Optimal Speaker Design Black Series Review

Optimal Speaker Design Black Series

By Jim Wilson

All pictures courtesy of Optimal Speaker Design

Introduction

The subject of this review is the Optimal Speaker Design (OSD) Black Series. Across the front stage (left/center/right) OSD supplied me with their S81 speaker. The S81 feature an 8″ woofer made from long wood fiber along with three 1″ silk dome tweeters in waveguides arranged in a horizontal row directly above the woofer. The stated frequency response is 40-30kHz with a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a 93dB sensitivity rating. Cabinet dimensions are 16.3″x17.5″x8.6″ (HWD). Weight is 26 pounds.

For surrounds I have a pair of S8T’s. These speakers are a tripole configuration and also use an 8″ woofer. They have a single forward-firing 1″ silk dome tweeter with matching tweeters on each of the trapezoidal sides. Stated frequency response is the same 40-30kHz with a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a 90dB sensitivity rating. Cabinet dimensions at their widest point are 14.9″x16.3″x4.9″ (HWD). Weight is 21 pounds.

Both the S81 and S8T are finished in a black PUV coating, an ultraviolet resistant vinyl. The finish is matte with a slight pattern to it, almost like oak veneer. It does not reflect light. If black isn’t your thing they come in white PUV as well.

OSD gave me a pair of TreVoce12 subwoofers. The TreVoce12 sports a front-firing 12″ driver with 12″ passive radiators on the left and right sides of the enclosure. It has an 800 watt amplifier with a stated frequency response of 20-160Hz. The TreVoce12 weighs 51 pounds, measurers 15.4″x16″x15″ (HWD) and comes with a black finish that has a slight texture, almost like what you might find with certain types of leather.

Pricing for the S81 is $599 each, while the S8T will run you $499. The TreVoce12 subwoofer comes in at $1200. The speakers have a limited lifetime warranty, not something you’ll see very often. The subwoofer has 2 years on parts and labor.


Unboxing

The S81 speakers were shipped individually and came double-boxed, with each box being double-walled. Encircling the outer box were banding straps, the type you typically see when something is secured to a wooden pallet (these didn’t come on a palette, just regular ground shipping). Cushioning the top, bottom and middle of the speakers – yes middle – were 2″ medium density foam protectors. Once the speakers are freed from their packaging you’ll find them nestled in a cloth bag. To say these things were overpacked would be an accurate statement. Did you ever think I would write that? Yea, me neither. OSD includes white cotton gloves to make sure you don’t leave greasy fingerprints on the cabinet. The finish isn’t susceptible to fingerprints so you might not even need them.

If you think the S81’s are the only speakers OSD showed some love to you would be mistaken because the S8T’s were packaged every bit as good. These also come double boxed with each being double walled. Protecting the corners from getting crushed were L shaped cardboard slates placed vertically between the inner and outer boxes. The speakers were inside a cloth bag and held in place by 1.5″ soft foam blocks covering the entire top and bottom.

Just like everything else, the TreVoce12 subwoofer comes double boxed. OSD uses 1.5″ soft foam blocks that cover the horizontal and vertical sides, extending about 3″ in every direction. In keeping with the theme, the sub is protected by a cloth bag.


What’s in a name?

About 6 years ago I reviewed a couple of subwoofers from a company called OSD, which at that time meant Outdoor Speaker Depot. Fast forward to today and I have a full 5.2 system from a company named OSD, only this time the initials stand for Optimal Speaker Design. Check out those links and you’ll come to find the websites look completely different, yet dig deeper and you will see there are a few similarities with their respective product lines. Your eyes are not deceiving you, it seems the original OSD has branched out and become the ‘other’ OSD as well. Is this a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing or is it simply a company expanding their horizons while paying homage to their past?

The first incarnation of OSD – the one with “outdoor” in their name – is the stereotypical inexpensive product company, and they did very well in that regard. I thought what they offered back then was easily worth the asking price and the subwoofers I evaluated could hold their own against pretty much anything available at those price points. The newest variant of the company – the one with “optimal” in their name – retains some of those modest roots, but they have a few products that are leaps and bounds beyond what the old OSD used to sell. Case in point… the Black Series speakers I’m listening to now are far and away the best products this company has ever sold under the OSD label, regardless of whether it’s the previous version of the name or the current one. But wait, there’s more as we also have the OSD Black website which only seems to have their in-wall and in-ceiling speakers listed, along with the entire subwoofer line. Confused? Yea, me too so I called the company for clarification.

