Small and robust sound system for your iPod. (February 13th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: mStation
Price: $129.95 US
- Solid construction. Great aesthetics. Rich, deep bass. FireWire port for older iPod models. Includes USB cable and stereo mini-plug cable.
- None of the buttons on the Orb or remote light up.
mStation's 2.1 Stereo Orb provides deep, rich bass and upscale features at a lower price than most other systems with a sub-woofer. This charming, yet innocuous little ball packs quite a punch.
The LookWhen I unpacked the Orb from its box, I thought that the four-pound enclosure felt very solid. The unit features two forward-facing 2-inch midrange drivers, accompanied by a 3-inch front- and back-firing subwoofer. A mesh covering that matches the color of the Orb, conceals the speakers, and from a distance, it merely looks like a matte finish. You can coordinate your room décor with a blue, pink, green, silver, red, black, or white Orb.
The matching colored plastic covered dock attachment is interchangeable with any of the six included iPod adapters. These are held in place by rubber rings, which is another sign of attention to audio detail, especially in a device that is designed to put out a lot of bass.
I was happy to see that mStation considered those of us that still have a third or fourth generation iPod, and installed a FireWire port on the back of the Orb. An included USB cable supports the newer iPods.
Remote IncludedThe remote is larger than most, but not uncomfortable to use. I prefer the larger size because it's not as easy to lose. It also has a proper range, so that you do not have to stand directly in front of and level to the Orb. Given the confines of my apartment, I was able control it perfectly from 30 feet away, in a 160-degree arc from the front, and anywhere from over my head to the floor.
The ControlsThe Orb features several buttons as well: Volume control, song skip, play or pause, and power. The buttons are not lit on either the remote or the Orb, so it requires some light to operate them. The remote is intuitively laid out, however, and I didn't have any troubles blindly flicking buttons when I wanted to skip tracks.
Robust SoundYou can customize Orb's sound with the Bass and Treble controls. When you first turn it on the sound is in the neutral range, but after some settings adjustment, the sound became rich and substantial. The bass won't blow out the windows of your apartment, but it's strong enough that you can feel every thump of a heavy double-bass drum riff clearly and distinctly. Of course, the bass is adjustable from nonexistent to a definitive thump.
The robust bass surprised me. Often, when a company brags about a particular feature, the surrounding abilities of the unit are lacking. The bass was so highly touted on this unit, that I expected it to have flat, muddy sound in the mid-range. I'm happy to say I was wrong in that regard. The sound is crisp and clear, while the quality doesn't diminish too much when you distance yourself from the Orb.
The Gorillaz "Demon Days" CD, which I downloaded in the iTunes Plus format, is an appropriate test of the sound range, since the songs include voice solos, harmonies, spoken word, acoustic and electric instrumentation, plus a fantastic bass line, with both thump and fill. Every song was clear, vibrant, and sounded exactly as it should.
The stereo-in connector is a nice addition. I tried the Orb with a few games and my iMac and heard rich and substantial sound. Exploding ships and missiles in EVE Online sometimes startled me, while Feral Interactive's Colin McRae Rally produced believable engine tones and gravel sliding sounds that got my blood pumping. The Orb compared very well against my more expensive Altec Lansing MX5021 speakers, even though it has four less drivers.
RecommendedOverall, I'm very pleased with the sound quality of the Orb, especially considering its size and $130 price tag. The solid chassis construction and rubber mounts eliminate vibrations or buzzing. My only complaint is that it would have been nice to integrate a USB or FireWire audio interface so that it could be used as a digital speaker set.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor