Magnepan LRS and other American Made HI FI Bargains

Craig Chase

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Greetings guys ... The last 6 months have been extremely intense for my "day job," which is in auto finance and the pair of dealerships into which I invested in 2017. The dealerships have kept me extremely busy with some serious issues - which started before the Coronavirus hit. As I type, here is a list of American/Canadian speaker and amplifier products we have here for reviewing:

Magnepan LRS (A DUH at myself) ... it is in the title. They are truly a high end bargain.

Axiom LFR-1100 actives ... they need 5 amplifiers PER speaker. The full review is done on these guys. They are the finest speaker I have ever heard, and the reason is the science behind them. Eliminating passive crossovers and having dedicated amps operating directly into the drivers with a DSP controlled high/low pass and response curve is a revelation.

PS Audio Stellar Gain Pre-amp and matching 700 mono block amps

Akitika GT-102 power amp and matching PR-102 pre-amp. These are AMAZING values. Match these with the Maggies, and it's sonic nirvana for under $2000.
 
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JohnRice

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I'm certainly curious about the Stellar Monoblocks. Who'd have thought PS Audio would ever make a Class D amp, and now they have a second one coming.

How do you acquire all this stuff?
 

Craig Chase

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John - I did it the old fashioned way: I bought everything. The Axioms are matched with 10 channels of their own ADA-1500-5 amps (one per speaker) in our high end room. The Maggies/Akitika system is in a smaller room (about 15 x 18). The PS Audio rig is in a third system with another American high end speaker, the OHM Walsh SSC-4900's.
 

Craig Chase

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Below is the summary of the review of the Ohm SSC-4900's in 2018. The PS Audio amps did an excellent job driving the Ohm speakers.

Greetings all - I recently ordered a pair of Ohm Super Sound Cylinder speakers, or SSC-4900’s. They are in the middle of the Ohm Walsh lineup, and are about 38 inches tall and the cylinder cabinets about 12.5 inches in diameter.

Specs are listed at 88 dB for a 2.8 V input, and a response curve of +/- 3 dB from 25 to 20,000 Hz.

This whole process is part of a “high end, high value, USA made two channel system” thread I started a couple of months ago on another forum. The electronics are the PS Audio Stellar Gain Pre-amp/DAC and a pair of PS Audio M700 mono amps.

The PS Audio equipment has already elevated the Axiom M100’s and Martin Logan Electro Motion ESL speakers in terms of performance. The Axioms have a “twin” available in Brick and Mortar outlets from Bryston called the A1’s.

The Ohms are a music lover’s dream.
For reference, other speakers which we have or still have in house include: Klipsch LaScala II’s, Legacy Signature SE’s, Infinity IRS Sigmas, Ascend Sierras, PSB Strata Goldi, VMPS Super Towers and a host of other speakers.

The Ohm Walsh speakers have been something about which I have read since 1977 (the year I got the audio bug), but have never had the chance to experience. The SSC-4900’s sell for $4900 per pair, though the name and pricing are coincidental. The “4900” is due to the idea that the speakers are “almost a 5000”, but with less controls - one switch vs. 4 for the 5000, but also a lower price.

John Strohbeen, who is he president at Ohm and who has been with them for almost 40 years, was gracious enough to spend an hour talking on the phone about our room, the associated gear, and also that there would be a review thread. It was after this discussion that we decided on the SSC-4900’s.

I am purchasing the speakers, not getting a review pair. They are under the 120 day return policy. John is well aware that my daughter sings opera, my son is adept at classical guitar, and that live music is the reference. He was actually quite pleased about this.

This will be fun (at least for me), and hopefully informative. Comments are welcome.

I honestly have no idea what to expect from the Walsh sound. They are so different from other speaker designs that the only thing to do is set them up properly and hear what happens!

craigsub03-03-2018 8:15pm

craigsub OP
53 posts

10-31-2018 6:59pm

Roysq … We are getting close to doing a formal write up on the SSC-4900’s. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a way to post pictures into this forum. Does anyone know how?