Turns out they’re all the same. OSD (Outdoor Speaker Depot) is where it all started and is still selling a multitude of products. OSD (Optimal Speaker Design) is an off-shoot and is intended to feature their premium brands. Ironically, if you click on the OSD Black icon at the top of the Optimal Speaker Design website it takes you to the OSD Black website, the one that doesn’t have the speakers I’m currently evaluating. Perhaps “doesn’t have” is a bit of a misnomer because most of the links I used above are from the OSD Black website, you just have to know how to find the items. To be completely honest I think it’s a little perplexing, and that’s coming from someone who spoke with a company representative. There is probably an opportunity here for OSD to simplify things. However, there’s no ambiguity in what these speakers were designed for and how well they execute.

Most home theaters have speakers that would be equally suited in a 2 channel system. They look and sound like ‘regular’ speakers but that’s not what you get in a true theater environment. Go to the movies and you’ll find high-efficiency designs using lightweight drivers mounted in enclosures that are generally attached to the walls. They focus less on aesthetics and more on dynamic sound and total output. They need to have presence, a wide sound field and be capable of serious volume without breaking up. How many reading this have a setup like that, a system which duplicates a true theater? I’m betting it’s a small percentage, but I wonder how many would enjoy having something just like that. OSD’s Black Series can turn your space into a real mini-movie theater.

The first thing that gives away their true DNA is the fact the enclosures are tall and wide but not at all deep. When compared to conventional speakers they come across as somewhat flat and nondescript but there’s a very good reason why they look like they do, and that’s the second sign OSD went all-in with the home theater aspect. On the back panel is a very robust mounting system clearly indicating these speakers were intended to be attached to a wall, meaning narrow cabinets are a must. You don’t have to do that of course – I didn’t for this review – but they obviously gave special consideration to that during the design phase. Instead of a simple threaded insert OSD has a plate-mount system consisting of some pretty stout pieces.

All the hardware you’ll need is included – even the screws and dry wall anchors – so there’s no trip to the local home center in your future.

The S81 features an 8″ woofer made from long wood fiber to keep mass down while still providing strength.

{Note: the grills included with the S81 review units have a silver OSD logo on the bottom center, identical to what you’ll see below for the S8T}

In my listening sessions it produced a very satisfying yet warm sound. The driver doesn’t have the according-style surround normally associated to high-efficiency speakers, but it does use a supple rubber to ensure quick cone movements. That woofer had better be light on its feet because it must keep up with not one, but a trio of 1″ silk dome tweeters. OSD uses an array of tweeters positioned just above the woofer and sandwiched between the two ports. Almost without exception that type of tweeter arrangement results in a sonic disaster as aligning and balancing them is all but impossible due to lobbing issues. What usually happens is they fight amongst themselves and create a mess out of the high frequency; instead of mutually coupling they become antagonistic. Think along the lines of three brothers growing up together (don’t ask me how I know that). In this case proper engineering takes what could have been a liability and turns it into an asset.

The S8T also uses an 8″ woofer and three 1″ silk dome tweeters. Two of the tweeters are placed on the sides, while the third is facing forward.

This positioning is perfect for surround speakers as it casts portions of the sound field in an almost 180 degree pattern, creating a panoramic effect. In a traditional 5.1 setup the surrounds only produce about 20% of the soundtrack, but the added dispersion of the S8T helps to create a more realistic sensation.

The S81 and S8T feel solid with the ubiquitous knuckle rap test returning a dull thud, exactly what you want to hear. Construction quality was first rate, there was nothing I could find out of place or done improperly. Grills are made from 1/2″ painted MDF and were rigid. They’re held in place with the typical pin and cup system, and with the S81 there are 8 of them (4 across the top and 4 on the bottom). Frequently I run speakers with their grills off to get as much detail as possible but that wasn’t necessary for the S81 as everything was clearly defined even with them on. The S8T always has two of its three tweeters exposed so I never tried those without a grill.

