One look at dB Dynamics’ new Orion package will have you wondering how it’s possible to produce a full 5.1-channel home theatre system that looks so good, at such a low price.

dB Dynamics Orion Speakers-1S

The Digital Audio Group has been one of Australia’s leading hi-fi distributors for more than 25 years, and has been manufacturing dB Dynamic speakers for very nearly as long. In recent times, the company has moved its production facilities to China, but unlike most Australian companies, it operates autonomously through its own Chinese office.

Also unlike most companies, Digital Audio Group designs its own drivers and has them made by different manufacturers. This means it can choose the most appropriate manufacturer for each specific driver — and it also makes it more difficult for anyone to copy its designs. Roger Manning, the company’s managing director and founder, as well as one of Digital Audio Group’s three designers, says that this approach ensures that “copiers of dB Dynamics have a near-impossible task. Cosmetically the copiers may still like to follow us but there is no way they can access our engineering files.”

Equipment

One look at dB Dynamics’ new Orion package will have you wondering how it’s possible to produce a full 5.1-channel home theatre system that looks so good, at such a low price. Most other 5.1-channel systems at the Orion’s price point have tiny drivers in equally tiny cabinets. As you can see, the Orion features full-sized, floor-standing speakers, a substantial 100W down-firing subwoofer, a three-driver centre channel and a pair of bookshelf two-ways. All the speakers in our review system were finished in a high-gloss black painted finish. This finish commands the premium price ($1399), but if you’d like exactly the same sound quality at a much lower price, you can save a massive $500 by going for the vinyl wrap version, which has an RRP of $899.

The front channel speakers stand 900mm high, 167mm wide and 245mm deep. They’re a three-driver, two-way bass reflex design, with the reflex port facing forward, so the speakers can be pushed up close to a rear wall. The reflex port openings are insect-screened, so undesirables can’t take up residence inside, which is a nice touch. The two bass/midrange drivers are 147mm in diameter, though with a Thiele/Small diameter of 110mm, and use coated paper cones and rubber surround suspensions. The magnets are shielded, so you can push the speakers up close to a CRT screen without worrying about picture distortion.

The tweeter is a 25mm-diameter treated fabric dome type, which benefits from some slight horn-loading from the plastic faceplate, which carries a dB Dynamics engraving.

The centre-channel uses the same tweeter as the front channels, but its two bass/midrange drivers are smaller, at just 115mm overall with a T/S diameter of 84mm. The cabinet, which is 400mm wide, 138mm high and 150mm deep, is an infinite baffle design, so you can place it on a shelf in an equipment cupboard if necessary. All drivers are shielded, so you can also place it on top of, or underneath, a CRT TV. The surround channel speakers use the same tweeter and bass/midrange as the centre channel, but they’re not magnetically shielded, so should not be used near a TV.

As you can see from the photograph, the subwoofer has a slim-line front profile, being much longer than it is wide, which makes it quite easy to tuck away. The 200mm diameter bass driver is down-firing, and large rubber feet are provided so that its output can’t be muffled, even if you have thick carpet. The built-in amplifier is rated at 100W. The sub has rotary volume, crossover (40–180Hz) and phase 90–180°) controls, as well as high-level and low-level inputs and outputs. All the cabinets in the Orion system are of light construction, with 13mm LDF front baffles and 10mm panels elsewhere.

Listening sessions

Set-up was quite straight-forward, though if you have thick carpet, you may need to arrange spikes or a small stand for the front-channel speakers, as these are a little top-heavy for their small base. We also found that the subwoofer worked best when it was positioned at the front of the room, as close to midway between the left and right speakers as you can get it, with its bass reflex port facing forward, into the room.

We were pleased with the quality of sound delivered by this system. The tonal matching between the front left and right speakers is excellent across the midrange despite the differences in driver diameter, and — obviously — perfect when it comes to the high frequencies. The spectral distribution is good, with the bass and midrange frequencies nicely balanced against the treble, though this depends on you not turning the subwoofer’s volume too high! Speaking of volume, we found the speakers not overly efficient, so you’ll need at least 50W per channel on tap, and they deliver their best performance at low-to-average sound pressure levels and don’t like being pushed too hard.

Conclusion

dB Dynamics’ speakers have always offered amazing value for money, but the company has excelled itself with this new Orion package.

dB Dynamics Orion Home Theatre Speaker Package

Price $899 (vinyl wrap) $1399 (high-gloss black)
Warranty
Five years (one year electronics)
Contact Digital Audio Group 02 9913 3757

Positive:

  • Value for money

Negative:

  • Light construction