By Stuart Smith
AUDIO SOLUTIONS OVERTURE O305F LOUDSPEAKER REVIEW
Audio Solutions Overture O305F Loudspeakers hail from Lithuania, are a floorstanding three-way, and cost €4100. Stuart Smith goes to a party with them.
Of all the different things that come into HiFi Pig Towers for review, it is without doubt loudspeakers that I enjoy reviewing most of all.
Without wanting to stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy, it is loudspeakers (in my opinion) that have the biggest overall effect on a system and, invariably, it is where I would always recommend you spend the bigger proportion of your budget.
Many years before HiFi Pig was even a glint in my eye I read a comment on some forum or other that you should always invest most heavily on transducers (loudspeakers and cartridges) and I have taken this sage advice on board ever since, and still maintain it to be, by and large, a truth.
Audio Solutions was founded in the Autumn of 2011, are headed up by Gediminas Gaidelis and are based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The company produce three ranges of loudspeakers; Overture, Figaro, Virtuoso, and Vantage 5th anniversary, with the Overture range being the entry-level to the brand’s offerings.
The Overture range has a couple of centre speakers, a couple of standmounters, and three floorstanding speakers within it.
The O305F tops that range with the O3 signifying that it is the third iteration of this line – the previous MK2 are prefaced O205F.
Changes from the MK2 version of the speaker are “drastic” say Audio Solutions and it is a wholly different looking speaker – it’s also changed on the inside with new drivers, cabinet and crossover.
I suppose the question would be, why not call it something completely different if it is so changed a design, but that’s not why we are here.
DESIGN AND BUILD
What you get with the rather conventional-looking O305F (I’d like a name, please) is a three-way floorstander that has a 2.5cm silk dome tweeter, a 15.2cm paper mid, and two 18.3cm paper bass drivers.
The tweeter is interesting in that it employs “Mini Horn” loading that is designed to overcome the problem of soft domes distorting badly and flexing when driven hard.
Some loudspeakers overcome this problem by physically dampening the tweeter to stop the flex, whilst others stiffen the tweeter using the likes of titanium that is glued to the tweeter itself.
Audio Solutions reckon that it is preferable to dampen the tweeter in this speaker acoustically – and I’m going to refer to their comments as it’s beyond my ken.
Basically, Audio Solutions have measured the frequencies at which the tweeter starts to flex and distort and then created the Mini Horn to dampen those frequencies accordingly.
The louder the tweeter is driven, the more it is dampened by “acoustical impedance”.
Of course, a horn adds sensitivity and so it need not be driven so hard to achieve similar volumes to conventional design.
I’ve always enjoyed speakers with horn-loaded tweeters with French brand Triangle being a case in point. Also worth noting is the “Box-in-a-Box” cabinet employed in the Overture range.
This, say Audio Solutions, is trickle-down technology from their Virtuoso range of speakers.
The cabinet in these speakers employs a lightweight inner box and a more heavyweight outer box with a polyurethane layer between the two to act as damping.
This is what Audio Solutions say about this structure: “The thin but stiff inner cabinet provides the necessary support for the structure itself as well as transferring the energy of the radiated “back-water” to the outer cabinet layers without storing energy inside the material and preventing the back-wave from being reflected to the listener.” There is more information on the company’s website (link at the bottom of the review) for those interested, but it is beyond the scope of this review to get into any more detail.
Sensitivity is a useful 91dB, they are a nominal 4ohm load, and they have a claimed frequency response of 33-26000Hz with them crossing over at 500 and 3000Hz.
I’m using our standard Thor amps from Merrill, but given their sensitivity, I reckon you could use a set of valve amps that had a reasonable amount of clout.
They are a rear-ported design and so you may need to consider this if thinking about getting a pair. In the box, well, actually in a separate wooden box, you get a pair of outriggers per speaker with spikes and spike shoes.
These have M6 threads and so you could add aftermarket products such as IsoAcoustic’s Gaia footers.
Around the back of the speakers is a very nice set of speaker binding posts that accept the usual terminations or bare wires.
The speakers are available as standard in gloss black (like the ones we have) and gloss white.
Pay a premium and you can get them in Oak, Mahogany and Wenge.
In the gloss black finish they look very nice, and whilst being a pretty big speaker ((HxWxD): 1110mm x 250mm (421mm with feet) x 390mm; 43.7 x 9.9 (16.6) x 15.4 in) they look purposeful rather than imposing. Weight-wise they are 46kg/106lbs each.
The Audio Solutions speakers arrived on a palette on which were tied two fairly substantial cardboard boxes that were easy to unpack – you’d be surprised how many manufacturers get this part so wrong and it really does spoil the whole process.
