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DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker Review: Part 3

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When I began my review of the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 I didn’t know it would turn out to be a trilogy. This third and last part really isn’t a review of the Orangutan per se but more of a wrap up to the first part about speakers.

Back in September of 2009 I wrote a Beatnik Column about my five “Desert Island Speakers.” They were listed alphabetically: the Audio Note Es or Js, the Quad 57s, the Shindo Latours, the Teresonic Ingenium Silvers, and WGA’s Ikonoklast 3HOs.

Then in April of 2014 in the intro to the review of DeVore Orangutan O/96 speakers I shared a list of speakers I wanted to hear in my system. Again listed in alphabetical order the list was some version of a vintage Altec system, the DeVore Orangutan O/96s, the Line Magnetic Audio LM 755i Field Coil Speakers, Linn Audio Loudspeakers’ Athenaeums, the Tannoy Canterbury SEs, and the Voxativ Ampeggios.

I have now reviewed all the above speakers except the Shindo Latours and Tannoy Canterbury SEs. The experience has led me to the conclusion that probably neither of those two speakers will work in my room. I think they are just two big and wide to be able to get them set up properly in my room. So, I want to talk about some of those and some other speakers from my past, namely the Audio Notes, the Burwell & Sons version of the classic Altec A7s, the Devore Fidelity Orangutan , the Line Magnetics, the Linn Audio Athenaeum, the Quad 57s, the Raidho Ayra C1.0s, the Teresonic Ingenium XR Silvers (as well as the Magus A55s, the Voxativ Ampeggio, and WGA Ikonoklast Model 3HOs).

Each of these ten speakers are very good and I would say that seven, maybe eight of them are world class speakers. The Burwell and Sons take on the Altec A7s is a really fun speaker, and a very special work of art. Still it’s more for Altec A7 lovers/collector and those who want to own a musical work of art, than a world class speaker. I also feel that the Line Magnetics 755i is an incredible speaker in its range, but I thought the cabinet was a limiting factor. It would be fun to hear it in the cabinet being built for it by the folks at Auditorium 23. The Voxativ Ampeggio may be world class in the right room. People whose opinions and ears I really trust tell me they are, but they just had to much of the cupped hand sound in my room.

1. The Audio Note Es are really special; go back and read mine or any of the other many reviews that will tell you how they sound. They are truly an amazing speaker. When placed in the corners they load the room and produce bass in an amazing way. I especially like them when played with Wavac amps and Shindo preamps. They are extremely musically satisfying speakers. They also reproduce harmonics as well as any speaker I have heard. They are surely one of the speakers I could live the rest of my live with.

2. We just published in part two of this three part article the review of the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96s. Let me simply say of all the speakers on this list they are the best overall speaker and surely the best for the dollar. They do everything any Audio Note speaker I have heard do, and even more. The only other speakers on the list that can match them when it comes to being emotional involving are the speakers from Teresonic. The DeVores play music with more tonal color and with more visceral power than any speakers on the list. I think for most music lovers and especially for music lover who also love smaller tube amps, the DeVores will be the speaker of choice. I promise you that you owe it to yourself to hear them set up properly, with state of the art tube gear before making a decision on speakers at any price. Go back and read my review; these are simply amazing speakers.

3. The Linn Audio Athenaeums are also exceptional speakers. They come within a eyelash of being as visceral as the DeVores and with their 15 inch woofer you can feel the music flow over your body in a very tangible way. This visceral experience is not limited to the bass; it’s that way across the full musical range. Another amazing thing about the Linn Athenaeum speakers is how loud you can play them without their ever sounding strained. On the other hand, though they play really loud they don’t come alive at very low volumes. On a recording that goes from really low volumes to really loud I found they didn’t get quite as quiet as some speakers do.

