DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 loudspeaker

Loudspeakers have been commercially available for nearly a century, yet those whose drive-units are mounted to baffles of intentionally limited width didn't appear in significant numbers until the 1980s. That seems a bit strange, given that the technology to transform large boards into smaller boards has existed since the Neolithic era.

Because the audio industry never lacked the ability to make loudspeakers with narrow or chamfered fronts, one must assume that the missing ingredient was the interest in doing so—and that, I believe, came fairly late in the game, and originated in the hobby's enthusiasm for the spatial effects available from multichannel recordings. Fair enough: lower-treble and midrange tones, the wavelengths of which can exceed the radial size of the drive-units that disperse them, tend to reflect from a speaker's cabinet, delaying a small portion of the output. Among the first aspects of the sound to suffer are imaging cues.

But 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. To the audiophile with a very powerful amplifier, that wasted loudspeaker output is no big deal; on the other hand, people who prefer low-power amplifiers see those conditions as crazy. (Interestingly, the latter hobbyists are also known to bemoan the lack of tonal substance in the sounds of most modern loudspeakers; given the preponderance of cabinets that willfully fail to support the lower ranges of tweeters and midrange drivers, is that really any surprise?)

Some companies push back. Audio Note is famous for their distinctive wide-baffle, high-sensitivity AN-E speakers, which find favor with many single-ended-triode enthusiasts. Industry stalwarts Spendor and Harbeth have kept classic wide-baffle designs in their own lines. And now, America's own DeVore Fidelity has brought to market their Orangutan O/96 ($12,000/pair), a wide-baffle, high-sensitivity, full-range dynamic loudspeaker aimed squarely at the SET set.

The Orangutan O/96—"96" alludes to the new model's electrical sensitivity of 96dB—is a two-way dynamic loudspeaker in a bass-reflex enclosure. The cabinet measures 28.25" high by 18" wide by 12" deep, although 7/8" of that depth is accounted for by a distinctly styled baffle board of birch plywood. Two different densities of MDF are used for the remainder of the cabinet: one for the rear panel, another for the top, bottom, and sides. Designer John DeVore says of the O/96's early design work, "We built several cabinets, including some that were all plywood; this combination sounded the best." The 7.5"-tall stand, included in the price, is made from solid maple.

High-frequency tones are reproduced by a 1" silk-dome tweeter built into a shallow concave flange; the latter, in DeVore's words, is "beyond being a waveguide and just on the verge of a horn load." DeVore, who designed the tweeter in cooperation with the European company that builds it to his specs, adds that the tweeter's rear wave fires into a tuned chamber glued to the magnet.

DeVore also designed the O/96's 10" woofer, whose untreated paper cone is made by a small company in Europe; the rest of the driver is manufactured by SEAS. The woofer has a compliant surround, which DeVore says is intended to act like a foam surround—inasmuch as its behavior is linear—but with the longevity of rubber.

Two mildly flared ports on the rear panel, each 5.5" deep by 3" in diameter, but that work together as one, according to DeVore, and are tuned to a frequency in the mid-30s. The drivers themselves are said to be fairly close to one another in electrical sensitivity, the tweeter's voice-coil requiring only a bit of added mass and series resistance—neither of which qualities detracts in the least from this intentionally high-impedance design. The crossover network is based on DeVore's proprietary Gibbon circuit, which is said to waste as little power as possible. The O/96's internal wiring was chosen through careful listening—DeVore says that some of this wire is "very old-fashioned." In a recess on the bottom of the cabinet is a single pair of Cardas copper binding posts, placed there to preserve the appearance of the O/96's lovely backside.

The DeVore O/96 is a serenely, classically beautiful thing. In the same manner as the aforementioned Audio Note AN-E, its baffle presents the listener with an expansive piece of veneer—lace walnut in the case of my review samples, although virtually anything else is available on request—while the top, bottom, sides, and back are finished with a dark-stained maple veneer. The rearmost edge of the plywood baffle is rabbeted, conferring a nice visual break in a box that might otherwise have looked a bit foursquare. The finish, on loudspeaker and stand alike, is polyester.

Setup and installation
John DeVore is steadfast on one setup aspect in particular: "I definitely did not want to design a corner-mount speaker: Virtually any room that isn't an audiophile's listening room won't have two usable corners." Indeed, the Orangutan O/96 worked best in my room when farther from the wall behind it than most loudspeakers of my experience—although, like my Quad ESLs, the DeVores were tolerant of modest distances from their respective sidewalls. My review pair sounded fine when the center of each baffle was 25.5" from the nearest sidewall and 71" from the wall behind the speakers.

The best spatial performance was had with the speakers toed-in directly toward the central listening position: a position that was arrived at only after a great deal of experimentation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it took some fiddling to get the very wide O/96s to acoustically "disappear"; even at their best in that regard, the speakers made their aural presences marginally more apparent than when I listen to my Quad ESLs from an optimal location. The flip side was that the O/96s were better than average at creating a believable sense of scale with recordings of large ensembles.

