Omni Speaker Options

Have decided to move away from "box speakers" to create a system centered upon omni-directional speakers. I have heard MBL 111Es and like the transparency, resolution and dynamics. And I have seen some good prices for 111Es on Audiogon for preowned. But before I drop money on an MBL, I have to ask the question: Are they the only game in town? Have not heard German Physiks (high end) or Ohm (lower end). For those that are knowledgeble about omni-speakers, are there other brands that should be auditioned before I make the MBL investment? How does your recommended speaker compare to 111Es? The listening room is 26 feet long, 17 feet wide and 14 foot ceiling.
I guess the other obvious choices would be Ohm and Duevel. Also worth considering are Morrison Audio and the Mirage OM28.
The Blue Circle Penny has been getting some buzz; I'm intrigued, though I've not found much info on it.

Beolab 5 sound good and look cool and have impressive dynamic bass (just don't push them too hard in the mid range)
My only caution for an omni speaker is room interaction can be a bigger than normal issue since the speaker radiates in all directions. In some situations that can give a great sense of space while in others it can result in an uneven frequency response and vague or wandering imaging. It all depends on where things are bouncing around.

I say this having owned a pair of omnis (Ohm F) and also a pair of dipoles (Maggies) in the past. I enjoyed both greatly but neither would suit me in my current listening room.

Ideally you'd want to try the speaker in your listening room before making a final decision (or know there is a solid resale market if you buy used.)
I too looked for options, I believe if the mbl's do it for you then stick with them. No other speaker does what they do!!!!!
Being a big mbl fan I'll mention some speakers I like, not sure if that helps: Wilson Alexandria xa, but those are the only Wilsons I like, the Verity audio line, Magico mini's, Vienna Acoustics. The only speakers to have dethroned the mbl's are the Alexandria and just recently heard the Symposium reflection, awesome speaker, very dynamic and life-like. Worth giving a listen!!
The Gallo Reference series are nearly an omni with their CDT emitting sound in 330 degrees. I love mine.

These, similar to the Ohms, also look interesting...

but I haven't heard them or the Ohms.
add the shahinian hawk or diapason and the ohm 5000 to your shortlist of end-all omnis, though there many other non omnis that will go head to head with the mbl as well.
The MBL speakers are pretty distinctive sounding, even among the omni class (as fas as I've heard examples of the class). The Ohms that I own couldn't sound more different from MBL if the designer made a point of trying. I've auditioned 4 models pretty extensively. The 121 w/sub, the 111, the 116 and the 101. The octave to octave balance of all the MBLs struck me as really distinctive with lots of energy in the mid bass and presence region. Not particularly neutral to my ear, but reasonably balanced overall. YMMV.

The 101 is a "knock your socks off" design and IMHO in a different league than the others, each of which does, however, have some real strengths.

I would add that the model 111 you're looking at has disappointing low end extension (I want to say mid to high 30hz range IIRC)for a speaker at that price point. Bass is very powerful to that point, but the lowest frequencies are MIA. Depending on your taste in program material, this may not matter a whit, but I thought it worth bringing to your attention, anyway. IMO, the MBLs are very exciting designs: what they do well, they do uniquely well (IME). Overall, however, I'm not sure I could live with them over the long haul.

Good Luck

I'd like to please keep this conversation alive for a little while longer. I do not forsee being able to audition the MBLs in my home prior to any purchase; therefore, I relish everyones considered feedback--especially those that have extensively auditioned MBLs like Marty. Although I am heavily considering the MBLs for purchase, the deal is not sealed and I am open to suggestions about omnis and non-omnis that can "compete with" or "replace" MBLs. This is a long term investment and I do not want to continue the switch components in and out game any longer_-I am too old and too tired to do so again.

My library of music is comprised of vinyl and cds (not alot of SACDs) that total several thousand. The preponderance of music is comprised of small groups and vocalists within the genres of: bebop jazz, jazz fusion, smooth jazz, Brazilian jazz, deep house, ambient house, global chill, r & b, blues, & raggae. And I am not blasting the roof off of the house with this collection; rather I'm trying to maximize the transparency, resolution and dynamics of what I have collected over the decades.

With this in mind, some have made reference to speakers that should be part of the consideration set. I looked at Verity but auditioned only the Lenores and Parsifal Ovations and while I liked them, they just didn't quite capture what I am looking for musically and for the size of my room. Perhaps I should look at the Sarastro and above in the Verity line.

Had thought of Magico too, as suggested, but in my location I don't have anyway of auditioning them and at that price point(even for their monitors) this would have to be a must. Never heard of Symposiums but would be interested in any feedback from the community about them.

I know that at the end of the day, this most important decision has to rest with my ears; nonetheless, those that have some thoughtful suggestions like Marty, Pedrillo, and Mlsstl, among others, would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to all
I would stick with mbl's myself if I were looking in this price point.
On a side note I like to experiment and think outside the box, something I have considered for a while is to purchase two pairs of 121's and set them up mirror image one above the other like the extremes and get some good subs like the fanthoms. What I read about the extremes really fascinated me. Just a thought, if I had the money I would be there, just remember more amps are needed.

