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The Mobile Fidelity Original Master Loudspeaker-2 (OML-2)

Mo-Fi Mo-Music

Dave Thomas

September 2004


Makes Mo Sense

A year ago, while reviewing the excellent Chesky Audio C-1 loudspeakers, I had the same thought that I did when I recently began reviewing the new Mobile Fidelity Original Master Loudspeaker-2 (OML-2): “Who better to design a loudspeaker than a company that remasters music and needs the very best quality monitor to judge the reproduction of recorded music?” Made sense to me.

Apparently it made sense to Mobile Fidelity as well. “We needed a speaker to use in post-production that was good enough for testing our mixes, and would represent a high-quality speaker that a consumer might have at home,” said Jason Ressler, Director of Product Development for Mobile Fidelity/Music Direct who corresponded with me during the review process. “From the time Music Direct purchased Mobile Fidelity almost four years ago, the vision was to continue Mobile Fidelity's tradition of reference level recordings of really great music. However, when our engineers in Sebastopol asked for high quality post-production monitors for their new re-masters, we couldn't find any reasonably priced speakers that had the resolution or tonality we expected. So, we set out to build our own.”

What MoFI has come up with in the OML-2 is an elegant, thoughtfully designed, floor-standing loudspeaker that covers so much of what many music and home theater lovers thrive on and all for the price of $2,299! Actually, the OML-2s start at $1,999 in black and go up to $2,800 for a high-gloss walnut finish. The pair I had came in a gorgeous rosewood.

Mo Than Just Looks

Aesthetically, the OML-2 will make an addition to your listening or family room that would make those maniacs on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover-Home Edition” drool. And better still, it will do this without a space-eating footprint and will still fill even a sizeable room with believable music and motion picture sound. This means there’ll still be plenty of room for that Persian palm plant that the wife insists on “greening up” the room with. Also, one of many nice added touches are a pair of gorgeous blue satin bags with the MFSL logo embroidered on them to cover the speakers when they’re not being used. Wonderful thinking!

The 38” high, front-ported, MDF cabinets have a slightly sloped (5 degrees) and chamfered 1” thick front baffle (reminiscent of the early Avalon designs) and the side and rear baffles are ¾” thick. They are clad in gorgeous real wood, book matched veneers. Each cabinet sits on a black beveled plinth base that has four heavy-duty machined black stainless steel isolation cones that are threaded into them to help couple the speaker through a carpeted floor to improve bass articulation (stainless steel discs and rubber feet are also supplied to keep from damaging hardwood floors). Before attaching the bases you can also mass load the bottom of the cabinets to increase the cabinet’s rigidity and further tighten the bass if necessary.

All parts on the OML-2s are custom made just for Mobile Fidelity, including the 12-gauge 99.999% oxygen free copper internal wiring and the bi-wirable sets of slick-looking, easy to turn binding posts. By spending a few extra dollars MoFi found that they could have parts that were made to do exactly what they wanted and even save money. “By having the drivers custom made for us we found that we could save a lot of labor and cost on the crossover,” said Ressler. MoFi customizes and voices their own drivers 1 ½” silk dome tweeter and two (2) 6 ½” midrange/woofers. Customizing drivers also has the added benefit of reducing the demands on the crossover design. “The one thing that the driver manufacturer kept telling us was if you build a driver to do what you want it to do, you don't need to "fix" its performance in the crossover,” said Ressler. Again, makes sense to me.

Mo Power

One thing that I did find surprising about this design was the fact that despite its sleek appearance it is only 84db sensitive and does benefit from higher current amplification. When I first began listening to these speakers it was via a 75 watt Sony receiver that I connected in my den just to begin breaking the speakers in. Even in that setup the treble sounded clear and focused while I listened to Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz and some other FM jazz programming offered by National Public Radio on Sunday afternoons (WBEZ FM 91.5 in Chicago). The bass on the other hand was loose and wooly. This was largely due to the speaker’s lower woofer, which has an enormous under-hung voice coil, nearly 4lb magnet structure and an extremely stiff suspension. The result is a bass driver that has surprisingly powerful bass output capabilities and with little distortion as long as it is adequately powered. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need the 600-watt amplifiers that are my reference to harness these drivers and tighten up the bass. I also got great results from the little Soaring Audio SLC A300, which at only 100 watts a channel puts out a lot of current for good bass control.

Mo Better Music

The mark of a really exciting loudspeaker or any component for that matter, is its ability to make the listener start digging up old recordings just to see if they will sound renewed by the new equipment. This can really be a neat trick on me during the summer when frankly, I’d much rather be spending every free moment on a golf course trying to find new ways to break 100 than to be sitting in the house listening to music. But that is exactly what happened on a number of occasions during my time with these speakers.

Getting them unpacked and setup was a snap. These babies come ready to go right out of the box. MoFi has a thoughtfully written owner’s manual that makes setting these speakers up absolutely idiot proof even for a non-technically oriented music lover. The manual actually tells you the effects of certain speaker placements, such as if you put the speakers close to a wall that you will get more bass and if you put the speakers close to a hard surface (such as a glass door) that you will get more high-frequency extension. How thoughtful is that. I could heartily recommend these speakers to anyone just based on the attention to such a small detail. I placed the OML-2s about 4’ from the rear walls and 10’ apart with a slight toe-in. That’s all they need. They were ready to go.

