Orbitsound T3 Audio System

Posted by on Monday, July 6, 2009 - 5:50am

overviewI'm zigging today when you expected me to zag. Up for review is the Orbitsound T3 portable battery powered personal stereo speaker with airSOUND. Yes, I know. This isn't a power supply or case review. Don't let yourself feel too disheartened. I have a case review waiting in the wings, but I took time off from that once I got my hands on the T3.   Orbitsound is an UK-based company and the T3 is just one of their offerings that sport airSOUND� single-point-stereo technology. Before we can get into the review some explanation is necessary about airSOUND and what it does. What better place to find it than Orbitsound's web site.

 

Orbitsound T3

Introduction

I'm zigging today when you expected me to zag. Up for review is the Orbitsound T3 portable battery powered personal stereo speaker with airSOUND. Yes, I know. This isn't a power supply or case review. Don't let yourself feel too disheartened. I have a case review waiting in the wings, but I took time off from that once I got my hands on the T3.   Orbitsound is an UK-based company and the T3 is just one of their offerings that sport airSOUND® single-point-stereo technology. Before we can get into the review some explanation is necessary about airSOUND and what it does. What better place to find it than Orbitsound's web site.

Orbitsound on the T3

"Orbitsound has announced the arrival of its new T3 personal powered stereo speaker. The T3 a whole new product concept – a truly original idea made possible only by airSOUND’s single point stereo technology: a miniature powered personal speaker, which worn around the neck and plugged into an iPod, music phone or any mobile audio/ video player, provides the wearer with a stereo aura around their head as an alternative to headphones. Unlike the sound from headphones, the T3 aura is a fully balanced stereo sound field produced from the miniature airSOUND speaker array.

Headphones clamp separated mono signals to your ears. To produce a full stereo sound field you have to hear both left and right channels with both ears, as you do with stereo speakers, to perceive all of the spatial cues. With headphones the left and right ears only hear the left and right speakers – this is why most people hear headphone sound in the middle or even in the back of their head. By comparison, the T3 immerses listeners in their own portable, highly accurate stereo sound field – with all the spatial information fully intact.

The T3 doubles as a high quality portable speaker system when traveling, or for sharing music with others; place it on a flat surface and connected to a laptop, or digital music player, it produces real stereo signals in the room. With airSOUND an identical stereo balance is heard everywhere – in effect providing an infinite sweet spot, rather the limited fixed sweet spot within which it is possible to hear an accurate stereo balance with conventional two speaker stereo.

Measuring just 102 x 60 x 19mm (22mm at maximum) and weighing 115g, the T3 is powered by a lithium rechargeable battery, providing up to10 hours playing time on a single charge. The amplifier supplies 8 watts of total audio power to the airSOUND speaker array within the miniature enclosure. Audio input is via a 3.5 mm stereo jack socket."

Orbitsound on airSOUND®

The stereo aura, conventional Stereo and airSOUND® Orbitsound® produces the stereo aura from its single enclosure products by using the revolutionary airSOUND system of delivering true stereo from a single source. AirSOUND does not produce stereo in the form of normal left-right audio.  It is a variation on the original principles of stereo that separates left and right information from the main signal and reproduces this 'space' in a form that mixes in the air.  This means that the stereo sound of a song does not change, regardless of listener position within the stereo sound field .Conventional 'stereo' from 2 speakers: 2 speakers produce left / right audio.   Sound fields interfere and cancel   Stereo image is limited to sweet spot   AirSOUND from a single source:  

  • Speakers produce volume and stereo image separately
     
  • Sound fields interact positively and enhance each other
     
  • 'Infinite' stereo sweet spot

http://www.orbitsound.co.uk/index.php5/airSOUND/airSOUND_Technical

You can also read more about airSOUND here

Orbitsound on Orbitsound

"Orbitsound products use airSOUND to generate true stereo from a single point.  The following pages describe a little about airSOUND, how it works, and how it will change the way you listen to your music."


 

Packaging

My first international package, the T3 came bound in bubble wrap. To be honest, I think I could have thrown the T3 up against a wall and it would have been fine. The packaging job was top-notch.

Orbitsound T3 1

After removing the bubble wrap, we see the retail box. It sports pictures of the Orbitsound T3, specs and general info.
Once the retail sleeve is slid off, we find a corrugated box inside another box. This added an additional level of security against falls and general malfeasance. Out of the box, we see the naked T3 in all it's glory. We also have all the necessary accoutrements: 3.5mm plug, USB chord and wall jack adapter. Last but not least, we have the lanyard, so we can carry the t3 around our necks. The inclusion of USB connection to charge is wonderful and shows that Orbitsound is well aware of the primary use of the T3. Still for purists, the outlet adapter is also included.

Orbitsound T3 2 Orbitsound T3 4

Orbitsound T3 5

Taking a moment to look at the T3, it's not much bigger than a Blackberry and is very light.  It also came covered in plastic to protect against smudges. I like the black with silver accents. It's a welcome change compared to plasticized products like the iPod or iPod wannabe. On this side we see the power switch and here we have the airSOUND switch. "N" is for normal usage and Max is self-explanatory. This LED glows red when charging and green when in powered on. This is the 3.5mm plug and here is the USB chord plug in. Attach the lanyard here.

