|Orb Audio "People's Choice" Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Thursday, 03 September 2009|
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Orb Audio (www.orbaudio.com) has embraced this business model and made a mission of offering great-sounding home theater speakers directly to consumers. Orb's motto is, “Small speakers for smart people,” and after auditioning its People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System I can confirm these speakers are indeed smart choices. The company backs its products with a 30-day in-home trial. If you don't like what you hear, send the speakers back for a refund. I doubt, though, that Orb fields many such returns.
At the heart of all the Orb systems is the round satellite Orb speaker. This compact (4-inch) sphere can be used alone (Mod 1), in tandem (Mod 2) or quadrupled (Mod 4) to accommodate small, medium or large listening rooms. This modularity is one of the Orb's greatest strengths, and the little speakers take up little more space than a handful of baseballs. The People's Choice system comes bundled with three Mod 2 double Orbs (for front and center channels), two single Mod 1 Orbs for rear channels and the SUPER EIGHT 200 watt subwoofer. The direct price is $1,098 and covers the bases for 5.1 systems. To order additional Orbs for 6.1 or 7.1 systems, a drop-down menu on the People's Choice page makes it a cinch to tailor to your preferences.
I was a bit surprised that the system didn't include a subwoofer cable or speaker wire – both available options from the Orb Web site – so be sure to have these on hand or order along with the system. The People's Choice system is rated at more than 115 watts, and should be compatible with nearly all AV receivers.
The Orbs may be tiny but they're of solid metal construction – no flimsy plastic here – and come dressed in either metallic black or pearl white. If you fancy a more refined look, three other but more expensive options exist: hand-polished steel, hand-antiqued copper or hand-antiqued bronze. Going with such a finish tacks on $240 to the bill. I was sent additional samples of each Orb in these finishes and can attest to the beauty of the higher-priced finishes. It's nice to have such options, particularly since most home theater systems occupy living rooms where clunky looking speakers can easily detract from a room's overall décor.
I also like the design – the Orbs look like orbs. They would be right at home in a Robert Heinlein novel, with their satellite appearance. Upon seeing them for the first time, my wife asked, “What are those space-alien-looking things?” When I played some music for her, those space-aliens brought a smile. “Wow, those sound great,” she said. “What are they again?”
Hooking up the Orbs to a home theater receiver is straightforward. I used the three Mod 2s for front and center channels and the two Mod 1s for rear channels. I'm still using my Yamaha HTR-5850, a receiver I've had for more than five years. The 5850 is a 6.1 channel receiver, so I needed to borrow an extra Orb to employ the back channel.
The Mod 1s and 2s both feature gold-plated binding posts, but the posts aren't the easiest to work with. First, they are small and a bit awkward to work with. If you have large fingers, you'll likely struggle to depress the posts to access the openings for speaker wires. Once depressed, they must be held in place while the wire terminal is inserted. Again, a bit tricky and a job better suited for two people, with one holding the post down and other inserting the wire. It would be much easier to have some type of insert on the back of the binding instead of the side, particularly with the Mod 2s, where it's possible to knock the internal wiring out of place if you push the speaker wire too far into the post. But that's my only quibble.
I placed two Mod 2s atop my respective floor-standing speakers, the center channel Mod 2 atop my TV, the two rear channel Mod 1s approximately 10 feet away (per side) branched in a right triangle from the center speakers, and the back speaker about 5 feet directly behind my couch, in a line parallel with the TV. I'm fortunate to have a fairly regular-shaped rectangular home theater room, but the Orbs can be easily moved for any situation.