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ORB Audio Mod2 Home Theater System

Date: June 13, 2007
Author(s): Rory Buszka

Here’s something that’s a bit different for Techgage – we have an in-depth look at a multichannel speaker package from ORB Audio, a new direct-selling speaker manufacturer that’s quickly gaining popularity. And for good reason, as we soon find out.



Introduction


One of the most interesting newcomers to the internet-based direct-selling audio manufacturing scene is ORB Audio. In the few years they’ve existed now, they’ve made quite a reputation for themselves for producing a high-quality product and selling it for way less than they could get away with in the industry — thanks in part to the direct-sales business model, which is shared by other manufacturers like SVSound, Onix, Aperion Audio, Home Theater Direct, and Ascend Acoustics.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that makes the high-end audio world go ’round: markups on loudspeaker products are enormous. High prices keep the ultra-high-end exclusive, and keep ordinary consumers wondering what could possibly be so special about three or four speaker drivers (hunks of metal, plastic, fabric, and rubber) in wooden enclosures with some internal circuitry. Some of that markup is distributed back to the dealer, as a “thank you” for giving extra-special sales treatment to a particular loudspeaker brand. Some of it even ends up back in the pocket of the salesman.

Now, let’s be real; some high-end loudspeaker manufacturers truly push the envelope, and the sheer amount of engineering and fine-tuning involved in achieving a synergistic result is enough to justify a stratospheric price tag in some cases, since they truly advance the state of the art in audio reproduction. These products are usually sold in boutique dealerships; you won’t even find them in specialty A/V stores like Tweeter or Ovation. But when more of the money you pay for the product goes back into marketing, sales, and legal departments than into the actual engineering and development of more innovative products, it’s no surprise that many consumers find these manufacturers’ priorities to be somewhat misplaced.

Like the other direct-sales marques I listed above, ORB Audio stands outside the main cluster of audio manufacturers, throwing rocks at the windows of the rest of the industry with their direct-sales business model that allows them to avoid many of the expenses that could otherwise drive up the price of their product. And, of course, the company abstains from placing enormous unnecessary markups on their products to make up the difference.

The product itself is the Mod series of loudspeakers, which feature a distinctive spherical “orb” shape – the namesake of the company itself. Small, spherical loudspeakers were first made popular by Anthony Gallo Acoustics, but the Gallos will cost you quite a bit more than Orb’s offerings. I’m not sure quite what is meant by ‘Mod’. The spherical speaker pods lend themselves to a modular design – the Mod1 system uses only a single pod, and the Mod2 system uses a pair for increased output potential. At one point, a four-pod floorstanding design (Mod4?) was in development, but beyond some preliminary photos, it seems the idea didn’t go much further.

“Mod” could also stand for Modern Art. The design of Orb’s products makes extensive use of steel – beyond the driver pods themselves, the stands are also made from stainless steel tubing and flat stainless steel plate. In the case of the HOSS floor-stand, the base is a massive cylindrical hunk of stainless. Combine that with the availability of a mesmerizing polished steel or breathtaking hand-antiqued copper finish on the spheres themselves, and these speakers are works of art, not to mention a display of meticulous craftsmanship.

Even though we’re not what some might consider the distinguished audio press, Techgage has long been an advocate of advancing home theater PC (HTPC) technology. And that’s precisely why you might be interested in products from this new company. So ORB Audio took a chance on Techgage, and sent us their flagship Mod2 home theater system, a 5.1-channel package that sells for just under $1230. It contains five Mod2 satellite speakers and a “Super Eight” powered subwoofer with an 8″ driver and a built-in amplifier.

Wait a moment – if that’s the price of their most expensive system, what do their less expensive products sell for? The Mod1 Home Theater System, which is essentially ‘half’ of a Mod2 package, includes five single-sphere satellite speakers and Orb’s Super Eight subwoofer, for a paltry price tag of $779. Two-channel systems are also available, and those start at $529. With a continuum of available options and upgrades on ORB’s web site, it’s possible to build a custom-tailored ORB Audio system for a very reasonable price.



Unpacking, Setup & Specs

Techgage doesn’t typically review home theater products – we’re styled mainly as a PC technology site, so from the start I was intrigued by the possibility of reviewing a product from a different category of consumer electronics, especially since speakers in particular are kind of my thing. So when three hefty boxes from ORB Audio showed up, it certainly kicked my day up a notch.