The TreVoce12 is very small, physically about as small as you can make a 12″ powered subwoofer.

It features a front-firing driver with 12″ passive radiators on either side. The amp is mounted on the back as expected. The grill covering the active driver is made from 1″ MDF and sits in a recess making it flush with the cabinet. The cone on the passive radiators have a carbon fiber look which offers a nice visual effect. They don’t have grills but that’s a characteristic of most systems with a passive radiator. The subwoofer itself is supported by 1″ conical rubber feet. All-in-all, it’s a tidy little package.

The manual for the subwoofer says it will go into standby mode after “approximately 15 minutes of inactivity”. I didn’t time it but that seemed about right. Getting the subwoofer out of standby proved more challenging, as in not possible. Regardless of whether I used an LFE or line in connection (both RCA) it refused to wake up so I left them in the on position for the duration of this review. The amp stayed cool so that shouldn’t be a problem.

The rest of the documentation for the TreVoce12 is somewhat generic but it does cover everything. All the controls and connections are explained, there is a small troubleshooting section, warranty information and a few random pieces of information, some of which are rather interesting. For example, I noticed a mention of recycling. While I’m all for saving the planet – my youngest daughter has a bachelors degree in tree hugging (OK, it’s actually Environmental Sciences) – “your product contains valuable materials that can be recovered and recycled” strikes me as an interesting statement to put in the owner’s manual for a subwoofer. What exactly are the recoverable materials in question, and how do you go about recycling them? No mention is made. Under subwoofer placement I noticed a passage that says “low bass frequencies are omni directional, this means you can usually place your subwoofer just about anywhere in your home theater room with good results”. While bass is indeed omni-directional I can’t really agree with being able to place a subwoofer anywhere in a room. There is more than empirical evidence to suggest placement is quite critical. Since the Black Series products are purchased through a dealer perhaps documentation is less important as there will likely be an installer involved. Maybe. I know some of you may be rolling your eyes about the “d” word because you’re ID-centric, but stick with me as I go through this because I had OSD explain their process during a Q&A session we had.

According to the company there are currently over 400 authorized dealers located in the US, with more coming on line. They are also finalizing agreements with distributors in Canada so North America has solid availability. OSD’s goal is to be certain their systems get setup and configured by a certified installer so the customer gets the best out of the products. I understand their strategy, and for some that level of service makes sense, but while speaking to them I expressed concern that a large percentage of their potential owners would likely not need the “white glove” treatment. My contact seemed prepared for that argument. The dealers will sell direct, without installation services, so the option to just buy product is available. If there is no dealer coverage for your particular area you can contact OSD (888-779-4968) and request to purchase from them. It’s a pseudo-dealer, pseudo-ID (Internet Direct) model, so perhaps not the most efficient approach, but it does offer some unique options not available from other manufacturers.


Sideswiped

Typically this section of my review is titled Listening but I’m calling it Sideswiped this time. Why? Because that’s just what happened. I didn’t anticipate what I was going to hear when I first started using the OSD Black Series speakers, I didn’t see it coming. I was sideswiped, caught off guard by speakers that look so-so but don’t sound anything like it. They’re so smooth it’s incredible. That’s not an assessment made from a mere few weeks of listening either, I’ve had these in rotation and in daily use for several months. They were part of this review, of course, but they were also the speakers I used for a subwoofer article published before this system. I continued to use them even after this article was written, on yet another subwoofer I’m evaluating, so I have perhaps more day-to-day knowledge of these speakers than any others I’ve reviewed. They are so easy to live with that I could do just that, live with them every day. That comes with an asterisk however, a PSA (Public Service Announcement) from me to you.

Be careful because they can be deceiving. As you twist the volume knob the OSD Black Series speakers just get louder, never protesting until you’ve gone way too far and they’re stupid loud. Time and again I didn’t realize I had overdone it until things were totally out of control. Unlike most speakers – where volume makes them shrill or brittle sounding, clearly indicating they have reached their limits – these speakers don’t give any sign you’re being unreasonable until you have already crossed the line. You tend to lose perspective on just how loud you’re listening. It was legitimately hard to create audible breakup so I found myself just pushing them repeatedly (later you will read something about my AVR shutting down because I lack restraint). That ‘no holds barred’ ability is simultaneously amazing and scary. Consider yourself warned.