They are also slightly warm overall, but with a midrange that is incredibly alive sounding, high frequencies that sparkle nicely, and bass that is deep and just rolls over you. With my equipment, voiced for my room they have a big, rich, colorful tone, and a very natural presentation that is surprisingly agile and transparent. This is a sound I had not expected from a speaker in a 225 pound dead cabinet with a crossover. One of my common complaints about modern speakers in dead cabinets is that they seem to have to work so hard to get the sound out into the room. While this is not a problem for the Athenaeum speakers, they still have to work harder than the Teresonic Ingeniums or the DeVore Orangutans to get the sound out into the rooms. The Linns also had some crossover troubles in the range of male voices. This could probably be cleared up by bi-amping them and using their active crossover, but I did not get to hear them set up in that way.

4. The Quad 57s are the most iconic speaker on this list and the ones on the list that have been the longest since I have lived with them. This meant that I had to take a few field trips to be sure they sounded like my memories. I can still say after all these years, they have the clearest and easiest window to hear music through of any speaker I have heard. They have no deep bass, but like the BBC LS3/5As they have a boost in the upper bass that makes them sound very pleasant in the bass range. To get much volume out of them you really need a stacked pair. One of the pairs I heard had been rebuilt by Wayne Picquet, and it seemed to play louder and with more authority than any other single (as opposed to stacked) pair I have heard. It should also be noted that the tweeter beams even more than I had remembered, which results in the sweet spot being very small, but, man oh man what a sweet spot it is.

5. The only truly modern speaker on the list is the the Raidho Ayra C1.0s. The current version is the C 1.1s, but I have only heard them at shows. I lived for several months with the C1.0s. The Raidhos are beautiful, with impeccable cabinet work. My pair was made of burled walnut with many, many coats of lacquer. If you like that look of shiny, deep-lacquered wood, then I would say they were one of the two most beautiful of the mini-monitors I have seen; the other one would be the Teresonic Magus, but the look is so different between the two that I’m sure you will prefer one much more than the other.

For me the Ayra C1s set new standards for not just mini-monitors, but all small speakers when it came to the ability of a speaker to produce a reach-out-and-touch-someone soundstage. It was the best I’ve ever heard in my house, period – and for that matter anywhere else. They had dynamics, scale, and slam that you would be thrilled with from any speaker of any size. The fact that you get it from these little gems is just amazing. The bass on these speakers was simply wonderful, dare I say shocking for their size. Note that I did not say wonderful for their size, just shocking. That’s because their bass would be wonderful for any speakers, any size.

What the Ayra’s didn’t do was sound as alive as some of the other speakers on this list. They, like most all modern speakers have to work hard to get the sound out into the room. They also don’t sound as visceral as the Burwell and Sons, the DeVores, the Linns, or the Teresonics. Still if I had to pick a modern sounding speaker this would be at the top of my list.

6. I’ve been going though the list mostly alphabetically, but before I start to talk about the speakers I have live with for over seven years, let me talk about the WGA Ikonoklast Model 3HOs. If you live in a small space or if for some reason you need to or like to listen to music at low levels, this speaker is as good as it gets. Truth is it is the best speaker at low levels I have heard by a good margin. The HO version of these speakers will play louder but still gives you the incredible sound at low volumes. While these speakers do not move a lot of air they do have excellent, tight bass.

7. This brings us to the Teresonic Ingenium XR Silvers. I have owned these speakers for over seven years, longer than any speaker I have ever owned. It’s the speaker that comes the closest to the Quad 57s in giving you the clearest window to listen to music through. It is not as polite as the Quads which to me is a plus, but to some it may not be. Unlike the Quads they will play as loud or louder than any speaker on this list. The Teresonics have a more accurate bass as they do not have the upper bass bump of the Quads. Both the Ingeniums and the even the little Magus A55s have better bass and deeper bass. The Ingeniums plays down into the mid 30Hz region.

