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DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker Review: Part 1

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Now don’t misunderstand me, most vintage speakers and even to some degree the best, have a sound that is bandwidth limited, midrangey, and often too much bass. Likewise, most modern speakers have way too much drive and slam often at the expense of any real upper bass harmonics. I wrote an article about My Three Favorite Rooms at the RMAF 2013. One of these rooms had speakers built the same year I was born, one had a modern interpretation of the classic Tannoys, and one was a huge horn system. So I guess it is obvious that there is something I find lacking in most modern speaker design.

So for years I listened to Quad 57s then I begin to look for a speaker that could combine the best of both worlds. The Audio Notes came close, but not close enough in the end. The best speaker I have heard for the last seven years has been the Teresonic Ingeniums XRs in my reference system. It has easily bested several speakers that cost four times as much. Still, the sound of some other vintage type speakers fascinated me and I want to hear some of them in my system.

From going to shows and from friends I trust, I developed a short list of speakers I wanted to get into my system to compare and hear. The list of speakers I wanted to hear in my system, listed in alphabetical order was some version of a vintage Altec system, the DeVore Orangutan O/96s, the Line Magnetic Audio LM 755i Field Coil Speaker, Linn Audio Loudspeakers’ Athenaeum, the Tannoy Canterbury SE, and the Voxativ Ampeggio. Well, I’ve tried all except the O/96s and the Canterbury SEs. So far, none of the others were in the same leagues with the Teresonic Ingenium XR.

Now I have the Orangutan O/96s in house. DeVore Fidelity was founded in 2000 by president and chief designer John DeVore. John brought to the high-end industry 30 years of experience as a musician, 20 years of designing speakers and 18 years of Hi-Fi industry. John has had good success with his Gibbon line of speakers and his Silverback Reference speakers, designed to work more universally with many types of amps. These products have been well received with lots of well deserved accolades.

As it turns out, John also has a great appreciation for the type of sound I have described above. So, he set out to design a speaker that would work with low-powered tube amps and had lots of tone. The result was the Orangutan 0/96. It is a full-range, 2-way design with a stated sensitivity of 96dB. The specs say it has an impedance of 10 ohms. Maybe most importantly, it doesn’t drop below 8 ohms. In Stereophile, John Atkinson said they did not measure that efficient, but Art Dudley said they played louder than his Audio Note Es at the same volume. If you want you can go and read John DeVore’s explanation to this in his Manufacture’s Response in Stereophile. What I can tell you is that the O/96s measured, with my ears and a sound meter, almost identical in volume to my Teresonic Magus A55 bookshelf speakers, which are specified to be 98dB efficient. With the added bass they actually sound louder.

The Orangutan speakers are not a line that fall between the Gibbons and the Silverbacks. John wanted to take a “blank slate” approach, and build from the ground up a speaker that gets the best out of lower-powered tube amps and played music with great tone. So don’t think of the Orangutans as the speaker under the Silverbacks in John’s line, but as an all-out-attempt to build a speaker for low-powered tube amps that has the tones and layers of live music.

Without a doubt the first thing most people notice about the O/96s is their looks. There are two things that jump out about their looks. First is how beautiful the cabinet work is. The baffle of my pair had a custom fiddleback mahogany veneer that was beautifully matched and finished. This beautiful mahogany combined with the nearly glass-like finish of the end-grain of the edge of the plywood is simply stunning. The sides and backs of the cabinets were finished in a beautiful piano gloss espresso color.

Second, is the fact that the big rectangular box with its ten-inch paper woofer and tweeter looks like speakers that friends of mine built with parts from Lafayette Radio back in my college days. This combo of beautiful craftsmanship with something that simply looks like a loudspeaker is very appealing to me.

