Orb Audio Mod1 Surround Speaker System
This sleek spherical satellite/subwoofer set has actually been reviewed in the print counterpart of this website. But Kevin Hunt's review is not on the site itself. So here are my impressions of the Mod1, Orb Audio's lowest-priced speaker package.
Orb boasts that 5000 of these 4.2-inch steel satellites fit in a single shipping container and I believe it. Each speaker contains a single full-range three-inch polypropylene driver behind an undetachable metal grille and can handle up to 110 watts of power. Orb also offers numerous other packages with multiples of the same spherical enclosure and driver. The cylindrical wire clips on the back accept bare wire or pin connectors, not bananas or spades. The basic speaker sits on a low pedestal that aims it straight forward, and there's no angle adjustment. If you can't place it level with the seating position, Orb offers floor stands as well as wall and ceiling brackets. My review samples came in a beautiful hand-burnished antique copper finish, which costs $150 over the basic package price of $798. Other possible finishes include glossy white, silver, or black.
Though Orb offers both 8- and 10-inch subs, the Super Eight is recommended to provide the best tailoring in most applications. Its eight-inch front-facing driver is augmented by a down-firing port and a BASH amp rated at 200 watts RMS and 400 watts peak. It has a sturdy round-cornered pebble-finish enclosure. Connectivity includes a single line-in RCA jack and a complete set of binding posts for speaker-level ins and outs. A crossover bypass switch is provided.
The Orbs are small but they sound big. I started out with The Who Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. Operating at a challenging 120Hz crossover to dovetail with the sats, the sub took on the fearsome job of reproducing John Entwistle's bass and Keith Moon's drums, and did pretty well, defining clean bass pitches and confidently punching out the drums. The system was plenty efficient, producing high volume levels with even less power than I'd expect a sat/sub set to use. My normal volume setting, half of my Rotel RSX-1065's potential, bumped the SPL meter to 94dB. Not too shabby! And it sounded clean and full, not harsh and ringy. These speakers have the best dynamics I've ever heard from an ultra-mini satellite.
Full-range drivers generally aren't the final word in high-frequency extension and air. But one of the good things about them is that they eliminate any crossover in the midrange. That means there is no telltale notch in the frequencies where our hearing is most discerning. In Leonard Bernstein's recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic, the strings were silky smooth, highly natural, innately musical, and a close relation to what you'd actually hear in a mellow-ish concert hall. No box coloration, obviously. Again, dynamics were no problem for these little wonders. They blasted the "Scherzo" without breaking a sweat. In the blissful final choral movement, they handled both individual and choral vocals with aplomb even at high volume. They also behaved pretty well off-axis, with no sharp dropoff in tonal character or intelligibility.
These are great speakers. If you're looking for a sat/sub set that combines high performance with high style, and your room is less than the 14x20 feet recommended for this system, the Mod1 is worth trying. At this price, this level of accomplishment is remarkable.
Price: $798 basic package, some finishes extra.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.