Overall they play music with more power and aliveness than any speaker on the list. I expect that is because they are the most efficient and the fact that they have a nine foot transmission line. They also have the best PRaT, the best micro-dynamics, and of course being single driver speakers they are the most coherent. While they don’t produce a constantly wide and deep soundstage, they do produce the biggest, tallest, and most coherent soundstage. They only do this on recordings where it is there, though.

The Teresonics have a wow factor from the very first note that simply makes me think how can they sound so alive. They also have a tactile way with playing music that is captivating and then they have a very special way with space and air that is like no other speaker I have heard anywhere at any price.

What the Teresonics do not have is the richness and fullness of the DeVores or the Linns. Neither do they play quite as deep as the Orangutan. Still there is a fundamentally different way that they play bass. The Linns with their 15 inch woofers produce big bass that just flows over you, but the bass is not that deep or tight. The Teresonics produce powerful, fast bass with great impact and incredible dynamics. Still, the upper bass and the lower midrange of the Linns is a few dBs louder than the Teresonics.

So which of the speakers on this list is the best? Well that’s simple, there is no one speaker that is the best. Making such a decision depends on so many different variables. I know many who would argue the speaker that measures the best, others who want a speaker that images and produces the best reach-out-and-touch-someone soundstage. Audio Note suggest that the best speaker would be the one that sounds the most different from one recording to another; the Teresonics would surely win this contest, but not the other two.

The best speaker depends more than anything upon the listening and equipment biases of the listener. For example let’s talk about bass for a minute. The bass of the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96s bass is somewhere between the Teresonic Ingenium XRs and the Linn Audio Athenaeums. The Orangutan’s bass is faster and tighter than the Linns; but fuller and warmer than the Teresonics. The Orangutans also play deeper than either the Linns or the Teresonics. I found the bass of the Orangutans near perfect. The Teresonics also do not have quite as much tonal color and harmonics as the DeVores. The Teresonics are also less forgiving of poor recordings and of the bass shy recordings of some of the 70s rock groups. On the other side of the coin the Teresonic is faster, airier, and has more impact, while the Linn has that bass that comes at you in waves from that 15 inch woofer.

These kinds of differences is why no reviewer can tell you which is best. You have to decide which of these different kinds of bass you like best and which one matches up with the music you love most. After you answer those two question you have to do the work to know which speaker will work with your equipment and in your room. If you love the speaker you can change equipment, but most of us are stuck with our room.

I recently wrote a Beatnik column about listening and equipment biases. Reread it to help you work thought your own biases. I want to repeat there is no such thing as the best speaker. So for me while I fell in love with the DeVore Fidelity Orangutans, I missed the magic of the Teresonic’s midrange with the Wavac EC300B. I also had the fear that I might regret getting rid of the Teresonics and life is too short to spend another seven years breaking in Lowther drivers again. Then there equally big chance I would regret the losing the incredible tonal colors and richness of the Orangutans. What can I say, decisions are hard.

 

>> Read DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker Review: Part 2

 

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18 Responses to DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker Review: Part 3


  1. Jeff Glacken says:

    So now I want O/96s even more!
    Other than your beloved WAVAC which is out of my range, would you like First Watt SIT-1s or a Tube Amp like Shindo or Border Patrol? I just don’t have anywhere to listen, so your comments are important to me!

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Jeff, Thanks so much for taking the time to make it through all three parts of my ramblings about speakers. I think matching the right amp will be really important with the O/96s. I think amps I would consider would be the Shindo Cortese or the Montille if the Cortese is to expensive. The SIT amps would sound great. They are very big, heavy, and run very hot though if that matters in your setup. I don’t have any experience other than at show with the Border Patrol amps, but they sound good at the shows. I think the main thing is to fine and amp with as much of the midrange magic of an SET that is not slow or sluggish in the bass. I know the Montille isn’t a SET but the EL84 version had much of that same magic in the midrange, I would expect the 6V6 does to, but I have not heard it. You may still be able to get one with EL84s, I don’t know but Matt at Pitch Perfect would.

