There have never been so many different ways to listen to music. Streaming, locally stored digital files, wirelessly over Bluetooth, vinyl, CD… Music fans have never had it so good. While there’s no shortage of just-add-speakers systems to cater for all these formats, sometimes the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired – too often, it’s a case of jack of all trades, master of none.
But not with the Omnia. It’s made by Audiolab, one of the leading lights of British hi-fi with 40 years’ experience of creating iconic audiophile-grade listening gear. Offering a killer combination of versatility and high-fidelity sound quality, it will play your music however you choose to listen to it, with none of the sonic compromise such systems often entail. It’s all wrapped up in a sleek, discreet chassis, and at £1599 it costs a lot less than you would expect for such a capable system.
Audiophile specs all under one roof
Don’t think of the Audiolab Omnia as a regular multi-tasking music player or streaming amp; think of it as a collection of high-performance hi-fi separates – network streamer, CD transport, hi-res DAC, analogue preamplifier and power amplifier – all in one chassis. It’ll handle anything you throw at it – streaming via Wi-Fi and Ethernet cable, wireless playback from a mobile device over Bluetooth, turntable connectivity, CDs… the list goes on. All you have to do is add speakers.
That’s the top-line spec, but what’s really special is what’s under the hood. Audiolab has over four decades of experience designing and manufacturing award-winning streamers, CD players, DACs and amps, and the Omnia draws on all of that expertise. Its internal components are of the highest possible quality, ensuring superb sonic performance no matter what music source you’re playing.
It features a DAC stage based around the ES9038Q2M – a top-spec chipset from the eminent 32-bit Sabre family. ESS Sabre DAC technology has featured in Audiolab’s products for more than a decade, and the Omnia is the first system of its kind to implement this new-generation chipset to deliver exceptionally low noise and class-leading dynamic range.
The Omnia’s hi-res audio credentials are state of the art, supporting PCM to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD to 22.5MHz (DSD512). And its high-performance Class AB power amp stage, directly descended from Audiolab’s award-winning amplifiers, gives it the edge on the Class D circuitry in similar products, coupling engaging energy with subtlety, openness and warmth.
True to its name, the Omnia offers all-encompassing streaming platform support. Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music and more are available via the Play-Fi app, not to mention a raft of internet radio stations, with hi-res streaming up to 24-bit/192kHz via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. And because it supports full MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) decoding, which is superior to the MQA rendering offered by some rival systems, it’s the perfect bedfellow to the Tidal HiFi Plus tier, which is home to hi-res MQA tracks.
Having Play-Fi onboard also means it can communicate wirelessly with other Play-Fi-compatible products from Audiolab or different brands. So, it can fit seamlessly into your multi-room set-up.
It’s also officially Roon Tested, meaning it’s compatible with the highly regarded, multi-device, multi-room music software platform. A free 60-day Roon trial is available to Omnia owners – see Audiolab’s website for details.
The Omnia supports the Play-Fi app on iOS, Android and PC, and has Amazon Alexa support for handsfree voice commands from an Alexa-equipped device. But what if streaming isn’t the only way you listen to music? What if you prefer your music formats a little more physical? Don’t worry, it has you covered there too…
For the record
The Omnia supports both vinyl and CD, and again, it does so using the full force of its audiophile credentials. It’s compatible with turntables thanks to its built-in MM phono stage, which features a high-quality, low-noise, JFET-based circuit with precise RIAA equalisation. Just hook up your turntable and enjoy.
Couldn’t bring yourself to part with your CD collection? We don’t blame you. Unlike most comparable systems, the Omnia has a built-in CD player – and it’s one that will do your discs proud. The premium-quality transport mechanism specified by Audiolab is used in CD players at twice the price, incorporating a high-precision optical system and low-friction loading tray, with a sturdy aluminium base and chassis to minimise vibration.
The Omnia’s versatility is further enhanced by an extensive array of cable inputs for digital and analogue sources. Two USB inputs, Type A and Type B, cater for computers, smartphones, tablets and digital storage devices, complemented by four S/PDIF digital inputs (two coaxial and two optical) and an Ethernet port for network connectivity. Four stereo RCA analogue inputs are also supplied – three line-level, plus the MM turntable input.
In addition to a set of gold-plated binding posts to connect the user’s chosen speakers, headphone fans are served by a front-mounted 6.3mm output fed by a dedicated headphone amp. Digital outputs are also provided, in optical and coaxial flavours. You can even bypass the Omnia’s separate amp stages and connect an external preamp or power amp, to make it part of a larger system.
In terms of wireless reception, the Omnia’s dual-band Wi-Fi configuration ensures strong, reliable network connectivity, while Bluetooth 5 compliance provides greater range and more robust streaming over Bluetooth than rival devices with Bluetooth 4.
Style and substance
It helps that it looks as good as it sounds. Designed in Huntingdon, England, by Audiolab’s awarding-winning team, it features a sleek aluminium enclosure with a crisp, minimalist aesthetic, available in black or silver. Inlaid into the centre of the Omnia’s front is a 4.3-inch full-colour screen that shows system settings, format data and track details, among other information. It can even be set to display a VU meter in ‘analogue’ or ‘digital’ form, showing real-time decibel levels for the left and right channels.
All you need add to the Omnia is your choice of speakers – its amp stage will drive virtually any pair you desire. Excellent options are available from Audiolab’s sister-brands Wharfedale and Mission, including What Hi-Fi? Award-winners from Wharfedale’s Diamond 12, EVO4 and Heritage ranges, and the new Mission QX MkII Series.
No other comparably priced just-add-speakers music system can match the Omnia’s versatile range of features and engaging, sophisticated sound quality across all manner of formats, from CD and vinyl to streaming via phones, tablets, computers, NAS drives and more. For music lovers seeking all-encompassing convenience without sonic compromise, it’s the perfect system choice.