Mirage Omni S8
These days, subwoofers come in all
shapes and sizes. On the one hand are huge models with amps in the multikilowatt range.
These subs tend to have massive drivers and can plumb the depths with ease. They also have
huge prices. On the other hand are tiny subs that measure no more than 12" in all
three dimensions but have powerful amplifiers. These amazing little cubes can also play
really low. And they, too, can cost a lot of money.
A seemingly impossible challenge for any subwoofer
manufacturer has been to provide great performance in a small package and at a low
price. In the Omni S8 subwoofer, Mirage Loudspeakers has met two of these goals right off
the bat: small size, rock-bottom price. But does the Omni S8 provide great performance?
The Omni S8 is built near Toronto, Canada, by the Mirage
Loudspeakers division of the huge speaker manufacturer Audio Products International, which
also makes speakers under the Energy and Athena brands. With a list price of $350 USD, the
Omni S8 is near the bottom of Mirages subwoofer range. The S8 is tiny: 12"W x
14"H x 14"D. And because its front grille is offset from the front by about
2", the volume of the subwoofer itself is only about one cubic foot.
The Omni S8 has a front-mounted, 8" Polypropylene
Titanium Deposit Hybrid (PTDH) cone. API has taken out a patent on this cones
design, which is unique in that the drivers surround is ribbed instead of smooth.
The surround is semi-elliptical rather than semicircular, as in most other subwoofer
drivers. The benefits Mirage claims to realize with the Elliptical Surround are three:
lower distortion, greater excursion, and better efficiency. The lower distortion is
possible because the surround is able to keep its shape more intact as the driver moves in
and out. Greater excursion is achieved because the surround has more operating area than a
conventional surround. And the new surround is more efficient because it allows the cone
to be moved more easily, thus requiring less power.
In addition to its high-excursion woofer, the Omni S8 has a
large, 3" flared port on the bottom of its cabinet. The S8 is raised off the floor by
1.75" feet, which allows the port to extend the subs bass output. The S8s
amplifier is rated by the manufacturer for 100W continuous and 400W peak power. The low
end of the S8s frequency response is claimed to be 27Hz, which it easily reached in
Hidden under the front grille are the controls: a switch to
adjust the phase from 0 to 180 degrees, volume level, low-pass filter control from 40 to
120Hz, and a switch for turning the low-pass filter on or off. An LED under the Mirage
logo turns from red to green when the subwoofer is activated in response to a signal.
Around back, the connections are limited: a line-level subwoofer input, an Auto/On/Off
switch, and left/right speaker-level inputs. Missing are speaker-level outputs, which
would have allowed the use of an S8 to offload bass from your main speakers in a
I used the Mirage Omni S8 in a system that included a Sony
STR-DA5ES A/V receiver and a Mirage speaker system comprising OM-9 mains for stereo, and
an OM-C2 center-channel and OM-R2 rears for surround sound.
My first impression of the Mirage Omni S8 was a surprising
one. It came while watching a fascinating DVD, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons
from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, about the former US Secretary of Defense. I
wasnt in reviewer mode; I was watching this DVD for content without regard to its
picture or sound quality. The surprising scene was chapter 3, where old footage shows a
missile being launched and a nuclear warhead going off. When the deep explosion rumbled
through my room, the Omni S8 sounded clean, deep, and shook my walls. I was speechless. I
played the scene over and over again, turning up the S8s volume control. There was
no evidence of port noise, even with the volume cranked up. This isnt supposed to
happen with a subwoofer this small and this inexpensive.
Next up was The Matrix Revolutions. This third and
final installment of the Matrix trilogy is better than the disappointing The
Matrix Reloaded, but still not as great as the first Matrix. Nevertheless, The
Matrix Revolutions continues the series tradition of excellent sound. Chapter 5
contains a familiar gun shoot-out with techno-pop music and raucous special effects. This
scene didnt faze the Omni S8, which unleashed copious bass. The walls of my room
(which measures 14 x 20) shook throughout this battle. Ive heard plenty
of subwoofers in all price ranges, and never in my experience has such an inexpensive
subwoofer provided so much clean bass. Even cranking the S8 past my comfort zone
produced no audible port noise -- something I always hear from other subwoofers near the
I then played my favorite test disc for instrumental bass: Super
Bass 2 [Telarc SACD-63483], with double-bassists Ray Brown, John Clayton, and
Christian McBride. This recording surprised me when I first listened to it because it
showed how melodic three bassists can sound without piano or guitar accompaniment. On
"Papa Was a Rolling Stone," the Omni S8 never sounded out of place with my
Mirage OM-9 system, filling in the deepest notes when called on to do so. Remarkably, the
bass sounded tight, never bloated throughout this track. I was unable to bottom out this
subs 8" cone when I drove it at high volume levels.
I had on hand the Outlaw
LFM-1 subwoofer ($579), with which I compared the Mirage Omni S8. The LFM-1 is
bottom-ported, with a downfiring 12" woofer. While considerably larger (22" x
16" x 22") than the Omni S8, the Outlaws price of less than $600 makes it
one of the best in its class -- but its available only factory-direct, so you
wont be able to audition it before buying.
The two subs performances were much closer than I
thought theyd be. The Outlaw LFM-1 played louder and went deeper, but in my room,
the Mirage Omni S8 acquitted itself well. I played my deep-bass reference CD, Jean
Guillous transcription for pipe organ of Mussorgskys Pictures at an
Exhibition [DOR-90117]. This disc contains some awesome sounds; playing the first
movement, Promenade, both subwoofers made my rooms fixtures rattle and its
walls shake. Where I thought the Outlaw LFM-1 ultimately excelled was in its greater
output and depth. Using test tones, I was able to get 87dB at 25Hz from the Outlaw LFM-1.
The Omni S8 seems to be tuned for high output in the 30Hz area; I measured about 85dB at
30Hz in my room. Still, this is extremely good performance for a subwoofer of the
S8s size and price.
At normal listening levels and with pop music, there was
little to differentiate the Outlaw LFM-1 from the Omni S8, which again underscores the
Mirages value. Playing "Elevation," from U2s All That You Can
Leave Behind [CD, Universal 314 524 653-2], demonstrated to me that the Omni S8 could
play bass notes with authority and nicely supplement the bottom end of my Mirage OM-9
system -- speakers that are normally used with Mirages current top-of-the-line
subwoofer, the Mirage OM-200.
At the beginning of this review I asked a simple question:
Does the Mirage Omni S8 provide great performance? My answer is a resounding Yes.
The Omni S8 is a fantastic subwoofer whose performance shocked me. I have not heard
another subwoofer near this price perform this well. Its small size ideally suits the Omni
S8 to small rooms, where it will excel. However, it did not sound out of place in my
medium-sized room. If youre looking for a small subwoofer, give the Mirage Omni S8 a
Price of equipment reviewed