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Product Review - Osborn E1 Surround Effects Speakers - May, 2001


Sean Williams - Australia


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Specifications

Drivers: Two 1 1/4" Kevlar Inverted Dome Tweeters; Two 7" Poly-Glass Mid/Bass

MFR: 40 Hz - 19 kHz 2 dB

Efficiency: 90 dB/w/m

Crossover Point: 3.7 kHz

Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms

Size:  21" H  x 11 1/2" W x 8 1/3" D  

Weight: 33 Pounds Each

Finish: Bubinga (Similar to Walnut) 

MSRP: $3,300/Pair AUS ($2,200/Pair USA)

 

Osborn Loudspeakers,17 Hammersley Court, Taylors Lakes, Victoria, Australia 3038; Phone +(613) 93901564; Fax +(613) 93-90-4775; Web:http://www.osbornloudspeakers.com.au/;  Email: osspeak@ihug.com.au

USA and Canada Contacts: NuView Marketing, Karl Schaefer,
Phone 877-361-3630; Fax: 250 833 4332; E-Mail nuview@shuswap.net 

Introduction

Osborn Loudspeakers have been producing loudspeakers for about 16 years now, and their “No Compromise” motto is well renowned. They are proud of their high standard of design and construction and believe that their products “speak” for themselves.

Having experienced the quality of one their speakers first hand (I purchased the Monumental Subwoofer, reviewed in May this year by David Wurtz), I jumped at the chance to review the “E1” surround effects speaker, and believe me, I was not disappointed. Take a look for yourself.

Bipole/Dipole

The E1 is a medium sized surround effects speaker with both bipolar and dipolar capabilities. This means that the tweeters are able to operate either out of phase with each other, if in dipolar mode, or in phase with each other, when in bipolar mode. When operating in dipolar mode, the sound waves coming directly from the speaker to the listening position destructively interfere with one another, reducing their intensity and making them more difficult to hear. However, the sound waves that reflect off the walls, floors, and ceiling constructively interfere with the direct sound waves and adding to the intensity, making them more easily perceived. This has the effect of broadening the soundstage and making it more diffuse, allowing us to feel surrounded by sound, hence the term surround sound. Bipolar speakers tend to do the reverse, so the sound is more directive or focused, allowing us to perceive where a sound is coming from in the room.

Design

The E1 cabinet is almost triangular when viewed from above. This prevented the use of the normal 25mm (1”) thick custom wood as used on the rest of the Osborn range. As a small compromise, 19mm custom wood was used, so they are not quite as heavy. It should be noted here, however, that these speakers are, due to their lighter weight, able to be wall mounted or positioned on a shelf. I am happy to say that they passed the old “Tap Test” (checking for cabinet resonance) with flying colors, proving they are still solid as the proverbial rock. This solidity ensures the ability to sonically isolate the output of the back of the base driver from the output of the front of the driver reducing loss of definition and sound quality caused by cabinet vibration.

A 1 1/4" Kevlar tweeter and 7" poly-glass mid/base driver are positioned on both panels and directed at 120 degrees to one another. This also helps to give a spacious side fill to the sound stage. The driver units were chosen for their superior speed and accuracy and are the same as those used in the Osborn F1 Reference Monitor. A single port is positioned directly below each of the mid/bass drivers. The E1 therefore is effectively two F1 speakers in the one cabinet.

Each speaker has a bipole/dipole switch positioned below one of the mid/base drivers. This needs to be on the side closest to the rear of the room, and thus they come as a dedicated right and left rear effects speaker, so care should be taken when positioning the speakers. On the rear of each unit you will find two sets of gold plated binding ports, allowing them to be bi-wired or bi-amped. Removable jumpers are also supplied for when single wiring is in use.

Setup

I was unable to wall mount these speakers, and so could not position them in the location as I would have liked. I had to make do with putting them on top of small tables in the back section of the room. This meant they were about head high and directly to the side when sitting in my listening position. To be in the recommended location, they should be about two meters high and either to the side or slightly in front of the listening position. The placement issues I had to deal with though, show you that the real world is not necessarily like the "recommended" one, as if you didn't know that already.

Sound (Home Theater)

All Osborn speakers are run in the factory for between 20 to 30 hours to insure that they meet specifications, as a matter of policy. This also means that they are at least partly broken in at time of purchase. Having said this, I still allowed them a few weeks to settle in before auditioning began in earnest.

To audition the E1s, I connected them to my system, consisting of a Yamaha RX-V995 processor/receiver, Yamaha DVD-S795 DVD player, JBL 4412 reference monitors as the front left/right speakers, and Osborn’s own “Monumental” as the subwoofer.

Right from the start I have to say that these speakers sound great. My wife and I enjoy watching movies, but our system has been lacking good surround speakers. I was surprised at the difference that E1s made, compared with the bipolars I had been using, and what I was missing in many movies.

"The Matrix” has a great surround sound track, and I like to listen to a number of scenes when auditioning speakers. The club scene early in the movie where Neo meets Trinity has a lot of loud music in the background. The E1s easily kept pace and produced a sound stage that was not distracting or overbearing to the main dialog but rather enhanced the overall activity. In the scene where Neo first escaped the Matrix, I could hear every crackle of electricity and even the focusing of the machine sensors as they were observing Neo just before dumping him into the sewers. Although I would never recommend going without a subwoofer, the E1s have ample bass and handle the machine gun fire, as well as the helicopter blades and explosions in the scene where Morphious is saved, with an amazing sense of reality.

In “James Bond – The World is Not Enough”, where Bond is trying to defuse the bomb in the pipeline, I found myself wanting to duck as the light passed by overhead. The sound stage was such that I really felt I was in the pipeline myself. I replayed this scene several times, and this is what having a home theater is all about! You can't do that in a commercial theater.

These speakers deliver a diffuse sound stage that completely surrounds you, but not at the expense of directionality when it is needed. This is demonstrated in the road crossing scene in “Toy story 2”, where light pole is knocked over and comes crashing down to the left of the sound stage, and also, in the airfield scene at the end, where you can hear the plane passing overhead. Once again, the E1s demonstrate their outstanding performance abilities capturing the realism that the audio engineers intended.

I will make one more note on the excellent sound quality obtained from the E1s. While testing the difference between Dipole and Bipole modes, I decided to use them as main speakers. I was able to demonstrate a widening of the sound stage when changing from bipole to dipole as you would expect, but what did surprise me was just how good they sounded as a main stereo pair. Their ability to handle the full range of frequencies matches many of the dedicated mains I have listened to. It also shows that there is no reason why you can't put speakers of any particular design wherever they make you feel good.

Conclusion

I have become very attached to these speakers and am not looking forward to sending them back. Not only do the E1s look good enough to be considered as part of the furniture rather than just a speaker (Bubinga is an exquisite timber for veneer), they also achieve the Osborn aims of producing a sound performance rivaled by few other speakers. If you are thinking of purchasing full range surround sound speakers, don’t hesitate, because DD and DTS are full range too. Full range surround adds a new dimension to the movie experience, and the E1s are more than a excellent choice. To quote a famous action figure, these effects speakers bring a movie to life, and can take you “To Infinity and Beyond” . . . .

 

-  Sean Williams -

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Copyright 2001 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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