Top Tier Teardown:  
  Origin Acoustics  

Over the past three years, Origin Acoustics has made a lot of noise as it skyrockets to the top of the premium loudspeaker market. David Donald, the worldwide ambassador for Origin Acoustics, participated in an interview with Connected Design to talk everything from inspiration to the granular technologies that have made OA so popular among architects, builders, dealers, designers, and the clients they work for.

Dave Donald

Dave Donald

Connected Design: What was the inspiration for the Origin Acoustics Director Series?

David Donald: The team here is the team that essentially invented the in-wall and in-ceiling speaker business for residential application. We're very fortunate because, for the Director line, we got to start with a blank sheet of paper. We got to build this thing with absolutely no legacy product behind us. So we've got a group of engineers that literally have combined hundreds of years of experience in designing products specifically for in-wall and in-ceiling applications who were able to start with the thought, "If you could do it over again, taking everything you know, what would you do?"

What are some of the technologies that your team improved on?

Fortunately for us, each engineer brought their ideas to the Director Series. For example, the DPSP tweeter – which is pinned in the center, suspended from the outside. Because of that suspension, you can play it louder and you can also play it deeper, which means that the crossover point can be deeper. When the crossover point is deeper, that dramatically improves the dispersion of the midrange and the mid-woofer that you're crossing it over to.

Any time a driver is asked to produce a frequency where the wavelength is shorter than the actual dimension of the driver, you end being up very directional. Because we're not allowing these to play as high – therefore, not playing shorter wavelengths – it improves the overall dispersion. When you are putting a speaker in the ceiling, like the Director product, you don't get to move it around once it's in there. You can certainly pivot it, and you can aim it and what not, but you can't physically move the speaker. So incredibly wide dispersion is very important.

Another is the X-Wave Surround, for example. That was all done because of resonant frequencies that exist in basically every woofer that's ever been made, which are between 700 and 1,400 cycles. They just ripple up and down between the voice coil at the center and the surround on the outside. It's just resonant distortion. Every engineer who's ever built loudspeakers has just had to live with it; that's just the case. So one of our engineers said, "That's what I want to tackle." And he created a surround that specifically would absorb and dissipate those frequencies, so they didn't resonate up and down the cone.

It's stuff like that. Is that a huge deal? No, it's not a huge deal. It's a combination of all these little nuances that we did in order to make it a better speaker.

How does this help builders or more importantly, dealers?

A great deal of product that we sell is all based on recommendations. I do not have the financial resources to cut through the cacophony of messages that get out there like some of our competitors. This kind of information is what we explain to dealers so that they have this peace of mind when they're presenting it that says, "I'm truly presenting a technologically advanced product."

Perfect example: the Tool-less mounting system. You have, in the 6-inch and 8-inch series, 15 different models that fit in that same hole. So somebody could actually install the ring in the ceiling and put the grille on with no speaker behind it whatsoever. Later, they could decide to trim out any of these 15 different models that range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars and fit it in that same hole. Or for that matter, they could leave the hole empty in a room where they wanted to put speakers later. All they would have to do is pop the grille off, stick the speaker in, twist it five degrees and it's ready to play.

So there are some huge advantages to the overall installation and the fact that with the mounting system we could fit a larger speaker in a smaller hole. You know, and I know, the bigger the speaker is, the more bass response and the more volume I can get out of it. The fact that I fit a 10-inch woofer into everybody else's 8-inch footprint and that I can fit an 8-inch woofer into everybody else's 6-inch footprint means that all of a sudden, I've got an extended amount of bass in the same hole from somebody else. Those are huge benefits.

We concentrate on three elements: sound quality, ease of installation for installers, and the fit-and-finish business. Most of the stuff, most of the image of that product, is going to be the ceiling grille, which, is all customers are ever going to see.

How do those three elements play a pivotal role in the distinguishing you from the competition?

When a dealer gets it for the first time and installs it for the first time, all those elements come together. It's not a matter of me having to sell the product to someone; if it doesn't perform, they will never come back to us again. The reason we've gone from Number 300 to a Top Two in the industry, in a period of three years, is because we can do it better than everybody else. It's not a disparaging comment to anyone else; we just have been doing this for so long, and for so many people. The dealers know we have this experience and keep coming back to us because of it.

Beyond integrators, how can architects, builders, and designers capitalize on OA's vision?

DD: There is no question that loudspeakers in the home are a fantastic profit center for everyone involved. The designers and the builders are going to benefit from this because the customer is going to be more excited about living in their home. We sell smiles for a living. We sell stuff that, when people walk through a model home, they fall in love. It's a different animal.

The loudspeaker has to be in the room. You can hide so many elements, but a speaker is something that has to be in a room. So a great speaker that blends into the room makes the architects and designers happy. They are looking for something that doesn't compete with what they are trying to do, but at the same time provides all the enjoyment that comes from our technology.