda McBroom, Growing Up in Hollywood Town (Sheffield Lab 13)

"Send in the Clowns" by Bill Henderson, Live at the Times (Jazz Planet Records/Classic Records)

“Landslide” and “Rhiannon,” by Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac (MFSL)

"First We Take Manhattan" and "Bird on a Wire" by Jennifer Warnes, Famous Blue Raincoat (Rock the House Records/Classic Records)*

"I've Got the Music in Me" by Thelma Houston, I've Got the Music in Me (Sheffield Lab 2)

*Yes, I know this is a digital recording.

When we took a break Peter’s wife prepared a delicious, home-cooked lunch.

Peter is an “old-school” dealer, carrying only the very few brands of products which he personally believes to sound the best. He believes in selling an entire system to a client, not just a single, random component.

Prior to the audition I spent a total of about four hours speaking on the telephone with Mike Kallelis of Analysis Audio USA in Charlotte, North Caolina. Mike is extremely knowledgable about the Analysis Audio speakers and has available for audition the four panel Analysis Audio Orion system (which is basically the taller Amphitryon (Analysis Audio’s largest single panel speaker) with an additional woofer panel (covering 80 hz to 25 hz) which stands next to the main woofer/midrange/tweeter panel). Mike was very patient explaining the history of Analysis Audio, the technical aspects of the speakers, passive and active crossover options and modifications he makes to the components of the crossover which have improved the sound qualities of the speakers. I hope Tassos realizes how lucky he to have someone as knowledgeable and as enthusiastic as Mike representing Analysis Audio in the USA.

As I am looking for the ultimate and last speaker system my personal interest is the four panel Orion. The Omega would have essentially the same sound as the Amphitryon and as the Orion, with the larger speakers extending lower in frequency response, taller in scale and more dynamic below 80 hz.

Peter’s associated components are: AMG turntable and tonearm, MM cartridge, NAT battery-powered phono stage, NAT battery-powered line stage and NAT 60w transmitter tube SET.

The room was on the small side, approximately 12’ wide, with the right speaker firing into a doorway in front of, and to the right of, the listening position (not ideal). I felt the listening position was too close to the speakers. Peter is in the process of building a larger, dedicated demo room on the first floor of his house.

My listening preferences: I have used planar speakers for my entire life: Magnepan MG-IIIA for a couple of years, followed by Martin Logan Monolith II and then Monolith III and then (and now) Prodigy. I feel like I “understand” dipole speakers. I would never publish a review of dynamic driver speakers because I feel I am unqualified to assess them.


THE SOUND

Lest my comments about construction quality below be misinterpreted as a criticism of the sound of the speaker I want to state at the outset that, for all of the sonic attributes I value most other than cone excursion impact -- transparency, openness, soundstage, detail and absence of artificial brightness -- the Omega was amazing and fully satisfying. Overall, the Omega provides a panel sound which is very familiar to me and which I naturally prefer: open, transparent, great depth, great height, complete detail, natural image sizes and good scale. It is, on my sonic priorities, except for significant cone excursion impact, one of the best speakers I have ever heard. Unless someone requires big woofers for cone excursion impact (for rock or deep house, for example), and unless someone simply does not like the open sound of planar speakers, focusing solely on sonic attributes, there is not much reason not to buy the Omega or the Amphitryon. Further, I believe a variety of subwoofers would work just fine to provide an Analysis Audio-based system with conventional cone excursion impact. I, personally, take as a given that all pure panel speakers should be paired with dynamic driver subwoofers. Due to my preferences, and subject to my explicit caveats, I do not know what else someone could want in a loudspeaker.

1) The Omega is just one shade less transparent than Martin Logan, and more transparent than anything I have ever heard other than MartinLogan. This is literally the first speaker which is not a MartinLogan for which I would be wiling to sacrifice that last bit of electrostatic transparency because the Omega makes that sacrifice small. Many people say that dynamic drivers can have “electrostatic-like” transparency but I have never quite heard that to be the case.

2) The detail was wonderful (lip smacks on Bill Henderson's Send in the Clowns; the delicate shimmer at the very beginning of Stevie Nicks' Rhiannon; studio decay from sibilance by Jennifer Warnes' Song of Bernadette).

3) I found the Omega to be amazingly coherent. Even with a crossover of 650 hz in the critical midrange I didn't hear any discontinuity between the midrange/tweeter ribbon and the woofer panel. (However, I am not particularly sensitive to driver discontinutiy, as evidenced by the fact that I lived happily for many years with MartinLogan Monoliths.)