The biggest box was also the heaviest, so I assumed it contained the subwoofer. Another large but substantially lighter box and a smaller and even lighter box arrived, though the smaller of those two boxes contained samples of each of ORB Audio’s different available finishes, both painted and clear.

Super Eight Subwoofer

I’ve got a thing for high-quality subwoofers. In my opinion, you just don’t get the whole audio experience if there isn’t plenty of deep, clean bass, so I’ve developed quite an appreciation for beefy woofers, gaping reflex ports, and powerful amplifiers, the things that make a serious sub. Naturally, I opened the subwoofer’s shipping carton first.

The ORB Audio Super Eight subwoofer’s box only includes the subwoofer itself, with its hard-wired power cord. The sub is wrapped in a plastic bag to protect it from cardboard dust, while its ends are encased in Styrofoam to prevent crushing of the box. The box containing the sub is the largest and heaviest of the three boxes, but I had no difficulty in lifting it. Still, I began to dread the thought of having to ship the system back to Orb upon completion of the review.

Mod2 Satellite Speakers, BOSS Stands

The second box contained the spherical ORB speakers themselves, as well as the BOSS stainless-steel stands, an option that ORB Audio included with my review sample. The BOSS stands were packed in pairs in bubble wrap in smaller cardboard boxes. The orbs themselves were packed neatly in custom-cut open-cell foam and individual plastic bags – the royal treatment. Of course, for a business that does all their business online, top-notch packing is a must. I’d like to see UPS put a scratch on these.

The ORB speakers arrived in perfect condition, however I did notice a flaw in two of the BOSS vertical speaker stands – while three of the stands were perfectly straight, one of them leaned slightly forward, and another leaned slightly backward. It’s a subtle deviation, but noticeable when the stands are placed side by side.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, some assembly is required. This isn’t rocket science – each sphere has a threaded insert at the rear, which is fastened to the stands using the included hardware. You’ll only need a flat-blade screwdriver to perform the assembly.

The Mod2 Center Channel speaker uses a BOSS horizontally-oriented stand, which has an adjustable tilt function that’s locked in place by a setscrew. If you order the BOSS stands as an upgrade, be sure to order four vertical BOSS stands and one horizontal, unless you prefer having a vertical center channel as well.

So what do you get if you didn’t order the upgraded BOSS stainless-steel stands? The normal stands simply feature painted steel construction, and are somewhat less substantial, but you won’t likely experience any sonic differences. The BOSS stands are much more aesthetically appealing, however. The appearance of the ORBs themselves reminds me of eyeballs. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on their design – I felt like I was being studied closely throughout testing by the ocular forms placed around my room.

The third carton ORB Audio shipped to me contained samples of the other finishes ORB offers. There’s also glossy painted black and white spheres (which are really completely white, grilles and all, if your décor calls for it), and a sample of ORB’s hand-antiqued bronze finish. Like the polished steel finish of my review sample, the hand-antiqued bronze finish carries an extra charge over the painted finishes.

Mod2 Specifications

Specification
Value
Speaker TypeMagnetically shielded full-range satellite speaker. Crossover-free design for coherent, lifelike sound.
DriverAdvanced high-excursion 3″ full range polypropylene driver cone with Santoprene surround. These materials maintain their sonic characteristics over long periods of time and also through a broad range of temperatures and operating environments.
Magnet AssemblyFully shielded, high-density neodymium magnet with proprietary voice coil in high tolerance gap to create strong, highly focused magnetic field. Compact magnet design allows for maximum free internal volume and extension of low midrange performance.
ConnectionsCustom gold-plated brass binding posts (fits up to 14 Ga. wire)
Frequency Response80Hz – 20,000Hz
(120Hz-18,000Hz optimal)0
Efficiency89dB per module
92dB per Mod2 satellite speaker
Impedance Mod1: 8 ohms nominal
Mod2: 4 ohms nominal*
*Mod2 is compatible with all popular receivers & amps rated at 6-8 ohms
Power Handling 15 – 110 watts
Dimensions Mod2 On Desk Stand:
4 3/16″ W x 9 1/2″ H x 4 7/8″ D
(may also be assembled horizontally)
Weight On Desk Stands:
Mod1: 17 oz.
Mod2: 33 oz.
Construction American carbon steel, assembled in USA
FinishesPremium Black Metallic Powder Coat
Premium Pearl White Powder Coat
Hand Polished Steel w/ Clear Coat
Hand Antiqued Bronze w/ Clear Coat
Included Accessories 16 gauge American steel adjustable desk stands (available in black and white)
Jumper wires
As-Tested: BOSS Stainless Steel Desk Stands

