Mirage OMNI Series Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Thomas Garcia   
Saturday, 01 November 2003

Introduction
In the never-ending search for the perfect loudspeaker system, there are a number of approaches that a manufacturer can take during the engineering and design process of a new product. At minimum, the majority of loudspeaker designers would agree that certain prerequisites, such as low distortion and a relatively flat, smooth frequency response, are fundamental criteria for creating a good sounding speaker. How each manufacturer attempts to achieve this end goal varies tremendously. Direct radiators, dipoles, bipoles, and point-source loudspeakers are but a few of the options available, each creating their own unique dispersion pattern and interaction within the listening environment. All are intended to decipher the musical and sound experience as accurately as possible. The question of which engineering technique is best suited to recreate the original performance in our own listening environments has been, and will continue to be, a hot topic of debate, greatly influenced by personal preference.

Mirage has a definite idea of how sound should be reproduced, and has been designing many revered loudspeakers featuring bipolar radiating patterns since the late ‘80s. The well-respected Canadian manufacturer now offers the consumer an additional option with their OMNI Series Omnipolar Speaker System. Operating in a basically omni-directional dispersion pattern, their Omnipolar technology is stated by Mirage to produce the same amount of direct and reflected sound as experienced at live acoustical events. Through their extensive research, Mirage concluded that these amounts are approximately 70 percent reflected and 30 percent direct energy. This new series incorporates what Mirage refers to as OMNIGUIDE, a proprietary module that produces a forward-biased spherical dispersion pattern that claims to reproduce sound to these proportions. The Mirage system for this review incorporated the OMNI 260 floor-standing speakers for the front mains ($500 each), an OMNI CC center channel ($400 each), two OMNI FX surround speakers ($200 each), and a single OM-200 subwoofer for low frequency effects ($1000 each).

Description
Residing at the top of the OMNI Series is the quasi three-way OMNI 260 floorstanding tower. This model utilizes the unique driver configuration consisting of Mirage’s OMNIGUIDE module that houses a one-inch PTH tweeter. The entire assembly is positioned on an angled platform at the top of the loudspeaker. This module is suspended over a 6-1/2 inch titanium deposit driver, which covers the midrange and mid-bass frequencies. Mirage placed a small dispersion disc above the upward-firing tweeter and used the tweeter housing to disperse the angled midrange mid-bass driver, creating a relative omni-directional radiating pattern. Additionall.y there is a front firing six-and-a-half-inch titanium deposit driver and a specially tuned flared port that augments the bass down to a reported 35Hz. At a rated load impedance of eight ohms nominal (four ohms minimum), the 260s should be easy for any receiver or amplifier to drive. They have a claimed frequency response that extends from 35Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB. Each tower speaker has two removable grilles, one positioned on top that covers the OMNIGUIDE module assembly, with an additional cover for the front-firing bass driver and port. The OMNI 260s are magnetically shielded and constructed of three-quarter-inch MDF that is covered in a high quality vinyl wrap. Loudspeaker cable connections are made via high quality five-way binding posts that offer ample room for quick and easy termination. Dimensions for the 260s are 42 inches high by 9 inches wide by 15 inches deep, giving the speakers a slim and sleek profile. Total weight for each speaker is 55 pounds. Also included are stabilizing legs that extend out past the base of the speakers, which are equipped with threaded spiked feet. The two color choices for the OMNI 260 are black ash or cherry.

The Mirage OMNI CC center channel is no less unique, utilizing a similar driver configuration to the 260s. With a one-inch PTH tweeter positioned over a three-inch polypropylene midrange driver, the OMNI CC is timbre-matched to blend with any of the Mirage line of loudspeakers, and is designed to mimic the radiating pattern of the 260. Flanking the tweeter and midrange assembly are dual five-and-a-half-inch polypropylene titanium deposit hybrid woofers with wide dispersion patterns. All drivers are located on a slope face towards the top of the speaker and are covered with a two-piece grille assembly. This three-way center channel creates a reported frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB. Similar to the 260, the OMNI CC is rated at a load impedance of eight ohms nominal (four ohms minimum). The OMNI CC is constructed of 5/8-inch MDF and is magnetically shielded to eliminate any potential interaction when placed above a tube television. With the dimensions of eight inches high by 21 inches wide by 10 inches high, and a weight of 25 pounds, the OMNI CC can be easily placed on top of most monitors. Offered in the same color options as the 260, the OMNI CC provides the same high quality binding post and ease of access as the OMNI 260.