  2. John chaney says:

    Here is why I am confused: these speakers sound very different from each other. You like them. I get that, but do they sound like live music? Compare the Audio Note Es, the Quad 57s, and the Teresonic Ingeniums. IMO, the Audio Notes are full, warm, but far too polite. Everything sounds the same via them, vinyl or digital: smooth, full, relaxed. They thus flunk the “sounds different with different sources” test. The Quads are not nearly as smooth as the ANs, but vastly clearer, and more detailed. What the Quads lack is low bass and impact or force. The Teresonics are a different animal altogether. When I went from the AN room to the Teresonic room (which were right next to each other at the CAS), I was shocked at how different these systems sounded. While the ANs were always polite, the Teresonics could come alive when the source was excellent. Voices, brass, bass, everything just seemed to “be in the room.” IMO, the ANs are, ultimately, boring, and the Teresonics are thrilling. I heve not heard the Devore speakers, but I suspect they too would be too polite for my taste. In addition, the Teresonics are one of the most beautifull speakers I have ever seen, while the ANs and Quads are nothing special visually.

    • Jack Roberts says:

      John, sorry I confused you. Yes all these speakers sound different, they all have their own special way of sounding real to me. I have had the experience you have at shows with between the Audio Note and the Teresonics, but in my room with my electronics(I’m not a big fan of Audio Note Preamps and Integrated amps by the way, they are boring to me.) the Audio Notes were anything but boring, but not nearly as alive as the Teresonics. The Quad 57s are a totally different animal with the most midrange magic I have heard, but the Teresonics give you 90% of this and are a much, much more dynamic and alive sounding speaker. There is a reason I have owned them for over 7 years and don’t see them being replace in my reference system anytime soon. It’s interesting to me you commented on the looks of the Teresonic Ingeniums, I too think they are possibly the most beautiful speaker I have ever seen. Every female who has ever come to my house comments on this, but it seems to be about a 50-50 split males. The Orangutans sound more like the Teresonics than the Audio Notes and I loved them and I can promise you with fast sounding tube electronics and the right source they are very alive sounding.

  3. joe brandi says:

    If you like the 0/96’s you should try the new Zu Druid V speakers. They are 16 ohm and have 101db efficiency. I run mine with Coincident 300b Frankenstein monoblocks and the pairing is wonderful.

  4. Chris Mercurio says:

    I have used the First Watt M2 with these speakers. I wrote about it and it was published in a 6moons review here:

    http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/firstwatt14/4.html

    I’ve never used the SIT amps as I need a bit more wattage as well as the higher damping afforded by push pull with my speakers.

  5. mike p says:

    Mr. Jack, Maybe the best equipment review line ever “life is to short to spend another seven year’s breaking in Lowther driver’s again”. Listener first, reviewer second, congrats. P.S. I have had multiple equipment changes over the year’s except for the speakers (38 years).
    Regards, mike

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Thanks Mike. I think this is the best reply to anything I have ever written on Dagogo. I bet most people didn’t even catch that line, but isn’t it true. If anything my being a listener first sometimes gets in the way of reviewing.

  6. Mortsnets says:

    Although my audio budget will not allow purchase of any of the speakers mentioned, this series was one of my favorite reviews ever.

  7. Dave Hagerty says:

    One of the most informative reviews of efficient speakers I have ever read. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your thoughts.

    I would be very interested to learn more about how the O/96 and Audio Note speakers did with even lower-powered amps, such as a 2A3 or 45 amp.

    Dave

  8. Charlie says:

    Hi Jack,
    I attended RMAF a few weeks ago and most rooms sounded horrible. Matbe I am just too oild and my ears are failing. BUT i keep going bacy to John Debvores room and his 96 “monkey” speakers sounded just great. OK so I am planning to buy or “beg” John to sell me a pair of the Orangatangs and all of a sudden a collegue sendsme all the bad “Stereophile” reader letterd diss the speakers. Hey I heard the speakers and I was NOT smokin colorado weed. But what the heck ? Bad reviews on the speakers from readers. Help me whats going on?