For all of my listening, I relied on the DeVores' companion stands, which I enjoyed in every way. Like the O/96 enclosures themselves, the stands are elegantly simple, and I applaud DeVore's decision to forgo the usual spiked feet, a decision he says was "partly aesthetic—although I do think [the O/96s] sound best being coupled directly to the floor, even carpet." Having long ago lost my tolerance for the sonic fussiness afforded most products when they're spiked to shelf or floor, I'm inclined to agree. Incidentally, DeVore suggests that the best way to stabilize these very precisely made stands on uneven floors is with small pieces of card stock, which he demonstrated to perfection in my listening room.

Each DeVore O/96 is supplied with a removable 18" by 13" grille of black fabric, held in place with rare-earth magnets hidden within the baffle. I liked the way they look, though the speakers did sound marginally clearer, more detailed, and more open without them.

Looking through my listening notes, I can't find word of a single record that wasn't extremely engaging through these speakers. From Mott the Hoople's Mad Shadows (LP, Atlantic SD 8272) to the great John Eliot Gardiner recording (with the Monteverdi Orchestra and Choir) of Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (LP, Erato STU 70911) to The David Grisman Rounder Album (LP, Rounder 0069), the Orangutan O/96s served them all with clarity, color, impact, drama, and scale.

DeVore Fidelity
Brooklyn Navy Yard, 63 Flushing Ave., Unit 259
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 855-9999

John Atkinson's picture

mrplankton2u wrote:
You apparently do like to make up the rules as you go along.

No, this has been our policy since 2005.

mrplankton2u wrote:
You will not post or upload User Content that includes personal or identifying information about another person without that person's explicit consent.

Okay, as you don't appear willing to give that consent, you will no longer be allowed to post to this website. I will ask Ariel Bitran to delete your user account.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

ANY excuse to delete people that don't agree with your personal outlook is the reason you are doing this Atkinson. Pathetic. You can't stand anyone criticising your precious opinons. So out they go. You are one sad person.

John Atkinson's picture

JohnnyR wrote:
You can't stand anyone criticising your precious opinons. So out they go.

Not at all. You will see that mrplankton2u's comments have not been deleted. However, he had a choice: either stop posting to the site, or, as he is, by his own admission, professionally involved in audio, add his affiliation to his comments and be allowed to present his opinions. He did neither. Instead, he argued that the rules were inappropriate and by extension didn't apply to him, leaving me with no option but to ban him. Arguing with the ref is never a winning strategy, please note.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile


JohnnyR's picture

You never liked the guy, never liked that he criticised you and your magazine, never liked that he showed you up as the buffoon you are........shall I go on?  Yeah yeah the rules and you are the "ref" Tell me just how many professionals have you banned over the years due to your "rules"?  Too many sadly, so all you are left with in your precious forums are dullards, morons, halfwits and the gullible. No wonder it's so empty in there. They all left for better places to talk about FACTS instead of magic bowls, cables, rocks and rainbow foil. So it goes. You must be proud of your "great" forum lmao.

King of the Dullards all hail the King!

Regadude's picture

Your argument about JA banning plankton, because he did not like him, is wrong. If JA banned everyone who was a nuisance and caused problems, you would have been gone a long time ago Johnny. 

All hail king troll!

pi's picture

Really don't get your arguments - there is any number of speakers (some of them commonly highly regarded), that measure much worse than this one - none of those has the excuse of being guided by the effort to make it tube friendly. For example:

Vandersteen Quatro $7,000: Significant on axis suckouts at 800Hz (very problematic) and 4000Hz, off axis response is not offsetting like it is for the Devores. In room response shows a major in room depression for the midrange and bass emphasis, which even careful placement does not remove.

Verity Sarastro $40,000: 10dB depression from 100-300Hz, uneven response above 1KHz, off axis dips at 3KHz. In room depression for the critical lower midrange/upper bas and with significant 10dB lower bass emphasis. Midrange driver of the verity is crossed over at a very high 4KHz.

MBL 101E MKII $70,500: Questionable concept (radial transmission), low impedance with significant phase roller coaster down to 3Ohm, so difficult to drive. Several resonance above 10KHz. Again, in room depression for the critical lower midrange/upper bass and with significant 10dB lower bass emphasis. 

In this context, it seem Devore HAS actually taken the effort to carefully balance the design to achieve reasonable measurement (e.g. balance off axis reponse with on-axis response), while providing a speaker that is extremely easy to drive and sufficiently compact to place in small NY style apartment.

So, JA seems spot on with his assessment.

JohnnyR's picture

The above speakers you mentioned obviously are flawed also and poorly designed regardless of them being"highly regarded" There are "reveiwers" that will give a turnip praise on some websites. Just because the OP review is about a speaker that doesn't have the same flaws , doesn't make it a $12,000 speaker nor a well designed one. We can always find something worse than what we are listening too to "compare". Doesn't make it worth buying though,

tmsorosk's picture

 Mr. A, please don't ban or delete mrplankton2u's comment's , he's the Archie Bunker of audio. Haven't had this many laughs in years. 


