Ask the Editors: Should I Be Concerned About Paper Drivers in Ohm Speakers?

Q: I am considering a pair of Ohm speakers, likely the Super Sound Cylinders or Super Walsh 3.3010s with integrated powered subwoofers. Both models are available as beta versions for less than they will cost when they become full production models. Ohm has informed me that the speaker cones are made from a paper-based material. Should this concern me, considering the pricing is around $5000-$6000/pair? Can paper-based cones perform properly and have reasonable durability?

– Scott Thomas (BeatMichigan)

A: Paper-based speaker cones should not concern you at all; many speakers use them. They might be more delicate than diaphragms made from metal or Kevlar, but even those materials are far from indestructible. Speaker diaphragms need to be as lightweight as possible, so they are made as thin as possible. As long as you don’t subject them to severe distortion or a lot more power than they can handle, they should work fine for many years.

I didn’t know much about Ohm speakers before I started researching them to respond to your question. The unusual driver design was developed by Lincoln Walsh in the early 1970s. An inverted, full-range cone sits on top of the cabinet, and the intended sound waves radiate from the convex surface of the cone. In most speakers with cone drivers, the sound waves radiate from the concave surface of the cone into the room. A separate phase-aligned high-frequency driver—aka “super-tweeter”—is mounted above the apex of the cone to reinforce the high frequencies.

The inverted cone sends sound waves in all directions equally. It’s an omnidirectional speaker that would normally be difficult to place in most rooms because of reflections from the walls. However, the Ohm design includes structures around the driver that greatly reduce the output toward the back of the speaker. The high-frequency driver is naturally directional.

ohm speakers
The Ohm driver system includes an inverted, full-range cone driver mounted on top of the cabinet along with a high-frequency driver. The Tufflex transmission block and acoustical attenuator absorb sound energy radiating toward the back of the speaker, and an acoustically transparent metal covering protects the entire assembly.

Unlike conventional multi-driver speakers, all frequencies emerge from the same location; Ohm calls this a Coherent Line Source (CLS) driver. It is said to produce a vertically oriented wavefront with perfect time and phase alignment as well as a uniform polar frequency response.

ohm speakers
The CLS driver produces a vertically oriented, time- and phase-aligned wavefront as well as a uniform polar frequency response in a controlled-directivity output pattern.

Ohm claims that this creates a consistent stereo image for people located nearly anywhere in the room. The company goes on to say that someone sitting nearer to one speaker will still hear a balanced stereo image, because the sound coming from the farther speaker is louder than the sound coming from the nearer speaker.

ohm speakers
Ohm claims that the volume of sound radiating from each speaker is different depending on the direction, resulting in a balanced stereo image for people in different locations. The company calls this effect Full Room Stereo.

According to the Ohm website, “Wherever you sit in the room, the extra distance the sound has to travel to reach you from the [farther] speaker is exactly offset by that speaker’s louder output from that direction.” That means the orientation of the speaker in the room is critically important. The highest amplitude in the polar response should be aimed across the room. Fortunately, the Ohm owner’s manual includes tips for the best locations and orientation of its speakers.

As you point out, the Super Walsh 3.3010 includes an integrated, powered subwoofer in its base. I generally do not recommend integrated subs because the best location for the low-frequency source in a room is often not the same as the best location for the mid- and high-frequency sources. The owner’s manual includes tips for the best locations of its speakers with integrated subs, but I generally recommend avoiding them and using separate subwoofers.

Of course, other AVS Forum members might have different ideas about all of this, which I invite in the comments. Does anyone use Ohm speakers? What is your experience with them?

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