For decades Origin Acoustics founder Jeremy Burkhardt has been at the forefront of architectural speaker designs. Burkhardt and his team of engineers, led by Ken Humphreys and Ed Haase, have developed a range of solutions that cover everything from home theater and whole-house audio to the popular line of outdoor audio products.
Targeting a market category that some architectural speaker companies have shied away from, Origin Acoustics has entered the high-performance audio category through the release of its Composer THTR68 and THTR66 in-wall loudspeakers.
Falling into a sub-product line it calls the 30-inch tall rectangular, the THTR68 features a proprietary 1-inch silk DPSD tweeter, as well as a 3.5-inch Kevlar midrange driver and multiple 6.5-inch Kevlar woofers. The three-way speaker is rated as an 8-ohm, 92dB sensitive design that is capable of producing a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz.
Aiding installers in the field, the speaker incorporates the company’s SpringLock locking mechanism that is said to create uniform torque at each pressure point, and a paintable magnetic grille that is designed to help the speaker blend into interior spaces.
I can’t speak to the exact setup procedure of the pair of speakers; they came preinstalled in a set of what appeared to be MDF cabinets. Based on my experience with the company’s leadership, I don’t foresee any issues that would crop up during the install process. Burkhardt has always gone to great lengths to work with installers to ensure they are as efficient and as profitable as possible when using his products.
Using an Integra A/V receiver for the break-in process, and mostly a Parasound ZoneMaster 650 amplifier, I first broke the speakers in, and did the vast majority of my listening with the Parasound amp.
Getting into my initial listening sessions with the speakers, I was intrigued by the Origin product because of some noticeable audiophile traits I could hear. Topping those traits was a finely detailed midrange presentation, a full top end, and solid bass extension and control. What I didn’t like was the cabinet resonances I could hear that were coloring the upper bass, lower midrange frequencies.
Addressing the cabinet interactions I popped off the speakers’ magnetic grilles, which gave me access to the speakers’ baffle-mounted EQ controls and pivoting tweeters. Trying a few combination of low- and high-frequency adjustments I ended up with the low-frequency contour switch in the minus position and the top end switch set to a flat output position. Running through the EQ adjustments had a big impact on the cabinet interactions I was hearing, and once most of those problems were mitigated I set the pivoting tweeters to give me a “toe-in” type of position to tighten up the speakers’ imaging and soundstage.
I really liked the flexibility the EQ controls and pivoting tweeters provided me. There are so many variables that architectural speakers face in addition to their position within a room, and at the top of that list is the wall cavity these products live in. In the case of this review the control options were quite beneficial. I also contacted Burkhardt about the availability of backboxes to further mitigate the possibilities of resonances that are due to the movement of air within a wall cavity, and he says Origin does offer MDF backboxes. This is further good news in that not only can dealers better control resonances, but they can also minimize sound leakage into adjacent rooms, so the addition of this this option is a total win in my eyes.
Getting back to the speakers’ performance, I listened to Stevie Ray Vaughn, 10,000 Maniacs, Fleetwood Mac, and Susan Tedeschi, as well as heavier content like Tool, and found the adjustments produced well-controlled mid-bass frequencies, detailed midrange and a rich top end. The THTR68’s tweeter seems to be a particular strong point of the speaker’s design. The tweeter displayed a high level of resolution that was crisp, but not brittle or bright. The image the speaker produced was also rock solid and on songs like “Silver Springs” from Fleetwood Mac. I loved how the bass line sat in the soundstage behind the vocals with enough clarity to hear each individual note without sounding mushy. Moving on to well recorded content like Steely Dan’s “Don’t Take Me Alive” Mr. 335, Larry Carlton’s guitar sounded smooth and huge playing through the THTR68s.
One last thing, and this relates to the earlier point about the wall cavity interactions. The THTR68 is more dynamic than most in-wall speakers, which means its playback of rock, pop, country and other genres doesn’t require the aid of a subwoofer to add bottom end. The caveat with this as I alluded to earlier was because these speakers move air dealers will have to think about their placement within a room, and the wall environments the speaker is placed in to get the full potential of this speaker’s performance. In my time with the THTR68s, I had the speaker playing down to 40Hz.
This lines up with the spec Origin states, and to credit Origin, my test was done in a non-anechoic environment that includes drop ceilings so there was no ceiling boundary reinforcement to aid that figure. Theoretically I would bet that dealers could place the speaker closer to the corners of a room to squeeze out a little more low frequency extension. Putting my theorizing aside, 40Hz is enough to reproduce a kick drum and the open-E string on a bass so it provides plenty of bottom end for most forms of popular music.
In summarizing the Origin speaker, I think of the THTR68 as the Corvette of the speaker world. It provides lots of muscle, along with finesse when needed, and enough sheer performance to compete with products costing more money, like Chevy’s flagship vehicle. But like the Corvette, which is often abused by owners that can’t tame its horsepower, careful consideration should go into the installation of the speaker to ensure its full potential.