Mike reviewed the Orb Audio Mini-T stereo system back in December of 2011. You can read his review here, but all you really need to know is that when the time came to return the loaner unit, Mike was none-too happy. Yup, he really liked the system. The unit Mike reviewed consisted of two single Orb speakers, an Orb Super Eight subwoofer and the company’s Mini-T amplifier. The company sent me the same arrangements for a second-look Gear Diary review. The only significant change was the inclusion of the updated — and significantly more refined-looking — Mini-T. Was I equally disappointed when the time came to pack the system up and return it?
Read on to find out.
The Quick-Pack speaker pair offers two small, round speakers that ship with desktop stands, connectors on the back and speaker cable to make the necessary connections. Yes, this is far from the wireless systems that have become so popular in recent years. The round speakers have a striking appearance — you will either love them or hate them. I really liked the look. Elana, on the other hand, didn’t appreciate the round look and shiny finish, and she made it clear that she would not want this in our living room or den. (I believe her exact words were, “I would never put these out in my home.” Yes, Elana is nothing but direct.)
Moving past the appearance of the speakers brings us to the more important aspect of the speakers — the sound. On this front Elana and I were both impressed. These little speakers pack a punch and sound fantastic.
The updated Mini-T has a more refined look, but it also packs a bit more into the small footprint. Smaller than 6″ x 5 1/2″ D x 1 1/4″, the amplifier works with both 110V and 220/240V power supplies. As the company explains,
the technology used is known for extremely low noise and high sound quality. The amp has a single stereo mini headphone input and connects one single audio source to the Orbs.
New features for the 2013 Mini-T include:
A subwoofer output
An upgraded “Gold Pin” amplifier chip
Larger speaker wire connectors
An improved signal path
A redesigned gloss black cabinet
The Mini-T is a key component if you are looking to use the Orb Audio system with an iOS device. More on that in a bit.
The new Mini-T has an output for a subwoofer. The subwoofer is key if you are looking to get a full-range of sound and truly deep bass. The company offers three different subwoofers and sent one of their Super Eight subwoofers with the review kit. About 12″ per side, the Super Eight adds bass you can hear… and feel. The difference between having the Super Eight on or off was night and day. Without it the Orb speakers sounded fine. With the subwoofer on, the system sounded awesome.
In short, the review system consisted of two Orb speakers, a Mini-T and a Super Eight subwoofer.The package price for the various components came in at less than $600. The great thing about this approach — which can be a bit complicated, a situation that is not helped by an old-school none-too-user friendly website — is that additional components can be added to the system to enhance its sound and flexibility.
The sound out of the Orb Audio review system was impressive… no, actually, the sound our of the Orb Audio view system was awesome. I was impressed that speakers as small as these could pump out sound that was as big and clear as they did. It was nothing short of impressive. So for under $600 you can fill a large room with excellent sound. What’s not to love?
Well, actually there is something I didn’t love. You see, this system is a throwback to the stereos of my youth, albeit with more style and better sound. I’m not a fan of cords, and I don’t have much interest in a system that requires cords and cables to get sound from your music source to the audio system. That becomes an even bigger issue if, like me, you listen to a good deal of music via a streaming service like Spotify. That’s why a system like Sonos or an AirPlay speaker like the Libratone Zipp is so terrific. Either approach allows me to stream audio from my iOS device or from the web. The Orb Audio system is a wired system that goes “old-school”. Now it is possible to add streaming abilities to the system via a connection to an Apple Airport. It sounds great in theory, but I have always had mixed results using an Apple Airport for streaming audio. It works, but I continue to prefer systems that were designed for streaming from the ground up.
All of that noted, if I wanted to purchase a Sonos Play:5 and a Sonos Sub it would cost me significantly more than the Orb speakers, Mini T and Super Eight subwoofer. and, even then, the Play:5 won’t give me the stereo separation I can get with the two Orb speakers separated by a distance.
In short, if you want a powerful stereo that sounds great, is easily expandable and starts with a price just south of $600, then you may want to check out a basic system from Orb Audio. Just make sure your significant other — assuming you have one — likes the unusual looks of the metallic orbs. If he/she doesn’t, then you may be hiding these speakers in a closet, and that won’t do much to enhance your listening experience. You can learn more here.
MSRP: $600 as tested
What I Like: Big, great sound; Expandable; Ability to access AirPlay if you have an AirPort Express
What Needs Improvement: Unique look you will either love or hate; Adding streaming capabilities is a bit of an after-market hack; Can get pricey as you add components
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample