The speaker
So here we are with the 18" H x 8.5" W x 13" D Grande 6 handcrafted by Omega Speaker Systems in Norwalk, CT., U.S. of A. It's a ported, single-driver stand/shelf mount. The basics go like this: The standard model is yours for $799/pr and the "R" version comes in at $1099/pr. The "R" version gets you Cardas patented silver-plate terminals and Cardas Litz internal wiring plus 'R compound' lining of the interior walls. The basic version gives you standard multiway gold-plated binding posts.

A 10-year warranty is standard. The driver is a full- range (no crossovers here!) 6" paper twin-cone Fostex FE 167E with rubber impregnated surround and alloy chassis. It's fully-shielded and has a higher overall Q than the Fostex 166E. Frequency response is spec'd at 50-20KHz with a sensitivity of 95dB at 8 ohms. The literature states the power required to drive this hummer can be as little as 1.5 watts but I didn't try that. The cabinet is hand-made of heavily braced softwood MDF (no CNC machining here) and adhered with polyurethane glues. There are enough wood finishes -- cherry, maple, sapele and beech (all with solid hardwood corners by the way) and laminates such as black and red Parisian maple gloss, pearl and blue arctic pearl gloss --to keep even Martha Stewart happy. Then again, by the time you read this, she might not find anything to make her happy. Something tells me that Omega's 30-day in-home trial period won't apply to her next address.

The stands
The speakers were placed on Skylan 20" high mass loading stands custom designed for Omega, by Noel Nolan of Calgary, Alberta/Canada. They are different (read: not steel or regular wood), so I gave Noel a call to chat. His accent surprised me. Turns out, Noel came to Calgary from Ireland in 1976 "just to get away, to follow a dream, see the world", he said. Obviously, he decided to stay and brought with him his background in pressure vessel fabrication and steel manufacturing (think gas tanks/lines that carry fuels from fields)

He had some interest in audio and while looking at the industry determined that there weren't too many nice stands. "Using common sense", says he, "I went from steel (what I knew) to full MDF (which became more and more expensive to build and ship) to experimenting with polymers. As the result of visiting a show and sitting on patio chairs, I noticed the polymer's strength to weight ratio (it¹s good enough for cars and planes) and played around with some existing designs. The tops and bases are still of MDF (medium density fiberboard).

Noel: "I was very glad that the polymer was not as prone to resonance conduction as metal. After all, tuning forks are made of steel, you know? I now get a custom size, shape and wall thickness of this column extruded for use in my speaker stands. They can be mass-loaded by the customer to increase weight and help control resonance radiated by the speaker. The three circular discs installed in the top plate on which the speaker sits are made of ceramic and increase the hard speaker-to-stand contact. These discs create an easy path for resonance to enter the stand, be distributed by the steel rods (which hold the top and bottom together) and transfer the resonance from top to bottom very quickly. At the same time, the resonance is quickly dissipated and absorbed by the sand or other mass-loading materials. The pointed feet that I use are not the prettiest (I am now painting them black), but their function is very important. The shank of the foot is slim and can penetrate through carpet and underlayment to come in contact with the sub-floor and make the stand rigid and stable (a rigid stand equals a rigid speaker cabinet). The pins will not bend as they are normally used as a fastener to penetrate concrete." For more info on the design of the stand, see his website.

Noel¹s shop is a two-man operation. He says it's not a long process but does it all mostly by hand, believing this to be more accurate. As in Louis' shop, you¹ll find no CNC router here. Still, the corners are rounded which is nice and friendly. Two yellow racks [see one above] are made for apres-paint drying as the columns, custom extruded in British Columbia, arrive at Skylan's in 3.5" x 3.5" inch square shape with a 1/8 inch wall thickness and require a surface finish.

He¹ll custom make whatever you like, so ring him up. I did. I had to. Louis originally asked Noel to send me a set of 20" stands, but after a week of listening and constant fine-tuning of my listening position (not the speakers, mind you!), I was certain I needed something taller. After receiving the 24" version, all was well; the Omega's drivers now sat at the same level as those residing in my Bens. I couldn¹t resist calling Louis to give him a bit of grief by asking if he had voiced the speakers from a "low-rider". He laughed and said, "My chair is isn't way off from a beanbag. It's like a Chevy low rider and tilts back a lot." I described 'em like I heard 'em. I have to add here that Noel has a firm grasp on how to make life easier, leaving more time to play for the end-user. You get everything necessary to assemble the stands. No need, for example, to frustrate your anxious-to-listen self by hunting down the right-sized wrench to fasten the top and bottom plates.

He even includes a funnel to ease the process of mass loading; you need only go and spend $2.53 on a bag of play sand. These modest but meaningful touches will endear Skylan to many people.

The Omega sound
Let's start at the end. I bought the review pair. I know you expect more than that but in the end, I also think that says it all. Are they perfect? No. Do they cost $800? Yes. Say it with me, now: $799 a pair!