Using similar OMNIGUIDE technology and driver configurations, the OMNI FX is an excellent choice as a matching surround speaker for any of the OMNI Series loudspeakers. The OMNI FX utilizes a one-inch PTH tweeter and one five-and-a-half-inch polypropylene woofer and is rated at eight ohms nominal impedance (four ohms minimum), with a frequency response of 80Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB. Designed to be wall-mounted, the OMNI FX is virtually identical to the OMNI 260 and OMNI CC with the distinction of the drivers being rotated 90 degrees. This positions the tweeter facing forward, rather than the upward-firing configuration of the front three channels. Again, the module acts as a diffuser for the woofer, with the tweeter and an identical diffuser disc placed in front of the dome, creating a broad spherical dispersion pattern and minimizing localization of the surround speakers. Petite in size, the OMNI FX is a mere 11 inches high by eight inches wide by seven inches deep, each weighing 9 pounds. Mirage uses 5/8-inch MDF for the FX speaker enclosure and offers color options of black or white. The OMNI FX uses slightly different binding posts than the OMNI 260 and OMNI CC, but offers the same ease of access for cable connections.

Covering the lower registers of this system is the Mirage OM-200, a powered Omnipolar vented subwoofer. It uses dual eight-inch polypropylene titanium deposit hybrid drivers mounted on opposing sides, canceling unwanted energy that can be produced by a single driver subwoofer. The drivers are mounted in a vented enclosure and are powered by a 200-watt RMS (800 Watt Peak Power) Discrete MOSFET Class A/B amplifier. Frequency response is rated at 22Hz to 120Hz –3dB, with an additional video switch that boosts the low bass by 3dB at 40Hz. An extremely convenient feature of the OM-200 is the front-mounted control panel that is integrated beautifully into the top of the subwoofer, making tuning the OM-200 an easy endeavor. There is a continuously variable phase control operating from -180 to +180 degrees and an 18dB per octave variable low-pass filter that operates between 40Hz and 120Hz. Also included are high- and low-level inputs, a high-level output, and a much appreciated crossover bypass. The crossover bypass is a feature missing in many powered subwoofers. It allows the user to control the OM-200 with the internal crossover setting found in today's multi-channel receivers and processors. Additional touches include an automatic sensing switch that turns the subwoofer on when it senses an input signal and off after 10 minutes in the absence of such a signal. Overall dimensions are 16.25 inches by 18-5/8 inches by 17.5 inches, with a total weight of 70 pounds. The subwoofer enclosure is constructed from thick one-and-a-half-inch MDF on top and bottom and three-quarter-inch MDF on the remaining surfaces, available with a black high gloss or cherry finish.

Setup
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.

The Downside
Because of their omni-directional dispersion pattern, the room itself plays an even more important role in determining the final performance of the system. If room aesthetics, architectural characteristics or size necessitates placing the OMNIs too close to boundaries, the overall sonic presentation could be compromised. Additionally, on certain material there can be a lack of detail that some listeners have become accustomed to when listening to a good direct radiating loudspeaker. Although there is good bass extension with the subwoofer in the system, the mid-bass of the 260s can be somewhat ill-defined with certain material when played without other equipment in the system.

Conclusion
The OMNI Series is unequivocally an engineering success and offers the consumer a unique and viable alternative to the conventional direct radiating loudspeaker. The Mirage Engineering team has created such a different design approach by way of its omni-directional radiating patterns that you really need to listen to the 260s in your environment to appreciate their sonic attributes. My personal experience with the OMNI system definitely increased the number of acceptable listener locations and provided an expansive soundstage, largely due to the proportioning of direct and indirect sound emanating from the Mirages. This system provided great performance and enjoyment for the money, and I recommend that you give it a try. The Mirage OMNI Series Omnipolar Speaker System offers a very unique and interesting set of advantages that very well may suit your personal tastes, listening environment, and musical preferences.
Manufacturer Mirage
Model OMNI Series Speaker System
Reviewer Tom Garcia





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