|Orb Audio Mod4 Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
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The Mod4 speaker system from Orb Audio is the Internet-based company’s attempt at a no-holds-barred home theater loudspeaker solution pointed directly at today’s design-conscious consumer. The system is rather compact and retails for a manageable $1,999 for a complete 5.1 system and comes straight from the factory to you via Orb’s website, as well as offering a 30-day money-back guarantee. For years, Orb Audio has been famed the world over for their stylish designs and quality sound at affordable prices, all made right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A., and their latest concoction, the Mod4 system reviewed here, is consistent with that tradition.
The Mod4 speaker system was delivered to my office personally by Orb Audio president Garry Pelled. I was able to chat with Garry about the Mod4 system for a bit, as well as Orb’s manufacturing process that takes place in Sherman Oaks, California (not too far from my office). While some parts come from outside of California, Garry assured me that all Orb products are designed, assembled and tested in their Sherman Oaks factory, and other domestic factories. When it comes to raw numbers, these little speakers add up. Orb buys more than 8 tons of American high carbon steel in a typical quarter and more than 20 miles of custom American made copper speaker wire. When I asked what parts come from places abroad, Garry replied, “We don’t make the BASH amp inside one of our subwoofers.” Then there was a long silence. Fair enough, as I wasn’t fishing for industry secrets, but I was impressed that you can still buy affordable speakers that are actually made here in the United States. Other “round” speakers cannot claim that and, in some instances, even cost more.
This is my first experience with Orb Audio. There is no denying the visual resemblance between Orb’s speakers and Anthony Gallo’s Nucleus Micro speakers. I’ve heard the Gallo Nucleus Micros and honestly didn’t much care for them. Clearly, the Mod4 system had an uphill battle ahead to win me over just on the negative association front. Gary and AVRev.com publisher Jerry Del Colliano, who is a big fan of Orb speakers, warned me not to be biased from my experience doing past reviews of other products.
The Mod4 system is aptly named, in that the front left and right speakers, as well as the center channel, feature four of Orb’s Mod1 satellite speakers, two sitting one on top of the other for the stereo mains and the others next to each other for the center speaker. The idea behind this configuration is to have an Orb system that could fill a large room yet still remain supremely functional from a design and budgetary standpoint. The rears for the Mod4 system are comprised of two vertically stacked Mod1s. Include a Super Eight subwoofer and you have the Mod4 speaker system. The entire system, minus the subwoofer, can neatly be wall-mounted, table-mounted or configured for a floor-standing solution. My particular Mod4 system arrived with the stereo mains mounted on Orb’s own HOSS floor stands with the center and rear channels resting on their custom tabletop stands. My review system was in the hand-polished (yes, it’s really hand-polished) steel finish. The Mod4 system, like all Orb systems, comes in either a metallic black gloss, pearl white, antiqued copper or antiqued bronze finish, all of which are absolutely stunning, especially when you consider the price.
The Mod4 system is comprised of two or four Mod1s, each with a three-inch full-range polypropylene driver with a fully shielded neodymium magnet, with a proprietary Orb Audio voice coil with a reported frequency response of 80Hz to 20,000Hz and an efficiency rating of 89dB into a nominal eight ohm load. Each of the Mod 1s is encased in a carbon steel enclosure, measuring a little over four inches wide by four inches high, weighing a minuscule 17 ounces. Each speaker has a single set of gold-plated binding posts capable of fitting bare wire up to a gauge of 14.
The Super Eight Subwoofer, which comes standard with the Mod4 system, features a single forward-firing eight-inch-long throw driver, powered by a 200-watt BASH digital hybrid amplifier. The Super Eight has a reported frequency response of 28-180Hz, with a 40-160Hz adjustable crossover. It also features an adjustable phase switch, as well as an auto power on/off switch, stereo line level inputs, gold-plated RCA style inputs and a 12dB Octave hi-pass circuit. The Super Eight comes with a textured black cabinet, measuring 12 inches tall by 11-and-three-quarter inches deep and 11-and-a-half inches wide, weighing 26 pounds. Customers can step up to Orb Audio’s new UBER Ten subwoofer, which features a 10-inch driver powered by an internal 300-watt BASH amp, for an additional $299.
Like I said, the Mod4 system can be mounted in a variety of ways, and all the necessary stands and hardware can be had from Orb Audio’s website, as well as cables and even receivers from the likes of Yamaha for a truly high-end home theater-in-a-box solution. Keep in mind the Mod4’s price of $1,999 includes wall mounts, but it does not include the receiver or any necessary cables needed to complete your home theater experience.
Like I said, my Mod4 system came preassembled from the factory. However, assembly seems far from complicated. Simply mount the individual Mod 1 speakers to the support bars via the supplied hardware and, presto, you have a Mod4 speaker. Where it gets a bit tricky, or at least time-consuming, is that each of the speakers has to be bridged to another. However, Orb Audio supplies pre-cut jumper wire in the correct length and color to fit into the Orbs.
I set up the Mod4 system in my office, which features a new 40-inch 120Hz Samsung HD LCD TV, being fed by a Dish Network HD DVR and my Toshiba HD-A35 HD DVD player (also review pending). I powered the Mod4 speakers with my trusty Denon 4806 receiver, which was more than adequate in terms of power for the Mod4 system. For speaker cables, everything I had on hand was way too thick, so I dug up an old audiophile favorite of mine, Mapleshade’s Clearview Golden Helix and Golden Parallel speaker cables. I don’t use the Mapleshade cables as much as I’d like, but I keep them around for special occasions, as I consider them to be some of the best cables money can buy regardless of price; I really enjoy their open airy midrange and pristine treble capabilities, which is perfect for a speaker like the Mod4, since all the bass is going to be routed to the subwoofer. The rest of the cabling came by way of Ultralink and XLO, with power conditioning coming by way of Richard Gray’s Power Company.
I will say it is absolutely essential to break in the Orb speaker system for no less than 24 hours before critical listening. I know many speaker companies send speakers that are already broken in, but these Orbs needed to spend a day loosening up with some Internet radio. The difference after that 24 hour period of break-in was night and day.