I’m sure you’ve listened to many speakers, but you probably haven’t heard of OrigAudio. These are unlike any speakers I’ve come across. They are entirely eco-friendly, made almost entirely of cardboard, and even fold up. Once I saw this included on Time Magazine’s list of Top 50 Inventions of 2009, I couldn’t resist but to give these a test. OrigAudio was kind enough to provide us with a review unit. I’ve used these speakers for about a week. There’s some good, some bad, and here’s what I found:
The OrigAudio speakers arrived in a flat box. The packaging is made almost entirely from recycled cardboard. Once pulling the speakers out of the packaging, you’ll need to assemble them. As the name ‘Orig’-Audio implies, much like origami, you unfold them and shape them into cubes. There are pre-cut tabs that fit into slits and lock into place. The entire processes takes just a few minutes. There’s no need for a scissor, tape, stapler, or glue. The two cube speakers actually look quite unique and stand out from traditional ones. There’s a standard 3.5mm headphone jack that plugs right into an iPod, Zune, Netbook, or any device with a headphone jack. The cable is about 3.5 feet long. The speakers sit about a foot apart from one another. While this all seems neat, there are unfortunately a few drawbacks to the design. Since these are cardboard, they are not exactly too durable or stable. There’s an uneven distribution of weight due to the speaker being outfitted to the front face of the cube. The entire unit easily tips over with even the slightest nudge. The cardboard built also makes it susceptible to damage from water or moisture. But then again, I’ve never seen a pair of foldable speakers before. It’s easy to disassemble and pack away with your luggage when traveling. The unit we reviewed featured the Cityscape design, but the OrigAudio is also available in a few other varieties.
If you like audio quality, you’ll want to pass on these. It’s that simple. While I’m not nearly a hardcore audiophile, even I found myself a bit disappointed with the audio quality. To begin with, I should mention these are entirely self-powered. OrigAudio’s speakers don’t require batteries or an AC power supply. While that’s a plus, it also means that these don’t get nearly loud enough. The speakers rely solely on the current provided from your MP3 player. While my Dell XPS M1530 was able to output enough power to get these 1 watt speakers loud enough, they were still fairly quiet when connected to my iPhone 3GS on max volume. While the speakers impressively didn’t begin to crack or hiss when maxed out, they still sound washed out and hollow. While these definitely can’t hit any highs, even the mid-range lacked a spark. Plus with nearly no bass, there wasn’t much of a wow factor. Fortunately, these stereo speakers sounded better than the mono speaker on my iPhone, which means I’d actually have a use for them. I wouldn’t mind using these to enjoy a YouTube video or listen to a podcast when I am traveling. As most customers don’t really care much for audio quality and since most traditional MP3 players don’t have built-in speakers, OrigAudio’s product will definitely be appealing to many.
I never thought I’d ever be using a speaker that’s made from the same material as its packaging. The cardboard comes from recycled newspapers, phone books, and pizza boxes. With a large consumer base that’s focused on environmentally friendly and green technologies, it’s nice to see companies doing something innovative to appeal to them. While I doubt is possible to make high-end speakers from cardboard, I’m sure there are ways for companies to cut down on wasting new materials and leaving a lighter footprint on the environment. It would be nice to see others follow in this company’s footsteps. While OrigAudio does brand itself as “Mother nature approved,” that’s not entirely true. The actually speaker component and cables aren’t. The speaker is made from materials including plastic, metal, and magnets. As far as I’ve been told, none of those can be recycled. Despite that, these are still probably the most eco-friendly speakers out there and will be the biggest appeal for customers.
There’s no question that the OrigAudio brings an innovative product to the market. They’ve been recognized by notable publications such as Time Magazine specifically for that. However that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best bang for the buck. While these sell for just $16, there are some other products worth considering. Altec-Lansing’s portable battery-powered Orbit speaker sells for just $19 on Amazon. Brand-name companies including Sony and Philips also offer portable speakers for just a few bucks more and will probably sound a whole lot better. Unfortunately, none of those are as environmentally friendly as the OrigAudio. As these are compact, foldable, and cheap, you won’t go wrong. These make a great gift for just about anyone who has a portable MP3 player, music phone, or any other gizmo with a headphone jack. If you want to pick on of these up, they are available for purchase directly from OrigAudio.com for $16 per unit or in a 6-pack for a discounted price of $66.
Stay tuned as Skatter Tech will be giving away a couple of these guys in the coming days. I’ll also publish a few questions I asked Jason Lucash, OrigAudio’s founder, during a quick interview. I’ve also got the scoop on their upcoming product. Find us on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated.
Buy: OrigAudio Speakers