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Product Review - Mirage OM-C2 Center Channel Speaker - October, 1998

Brian Florian

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Mirage OM-C2 Center Channel Speaker

Dual Chamber Shielded Omnipolar 2-Way with Five Drivers: Two 1" Titanium Tweeters, Two 5 1/2" Polypropylene Mid-Bass Drivers, One 5 1/2" Passive Radiator

Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms

Sensitivity: 91 dB/w/m

Manufacturer's FR Specs: 38 Hz - 22 kHz ± 3 dB

Size: 7 3/8" H x 24 5/8" W x 12 1/8" D

Weight: 30 Pounds

MSRP: $750 USA

 

Audio Products International, 3641 McNicoll Avenue, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada M1X 1G5; Phone 416-321-1800; Fax 416-321-1500; E-Mail Jeff Percy; Web http://www.miragespeakers.com/

I love speakers.

I like to listen to them, I like to look at them. And when I can do neither of these, I like to read about them. In my over-stuffed binder of brochures and magazine reviews, one company makes for particularly good reading. The literature is interesting and the press is usually favorable. I'm talking about Mirage. Not satisfied to make just another good speaker, this company seeks to set new trends in loudspeaker design, highly advocating the bipolar concept. Their newest claim to fame is something they call Omnipolar. To put it one sentence, omnipolar seeks to radiate sound the same way a real saxophone, human voice, or exploding car does: in all directions. If you want to read the details of the philosophy, click here for Mirage's own detailed, yet layman's paper on the subject.

The newest addition to the Omnipolar family is the OM-C2 which to the naked eye would appear to be a bipolar center channel speaker. Having listened to the flagship OM-6s as a stereo pair (and having been substantially impressed), I was eager to find out if all this theory could be put into practice within the confines of a single center channel speaker.

The OM-C2 arrived remarkably well packed, virtually encased in styrofoam. Good thing, as this is no feather weight speaker, and couriers can be unforgiving. The driver complement consists of a tweeter/mid-bass combo centered both on the front baffle and again on the rear. To the extreme right of the front baffle is the passive radiator, and on the rear is the flared port (so then, there is a tweeter, active mid-bass, and passive radiator mid-bass on the front, and a tweeter plus active mid-bass on the rear). Mirage OM-C2 Binding PostsOpposite the port are the all metal bi-wire/bi-ampable speaker binding posts. No plastic nuts here. I got the impression early-on that this speaker is destined for high-performance installations. The finish is one that is becoming a Mirage signature: a black grillecloth "sock" envelops the unit longitudinally, terminating at both ends with drawstrings and piano-gloss end caps. Though this configuration successfully discourages the traditional "show off the drivers to friends", the overall appearance is elegant!

As original as it is in its appearance, so too in its technology. The mid-bass driver cones are surrounded by butyl and are made of mica-loaded polypropylene, a material found by Mirage to offer the best balance of mass, stiffness, dynamics, and response. The basket is of an injected molded copolymer, glass filled. Though cast baskets dramatically diminished the ringing artifact of stamped steel, Mirage still was not satisfied, so they've gone spaceage. This also allows them more consistency in manufacturing and performance. A question which was on my mind quite a bit was answered by one of Mirage's designers Andrew Welker: Why go with both a port and passive radiator? The answer made more common sense than I'd imagined. To boil it down: They get the best of both worlds. Ports give them remarkable bass, but they have the "chuffing" artifact and may smear the upper bass or lower midrange. That design is thus relegated to the rear baffle, and the passive driver, tuned to balance with the port on the back, radiates the lower end with control and tightness towards the front.

As our house guest for a few weeks, the OM-C2 took its place between the Paradigm Mini-Monitors, opposite the Titans, and above the PS-1000. All are tied to the Yamaha 592 and CD player of similar pedigree. Pro Logic material is courtesy of VHS and Cable, Dolby Digital courtesy a borrowed Panasonic A310 DVD player. AudioStream and Ultra Link ties everything together.

Positive speaker reviews have several things in common: "good (flat) frequency response", "neutral sound (freedom from coloration) ", and "clean, tight bass". Technology and manufacturing have come to the point where, at $1,000 street price, a speaker darn well better have these basic characteristics. And no surprise, the OM-C2 is excellent in these basic comment categories. What I would like to do then is expand on what sets this speaker apart from others in and out of its category.

As I look over my notes, I notice a reccurring comment: "Very real". If everyone understood the English language where this term meant the same to us all, that might be the whole review in a nutshell. I listened for extended periods to very familiar music using Pro Logic, and what I heard was very pleasing to my ears. The cymbals on the newly remastered "Wish You Were Here" were very credible, taking on extra layers of detail. The very lyrical "Pieces of You" achieved a greater presence, warm and ambience. Holly Cole, a sultry voice with just a hint of edge, was reproduced with startling reality. Male vocals fared just as well with the benchmark Laysmith Black Mambazo singing sans-accompaniment. It is truly a unique experience to hear this speaker. The sound does not emanate from a single point but rather from a sphere about 1.5 meters diameter (well, I guess that is what Mirage is trying to achieve).

With movies and broadcast television programs, performance was so realistic, it often caused me to forget to listen for the speaker and just enjoy Seinfeld, "Tomorrow Never Dies", etc. Of particular note is that the sound is equally good throughout the room, even far off center.

Bass performance was a real treat. If you are one of the people obsessed with Pro Logic's "wide" center mode or like to run your Dolby Digital decoder for "large center", you must audition this piece. Though results in your particular listening room may vary, we obtained substantial output at 48 Hz, and still very audible bass at 25 Hz!! While listening to the OM-C2 a-la-solo, I had to check once or twice to make sure I switched off the mains and sub.

Along those same lines, power handling was superb. The low end sounded even better as we pushed the envelope. Our VCR has the previously useless feature of being able to render any input signal as mono. By putting it in the tape loop and wiring the left amp to the OM-C2's upper posts and the right amp to the low, we effectively bi-amped the piece. At what felt like (I say felt) concert levels of clear output, I called it quits. In this configuration, I found music to be astonishingly enjoyable. Imagine if it were flanked by others like it . . . .

For all the positive, there are two potential Achilles heals I must mention. Due to its unique sound and radiation, it may be very difficult to find suitable left and right matches outside of Mirage's own Ominipolar series. We always recommend staying with one manufacture across the front anyway, but perhaps even more so in this case. The flip side to this coin of course is that if you are fortunate enough to harbor a pair of OM-6s, this is probably the center to get, period. The other consideration is that of placement, a challenge all center speakers unfortunately have. Though the owners manual states that 12" of clearance around the unit will give acceptable results, the difference between that and open space is very obvious in this design. Not that it sounds bad if too near a surface, it's just a shame to curtail that which is unique about the design. So, in other words, try to position it on top of things and somewhat forward, rather than in or amongst cabinetry.

Conclusion: At a time when even the best of manufacturers tend to put all their efforts into great mains and then come out with "cookie-cutter" mid-tweet-mid center speakers, the OM-C2 is a breath of fresh air. It achieves convincing, credible sound through forward-thinking and original design. An audition is therefore recommended whether it is in your price range or not, to appreciate what breaking with tradition can bring about.

Brian Florian


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