“In a market segment dominated by manufacturers such as Bose, the Orb Audio speakers are a breath of fresh air.”
- Good looking; quality construction; excellent sound reproduction
- Can be directional at times; only three finishes to choose from
If there was one thing this years Consumer Electronics Show (CES) proved to us, it’s that sound is not always directly proportional to the size of the speaker. We have seen some pretty amazing micro speaker systems this past year from the likes of Onix and HSU Research, so we were excited to see what Orb Audio had to offer.
Based out of New York, employee owned Orb Audio claims that you can have audiophile quality speakers at a fraction of the cost because of the company’s low overhead. And believe it or not, they are made here in the USA. Orb Audio offers a 30 day money back guarantee as well as phone support from 9AM to 9PM Eastern Standard time.
With four systems to choose from in both stereo and surround home theater setups, there is a speaker package for anyone’s needs. The speaker system featured in this review is the company’s Classic Two Stereo Speaker System featuring four satellites paired up in a 2.1 system. The Classic Two system has an MSRP of $629. Read on as we test their claims.
Features and Design
Orb Audio offers four speaker systems to choose from. The Classic One system from Orb audio comes with two single satellite speakers and the company’s Super Eight Subwoofer for $519 USD. Stepping up to their Classic Two speaker system will give you two more satellite speakers which stack on top of the originals in a stereo setup, for $629 dollars. Both the Classic One and Classic Two systems are designed with a stereo setup in mind.
If you are looking for a surround sound system for your home theater, Orb Audio has two solutions that are ideal. The company’s Mod1 Home Theater System features five satellite speakers and 1 Super Eight Subwoofer. And their Mod 2 Home Theater System adds four more satellite speakers which stack on the existing front and rear speakers. The Mod 1 system sells for $699 while the Mod2 sells for $1099 respectively.
There are three color finishes available to choose from: Metallic Black Gloss, Pearl White Gloss and Hand Polished Steel. Choosing the Hand Polished Steel finish costs an extra $80 dollars, most likely due to its complexity and the extra steps taken to create its finish. The satellites go through a powder coating process after which they are carefully inspected for defects in the manufacturing process.
The satellite speakers used in all of the Orb Audio speaker systems are about the same size as your average grapefruit with a diameter measuring close to 4-inches. Gold-plated binding posts are attached to the rear of each speaker and use a soft plastic bumper to prevent the binding post from scratching the satellites finish. You can definitely tell the craftsmanship is top-notch just by looking at the detail.
The subwoofer that comes with each of their systems consists of a 12” x12” x 12” enclosure, an 8” sub woofer and a 150 watt class A/B amplifier which the company claims is conservatively rated with a peak of over 400 watts. Their Super Eight Subwoofer also has a max SPL of 111db. The Super Eight subwoofer looks very nice with a textured black paint finish and a silver front grill. We would have preferred a solid metal or a black grill however. The silver cloth grill doesn’t seem to match the upper-end feel that the rest of the system has. Overall the Super Eight subwoofer looks very similar to what we have seen from Sonance and Sunfire. Both of those mentioned brands sell their small sub woofers for a considerable amount of money, so Orb Audio certainly is challenged with coming up with a lower-priced subwoofer that puts out similar performance.
The back of the Super Eight subwoofer
On the back of the Super Eight, you will find the Hi Level in and outputs, the low pass crossover dial, phase switch, subwoofer volume controls and the power switch. The power switch has three settings, On, Off and Auto. The phase control selects 0 through 180 degrees phase shift of the subwoofer output relative to the other speakers. When the power switch is left On the Super Eight automatically detects the presence of a signal on the line input and will power up from standby mode.
Orb Audio does a great job of packaging their speakers, every component is well protected and we did not see any signs of damage that could have occurred in shipping. We were disappointed to see that a manual did not come with our review samples. Instead, you are forced to go to their website to download the manuals. So make sure that you have Acrobat Reader installed and get ready to download and print. Their instructions are very detailed and well written and should answer any questions that you have.
We used the following components in our testing:
– Yamaha RV-795 5.1 receiver
– Yamaha CDC-955 5 disc CD changer (using digital optical connection)
– 20ft by 15ft living room
Because we are testing their 2.1 Classic Two system, we did not use them in a home theater setting and strictly tested these speakers using music samples. We set the crossover to 160Hz which lets our receiver control the bass management of the subwoofer. If you have a THX enabled receiver and will be using one of Orb Audio’s 5.1 systems, you will probably want to move the crossover setting to the recommended THX setting of 80Hz. If you are switching from a large speaker setup to this one, make sure to change the speaker type to small speakers in your receiver’s setup menu.