You can look for a formal write up over the Thanksgiving Holiday, when I finally have some time. I bought a “distressed” Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealership in October, 2017, and this summer was a lot more work than I anticipated.

For now, I can say I absolutely LOVE these speakers. Every chance I get to try new music, I do. And what they do with old rock favorites like Pink Floyd and Supertramp is astonishing. Deep, tight bass. A soundstage that is MASSIVE. The clarity of vocals is world class.

They are more power hungry than the Legacy Signature SE’s or Axiom M100’s, but the PS Audio M700’s are more than enough - and for under $10,000 for the total system, the PS Audio Pre, M700’s and Ohm’s are fantastic.

11-25-2018 5:21pm

It is time for the 6 month summary of the experience our family has had with the Ohm SSC-4900’s (referred to as the Ohms from now on). During these 6 months, the Ohms have had every type of music thrown at them, along with dozens of movies in two channel, and finally my kids (who are all grown) playing X-Box and Play Station games.

The Ohms are unlike any speaker we have ever had. We all have biases that “hit us” in different ways. When we first unboxed and put the Ohms into our basement system, my instant bias was that there was no way these “speakers in a can” could deliver detail. I was expecting a diffuse sound with punchy bass from the large driver. This bias turned out to be well off the mark.

The Ohms match or beat any speaker we have had here, and also any that I have auditioned at a high end store. For speakers owned, this includes Legacy Signature SE’s ($8000 per pair), Klipsch La Scala II and Klipschorns, VMPS SuperTowers, PSB Stratus Goldi, Onix Reference III’s, Infinity IRS Sigmas ($10,000 per pair) and numerous others. In store auditions have included Magic S-5’s driven by $50,000 in McIntosh electronics, Magnepan 20.7’s, Goldenear Triton Reference and Monitor Audio PL 500 II’s.

The associated system we have is a relatively modest PS Audio M700 monobloc amps (350/700 WPC into 8/4 ohms), Stellar Gain Pre-amp and DAC, and an OPPO 203 universal player. For video, we have a standard Spectrum Cable box. Both the OPPO and the Spectrum are sending a digital signal to the Stellar Gain’s DAC using Pangea Coax digital cables. The entire system is about $10,000.

Let’s start with detail. On Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the song has a background vocal muttering something. On the Ohms, for the first time, those words are quite clear … “You … Yes You … Stand Still Laddy!”. The see through quality of the Ohms is incredibly well done, yet the speakers always sound so musical. On the same disc, the guitar work on Mother is natural, and the bass depth of the guitars is palpable.

To come up with one particular arena in which the Ohms shine would be almost impossible. Every disc we have is played with a deep, wide soundstage, a realistic spectrum starting at about 28 Hz and up to well above one’s hearing abilities, and never a hint of harshness. The Ohms are a music lover’s dream. They can rock with the best of them, handle male and female vocals with all the emotion intact, and are the type of speakers that make one look for reasons to lose a couple of hours listening.

They also are a tremendous experience for watching video - whether from DVD or from the Cable Box. One experience from earlier this year was watching golf after walking 18 holes with some friends. The microphone was picking up the gallery of golf fans, and one could easily hear comments from the audience members, sometimes coming what seemed behind me. Regular television is actually enhanced by these speakers.

So - what are the caveats? The Ohms need power - good, clean power - to drive them. They won’t rock in the way the Klipsch Heritage line can. Personally, I would recommend nothing short of a good 200 WPC amp to drive them. They are not the speakers that you crank for your buddies while showing them off. They are the speakers you buy because you want to experience something that is close to what you experience live. Just don’t expect 120 dB in output at the listening position. Even with that Caveat, we have a pair of Stereophile Class A Klipsch La Scala II’s here, and it is the Ohms to which I turn for the best music performance.

A good subwoofer will add to the bass depth. I am a bass-aholic, and even with the knowledge that a subwoofer will add to the experience, for 6 months, we have run the Ohms without a sub, and we just plain love them.

