Audiolab Omnia Review: Get a closer look at this revolutionary streaming audio amplifier. Learn why it stands out from the crowd!
If you want to read about my first impressions/setup of the Audiolab Omnia and look at some unboxing pics, check out my First Impressions review here.
Just about everyone loves listening to music. Whether it’s for a night in or for a long road trip, music is one of the most valuable forms of entertainment there is. If you’re listening at home, amplifying the signal via a hi-fi component and playing it over quality speakers adds a whole other level of enjoyment that many people miss out on.
That’s why integrated amplifiers with built-in audio streaming technology like the Audiolab Omnia ($2299, currently on sale for $1999) are so exciting. These new models combine all the best features of separate components into one device (usually) at a lower price than buying each component separately.
In the case of the Omnia, its an integrated amp based on the excellent 6000A Play streaming amplifier and the amazing 6000 CDT CD Transport. (read our review!) It has the Play-Fi streaming abilities of the 6000A Play, along with the stellar CD mechanism from the 6000 CDT.
While streaming amps with access to music services like Tidal and Qobuz are becoming ubiquitous, Omnia has another built-in source option that you don’t see every day! That, combined with the digital expertise and solid build quality Audiolab is known for, makes this amp look really good on paper.
This review will closely examine what makes Omnia so special and whether its features make it worth your money. Read on to get the scoop!
Audiolab Omnia Features:
To start with, I have to say Omnia has a fantastic aluminum build that combines a lot of functionality without being excessively large.
If you’ve seen other Audiolab components, like the 6000 Series (that we love), you’ll be familiar with the beautiful thick frosted metal used on the exterior. That finish again provides the foundation for a minimal yet elegant design that makes it relatively easy to integrate into your living area. Like other Audiolab components I’ve reviewed, the Omnia comes in a White or Black finish.
Additionally, the large toroidal transformer inside makes it feel rather hefty when you take it out of the box, and it supports the Omnia’s 50 watts per channel of full-range Class AB power (8 ohms). It also does 75 watts per channel into 4 ohms, which indicates the amp section’s high-current capabilities.
As far as connections go, Omnia has a lot going for it. With five analog stereo RCA inputs (one Phono), you can connect virtually anything to the Omnia, including a turntable or tape deck.
The internal DAC, or digital-to-analog converter, lets you bridge the gap between the high-quality digital music files you may have and the analog signal your speakers produce. It’s built around a 32-bit ESS ES9038Q2M Sabre DAC chip.
You can employ Omnia’s DAC with your TV to get fantastic-sounding stereo sound via either of its optical digital inputs. You can also use one of the two coax inputs if you have additional digital devices. Additionally, you may use the preamp output to bypass the internal amplifier and use an external power amp.
It also has a USB DAC input that allows you to connect it to a computer to access your music collection. It supports 44.1kHz – 768kHz sample rates for PCM (as opposed to the coax and optical, which only go up to 192kHz), along with DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, and DSD512 versions of DSD music encoding.
In addition, the USB, Coax, and Optical digital connections perform full MQA decoding, which is nice for Tidal Masters fans. You also get Bluetooth 5.0 with the aptX Low Latency codec for quick, high-quality streaming sessions.
As previously stated, Omnia also has a built-in DTS Play-Fi streamer. That platform lets you play and control all your network-based music (like Tidal, Qobuz, NAS Drive) from an Android or iOS app. On top of that, it will allow you to set up a multi-room system with additional Play-Fi devices from many manufacturers like SVS or Paradigm.
For the most part, Play-Fi is a decent system, but I find the app to be a little basic, especially in the music sorting department. That said, it supports hi-res playback and seems to get constant updates. It’s much better now than it was even a year ago.
If you’re one of the people that pooh-pooh Play-Fi because of stuff like gapless playback, you should take another look because that was recently added via an over-the-air update.
On the other hand, Omnia is Roon Tested, which means you can manage your streaming via the Roon software if that’s your thing. In addition, it can also become part of a multi-room Roon system.
What’s New in the Audiolab Omnia?