The MBLs are kind of unique in my experience. If you really like 'em, I'd be reluctant to suggest an alternative.

In addition to the distinctive omni design and the really 3d imaging that can result (given the right room and set-up), the MBLs are hugely dynamic and can play at ridiculous SPLs - especially the 101. The Ohms sound more neutral tonally to me, but they can't touch the MBL for high SPL, super dynamic fireworks.

I also own Verity Parsifal Encores. Like the MBL, they feature an audible mid bass hump. Unlike the MBL, they don't offset it with a presence region boost. The result is a more "polite" balance that, while also not -strictly speaking- neutral, often sounds strikingly like real music to me. If you dig MBL, I suspect these aren't a good alternative.

Wilson and B&W both make speakers that (in some ways) recall MBL. To my ear, they each share the a (significantly) milder variation of the "goosed" tonality as well as the great dynamic capability of the MBLs, but their conventional radiating pattern makes them sound different than the omnis. OTOH, the omnis I know reasonably well (Ohm, Mirage, and B&O) are tonally and dynamically different animals. None of the planars I know bark up the MBL tree in any meaningful way.

So I guess I'll second Pedrillo, if you like MBL, go with MBL.

Good Luck

One note about 121s. I had a similar thought to Pedrillo. I figured that 121s with a particular subwoofer set-up I had in mind might get the MBL glory with a more neutral tonality (or, at least, a tonality more to my taste). When I pursued this with a dealer who carried both the brand of sub that I was considering and MBL, he had some advice.

Evidently, the 121s have some unique design features surrounding their low frequency roll-off behavior. My understanding is that this was an attempt to optimize integration with MBLs own subwoofer. I'm not sure how it would impact their integration with third party subwoofers, but this dealer told me that his attempts to do so drove him nuts.

I guess the message is: proceed with caution.
Since you indicate you will be unable to audition in your room prior to purchase, the general rule of thumb for omnis is you want the listening room to offer a reasonable degree of symmetry between the left and right channels. There should be enough space to have the speakers away from both the rear and side walls a meter or more. And, the side/rear boundry distances should be roughly equal between left and right. If the rear and side reflections differ between the left and right channels, this is where you get frequency response imbalances and imaging problems.
Thanks Martykl and Pedrillo for making time to reply. Like both of you, a big part of my motivation was to infact do something that is non-conventional or select components that were different from the standard fare, as long as the musicality was present in the end. I have had B&Ws in the past and did audition Wilson Watt Puppys which after 30 minutes of solid state pumping were absolutely causing my ears to ring painfully. As an aside, a long time MBL owner is replacing her 101s with the Vivid Giya. speakers. I'm curious to hear them if at all possible. And Pedrillo,your suggestion regarding the Symposium caught me off guard. I hope that you get some thoughtful replies to your post.

If you can envision the room lay out: Meeting your requirements regarding rear wall and side walls is not a problem; however, the following dimension may be a "gotcha". Looking at the rear wall where the system will stand, the right wall is a partial wall that opens into a sunroom. Stated differently, the right wall "jets out from the rear wall for about 18 inches, then it is open space into the sunroom that abuts the main listening area. There isn't a door to the sun room but just a wide opening that extends for about another 6 to 7 feet before the rest of the side wall continues before it ends at the front wall of the room. So people can sit in the sunroom as well as the main listning room too to enjoy the music. Hopefully this paints a vivid enough picture to get your considered feedback about possible imaging problems (or not).

I haven't heard the Giya, but the Vivid speakers I did hear (briefly @ the LA Stereophile show a couple of years back) also seemed to feature a somewhat "foreward" tonal balance.

Definitive Technology Bipolars BP7000SC, a value for $5500. Give them a listen
Amilcar, regarding the suitability of your room to omnis, let me describe some pertinent aspects of how the ear/brain system processes incoming sound. I think this is useful background for people considering omni, dipolar, or bipolar speakers. This will be a brief introduction rather than an in-depth study of the topic.

The ear derives directional cues primarily from the first .68 milliseconds of a sound impules (corresponding to the roughly 9 inch path length around your head from one ear to the other). After this initial .68 milliseconds the ear suppresses directional cues from repetitions of the original signal (reflections), but still accepts loudness and timbre cues from the reflected energy. That being said, a strong, distinct reflection arriving after that initial .68 millisecond window can still skew the imaging.

The subjective effect on sound quality of reflections is related to their arrival time. In general, reflections arriving earlier than 10 milliseconds behind the first-arrival sound (corresponding to a path length difference of 11 feet) tend to be perceived as coloration, and reflections arriving later than 10 milliseconds (assuming their spectral balance is good) tend to be perceived as richness, warmth, ambience, spaciousness, texture, and liveliness. That's why music in a good recital or concert hall sounds so good, and that's why omnis often sound so good.

