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DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker Review: Part 2

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The Sound of Specifics Instruments

Ok, it’s time to talk about how specific instruments sound over this system and then play some specific musical tracks. Let’s start with:

Plucked Strings

I’m talking about guitars, basses, harps, and the like. The play these instruments in a way I have never heard before on any speaker other than the $60,000 Linn Athenaeums. Even then they played them with even more color and tone. They aren’t quite as fast on the leading edge or as delicate sounding as my Teresonic speakers, but close. Like the wonderful Teresonic Ingeniums the O/96s let you hear the decay and air inside and around the instrument, but not quite to the extent that the Teresonics can. The 0/96s do this with wonderfully rich, full tones, and beautiful harmonics. The tonal colors of strings are really emotionally moving and highly suggestive of the real thing.

This incredible character of the sound is easy to hear when listening to a great guitar players like Wes Montgomery, John Williams, Hendrix, Clapton or Atkins. The O/96s let you hear the differences of each of their instruments and styles in a way that is easily distinguishable. Still each sounded beautiful, natural, with great tonal colors in their on ways.

During the years I lived in Wagarville, Alabama I developed a love for Bluegrass. I would have never thought any speaker could play Bluegrass like Lowthers can, but the Orangutans come really close. They play banjos, dulcimers and dobros like they were born to. They do this with beautiful tone and without any compression of dynamics or any edginess.

Other Strings: Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Upright Basses

Violins and violas sounded very sweet, at times downright liquid sounding, but never bright or strident. The emotions relayed as the bow is slowly pulled across the strings sounded so real. The O/96s allow you to hear different layers and textures of the strings as you hear bow passes over each of them. They do this in a robust way, but still with very good transparency and speed. This results in the O/96s being very emotionally evolving.

Massed strings were very visceral, full-bodied, and extended . The way they could swell, and float in a sea of air was breath taking. Massed strings most often sounded both powerful and relaxed. Listening to Decca recording of Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony play Beethoven’s Forth left a couple of hard core audio reviewers just breathless. It was so emotionally involving that we were still talking about the performance, not the system the next time we got together. The powerful but quite sound of the string bass section as well as the rest of the orchestra during this symphony was as good has anything I have ever experienced from recorded classical music.

To me, solo bowed strings are a big test for any speaker. For example, one of my favorite recordings is King of the Cellist, Starker plays Kodaly. This is one of the most beautiful recordings of a cello I have heard. I find Starker’s playing to come across as quite intense, but full of feelings. Through the O/96s his cello was both quick and warm depending on where he was in the piece of music. In comparison the Linn speakers were a little too warm throughout the piece and sometimes I felt I could hear it coming from the horn and the woofer, which made it apparent that I was listening to a two way speaker. This was not the case with the O/96s.

On Ray Brown and Laurindo Almeida’s album the first song starts with over 30 seconds of ‘Moonlight Sonata’ being played beautifully on the guitar by Almeida; then Brown comes in with Monk’s ‘Round Midnight.’ It may not sound like it would work, but it does. When Brown’s bass comes in, it should almost growl. With the O/96s the growl is deeper, bigger, and more powerful than with any speaker I have had in my room. With both the Linns and the Burwell & Sons the bass sometimes seems to be more than one instrument, this is caused by the crossover and hearing the different frequencies of the bass from different drivers. This of course doesn’t happen with the Teresonic Ingeniums as they are single drive speaker, but neither does it happen with the DeVore O/96s. The Ingeniums do let you hear more air around and within the instrument; this is something very special. Still, the O/96s come closer in this area than any of the other speakers I have reviewed.

Horns and Woodwinds

My father loved New Orleans and he loved to listen to Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. I own most of Pete Fountain’s records; he played a great clarinet. I also love to hear the great saxophone players of jazz. On the classical side, flutes and oboes really appeal to me. To enjoy woodwinds through your system, your speakers have to have great balance from the upper bass through the top-end. It is necessary to have more than balance. These instruments move small amounts of air but this air is a very essential part of their sound. If your system doesn’t let you hear these nuances, then the music will sound nice, but not alive.
I never became an Al Hirt fan, but I love so many other great jazz horn players. Horns are very demanding in both frequency range and dynamics. It is often difficult to get the explosive dynamics, the bite, and the body of a trumpet right without sounding edgy, bright, or overly muted. I was surprised how a speaker with such beautiful tonal colors is still amazingly startling when horns cut in. The O/96s never sound the least bit compressed or even the slightest bit strained when playing horns.

The O/96s are exceptional at bringing big band music to life with plenty of bite and a huge sound. They do this without sounding strained or damping out the power of the band. They have the ability to get really loud and really big in a such an effortless way that even exceeds that of even the speakers I have reviewed that use 15 inch drivers.

