Forty years ago, the Ohm F speaker was a game-changer; it still is

The Ohm Acoustics F omnidirectional speaker was such a radical advance in 1972 few 21st century speakers can match its sound.

The Ohm F speakers Ohm

Lincoln Walsh died a year before his radically innovative speaker technology made its commercial debut in the Ohm Acoustics F in 1972. The speaker featured an omnidirectional Walsh driver that projected a massive stereo soundstage. At the time of its introduction the $900 per pair Ohm F was hailed as one of the greatest speakers of all time by the international press. It sounded like nothing else, and the single 12-inch, truncated cone driver produced bass, midrange and treble frequencies (37Hz to 17kHz). The driver had a titanium top section, aluminum midband and paper bottom, with a single voice-coil at the top of the driver. Even today, bona-fide full-frequency drivers like that are rare. The Ohm drivers and cabinets were made in Brooklyn.

According to Ohm's President John Strohbeen, the early production Fs had "functionality issues." "They needed 300 watts to get going, and 301 to blow them up," Strohbeen said with a chuckle. Ohm couldn't repair them, so they replaced broken drivers under warranty. The engineers kept redesigning the driver to improve reliability, but it was the introduction of ferrofluid-cooled voice coils that cured the F's reliability woes.

Unlike box speakers that project sound forward, the F radiated bass, midrange and treble frequencies in a full 360-degree pattern. The sound quality was so far ahead of what was available from conventional box speakers the F remained in production for 12 years, until 1984, but by that time the price had more than quadrupled to $3,995 per pair!

The Ohm Acoustics factory is still in Brooklyn, and still offers factory upgrades on the F speakers. That's remarkable -- how many companies do you know that still service 40-year-old products -- but that's what separates high-end audio from mainstream gear. Ohm currently offers a complete line of Walsh omni-directional speakers, with prices starting at $1,400 per pair. Ohm sells factory direct, with a very generous 120-day home trial period.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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