In my particular room (4.3x2.6x5.5m), which has a good basic character but with quite reflective surfaces around the speaker, the OmniMon1 certainly delivered the big and spacious soundstage one expects from an omni. It’s been quite a while since I tried an omni here – they’re not all that common these days – and I have to say I rather enjoyed its ‘differentness’. One plus side is the way the sound remains largely consistent and somehow more ‘solid’ as one moves around the room, which is in itself closer to reality than more conventional speakers – interestingly, the inevitable variations in the more directional tweeter output seemed surprisingly inconsequential.
Including more of the room in the overall sound does lead to rather more coloration arising from reflections, even though this is mitigated because the sonic signature of one’s room has a familiar and known character.
Stereo imaging is perhaps the most contentious issue with omnis, and while some listeners analyse stereo soundstaging to the nth degree, I should admit it’s never been a particularly high priority in my personal listening pleasure. That’s partly because in my experience it’s all too rarely ‘natural’ in origin, and nearly always an artificial studio construct. The OmniMon 1 worked fine for me most of the time, though I should add that centrally placed voices seemed a little large and less tightly focused than a conventional forward-radiating design. Indeed, image focus generally seemed a trifle weak, though still adequate enough in my book.
A further source of unpredictability with this particular speaker could well be the floor, which in my case is wooden and suspended on joists. That’s because the driver is firmly mechanically coupled to the floor via the intervening mass loading of the steel rod and plinth, and the combination has to resist the mechanical reaction forces of the main driver’s motor. In the early stages of preparing this review, Burton brought down an alternative plinth made of slate, which sounded altogether less impressive than the steel version. Although I can’t change my floor the way the plinth was changed, it does suggest the speaker might be sensitive to the floor construction, notwithstanding the mass loading.
Although nearly everything about the OmniMon’s sound is positive, especially the lack of boxiness and the exceptional consequent clarity of voice reproduction, I did find the lack of some energy in the mid and upper bass audible. Electric basses have plenty of weight but are a little weak on drive and punch, and also lack some harmonic richness. I was also sometimes conscious of some mild hardening to the upper midband especially when the speaker was being driven hard – which one is tempted to do because the sound is so clean. Perhaps this was the enclosure becoming audible, or the slight resonances seen in the impedance trace (or both).
The bottom end might lack a little warmth, but the sound as a whole is astonishingly clean, very quick on its feet, and musically very informative. Dynamics might have a bit more drama, but the low ‘hash’ floor and freedom from boxy overhang and time-smear ensures a rather superior dynamic ‘window’ with fine low-level resolution. Voices are beautifully natural and free from chestiness, and it proved an absolute delight across the broad spectrum of acoustic, classical and especially choral material. Percussive music, such as the dramatic highenergy guitar playing on Rodrigo y Gabriella’s Live in Manchester and Dublin CD, was startlingly realistic, though the speaker can be ruthlessly revealing of poor quality recordings with high levels of compression. It’s almost impossible to try and sum up the OmniMon 1 in a single paragraph. It’s certainly the most interesting speaker to come my way in a very long time, with an all round performance that is indeed genuinely unique. Combining highquality materials with innovative and precisely executed engineering, at £6,600/pair it’s far from cheap, and probably won’t be the first choice for listeners who like loud rock material. But that’s neither its aim nor exploits its considerable strengths. Its freedom from boxiness is quite magical on speech and all forms of acoustic music, including choral and orchestral, and it probably gets closer than anything else to combining seriously deep bass with the innate simplicity of a two-way and the best qualities of panel designs, all from a surprisingly compact and discrete cabinet. As I said, distinctly and impressively different indeed.