Set up is simple enough and I had them up and running within about twenty minutes from starting to unpack to playing tunes.
I found them best with them toed in and pointing directly at the middle of my head – as usual, this is achieved by using Aland Clarks set up tool, though a laser pointer could be used, I’m sure.
variety of sources was used along with our Leema DAC/Pre and Merrill Thor amps. Speaker cables were by Atlas.
I say this time and time again, but I know this system inside out and it has been chosen and set up to be able to highlight what an individual product brings to the overall system.
To say it irks me when I see reviews written using other kit that is in for review would be an understatement, how can they possibly be evaluating the product that is the subject of the review – though it’s often fun to try different combinations, of course.
The speakers have done the rounds and so are run in, but I do like to give speakers a bit of a workout before critical listening and so a day was spent just blasting out the tunes – actually, I did sit and listen and we played the guess the price game, which I failed miserably and guessed the price of the Overtures WAY too high – you do seem to be getting a good deal of speaker for your money, but, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating…or listening in this case.
From the opening notes of the Chemical Brothers’ mix of Spiritualized’s I Think I’m In Love from the excellent Yoshiesque Volume II album, it is clear that the Overtures have prodigious bass – they really move the air in the room as the modulated synth sweeps into the mix.
But there is detail too, both within the texture of the bass and with the higher frequencies as the tune unfolds.
Bass isn’t as tight as with the Audiovector R3 Areté but it is lower and more enveloping.
Likewise when compared to the Raidho’s we’ve just reviewed, the bass isn’t so compact and well formed, but the character of the bass is actually really suited to this kind of tune and style of music – think a club with a really good system transported and down-sized to your living room.
Whether the claimed 36Hz is optimistic or not I don’t know, but these do go low enough for my tastes, that’s for sure.
One thing I did notice, and I noticed this with the Raidhos (still here and so easy to compare and contrast), is that the soundstage thrown by the Overtures is well beyond the speakers right and left boundaries, though they are well away from side walls which will always help in this regard.
I listened to this whole album rather than trying to throw other test tracks at the speakers, which is a good sign.
This record is pretty dubby (in a house style) and there is a lot going on with effects and little flourishes that come and go – the Overtures play this kind of music really well and whilst they aren’t the last word in absolute finesse, they sure know how to belt out a tune.
They manage to maintain those deep and tuneful bass lines whilst allowing you personally to lose it in the detail, that isn’t as pronounced as with some other speakers we have but it very, very acceptable and there is certainly no harshness thrown into the mix with this kind of music.
Phuture’s Acid Trax is perhaps THE seminal acid house record and I pull it out by way of having a listen to how the Overtures deal with presenting the sound of an 808 and 303.
The sounds are standards for me and pretty much like using test tones, I suppose.
The unmistakable tone of the acid box is there, as is the bass kick of the 808 – nothing to whine about at all. If anything I’d say that the Overtures feel a little slower in their decay than either the Areté or the Raidhos (they don’t feel as tight if that makes sense) but I simply don’t have a pair of similarly priced floorstanders to hand by way of direct comparison – and I’m not going to pretend I can remember the exact character of a speaker that passed through a couple of months ago or more.
What I did like was that the reverb on the kick drum was well evident, the cowbell sounded like a cowbell on an 808, and overall they seem a very well balanced speaker – these are a very detailed loudspeaker without feeling that they push into harshness, despite the 303 getting into frequencies that can prove painful on overly bright loudspeakers.
To continue the house-fest I whack on Mr Fingers’ Can You Feel It (Original 12”) and I’m really struck by how solid the basslines are presented, but without dominating the track.
Everything is laid before me with the pads managing to hold their own in the mix and nothing seeming to dominate overly.
There is a slight mushiness to the sound when compared to the other speakers I’ve just mentioned, but let’s not forget that this is a sub-5K set of speakers and so we aren’t really comparing like for like.
In the final analysis, these do a very good job on house and similar material, but I’m well aware that not everyone listens to this kind of stuff and so I ought to talk about some other tunes.
However, whilst searching for tunes I come across the excellent VCMG’s Bendy Bass tune from the album SSSS and I just can’t resist giving it a bash through these – I’m not disappointed. Really, there is a whole lot of welly here in the bass department, but there is also detail in that bass that can be lacking in some other speakers.
Again it’s not the most refined sound but it’s bloody good fun – to say the very least!! Long story short here is that if you listen to house, techno, hip-hop etc then these speakers will be a very good choice if your room can handle how low they go.
Sarah Marie Young’s Little Candy Heart album on Snip Records is a funky, jazzy kind of record that is very well produced and recorded.
