I am a bit of a live music junkie.
In my twenties I would usually go to at least one show a week (and often many more). Even now, as I unenthusiastically race towards 40, with a career, a small child and generally a lot more obligations, I try to see at least one concert a month. When the pandemic shut everything down in mid-March I already had four shows scheduled through the middle of May. Obviously those have all been cancelled or rescheduled. As such, I’ve been going through what can only be described as live music withdrawal.
So of course, the proposition of Oda seems appealing to me. It’s a pair of speakers where the main selling point isn’t the speakers themselves -- it’s the access they grant to an exclusive subscription of live music and artist “station” takeovers.
A three-month season of Oda will cost $79 when the first one starts on December 21st, and that’s in addition to the speakers, which are $299 if you preorder them. (That price will later increase to $399 .) Now, $79 for three months of live performances, interviews, etcetera isn’t cheap. But Oda has built a pretty impressive lineup right off the bat, with performers across a variety of styles including Don Bryant and Ann Peebles, Madlib, Arca, The Microphones, Bradford Cox (Deerhunter / Atlas Sound), Jessica Pratt, Standing on the Corner and KeiyaA. Not to mention, legendary experimental minimalist composer Terry Riley and Harlem jazz icon Marjorie Elliot are among the artists in residence.
I did not get to experience any of those acts, sadly. But I was treated to short live performances from Andy Bey and Angel Bat Dawid during my two days of testing.
Let’s start at the beginning, though: Setting up the speakers is quick and painless. You just stick the panels on their magnetic bases, plug them into the “lighthouse,” fire up the app and follow the onscreen instructions. It only took five minutes from the moment I unpacked them to get everything hooked up and streaming.
Even though I’d seen them in photos, the speakers were still smaller than I expected. Instead of using traditional drivers, Oda are distributed mode loudspeakers (DML), which means they use exciters to vibrate a flat panel instead of a cone. There are some advantages to DML systems, size being the obvious one. The speakers would blend into most rooms nicely thanks to their simple, mostly wooden design. The units I had were not completely final, and the retail models will be made of cherry wood. They might be a little too minimal for some, but sometimes it’s better to be plain than too ostentatious.
The panels themselves attach magnetically to a pair of deceptively heavy baseplates. They’re made of dark gray, slightly worn-looking steel. The cold texture matches that of the lighthouse, which houses the DSP and all the necessary streaming hardware. The lighthouse -- so called because of its status light on top -- is also an exercise in minimalist design. The light on top, which tells you when there’s a livestream happening, is also a button that switches between the stream and the line-in or bluetooth connections. On the front there’s a volume knob and… that’s it.
Around back are the connections for the speakers as well as an ⅛” line-in jack. Basically, you’re getting the bare necessities in order to keep the focus on the live music.