Super Eight Specifications

Specification
Value
Speaker TypeHigh-performance ported bass-reflex design.
Port TypePrecision-tuned, flared snorkel port.
Amplifier Type & PowerCustom high-power class AB amplifier with digital switching power supply for enhanced peak power output

150W (continuous)
400W+ (peak)

Amplifier THD<.1% (100hz at full power)
Amplifier S/N>95dB
DriverSuper long-throw 8″ high-performance driver with composite paper/high density ABS cone. This yields rigid, lightweight design with excellent low frequency performance and increased detail and musicality.
Magnet Assembly30 oz. ferrite magnet
Frequency Response 28-180hz
Adjustable Crossover (40-160hz)
Max SPL Peak111dB
Max SPL Long-Term107dB
FeaturesPhase Switch (0/180)
Adjustable Crossover (40-160hz)
Temperature protect circuitry
Auto/On/Off Power
RCA gold-plated stereo line level inputs
High level gold-plated inputs and outputs
12dB/Octave hi-pass circuit
Weight31 lbs
Dimensions 12″ H x 11 3/4″ D x 11 1/2″ W
(optional 1″ feet)

Next, let’s take a closer look at the features and design of the ORB Audio Mod2 system.



ORB Mod2 Features

The ORB Audio Mod2 Home Theater system is ORB Audio’s most expensive package, but in addition to their Mod1 and Mod2 systems, ORB Audio also offers mix-and-matched systems containing speakers in both Mod1 and Mod2 configurations. The People’s Choice home theater system uses Mod2 configurations for the front three, and Mod1 configurations for the rear speakers. Aside from the number of individual speaker pods on each speaker, all the ORB Audio systems share the same features in common.

(A side note – if you don’t care to go in-depth with the technical side of loudspeaker design that pertains to the ORB speakers, just skip to the next page. Or perhaps the page after that. That’s where you’ll find the actual listening testing.)

Each satellite speaker is built around a steel orb, which aside from its visual interest, has some technical merit as well. Each sphere is free of flat surfaces or straight lines. What this means is that there’s virtually nothing to flex, which is why spheres are optimum pressure vessels by their very nature. Also, no two paths from the loudspeaker driver to the enclosure wall are the same length, so there’s no buildup of standing waves inside the enclosure to degrade sonic detail.

Each speaker pod is loaded with a single 3″ full-range driver. That’s it – there is no passive filtering involved. Each loudspeaker driver is directly coupled to your receiver or amplifier, which improves the electrical damping of the driver’s motion. When a loudspeaker cone is set into motion, it should stop quickly once the voltage is removed. But, as those of you with a physics background are aware, nothing ever comes to a stop instantly. Instead, the cone keeps going.

The ‘soft parts’ – the cone’s flexible rubber surround and the fabric spring at the cone’s apex (called a ‘spider’) are meant to dissipate motion energy chaotically through the material, helping to damp the cone’s motion. But as the cone keeps going, its voice coil moves through the magnetic field, generating a voltage. Your amplifier is designed to absorb this voltage, called “back EMF”, which generates a braking effect, but this small voltage can get lost inside a passive crossover network. Directly coupling the drivers to the amplifier helps improve the tightness of the lower midrange and bass, where cone displacements are most severe.

Another concern wherever single full-range drivers are concerned is the cone’s behavior at high frequencies. A speaker cone is designed to behave as a perfect piston through as wide a range as possible, but eventually the accelerations are so great (at high frequencies) that the cone begins to vibrate in unpredictable ways, causing resonant peaks and dips in the driver’s frequency response. Optimizing the cone’s profile and cross-section can suppress these resonances, or at least make sure that they don’t hang around for very long, improving the detail and clarity that can be expected from speaker drivers.

As an additional measure, a bead of glue has been applied at the cone-surround junction, mass-loading the edge of the cone and ensuring that vibrations which travel away from the center of the cone don’t get reflected back into the center of the cone, further minimizing these ‘standing waves’. The cones of the drivers themselves are made of polypropylene, which has greater internal damping than paper.

