Product Reviews

REVIEW: Origin Acoustics Composer THTR68

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We’ve been here before, but it’s always a good idea to remind ourselves: in-wall speakers don’t have to be limited and second-rate compared to standalone. You aren’t confined to small twin driver devices with circular faces.

For ceilings? Sure. The sound design of systems that use overhead channels basically expect the use of small speakers up there. But the sound design generally expects full range, or mostly full range speakers, at the same level as the listener, especially at the front.

Here’s where the Origin Acoustics Composer THTR68 speakers find their homes. In walls, particularly at the front of the room. There they can perform all three roles: left, right and centre.

What they are

These are full range speakers employing something close to a D’Appolitano configuration: tweeter at the centre and larger drivers arrayed symmetrically, above and below the tweeter. I say “close to” because the tweeter is actually offset horizontally when the speakers are installed vertically. Incidentally, I shall henceforth assume a vertical installation arrangement, but by placing one sideways it could perform duty as a centre channel speaker.

The drivers aren’t enclosed, and the open back nature of the system means that they are more at the mercy of the installation environment than closed box designs. On the other hand, it also means are larger ‘enclosure volume’, so to speak, than if they were enclosed and that can help bass performance.

The speakers are nearly 760mm tall and 220mm wide, with the cutout dimensions a little smaller (a cardboard template is provided). A mounting depth of 95mm is needed.

The tweeter is a 25mm soft dome unit and it’s offset to one side. If you have a pair of these speakers you can flip one so that the tweeters are both towards the centre, or both on the outside and it will make no difference cosmetically.

The tweeter is described as having a ‘Dual Plane Stabilized Diaphragm’. This connects the suspension to not only the perimeter of the dome, but also to its centre (you can see a small dimple if you look closely). Origin Acoustics says that this maintains speaker alignment better, allowing a lower crossover point, although I’m not sure that’s required in a three way design. The tweeter housing allows a degree of swivelling so that it can be aimed a little towards the listening area.

Both the bass and midrange drivers use yellow Kevlar cones and have nominal 165mm diameters.

Sometimes you see speakers with woofers and midrange drivers which are the same size and which look, from the outside at least, to be identical. Well, while the bass and midrange drivers in these speakers are the same size and use the same cone material, they are far from identical. Even from the outer face you can tell that. The woofers have a traditional shallow dust cones, about 45mm in diameter, coloured black at the centre of each yellow cone. The midranges have a 25mm fixed black phase plug at their centres. Also the surrounds are clearly different, with the woofers’ providing for significantly greater movement. The midranges also have a kind of cowling over their rears, unlike the woofers which have traditional open baskets.

Although I don’t think Origin Acoustics mentions this, the purpose of the phase plug in the midrange speakers is to reduce the incidence of higher frequencies produced near the centre of the cone from interfering with each other.

Incidentally, ignore the specifications on the Origin Acoustics website. It talks about the use of smaller midrange drivers and quad woofers.

The crossover can be partly inspected from the rear and it employs quality components, including large coils. There are three position switches for both bass and treble. These adjust the level of the woofers and tweeter respectively, with what sounded to be 3dB of cut and boost available to each. That allows a degree of tuning for position and room. I left them centred for this review.

Installation really couldn’t be easier. The hole which I cut to match the template fitted perfectly. The eight clamps are spring loaded. What you are doing when turning the front panel releases is, well, releasing them to snap into place, not tightening them down. An Origin Acoustics guitar pick suitable for turning these is provided. Rather than 10mm gyprock, I used 4mm MDF on my test box (much less dust to clean up afterwards!) and the clamps reached down far enough to grab them securely.

You can release them from the front just by turning the slots on the clamp releases 90° in the direction opposite to that marked on them. (Some go one way, some the other, which is why they’re marked.)

The white coloured metal grille is magnetically secured over the face of the speaker and is paintable.

The speaker cables are secured by fairly heavy spring clips. Cable can be pushed all the way through so it can be splayed out on the other side to ensure that it can’t be dragged back out.

In Use

I mounted the speaker into my regular installation speaker box, which meant that it was backed by larger enclosure volume than many installed speakers will enjoy. That said, it also meant that when I pushed the enclosure up against the back wall, the front of the speaker was still a good 300mm from the wall, so the full effect of boundary bass reinforcement wasn’t available.

Only one speaker was provided for review so there wasn’t much point considering issues such as surround or stereo imaging and such. Instead I mixed a high quality stereo audio network streamer to one channel and fed it into a single channel of a Yamaha Aventage RX-A3060 home theatre receiver, with a rated 150W per channel. I figured that ought to provide enough power.

Flicking through the network control software, the first piece of music to catch my eye was Deep Purple’s Machine Head. That, I figured, ought to test out the speaker for volume and dynamics.

Initially the sound was a touch tame, but that was entirely due to listening in mono. I wound up the volume and let ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Lazy’ and ‘Space Truckin’’ rip. Despite it having to work twice as hard as I’d normally require, the speaker did the trick. There was at the extremity the very slightest hint of dynamic compression, particularly in a high dynamic range track such as Lazy. But that was the only significant limitation and even that was barely noticeable, with the drums still managing to be fully realised through the sound mix.

Distortion levels were quite low, and again I was surprised about how loud I could get the thing to go without any confusion or loss of focus creeping into the sound.

After Deep Purple I played that old hit song ‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and it turned out to be recorded at a higher level than the Deep Purple. I left the volume control alone to see how things went, and at this very high level the voice remained clean and, if anything, the whole thing was more dynamically complete than the Deep Purple.

The frequency range handled by the speaker was clearly wide. In particular, the kick drum of rock groups was present, if not quite at full volume. That typically marks the 40 hertz point, so that’s pretty much in accord with specification. With a modern home theatre receiver I’d use a subwoofer and set these speakers to small with a crossover at 50 or 60 hertz, just to be on the safe side.

That said, when I played the album Innerspeaker by Tame Impala the bass proved to be very full and nicely extended. You could probably get by without a sub for music, but for movie use you will want a sub for the LFE.

The frequency balance was reasonable as well, but I tend to hold installation speakers to different standard than I might standalone speakers. With standalones one might want to occasionally switch off all processing – choose the Pure Direct mode on the home theatre receiver – and listen with the least massaging of the signal possible. With installation speakers that’s simply not a realistic option. The full suite of calibration functions in a receiver ought to be employed, particularly the EQ. The important point with installation speakers is that they can produce all the frequencies in their coverage band cleanly. The receiver’s electronics can tweak the levels.

And this speaker can indeed produce the full range of frequencies cleanly.

So, did I try EQ with this speaker? No. Receivers insist on having at least two speakers connected in order to perform these kinds of calibrations. So I did all my listening “pure”.

Conclusion

The Origin Acoustics Composer THTR68 in wall speakers are very impressive units and will reward those who want higher end home theatre performance from a package relatively inconspicuous to the eye.

About Stephen Dawson

Stephen Dawson

Stephen Dawson is one of Australia's leading freelance writers on home entertainment equipment. Based in Canberra, Stephen has had over 3,000 articles published in both local and national publications, mostly reviewing AV equipment.

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