Since it's launch in 2007, the Roth Audio name has become synonymous with the world of high-end iPod docks, particularly its MC4 vacuum tube amp, which looks exquisite and, by all accounts, sounds nifty, too. Now, Roth Audio has moved into the home cinema arena with its OLi speakers.
This 5.1 system is intended to hit a low price point, yet aspires to combine both looks and performance. In many ways Roth Audio has achieved this, but there are caveats. The sound is big and brash but it needs to be carefully partnered with sympathetic electronics.
I found the splashy highs from the 1in tweeters got a little tiring and the 8-inch, 125W subwoofer hasn't really got enough weight to it.
Don't get me wrong, hear this system recounting Mars Attacks, and you'll be impressed by its rapid attack, but spin a bit of multichannel music (am I the only one with a 5.1 DTS disc collection?) or a lossless audio extravaganza and the affordable nature of these speakers begins to stick out like a Terminator's face bones.
The cabinets of the OLi 1s, OLi 3s and the OLi C2 are cleverly tapered, and the use of glass fibre for the cones gives a lot of the benefits of kevlar and carbon but with less cost.
In terms of style, these are a good shot at the goal by Roth's US-based designers. They're exquisite to behold, with a mixture of black wood and gloss-black lacquer that'll blend easily into most rooms, particularly those with a 'lifestyle' bent.
The use of steel rods to mount the grilles and Allen-headed fixings pinning the glass fibre drivers means this system looks neat with the grilles off, too. Certainly, this set is intriguing enough for me to hanker after a bigger system. A little more soul and general attention to detail wouldn't go amiss.
Setup is slightly hampered by a manual that mixes metric and imperial dimensions and a confusing explanation for what the control buttons do on the OLi KH2 subwoofer.
You're meant to press the button with the picture of your speakers' general size on it, but the images in the manual are transposed, which bit do you believe? This could easily hinder, rather than help, the unwary.
Anyway, the weak point of the system is the subwoofer. No matter what I did, the subwoofer's 125W motor didn't set my world on fire, although I could make out some difference in general shape of the bass with the different EQ presets.
The panel used to control everything on the top looks like it ought to be clever, but two knobs and a bypass switch on the back would have been just as efficient.
The subwoofer does have a nice smooth output, though. It's kinda like a Nissan Micra – comfy, clean, and perfectly acceptable if you want to do sixty. A version with 10-inch drivers and a more potent amp would be well-worth auditioning.
The OLi 3 system ticks lots of boxes, and for a fragment of the cost of some other brands. Personally, I would have preferred deeper bass, and some extra clarity to voices.
Despite that, this is a well-considered first foray into home cinema by Roth Audio, and would similarly make a good first system for anyone looking to add surround sound to their flatscreen experience – you get a lot of well-built, sexy-looking kit for your money.
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