Mirage OMD-28 Surround Speaker System Page 3
In addition, if the recording allows, the Mirages will provide an impressive sense of depth. But their lateral imaging can be more diffuse than you'll get from a good pair of front-radiating speakers. Closely mic'd voices and instruments often sounded larger and less precisely positioned than they do on speakers with superior image focus. But not always. On more than a few occasions the OMD-28s surprised me by suspending a solo vocal or instrument in the space between the speakers with an almost palpable definition and three-dimensionality.
The positioning of the front speakers demanded by the screen's fixed location in my home theater worked against the OMD-28s demonstrating their specified 18Hz in-room extension (deeper, by the way, than the specification for Mirage's largest new subwoofer, the OMD-10). This was of little importance on music, but movies were another matter. A separate subwoofer, properly positioned, could produce deeper, more powerful bass. For movies, therefore, I crossed all of the speakers over to a subwoofer (the Revel B15) below 80Hz.
While I did most of my music listening using the front end of a Denon AVR-4306 receiver as a pre-pro connected to an Anthem P5 power amp, I did most of my movie watching using the amps in the Denon to drive the front channels (the rear channel amps in this sample of the Denon were inoperative for as yet undetermined reasons, so for this review an external amp was always used to drive the surrounds). This $2,000 receiver may appear to be an unlikely candidate to drive $11,500 worth of speakers (not including a subwoofer), but in practice it worked amazingly well. It did show a bit of added brightness and strain on movies when driving the OMD-28s full range without a subwoofer, probably because its recommended minimum load is 6 ohms and the OMD-28 is spec'd to dip down to 3.5 ohms. The receiver did get very warm, though just shy of being too hot to touch, when playing challenging material at high levels for more than a few minutes. But it did not shut down. And with an average assortment of programming, particularly with a subwoofer in tow, it performed well above its price level and never blinked.
And the Mirage system did not blink on soundtracks either. From my usual slightly off-axis movie-watching location everything jelled. In fact, the omni speakers like the Mirage should be less affected by changes in seating position—at least on movies—than most surround speaker systems.
To repeat yet again that the soundstage from the Mirage system was huge might seem redundant, but it's perhaps even more noteworthy on movies than on music. The atmosphere and sense of space that the system provides drew me into films as diverse as The Incredibles, Dreamgirls, and The Guardian. And the slightly diffuse imaging of the system was much less significant with five speakers operating than with just two. I never felt that I was listening to five separate speakers. They all blended into a cohesive yet distinctive whole.
The system's balance was also complementary to most movies. Their slightly forgiving yet detailed top end was as effective as cinema equalization in keeping bright soundtracks at bay. Perhaps more so, as there was no indication of a rolled-off high frequency response. And with a subwoofer to reinforce the lowest octave of deep bass for high level playback, the slightly rich, full-bodied nature of the Mirage system's mid and upper bass proved to be no liability on most soundtracks. Only rarely did I hear the over-ripe quality in this range that sometimes affected music playback, in my room, with a pair of OMD-28s alone.
What I heard most often, in fact, was a slam in the bass combined with a treble balance that lets you crank things up without tearing your head off—qualities that elude many surround speaker systems on soundtracks. The action scenes in The Incredibles gave me a new appreciation for this film. They sounded right—meaty and powerful without bloat at the bottom end or fizz and excess brightness on top. The massed choruses of tap-dancing (!) and singing (!) penguins in Happy Feet rocked the room. When the helicopter flew over in the final act of that film its power and weight were palpable. And the rescue scenes in The Guardian were so compelling that I almost forgot about the film's lame script.
The only obvious weakness I heard on soundtracks was in the bass balance of the OMD-C2 center channel. At times the dialog, in particular, was ripe and overly full, which not only sounded unnatural but slightly reduced intelligibility. It's very possible that this situation was aggravated by the speaker's proximity to the floor in my system (on a low stand under the screen). It didn't bother me very often, but when it did I was tempted to calibrate the Denon receiver's Audyssey equalization system, which I'm certain would have largely eliminated the problem.
But I elected not to use any equalization for this review (apart from the analog parametric eq in the Revel sub). A worthwhile addition to the OMD-C2, or to any center channel in this price range, would be a multi-position contour switch to compensate for proximity to a nearby surface, whether that surface is a floor or a big screen television. Such a feature is already available on many far less expensive center channel speakers.
The Mirages are also much less efficient than the average speaker. While calibrating the channel levels I had to set them about 4dB higher than usual. That would appear to indicate the need for a high power amp, and it certainly won't hurt. But the Denon receiver I used for part of the listening was adequate to the task in my medium-size room, without overheating, shutting down, or distorting, as long as the program material varied in its demands. A soundtrack with action scenes connected by quiet interludes will give the receiver a chance to unwind and cool down between challenges, in contrast to, say, a steady diet of heavy metal with a pounding synth bass track, played back at 110dB. Remember, too, that that pushing any amp into audible distortion is more dangerous to a loudspeaker than a high- power amp operating loudly but cleanly.
While not without flaws (what speaker is?) the Mirages were so impressive that while listening I started to think about buying them.
Unfortunately, space is an issue around these parts as review speakers do tend to pile up before we can tackle the drudgery of packing them up for return. And the Mirages' room sensitivity, combined with their deviations from technical accuracy, doesn't make them the ideal analytical tool for evaluating other products.
But the tradeoffs inherent in the uniquely designed Mirage omni speakers, and in particular this OMD-28 system (the only Mirange omnis I've spend time with in my own home theater) have been so cannily balanced here that the sheer listenability of these speakers, on both music and movies, is superb. As I said earlier, adjusting to an omni design can take time, and the performance of such speakers is different enough from conventional designs that I highly recommend you precede any purchase with a thorough, personal audition.
But do give them a shot. Take your time. Listen to them on a wide variety of music and movies. Become accustomed to their strengths. You might just fall in love with them.
Huge soundstage, with excellent depth
Forgiving of bright program material, but still highly detailed
Powerful bass from the OMD-28s, though a good sub will further enhance their performance, particularly on movies.
The bass can sound over-ripe on some material, including dialog
Omni sound is unique, requires some adaptation to fully appreciate, will not be to everyone's taste
The technical measurements are not impressive