The Source Vapes Orb XL has a quartz triple-coil atomizer that pumps out heat, creating dense clouds of hash oil mist. (Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

Source Vapes Orb XL triple-coil atomizer brings the heat and hits hard (review)

The Source Vapes Orb XL vape pen targets stoners who want to dip their feet and dab their oil into the world of sub-ohm vaping.

The super-sized bowl holds up to one gram of cannabis concentrates. A variable-wattage battery powers three titanium heating coils wrapped around quartz glass rods that radiate serious heat and produce dense vape clouds.

What is sub-ohm vaping?

In computing and in cars, performance junkies constitute a small segment of consumers. They overclock their computer processor to squeeze more megahertz into their gaming or install nitrous-oxide kits to boost their engine’s horsepower. Similarly, some e-cigarette users chase clouds, meaning they try to produce huge clouds of aerosolized polyethelene glycol or vegetable glycerin.

Why, you ask? The same reason people ghost car surf: nothing better to do. Or maybe it’s bad parenting or the general decline of society. You tell me. Whatever the reason, there’s even cloud-chasing competitions where contestants vie to produce the longest trail of glycol or glycerin while a crowd of wayward youth hotboxes the venue.

To achieve massive clouds requires heat, and lots of it. Different than high temperature, we measure overall heat production in joules. More heat requires more wattage, and that requires increasingly-powerful batteries and thoughtfully-built heating coils with low electrical resistance. It also demands a math-enabled end user or battery software to help minimize chances of an explosion.

Different materials conduct electricity differently. Materials with low electrical resistance allow more current through than those with high electrical resistance. The more electricity pumping through a heating coil, the more watts of electrical energy it converts into heat energy.

Electrical resistance is measured in ohms, and everyday atomizers commonly run between 1.5-3.0 ohms. Halve that resistance and heat production doubles. A coil or atomizer with resistance measuring under 1.0 ohms qualifies as “sub-ohm.”

Low-resistance heating wire also allows pen makers to pack more and longer coils into the atomizer, and that increase in surface area further boosts heat production. The primary limiting factors in this neverending heat quest are battery capacity and how much heating wire e-juice junkies can cram into the atomizer.

On the bleeding edge with Source Vapes atomizers

Like it or not, computer modding, car modding and vape modding help push consumer technology forward. We can thank coil-building, battery-hacking cloud chasers for much of the technology that powers hard-hitting hash oil pens. For better and worse, the glycol huffers represent our bleeding edge.

Source Vapes distinguishes itself with envelope-pushing atomizers designed in-house that ride that bleeding edge. Started in 2013 as a generic pen seller, the Las Vegas company shipped its first in-house design, the Orb, in late 2014. One of the first companies to market atomizers containing two quartz rod heating coils, Source took the perhaps-obvious next step of packing in a third quartz rod.

Source Vapes Orb XL vaporizer interior coils
The Orb XL produces extra heat with three coils in its atomizer. (Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

The Orb XL’s quartz triple-coil atomizer pumps out heat, creating dense clouds of hash oil mist. Lined with a quartz glass cup, the jumbo bowl can hold up to an entire gram of cannabis concentrates, though attempting such volumes is a performance-degrading, oil-splattering fool’s errand. Still, it holds a lot of oil, enough to satisfy most tokers’ daily dosings or evening outings. Conversely, this is no single hitter — the deep bowl needs a decent load to soak the titanium coils. Those should stay oiled and not allowed to run dry to reduce the unknown risks of titanium dioxide exposure.

For those who want to vape at a cooler temperature, the Orb XL includes a coilless quartz cup atomizer that is heated from below by a ceramic disc. It’s a winning atomizer in its own right. Glass is an old friend, comfortable and disarming, setting free my worries about titanium dioxide or whatever might kill me today. Some say the lower temperature brings out more flavor. I couldn’t tell; it all tasted great.

The bulbous, two-part stainless steel body stands 6.6 inches tall and provides decent heft. It also won’t shatter like a glass globe. The midsection revolves to reveal eight air holes drilled into the body that allow for easy air-flow control. The battery is the primary difference between the basic Travel Kit and the premium Flosstradmus Kit. The Travel Kit battery runs between 9.7-35 watts with a 1300 mAh rating, while the premium kit battery runs between 5-30 watts with a 2200 mAh rating.

Swappable and rebuildable parts

Many Source Vapes components are interchangeable, so atomizers from other models will typically work in the Orb XL. (But their new sub-ohm atomizers won’t work with older supra-ohm batteries.) Source sells reasonably-priced replacement atomizers and the Orb XL uses eGo threading to connect components, which means it will accept any attachments with eGo or 510 threading.

Additionally, many Source atomizers easily disassemble for any gearheads looking to rebuild their end-of-life atomizers. I loaded a dab in a coil-free glass cup atomizer and discovered it had a broken ceramic heater. Test before loading, dude. I saved the dab by easily swapping the quartz glass cup into another Source coilless. I’m no coil rebuilder, but even for bowl-scraping reclaim smokers like me, atomizer interchangeability and easy disassembly are beneficial.

Source Vapes Orb XL vaporizer review
There’s ample room for concentrates in the Source Vapes Orb XL. (Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

Materials testing and missteps

Source Vapes is now testing the titanium wire used to make its heating coils and is publicly releasing some of those tests. In late 2014, the company began marketing heating coils made from high-purity Grade 2 titanium, only to be pitchforked on Reddit a year later when solder marks on some of the wire exposed it as definitely not Grade 2 titanium.

“The metal supplier was selling us things that said it was Grade 2, but it wasn’t,” Source co-founder Carlos Garay told The Cannabist. “So we switched suppliers. About 7 percent of our coils were soldered together. We switched on our Orb 3 to a proprietary titanium alloy.”

Source began testing the metal it was buying, initially in China and later in the U.S. No matter the catalyst, that test-and-publish willingness is a model all vape pen makers should follow. Whether it’s safe to smoke titanium — or nickel or nichrome or stainless steel — is an open question, but whether it’s actually titanium should not be.

Source Orb XL well-crafted for heavy hitters

The Source Orb XL is a great option for heavy hitters and lovers of large bowls. The quartz rod triple-coil atomizer blasts heat and creates dense clouds of cannabis oil. The variable-wattage battery works with many atomizers and Source created several coilless options worth checking out. The variable airflow functionality is super elegant. For those who can afford to keep it filled, the Orb XL is an exceptional introduction to sub-ohm hash oil vaping.

The Orb XL costs $120 for the premium Flostradamus Kit with a 2200mAh box-style battery, $90 for the basic Travel Kit with a 1300mAh battery, or $50 with no battery or kit. Purchase direct from Source Vapes.