Phillips Design OH-16 Omnidirectional
Phillips Design made a bit of a splash at AXPONA in April of 2023, with their inaugural display of the Phillips Design OH-16 Omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers. Unable to attend AXPONA 2023; I was more than pleased with the opportunity to review a pair. These stylish loudspeakers arrived via freight, in a crate much larger than anticipated. Receiving a well-traveled demo pair, it is unknown whether standard production (consumer) speakers will be shipped the same way.
Once unlocked, the crate door swings out to reveal both speakers. While well-designed, it still required two people to maneuver the speakers from the crate. Weighing 78 lbs each; while not extremely heavy, the round speakers require careful handling. With wood (usually teak) slats towards the top, and the 12" carbon fiber composite cone located on the bottom; careful handling is a must. Once in place in the Audio Room (thanks for the help, Timmy), the protective cloth covers were removed to reveal the speakers.
To say the Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers are unique would be an understatement. My initial impression was being transported back to the late 1960's or early 1970's. Think retro. Think artwork. Think of retro-modern-styled loudspeakers.
Phillips Design sent a pair of demo speakers that showcase the many finishes (upholstery, wood, and more) choices available to the consumer. Before me was the Phillips Design OH-16 speaker finished in deep red leather with white stitching and polished aluminum support legs. The other OH-16 was finished in a light tan colored base fabric with dark wood support legs. The Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional speakers can be finished in numerous combinations.
Phillips Design's customization selections (called Oh! Products) are available in six different solid surface options, seven different wood species, and eight different upholsteries, plus leather, each in multiple colors. That's over 5,124 unique combinations to ensure it matches your home decor and style. All this for an amazing price point of $8,800 to $11,500 per pair. Currently under development; Phillips Design is working on the OH-14 (14" tube with a 10" woofer) and the OH-12 (12" tube with an 8" woofer). To top it off, they are made in the USA (Grand Rapids, Michigan to be precise).
As noted by Phillips Design, this particular review pair had been "around the block". At times we reviewers expect this as high-performance hard-working examples are shipped multiple times from location to location, and so it is normal that review examples are not 100% aesthetically perfect. Under close inspection, one could see that some of the wood slats had been broken, glued back together, and reinstalled. Having cats in our home for many years, it was also not surprising to find a few claw marks on the beautiful red leather speaker, as we were connecting the speaker cables. None of these blemishes are visible if standing more than a foot away. More importantly, none of these cosmetic blemishes caused any audio anomalies. This proves the high quality and durability of Phillips Design's OH-16 speakers.
Placement And Gear
For room placement, they recommended 18" to 24" from the back wall, and 36" from the side walls. They also recommended a review of page 6 of the user guide. Being a proud Audiophile, user guides and manuals are generally tucked away before the boxes are moved to the garage. As this was the first set of omnidirectional speakers auditioned in this room; a little education would be required.
Phillips Design also mentioned that as an omnidirectional speaker, the 'on axis' response is a horizontal plane about 32.25" from the floor. This information helped. With a better understanding of the speakers and speaker placement; they were carefully moved into the recommended spots.
The next track was Norah Jones's "Come Away with Me" [192kHz/24-bit) and sounded better, filling the room with a preferred musical fullness and warmth. While not the live recording sound I was accustomed to; the midrange was much improved. There was a clear blending of the vocals, from mid to the mid-high range. A smooth transition was heard from the midrange to the tweeter and back. I decided to go back to the rest of my favorite Ed Sheeran songs, including "Galway Girl", "Eraser", "Perfect", "Barcelona" and "Castle on the Hill" before stopping for the afternoon. The change in speaker placement greatly affected the entire soundscape.
Dialing In The Phillips Design
The OH-16s are omnidirectional three-way speakers, described by Phillips Design as designed with a "6" point-source co-axial driver, with its 1" soft dome tweeter and 6" polypropylene / TPX cone midrange driver, together in a rigid die-cast aluminum chassis". The internal electronics are described as, "and 3" flat-wire copper-aluminum voice coil, supported in an ultra-rigid die-cast aluminum chassis. Housed in an acoustic-suspension (sealed) enclosure". The 12" woofer is made of a non-woven carbon fiber. According to Phillips Design, the speakers also boast a computer-optimized crossover, made with superior components from Clarity, Solen, and others.
The polished silver conic reflector is the only visible sign that this may be something other than a work of art. I was always drawn to the bright red leather speaker with the polished aluminum support legs. The polished reflector peeking through the wooden slats puts the design over the top.
The Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers excelled at reproducing Classical music. Not represented in my demo list as much as it once was; the "360 sound" filled my Audio Room with selections of Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 [FLAC 96kHz/24-bit]) and Holst: The Planets.