The Black Series speakers are no one trick pony however, they have more going for them than just sheer volume. They were precise, had considerable detail and a wide sweet spot so they treat listeners to good sound in more than just the main listening position. They’re lively and entertaining, never once did they become fatiguing no matter how high the volume or how long the listening session.


Movies

Here’s a first, I hosted a movie night. I’m no longer married and my girls are grown and gone, neither of them living less than a 2 1/2 hour flight away. That means all critical viewing and testing is done by me, which has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand I can concentrate on my assessment, but that also means it’s rare I can share whatever I’m reviewing with anyone. All that changed when I got the OSD Black Series because I felt compelled to have a movie night at my house. For a person who enjoys his privacy that’s quite a change of pace, but these speakers made me try something different. I had an overwhelming desire to share the experience with others, similar to why you go to the movies in the first place; to have a good time and a few laughs with people close to you. These speakers encourage you to invite others over and have a party. I honestly don’t recall feeling an urge to do that with any other system I’ve evaluated. Some of you may be asking yourself “so is that a good thing?”. Why yes, it is. Who doesn’t want to spend quality time with the people that matter most to them? I won’t tell you what movie we watched that night, because it’s not part of this review, but I can say it was a resounding success and a good time was had by all. Since I couldn’t focus on my review notes that night – I was too busy enjoying myself – I circled back later and got serious. I do have to publish an article after all.

Tears of the Sun

Since I’m testing a set of speakers you had to figure I was going to include something with a lot of voices, you just had to know I would. This movie has them in spades; male, female, young, old, accents, it’s all here. But Tears of the Sun also has nuance, background effects and undertones, so in spite of the fast-paced action that occurs from time-to-time there are a lot of opportunities for a set of speakers to show what they can (or can’t) do. Be it somber or thunderous, unobtrusive or conspicuous, this movie has it. There are the typical cliché scenes of course, so a few lines will elicit a groan, but for the most part I like this flick.

Bruce Willis stars as Lieutenant Waters, a SEAL commander sent to a remote Nigerian outpost to rescue Lena Kendricks, a physician with Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Kendricks is caring for victims of the ongoing civil war at a remote Catholic mission deep in the jungle. Nigeria is on the brink of total collapse so the US wants all its citizen out of the country. Waters and his team are assigned the unenviable task of getting Dr. Kendricks to safety, which means hoofing it through the jungle to Cameroon. Unfortunately, what starts out as a humanitarian assignment quickly becomes a conflict of the conscience. There are a few different scenes I could have focused on but I wanted one with quiet passages and total chaos, a perfect test for an audio system. For me that’s scene 12.

Trying to cross a small valley with Dr. Kendricks and the refugees, Waters and his team encounter a rebel force that outnumbers them 10-to-1. At first the SEAL’s attempt to advance using brute force. There are mortars, grenades, automatic weapons and hand guns being used yet despite the bedlam the OSD Black speakers were never overpowered. Quite the opposite, they seemed to handle the load with ease. The initial wave of resistance is only the beginning as the rebels have more in store for the SEAL’s. The Americans regroup and launch a counter-assault and things get even crazier, with both sides ratcheting up the aggression. There’s more mayhem and subsequently more “I got you covered” from these speakers. In the aftermath you hear people crying out in pain, soldiers calling to each other, the sounds of things burning all around. This portion of the scene has multiple layers that require speakers to position things in space, to create an almost 3D effect. The OSD Black Series did equally well with sedate material as they did with the pandemonium of a battle. From the sublime to the ridiculous and back, yet things were under control the entire time.

Joe Satriani, Live in San Francisco

I filed this one under the movie section in spite of it being a concert performance, but it could just as easily have been under the music section. No matter what you classify it as, I consider this a good speaker test because of the soundtrack. When evaluating audio equipment that’s the only thing which really matters, isn’t it?

