If you find yourself marveling at the sheer enormity of a pair of speakers while finding their tiny price scarcely credible, either a) the price tag’s wrong, b) you’ve found the bargain of a lifetime or c) you’re about to discover the performance compromises that are almost inevitable in a pair of £400 speakers this huge. Sadly, the Roth Oli 50s are firmly in the last category.
At first acquaintance, they’re a prodigious sight. At 122cm tall (and that’s without plinths or spikes) they tower over every price-comparable rival, and their array of no less than five drivers (a 50mm ribbon tweeter flanked by a pair of 16.5cm mid/bass drivers, plus two similarly sized bass drivers) make quite a statement.
Peek around the back and there are a couple of bass reflex ports of ample diameter. If you don’t have a big room to put them in, you can cross them off your list right now, tempting though the sheer quantity of raw materials might be at the price.
Let’s assume that you have the space to let them breathe, though. What your £400 buys you is a somewhat coarse performance – a run through Bob Marley’s Lively Up Yourself should be packed with subtlety, but the OLi 50s sadly seem to miss the point.
Shouty, ill-disciplined and tiringThere’s no doubting the scale the Roths are capable of, and they take significant dynamic upheavals in their stride – but overall they’re a shouty, ill-disciplined and ultimately tiring listen.
More after the break
The highest frequencies are rather thick and poorly defined, and are swamped by a midrange that’s entirely too forward and drowns out other frequencies.
At the bottom end, the OLi 50s sound very much like they look: big, brash and not even remotely manoeuvrable.
All the more nuanced aspects of speaker performance – integration, focus, timing – are sacrificed in the interests of shifting impressive quantities of air, and as a result the OLi 50s are a speaker far more interesting to look at than to listen to.