On a personal note, to everyone who has owned Ohms for years, and a couple of you, Decades, thanks for participating in this thread. Let’s keep the conversation going. This thread has evolved from one person’s long term review to a thread of Ohm owners adding their experience and expertise to the thread. You guys all are amazing!

If anyone has a question, please ask. One of us will hopefully be able to help.

For now, Terminator 2 is starting on cable. The Ohms are already making it better - it’s a wall of sound. Time to enjoy !!
 

Craig Chase

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I'm certainly curious about the Stellar Monoblocks. Who'd have thought PS Audio would ever make a Class D amp, and now they have a second one coming.
John - The Stellar Monoblocks are an outstanding amplifier. Writing about amps isn't easy, if one has done a lot of comparisons under blind conditions. An amp shouldn't have a sound of its own. It merely should handle all the duties of delivering current to one's speakers with no audible weaknesses.

The Monoblocks are powerful, have great woofer control and bass depth, and are completely neutral. They don't stand out in any way, which is what you want.
 

Craig Chase

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The Axiom Audio LFR-1100 Active Loudspeaker System: How I learned to stop reviewing speakers and start reviewing the source quality.

I have been an audio nut since summer of 1977, when I purchased a JVC 35 WPC receiver, a pair of Electro Voice EV-16B speakers (a 12 inch sealed design that was known for embarrassing the Larger Advents for half the price) and a Technics Direct Drive Turntable with a Stanton Cartridge. It was love at first listen – the track was Steve Miller’s long version of “Jet Airliner.” The way the synthesizer panned across the soundstage and the power as the song kicked into high gear with the bass drum and guitars forever changed how I looked at music.

Mom and Dad’s beloved 70 inch wide console system – which we thought was bad ass before, became a joke. This was REAL music, and it was good. I knew sonic nirvana was achieved when my parents renamed my system the “G-D stereo.”

Audio became my life long hobby. The following year, 1978, I purchased my first high end system. It was the same turntable, but with an upgrade to an 881 Stanton cartridge. The pre-amp was a Marantz 3600 and the power amp was a Marantz 510M – one of the first super amps, capable of pounding out 256 of the best watts one ever heard. Even today, this amp is highly sought after, along with its little brother, the 250. The speakers were Cerwin Vega’s S-1’s, which were powerful and efficient enough to double as PA speakers for high school dances for which I became the DJ. For my dorm room, I soon added a pair of Koss 1020 speakers, the first speakers I owned that could hit a legitimate 20 Hz, with the S-1’s left for PA duty.

In the 40 years since, I have owned Soundcraftsmen, Carver, Sunfire, Adcom, Aragon, Acurus, McIntosh, Marantz, Emotiva, NAD, Yamaha, Denon … the list goes on … for electronics.

Speakers have included VMPS, Legacy, Paradigm, Klipsch Heritage, Onix Reference, Definitive Technology BP-2000/3000, Energy, Infinity IRS Sigma, Boston Acoustics A-400, Electrovoice Interface: D, Rocket 1000’s, Altec Model 14, OHM Walsh and a host of others. I have also owned many models from Axiom – starting with a pair of bookshelf M22 Ti in 2001 through M80 Ti, M3 V.4, M100 V.4, M-50 V.4 and LFR-1100 Omnidirectional speakers.

In 2015, using a passive pre-amp level speaker level matching unit, I spent 3 months doing blind tests between a pair of then $2400 M100’s against the $7000 Legacy Signature SE’s. Much to my surprise, the M100’s won the day (ok, 3 months) under blind listening conditions. This was not just my opinion, but also that of my two musician children – one is an opera singer, the other a classical guitarist. The M100’s just delivered music in an effortless manner that sounded like REAL voices and proper weight and warmth of an acoustic guitar. When one gets to hear the real thing on a regular basis, as I am blessed to be able to do at home, it makes for a compelling comparison for music reproduction in a sound system.

