Orb Audio People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System Review

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Orb Audio People's Choice 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Photo of Front View
Orb Audio People's Choice 5.1 Channel Speaker System - Photo of Front View. Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

If you are looking for new set of affordable home theater loudspeakers, but don't have a lot of cash, put the Orb Audio People's Choice on your consideration list. In addition to good sound, Orb Audio's approach to loudspeaker to speaker design results in flexible configuration options and placement.

The People's Choice system provided for this review consists of five compact spherically designed speakers for the center, left, right front, and surrounds, and 200 watt 8-inch powered subwoofer.

After reading the following review, also check out my Photo Profile for an additional close-up look at this speaker system.

Orb Audio People's Choice Product Overview - Center and Satellite Speakers

The heart of the Orb People's Choice home theater speaker system are its spherically designed speaker modules. Each module consists of a single 3-inch driver placed in a spherical enclosure. The result is a compact speaker module that can used individually, or combined with one, or more, additional modules to form different speaker assemblies. The specifications for a single module, referred to as the Orb Mod 1 are:

1. 3-inch full-range driver placed in a spherical Acoustic Suspension metal enclosure.

2. Frequency Response: 80 Hz to 20,000Hz (effective response 120Hz to 18,000Hz).

3. Sensitivity: 89db

4. Impedance: 8 ohms.

5. Power Handling: 15 -115 watts

6. Custom gold-plated brass binding posts (fits up to 14 Ga.

wire - not easily, tight fit for even 16 gauge wire)

7. Magnetically shielded for use near video displays or other magnetically-susceptible components.

8. Available in a variety of finishes, including Metallic Black and Pearl White at no extra charge, as well as Hammered Earth, Hand Polished Steel, Hand Antiqued Copper, and Hand Antiqued Brozed for an extra charge.

In the People's Choice system, the Mod 1 is used for the surround channels. In addition, the Left, Center, and Right channels are handled by the Mod 2, which is a speaker that includes two of the Modules that are used in the Mod 1, arranged vertically for Left and Right channel use, and horizontally for center channel use. It is also important to note that in the Mod 2 configurations, the impedance drops to 4 ohms as the modules are connected in parallel.

Orb Audio People's Choice Product Overview - Super Eight Powered Subwoofer

Here is a list of the specifications of the Orb Audio Super Eight Subwoofer supplied with the Orb Audio People's Choice system:

1. Driver: 8-inch driver with 30 oz. ferrite magnet, complemented by rear port, bass reflex design.

2. Frequency Response: 28 to 180 Hz

3. Amplifier Type: BASH (Bridged Amplifier Switching Hybrid).

4. Amplifier Power Output: 200 watts (RMS), 450 Watts (Peak).

5. THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): Less than .05% (running at full power at the 100Hz frequency point).

6. SPL (Sound Pressure Level): 107db (continuous), 111db (max).

7. Hi Pass Filter: 12dB per Octave.

8. Phase: Continuously adjustable from 0 to 180 degrees.

9. Crossover Frequency: Continuously adjustable from 40 to 160 Hz

10. Power On/Off: On, Auto, or Mute.

11. Dimensions: (HWD) 12-inches x 11 1/2-inches x 11 3/4-inches.

12. Weight: 26 Lbs.

Although the Super Eight subwoofer is provided, you do have the option, with an extra charge, to order the system with the larger 10-inch 300 watt Orb Uber Ten subwoofer.

For a more indepth look and further explanation of the Mod 1 and Mod 2 speakers, as well as the Super Eight Subwoofer provided with the Orb Audio People's Choice home theater speaker system, refer to my Supplementary Photo Profile.

Audio Performance

Although, the Orb Audio People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System has a very interesting physical look, it is how a speaker actually sounds that is the most important consideration.

That being said, I was generally satisfied with the overall sound quality of the People's Choice system.

The Mod 1 and Mod 2 assigned to the main and surround channels provided clean and undistorted sound that was projected and dispersed well into the room. Sound was also suitably immersive when surround content was prominent. In addition, the Mod 1 and Mod 2's were also precise with regards to direction and location accuracy.

Center channel dialog and vocals, which emphasizes the midrange frequencies, were clear and distinct, and were not buried by other sound elements present. The mid-range vocals on Norah Jones' Don't Know Why, Sade's vocals in Soldier of Love, and Dave Matthews/Blue Man Group's Sing Along were well reproduced.

