Setup and Design
My review sample Mod2X speakers each came preassembled on BOSS stainless steel table stands snuggly and securely packaged in protective foam and plastic. Each unit features two Orbs paired together, with the second Orb mounted vertically on top of the first. Included jumper wires are used to connect the two spheres in each pair. Speaker wire from a user's audio receiver can then be connected to the bottom enclosures by simply pressing down on the binding posts (unfortunately, they won't accept banana plugs). With that said, it can be a little tricky to get good visibility on the lower enclosure to make the connection. Likewise, the fact that the jumper wires are also running into the same enclosure means you'll have to be extra careful that you don't accidentally disconnect them while you plug in the speaker wire. Despite these nitpicks, connecting the system is pretty straightforward and relatively painless.
Visually, the speakers offer a compact and attractive design, with a spherical look that lives up to the company's name. My samples came in Hammered Earth (pictured above) but the speakers are also available in Metallic Black Gloss, Pearl White Gloss, Hand Polished Steel, Hand Antiquated Copper, and Hand Antiquated Bronze.
Under the hood, each Orb features an advanced high-excursion 3" full range aluminum driver cone with Santoprene surround. They are rated for a frequency response of 80Hz - 20,000Hz, though Orb's website specifies that the optimal range is 110Hz-19,000Hz. They are 89db efficient and carry an impedance of 4ohms nominal with compatibility for all popular 6-8 ohm receivers. Assembled vertically, each Mod2X measures 4 3/16" W x 9 1/2" H x 4 7/8" D.
My sample subONE subwoofer came in the brown Walnut Veneer option giving it a simple but handsome appearance. The company offers a traditional black option as well. The subwoofer features an 8" driver and a high-performance ported bass-reflex design with a precision-tuned flared snorkel port. The device uses a digital hybrid amplifier that outputs 200W continuous, and peaks at 450W+. The Frequency response is 28-180hz with adjustable crossover of 40-160hz. It measures 12" H x 12" D x 12" W.
To test the system's movie performance I used a variety of Blu-ray discs, trying to get a feel for a wide-range of temperaments and soundfields. First up, was Christopher Nolan's 'Inception.' I sampled several scenes, including the sequence where Cobb walks Ellen Page's character through the rules of the dream world, and a later car chase in the rain. I was immediately impressed by the system's cohesion, precision, and overall presence. The stereo speakers and woofer all worked incredibly well together to form a seamless environment, and despite the speakers' compact size, the Orbs were able to produce clean, room-filling sound. Though of course limited to two channels, stereo separation and imaging between the separate Mod2X units was smooth and natural, and the two speakers offered a relatively engrossing experience. Low frequency response from the subwoofer was also pleasing, with clean, resonant kicks tied to every bullet fire and deep music cue.
'Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season,' was my next go to disc, and again, I came away impressed by the Orb's performance. The series features many layers of subtle and aggressive sounds in its design work, and it could be easy for all these intricate nuances to be lost or jumbled together under a subpar system. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here. Every inch of Westeros' dynamic atmosphere was rendered well, and I was surprised by just how immersive the two channel presentation could be. I primarily sampled scenes from the Battle of Blackwater Bay in episode 9, and the utter brutality of the carnage all came through with strong depth and unity. Sword slashes, arrow fire, and various screams and grunts filled the room with a nice variety of directional and disperse effects. The famous wildfire scene was particularly impressive. The massive explosion features a very specific and unique low frequency effect, and the subONE handled it all wonderfully, expanding the fire's reverberating, almost otherworldly rumble seamlessly.
I also sampled several other Blu-ray titles, including 'Star Trek,' 'Super 8,' and 'Drive,' and each time I came away very pleased with the mostly well-rounded results. With that said, the system wasn't quite perfect. There were times when dialogue seemed a little flat, lacking the dimensional clarity found in other larger, high-end speakers, and the satellite's mid-range wasn't always as robust as I would have liked. To this end, for testing purposes, I also sampled the system without the subwoofer, and sadly came away a bit disappointed by the Mod2X's lack of a lower mid-range. Of course, when paired with the subwoofer's dedicated low frequencies, this caveat is greatly reduced.
For music testing, I went straight for the recently released 'Graham Parker & the Rumour: This is Live' Blu-ray. With the 2.0 PCM track selected, the Orb speakers did a great job of reproducing a live concert experience. All of the individual instruments were clearly audible together, with great distinction, clarity, and separation. The subwoofer bolstered the drums and low frequencies with admirable kick as well. Overall dynamics weren't quite as wide as a larger system would likely provide, but given the Orb's convenient size, the resulting sound was impressive and surprisingly spacious.
I also sampled a variety of CDs and MP3s, including tracks from Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Smashing Pumpkins, Gnarls Barkley, and even some Otis Redding. The Orbs did a solid job reproducing the eclectic group, though, just as I noticed with some films, the speakers' midrange was a tad underwhelming at times, and the satellites had an occasionally bright and slightly harsh sound. This was particularly true of the Gnarls Barkley tracks that I sampled, but all of the music revealed this same limitation to some degree, with certain songs sounding comparatively brittle and flat.
That being said, my overall impression of the system's music performance was still very positive, and it should be noted that my limited time with the speakers did not allow for an extensive break-in period. Though already fairly well-rounded, breaking the speakers in further would have likely yielded even better results.
Though I came across some minor limitations in my testing, Orb's Classic Two Stereo Speaker System is an undeniably impressive setup. They're stylish, compact, easily upgradeable, and offer comparatively rich, full sound for their affordable price and tiny size. Those looking for small but powerful satellite speakers should seriously consider Orb's various packages. Mid-range performance isn't always as full as it could be and high frequencies can sound a tad harsh with certain material, but the build and audio quality offered here at this price is really impressive and very hard to beat. Factoring in price, design, and performance, The Orb Audio Classic Two Speaker System definitely garners a recommendation, and users who want a full 5.1 setup should also check out the company's highly rated People's Choice Home Theater Speaker System ($1,198).