It was after completing the review and comparison of the Legacy’s with the Axiom M100’s that Ian Colquhoun, founder/president of Axiom and someone who is also a proponent of the blind listening test, asked me to try out his new LFR-1100’s in our home. The 1100’s take the basic M100 and add rear firing midranges and tweeters along with a DSP to bring together this new concept of the “sound power curve.” There is a wealth of information about this “power curve” concept, which is, 4 years after I received the LFR-1100’s, starting to get notice from companies like Magnepan and other high end speaker companies. The basic idea is a sound one (forgive the pun): A speaker with a proper sound curve will have an on axis frequency response that is almost identical to the response “average” of several measurements taking in a sphere of the horizontal and vertical axis of the loudspeaker. The only exception is the power curve will have a gradual roll off above 100 Hz. The speaker with a proper power curve is the speaker will sound more like musical instruments than will a speaker that measures poorly in the power curve measurement.

I received the LFR-1100’s in late 2015, and for the first 2.5 years, until they were my reference speakers. They then split duty with the Ohm Walsh SSC-4900’s. Both are tremendous speakers, capable of an almost full range sound and a massive sound stage in both width and depth. The Ohms, being an almost crossover less design (just a supertweeter to extend the highs) having a slight edge in transparency. The Axioms had a large edge in dynamics and flexibility, and are a much easier speaker to drive. Both speakers are capable of bringing that “you are almost there” feel to any music – from Mozart to Guns N Roses.

As good as these speakers are, it was still a thought process that there was a speaker/amp combo that would bring even more of a live experience to the listening room. I auditioned Magnepan 20.7, Magico S-5, B&W Diamond 800 D3 and Goldenear Reference Tritons. Of these, only the Magnepans had that ability to disappear. The only problem with them is they need a huge amp and are really difficult to place.

We are now up to late spring of 2019, and Ian Colquhoun, the founder and president of Axiom Audio, introduces this new active version of the LFR-1100. It takes the regular LFR-1100 and eliminates the crossover. In place, it has a DSP with a total of ten different response curves and crossovers – five for each speaker. There is a dedicated amp/dsp for the three 6.5 inch long throw woofers, the two front firing 5.25 mids, the two front firing tweeters, the two rear firing 5.25 mids and the rear firing tweeters. Yes, this also means 10 channels of amplification and a fairly complex set up. It also means each driver/amp combo benefits from a limited bandwidth.

Let’s look at one set of drivers: the two front firing 5.25 inch midranges. These two drivers get a dedicated amplifier to cover their operating range from 200 to 2000 Hz. If your music has a powerful kick drum with a fundamental of 40 Hz that taxes the amplifier driving the woofers, it will have no effect on the amp that is driving the mid range driver’s 200-2000 Hz bandwidth. You will have TEN channels of amplification driving these speakers, with NO crossover between the amplifier and the drivers. The added benefit of no phase/loss issues that all crossovers bring to the table made hearing these speakers a compelling thing.

Custom order and woodwork: After making the decision to order the speakers, as has been the case in the past, I had to decide which wood finish I wanted on them. Axiom uses real wood on all their speakers, and I went with a beautiful semi-gloss Oak with a Cinnamon accent. The order was place, and the waiting began. Also with the order was a pair of Axiom ADA-1500-5 amps – one dedicated five channel amp with 325 watts (8 ohms) available for each of the 5 sets of drivers in each speaker. These amps will deliver 4500 watts on music peaks, and with the fairly high sensitivity of the LFR-1100’s, there was high confidence that these speakers would have no issues with dynamics.

They arrived about 6 weeks later, which is pretty good for a custom build speaker pair. The finish is excellent, and the speakers look like big, well made pieces of furniture. They stand four feet tall, so they are going to be noticed. I love the look.