4) I found this to be the most dynamic pure (no dynamic driver hybrid) planar speaker I have ever heard. While the hybrid MartinLogans provide cone excursions impact in the the bass region, my issue with MartinLogans is the lack of impact and oomph in the upper bass/lower midrange area. This was the first time I ever felt a little bit of cone excursion type impact from drums on a pure planar speaker! There was richness and “body” in the upper bass/lower midrange area which I have never perceived with pre-Neolith MartnLogans, and for which I have always longed with MartinLogans. The Omega did not have quite the "jump factor" and the transient response of the Avantgarde Trios.

5) I heard no artificial or annoying brightness anywhere.

Between the Omega and the hybrid MartinLogans, with the Omega you are giving up one shade of transparency and significantly more cone excursion impact in return for greater body and richness above 200 hz (the hybrid crossover frequency) and more bass detail and texture below 200 hz. Between the Omega and Magnepan MG-IIIA (I have not spent enough time listening to more recent Magnepan speakers, although I suspect I would adhere to this view even if I have), purely on sonic attributes and with Analysis Audio physical design and construction issues aside, I do not know why anybody would buy a Magnepan speaker (and I owned and I still like very much and recommend Magnepan speakers), instead of the comparable height Analysis Audio speaker, especially considering that you can drive the Analysis Audio speakers more easily (including with beautiful-sounding higher-watt SET amps). Of course lower price, and the comfort of a product with a long and extremely distinguished and awarded history, produced for many years by a stable and highly-regarded Midwestern USA company with a time-tested technology, and sold and serviced by a local USA dealer, rather than a product by a newer company in Greece, are perfectly valid reasons for preferring Magnepan. (I am not sure I can get over the Greece aspect myself.)

I did not experience with the Omega the Magnepan phenomenon of needing to play the speaker at a certain volume to kick it to “alive.”

I have not heard Apogee speakers recently, and I have never heard reconditioned Apogees, new (i.e., Graz) Apogees, GT Audio, SoundLabs or Sanders loudspeakers.


THE CONSTRUCTION

I believe the Omega sounds as good as it does in spite of not robust and reassuring structural design.

1) The speaker tilts backwards. According to Peter even Tassos agrees the speaker should be perfectly vertical but the base of the speaker is made out of MDF and is so lightweight that Tassos had no choice but to build the base so that the speaker tilts backwards a little bit; otherwise the speaker is in perpetual danger of toppling forward. So the further you sit from the speaker the more the speaker is firing above your head!

2) The perforated metal grill on the back of the speaker looks like it attenuates a third to half of the rear output of the dipole. I don't like this because I want the full rear wave to be emitted from the speaker to reflect against the front wall (yes, I know there is a variety of opinion as to whether the back wave should be absorbed, diffused, or allowed to reflect). In addition, the metal grill must cause some of the rear wave to be reflected immediately back into the front wave, which theoretically will slightly confuse the front wave, I would think. Peter thinks the metal grill on the back is there to provide some rigidity at the back of the speaker, or perhaps the metal grill supports the magnet structure.

3) When music is playing the entire frame vibrates.

4) Both Peter in England and Mike in North Carolina replace the components of the crossover with higher quality capacitors, resistors and inductors. There is no way to know how the OEM speaker sounds since these dealers modify the OEM crossovers as a matter of course.

5) Peter said that in experimenting with the speaker he found that it sounds better with the midrange/tweeter panel polarity wired the same as the woofer panel polarity, whereas Tassos builds the speaker with the midrange/tweeter panel polarity reversed. Speakers costing many thousands of dollars should not have to be treated like Heathkits!

6) The entire frame, including the parts of the support base, is plain wood. The speaker comes only partially assembled. You have to tighten screws to fasten the vertical frame to the perpendicular feet using self-grabbing hardware like you get from Ikea. The feet are too thin and too short to support the panel in the sturdy and robust manner I think the panel should be supported.

7) If you put your finger on the top of the speaker you can rock the top of the speaker forwards and backwards without the feet or base moving at all, just like a springboard.

I would like to see the ribbon and woofer panel suspended in a solid, sturdy, non-resonant corian or phenolic resin frame with a base which is large enough and heavy enough for the speaker to be vertically oriented with no rearward tilt.

The physical design and construction of the Omega is exactly what I was referring to generally when I wrote in a post about the MartinLogan Neolith that the manufacturers of panel speakers have been relying for far too long on the inherent superiority of their technology, and have given short shrift to issues such as rigidity and frame/cabinet resonance on which conventional speaker manufacturers have focused (e.g., Magico, Rockport, Wilson).

Peter agrees with several of my comments about physical construction. Both Peter and Mike have discussed a sturdier structure with Tassos. Apparently, Tassos believes there is no real problem because he thinks the speaker, as is, sounds just great, and he is not inclined to redesign the frame structure, adding significantly to weight and cost.

