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Getting to Know ORA: Features & Technology | Kanto Audio Getting to Know ORA: Features & Technology | Kanto Audio

Getting to Know ORA:
Features & Technology

ORA is our long-awaited next-generation desktop speaker developed with a single goal in mind – deliver reference-quality sound in a tiny package. ORA straddles the line between a computer speaker and a studio monitor and has all the modern features you’ve come to expect from Kanto. This blog post serves as a technical deep-dive into our latest speaker highlighting the design goals we had in mind for creators, gamers, musicians, and audio enthusiasts.

Internal

We’ve designed many powered speakers, but ORA is our first active speaker. That means that each driver in the speaker is separately powered and tuned.

Instead of a traditional amplifier design which splits the signal between the left and right channels, ORA is bi-amplified. This design splits the 50 W RMS class-D amplifier into four separate channels, sending 9 W to each tweeter and 16 W to each woofer.

A traditional crossover splits the high frequencies going to the tweeter and low frequencies going to the woofer with analog electrical components. ORA has full DSP (digital signal processing) on board to create its crossover points digitally. This allows us to control the frequency range being sent to each driver with more precision than a passive design.

DSP control also extends to the sub-out port which automatically filters out any frequencies below 100 Hz with a steep 24 dB/octave slope when a sub is connected. A complimentary high-pass filter frees up ORA’s 3” woofers to focus on midrange which reduces distortion and allows ORA to play louder and handle loud transients with greater precision.

External

Front Panel:

  1. 3/4″ Silk Dome Tweeter
  2. 3″ Paper Cone Woofer
    (magnetically shielded)
  3. LED
    Green – RCA
    Yellow – USB
    Blue – Bluetooth Pairing (flashing)
    Bluetooth Paired (solid)
  4. Volume / Input Select /
    On / Off

Rear Panel:

  1. Bass Reflex Port
  2. 1/4″-20 Mounting Hole
  3. Bluetooth Pairing Button
  4. USB Audio Input
  5. Subwoofer Output
  6. RCA Input
  7. DC Input Connection
  8. Speaker out

An RCA input is included for use with older gaming consoles or analog gear like turntables or cassette players. A USB-C input lets you bypass the generally poor sounding onboard audio on PC or Mac for a solid connection that supports up to 16 bit/48 kHz. Finally, Bluetooth® 5.0 lets you connect an iPhone, Android, or smart home device to round out the comprehensive input section.

The LED on the front switches between Green for RCA, Yellow for USB, and Blue for Bluetooth® based on whichever input you’ve selected. The knob on the front of the speaker switches between inputs when pressed inward, adjusts volume when twisted, turns the speaker off with a long press, and powers then back on again when pressed. At the rear of the speaker, you will find a ¼”-20 hole to mount ORA to a wall or compatible speaker stand.

Compact Size

Let’s start with the most obvious external detail – ORA’s size. ORA is only 25% larger in volume compared to YU2 (which has been the de facto choice for compact desktop speakers) but dials up the sound quality by several orders. ORA is narrow enough to place sideways under a monitor which is a lifesaver for ultrawide or dual monitor users who still want excellent sound. ORA is a fraction of the size of full-size studio monitors – you can fit ten ORA’s in space that two Yamaha HS5’s take up and that’s a pretty compact studio monitor compared to similar options.

Studio monitors are a straightforward way to get great sound as they are designed for critical monitoring of audio, but they come with some caveats that can make them a deal breaker for some users. Studio monitors dominate small spaces, require an external interface to work as intended, and can come across as a bit flat sounding. ORA was designed to address these deficiencies – they have a smaller footprint, don’t need external gear to work, and get close to studio-grade sound without being too analytical.

Drivers

ORA’s ¾” silk dome tweeters provide smooth, extended treble and are tuned for long, fatigue-free listening sessions. Special care was taken when designing the waveguide to enhance ORA’s vertical dispersion. With its wide vertical and horizontal directivity, ORA sounds just as good standing upright as it does lying sideways.

Though ORA’s woofer may only be 3”, they’re not shy on low-end extension. Each time we demoed pre-production samples of ORA at tradeshows this Summer we repeatedly got asked the same question, “Is there a sub hooked up?” Even though you have the flexibility of adding a subwoofer, you may not need one.

Magnetic Shielding

ORA’s woofer has another trick up its sleeve – magnetic shielding. Before LCD monitors became the norm, nearly all PC speakers were magnetically shielded to prevent them from distorting the sensitive tubes in CRT monitors. Manufacturers slowly moved away from magnetic shielding, but we’ve brought it back for a niche use – retro gaming.

Older games were designed for the technology of their time. Designers utilized the pixel shape, scan lines, and smoothing of CRT screens to create beautiful 2D sprites and images. The only true way to experience the art-style of older games is with a CRT or high-end tube PVM. Retro gamers can place ORA directly beside their CRT to hear every square wave and sawtooth in stunning detail.

Use Cases

ORA is a fantastic-sounding speaker that most audio enthusiasts will appreciate, but we didn’t design ORA strictly for audiophiles. There are three use cases we had in mind when determining the input selection, tuning, and features that made it into the final product.

CREATORS

Vloggers, podcasters, and streamers need the stories they’re telling to sound great and keep their audience hooked. They need an editing workhorse to reveal if their voice recordings are high quality, that noise was not captured during recording, and that effects applied to their voice, like compression or de-essing, are working as intended. They require reference grade sound to ensure what they are hearing is not coloured by defects from their speakers. With desktop space at a premium and a high cost of entry for studio monitors and an audio interface, ORA is a compelling all-in-one solution that can even be taken on the road.

GAMERS

Videogames are synonymous with immersion. They engage your eyes, ears, and sense of touch. Headsets are a great option for voice chat and privacy, but they can become uncomfortable and aren’t the most natural way of listening. Gamers seeking the most immersive experience require speakers that can cover the full range of sound with accuracy. Whether it’s hearing every footstep to gain a competitive edge, or playing something cozy to relax, a proper set of speakers can help blur the line between fantasy and reality. With multiple options for connectivity, magnetically shielded drivers, and stellar sound quality, ORA can take PC or retro gaming to the next level.

MUSICIANS

Music is an auditory art, so audio is the heart and soul of what a musician does. Musicians not only appreciate a great-sounding speaker, but they also require it to create. They need to ensure the tone and timbre of their instruments, voice, or effects are accurately represented and not influenced by the speaker. They need to trust their gear faithfully represents their vision. ORA’s near studio-grade sound and compact size make it the perfect speaker for recording anywhere inspiration strikes. The focused input selection allows musicians to connect to their laptop, phone, or directly into an instrument.

Summary

ORA is the embodiment of our quest for reference-grade sound in a small package. As our first active speaker, it uses modern tech like bi-amplification and DSP tuning to deliver almost unbelievable sound and shockingly deep bass. With the ability to give studio monitors a run for their money, ORA lets creators and musicians focus on their craft even if it’s on-the-go. With plenty of connectivity options and magnetically shielded drivers, ORA feels just as at home paired with a battlestation as it does with a console from the golden age of gaming. Audio enthusiasts will be impressed with ORA’s capabilities especially when a sub is added and the crossover network kicks in. We hope you love ORA as much as we loved designing them!