Orbitsound T3 6 Orbitsound T3 7

Orbitsound T3 8 Orbitsound T3 9

Orbitsound T3 10 Orbitsound T3 11

Orbitsound T3 12

Specifications:

  • 8 watts total audio power to airSOUND® loudspeaker array in super-portable enclosure.
  • Audio input by 3.5mm stereo jack socket.
  • Green LED shows when unit is on.
  • Red LED shows when unit is on charge.
  • Lanyard supplied with quick release clip and magnetic clasp.
  • Unit dimensions 102mm X 60mm X 19mm (22mm at maximum).
  • Weight 115gms.
  • Power,  Lithium-Ion battery 1000mA-hour 3.7V
  • Battery charge life approx. 10 hours normal use.
  • Charger, mains power charger and cable supplied. Charge can be by mains charger or from computer USB port.
  • Charge time approx 2 hours.
  • Shipping dimensions: 200mmX150mmX60mm
  • Shipping weight. 200gms

Switches

  • 2-way on/off switch (with LED indicator) (slide switch)
  • 3-way off/normal/high spatial stereo switch (slide switch)

Operations

The user switches the unit on (green LED lights) and plugs an mp3 or IPod into the input.  The unit will then play stereo music with spatial signal level controlled by a 3-way switch.  Volume is controlled by the source device.


Closer look and Operation

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, it's time to plug in the T3 and turn this mother out. I gave it the necessary two hours to charge and put it to the test. With a lithium-ion battery, it should last roughly 12 hours without having to recharge. The papers say the unit will work with iPod's, CD players, music phones, PSP's, etc. I tested it out with a laptop, PSP, HD Audio jack on a Asrock motherboard and the 3.5 mm out on my Sony Bravia 40" HDTV. I would be remiss not to mention what I plan to listen to while testing the T3. Here are my test audio files: Andrea Bocellis - Vivo Per Le, Busta Rhymes - Put Yo Hands Where My Eyes Can See, Eric Johnson - Cliffs of Dover, Too Short - Step Daddy, Dethklok - Fansong, Dethklok - Castratikron, AFI - Miss Murder, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Battlefield 2142 on the PC, Madden 09 on the Xbox 360 and Tekken Dark Resurrection on the PSP. All music was tested on each platform. I must admit I was amazed at the sound quality the T3 provides. It not only delivered on it's promise of stereo sound from a single tiny device, but the sound quality and volume was remarkable. When plugged into an Acer Extensa, it not only outperformed the built-in speakers, it blew them away. The audio from my PSP has never been as clear. Straight out of my Asrock motherboard, the T3 handled the audio from BF2142 with ease. My HDTV/Xbox 360 is hooked up to a 500 watt 5.1 home stereo system, so it's not exactly a fair comparison to the T3, but for a portable audio system, the T3 is in a class all by its own. During the testing, I was in awe of the stereo effect of airSOUND. As far away as 30+ feet, the music came across in stereo. On their web site, Orbitsound proclaims that "

The major advantages over the more conventional (but less correct) way of listening to stereo, are;

• There is absolutely no 'sweet spot'. The stereo effect is clear wherever you are.
• The placement of the airSOUND® loudspeaker is not at all critical; the sound fills the room.
• Because the sound is from a single source, there are no timing, phase and frequency response problems that are endemic with 2-speaker systems.
• As the phase relationships are more accurately reproduced, the music sounds noticeably cleaner and more clearly defined.
• On some recordings it is now possible to perceive height information that was hidden by phase errors" and I found them all to be true. 

When time came to put the T3 on, I hit the first snag. The lanyard was too small to fit around my head. This isn't exactly unexpected as I have a very large skull. After a quick workaround, I was able to literally "feel" the T3 in action.

Their web site says the T3 uses the chest cavity to increase the sonic experience and yet again I have to agree. I felt enveloped by the sound, though it can be disconcerting at times when windows alerts pop up in the middle of an Andrea Bocelli vocal. You should also pay attention to volume level warnings. I thought it was cute when I read them in the user's manual, but it is possible to damage your hearing with the T3. This isn't just a head phones replacement, the T3 is a mobile audio solution. It's even conceivable for someone with space issues to use the T3 as their primary audio source. Another word of warning, you need to be aware of the volume of sound the T3 can generate. Don't take this unit to work with you unless you have permission to bring radios.

In conclusion, I want to brag that I have an Orbitsound T3 and you probably don't. It delivered on every promise Orbitsound made. The quality, volume and stereo sound were all there. You literally have to hear it to believe it. In fact, it's my personal mission to make sure everyone I know hears this thing in action at least once. The only real downside of the T3 is price. At nearly $150, they're as much as some mid range computer speakers and eclipse all but the most expensive headphones. Still, I think they're worth the price. If $5 headphones are quality enough for you, the T3 isn't for you, but if you're in the market for a great mobile speaker and are willing to pay for it, the T3 is right up your alley.

Orbitsound T3 award

Pros

• Lightweight
• Lithium-ion battery
• There is absolutely no 'sweet spot'. The stereo effect is clear wherever you are.
• The placement of the airSOUND® loudspeaker is not at all critical; the sound fills the room.
• Because the sound is from a single source, there are no timing, phase and frequency response problems that are endemic with 2-speaker systems.
• As the phase relationships are more accurately reproduced, the music sounds noticeably cleaner and more clearly defined.
• On some recordings it is now possible to perceive height information that was hidden by phase errors

Cons

• Price
• Lanyard will not fit Stewie-sized heads.


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