For whatever reason there are not a lot of dynamic, high efficiency bookshelf loudspeakers out there. Over the years speakers have become more complicated and less efficient and for some reason bookshelf loudspeakers have seemingly suffered the worst. It doesn't make a lot of sense for you'd think bookshelf loudspeakers would have more simplified crossovers, be easier to drive and be easier to mass produce and yet that doesn't seem to be true, judging by the current crop of bookshelf loudspeakers available today. Hell, some bookshelf loudspeakers have efficiency ratings in the low to mid 80's, which is Magnepan territory if you think about it. Thankfully there's Zu Audio and their latest bookshelf the OMEN Bookshelf.
The OMEN Bookshelf retails for $650 a pair and are sold direct via Zu's own website. They measure 18 inches tall by 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. They weigh 35 pounds apiece, thanks in part to their solid MDF construction. Their cabinet is wrapped in real wood veneer and comes standard in three finishes: Ghost Black, Honey Walnut and Sangria Red. Custom finishes are available at an extra cost including automotive paint schemes a-la Wilson Audio. The OMEN Bookshelf features Zu Audio's trademark 10-inch full-range driver mated to a billet super tweeter. The OMEN Bookshelf's reported frequency response is 50 to 25,000Hz and employs no crossovers or filters. The OMEN Bookshelf's super tweeter isn't crossed over into the full-range driver; instead it adds sparkle to the sonic performance beginning at 12,000Hz. Earlier I mentioned the OMEN Bookshelf is efficient, which it is, boasting an efficiency rating of 98dB into a nominal 12-Ohm load, making it ideal for a wide range of electronics, be they entry level to high-end. The OMEN Bookshelf can be powered on as little as four Watts on up to 200, which is its maximum recommended input power rating.
In terms of sound the OMEN Bookshelf has a lot in common with its other OMEN stable mates; that is to say it's articulate, smooth and largely uncolored throughout the midrange with remarkable speed and clarity across the entire frequency spectrum. The OMEN Bookshelf has surprising bass for its size and build, though a subwoofer will be necessary for true full-range performance. Dynamically the OMEN Bookshelf's are stunning and are also capable of playing plenty loud despite being a compact bookshelf loudspeaker. The OMEN Bookshelf speakers also image well and completely disappear from the space, provided you've taken the time to set them up in your room properly.
Read about the high points and low points of the OMEN bookshelf speaker on Page 2.
• The OMEN Bookshelf's construction and build quality is first rate and though the standard finishes are limited, their appearance is far superior to anything you're bound to find at or near the OMEN Bookshelf's asking price.
• For those of you looking to support local businesses and the US economy, Zu Audio is one of the few brands that isn't currently outsourcing any of its products or their parts, not even the cabinets.
• For a compact bookshelf loudspeaker the OMEN Bookshelf speaker sounds decidedly larger than its footprint would have you believe; able to fill even medium sized rooms easily and without strain.
• The OMEN Bookshelf, like all of Zu's OMEN speakers, has an infectious midrange, one that is likely to spoil you and turn you against other, more traditional loudspeakers once you've heard it.
• The OMEN Bookshelf loudspeakers may cost $650 a pair but that isn't their true cost, for you have to budget for stands, stands that are not only solid but will also place the OMEN's 10-inch full-range driver smack at ear level (when seated). Stands of this nature tend not to be found at Wal-Mart and can reach upwards of $500 a pair.
• Another added cost if you care about full-range performance, is the addition of a subwoofer or two, for the Omen Bookshelf requires a sub to augment its low end performance.
• When placed in larger rooms or asked to do too much, the OMEN Bookshelf speakers will compress and sound a bit harsh, more so than traditional speakers, though if you keep things sane this isn't going to be too big an issue.
Competition and Comparison
There are a number of comparable bookshelf loudspeakers out there, some of which I've owned over their floorstanding counterparts. One such bookshelf speaker is Paradigm's Reference Studio 20 v.5 at $798 a pair. Another comparable bookshelf speaker would be Orb Audio's Classic One Stereo Speaker system, which retails for $549 and includes a subwoofer. Of course there's also Tekton's Model 65t at $600 a pair direct or Model 81t at $650 a pair direct. Both are handmade in the USA, are high efficiency high value loudspeakers with virtually identical specs to that of the OMEN Bookshelf.
For more information on bookshelf loudspeakers including the latest news and reviews, please visit Home Theater Review's Bookshelf Loudspeaker page.
For $650 a pair direct you can do worse than Zu Audio's OMEN Bookshelf loudspeaker though you'd be hard pressed to do better, unless you felt like spending some big money - say $2,000 or more. Given the fact that the OMEN Bookshelf is made by hand, in the US no less, and possesses the type of performance it does, it's nothing short of incredible. Sure it has some competition and needs a few things, mainly a subwoofer and stands, to sound its best; it's still an incredible loudspeaker and one worth an audition. Who knows, you may decide to move up the Zu Audio line and make the OMEN Bookshelf speakers the rear channels in an all Zu Audio home theater down the road.