Setting them up: When taking two large speakers, two beast amps, two DSP’s 12 XLR cables, 20 pairs of Banana plugs and cutting 10 sets of speaker wire to put together a “stereo system,” be prepared to spend about three hours putting it all together. It’s more work than the typical system, and there is a sense of pride when you finish the project. The rest of the system is a Marantz 7703 pre-amp processor and a Yamaha CD-S2100 SACD player that measures as well as many $15,000 units, but is only $3000. I love finding great values, and both the Marantz and Yamaha punch well above their price point.

Our main listening room is a great place for listening to speakers. It is 44 feet long and 15 feet wide, with a staircase about 2/3 the way back of the listening position. The walls and floor are concrete, and the ceiling acoustic tile. The carpeting is over a thick pad, and drywall is over 2x4 with thick insulation. The room is very inert, a hand clap will have no echo. When the set up was complete, the speakers were 31 inches from the front wall, 2 feet in from the side walls, and no toe in. The backs of the speakers are angled slightly, and the angle faced out.

FINALLY, it’s time to listen.

How do they sound? I spend a lot of time listening to unamplified music. My youngest is in his 4th year of a 5 year music program at the university level, and he loves acoustic guitar. He and my daughter also play the piano, and the daughter is also a singer, including opera. I also see live jazz at our country club on a regular basis. Real music is my ultimate comparison for any loudspeaker.

Acoustic Guitar: The first disc was a CD of Acoustic Guitar masters. There is no singing, nor other instruments. It is all guitar without amplification. It was apparent fairly quickly that Axiom was on to something great with these active speakers. Each song had different styles, and the actives presented the weight of the instrument with a naturalness that is impossible to find short of spending a lot more money. This presentation I was hearing reminded me a lot of the Magico S-5 speakers being driven by $40,000 in McIntosh amps. The low end when the performer struck the body of the guitar was there, but without any un-natural boom. I decided the disc warranted a second listen, but this time, I walked around the room. No matter where I went, it was a guitar that I heard. This is where the power sound curve, or what Ian Colquhoun calls the family of curves, shows its mettle.

Pink Floyd “Pulse”: I have been a Pink Floyd fan since my college days. Pulse has been a long time favorite as the band added some extra funk to the sound. The Active LFR-1100’s rocked this CD without the need for a subwoofer. The sound effects are incredible – I thought the chopper was inbound. Is there ANYONE who doesn’t know that chopper? No system has ever done what the actives did with this effect. With two speakers, the helicopter flew in from behind you, and finally settled between the speakers. The hard driving bass on “Learning to Fly” was rendered with almost subwoofer level power. And it was TIGHT – no overhang at all.

The Cowboy Junkies: “Trinity Session”: This is another classic disc for review. Once again, it is unamplified music captured by a single microphone at Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity. When Margot starts singing “Mining for Gold,” she is in the room. This is a song that makes ordinary speakers sound ordinary. For the first time, I was hearing Margot sound like herself, even when walking to the sides of the speakers. Most make her sound suddenly muffled when off axis, but the Actives let her sing, no matter where you were sitting – or standing. The disc then goes to “Misguided Angel,” which is a haunting song about a woman who finds her man, faults and all, and is telling her family why he is her “one.” It’s an emotional song, and the Actives gave me goose bumps. The rest of the disc is stellar, and once again, I found the actives brought music to life.

I was now grading the recording: It was after 3 discs that I realized that I was starting to review the recording and its level of quality instead of the quality of the speakers. For example, the SACD of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon doesn’t come close to the Pulse CD, in terms of sound Quality. I tried Bob Seger’s Live Bullet album. On the actives, it is blatantly obvious that the performance was recorded on multiple microphones. The audience is actually on stage with Seger in the presentation. This was not natural, but it was fun. It didn’t matter what disc I played, the Actives were giving me what the engineers put on the disc.

This is what makes the Actives so special – they deliver music. I could go on about the 100 other discs I have tried with these speakers, but instead I encourage you to try a pair for yourself. If you love music as much as I do, you may find these are the last speakers you need to purchase. They are that good.
 
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