I picked up this disc about 20 years ago when I bought my first DVD player (it was newly released when I got it). I doubt anyone reading this is shocked that my inaugural purchase would be music, but there may be those who are wondering why I chose it for this article. It’s simple really; the OSD Black Series speakers are vibrant, so what better way to test them than with a live performance? Live music is my passion so I’m going to try and recreate that vibe as best I can in the confines of my own home theater.

I’m not sure which club in San Francisco this was recorded in but it was a bit of a hole, with a dark atmosphere and small stage. I’ve seen Satch play in more appropriate venues but it didn’t seem to matter as no one in this band is the type to jump around on stage anyway. Featuring Stu Hamm on bass, Jeff Campitelli on drums and Eric Cadieux on guitar and keyboards Joe had himself one of the best lineups he’s every toured with. In went the disc and up went the volume, and I do mean up.

Given the age of this performance the soundtrack is surprisingly good. I went through 6 songs that evening; Satch Boogie, Ice 9, Circles, Ceremony, The Extremist and House Full of Bullets. Often when you push a set of speakers as hard as I did they become harsh or strident causing you to lower the volume, but apparently OSD does not play that game. Remember my PSA from earlier? Insert that here because these things simply don’t tap out. Put succinctly, I had a rousing good time. Detail, composure, poise, it was all there. Man, that was fun. I’ll let you in on a little secret; after going through the songs I used for the article I started from the very beginning and watched (listened?) to both discs. I did drop the volume a bit, because I do need to save some of my hearing, but I wasn’t shy about it either. Did I mention how much fun I had?

Driving/Discombobulate/Zoosters Breakout, Hans Zimmer Live in Prague

Wait, another concert disc? Yes, another concert disc. This is supposed to be the movie section so why am I writing about live music? Well first off, this is me we’re talking about. Secondly, you aren’t hearing what I am. These speakers want you to play dynamic material, they almost demand that you grab your favorites and give them a listen. For me “favorites” means music so I went with the flow and let the review take me where it wanted to.

While you may question my sanity about using this one for a movie test you certainly cannot fault the reason why. There is a total of 72 – yes, 72! – performers; a full choir, an orchestra and some 20 additional musicians that cycle in-and-out, depending upon the material being played. Think that presents a challenge for your speakers? Think it’s difficult to reproduce that many instruments and voices simultaneously and accurately? Of course it is.

Hans Zimmer has been writing music scores for movies and TV for at least 30 years so it’s all but certain you know something this man has composed. Probably multiple somethings. Ever hear of the movies Gladiator, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man, Interstellar? How about Crimson Tide, Madagascar, The Lion King, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean? Mr. Zimmer has his fingerprints on every one of them, and who knows how many others. When it comes to soundtracks this man has cred. Production quality on Live in Prague is outstanding; both audio and video are first rate. Run time is well over 2 hours so there is sure to be something that will satisfy everybody.

So how did the OSD Black Series speaker perform with such intricate material? Magnificent, that’s all I have to say. I could stop writing this portion now but you probably want to know more. There was a distinct sense of scale and magnitude that OSD brought to the party, and yes it was a party even though I was the only one enjoying it. There were instruments being played that I still have no idea what they are, but I could hear them all. Despite dozens of people on stage the Black Series speakers never got confused, never seemed unable to handle the complexity. The TreVoce subwoofers had been good to me for most of this evaluation but with this material they came into their own, being every bit as capable as the speakers. The synergy between speakers and subs created a memorable experience I thoroughly enjoyed. I found myself being enveloped, swept away even. The 2+ hours disappeared in what seemed like the blink of an eye.


Music

While some may argue I’ve already done the music portion of this evaluation and called it Movies I would beg to differ. As a matter of fact, I’m just getting started. I visited my past with these selections, went with something energetic and something not. There’s even a tribute to a fallen brother. This section proved to be both fun and very painful to write. None of that makes sense now, but it will if you keep reading.

Johnny B. Goode, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush

Did you think there was going to be a live song included in the music portion of this evaluation? Of course you did. Did you think it was going to be the first one I wrote about? Of course you did. These speakers practically beg you to play live music so naturally I complied (seems like I’ve already said that, doesn’t it?). The only question is, which song do I choose? How about something you likely know from an artist you likely don’t know? Yup, that sounds like me.