So, what to do? It is a perfectly valid view that the theory (of non-resonant cabinetry) does not matter and that the implementation (a not very rigid frame) does not matter, and that the only thing that matters is the resulting sound quality. To me, as a panel person, the Omega sounds fantastic, as it sounds extremely similar to MartinLogan with a shade less transparency but with greater upper base and lower midrange body and warmth (minus the MartinLogan hybrid conventional cone dynamics). That, to me, is a pretty killer combination, especially since you can add back the cone excursion impact with subwoofers.

If someone is buying a speaker based on sound quality per dollar -- on a value basis -- then the design compromises don't matter because such a buyer would prefer the reasonable price of the current speaker to a much higher-priced version in which these flaws have been fixed. This speaker, even with all of these design compromises, still sounds better in most respects that matter to me than everything else I have heard (except, again, MartinLogan still wins on ultimate transparency and the dynamic driver speakers still win on cone excursion impact). I suspect that going up to the Amphitryon and the Orion would only increase the Analysis Audio's margin of superiority over Magnepans and pure ESL MartinLogans in respect of low frequency extension and dynamics.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Due to audition them just before Christmas, and compare to the Graz Apogee Duetta Advance 7 model early in the new year.
Great review btw, Ron.
 

bonzo75

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bonzo75

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Following were my comments to Ron when we exchanged emails.

"Surprising he played it to you on the 60w tube SET. I did not like it on that and liked it on the 120, because on 60 it was not sounding full enough to me, and the soundstage wasn't out enough into the room. The omega, unlike the amphi, needs power. "

I really will side step those design material issues as both Trios and Analysis with issues in the used material sound much better to me than speakers with materials which are better, which clearly points out that SQ does not necessarily have a correlation. This is similar to the argument of some pointing out Lampi’s material qualities compared to some SOTA SS dacs which charge a lot for a great build and sound sh*t. Not to say that improving material in some cases won’t improve the sound, but as long as the end sound is better than what we can get, how does it matter?

Now regarding the SQ comments,I agree Logans slightly more transparent, and this is a close second. I also think stats are more cohesive. However for me overall tone still better than Logans, because it is thicker and more full-bodied. Logan has an edge on female vocals, while male baritone vocals are better on Analysis. Plus from your perspective, Amphi much easier to drive so can be used with Valve SETs.

Regarding dynamic impact, nothing can compare to horns. But panels are very fast, faster than boxes, though slower than horns, and you will find that an Amphi with a SET or SS is incredibly fast. And the bass comes all along the length of the panel, so it sounds huge and comes in waves. With boxes,

I was surprised you heard a concussive impact from drums, because that is the weakness in Peter’s set up, though with hybrids that works fine.

I have heard the Vanilla speaker. It is not as good as Peter’s mods nor Mike’s mods. There is no reason not to buy a modded speaker if someone like Mike or Peter is selling that as their stock product, factory style. They are using the Vanilla speaker as raw material and adding the mods. In fact, I insist on buying with the mods – the vanilla Omega used sells for 4k GBP, I am not interested. I would rather buy from Peter or Mike.

I beg to differ on how the rear wave should be emitted, because if how it is being emitted sounds right, what does it matter? Of course if it sounds wrong, that is different.
 

Ron Resnick

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Dear Harlequin,

Thank you for the suggestion. I thought the CLX was the perfect opportunity for me to create my own mini-Statement by deploying next to the CLX a pair of subwoofer towers. I listened at length to the CLX, and I could listen through the speakers to enjoy the sound without being tripped up by the absence of any output below 50 Hz or so. I knew that if I liked the sound of the CLX, then I could add some subwoofer tower system.

But the CLX just did not do it for me. The CLX, to me, sounded skeletal and lacking in body. It sounded incredibly transparent and high in resolution, but it did not sound musical or sonically pleasurable.

I realized that I was missing sonic warmth and richness in the 200 Hz to 400 Hz range. I don't know anything about musical instruments so I do not know exactly what goes on in that frequency range, but, to my ears, something important and impactful and realism-creating goes on there. With the CLX I was missing warmth and impact in that frequency range -- above the frequency range handled by subwoofers.

In the design of each of the Monoliths and the Prodigys one or more cone drivers significantly supplemented the electrostatic panel in the 200 Hz range. My desire for warmth and oomph in that frequency range explains why I am happily willing to sacrifice the perfect continuity of the full range electrostatic panel in favor of some discontinuity in the hybrid electrostatic panel/cone driver configuration.

