REVIEWED: Bishopsound Orion 108A
As the business manager of Preston-based Hashtag Quiz, for some time I have been on the lookout for a reasonably priced 8-inch active speaker that we can send out with our quiz hosts. Unfortunately, the model we had previously been using for quite a few years had been discontinued and it was important to find a replacement that offered both quick and easy setup from a portable unit that is also great value. Enter the Orion 108A from BishopSound!
We happened to swing by the BishopSound stand at BPM 2019 and that’s when the conversation with Andrew Bishop first started. Now here we are October 2020, albeit delayed due to the dreaded COVID-19 and of course with very little business to use them, we have an almost ‘bespoke’ speaker that suits our purposes along with many other applications such as ceremony and background music, DJ monitors on big rigs and full-on DJ use at small venues.
BishopSound was launched in 2016 by speaker industry veteran Andrew Bishop and his wife Victoria. Along with their team, they design and manufacture a wide range of both active and passive speakers for public performance. With a mission to reproduce ‘the Great British sound’, they pride themselves on being affordable and reliable, backed up by personal customer care and assistance based in the UK.
Many speaker products are not designed with mobile DJs specifically in mind, but when you are literally conversing with the company that still has yet to make the speaker things are very different. BishopSound were willing to work with us, allowing us to add on features almost like adding optional extra packs to a brand new car! Our list of wants were a decent microphone input, a separate line input and maybe Bluetooth connectivity as the icing on the cake. They delivered all of this and more with the Orion 108A, let’s deep-dive into what it has to offer...
Although it has been designed, developed and engineered in the UK, the Orion 108A is manufactured abroad – as is the case with many other units in the BishopSound range and almost every other speaker product on the market today. When the delivery arrived into the office I was pretty shocked by the size of the box. Surely, there was only one speaker in there! But, nope, two units were ready to be setup and reviewed for Pro Mobile.
Lightweight and made from non-resonant ABS (plastic to you and me), the Orion 108A has a neat curved metal grill to the front and, as you would expect, the mixer controls at the rear. Measuring 44cm x 28cm x 28cm, and weighing in at just 9kg (20lb), I immediately thought of the portability and ease of setup on a tripod for our hosts. Handles on both sides as well as the top of the unit make for extremely easy handling and positioning and you’ll find the usual 35mm tripod mounting hole and locking nut underneath. There are also multiple rigging points, should you wish to install the product permanently into venues.
To the rear, you’ll discover the usual controls and connections for an active unit as well as those extra connectivity options we particularly wanted. There’s an IEC input for power with built-in protection fuse, selectable voltage (in case you travel outside the UK and need to run from 115V) and a rocker switch to power the unit up. The mixer section is small but perfectly formed, offering all of the controls / connections we need, with no unnecessary ‘bells and whistles’. The first Mic/Line In channel has a dedicated volume knob, a push button for selecting between microphone and line level input as well as a standard XLR / ¼ jack combo input. The second Line channel also has a dedicated volume knob and offers a choice between a 3.5mm jack input (from a phone or laptop, perfect for quiz use!) or a standard stereo pair of RCA phono connections (to allow connection of a DJ controller or mixer that doesn’t have XLR outputs). There’s also an overall Master volume control, together with three LED indicators for Power, Signal and Clip. Finally, there’s a Bluetooth connection button with status LED alongside a Mix Out XLR for passing the combined signal from the various inputs out to another speaker.
According to the BishopSound website: Orion speakers sound superb and are outselling other famous brands due to the punchy yet warm British sound delivered as a result of over 50 years of Great British design and engineering. This speaker outperforms all multiple driver column speakers yet offers the same lightweight construction. So I was keen to try them out for myself!
I set them up in the office to try them out before taking them to a live event. The 8” woofer with 2” voice coil twinned with a 1.4” tweeter powered by BishopSound’s own Class D amplifier module produced a sweet flat response across all frequencies. I tried a few styles of music plus a lot of microphone and vocal work, which is what we would tend to use them for when hosting a HashtagQuiz, and I was very impressed. Both recorded music and a live mic, at different volume levels, sounded spot on!
With a dispersion of 90 degrees horizontal and 50 degrees vertical, the unit covers a wide area, ideal for pubs, halls and smaller function venues. It is suitable for a multitude of uses, from home studios and streaming (we’re all doing it at the moment!) to fitness classes and of course hosting quizzes. They would also match up well with musicians and singers, and – with a quoted power rating of 300W RMS and 125dB max SPL – a couple of these speakers could be coupled with a pair of subwoofers like BishopSound’s Delta 12” Active 500W units to create an awesome little DJ rig. I’d say this setup would comfortably cover a full-on party for around 120-150 people (not that we can do those at the moment!). There is also an optional extra of waterproof covers, making the potential for use at outdoor fetes and garden parties another unique selling point.
Using the Bluetooth V5 feature is a nice simplistic touch and allows easy connection from a phone or laptop. It also features TWS Bluetooth, which allows you to wirelessly connect two Orion 108A speakers to one stereo source. When I tested this in a venue, it worked flawlessly at a distance of around 15 metres with no drop out whatsoever. Another serious tick in the box for features on a unit of this size and at this price point.
With events currently facing a hiatus and limited to 15 people for weddings and 30 for funerals, the glimmer of hope is that smaller quiz nights are slowly starting back up again in many areas. With venues on the hunt for different ways to make money now they can’t have a DJ rocking a party, this is an opportunity for DJs and quiz hosts to earn at least a little bit of money in these tough times. For this kind of event, the BishopSound Orion 108A is well placed to allow us to whip in, perform and whip out again!
What would I change? To be honest, very little. For the additional cost to BishopSound, a longer power lead would be a plus and reduce any potential health and safety hazard. A 1m lead is supplied but once it’s up on a tripod this is useless, so you’ll need to replace with a useable 3m lead. Unless, of course, you want the cable police locking you up for hanging plugs!
At just £249 each (currently on sale at £179 direct from the BishopSound website), this really is a fantastic little unit. It is suitable for a whole host of events – even ones that can still take place during COVID-19 restrictions and, as explained above, once DJs can get back working it could be used (coupled up with a pair of subwoofers) to create a very affordable and versatile full-on DJ PA system.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 104, Pages 86-87.