Mirage Omnisat v2 FS Listening Tests
Prior to spending any sort of critical listening time with the v2s, I spent a few months time enjoying extended recreational listening sessions, getting to know the personality, strengths - as well as limits - of these unique loudspeakers. Overall I found them to be tonally neutral, capable of filling a room with an enveloping listening experience. The latter owing largely to their remarkable soundstaging abilities all delivered in an effortless way; a tendency typically reserved for speakers costing thousands more.
Rumors of their outstanding soundstaging abilities as well as their somewhat diminished imaging capabilities preceded them, so my first test disc choice was the Wilson Audio Beethoven/Enescu CD, (Wilson Audio WCD-8315). A spaced-pair of Schoeps microphones were employed in the recording. Sonically, the various tracks feature a very close-in recording perspective, natural for chamber music. The CD comprises 7 duets for piano and violin.
From the opening track it was clear the v2s were quite capable of placing the violin (a Gaurneri) exactly where it should appear (just to the right of the inside edge of the left speaker) within the soundstage and do so with a subtle sense of spaciousness entirely appropriate for the recording venue (Mills College Concert Hall). I have in the past found that lesser speakers tended to largely mute that natural sense of spaciousness.
As an audio engineer, I've recorded on several occasions Steinway Model D Concert Grand pianos in small theatres (100 to 900 seats), just as we find in this particular Wilson CD. The v2s recreated in a number of valid, musically important ways the experience of listening to that particular instrument played in that size venue.
The Steinway Model D was instantly identifiable as a Steinway Model D. Don't laugh... accurate reproduction of the sound of a piano is a formidable challenge for any loudspeaker. Mediocre speakers tend to make them all sound pretty much the same. The reality is, they don't all sound the same. Indeed, I found the Wilson CD, when played back through the v2s, tended to shift my listening perspective from that of audio enthusiast seated comfortably in a home listening room to an engineer in the middle of many sessions past. The listening experience could become that involving, with the right playback material.
Seldom have I heard in a loudspeaker (at any price point) the ability to present a
sense of the space within which a recording was made as I've found these v2s are capable of
reproducing in a home listening environment. On the other hand, if you place extreme,
chiseled-with-a-razorblade image resolution as your #1 requirement in a speaker, these aren't for
you. This is not to say the images aren't focused or stable...
they definitely are, (See
13). In trading away a small amount of image resolution, the v2s treat the listener to
an increase in the sense of presence and location of the
various images within their remarkable
soundstage. This approach is, sonically speaking, a refreshing change.
Next in the collection was Sinatra Reprise The Very Good Years ( Reprise 9 26501-2).
Curious to further explore the v2's soundstaging and imaging abilities I next auditioned them with a variety of tracks drawn from this CD. (By the way, if you're not familiar with Sinatra's music this is a great introductory CD). I'll focus here on track 14, All Or Nothing At All.
Right off the top the v2s did a great job of presenting the orchestra across the soundstage with Frank right in the thick of it all. But it wasn't until the instrumental breaks in the track were hit that the real eye-popping moments occurred.
When the orchestra wound up, they delivered , emerging from the background to flesh out a huge, spacious soundstage clearly extending beyond the outer edges of both v2s.
Boom! There they were - the orchestra sounded big , baaad and there. (Not bad for a recording done about 4 decades ago).Duly impressed, I couldn 舗 t help but listen to that track several more times, increasing playback volume a bit with each go. What a sonic treat! Another track that sounded particularly good was Nancy. I listened to the track several times marveling at how a loudspeaker system with a direct sound amplitude response curve looking like that showing in Figure 6 could sound so clean, balanced and tonally neutral.
Following Sinatra was Chris Botti's When I Fall In Love (Sony, ASIN: B0002VL0K6). Playback confirmed what was already evident in listening to the Frank CD. The v2s delivered an enveloping soundstage, populated with focused, stable images, delivered with a degree of effortlessness surprising for a speaker in this price range. They reproduced Botti's horn work with an obvious finesse. They managed to convey the unique harmonic character of the horn in way far better than a number of other speakers I've listened to offered in the v2's price range. Don't know why, but this is one CD that sounds particularly good when listened to at night.
Next up was Wilson Audio's Ragtime Razzmatazz (Wilson Audio WCD-8212). It was now time to explore the sonic characteristics of the tweeter/midrange driver array (Fig. 1) perched at the top of the tower. I've found the tinny, honky-tonk sound of the Gildameister, Kroeger & Sons upright piano with its hardened-felt hammers featured in this CD another challenge for most speakers.