The final technological advancement in these speaker drivers is an ‘underhung’ magnetic structure using rare-earth Neodymium magnets, which are ten times stronger than the typical ferrite ceramic ‘donut’ magnet that you typically see. The ‘underhung’ design means that the magnetic gap is longer than the voice coil windings, so the entire length of the voice coil always stays immersed in the magnetic field, for lower distortion. The combination of high-strength magnets and underhung magnetic structures ensures that the cone can hit the high frequencies while remaining smooth and detailed. Each driver is protected by a perforated metal grille. In the case of white ORBs, the grille is painted white to match.

As a final touch, the binding posts on the back of each satellite speaker are spring-loaded and gold-plated, for the best possible contact and wire retention. These are fairly small as binding posts go, however, and I had trouble getting my 16-gauge speaker wire to fit. Needless to say, enormous 12-gauge speaker wires need not apply. In the case of the Mod2 satellite speakers, the two orbs are connected together by short jumper wires. This makes connecting the speaker leads a bit tricky, since you’ve got to push the leads in the bottom of each speaker without pushing the jumper wires out the top.

One last note – the ORB Audio Mod2 speakers are 4-ohm speakers, which mean your receiver will need to be able to drive a 4-ohm load. Even if your receiver or other amplifier is labeled ‘8 ohms’ or greater, don’t despair – driving a lower impedance only means your receiver will generate more heat. So as long as you’ve got plenty of ventilation around your receiver, you’re good to go.

Next, let’s take an in-depth look at the ORB Audio Super Eight subwoofer.



ORB Super Eight Features

One part of ORB’s speaker systems that they love to talk up is the ‘Super Eight’ subwoofer. With its built-in 150W amplifier (300W peak) and 8″ driver, they say, this 12″ cube can rival larger subwoofers. The Super Eight is also available by itself, so if you need to add a competent sub to some other non-ORB speakers, the Super Eight is an option.

(If this technical stuff is getting boring, just skip ahead to the next page to read about the listening tests. Or if you care to wait, I won’t spoil it for you.)

The theme of roundness continues with ORB Audio’s Super Eight sub. Despite its straight-edged shape, its driver is protected by a round open-weave grille. The enclosure is made of heavy and rigid medium-density fiberboard, coated in a textured finish that makes it more scratch-resistant. As with many things, weight is a sign of quality here. Or, more specifically, beefiness.

The grille is removable, and behind it is what we really came here to see – a hefty 8″ woofer, with a wide rubber surround and a thick paper-pulp cone. Even though this driver is only an 8-incher, its extended range of linear cone travel lets it displace as much air as a 10″ or 12″ woofer. ORB Audio specifies this subwoofer’s low frequency extension to a massively-low 25 Hz, so the Super Eight will need every last millimeter of linear throw to generate the kind of air movement that it takes to deliver clean bass at low frequencies.

The Super Eight’s woofer features a stamped steel frame, and a large-diameter spider (the fabric spring that provides restoring force for the driver). The magnet is ceramic, and the voice coil appears to be between 1″ and 1.5″, for high power handling. The rubber surround and stiff cone should be able to deal with whatever punishment you can feed this woofer.

The back of the woofer’s motor structure is “bumped” or extended, which gives the woofer’s voice coil more room to move. If you’ve ever heard the sickening ‘clack’ of a woofer bottoming out against the back of its motor structure, you know it can put a serious speed-bump in your enjoyment of the performance.

Serious subs move serious air, and the enclosure’s vent is an ample 2″-diameter tube, which is also flared at each end to decrease air turbulence that could otherwise pollute the clean bass with an annoying “chuffing” sound. To tune the tiny cube enclosure, a long port is required. (Conversely, tuning a larger box to the same frequency would employ a shorter duct.)

The Super Eight’s port tube makes two 90-degree bends, snaking its length around inside the enclosure. At the back of the box, the ‘guts’ of the amplifier is visible. However, a quick check around the rear confirms that the controls and input jacks themselves are sealed to the outside, so no air leakage occurs. In order to have effective driver loading (which supports the back of the driver to prevent excessive linear cone excursion), there can’t be any leaks in the box, so that’s why this is important.

Providing the juice for the Super Eight’s substantial woofer is a Class-AB amplifier rated at 150W RMS (into the 4-ohm woofer). ORB Audio claims a ‘Peak’ power of 300W for this unit, but ‘peak’ power ratings are virtually meaningless. The RMS power figure describes how much power this amp can deliver 24/7, day in and day out. The 300W figure is based on a much shorter time period – perhaps the duration of a kick drum’s transient. For serious rumbling or continuous high-level effects, however, the RMS power number is the one we really care about.

