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Review: Orb Audio Booster System

- April 18th, 2012

 

OrbAudioBooster1

There is certainly no shortage of speakers and sound systems on the market. However, sometimes you want just a little more sound-oomph for your computer or television, but not necessarily interested in a massive, full blown, annoy-the-neighbours surround sound system. Yet at the same time you want something with a little style and class with a decent sound. The Orb Audio Booster System fits this mold.

Integrated Amplifier

Those familiar with the systems of yesteryear will appreciate Booster’s integrated 20-watts/channel amplifier, with connectivity for up to 4 input sources (2 RCA style, 2 mini-headphone), a subwoofer output and a remote control. For output, it uses traditional speaker wire that connects through a detachable harness for easy access.

BoosterBAck

The front is simple and clean with an LED sound level indicator, input selector indicate volume, power and mute control. It’s all housed in space-saving extruded black metal cabinet measuring 6”x6”x 1.75” high. It has more functionality that a simple powered speaker system, yet can almost replace my old full-sized receiver with functions you’d never use anyway, except for maybe the AM/FM tuner.

The wireless remote is fairly Plain Jane with basic, commonly used functions like power, volume, mute and input selector.

SatelliteSpeaker

Hand Made Stainless Steel Speakers

Now the speakers are what take this system to a whole new level. They look nothing like anything you’d find on the shelves at a typical electronics store.  The first things you’ll notice is the absence of what you’d normally see – plastic.

Measuring 4” in diameter, they’re made in California of solid-steel construction, each one incorporating a powerful fully shielded advanced neodymium magnet. On the rear, is a pair of threaded gold-plated brass binding posts, which makes attaching the speaker wire, a breeze. They’re also round, orb-shaped and thus the name.

 Gallery

They come in 6 different finishes – Pearl White, Metallic Black, Hammered Earth, Hand Polished Steel, Hand Antiqued Copper & Hand Antiqued Bronze. A mini-stand with base that attaches with a thumbscrew completes the picture. There are a number of stand options available, but that’s beyond the scope of this review.

 

Test Drive

My test drive included using the booster system with both a computer and an HDTV. On the Mac I immediately noticed an increase in sound performance, whether it was listening to a podcast or watching a movie.

Unlike the built-in speakers of the MacBook Pro, which are not too bad to begin with, interestingly, the sensitivity of the drivers also brought out imperfections in the quality of some recordings. This was quite evident especially on some of the poorly done YouTube Videos.  On the other hand, it also brought out crispness even with AAC or MP3 recordings I listened to through iTunes.

With that said, the mid-high and high ranges were incredible. However, what seemed to be missing were some of the lower-end frequencies. With no bass or treble controls on the amp, I had to adjust the equalizer in iTunes to get the bass I needed when cranking up the tunes. Of course, I wouldn’t expect to get much thump out of a small speaker of this nature. (You’d need a subwoofer to do that, which we’ll cover later.)

On the other hand, when keeping your sound at very low levels, for example when using it for background music or ambience, the sound was so clean; I could even still make out a song’s lyrics.

Having the booster amp within arms reach there was little need for use of the remote, until I moved the system over to my TV, an older 26” Toshiba 720p HD in a living room with high vaulted ceilings, where sound can easily get lost.

The experience was somewhat identical to the previous one, a substantial improvement over built-in speakers – with one exception. My TV does not have a headphone jack, so I had to connect through a fixed output audio-out connector. This meant I couldn’t adjust the sound through my TV.

 

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Super Eight Custom Subwoofer

 

Adding a subwoofer to the mix was finding the missing piece to the puzzle adding to the low end a nice punch rather than a window rattle.  While still not surround sound (we’re only using 2 speakers), the sound filled the room and watching (and listening) to Star Trek for the Nth time was pure joy. Even with music from TV broadcasts – like Coldplay on PBS’s Austin City Limits sounded quite respectable.  What really surprised me was the significant difference even in listening to, the not too exciting, 6 o’clock news.

The sub, albeit not as small as the drivers, is still compact for a subwoofer. It’s housed in a 12” cubed black cabinet that incorporates an 8″ driver, a 200W BASH hybrid digital amplifier and a heavy 30oz. ounce magnet. It too has gold-plated inputs and binding posts. It has auto/on off capability with a phase switch (0/180), adjustable crossover (40-160hz), and a crossover enable/disable switch and temperature-protect circuitry.

Overall, the Orb Audio Booster system added to my TV listening pleasure but it was the spice of the Super Eight sub that takes it to the next level and really seals the deal.

The Booster amp is nice and compact. It offers basic functionality but does the job. It would have been nice to be able to have some sort of bass/treble or basic EQ capabilities, especially where you have no other ways to adjust.

 

Difficult Choice

One of the hardest things to do would be to choose from the available finishes. They’re all quite esthetically pleasing, an elegant piece of industrial design. Personally, I’m partial to the Hammered Earth and Hand Antiqued Bronze.

mounted

Not just pretty, they’re solid and seem really well made, being the types of speakers you would expect to find at a high-end audio boutique. While stylish, I can also see these speakers being something you would mount in an office or restaurant.

 

Direct Offer 30-day trial 

But at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, these speakers are not available in stores.

Orb Audio has a direct-sales model and they even have a risk-free 30-day trial that is also available to Canadians with special shipping rates to Canada that includes a free upgrade to Air.

The Orb Audio Booster alone sells for $198; the speakers are $239 for a pair in either black or white; there is an upcharge for the Hammered Earth or Polished finishes; The Super Eight Custom Sub sells for $399.

You can certainly mix and match. As a package, the Orb Audio Booster System goes for $396 with only $299 more if you add the sub at the same time.

 

All prices are in US Dollars.

 system

If you want to enjoy the sweet sound from your computer or HDTV with a little style and elegance, you can’t go wrong with the Orb Audio Booster System.

For more details and other configurations, check out Orb Audio’s site.

photos courtesy: Orb Audio

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg.

 

 

 

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7 comments

  1. soror Nishi | April 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    It’s great to find an in depth, thorough review. We often spend a lot of money on stuff we know little about. Once informed we are less likely to be disappointed in our purchases as we don’t have unrealistic expectations; that’s why I was pleased to come across your post.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Greg Gazin | April 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks Soror. I’m glad you find the review useful! It’s very kind of you to comment.

  3. David mcgraw | April 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Greg
    I bought the Orb Audio 5.1 System 2.5 years ago and remain a huge fan. I could go to 7.1 anytime I want, but have not felt the need. It sounds great and takes up little room. The help is terrific and they are truly dedicated to their customers.

  4. glen g | April 20, 2012 at 1:54 am

    this article is nothing more than an advert. 20 watts?? what.. peak to peak..peak..rms..what thd level. this review wasn’t anything more than someone trying to sell a product. thanks

  5. Greg Gazin | April 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Thanks David. I hadn’t had an opportunity to try out their surround sound systems. I suspect your receiver is a Marantz or Denon?

  6. Greg Gazin | April 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Glen, I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t sell any hardware, nor was I paid by the vendor to write this. I actually enjoyed test-driving the Orbs and for how the Booster system is positioned and for what it does, it fits the mark. The Booster is basically a small mini amplifier that gives you that little extra oomph you don’t get directly from your computer. RMS specs and THD were not given, nor was there any “brand” name attached to the amplifier other than orbaudio.com.

  7. B. Dyer | April 30, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Great tip and I love the speakers. It’s nice to know that there are people actually “hand” making the speakers. I assume that those speakers will last for years and is a keeper. Though it’s a bit pricey but still it will be worth the investment specially that it’s made of metal and most probably will be a collectors item.

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