Surround effects in several movie scenes, including the first battle scene from Master and Commander, the library scene in Hero, the echo game scene from House of the Flying Daggers, the train wreck scene in Super 8, the Tyrannosaurus breaking out of its enclosure in Jurassic Park, as well as the surround content from music sources, such as the SACD of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and the DVD- Audio of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody were all reproduced well, with good detail in the upper midrange down to the bass.

However, although the midrange response, image, and immersion were effective, the fact that the Mod 1 and Mod 2 do not have tweeters revealed itself in the higher frequencies. I found that the highest frequencies, such as transient sounds present in special effects, and presence information in vocals and musical instruments were more subdued, resulting in less sparkle or brightness, in the sound that was more revealed on the comparison speaker systems.

Moving to the lower end of the spectrum, I found the powered subwoofer to be a very good match for the system. With its 8-inch front facing driver and downfiring port, the subwoofer provided very good lower frequency response, and also transitioned well with the rest of the speakers. The bass response was fairly tight and complemented both music and movie tracks appropriately, providing good bass effect, without unnecessary boominess.

In two tests, the People's Choice Super Eight performed well. When playing Heart's Magic Man, the bass slide was smooth until it reached bottom when the lowest frequencies flattened and become more subdued. Also, Sade's bass heavy Soldier of Love did not have quite the impact that I have heard on some other subs. That being said, both the Heart and Sade tracks are challenging low frequency cuts for any subwoofer and the Super Eight, although not providing as good a result as my Klipsch, did a credible job for its size and class.

In summing up the Super Eight's performance, I would say that although it doesn't go for the big deep punch, it has a smooth quality that still gives you good bass presence without overemphasis, or boominess, in the mid-bass range.

What I Liked

The was a lot to like about the Orb Audio People's Choice Home Theater Speaker Package, including:

1. Overall system sound is very good with both movie and music content.

2. Center channel provided good midrange reponse.

3. The speakers assigned to the main and surround configurations, project a much larger sound image that their size would indicate, which is great for surround sound listening.

4. The Super Eight Subwoofer provides very good, relatively tight, bass response especially considering its size.

5. Very smooth transition and blending between the Subwoofer and rest of system.

6. All the speakers can be either mounted on the provided table stands, or wall mounted (mounting hardware optional).

7. Speakers available in a variety of optional colors to fit various decors.

What I Didn't Like

1. No tweeters - resulting in more subtlety on the more more extreme high frequencies.

2. The People's Choice Sub rolls off slightly at the lowest frequencies, but more than holds it own with other subs of its size.

3. The speaker terminals are small, making it difficult to use 16 gauge speaker wire (although Orb states that you can use up to 14 gauge wire).

4. Although the Mod 1 speaker is 8 ohms, the Mode 2 configuration is 4 ohms, as it is constructed with two Mod 1's connected in parallel. Although Orb Audio states that the Mod 2 4 ohm configuration is compatible with Receivers capable of handling 6 or 8 ohm loads, be aware that playing a 4 ohm speaker on a receover that is only rated to handle 6 or 8 ohm loads could result in amplifier clipping and shut-off if you are running at excessively high volume for more than short time periods.

Final Take

The Orb Audio People's Choice is a good example of an affordable home theater speaker system that delivers great sound.

The People's Choice does a very good job with both movies and music and although it is more subtle at the highest highs and the lowest lows, for just a few dollars more that many big-box store speaker systems, provides a much more satisfying listening experience.

The Orb Audio People's Choice home theater speaker system is definitely a good value worth consideration. If you are shopping for a compact speaker system for a modestly powered setup in a small or medium-size room, you definitely have to give the People's Choice a listen.

For a visual look at, and additional perspective on, the Orb Audio People's Choice home theater speaker system, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

Official Product Page

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

Hardware Used

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H

Home Theater Receivers Used: Onkyo TX-SR705 and Harman Kardon AVR147

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

TV/Monitor: Sony KDL-46HX820 (on review loan)

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs: Art of Flight, Ben Hur, Cowboys and Aliens, Immortals, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Super 8, The Dark Knight, Hugo, Megamind, Puss in Boots, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.