In 1978 I was living in Albuquerque, NM. I had been a Jersey boy my entire life but when I got out of high school wanderlust set in and I was looking for an adventure. My older brother moved out there about 5 years earlier so I decided to spend a summer in the American SW with him. I fell in love with the weather so instead of heading back east after a few months, as I had originally intended, I decided to stay put and set down roots. Sadly I got injured in a construction accident and ended up having to leave after a year and a half – heading back east to heal up – but while I was there I did what I still do to this very day, go to every concert I can.

There was (still is?) a venue in Albuquerque named Tingley Coliseum and they used to hold ‘concerts for the people’ (that’s actually what the shows were called). Admission was dirt cheap so I went to a bunch of them. Typically they featured one or two local bands opening for a national act. There is one show in particular that still stands out in my mind over 40 years later. It featured two local groups – Widow Maker and Black Widow (yes, both had “Widow” in their name) – with the headliner being the legendary Frank Marino. Since that night I have seen hundreds of bands, and that’s no exaggeration, but to this day I have yet to see anyone who can play quite like Frank. It’s all so effortless for him; fluid, fast, precise, innovative, this man has it all. As I come to find out later, that tour was being used for a live album. I don’t know if any part of the Tingley show became a featured track on the album, but I can say I saw him perform those same songs at the same time they were being recorded.

Written by the renowned Chuck Berry,

is the quintessential rock song; high energy, irreverent and rebellious. The original version was released during a time when music just didn’t sound like that. It’s a classic example of the insurrection often associated to rock-n-roll. So popular is this song that a thousand bands have probably covered it, but none have come close to this version (at least not to my ears). I’ve seen Frank play live on two other occasions since then and he nailed this one each time. You know those songs you put on repeat and play over and over again? This is one of them for me.

Johnny B. Goode starts out with Marino just messing around, almost as though he’s checking his guitars tuning. During parts of the opening minute Frank’s talking and riffing like it’s a conversation between him and his axe. Suddenly he kicks it into high gear and the band explodes to life, and so too did the OSD Black speakers. At this point you have my attention. I could clearly hear every spot on the fretboard Frank touched, every single note he played, no small feat because at times you can’t even see his fingers, they move so fast it’s all a blur. Marino gets some very unique sounds out of his guitar and the Black Series speakers made all of them spring to life just like what I heard during his live shows. While Frank is obviously the star attraction let’s not forget about his rhythm section as they too are accomplished musicians. Playing bass is Paul Harwood and if you watch this

you can see he goes note-for-note with Marino. Jim Ayoub on drums is their equal so even though this is only a 3 piece band the speakers and subwoofers got themselves quite a workout. The dichotomy between the Hans Zimmer orchestra and a power trio rock band is rather stark but the Black Series had no issue transitioning seamlessly between the two.

Say Hello to Heaven, Temple of the Dog

Three years ago I lost a very dear friend, someone I had known since I was 15 years old. For me that means our friendship was measured in decades, not years. This was a person who was closer to being a brother than a friend. It’s often said that only the good die young, and in Jimmy’s case that was true (which likely proves why I’m still kicking). He bore a striking resemblance to Chris Cornell, albeit more weathered and craggy. Years and years of doing heavy construction work subject to the weather in New Jersey will do that to a man. He was a huge fan of Soundgarden, something I always found ironic given his likeness to Cornell. Regardless of how often people gave him a hard time about that he was undaunted and persisted in his love of their music.

Soundgarden formed in Seattle, Washington around 1984. They were one of the founding members of the ‘grunge’ movement that came out of the Pacific Northwest. Temple of the Dog was effectively a side project for Chris, a tribute to his dear friend Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) who died in 1990 from a drug overdose. Temple featured Stone Gossard on guitar and Jeff Ament on bass, both of whom played with Andrew in Mother Love Bone. Stone and Jeff went on to form Pearl Jam, along with Mike McCready and Matt Cameron (they were also part of Temple of the Dog). An unknown singer named Eddie Vedder did some vocal work. Guess what band he eventually fronted? If you said Pearl Jam you would be correct.