But getting back to their performance with music, the OML-2 was splendid with all kinds of material. As I mentioned earlier I was immediately taken with the speakers treble reproduction. The soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring [Warner Brothers] was particularly nice to listen to. Track 10, “The Council Of Elrond” features Enya’s hypnotic vocals on the song ‘Aniron’ (Theme For Aragorn And Arwen). Her voice seemed to hover in the center of the stage and pierce the space between the speakers with lifelike height and perspective. This is no easy feat given Enya’s highly engineered vocal production. At the other end of the spectrum of female vocal performances from movie soundtracks is Cynda Williams’ stunning rendition of “Harlem Blues” from the jazz-based Spike Lee film Mo’ Better Blues [Columbia CK 46792]. This has to be one of the most underappreciated jazz soundtracks of the last twenty years. It features a band comprised of Branford Marsalis on tenor sax, the late Kenny Kirkland on piano, Robert Hurst on bass, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, and Terrence Blanchard on trumpet. “Harlem Blues” is the first track on this disc and sadly the only one that features Williams’ voice, which is presented in all of its sultriness via the OML-2s. But even the up-tempo second track “Say Hey” and the mellow title track “Mo’ Better Blues” allow the listener to enjoy what really feels like a jam session with some extremely talented musicians who are very comfortable playing together as Marsalis and Blanchard are. Getting into another soundtrack that found me pressing the repeat button a lot was the supremely gifted Brad Mehldau’s performance of the Neil Young’s “Old Man” from the Space Cowboys soundtrack [Warner Bros. 9 47848-2]. The OML-2s created a tight soundstage and never muddied the performances together even when I pushed the volume to more realistic levels. One of the few shortcomings I noted of the Chesky was a slight loss of composure when pushed to louder volume levels. Not so with the Mobile Fidelity which had decidedly larger sound capacity compared to the Chesky though the Chesky may be slightly quicker through the treble and mid-bass.

Okay, okay, you’re probably saying to yourself “Gosh, didn’t this doorknob use any MoFi discs to judge their speakers?” Well of course I did, though I must admit to not having as many of their discs in my collection as I had thought; something that I’ll have to take up with Jason at the next CES. But if you read the review I recently did on the Opera Audio Consonance SACD player you would know that using MoFi’s discs for component evaluation is not something new to me. Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul [MFSL UDSACD 2005] and Steamin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet [MFSL UDSACD 2019] were both used in that review as well as this but I also enjoyed MoFi’s SACD presentation of The Kinks’ Everybody’s In Show-Biz [MFSL UDSACD 2010]. Particularly good are the live performances of Ray Davies and the band on tracks like “Top of the Pops” and “Brainwashed” which are actually showcases of Ray’s excellent lead guitar playing brother Dave. The OML-2s ability to accurately re-create believable instrument scale and placement really brings this recording to life.

No Mo to say

There’s not much else to say about this splendid first foray into loudspeaker development by a company who should know what they’re doing. There is also a stand-mounted monitor called the OML-1 that has all of the build quality and musicality of the OML-2 in a smaller but equally gorgeous package. According to Jason Ressler a center channel and subwoofer are in the works, which should thrill the home theater guys out there. “We don't want the center to be a "me-too" product; an add-on simply because of the multi-channel demands of the marketplace,” said Ressler. “We spent a long time on the design and the sound of the OML towers and the bookshelf and we are being very careful with our center channel, too.”

Mobile Fidelity has hit a home run with the OML-2 loudspeaker. It is very well built, loaded with custom-made parts, thoughtfully designed and packaged, and eminently musical. Best of all, at $2,299 it represents one of the best bargains in high-end audio. If your budget for an audiophile-grade loudspeaker is in the $3,000 to $5,000 price range you simply must put the OML-2 on your short list. You can save yourself some dough and have money to stock up on some of MoFi’s great catalog of music. Cheers!




Specifications:
Tweeter: 1.25" Silk Dome
Midrange: 6.5" Mica/Kevlar impregnated paper cone
Woofer: 6.5" Mica/Kevlar impregnated paper cone
Freq Response: 35Hz-22kHz
Impedance: 6 Ohms
Sensitivity: 84dB
Crossover Point: 300Hz, 3kHz
Crossover Slope: 12dB/octave
Base: Yes, removable plinth
Bi-wire: Yes
Magnetically Shielded: Yes
Baffle Angle: 5°
Internal Bracing: Dual Asymmetrical Vertical & Horizontal
Mass Loadable: Yes, internal compartment
Spiked: Yes, 8mm thread steel cones
Binding Posts: Custom Milled
Weight: 65lbs Each
Dimensions (HxWxD): 38"x8"x18"

Price: $1,999 - $2,800 (depending on finish)

Address:
Mobile Fidelity
318 N. Laflin Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607
800-449-8333 phone
312-433-0200 phone
312-433-0011 fax
http://www.mfsl.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Luminous Audio

Mobile Fidelity Original Master Loudspeaker 2