Excellent top end, detail and tonality
Uneven bass response
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Roth is a youngster in audio terms. From its founding in 2007, the company has produced a wide range of iPod ancillaries and lifestyle products, and has now moved into loudspeakers.
We have previously reviewed a full 5.1 system of Roth OLi 3's, and although they were not without their issues, they would suit a home cinema setup well for the money.
However, we are now turning our attention to the somewhat larger OLi 50. And 'large' is what will spring to mind on confronting the OLi 50 for the first time.
We thought the Mission MX5 was big, but the OLi 50 is larger still, standing at no less than 130cm tall once the spikes have been fitted. This means that they are going to dominate most rooms that they find themselves in and, like the MX5, we'd suggest seeing them in the flesh before ordering.
A lot of speaker
This is a lot of speaker for the asking price. The OLi 50 are a three-way design featuring no less than five drivers per speaker. Most unusual of these, especially at £800, is the 50mm ribbon tweeter which is mounted between the two 6.5-inch mid/bass drivers, which in turn differ from the bass drivers by the fitment of a metal phase plug.
The cabinet features Roth's 'DAL Tech' cabinet damping, said to reduce distortion from the drivers dissipating through the cabinet. In practice the cabinet seems to be well damped and fairly inert.
Two large rear-mounted bass ports are fitted, but the speakers are not supplied with any form of tuning bung. As such, the Oli 50 tends to work best between 30 and 50cm out into the room.
Roth claims a sensitivity of 92dB/w which seems a little high, but they are fairly efficient in practice.
The fit and finish of the OLi 50 is satisfactory, if not remarkable for the asking price and the cabinet feels solid. When the grille is removed the front panel is a bit utilitarian, as the grille also forms part of the leading edge of the cabinet, so there is a considerable indent when they are removed, complete with the mounting pins which are attached to the cabinet rather than the grille.
In use the OLi 50 is interesting and in many ways extremely talented. The ribbon tweeter is well implemented for the price and provides a smooth and detailed top end to performances. This results in a naturalness to vocals that is very likeable.
The integration with the conventional mid/bass drivers is also well placed and there is little sense of a handover from ribbon to conventional driver. This also gives the OLi 50 a real edge with acoustic and vocal pieces. Instruments and voices are placed in an easy to follow fashion and have a convincing attack and decay to them.
The low end of the OLi 50 is less convincing. When placed in free space, there is little room interaction, but across two different amplifiers (a 70-watt Electrocompaniet ECI 3 and a 500-watt Musical Fidelity M6 500i), the actual tonality and detail of the bass remains a little lacking.
There is no shortage of extension, but the effect is more of outright grunt than finesse. Compared to the similarly priced Epos Epic 5 that were tested at the same time, the Roth felt slower and less agile with fast-paced and more aggressive music.
This is less pronounced on the bass produced by the same acoustic pieces. Here the Roth excels, which definitely strengthens the case for its use with this genre of music but, nevertheless, there are still some clear limits to its abilities.
Detailed and expressive
The OLi 50 is not a true all rounder or an unconditional recommendation. It is a detailed and expressive performer, and can capture the scale and detail of smaller recordings with uncanny accuracy and excellent soundstaging.
It is less capable with more propulsive music, though, where similarly priced competition can be more convincing. However, if you have the space to position them correctly and have more relaxed musical tastes, then the Oli 50 is well worth considering.
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