Audiolab Omnia Review: That said, while streamers are the most popular way to listen to music, Omnia’s primary claim to fame, and possibly its raison d’etre, is something a bit more old-school.
That would be its built-in slot-loaded CD player which is unobtrusively integrated into the front panel. It’s based on the Audiolab 6000 CDT, one of the best CD Transports out there. That means it has excellent sound quality and a remarkable ability to track slightly damaged CDs without missing a beat.
Additionally, the Audiolab Omnia has a 4.3″ color LCD display, something new for Audiolab components. The brand spanking new 9000 series components also have color displays, but the Omnia was the first to have one when it came out a year ago.
The Omnia’s screen can show system settings, track details, and more. However, its coolest feature is the VU meter display, which comes in an analog or digital form. It displays real-time decibel levels for the left and right channels.
As you can see, Omnia does a lot of stuff and does it well, but as I noted in my First Impression Audiolab Omnia Review, there are some things it doesn’t do.
For starters, there’s no Chromecast, TIDAL Connect, or AirPlay streaming (which is surprising at this stage in the game). In addition, while the marketing materials refer to Omnia being “Roon Tested,” you shouldn’t confuse that with being “Roon Ready.”
“Roon Ready” means a device can connect directly to Roon wirelessly via the network, like the Cambridge Audio Evo amplifiers. However, the Omnia only works with Roon via a wired USB connection to a Roon-equipped computer, which is not a huge deal as long as it’s set up relatively close to said computer.
Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re an MQA fan, is that while the internal DAC decodes MQA, the internal streamer doesn’t support it. That’s a quirk which can be blamed on the Play Fi platform, and I hope they can change that via a future update.
Adddtionally, while its not a dealbreaker, I do wish the Omnia’s screen displayed album art. While the new color screen is an upgrade over the simple LCD display of its predecessors, and does provide a lot of pertinent information, I still feel like omitting that feature was a missed opportunity.
Listening to the Audiolab Omnia
I initially tested the Omnia with two sets of speakers, starting with the Kef LS50 Meta Mini Monitors, then moving on to the Wharfedale EVO 4.2 large format bookshelf speakers. Both sets of speakers were placed on stands about nine feet from each other and then nine feet from the listening position forming an equilateral triangle.
Sources varied between Tidal streamed via Bluetooth or Play-Fi (Hi-Res Listening Mode), and I also played some of my favorite discs on the built-in CD-Player. All sounded good, but the streamer and CD player were head and shoulders above the Bluetooth sound quality wise. Conversely, I found it hard to discern a difference in sound quality between Play-Fi and CD.
Well, I wasn’t completely wrong. The Omnia did share some characteristics with the 6000 separates, like their somewhat forward character, along with the same sharp focus and transparency.
That said, it seemed like the Omnia had slightly better detail, transparency and separation than the 6000 series components. Listening to Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” album, there was an amazing openness and “live” quality to presentation that made me feel like I was there at the recording.
Dynamics were great, as was the soundstage which was remarkably wide. Imaging was excellent when it came to separation and focus, but it could’ve used just a touch more depth.
On the other hand, the forward perspective lent itself better to warmer, more romantic sounding speakers like the Wharfedale EVO’s, and that’s what I did the majority of my listening with. Just like it’s 6000 series brethren, the Omnia is an amp that requires careful paring. This is not a knock, but a word of advice to make sure you get the best out of it.
The Wrap Up
Audiolab Omnia Review-The Wrap Up: All things considered, the $2299 Audiolab Omnia All-in-One Music System is one of the best sounding and best value all-in-one components on the market. Even more so when you factor in the inclusion of one of the best budget CD mechanisms on the market. It’s amazing that Audiolab could release such a relatively compact and high-quality device with just about every source on board for such a reasonable price.
While there are a few quirks, which I have addressed, If you’re looking for a versatile, high-quality audio device that can play nearly any music source you throw at it, the Omnia is one of the best options around, especially if you like to spin CDs. Conversely, if you don’t care about CDs and you want a streaming amp that’s even more versatile, then the NAD C700 is another option to look at.
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.