Adding subwoofers to the CLX with a crossover frequency of 60 or 80 Hz does not provide significant cone excursion impact in the 200 to 400 Hz range. I have learned that I prefer a hybrid speaker system in which the panel crosses over to an integrated cone at a higher frequency than the frequency at which a full-range panel (i.e., the CLX) would cross over to external subwoofers.

This explains why I like the Prodigys, which have two 10” cones crossed over at 250 Hz. This also explains why I liked the Statement E2, whose panel crossed over to eight 7” cone drivers at 220 Hz.
 

bonzo75

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I am off stats. Summits unbeatable at 4k used, but after listening to 3 Soundlabs set up, of which two were ultimates, and one last week with 80k Ypsilon electronics (and I like Ypsilon), I am quite sure that for me a ribbon magnetostat is required for the upper mid bass where a lot of orchestral power is, for better brass, and for baritone vocals. That is where the tonal weight comes from. Stats are transparent and a bit more cohesive, for sure. Better for female vocals. Also a stat panel is not as dynamic. That said I still love stats. Not as much as ribbon magnetostats. I need to listen to a well set up Dali Megaline with subs to decide between that and Omega at my budget and room size. I don't think Amphi and Full range are going to be possible in my room, and Advance 7 too expensive
 

Ron Resnick

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I am coming to the same conclusion, I think, Bonzo about the upper base/lower midrange area. I think that is why, in important ways, the Analysis Audio strikes the various compromises in a way we both like. The midrange/ribbon tweeter covering 650 hz and up, with the magnetic planar bass covering 650 hz and down, supplemented by dynamic driver subwoofers, is a pretty perfect system for what you and I like.

That also leaves as a contender the Neolith, with its 12" cone driver crossing up to the panel at 400 hz.
 
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TheMooN

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Ron... I quite understand and recognise your points regarding CLX's, however, I am of the opinion that the transparent nature of that speaker is quite ruthless in respect to the strengths and weaknesses of any associated equipment utilized with them, and in that, one may well attribute the sins of the former to be in the nature of the latter.

For example, a change of the factory Sovtek 6550 power regulator in an ARC pre to either an NOS GEneral Electric or Tung Sol 6550 is a revelation highlighting the former to be imparting a hard, glassy presentation via the CLX, lacking in tonality, texture and space by comparison, ergo sins of commission in the nature of one or two valves respectively.

For my part I have a preference for the harmonic nature of valve Pre/Power developing sufficient current and ideally damping factor to command the large panel's and preferably greater than 200 Watts OP at clipping.

If I may inquire Ron as to the nature of the ancillary equipment utilized during your CLX experience(s) ?
 

LL21

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First of all, great review Ron. Thorough as with pretty much everything else i've seen you do. Thanks for taking the time as well.

As for my own personal views, your description of the CLX and your personal preferences relating to them align with my own personal experiences (at KJ, by the way). I have not heard Apogees in a long, long time, but i have 0 doubt if there one that was reliable and had super-slam (without being super huge), i would be supremely interested.

Would love to hear Apogee Full Ranges/Graz Apogee Rebuilds/Advance 7 or Audio Analysis Orion 4-panel.
 

TheMooN

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As for my own personal views, your description of the CLX and your personal preferences relating to them align with my own personal experiences (at KJ, by the way).

My apologies for commenting off topic of your excellent review Ron, however If I may just inquire of Lloyd as to the nature of the assosiated equipment when hearing KJ's CLX'S ? My money is on SS were Richard involved.
 

Ron Resnick

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If I may inquire Ron as to the nature of the ancillary equipment utilized during your CLX experience(s) ?

I don't remember. I think it was Audio Research.
 

LL21

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My apologies for commenting off topic of your excellent review Ron, however If I may just inquire of Lloyd as to the nature of the assosiated equipment when hearing KJ's CLX'S ? My money is on SS were Richard involved.

Hi Harlequin, I have heard the CLX on a number of occasions at KJ over the years...yes, i did hear them with ARC Ref 3 and big Krell 600 monos I also heard them with Ref 3 and Ref250 monos. At the moderate levels i was trying with the Ref 250s, i preferred that particular time with them over the few hours i spent with them being driven by the big Krells.

But in both cases, when i went back to the big Wilsons, i found a corporeal body that, despite the relative lack of 'spooky-placement-in-space...which is very cool' i just really enjoyed the corporeal full bodied note more. We listen off axis 99% of the time anyway given our living room set up, and where we work during the evenings and weekends.
 

spiritofmusic

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Hi Harlequin, I have heard the CLX on a number of occasions at KJ over the years...yes, i did hear them with ARC Ref 3 and big Krell 600 monos I also heard them with Ref 3 and Ref250 monos. At the moderate levels i was trying with the Ref 250s, i preferred that particular time with them over the few hours i spent with them being driven by the big Krells.

