Most helpful critical review
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Finally purchased after 6 years of deliberation.
on February 6, 2013
For the last 6 years we've been looking for a small speaker system for our small weekend town condo--just 900 sf. We wanted something to entertain in our open kitchen/living room space. After an hour long discussion with an Orb representative recently, I decided to try the Mod1 with Booster amplifier. That's two Orb speakers, their Super8 subwoofer, and a multi-input channel mini amplifier. Customer service was quite good. Orb reps are very proud of their company and the products they carry. They're also very honest about their expertise. I asked the agent advising me what system would best present classical music. He honestly told me he didn't listen to it so couldn't advise. But he himself used a Mod1 at home and was very satisfied. He also advised me against the smaller Yamaha subwoofer Orb carries, letting me know the Super8 was far richer.
I received the components and had them up and running in under an hour. I don't have wire strippers so had to make the wire connections the old fashioned way--stripping with a knife. By the way, I'd purchased everything I needed--including speaker wire and subwoofer cable--through Orb, so everything is exactly as the rep advised. I write that to let others know my quality assessment isn't biased by components that might not be intended to work together optimally.
Having used Bose systems for years and having been sorely disappointed with Bose at higher volume (too little power, though excellent at low volume), we looked for years for a replacement that didn't require a third mortgage. The Orb system was affordable, but more importantly, had outstanding reviews all over the web. We first connected an Ipod Touch and tried a mixed contemporary (rock) playlist. Without the Super8 the speakers sounded very tinny. But with the Super8 the sound was whole, even powerful. Then we tried a Bach French Suite. I have Bose in my car, listen to the same recording there, and have been disappointed at low volume where the sound is smoothest, but find that on loud I begin to feel as if I'm in the concert hall, however this is limited by the ugly distortion at high volume. So when the Orb Audio, with Super8 turned almost to maximum, delivered mediocre sound, I was crest fallen. The piano sounded dull, listless, and the subwoofer had to be turned to maximum to catch the lower keyboard range. Worst of all, at the upper volume range, classical pieces--whether solo instruments or ensembles--break up. Listening recently to a Rachmaninoff concerto for piano & orchestra, the distortion was so bad we turned off the system, preferring silence to the poor sound quality.
The Orb sound (Mod1 with Booster amplifier) is good with contemporary, bass-rich pieces. It's strong in treble across genres. But after trying 9 "classical" albums from the early 17th through late 19th centuries, we resigned ourselves to listening to classical music only through our headphones. The Bose is fine for contemporary music, but breaks up horribly with classical pieces. There is less distortion with Orb, but that "Oh-my-god-that's-exquisite" sensation you get when you're listening to a piece via headphones and you feel as if you're in the middle of the musical ensemble is simply, for us, not there with the Mod1 system. Maybe the Mod2--doubling the number of speakers--would be satisfactory. And if it matters to any reading this, we've tried many different placements of the speakers and subwoofer, but after days of listening--always hoping it would take just a few days for the system to settle into marvellous sound--keep finding the Mod1 works best when the speakers are pointed towards us, and in close range. Simply put, we don't find the Mod1 an apartment-filling sound system.
I've always subscribed to the under-promise-but-over-deliver business philosophy. We had very, very high hopes from Orb Audio, but will likely be returning the set to pay an audio professional to come into our space to make recommendations on a system. We feel guilty leaving this less than stellar review; the Orb reps were so enthusiastic and frankly likable that we WANT to say we love the system. But we're just terribly disappointed.
UPDATE, 16 FEB
We've listened to a variety of music since getting the Mod1 system, and we're very sad to report we remain underwhelmed--so much so that we'll definitely be returning the heavy system. We'd rather take the hit on shipping back the large Super-8 than continue to feel dissappointed in the system. To reiterate, we find the Mod1 system with subwoofer and amplifier reasonable for contemporary pieces (though it doesn't compare to a traditional large-box speaker system--not by a long shot), but abhorent for classical pieces--especially large ensemble pieces. Too, we're always afraid of damaging the system because in order to get fair volume in our tiny condo space we have to crank up the mini-amp JUST below the red indicator lights--as we continue to lust after more volume. We'd rather pay 4 times the Orb cost for a system that thrills us deep in the bones. Sorry, Orb. We wanted to love you, but just don't. But thanks, Orb, for your 30 day in-home trial. Indispensable.