So what’s the point of all this? Jimmy was a guitarist and without ever having taken a single lesson he could play any song front to back after hearing it only 2 or 3 times. That used to annoy me to no end as he would be off to the next song as I struggled to learn half of the chord progression from the first song we were trying to play. At Jimmy’s remembrance ceremony the husband of one of his nieces picked up an acoustic guitar and did an unplugged version of Say Hello to Heaven, singing the lyrics with a voice you could tell was coming from a man barely able to hold it together. There was simply no better song for the occasion than this one. I bought the Temple of the Dog CD (the only one they ever recorded) in 1991 when it was first released and have listened to it countless times since then, but it means something much different to me now. The fact I used it in this evaluation should indicate what I think of the OSD Black Series speakers.

By now you all know what I do when testing something that resonates with me – I crank the volume – but this time I pushed it so far my AVR went into protection mode and shut down. That has never happened before. I waited about 5 minutes, gathered my composure and then fired up the AVR again. I dropped the volume a little – just enough to ensure the receiver didn’t power off – and queued up the song once more. This time it held together, which is more than I can say for myself.

Because of the backstory and circumstances I have to play this song screaming loud, it cannot be subdued, and although I was essentially abusing them the OSD Black speakers didn’t let me down. They shrugged off my lack of restraint as if it had been anticipated. I heard every nuance this song had to offer, every layer of the soundtrack, at a volume most would have struggled to endure. It all seemed so right, and that’s saying something because Cornel’s voice can become piercing at volume.

That long-winded lead-up to a measly 4 sentence assessment probably strikes some as anticlimactic, and for that I sincerely apologize. For most of you “didn’t let me down” probably rings hollow, but you have no idea what this song means to me. I needed to hear what I did at the volume I did, exactly as I heard it. Thank you OSD for providing me the release I so desperately needed. Rest in peace Jimmy, I’ll see you on the other side my brother.

We All Had a Real Good Time, Edgar Winter

Most of this review has been about having a good time and enjoying myself so why not end it with a song called We All Had a Real Good Time? From Edgar Winter’s seminal album They Only Come Out at Night I went with their version of a party tune. If you’re of a certain age you undoubtedly know this album from the smash hit Frankenstein. Although released in 1972 you still hear that song in rotation on contemporary rock stations, almost half a century later. Produced by the legendary Rick Derringer – and featuring none other than Ronnie Montrose on guitar – this album still resonates with me to this very day. But as is my wont I didn’t go with a traditional song, what everyone else would have chosen, I went with something different. I needed to lighten the load after Say Hello to Heaven anyway so a party song is the perfect way to bring the mood back up. Like most of the material I’ve used in this evaluation, I bought this one when it first came out (as painful as that is to admit). We All Had a Real Good Time is a pseudo-live song (surprise!) replete with all manner of shouting and noise in the background. One suspects the band was getting wasted and jamming in the studio, all the while with the record button depressed. After the hangover cleared they laid down the tracks that ultimately became this song. How 1970’s is that?

Truth be told, this one is not terribly complicated; the soundtrack is ancient, the instruments few, but what it does have is my expectations to live up to. I’ve been listening to this album for decades so there is not a single part of any song that I don’t know intimately. Even though the audio is of dubious quality the sound these OSD Black Series speakers produced was anything but. I heard every instrument, every background sound, balanced and in their own space. From Ronnie’s opening guitar intro to the slow fade that closes this song, nothing was amiss. I even sat in different seats to see if I could find a weakness in these speakers, but that proved futile. I played this one on loop the entire time I was writing this section and never once did I feel the need to mute it.


Conclusion

The OSD Black Series speakers are just plain fun, I had a blast with these things. It seemed that whenever I used them I ended up with a smile on my face. Think of a puppy; lively, energetic, always entertaining. Volume doesn’t faze them nor does complex material, they’re unflappable. Feel like hosting movie night for the neighborhood? Go for it, they have you covered. Maybe it’s a quiet evening at home with the family instead? No problem, they’re equally adapt there. No matter what you’re in the mood for these speakers deliver. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this system. Well done OSD for creating an excellent set of speakers at a reasonable price. The Black Series rock, literally and figuratively.