But in both cases, when i went back to the big Wilsons, i found a corporeal body that, despite the relative lack of 'spooky-placement-in-space...which is very cool' i just really enjoyed the corporeal full bodied note more. We listen off axis 99% of the time anyway given our living room set up, and where we work during the evenings and weekends.

Lloyd, Ron is on my journey to consider some statement spkrs w/the windfall coming my way from selling up in London and moving to Norfolk.
I'm showing some real interest in planars for the first time, now I know a couple can work w.my 60W/ch Nat 211s SETs.
These are the AA Orions and soon-to-be released Graz Apogee restored Duetta Signatures Advance 7s.

However he is ADAMANT I will NOT in the final analysis move away completely from a cone-based woofer system. I very much like the idea of a box-less, in effect open-baffle, dipole panel system. But like you, will I find the "corporeal full bodied" nature of my Zus impossible to swap for maybe the more accurate and fast Omegas or Apogees?
 

bonzo75

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Lloyd, Ron is on my journey to consider some statement spkrs w/the windfall coming my way from selling up in London and moving to Norfolk.
I'm showing some real interest in planars for the first time, now I know a couple can work w.my 60W/ch Nat 211s SETs.
These are the AA Orions and soon-to-be released Graz Apogee restored Duetta Signatures Advance 7s.

However he is ADAMANT I will NOT in the final analysis move away completely from a cone-based woofer system. I very much like the idea of a box-less, in effect open-baffle, dipole panel system. But like you, will I find the "corporeal full bodied" nature of my Zus impossible to swap for maybe the more accurate and fast Omegas or Apogees?

Those two panels are very corporeal and full bodied. That is the main difference between ribbons and stats.
 

spiritofmusic

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Ok, maybe the skeletal quality that Ron refers to, and Lloyd alludes to, is particular to the ML CLX and others like Quad ESLs.
Very much looking fwd to auditioning the Graz Duetta Signature Advance 7 early in the New Year, to see if I can get past my propensity to boxes/cones.
 

Ron Resnick

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I think that ribbons can get you corporeal and full-bodied. But I think only dynamic drivers can get you the "super-slam" that Lloyd asks for in post #10.
 

microstrip

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I am off stats. Summits unbeatable at 4k used, but after listening to 3 Soundlabs set up, of which two were ultimates, and one last week with 80k Ypsilon electronics (and I like Ypsilon), I am quite sure that for me a ribbon magnetostat is required for the upper mid bass where a lot of orchestral power is, for better brass, and for baritone vocals. That is where the tonal weight comes from. Stats are transparent and a bit more cohesive, for sure. Better for female vocals. Also a stat panel is not as dynamic. That said I still love stats. Not as much as ribbon magnetostats. I need to listen to a well set up Dali Megaline with subs to decide between that and Omega at my budget and room size. I don't think Amphi and Full range are going to be possible in my room, and Advance 7 too expensive

The SoundLabs you listened to had the PX panels? Just to please my curiosity, can you tell me the electronics that were used in the other SoundLab auditions?

IMHO no electrostatic speaker will give you the energy of a top box speaker, particularly the energy density of the X2 series 2, XLF or the Alexia. The Apogee Duetta Signature managed to do it, but had a problem for me - they had to be played loud to become a complete speaker.
 

spiritofmusic

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The question is then Ron, maybe "super slam" is an artificial construct of woofers and boxes?
I don't hear it at live classical and jazz - here, the bass is a sort of amorphous underpinning and effusiveness, more of a swell of colour. Ribbons fine I'm sure.
At live rock, yes punch and deep extension is the order of the day, but again woofer bass that we hear at home probably doesn't have much in common.
I'm going to challenge myself to hear hopefully excellently-rendered non-box bass via Omegas and esp Advance 7s, and see if I can "wean" myself off what is probably a lifelong addiction to coloured box distortions from all the speakers I've deemed best up until now.

I've already made the paradigm leap from belt drive tt's/pivoted arms, to direct rim drive tt's/linear tracking arms, shedding a lot of my previously accepted analog colourations in the process - and now I can't go back. Similarly, lifelong acceptance of SS has been shed in the last 3 years going to SETs, again the reverse journey ain't gonna happen.

If I can really get a pair of ribbons in the form of the Advance 7's that are truly SET friendly, and have the kind of bass performance that will make me forget about boxes/woofers, they will become my one and only final leap component change. And I will have chosen a major tech change in tt, amps and potentially, spkrs.
 

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