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.
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