Young’s vocal is projected well out into the room and it’s easy to pick out her tone.
The electric guitar on Can’t Stop is “in the room” real and the speakers manage to really present the simplicity of this record’s intro’ beautifully, invoking mental images of a small smoky club with the music being almost secondary, though vital, to the whole vibe – yeh, that sounds pretentious codswallop, but it’s what I’m hearing here.
As I’ve mentioned, the soundstage isn’t as three-dimensional as I’ve heard with other speakers we have to hand, but that’s not to say that the Overtures are lacking – they aren’t and I’m able to see well into the mix. On the title track you can hear Young move forwards and backwards to and from the microphone and I do get a really good feeling of “being in the room”.
The piano on the tracks Black and White, and Lo and Behold sounds like it should and with terrific detail.
Added to this detail there is enough separation of everything else for the whole not to sound muddled.
There is nothing here to moan about and a whole lot to praise, especially for the asking price.
Switching style to Cocksure’s industrial-sounding Corporate Sting there is a feeling of power and authority from these speakers.
This is a bit of a racket musically, it has to be said, and there is always the possibility that it could descend into little more than a cacophony of noise, but the Overtures manage to cope very well with keeping their composure whilst losing none of the power of the music. Dynamically they have punch and weight to them with attack on drums being particularly good.
There is a volume level that these speakers perform at their best, and that is loud(ish) but not being pushed too hard. I listened for the most part with them cranked up very loud.
These are a very good loudspeaker that manage to work with a wide range of musical styles.
They succeed in being able to bring power, punch, and depth when needed, but then also a good degree of finesse and subtlety when required to do so.
They are not the last word in detail and finesse, but for the money they are very good in this respect.
What the Overtures do well is bring a sense of you wanting to listen to music through them – and you really do get into the music rather than dissecting the speakers…which is something I say about a lot of kit I like, I know.
If you have the space and are able to push these speakers to good volumes then you will love them.
At lower volumes, they perform well but do like to be pushed to get the best out of them.
Bass is exceptionally good with the Overtures, and whilst it may not be the fastest out there (and I love fast bass) I really got into how they just bounce along in a party style.
Bass is not all-pervading, however, and I really enjoyed the relatively balanced presentation of these loudspeakers. Mids are good if not exceptionally rendered, but then whilst I say that I’m reminded of the “in the room” feel I got from the guitar on the Sarah Marie Young record.
The proof of the pudding is in the listening, as I’ve said previously, and I really do think you need to get yourself in front of a pair of these speakers before ordering them on the back of this review.
Personally, I loved what they do and they got me listening to the music I was playing without wanting to over analyse it – and I think that is a good thing.
What I think these manage to bring is a degree of “get-down”, dynamic party attitude, tempered with enough subtlety to get away with being let into the more exclusive clubs. In that way, I’d like to think that if I were a speaker I’d be a bit like these – others may well argue this point to be somewhat wide of the mark!
How these don’t have UK distribution I do not know! Someone is missing a great opportunity here and I can’t wait to hear the speakers further up the brand’s range
AT A GLANCE
Build Quality: Nothing at all to complain about.
Well finished and well put together.
They look pretty utilitarian and purposeful as they are quite broad across the fronts.
Dare I say, they look quite a manly speaker.
The black and white gloss finishes will not suit everyone and so you may want to factor in an extra cost for a different finish Sound Quality: These speakers love to party and love to be pushed to loud volumes.
Their bass is not the fastest I’ve heard, but it is plentiful – low and with enough control for you to really get drawn in.
Tops are clear and bright without being harsh and there is plenty of detail presented within mix – the speakers manage to be able to present even very busy bits of music well.
Mids are good if not exceptional, though for the money there’s not a lot not complain about
Value For Money: If I had €4000 to spend on a pair of loudspeakers and the space to accommodate their size these would be on my shortlist for sure, though they will not be to everyone’s taste
We Loved: A get-down-and-party attitude allied to enough classiness to make them sound more expensive than they actually are Good finish and great build A feeling you are getting good bang for your buck Dynamic and punchy
We Didn’t Love So Much: Bass is not the fastest but it is addictive They are a big speaker that look, well, they look like big speakers
Not the last word in detail, but, again, certainly not bad by any stretch
Price: €4100 as supplied
Elevator PitchReview: A very good sounding loudspeaker that performs above its relatively modest asking price.
If you want a speaker that can party whilst still having enough audiophile qualities to satisfy that urge, then they are worthy of your attention with the caveat that you will need room for them.
They aren’t going to win any prizes in the looks department but then fit and finish are very good and they aren’t trying to be something they aren’t.
Thank you Stuart Smith
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