That wide boxy look is to accommodate the 10-inch woofer and to create the unique sound produced by wide baffle speakers. Probably, these days the most well known wide baffle speakers are the Audio Note E speakers; the O/96’s baffle is even wider, four inches wider. While we don’t see many wide baffle/high efficient speakers today, it should be noted that for most of the history of high fidelity loudspeakers this was the accepted design. Art Dudley said in Stereophile, “a loudspeaker without a baffle is like a herd of sheep without a fence and a border collie: Much of what you paid for will wander away.” That’s a colorful way of saying that a well designed wide baffle seems to help speakers keep their tonal substance and musical harmonics from getting away.

The 96 in the Orangutan O/96 indicates the 96dB rated sensitivity of the speaker. I assume the O is for Orangutan. The tweeter is a one-inch silk-dome mounted in a shallow concave flange. The tweeter’s rear wave fires into a tuned chamber. The tweeter is designed by John and built by a European company to his specifications.

The woofer is a ten-inch untreated paper cone designed also by John. The woofer has what John calls a compliant surround that he says performs like a foam surround, but with the longevity of rubber. There are two flared ports on the rear panel that work together as one, and are tuned to a frequency in the mid-30s. The drivers themselves are close to one another physically and in electrical sensitivity, resulting in a sound nearly as coherent as the Teresonic Ingenium XRs. Recessed on the bottom of the cabinet is a pair of Cardas copper binding posts. While this keeps the appearance of the back panel clean, you still see the speaker wire coming out of the center of the bottom of the speaker.

The cabinet measures 28.25″ high by 18″ wide and 12″ deep. The front baffle is made with 7/8″ birch plywood. John uses MDF for the rear panel and MDF of a different density for the top, bottom, and sides. The O/96s come with 7.5 inch stands which are made of solid maple and are nicely finished in an almost black espresso color. The speakers have a pair of wooden rails on the bottom that fit down in the stand. They also come with little squares of what looks like museum putty to me. You place one of these on each corner of the stands before you place the speakers on the stand. This create a very secure connection. The stands do not use spikes and I applaud this decision. With the way the legs of the stand are made, the O/96s couple to the floor nicely.

The only time I mention packing in a review is if it is exceptionally poor or good. In this case I was very impressed with how the O/96s were packed. It’s a rather unique blend of a wooden crate and a really good cardboard box well done with foam. All you need is an electric screwdriver and something to cut the packing straps with. There are eight long wood screws on the top and bottom of each crate, but you only need to remove the ones from each top. Then you remove the cardboard and foam. Then it’s simply a matter of lifting the speakers out, setting them down in your room and removing the green plastic wrap that protects the beautiful finish.

So, this brings us to the auditioning of the DeVore Orangutan O/96s. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the review, coming soon!

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


2 Responses to DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker Review: Part 1

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Jack,
    I am very interested in the O/96 and am really glad to see you reviewing it. The only speaker I would wish for you to add to your list is the Rethm Saadhana (pronounced: sad-nah). It seems to me like the most natural direct competition for the Ingenium. As far as I know the Saadhana is still $15K in the US while the Ingeniums are now $20K factory direct. I was kind of disappointed to see them raise the price. I am planning to put together an entire system in a couple of years and there is a wife agreed upon budget that seems to want to keep stretching. Good news is that the SIT-1 is being sold for $8K these days.
    The plan:
    First Watt SIT-1
    Coincident Preamp (taking Srajan’s advice as to a single stage triode preamp + SIT being the bees knees)
    Lampizator DAC
    Aurender server
    Rethm, Teresonic, DeVore…….who knows.

    Thanks for your work here Jack.
    Looking forward to part 2.

  2. Jack Roberts says:

    Mike thanks for the kind words and reading the article. The Rethm Saadhana use an active bass system with amps and the bass speakers use a double-isobaric loading system. The Rethm speakers I have heard sound very good, but not the sound I have been looking for. The bass system produces a much more modern sounding bass than the speakers I have been listening to. I hope you are able to put together a system that brings you many hours of musical enjoyment.

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