February 23, 2007

Onix Reference 3

A couple of years ago, Kris Deering wrote a glowing review of Onix Reference 3 speakers. Since then, I've seriously considered them as my ideal upgrade step, in part because at Internet-direct pricing they provide a lot more value than anything else. I've just completed that upgrade with excellent results. Our theater now runs Onix Reference 3 for mains, Onix Reference 100 for the center, and Onix Reference 1 for the surrounds.

In comparision to the Onix Reference 1 (read my impressions), the Onix Reference 3 has better very high frequency reproduction, better off-axis response, and feels less dry to me without losing any of its accuracy. The Ref 3's happened to arrive in the middle of a smoke alarm sequence and the alarm sounded more realistic on the Ref 3 than the Ref 1. I feel the Ref 3 audio reproduction is slightly better, probably due to the smaller operating range of the two woofers. That may be why the sound was less dry.

I have also set the Ref 3 crossover at 50Hz, although 40Hz was a close contender and in other rooms I'm sure you could look at a 30Hz crossover. In comparison, the Ref 100 crossover point is 70Hz which is also close to where you can set the Ref 1 crossover. I try to avoid using ports because of the issues with group delay and in my room ports don't contribute much at these high frequencies. I've only experienced rear-ported speakers in this room.

I did some non-blind subjective comparisons of tweeter response with and without the grilles using one of the early scenes in Moulin Rouge where they're first rehearshing Spectacular, Spectacular. There are some strange high frequency sounds there and at this scene I found the very high frequency reproduction to be slightly attenuated with the grilles on. My non-blind grilles on/off tests on anything below may have revealed a slight difference but I can't be sure. I am fairly sure on the very high frequencies as without the grilles my ears felt a little harsh. I have since removed all grilles from all of the speakers.

The Ref 3 and Ref 100 reproduce the vocal range extremely well. It is much easier to distinguish and also identify in the first place when there are multiple voices singing together. This can be heard on any music tracks that involve a backup singer who was put in to add body or character to the primary singer, and also in Moulin Rouge where many of the pieces are sung in chorus. Cabinet resonance is very good although not completely inert at normal volumes.

I was a little worried that the Ref 100 would not match as well with the Ref 3, but the timbre is pretty much perfect so far as I can tell so far. The Ref 100 may be a tiny bit off from the Ref 3 and closer to the Ref 1, but I have only heard that phenomenon a few times and it may have been due to Dolby Pro Logic decoding. Using Dolby Pro Logic IIx decoding removed that symptom. I was also a little concerned about the MTM design of the Ref 100 over a WMTW design, but it doesn't seem to be an issue after all. It was definitely an issue with the Monitor Audio Silver SLCR center chanel; the SLCR sounded closer to the Monitor Audio Silver S8 when positioned vertically instead of horizontally.

Overall, the Ref 3 provides very accurate audio reproduction across its entire operating range including over the very high and low frequency bands, great off-axis response, and a seamless soundstage. My recommendation is to remove the grilles but you'd be hard pressed to consider it a real issue when the grilles are on.

Posted by josuah at February 23, 2007 9:28 PM UTC+00:00

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