|Mirage OMNI Series Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Saturday, 01 November 2003|
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I followed my usual setup protocol by placing the OMNI 260’s at the same location that has proven to be a good starting point for most loudspeakers in the listening room used for this audition. The 260’s sounded good upon first placement but improved when they were voiced to the room boundaries. Because of the unique driver configuration and radiation pattern, optimal placement for my listening environment put the Mirages out a little further than most front-firing speakers I’ve recently auditioned. I found this a good balancing point for integrating the direct and indirect output of the 260s, while retaining smooth bass response and extension. The CC was placed above my monitor, creating an equidistant arc with the main loudspeakers, and the surrounds were positioned six feet to the sides and slightly behind the main listening position. As a side note, moving the main speakers closer to the back wall did increase bass output but compromised the overall balance of the 260s. Each room will have its own unique sonic signature and I'd highly recommend that you experiment with the placement of the 260s to achieve their maximum potential. Overall, the Mirage OMNI system required very little tweaking in my room to sound seamless and satisfying, and with minimal effort provided a very large and enjoyable listening window.
Movies and Music
I began my listening evaluations of the OMNI Series Surround Sound System with the melancholy comedy, "Rushmore" (Touchstone Video). The soundtrack for the film, chosen by director Wes Anderson and musical mastermind Mark Mothersbaugh, is a wonderful complement to the movie’s plot. Much of the music throughout is based on a superb compilation of classic and offbeat tunes from the British Invasion of the ‘60s and ‘70s. During Cat Stevens’ performance of "Here Comes My Baby," the OMNI system centered his voice at a realistic height while creating an expansive sense of space around the rest of the musical rendition. The OMNI Series sounded equally good on Chad and Jeremy's "Summer Song." It was very easy to discern each singer’s voice clearly, while the rest of the instrumental arrangements created a broad and stable background. Throughout the movie, Mothersbaugh infused various interludes of guitar and harpsichord, each being reproduced faithfully in scale and spectral balance. It was apparent while viewing “Rushmore” and during my subsequent listening evaluations that the OMNI series speaker system blossomed during larger-scale works but diffused certain inner details that I am accustomed to experiencing from these same tracks.
Changing tempo, I cued up “The Dance” (WEA/Warner Brothers), a 1997 Fleetwood Mac reunion concert. This concert was recorded live at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank and the quality of the video and soundtrack is excellent. The DVD includes an anthology of their well-known hits intertwined with new tracks, all recorded in Dolby Digital 5.1. Lindsey Buckingham's solo performances in "Big Love" and "Go Insane” are electrifying, and listening to these tracks the OMNI system created a cohesive blend of ambient and direct sound. It really showcased Buckingham’s vocal abilities, as well as his incredible acoustical guitar riffs. The Mirage system did a fantastic job of recreating the 80-piece USC marching band that accompanied Fleetwood Mac on both “Tusk” and “Don’t Stop.” Horns had sufficient growl and bite, the drums were well delineated, and the vocals clear and pristine. This type of material was well suited for the OMNI system, truly displaying the strengths of its omni-directional radiating patterns, creating a life-size image of the concert venue.
Listening to the DVD-Audio disc of The Doors’ L.A. Woman (Electra) proved to be a very interesting exercise. Recorded from the original 30-year-old eight-track analog master tapes, this disc has three sound format choices, including the default DVD-Audio MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 5.1 soundtrack, a DVD-Audio MLP 88.2 kHz/24 bit 2.0 soundtrack and a DVD-Video-compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 448 Kb/s soundtrack. Remixed by Bruce Botnick, who produced the original recording, this version uses the rear channels in a limited but creative fashion. Though this is not the best example of what this DVD-Audio has to offer, one track that worked well was “Riders On The Storm.” Opening with the classic storm effects, the OMNI system did an excellent job of enveloping the listener, allowing the depth and power of thunder to be communicated in full force. The OM-200 subwoofer really showed its strengths, conveying the lower registers of the lighting strikes and integrating seamlessly with the rest of the system as the storm slowly dissipates into a distant background. Despite the fact that this disc does not possess the best separation of instruments and vocals, the OMNI system made most tracks more palatable, adding fullness and an increased depth of image. For compromised recordings in particular, the omni-directional sound of the Mirages favorably enhanced the listening experience. This can be a major advantage, given the poor sonic quality of the many recordings.
Concluding my review of the Mirage OMNI 260s, I listened to the 16/44.1kHz two-channel recording, Peace Beyond Passion (Maverick/Warner Brothers) by the sublime and soulful Me'Shell NdegeOcello. Peace Beyond Passion is filled with songs that use social, political and religious imagery to explore issues of life, love, lust and sensuality. It is blessed with great dynamics, crystalline vocals, and a plethora of sonic attributes that really put a loudspeaker system through its paces. Throughout the album, NdegeOcello’s funky soulful beats and bass lines are reproduced quite well by the OMNI system, albeit with some loss of impact on the leading edge of certain transients. The benefit of the more diffused sound field produced by the OMNI 260s on other material altered parts of this album’s playback, creating a somewhat softer and less focused soundstage. Still, the OMNI system performed extremely well on the exquisitely layered "Ecclesiastes: Free My Heart," immersing me in NdegeOcello’s satin, silky vocals and explosive instrumentals. Overall, the 260s were dynamically expressive and portrayed good bass extension for a speaker of this size and driver compliment.