The v2s had little trouble reproducing the characteristically fast attack portion of the amplitude envelope of the notes pouring out of the Kroeger... the leading 'tick' sound of each hammer's strike was very clear. Given the quality of the Schoeps CMC-3 mics used to record the piano and the v2's bandwidth (see Figures 6, 8 - 11), that came as no surprise. There's also the rich upper harmonic structure found in the very recognizable sound of a ragtime or honky-tonk piano to contend with. The v2s handled that job well, along with presenting all the aural cues telling you that not only were you listening to an upright honky-tonk piano, but that you were close to it. You could here all the details, including the sound of the pianist stepping on the pedals.
Talas' If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now (ASIN: B00000AD95) was on my playlist next. Talas is (was?) a power trio that played all over New York back in the '70s & '80s. I remember seeing them in all the rock clubs I used to hang out in back then. Eventually they went on to open for acts like Van Halen, Aerosmith and so forth. I'm pretty familiar with their live sound, so this CD seemed a good choice, especially as I'm also familiar with the venue where the show was recorded.
I now wanted to assess how the v2s perform when pushed hard, volume-wise. All the CDs played back prior to the Talas disc were done so at reasonable, polite levels. Now it was time to rock.
Up to this point in the critical listening sessions I'd been using the Mirage S-10 subwoofer (a product requiring its own review) with the v2s. (As well, all my recreational listening was done with the v2/S-10 combo. I was impressed with the overall quality of the S-10s performance; including a sub with the v2s is important. For a full range system to deliver a musically satisfying experience, I am of the opinion that LF extension to (at a minimum) about 40 Hz is necessary. In my listening room it sounded like the v2s rolled off at about 55 - 60 Hz, so a subwoofer is pretty much required.
Anyway, as luck would have it, I returned home one day to find a very large box sitting on a pallet in my garage. It was SVS' PB12-Plus/2 subwoofer. Being the incurable audioholic I am, I of course had to immediately uncrate the behemoth and fire it up to see how it would get along with the v2s. I wasn't interested in comparing the $500US S-10 with the $1399US PB12-Plus/2 - designed for very different segments of the market as they are - no valid comparison can be made. Nor should my swapping out subs be interpreted as a negative comment leveled at the S-10; this was just a case of incurable audioholism at work. Or should I say play? Anyway, The SVS is a subwoofer with no fear of pulling stunts like rattling things off shelves, getting your floor bouncing or making your furniture jiggle, with power to spare. Now it was time to rock.
I gave Billy Sheehan's bass solo a whirl. Given the v2/SVS combo and the amplifier horsepower upstream of them (a heavily tweaked Hafler DH-500 for the v2s and the sub's own built in 900W power amp) I had high hopes for this track segment. Speaking in terms of dynamics, it actually fell a bit flat. Somewhere in the process of turning the moment into a CD track, I suspect just a touch too much compression was applied. (Kind of surprising when you consider the bass player produced the disc!) I've heard various versions of this solo live over the years (maybe I've gotten spoiled) and the recorded version just didn't measure up. Too bad. This round the v2/SVS system was not challenged.
Next was their version of 21st Century Schizoid Man (an old King Crimson tune). Now this was more like it, though still not (in terms of dynamics) quite what I was listening for. The v2s were being pushed hard and they did a great job of playing cleanly within the LF backdrop (or should I say mayhem?) the SVS was laying down (with just a little too much enjoyment). I got the sense they were still holding back, just waiting for something even more challenging.
Last up was Talas 舗 rendition of Max Webster's Battle Star . For this track the v2s were once again pushed very hard and they responded superbly. This was the track that finally did the trick. The sharp attack of the guitar, bass & drums playing in unison at the top of the track sounded great, with the v2s providing the clean leading edge.
Earlier, when I'd had one of the v2s disassembled, I noticed tucked away in a corner of the crossover network circuit board an iron-cored inductor. Given the well known core saturation problems inherent to these devices I was on the lookout for any telltale signs of punch through due to core saturation at high input power levels. I didn't notice any; even at the levels I had been driving the v2s at for this part of my critical listening session. The v2s are built with a seriously over-specced inductor so that at any power level it would likely ever encounter the core would not saturate.
Whether I'm part of the audience just enjoying a show or busy at work behind a mixing console, where it comes to live music there are a number of cues I listen for that tell a great deal about both the quality of the mix and the quality of front of house system. One of those is the clarity of the vocals and where they sit within the mix and the vocals presented in this track - whether it be Billy singing lead solo or Billy, Paul & Dave singing in harmony - never wavered in their clarity. I was impressed yet again by the v2s.
Tough gig singing (at those levels) over the top of the SVS, but the v2s did it.