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Archive for July, 2009

I have an old pair of Polk Audio speakers that I bought years ago in college.  They were definitely high-end when I bought them then and I paid for them with most of my high school summer job money that I had saved.  Those speakers were made in USA of course, but so were most speakers being sold in the 80’s and early 90’s.

I had recently become interested in buying a made in USA home theater speaker system.  I looked around, and it seemed like all the big names that I remembered – Bose, Polk Audio, KLH, Klipsch and others were being made elsewhere.  Polk, for instance, is manufactured in Mexico.  KLH is in China.  Bose, Mexico.  So I intensified my search online and did find a few companies still making their speakers in the US.  The one that really caught my eye was Orb Audio.

Orb Audio Set Up

Orb Audio Set Up

First of all, Orb is a small company in Southern California that makes beautiful sounding and looking speakers.  When I saw them online months ago, I was truly surprised.  I had never seen anything like them before.  The speakers look like little orbs that can be separated or stacked together.  What also impressed me was the company’s dedication to making a high-quality product from design to the nuts and bolts, and doing it in the US at an affordable price.

So I decided to contact Orb and check out their speakers for myself.  I drove up to the unassuming store-front shop on Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, just north of Los Angeles.  I got to meet one of the owners, Gary, who showed me around their “factory.”  There were four people working there, assembling speakers.  There were boxes of speakers stands, connectors, drivers, and other parts all around.  Gary explained that what they were able to get locally, such as the laser-cut speaker bases and housings, they did.  A few things, such as the gold-plated connectors, are simply not made here at all, so they had to be imported from the Far East.  The speaker ball is made in New Jersey and virtually all the other parts are made within 60 miles of Los Angeles.  The ball or housing comes in multiple finishes, including black, white, brushed steel and brushed copper.

Crew at Work at Orb

Crew at Work at Orb

I listened to the home theater in action there.  I must admit, I am not an audiophile, so I won’t pretend to be one.  However, the system was loud, precise, and sounded very high-quality.  I also took a pair of the speakers home for review, and they sounded quite excellent in my living room as well.  (see pics).

Speaker on My Mantle

Speaker on My Mantle

Back of Speaker

Back of Speaker

Gary and the people at Orb really get it.  They understand that in the long run, your reputation is all you really have.  Making a product with innate value, sourced and manufactured locally, is the only viable future for sustainable American industry.  Gary explains ” when you move your production overseas, you don’t just lose the staff workers and all the other jobs associated with producing the 40 or so components that go into a speaker, you lose something far more valuable.  You are giving away the inventions, modifications and clever solutions, the actual innovation that happens during the course of problem solving.  Before you know it, the next generation of products is not even thought of in the USA.”  When asked about cost savings Gary replied, “labor is a major cost component of the speaker, but the savings you gain by selling web-direct as so much larger that after taking into account freight, import tariffs and lost quality control it just doesn’t make financial sense to build them in China.”

Orb Audio is an example of an American manufacturer making the right decisions about production and outsourcing.  I highly recommend their speakers.   Despite the flat or negative growth in the rest of the consumer electronics industry, Orb has continued 15-20% annual sales growth!

Contact information for Orb Audio: orbaudio.com, phone: 877-672-2834

Speaker Bases

Speaker Bases

Back of Subwoofer

Back of Subwoofer

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