 Hot nobs, LOL.

Glotz's picture

I was really hoping half-way through the posts he would admit his obvious ignorance regarding the neccessity of multiple measuring points for an accurate picture of measurements.

Instead, he did turn into Archie... and showed his true self. 

I just hope he doesn't slap Edith around when he's mad. 

JohnnyR's picture

Multiple measuring points are a good way of getting an overall picture but can't turn a sows ear into a silk purse. $12,000 worth of speaker? Hardly.

 What's with the Archie Bunker reference one fo your heros?

ChrisS's picture

Mother Russia Broadcasting didn't allow you to watch "All In The Family" did they, JRusskie?

ChrisS's picture

Please check your messages, JRusskie. Siberia is calling.

ChrisS's picture

Being obnoxious and annoying = Being on topic?

tunesmith's picture

Wow! I've seen and heard the DeVore Orangutans at the past 2 Rocky Mountain shows and you are crazy if you think they are cheap. The finish is just stunning, easily among the best at the show at any price and the wood on the fronts is amazing. Sonically the DeVore room was definitely in the top three at the show both years, with all-around system prices that were much lower than the other top rooms.

John Atkinson even agrees with the manufacturers comments, and from what I heard at the show with a single 300B amp, I believe it too. The sound was huge, with amazing bass driven by 6 watts. Actually JA comments on the great bass with the same system here:

MVBC's picture

$12,000 for that? I have a bridge to sell too...

Dario's picture

A lot of interesting discussion here. The summary of the review would seem to be that this is a somewhat flawed yet surprisingly compelling loudspeaker. I read that it sounds great in spite of some shortcomings.

To those who are complaining about the price and suggesting their cost to build a similar speaker would be about 25% as much: ok. So don't buy this one and do build your own. This attitude shows a lack of business knowledge. I have no doubt somebody could build a similar speaker for less if you just account for the parts. How long did it take to get the knowledge? Where to do you do the work?

A real business needs to pay rent and utilities. And likely pay employees. And that's a retail price, which has to allow for a dealer to make some money. Saying you could make it for 25% of the retail cost is about right for a product that goes through a sales channel (rather than direct). But it's irrelevant - a company can charge whatever it wants for their products. The market decides the value.

I don't work in the industry and don't have formal training in electronics or acoustics. However I am an engineer and I like to see data. I'm also generally critical of Stereophile and other audio publications for praising the differences in equipment that can really make no significant difference (cables in general, power cables in particular). These difference all tend to disappear under measurement or controlled listening test. So what's the point?

I'm critical and skeptical of most audio equipment reviews. Speaker reviews are about the only thing I read. This review has the data, and nobody seems to be challenging it. I think it's fair to say the measurements are good enough to give an idea of how the speakers performs.

To those who are critical of the design, why don't you to listen to the speakers. Rather than sitting back and speculating about how terrible it must sound, maybe (just maybe) you'll have to ask yourself how it can sound as good as it does with that design. Or maybe your suspicions will be confirmed.

I'm impressed with how Stereophile has responded to and managed this discussion. For that you have earned an returning subscription. I'm not in the market for new speakers, but would go listen if there was a dealer near me.

Jceaves's picture

I'm always amazed at how emboldened and rude some people get on forums.

Most of us read this website or have a subscription because we want a perspective on audio products. In my case, I have low powered tube amplifiers and it really helps to read reviews on the few compatible speakers that might work with my system. It would never cross my mind to go all "freaky on yo' ass" (the understood yo', whether publisher or fellow reader), in response to any of the content in this magazine. I'm not here to argue. There are other audio forums for that.

The internet is a wonderful tool for communication, but too many people use it myopically, to vent anger and frustration. However, the individuals here who rant, spew anger, and insult others fully understand how lonely, or black and blue, they'd become if they were bold enough to behave this way face to face - because it's uncivil and extreme. To do it on the internet is just cowardly and sad.

Most of us listen to music for pleasure. It's fun and emotionally moving. That is the end game. The last thing I associate with enjoying music is enduring some bozo on a rant. I don't care how much any of you know about electronics or speaker design or anything at all. You aren't the star here. You aren't even on the playbill. I don't read Stereophile to get a look inside your caustic psyche. If you left, I'd be grateful.

I've heard the O/96's at shows and at Arizona HiFi, and I think that they are great speakers. The finish quality is amazing. I love their aesthetic. Are they worth $12k? That depends on taste, system, and listening room. The people who buy them think so. I'm glad that someone is writing about them because, I'm considering a purchase, and I live far away from a dealer. I hope that Art Dudley keeps the cheeky and fun tone to his thoughtful articles. This is all about pleasure, and he gets that.


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