What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Fri, 28 Jan 2011, 11:00am

Roth OLi20

Tested at £150

It’s a highly competitive class and the Oli 20s don’t cut the mustard sonically

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  • Affordable
  • stylish design
  • fair amount of bass depth and overall detail


  • Harsh edge to some treble frequencies
  • lack dynamics, punch and organisation

‘Fast, punchy and entertaining' was how we described the original Roth OLi1 speakers when we first laid eyes and ears on them nearly three years ago.

The £99 bookshelf speakers skipped off with a five-star verdict back then, but plenty has happened at this price-point since then.

Do the latest budget bookshelf speakers from Roth Audio have the necessary star quality to maintain the fine record ?

Sound best against a wall
Certainly they look the part. You can only expect so much at this end of the price spectrum, but the OLi 20s have certainly made the effort, cutting a dashing figure thanks to a smart maple cabinet and silver trim around the drivers.

A 13cm mid-woven fibreglass hybrid driver is joined by a 25mm black diamond silk dome tweeter.

Standing just a smidgeon over 31cm tall, the OLi 20 speakers will sound best up against the wall, allowing the bass to fill out a little, balancing out the overall tone.

Because, placed on stands and given plenty of room, they sound a little lightweight, while there's a definite edge to certain treble frequencies as Hans Zimmer's endlessly dynamic Inception soundtrack neatly pinpoints.

Loose bass notes
Staying with soundtracks, Daft Punk's Derezzed from the TRON: Legacy score requires plenty of punch and expert timing, and we find the OLi 20s a little lacking.

Bass notes can sound loose, slowing the pace in the process, while the more orchestral tracks don't reach the same peaks.

Detail levels are decent and they'll certainly add life to a lacklustre system, but it can't be overlooked that there are top-notch speakers around at this price point – we're looking at you, Mission and Q Acoustics – and the Roth OLi 20 speakers are left trailing in their wake.

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