|Orb Audio Mod4 Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
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Music And Movies
I started things off with Linkin Park’s latest album Minutes to Midnight (Warner Brothers) and the track “What I’ve Done.” The opening piano was delicate and natural against the airy cymbals. When the guitars roared in, the dynamic prowess of the Mod4 system was evident. The bass was rock-solid and exceptionally quick. I was a bit bowled over by the depths that the Super Eight subwoofer could reach. The high frequencies were very composed and showed little to no signs of glare unless I turned the volume up past a comfortable level. I wouldn’t classify the midrange as warm, but it was incredibly nimble and just ever so slightly on the lean side of neutral. Vocals still had tremendous presence and a fair amount of weight to them, locking them firmly in the center of the soundstage just in front of the loudspeakers, which I liked. Speaking of soundstage, the Mod4s aurally disappear, leaving a very large and seamless arching soundstage in their wake. Instruments were appropriately placed and kept their distance from one another, unless I got too giddy with the volume. At the extremes, the soundstage compressed a bit, becoming more or less a wall of sound, with all the instruments existing on the same plane. Dynamically, the Mod4 is quite impressive, pulling off a successful Jekyll and Hyde transformation at the drop of a hat.
I moved on to something a bit tamer and opted for Counting Crows’ greatest hits album Films About Ghosts (Geffen) and the track “Anna Begins.” The opening cymbal crashes exhibited tremendous decay with a great sense of air and space surrounding them. The accompanying snare drum strikes were equally impressive. Once again, the vocals reigned supreme. The bass from the lower midrange on down was seamless between the Mod4 speakers and the Super Eight sub, adding a good sense of weight and scale to the performance. Still, one has to keep it in perspective, for these are not cost-no-object speakers and, for what they are, they are very good indeed. I just found it hard not to compare the Orb Audio Mod4 system with speakers that cost four to five times more per pair.
Switching to multi-channel music for a minute, I cued up 3 Doors Down Live on Super Disc (Monster Music). Starting with the track “Kryptonite,” I found the disc’s Dolby Digital mix to be too aggressive for the Mod4 system, forcing them to shout when played at above-average levels. However, when I switch the disc’s audio setting to DTS, everything changed. The high frequencies settled down a bit and the midrange filled out, yet the bass seemed to go relatively unchanged. With the Denon’s Audyssey settings set to “flat,” the center channel took center stage, anchoring the vocals firmly in the middle of the soundstage. The cymbals had a good sense of air and shimmer, but it was the kick drum that caught my attention. For a small eight-inch driver with 200 watts at its disposal, the Super Eight subwoofer was an absolute champ. The depth and speed the mighty Eight is capable of is shocking, bordering on the insane. More impressive still was how seamless the small satellite speakers were, with the sub sounding more like full-range towers than a sub satellite combo. Across the board, the sonic presentation was effortless. There was a coherence to the sound that you don’t usually find with speakers in the Mod4’s price class.
Switching to the track “Away From the Sun,” I dialed things back a bit. The opening guitar sounded live and lifelike. When the rest of the band joined in, the scale and weight of the performance was very impressive. The drum kit had excellent detail, especially regarding to the snare and cymbal strikes. The kick drum was amazing, showcasing the Super Eight sub once again, and the Mod4s were able to plunge deep enough to add a bit of texture to the hefty slam of the mallet. On the whole, the entire Mod4 system tends to lack that last ounce of warmth, instead favoring speed and accuracy. That’s not to say the Mod4 isn’t musical, not at all; it’s just that there’s only so much weight and air a three-inch driver can move before you’re simply asking too much. What the Mod4 does so well is create an effortless and seamless musical performance, which is more than I can say for most of its competition.
Switching gears to movies, I started with the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s masterpiece 300 on HD DVD (Warner Home Video). Say what you want about the film adaptation (I thought it sucked out loud), it’s an impressive transfer to HD DVD, featuring some striking visuals and wonderful surround sound decoding. In the first battle between the Spartans and the Persians, the Mod4 system proved up to the task of conveying the epic conflict. The sounds of metal on metal as the two armies’ shields collided resonated throughout the room, as well as in my bowels. The wet slashing sounds for torn flesh and gushing blood were palpable and grotesque. When the battle went into slow motion, the balance between the score and sound effects editing was quite impressive, made all the more haunting by the moments of dead silence. Again, in terms of absolute dynamics, the Mod4 System is quite possibly in a class beyond its price tag. The sound of hundreds of thousands of arrows falling from the sky enveloped me in a way only a system comprised of these drivers can. The surround sound performance was excellent. The bass was, again, an absolute treat. I know of no other “small” subs, save maybe the Definitive Technology Super Cubes or the Sunfire True subwoofers, capable of doing what the Mod4 sub seems to do. Even amidst the onslaught of violence, the dialogue remained intelligible and natural-sounding. What the Mod4 may lack in total composure in the face of itchy volume finger, it more than makes up for with its amazing coherence and multi-channel balance. Plus, as a system, the Mod4s are just good fun.