When I first read about Orb Audio’s Mod1 system I couldn’t believe my eyes. $300 for what amounts to a pair of single 3″ cones in a steel spheres and a 15 watt per channel T-amp sounds like a lot of money. Who in their right mind would pay that?
Then I took a closer look and noticed several details– the Mod1 speakers were absolutely gorgeous. The Mini-T amp had a unamplified line level subwoofer out channel. Both things that indicate that the Orb team really thought about what they were doing and what kind of features they wanted to provide. But still, if they didn’t sound good that $300 would be unjustified.
Thankfully, the Orb Audio Mod1 system had a very clear and bright sound. Without the Super 8 subwoofer it lacked quite a bit of bass compared to other $300 systems. But that was understandable. Also, with only 15 watts per channel I expected the system to lack power. Fortunately, the efficient neodymium drivers in the Mod1 system and low impedance of the system allowed for a good level of sound for the power.
Hooking up the $400 Super Eight subwoofer brought the bass back. Actually, it almost brought the house down. The insane power of the 8″ sub was WAY more than necessary for the 15 watt speakers. After spending a few hours with the system I was hoping that Orb would release a 6.5″ subwoofer to both save on money and keep the overkill level to a minimum.
After testing the system for a few weeks I was trying to think of what to compare it to. I own a Logitech Z-623 2.1 system which sells for around $150. The volume of the Z-623 at max non-distorting volume was higher than the maximum the Orb system could hit. The sound quality was comparable (minus the bass). But then I spent a little bit more time considering the two systems and they really aren’t even in the same league. The Logitech system doesn’t look great. The subwoofer has way less potential than the Super Eight. The speakers are locked to the subwoofer and controller– so no expanding the system and if one component breaks you’re SOL and need a new set of speakers. Plus, if you don’t care about size and aesthetics, you aren’t going to buy the Orb Mod1 since there are cheaper and better offerings for much less money– albeit they are often square bookshelf or floorstanding speakers.
The Mod1 is a set that someone who may buy a $600 Bose Cinemate system could consider. They certainly look better than the boring and plain Bose system. They also are more modular– add speakers, a receiver, etc. at will and keep what you already invested in to save money. Not only that, but if you paired the $300 Orb Mod1 system with a cheaper, less powerful subwoofer you would hardly notice the difference. Several ~$100 subwoofers come to mind that would blow the Bose system away (for example this 100 watt Yamaha subwoofer) which could hook up through the included amplifier.
So basically the moral of the story is: if you’re considering a high price soundbar, 2.1 system, or compact system, consider the Orb Mod1 speaker and amplifier combo. You will not be disappointed in the sound quality. While the price for the performance isn’t great, if you include build quality and aesthetics there’s really nothing else quite like it. And there’s something neat about listening to speakers that look like big shiny eyeballs.