Orb Audio's People's Choice Review
Home Theater Speaker System, Starting at $1100
True to the stature and nature of this Orb audio system, I will keep this review short and sweet.
I had read glowing comments about Orb's softball-sized speakers and I jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss was about.
Let me cut to the chase, the Orbs are simply sublime spheres of sound. And the kick-ass hunk of a subwoofer can shake your tail feathers.
Together, the superior audio the system delivers can make your TV look twice as good - or at least it seems that way.
(Editor's note: Orb Audio offers a range of speaker configurations. I am reviewing the People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System, which includes double Orbs [Mod2] for the three front speakers and single Orbs [Mod1] for the two rear speakers and the Super Eight 200W Subwoofer.
They also offer the Uber Ten 300W Custom Audiophile Subwoofer that I can only imagine could set off the USGS's earthquake monitors.)
Out of the Box
Seeing pictures of the Orbs does not quite prepare you for the initial shock when you unpack the box. These guys are tiny, even when they are stacked. The cabinet of the front speaker that I was using is over three times taller and twice as deep.
In contrast, the Super Eight subwoofer is almost exactly the same size as the subwoofer I was using.
If you have a theater-sized room or are suffering from a case of speaker envy, Orb Audio offers a Mod4 system.
The package that Orb Audio sent had all the Orbs attached to their stands. According to your design needs, you can order a variety of floor stands and wall mounts separately.
You can also choose from six different colors. My Orbs were Hammered Earth. The subwoofer only comes in a matte black finish.
My speakers were already attached to the stands, (if yours are not, Orb provides a clear how-to video online), therefore my only task was wiring the five speakers and the subwoofer to my Pioneer VSX-1020 A/V receiver.
The trickiest bit was threading the speaker wire onto the Mod2 front speakers.
Since Orb is pairing two speakers together, they come from the factory with a short wire connecting the red terminal of one to the red of the other, and another wire linking the black terminals.
Therefore, my chore entailed snaking an end of the speaker wire into the terminals without displacing the wire that was already there. It took a little twisting and squinting, but there was room for both.
Wiring the subwoofer is a breeze because Orb offers heavy duty cables with a 24-karat gold plated RCA plug on each end.
I simply attached one end to the subwoofer and the other to the Line In on my A/V receiver. If you have a different setup, the instructions guide you through your options.
Orb also gives recommendations about the settings on the back of the subwoofer. I would definitely suggest that you adhere to their advice about leaving the Volume knob at about the midpoint - that is, if you don't want to rumble your house off its foundation.
Finally, since the Pioneer VSX-1020 receiver has an automated speaker setup feature, I went through that process of balancing the volume sent to the speakers.
This People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System is one of those audio/video devices that you invite folks in to experience.
You feel like dragging strangers off the streets to listen. Then again, if you open your windows and crank up the volume, they can appreciate the sonic quality strolling down the sidewalk.
The system definitely lives up to its moniker, People's Choice.
My current gold standard reference for judging audio is a fascinating Blu-ray titled 2L - the Nordic sound.
It's simply a music DVD with no video except for the menu. It contains a wide variety of songs played by Nordic musicians and recorded in 5.1 high definition that provides great tests for a sound system.
The first cut is Mozart's "Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major." The strings are lively without being too bright. When the orchestra swells, it fills the room.
One of my favorite selections is a Gregorian chant, "Crux Fidelis." If you close your eyes, you are transported to a monastery reverberating with sonorous voices. Amen.
I then switched to another fave, K.D. Lang Live in London, which I've listened to any number of times when testing equipment. Her voice, which some sound systems have a hard time containing, was full bodied.
What struck me was the clarity of the audio. On "Helpless," the drummer takes out a little shaker. Lo and behold, you can hear it defined in the background.
And finally, for a good workout for the subwoofer, I spun the Tron Legacy Blu-ray. The constant beat of the Daft Punk soundtrack set the Super Eight's BASH amp a-pumping and its 8" driver a-pounding and my ol' bones a-bouncing.
Before I become too hyperbolic, let me say that last week at the CEA Line Show in New York, I had the opportunity to sample high-end audio systems set up in a hotel across from Penn Station.
Some of the speakers were the size of Frodo Baggins and judging from their price tags, were as precious as that ring. But I'll admit that a few of those speakers possessed that ethereal transparent quality that makes you swear that the musicians are in the room, strumming next to you.
Then again, a pair of those beauties can cost as much as a new Mini Cooper hardtop.
Descending from that high-end audio stratosphere, the Orb system is an obvious bargain at twenty times less. But the fairer comparison is with similarly priced home theater speaker systems, and in the under $1200 range, you can find a lot of choices.
I haven't had a chance to spend an extended amount of time with a lot of other speakers, but the audio quality from this Orb system is right at the top of the list. And this is one of the few audio units that I will sorely miss when I return it. My ears are spoiled.
Do I wish the Orbs cost less? Of course. If you are watching your budget, Orb Audio does offer an Outlet Store with cosmetically imperfect products.
One last point, some of you might have an aesthetic problem with matching your big rectangular flat HDTV with these round Orbs. Their audio quality makes the visual design challenge worth it.
For the price, the sonic quality of Orb Audio's People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System is spectacular. The clarity and richness emanating from those little balls of sound will surely amaze friends and family.