In addition to a control for the amplifier gain (‘volume’), there’s also a continuously-adjustable crossover frequency, and a switch that reverses the phase of the subwoofer’s input signal. Set this switch to the setting that gives the most overall level in your room, though the difference between settings is barely perceptible. The phase of the sub’s output only becomes an issue if your main speakers have a reversed phase (applying voltage to the + terminal makes the woofers move in instead of out), or if you’re placing the sub far away from the main speakers (to the tune of 20-30 feet). The subwoofer allows both line level and speaker level inputs, but you should use the line level inputs whenever you can.

The ORB Mod2 satellites and Super Eight subwoofer are each solid pieces of kit in their own right, but in combination, they should provide superb performance. All the makings of greatness are there — let’s see what the listening tests revealed.



Listening Testing

With all five ORB Audio Mod2 satellite speakers assembled and the Super Eight unpacked, I quickly set about connecting them to my home theater setup. These are passive (un-powered) speakers, which means you’ll need a home theater receiver or integrated amplifier in order to use them. Here’s a list of the gear I used in the system:

The room was 16′ deep by 12′ wide and both carpeted and furnished. I spaced the front satellites 8 feet apart, and placed the center channel equidistant from either front satellite speaker. The rear satellites were five feet apart on a small shelving unit. Before conducting any listening, I used the Harman/Kardon receiver’s EzSet function to ensure that the levels were matched and that the delay times were properly set.

The EzSet function accurately measured the distance from the front three speakers to the listening position as 11 feet, and the distance from the listening position to the rear satellite speakers as 6 feet. The receiver also selected a 150Hz crossover frequency between the subwoofer and the satellite speakers. With everything perfectly calibrated, the ORBs watched with unblinking interest as I popped in the first piece of testing material.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Eragon (2007) is a movie adaptation of the first book of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy, and while it wasn’t particularly well received by the critics, it offers a broad selection of sound effects, ranging from soft rustling leaves and grass to room-rocking explosions of flame, and plenty of rumbling and pant-leg-waffling tone bursts. Simply speaking, it’s a top-notch film for testing purposes.

The Mod2s’ full range drivers lent a smooth, natural character to the sound, even when driven hard. Through the quieter passages, subtle ambient sounds were rendered clearly, though in the more boisterous, action-filled passages, the Orbs did not become strident or harsh, even when played at levels that nearly drove me out of the room. Though the treble was slightly lacking in detail (typical of full-range drivers), it did not sound as though the upper octaves were missing.

When compared to my own multi-way main speakers with separate dome tweeters, I could tell that the discrete tweeters had the edge over the Orbs in treble resolution and extension. For a design using unfiltered full-range drivers, however, the ORBs performed admirably. Their small size doesn’t prevent them from delivering a rich midrange, and some impression of midbass is even on order, a place where many small satellite speaker systems fall short.

The Super Eight subwoofer handled most of the explosive sound effects in Eragon with aplomb, demonstrating the high-excursion 8″ driver’s ability to move lots of air. However, some of the more intense sound effects proved to be too much for the Super Eight at the volume levels I chose to test the system at.

Even as the satellite speakers remained clean and clear, enormous room-shaking bursts of low-frequency energy caused the woofer to be overdriven, creating a nasty ‘wubba-wubba’ sound, the sound of a woofer in distress. The Super Eight could benefit from a 20 Hz subsonic filter circuit, to prevent it from wasting its power on frequencies too low to be reproduced at high volume levels.

To test the ORBs with music, I selected Wilco’s Summerteeth album, which serves up a variety of sonic textures. Summerteeth is a veritable sonic sampler plate, with a broad range of musical styles, acoustic and electric instruments, and tastefully-done post-processing effects. In the first track, “Can’t Stand It,” it was easy to pick out the instruments that had effects applied to them and distinguish them from those that didn’t, instead of a mishmash.

The ORBs had a rich, detailed sound that maintained balance and fullness even at high levels, while the subwoofer lent a balanced (if slightly loose) low end that complimented the sound of the rest of the system. Track 3, “Shot in the Arm,” was both rendered with clarity and delivered with power, even at scary levels. I’m still amazed at how much sound came out of these tiny speakers – they’re remarkably efficient.

One thing that speakers with full-range drivers do well is “imaging” – the ability to create an expansive field of sound, with sound sources accurately placed within it. Since there are no passive crossovers to create phase-shift and time-domain alignment problems, full-range drivers are inherently phase-coherent.

