So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Orb Audio People's Choice home theatre system
These spherical satellite speakers have startling sound quality
- Excellent clarity, great quality mid-bass from subwoofer, super-modern looks
- Only suitable for small and medium rooms, competent amplifier required, no banana plug connectors
If you're looking for a compact home theatre system that has great sound quality, Orb Audio's People's Choice home theatre system is one of the most competent we've heard. Available for a surprisingly reasonable price, the system is stylish and well suited to medium-sized listening areas. We noticed a small amount of distortion at high volume levels; for all but the most strenuous listening the People's Choice system performed well, however.
Price$ 1,184.00 (AUD)
Note: the Orb Audio People's Choice is priced at US$1098. The price listed above is the approximate cost in Australia dollars at the time of this review.
The Orb Audio People's Choice home theatre system is a set of five satellite speakers and a powered subwoofer. Despite needing to be shipped from the US, the system isn't excessively expensive. The speakers can be ordered in a huge range of different configurations and finishes, allowing for significant customisation. Sound quality from the small satellite speakers is good, with high levels of detail, and the compact subwoofer is capable of delivering significant low-frequency punch.
The People's Choice home theatre system is, unsurprisingly, the most popular configuration ordered off Orb Audio's Web site. Consisting of double-speaker front and centre channels and single-speaker rears, it allows for 5.1 surround sound in its default packaging — but you can get additional channels for 6.1 or 7.1 sound. You can also select triple- or quadruple-speaker designs for any channel, increasing power handling and volume output. The speakers take bare wire connections — no banana plug connections are available — and you'll need to supply an amplifier yourself. We used the more-than-capable Pioneer VSX-LX52 to supply the 110W that each individual speaker can handle. Our test system was finished in copper, but glossy black, white, steel and bronze finishes can also be selected for an additional price.
The Orb Audio People's Choice home theatre system delivers on its promise of big-speaker sound quality in a small package. The small satellite speakers are able to output crisp, clear audio with a slight emphasis on sweet treble, making them great for movie dialogue. Mid-range is also well represented though slightly recessed — we found that a little boost from our amplifier's equaliser brought out the warmth in vocals and acoustic music. When listening to a properly mastered surround audio track — a few scenes from Terminator: Salvation and The Dark Knight caught our attention — the speakers performed exceptionally well, soundly beating similar sized 'home theatre in a box' setups from other companies such as Sony and LG.
Detail levels are excellent with subtle audio cues easily audible in both treble and mid-range frequencies. We often felt as if we were listening to much larger speakers. The system has reasonable spatial definition and the two front left and right stereo speakers are able to create a wide soundstage when placed an appropriate distance apart.
Bass performance was also excellent in almost all areas given the small size of the system. We used the Super Eight subwoofer, which relies on its namesake 8in driver and 200W in-built amplifier to produce strong bass from as low as 28Hz. It doesn't have the stomach-trembling power of a 12in driver, but its low frequency performance was tight and almost free of annoying decay or bloat. We had no problems cranking this subwoofer to high volumes, with no evident over-extension or audible distortion. While each small speaker can handle an impressive amount of volume, the system does start to struggle at high power levels. Harshness begins to creep in on treble and the sound generally becomes less composed and more ragged. If you have a large home theatre room we'd certainly opt for some of the triple- or quadruple-speaker towers for the increased power handling — but this will involve a significant price hike.
Orb Audio's People's Choice home theatre system is an excellent performer for small and medium sized rooms, giving detailed audio in a compact package with modern styling. If you don't want traditionally squat, heavy speakers cluttering your living space, give these a try. The company offers a 30 day no-questions-asked return policy, though you will have to pay shipping costs both ways if you change your mind.
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