HOSS floor stands
We tested our speakers using their Hoss floor stands. Assembling the floor stands is very straight forward, just be careful not to bend the metal pipes. In a Mod 2 setup, you will have two satellite speakers you will need to mount to each stand. It is important to remember that you want the two satellites mounted very close to each other, but not touching, or it will ruin the sound. Orb Audio includes two small speaker wires measuring about 5-inches long to connect the two satellites. It is important that you have the biding posts facing down when the speakers are attached to the stands. Use the included wires to connect the two speakers and then plug your speaker wire into the lower satellite speaker. We had a problem getting the satellites to look straight on their floor stands, but after some adjustments, they looked right. If you have particularly thick carpet, you can purchase a metal floor mat to set your speaker stands on to give them an even flat surface. You can also purchase wall mounts or desktop stands making it a very versatile system.
Small Speakers, Big Sound
It’s safe to say that you usually set a certain level of expectations when you are about to listen to a speaker system. If the system consists of huge 5 foot tower speakers for example, you expect them to be loud, and when you think of small speakers, you sort of automatically lower your expectations. Ever wonder why Bose has to have such a controlled environment when their speakers are on display at a retail store? It’s hard to sell a small speaker system in such a loud environment.
Straight out of the box the Classic Two System fom Orb Audio blew us away. Their sound is very distinct and we could have sworn some trickery was going on – they simply could not sound this big! After breaking them in for a couple weeks, their sound just kept getting sweeter. Because we were in a 2.1 setup, it didn’t take us very long to get the subwoofer phase, level and low pass frequency to where we wanted it. But if you are in a 5.1 setup, chances are you will have to fiddle with them more often to get them to sound just right for both music and movie listening.
We tested the Classic Two system using several genres of music, from Rock and Hip-Hop to Electronica and Easy Listening. When listening to Amorica from the Black Crowes we noticed that their electric guitar riffs did not drown out the singing by Chris Robinson. His vocals came across very clear and balanced. There were some of us that felt the highs were a little more flat than we would have liked, and that is most likely due to the absence of a true tweeter in their satellites. But we were very happy with the way these speakers handled rock music.
Undoubtedly the two albums which sounded simply phenomenal on this system were David Grey’s White Ladder and Sting’s Fields of Gold. The acoustic guitar in White Ladder sounds as if you are in the same room with David Grey, and his voice came across as being very clear and accurate without any sort of distortion. Sting’s band has a lot of instrumentals, from saxophones to electronic keyboards, so it was a good way to see how the Classic Two system handles all of the different instruments. Naturally Sting has a very warm sounding persona to all of his recordings, and this is where the Classic Two really shines. The Super Eight subwoofer does a very good job of filling in the gap that larger mid-range woofers would otherwise handle. Overall the system can sound very warm which in our minds is a great thing, and certainly something that is hard to accomplish in a speaker system of this size.
If you are into Electronica or Hip-Hop, you should not be deterred with the systems 8-inch subwoofer. It sounds much larger than it really is. Think Sonance or Sunfire quality sound in a $400 speaker and you will get the picture – it sounds that good. Bass was very nice and tight and we had no problems hitting the low tones. In A Tribe Called Quest’s Hits, Rarities & Remixes Album, the bass was not muddy or sloppy sounding at all. And the Super Eight subwoofer was super smooth when playing back music from Massive Attack.
Our observations with the Classic Two system tell us that they sound better if mounted up high and are facing down. While the sound stage is very good with these speakers, they can be very directional at times and sound their best when at ear level. We were able to turn the volume on our receiver up to 75% or more without any noticeable distortion and when you reached compression it was very soft. The speaker system sounded good at considerable volumes which is very impressive.
If you want to compare the Orb Audio speakers to speakers by Anthony Gallo, they both sound very similar. The Anthony Gallos, of course, have a more elegant and refined look to them were the Orb Audio speakers can look very raw. It just depends on the setting you are placing them in and the look you are going for. Of course the Orb Audio speakers cost considerably less.
One listen to these tiny speakers and you will swear you are imagining things. Sound so loud simply could not come from speakers this small. But it does. What makes the Orb Audio speakers so special aside from their great sound is the fact that they are so small.
In a market segment dominated by manufacturers such as Bose, the Orb Audio speakers are a breath of fresh air. It just goes to show that you can get a high quality American product at an affordable price. The Orb Audio Classic 1 and Classic 2 systems would be better suited for your living room or family room while their Mod 1&2 systems would be good in a home theater setting.
We would like to see the company offer a more variety of finish options as well as a color manual packaged with their speakers. But one thing is for sure, Orb Audio is off to a great start.
The Orb speakers can look unrefined and raw, or elegant and rich depending on the finish and setup you choose. The HOSS speaker stands are cool to look at and you can even see the welding marks from when they were built; we wouldn’t change a thing about them. You can buy their floor stands, desk stands or wall mounts allowing you to put these little speakers just about anywhere.
The greatest thing about the Orb speakers is their price. With a starting price of just over $500 dollars for a 2.1 setup and maxing out at around $1000 dollars you don’t have to break the bank to get good sound. And the folks at Orb Audio are a joy to work with. As you can tell, we are pretty excited about these speakers.
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