    Best always

    Charlie

    BTW I am now concerned that your Ikonoklast speaker recommendation is flawed.

  9. Aziz says:

    Jack,

    Thank you for this series of very informative articles. I am now looking for a pair of SET friendly speakers and Orangutan is one of my top choices. Just curious, why you have not considered one of the Coicident Speakers models? As far as I know these are well regarded and highly efficient. I am seriously looking at councident Total Victory V.

    Thanks,
    Aziz

    • Jack Roberts says:

      I would not be the person to review Coincident speakers. For reason I don’t understand every speaker with side firing woofers seems to be incoherent. Maybe it’s all in my mind, but I feel it would be unfair of me to review a speaker I have a prejudice against and as far as I know I’m the only one who feels this way.

      Thanks for reading the review,
      Jack

  10. Myron pritchard says:

    Hi Jack, really enjoyed reading your review, so much so that I’ve ordered a pair of 0/96’s. I’m in an amplification quandary tho. Would you consider the Wavac ec300b to be a good match or would you think you might get a better synergy elsewhere ?? I know many enjoy shindo with their devore’s . I have the possibility of a second hand ec300b( planets alighning and all). So I’d appreciate your thoughts. I have heard the ec300b on Avantgarde duos previously. They were fabulous. Just wondered if you thought the wavac with the orangs would be a difficult combination to beat. Thanks Jack.

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Myron, I have to admit that when someone says they purchase a product on the basis on one of my reviews, I cringe a bit. I do hope you had a chance to hear a pair first. If you live where that was impossible then I hope you like the speakers as much as I do. In regard to the amp, I think it is safe to way that the O/96s and the Wavac EC300B amp would be very hard to beat. I have recently come across an amp that has been a huge surprise to me. It is the Pass Labs XA30.8. You can read my review of it here on Dagogo, but there will be a part three to the review that will say the amp turned out to be much better than I realized. I was never a big fan of the Pass Labs XA.5 amps. They were very good, but just slightly veiled than I liked. The XA30.8 is a whole new amp not some kind of update. I think they should have given it a more distinctively new name. Anyway with my Teresonic Ingenium XRs I find the XA30.8 to be a total revelation that in my system clearly is more musical and equally alive sounding as the Wavac EC300B. I admit this came as a total shock to me as I have not owned a transistor amp in my main audio system in nearly 30 years. So yes the Wavac will for sure be a great combo. It is what I used when I reviewed them and I also need to say I have not heard the XA30.8 with the DeVores. Still, when you consider the price of the two amps I would certainly try to hear the DeVores with the XA30.8 before I spent more money on another amp. One last thing the XA30.8 takes a while to break in and it wasn’t until I played it a couple of weeks on the very difficult load of the Quad 57s and put my speakers back in that I realized it was now the most natural sounding amp I have ever heard.

  11. Myron says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Jack. I was able to listen to the 0/96’s before making the final decision. So If I don’t enjoy them when I get them…. Its not your fault :-) …. I enjoyed them hugely. By the way I’ll be going to the Speakers from Tannoy Royal Westminster SE’s so that will be an interesting comparison as well…..Onto the Pass labs:- There is a local pass labs retailer so I should be able to have a demo of that amp. It must represent some amazing value with the attributes you describe. But I’m thinking that I would like to own an Ec-300b, at least for a little while. At least I’d be able to say I had one. Anyway, the Wavac might not come off yet so you have given me another excellent option. I see that the Pass has balanced inputs which is an advantage to me as I run an Einstein preamp which is fully balanced out. This could bring its own advantages. Thanks again for your time.

    As an aside I really enjoy your writing style and hence your reviews. Keep up the good work.

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