Roth OLi POWA-5

Tested at £250
80100
4

Great features for the price, but this is not a class-leader in outright sound quality

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Hi all,

I believe these speakers are basically the same as the Kanto Yumi powered speakers, which I have bought recently. Kanto is a Canadian manufacturer almost unknown in Europe. I don't know what company developed them (Kanto??? Roth??? Both, in cooperation???). I am led to this conclusion by the same features, exact same dimensions, exact same looks (logos and volume control apart), exact same remote control and, the definitive proof, I guess, the exact same layout of inputs/outputs!!! If, like I am convinced, the Roth Powa-5 = Kanto Yumi, then this mini-review may be useful for anyone looking to buy the Roths.

If my theory is not true, then I immediately apologeise to both Roth Audio and to Kanto.

Finish: pretty impressive. A delight to look at and to hold.

Features: I believe these have no rivals in their price bracket at the moment (bluetooth, 2 optical inputs, remote control).

Sound quality: In this regard, I must say that, though generally quite pleasing to listen to, the "stock" sound (you will understand what I mean by "stock" in a moment...) left me wanting a bit more... Yes, WHF reviewer is right: bass can boom a little. More important to me, though, I found them a bit coloured in the mids when I crancked up the volume beyond background/normal music levels.

Now comes what most people may find the weird part: I love DIY/tweaking hifi components. So, at my own risk, I opened them up (a pratically NEW, under warranty pair of speakers), and checked if there was room for easy improvement. I found that there was, so I tweaked them: I applied a transversal wood brace cut to measure, lined up the inner walls with bitumen pads, replaced the internal cable (cheap bell wire) by some Supra I had lying around and finally added absorbing material (the cotton-like material; btw, in stock condition, these speakers have very little of this material, just a thin layer on each of the side-walls).

After these tweaks, the sound improved by a lot: the bass no longer booms, and the mids colouration at higher levels is gone. Now, they sound very, very good! Completely worth the time and (little) expense of the materials (you find them cheap at any good DIY store). Obviously, in case you are thinking of taking this route, make sure you know what you are doing, and do it at your own risk: even if you are skilled, something can go wrong!!!

As they are now, I just love these speakers. Also, guests/family members who come around at my house cannot hide their surprise by the clean sound these babies can produce. I must say though, that they very much prefer to be fed hardwired: yes, bluetooth is very convenient, but the sound layers/ ambience get lost. Also, the integrated dac's, though perfectly acceptable, are nothing to write home about: they are OK for hooking up to a TV, for example, but for critical listening, you must use a good quality source/DAC and feed the speakers through the RCA input. Finally, speaker stands are clearly preferable to bookshelf or desktop placement.

Hope this was helpful.

Regards,

Luis.

 

Hi,

1.  Bayakuya83 - Bluetooth is brilliant - it's easy to use, everyone 'gets' it and once initial pairing is achieved, it's quick and easy.  There is a slight compromise on audio quality though - but in our opinion this is far outweighed by the convenience and ease-of-use.

2.  Totally agree - an Airport Express and an optical cable will turn these into a fabulous Airplay system. Bang on with your assessment of what is possible, so thanks for this helpful comment Laceybloke.

 

3.  Byakuya83 - yep - these have distinct audio advantages over a single box product, not least room positioning and stereo imaging/soundstage.  And the fact that they are available in three high-gloss colours too. Not sure what is in the same class - there are a few powered speakers out there (and indeed coming out). EDITED BY MODS: House Rule No.12.

These seem like very clever little speakers.  What others are considered in the same class?  I can't imagine there's much like these outside of dock systems, e.g. the Zeppelin Air.  I suppose the big advantage over one box solutions is the stereo separation.

I think pairing these with an Apple Airport Express via an optical cable would make a very tidy little Airplay system... Definitely something to think about. Surprised there aren't more active speakers with optical connections actually.

I use bluetooth from my ipod and it works brilliantly.  Is there a difference in quality?  I never experience connection issues or dropouts.  It sort of negates the need for Airplay.

A reasonable review but I am a little confused - how can the the 'class leader' be the 'class leader' when it doesn't feature anything like the connectivity of the POWA-5 (Optical inputs x2, sub output, USB charging x2, ana,logue inputs x2, etc.) and has an out-of-date iPod dock for older gen Apple products only as opposed to Bluetooth which will work with pretty much any handset, tablet, laptop, etc. ?

I agree that the sound is quite 'laid back',  but this was deliberate policy when it came to tuning the box - we wanted a speaker to which one could listen in a larger room (on stands) or close-up on a desktop without causing fatigue - and we also believe that our primary audience will use either the optical or analogue inputs as first choice and as second choice Bluetooth (primarily for convenience) - and with Bluetooth we think that this more often than not infers playback of a compressed audio file and as we all know, these tend to sound a little 'edgy'.

We feel the combination of sound quality, build quality and connectivity justify 6 stars !

 

 

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