In many ways, the Origin Acoustics backstory reads like the plot of a Hollywood feel-good movie, where old friends reunite to take on the establishment and change the world…again. And as I write this, it is almost a year to the day that Origin Acoustics made its official product launch at CEDIA EXPO 2014.
Origin is comprised of the power trio of Ken Humphreys (CTO), Ed Haase (COO), and Jeremy Burkhardt (CEO), who first worked together at SpeakerCraft, creating many of the technologies and designs that we take for granted today. Between them, they share a combined 100-plus years of audio experience, and Burkhardt said they all returned to the audio business because of the shared passion and love for this industry and the desire to continue making great and truly innovative products.
With the company’s pedigree, I had no doubt that Origin knew how to make a terrific-sounding speaker, but I wanted to see exactly what innovations they managed to come up with after nearly a year of shipping product. To examine the line, I had Origin send me speakers from two of its most popular collections, Director and Seasons.
Seasons is the name of Origin’s outdoor speaker series, with a total of 12 speakers split evenly between its 50-and 60-series. There are three different speakers in each series available in black and white, with 50-series models featuring 5.25-inch woofers and 60-series utilizing a 4×8-inch woofer. Origin sent the top of the 50-series, the OS56, and the single-speaker stereo OS64DT from the 60-series. The primary difference between the -4 and the -6 models is the use of a Glass Fiber woofer (versus Injection Molded Graphite, IMG) in the -6 model, resulting in deeper bass response. Also, all speakers in the 60-series as well as the -6 models in the 50-series benefit from dual passive radiators to increase bass output.
Visually, I liked how the grille wraps around nearly the entire circumference of the speaker, creating a very finished look. The speaker includes a nice template that matches the wall bracket, making it easy to see exactly how the speaker will position on the wall. Burkhardt shared that Origin rethought the design in a few ways, including a “Concealed Bracket System” assembly that mounts closer to the speaker enclosure, and knobs that sit flush with the bracket assembly for a cleaner look.
As Seasons speakers will likely live in the elements, Origin devised a really cool, rubber speaker wire shield and quick wire connection that makes for a fast and weatherproof connection. I left the OS64DT outside for about a month where it endured rain and several “double century” (100 degrees, 100-percent humidity) days without any ill effects.
Sonically the speakers sound great, producing real and noticeable bass. As all models incorporate the same 1-inch aluminum tweeter (with the DT models featuring two of them), capable of accurately reproducing the high-resolution shimmer and detail of Elvin Jones’ cymbal work on Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” the sonic differences are found in the mid and low regions between the Glass and IMG woofers. The OS56 was more sensitive, playing noticeably louder at the same volume setting, while delivering wonderful clarity with vocals and instruments. The larger 4×8-inch woofer in the OS64DT, however, did plumb noticeably deeper, with standing bass notes just having more weight and drum kicks more presence. Obviously the flagship OS66, featuring the larger and better glass woofer, would deliver the line’s ultimate performance.
The Director Series sits atop Origin’s in-wall/ceiling line-up, and they sent the entry-level of its three 10-inch offerings, the D104, a three-way speaker with a 10-inch IMG woofer with a 4-inch midrange and 0.75-inch tweeter housed in the company’s FocalPoint module that pivots up to 36-degrees to direct audio toward the listening position. The speaker’s real trick, however, is that Origin found a way to get more bass in less space, letting you install an 8-inch woofer in the cutout of traditional 6.5-inch speakers, and the massive 10-inch woofer in the same cutout as a traditional 8-inch.
When I unboxed the speakers, my first thought was how huge they looked–easily the largest in-ceiling model I’d handled–and how much they weighed. These speakers would easily outweigh many bookshelf models, which speaks to their build quality. After tracing the cutout template over the hole from my existing 6.5-inch speaker cutout, I was shocked by how little I actually needed to cut. And this was going from a 6.5-inch to a 10-inch! Once the speaker is in, you barely notice that the grille looks any larger, especially in a room with a high ceiling.
I cannot give the Origin team enough kudos and props for the utterly fantastic tool-less mounting system it created. It’s obvious that these guys have actually spent time on a ladder installing speakers in the real world because the ZipClip mounting system is revolutionary for simplifying the install process. The speaker installs in two steps, with the ZipClip bracket securing to the sheetrock with four clips using zip-tie-like material. You hand squeeze these clips into place, applying enough pressure to secure the bracket but not too much that will pop the drywall like a screw. Then the speaker assembly hand-twists into the bracket, locking when an arrow on the speaker points to a lock on the bracket. The entire process is lightning fast, and reverses just as quickly if you need to remove a speaker for repair.
The sonic difference that the 10-inch driver makes is significant, producing far richer audio and with low end that belies typical in-wall performance. I couldn’t resist playing The Crystal Method’s “High Roller,” one of my favorite demo tracks to experience how the speakers handled that deep, electronic bass track, and they didn’t disappoint, delivering low end that felt like it was coming from a powered sub.
Two more impressive things about Origin: One, all of its speakers are covered by a lifetime warranty. Two, you won’t find any of its products lurking around for sale on the internet. Origin Acoustics is a custom speaker company made for custom installers by custom installers, and it definitely shows in the products I reviewed.
Tool-less mounting system is revolutionary; larger drivers in smaller footprints improves sound quality; lifetime warranties
10-inch speakers require 7 inches depth, which might challenge some installs
► ZipClip tool-less mounting system
► 10-inch woofer, 4-inch IMG midrange, 0.75-inch aluminum tweeter
► 28Hz-20kHz frequency response; 90dB +/- 3dB sensitivity
► Certified weatherproof IPX6 rating
► Dimensions: 11.25-inch diameter; 10 3/8 cutout; 7.5-inch mounting depth
► OS56: 1-inch Aluminum tweeter, 5.25-inch Fiberglass woofer; 63Hz-24kHz frequency response; 90dB +/- 3dB sensitivity
► OS64DT: 2 x 1-inch Aluminum tweeters, 4×8- inch IMG woofer; 60Hz- 24kHz frequency response; 88dB +/- 3dB sensitivity
► Dimensions: 50-Series 10.5 x 7 x 7 inches (HxWxD); 60-Series 13 x 7 x 7 inches (HxWxD)