Time to go back to the female performers with Alicia Keys "Kill Your Mama" [FLAC 44.1kHz/24-bit], and Norah Jones "Come Away With Me" [192kHz/24-bit] (again). Female vocals are a sweet spot for these speakers. Mostly mid-range in timbre, these performances came through very cleanly and clearly, with strong throaty performances. Short attacks and punchy, punchy midrange were repeatedly scribbled in my notepad, that evening. The OH-16s were now delivering a well-rounded, solid performance and neutral reproduction. The only this missing was (more) deep bass. The bass reproduction sounded just a bit thin.
An attempt at adding my SVS Ultra 13 subwoofer to the mix was unsuccessful. The initial pairing of the speakers and subwoofer went very well (selecting a roll-off at 60 Hz). This sounded fine, yet was still missing some deep low end (low to sub-low). The midrange was still focused and present but would bloom out of control, depending on the song. My personal "Demo of Destruction" playlist was not working with this setup.
"Don't Let Me Down" featuring Daya re-mix and "Never Forget You" MNEK re-mix are the first tracks on that list. I always play this list after matching the mid to low-bass roll-off to match my subwoofer. Tonight, it was not going to work. My Audio Research VT80SE amplifier was looking more and more like the culprit. The Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers have a frequency response of 30 Hz to 20 kHz, a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms, a sensitivity of 88dB/W/m, and can handle 200 Watts continuous (350 Watts per channel RMS peak). These speakers can take some power!
Enter The Bryston 4B SST2 Amplifier
The Audio Research VT80SE amplifier was removed from the VTI stand and replaced with the Bryston 4B SST2 amplifier. The Phillips Design OH-16 loudspeakers are optimized for bi-wire amplification. Being eager to utilize the full power of the Bryston 4B SST2 amplifier, I was able to borrow a pair of two-meter Kimber Kable BiFocal-XL speaker cables. The OH-16 speakers feature five-way binding posts and 12-gauge rope-lay OFC internal wiring. With some assistance, the speakers were connected by the afternoon.
Much is written about sound space. It means something different to every person, every reviewer. As my Audio Room (with significant soundproofing) is very quiet, you can "feel" the walls when you close your eyes. To that end, you could feel (whether), the sound was touching the near and far walls or not.
A Dramatic And Welcomed Change
Time permitting, Sam Smith's CD The Thrill Of It All was compared to the downloaded hi-res tracks [FLAC 88kHz/24-bit], and this is always a great way to test speaker fidelity and the aural power of the OPPO BPD-205 UHD Blu-ray player. After all, we were running out of time with these review samples! With that said, I also needed a good hour to carefully re-pack the speakers before the truck arrived. There was just enough time to end where I began. Once more, Pink "What About Us" [FLAC 44.1kHz/24-bit] was selected. This time the result was far better and sonically sweeter.
With just hours to spare, the Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers could do just that. They reproduce music with such a wide dynamic range that you would assume they stood six feet tall. They reproduce vocals with such detail and clarity, and in fact, you'd assume they cost twice as much. With the Bryston amplifier, the bass was present and properly forward and strong. Nice, tight, fast responsive bass.
If you are considering the Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers, there are a few factors you will need to consider. The first is power.
The Phillips Design OH-16 omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers crave (and can handle) amplification with excellent grunt and power. Give them some. Plenty, if you have it. Had my Bryston 4B SST2 amplifier been sitting in my rack (instead of on a repair bench); it would have been swapped out early in the review process.
The next factor is the room. My Audio Room is 16' x 14' x 10' (DxWxH) with wood diffusers in the front, acoustic panels on the sides and back, and acoustic waves dropping the ceiling height to 8' 6". The room and acoustic treatments were designed for your standard front-firing, normally toed-in a bit loudspeaker placement. The Phillips Design OH-16s are omnidirectional three-way loudspeakers, and so may take a bit more effort to achieve the best from them. Rest assured your efforts are well rewarded too.
After weeks of positioning (and repositioning) the speakers, it's obvious to me that the only way to accurately set up the speakers would be to modify my acoustic treatments for omnidirectional speakers.
A Final Thought
Tweeter: 1" pre-coated fabric dome, rare-earth magnet, point source integration with the midrange driver.
Midrange: 6" polypropylene / TPX polymer cone, cast aluminum frame, massive magnet, rubber surround.
Woofer: 12" carbon fiber composite cone, cast aluminum frame, 3" flat-wire voice coil, massive magnet assembly, high-excursion rubber surround, and extensive thermal management.
Crossover: Three-way @ 12 dB/octave (computer optimized)
Enclosure Design: Acoustic Suspension (sealed)
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Dimensions: 38.375" x 16.625" x 16.625" (H x W x D)
Weight: 78 lbs. each
Warranty: Limited three-year warranty (non-transferable)
Price: $8,800 to $11,500 per pair depending on finish options