You've probably noticed that owners of dipole speakers (Maggies, Quads, etc.) like to position them pretty far out into the room. This is because they sound better when the extra reverberant energy from the backwave arrives after as much time delay as is reasonably feasible. The same principle applies to omnis, only their equally strong radiation to the sides makes the first sidewall reflection a concern. Often diffusion in the first sidewall reflection zone is beneficial with omnis. Likewise, diffusion in the first reflection zone behind the speakers is usually beneficial, especially if they must be placed within 5 or 6 feet of that wall.

Since lots of early sidewall reflection energy is inevitable with an omni, you might well get some image imbalance with that big opening along the right-hand side of your room. In my experience even heavy absorption in the corresponding area on the opposite side of the room may not even things out with that type of speaker. In general I don't like to use any more than the bare minimum amount of absorption necessary to prevent slap-echo when using dipoles, bipoles, omnis or polydirectionals, because much of what they do well comes from having a strong, diffuse, spectrally correct, slowly decaying reverberant field.

I'm a big fan of getting the reverberant field right; in my opinion that and dynamic contrast are among the primary differences between live and reproduced sound from a perceptual standpoint.

Duke - that was an excellent explanation.

The only catch is that each person has their own set of priorities when it comes to the order they assign to various sonic characteristics. For one person, that sense of spaciousness may trump a loss of image stability. For another, the same characteristic may be completely unacceptable.

These differences of opinion help explain why there are so many different speaker manufacturers and why the debates among audiophiles are often filled with such rancor.

While one can improve the odds of finding a speaker you'll like by reading the opinions of others, there is never a substitute for hearing the speaker for yourself in your own room.
Once again some wise words from Duke. The path length of 11 feet or the 10 msec rule of thumb is something you need to consider whatever speakers you have. The rule also applies where you sit (do not sit near a wall). This is one of the reasons that you find main speakers built directly in to a wall in most high end studio setups (no spurious reflections).

One concern with Omnis is the necessary mounting and shapes of the speaker box - inevitably there are often edge diffractions of the sound from mounting posts and many of these designs use surfaces to deliberately reflect or disperse the sound (Beolab 5 for example). Therein can lie a weakness in this type design. The result can be that certain frequencies may collapse to the speaker (as secondary reflections color the sound) even if the majority of the sound is natural and wide open. It is worth auditioning to carefully check for these issues - cymbals can often hint at this issue due to their broad frequency content. I found the Beolab to sound very open on airy on some sounds and less so on others - I wonder if there is not a 3 to 6 db SPL drop and edge diffraction occurring as certain frequencies reach the edge of the reflective discs. Overall the speaker sounds great but these coloration will be of concern to some listeners.

All speakers are trade-offs, Omnis are wonderful sounding but there are some compromises (as with any speaker).
Amicar...strongly urge you to listen to your choice before you plunk down money. I couldn't live with MBL's if I were paid for it. Someone on this discussion said they had great fireworks, and I do agree. To my trained, professional violinist ears, they are anything but natural sounding. I suppose a lot has to do with the feeding ancillaries...I heard them with MBL electronics. It would be awful to get these set up in your listening room and hate them.
I've heard the big Beolabs at the Beverly Hills B&O store on at least three occasions. They sound very good till the spl goes up - at which point they become a complete mess featuring compression, significant tonal shift and audible break-up. I'm not talking live rock concert level here, either. It could be unique to the sample/set up at that B&O store, but you would hope that the sales/mgmt people address the issue at some point and I heard the same problem on all 3 visits, which spanned more than a year.

Don't listen to the naysayers, the mbl's are one of the best speakers out there. One of my experiences with them was at a show, I couldn't believe how they drew me in and had me appreciating all sorts of music including rap which I never like. In a nutshell I was enjoying myself and I think that matters most.
If a particular system helps me appreciate new genres of music that's the one I want. I would like to enjoy jazz, but I can't on most systems, but on the mbls I do, it makes listening a fun event as it should be. Though there I should add other systems did that for me too though not to the same degree.
Thanks Pedrillo, and Stringreen too. One of the best suggestions I received from a well known audio industry expert was that at the end of the day, " is your ears that must make the final decision about this most important component in your system, not the price tag." I don't doubt that Stringreen's hearing was fatigued when he auditioned the MBLs. Yet I have spoken to a well regarded concert pianist who is one of the biggest advocates for MBLs. Both persons no doubt are excellent musicians in their own right, but their sensibility around a common product diverges. And if the MBLs made you tap your feet to rap, well that says a hell of a lot. And if you enjoyed my favorite genre, jazz, via the MBLs, then this puts a check mark in my preferred column in comparing speakers.
Amilcar...why would you say that my hearing was fatigued?? It was not. The total MBL system I heard sounded heavy, ponderous and fake. That's not to say that you will like or not like them. That is what I heard. My post was a suggestion that you listen to them with your ears. Instead of putting checks on a piece of paper with reviews of strangers, listen yourself.

Re-reading your post and mine,we do not disagree.If fake is what you heard I certainly do not dispute that.
Are they the only game in town?

Based on your comments so far, I can tell that they suit you perfectly. No need to solicit further comments... go with your gut feel!
Thanks Shadorne, you are spot on!!!
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