The multichannel mixes of the music plated during the credits of Eragon showcased these speakers’ ability to produce a panoramic soundstage with instrumental sounds seeming to originate from beyond the space between the left and right loudspeakers themselves. While listening to Wilco’s Summerteeth, I had to convince myself that indeed nothing was coming out of the center channel speaker – since the lead singer’s voice seemed to come from directly between the front left and right satellite speakers.

With well-recorded music, the ORB Audio system began to show its few flaws and shortcomings. I began to miss the level of treble detail that a discrete tweeter can provide, and the lack of midbass (due to the steel spheres’ relatively small interior volume) still deprived the ORBs of some warmth and fullness. Another thing I noticed with music was a slightly cupped coloration in the midrange. However, I feel these shortcomings are so slight that they aren’t likely to interfere at all with your enjoyment of the ORBs.



Conclusion

With the Mod2 home theater system, ORB Audio erases all doubt that they’re serious about competing with the big boys. Here are small speakers that deliver undeniably powerful sound for their size, with looks that are sure to impress any picky significant other. I imagine that’s the primary market for the ORBs – those home theater enthusiasts who feel pressured by their significant others to lose the big, bulky boxes for more aesthetically-appealing speakers, but who don’t want to sacrifice true audio performance to get it.

While the ORBs won’t truly replace a good bookshelf speaker in the $250/pair price range, they’re more than competitive with the other multichannel speaker packages that use small satellite speakers, but their unique aesthetics gives them an edge. The ORBs deliver sound that’s sonically pleasing yet honest, without the gee-whiz coloration that some manufacturers add to their speakers to help them sell well in stores.

The ORB Mod2 satellite speakers are insanely crankable, and capable of levels you’d think impossible given their small size and sleek styling. There’s still something to be gained by having a separate tweeter driver and a well-tuned enclosure and crossover, however, so if you can swing it with the lady of the house (or, perhaps, sneak them by), I’d still prefer multi-way bookshelf speakers with larger enclosures, to add more fullness and body to the midbass instead of relying on the subwoofer at upper bass frequencies.

The ORB Audio Super Eight subwoofer really stole the show, and offered quite a bit more true deep bass than I’ve heard from any subwoofer with an 8″ driver – it’s even got some 10″ subs beat in terms of its ability to go low loudly, and do it cleanly. The Super Eight subwoofer lent marvelous depth and impact to music and movies, though it isn’t the cleanest or most musical subwoofer I’ve ever experienced, perhaps because of some added equalization at the bottom of the sub’s range, which imparts a sense of looseness and ‘fatness’ that stifles musicality. Still, for its price, it adds real value to this system, and you won’t feel tempted to look elsewhere for your subwoofage.

He’s Got Big Balls, She’s Got Big Balls…

ORB Audio touts its lack of extra markups added by dealers and distributors as an advantage of the direct sales model, though that doesn’t mean that the ORBs are particularly inexpensive. The base price of a 5.1-channel ORB Audio Mod2 system as of this writing is $1229, but as-tested, my sample would cost you $1649. When you consider that you get five great-looking speakers and a competent subwoofer as part of the deal, that doesn’t seem so bad, though it’s worth noting that Bose’s flagship Acoustimass 16 sound system, a 6.1 speaker package, only costs $1149.

I mention Bose since they’re another company that commands a pretty penny for their products, but the ORBs are still less expensive that the original small spherical speakers, the Anthony Gallo Nucleus Micro speakers. Essentially what I’m saying is this: the ORB Audio speakers offer a great alternative to other small-satellite packages like the Bose Acoustimass, with significantly better audio performance, but don’t expect to necessarily pay less to get it.

The ORBs have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so feel free to check them out in-home for yourself and see if they’re for you. And if they aren’t, just send them back to ORB (though shipping that hefty sub is a bitter pill to swallow in that arrangement.)

One last thing – the ORBs would make a fabulous companion to a simple home theater system headed by a home theater PC and multichannel receiver – so if there’s a home theater PC in your future, definitely put the ORBs on your short list if you want a smaller setup that’s still potent enough to deliver the real home theater goods.

We were told that a fully amplified ORB speaker system is also in the works, for the PC audio market, so be looking for those as well. The ORB Mod2 home theater system earns a Techgage score of 8, for their excellent representation of the multichannel speaker package category and wonderful performance overall. If they were $100-$200 less expensive, however, I feel a ‘9’ score could have been easily in hand.

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