Mid-bass instruments gave the Linn Athenaeums some trouble; both the baritone and bass sax would wander a bit between the two drivers. This was never a problem for the O/96s. They play baritone and bass sax as well if not better than any speaker I have heard. They also do an amazing job of playing bassoons.

Drums, Cymbals, and Percussion

As I have shared this example before that points out how hard it is to know if your system is accurate when playing drums. One night at the Pops during intermission, they changed the setup on the stage for the guest artist who was performing after intermission. This included a new drummer and drum kit. The difference was between what we audiophiles would call slow, overdone bass with the first set and fast, tight bass with the second set was huge. Now, I ask you, how would you know this if you were listening to a recording? Still there is something in common about both drum sets and drummers; they both carried the rhythm and pace of the music. So, I think that’s what we always have to listen for when we talk about the ability of a system to play drums. It’s easy to rob all the weight and substance from your system if you try to get every recording to have fast and tight bass, but I feel drums should always convey real rhythm and pace.

The O/96s struck a great balance between the overly tight bass of a modern loudspeaker and the big bloom of vintage speakers. They played music that was very emotionally involving with great bloom. Part of this bloom probably comes from the amount of air they move. This bloom maybe more than any other thing accounts for how lifelike they sound on rock, blues, and big orchestral music.

The Human Voice

Nothing is more important to me in a speaker than its ability to make voices sound alive, articulate, and real. Proof of this is that I use the Teresonic Magus A-55s with a sub in my video system because of how magical and articulate they are with voices. To me the biggest downfall of the Linns was their inability get male voices right. The O/96s play voices with great space around the voices in a very open way. Voices seem to just appear out of that space, they are very articulate, as well as being full and smooth. They play voices so that they sound more a part of the whole than being spotlighted apart from the rest of the music. There is a pureness to the Teresonics with voices that no speaker in my home has matched yet. The only speaker I have ever heard that was even close was the Feastrex Makoto at somewhere over $70,000. The problem with the Feastrex Makotos is they just didn’t have any bass and couldn’t be played all that loud. The O/96s come very close in this area and they play voices with a sweetness and tonality that you don’t get from other speakers.

In the end compared to the Linns, the Line Magnetic Audio 755I Field Coil Loudspeakers, the Audio Note E SECs, or the Burwell and Sons versions of the Altec A7s I preferred the way voices were played on the Orangutan O/96s. They let me hear so much beautiful tonal color in voices. To be honest I was shocked at how well the O/96s, a two way speaker, played voices.

DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 Loudspeaker stand

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

  1. Jay Bass says:

    I happen to own the Line Magnetic 755i’s. I love them and rotate them in and out of my system with a vintage pair of Altec Valencias. Could you offer some more comparisons between the Orangutans and the LM 755i’s? I run a Shindo Masseto and Cortese and have always wondered how the Orangutans would sound in my system compared to the Line Magnetics.

  2. Jack Roberts says:

    Jay, I think the Orangutans are speakers you need to hear in your system. I would not be surprised if they didn’t give you the best of both of the worlds of the two speakers you mention. In fact I think they will probably be better than either speaker even when comparing them to the areas where the LMs and Altecs are at there best. Still, you need to hear them in your system as I can only say how they sounded in my room with my stuff.

  3. Douglas Klein says:

    Matt Rotunda, Pitch Perfect Audio, now in Los Angeles, carries all of the equipment you are discussing Jay Bass. Likely you could hear the LM 755i and the D O/96 with the Masseto and Cortese in his shop.

  4. Douglas Klein says:

    Jack, thanks for another real-life and enjoyable review. Your journey is like many of ours as we mature, both in life and in listening to audio equipment. You have developed a keen ability to find system synergy in attaining the sound you desire and prefer. Unlike many who merely chase the latest-greatest on the merry-go-round that is the audiophile world, you have made changes to your system when you find a ‘new’ piece that improves (not changes) it. Kudos.

  5. Jeff Glacken says:

    Jack, thanks for a great write-up. I was wondering how the O/96 compare to the Vaughn Zinfandel 4s let’s say powered by Pass Sit-1 monos? I seem to be heading for the low powered 300B or similar camp. These would replace Genesis M60 monos and Genesis 5.2 speakers. Best.

  6. mcduman says:

    Hi Jack, very nice and thorough review. Thanks. I have the orangutans at home at present and they are indeed immensely enjoyable although set-up was slightly more challenging than I thought. But I come from a more mainstream, full-range-multi-driver arrangement (big yg’s, magico’s etc) so it could be me. My question is with regards to the stands. Did you try other (ie higher) stands or tweak the stock ones (fill with sand/cat litter use under boards spikes etc)?
    My impression is that something should be done about them. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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