DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 loudspeaker Page 2

That last recording, which sounds realistically direct through most good systems, provided a perfect example: The DeVores allowed the fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin, Dobro, and upright bass to sound tactile and well textured. And the speakers' overall tonal balance was superb: The bass had just the right amount of weight and timbral richness, while Grisman's mandolin—especially in the instrumental "Waiting on Vassar"—had a fine, woody timbre and percussive attack. I've heard all of the musicians on this record in live settings on countless occasions, and the DeVores honored their sounds and their styles.

Singing voices were clear and uncolored, if timbrally a shade richer than the mean. Dame Janet Baker's voice in Elgar's Sea Pictures, with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra (LP, EMI ASD 655), had its usual mettle, while the performance of fellow Brit Peter Pears in the definitive recording of Britten's Billy Budd, with the composer conducting the LSO (LP, London OSA 1390), was realistically warm and supple, with no hint of the slight cupped-hands coloration that dogs it through my Audio Notes. Commendably, the O/96 didn't break up under stress quite as soon as the AN-E/SPe HE, making for smoother, more pleasant listening to opera and very loud choral music.

Electric music was also well served by the DeVores. Led Zeppelin's drummer, the late John Bonham, sounded awesome: The O/96 communicated the force of his playing better than any non-horn loudspeaker with a 1" tweeter and a high-Q woofer has a right to. Bonham's entrance in Led Zep's "In My Time of Dying," from Physical Graffiti (LP, Swan Song/Classic SS 2 200 1198), was especially impactful—and, cliché though it may be, it startled the hell out of my dog. (I'm listening to it again as I write this, and she's moved to the next room, still barking.)

Among the amplifiers I own, the 20Wpc Shindo Haut-Brion served the O/96 better than Shindo's 25Wpc Corton Charlemagne, pushing from it a tighter, more rhythmically engaging sound. But the 4Wpc Fi 421A also loved the DeVores, in a similarly distinctive way. The Fi-DeVore combination wasn't the last word in center-fill detail, but it produced the best and biggest sense of scale I heard from the O/96s. While Jascha Heifetz's violin, in his rightly famous recording of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy with the New Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent (LP, RCA Living Stereo LSC 2603), sounded a bit more recessed than usual, the Fi and DeVores gave an engagingly good sense of the orchestra's size in every dimension. (By contrast, the Quad ESLs do a somewhat better job of allowing solo instruments—and voices, too, as in the above-mentioned Sea Pictures—to stand proud of the rest of the mix.) Subtle details, from the "sound" of the room to the occasional foot-tap by, I assume, Heifetz or Sargent, were clear. Musical sounds through this combination were also wonderfully physical, as with the many pizzicato notes carried by the cellos about a third of the way through the Bruch. Harp arpeggios blossomed richly, and overall tonal balance was spot-on perfect. And, surprisingly, the modestly powered Fi never seemed to run out of steam in a harsh way; it just ceased to get louder at certain points.

Among the performance characteristics that are as difficult to describe as to quantify—and that, coincidentally, rise above others in distinguishing vintage from contemporary products—is a loudspeaker's ability to convey the substance of musical sound, rather than suggesting a pale if attractively pellucid sonic outline. The DeVore O/96 hit the latter goal more handily than most modern loudspeakers I've heard, and if it didn't go as far down that road as, say, a Western Electric 755A, the DeVore was nonetheless very satisfying. There's a great new reissue of Glenn Gould's recording, with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, of Beethoven's Piano Concerto 4 (LP, Columbia/Impex MS 6262); the O/96s played it with an exceptional sense of sonic flesh and blood. Just as remarkably, the Orangutans did that while conveying far more of the recording space around and behind the instruments than other speakers no less substantial. That, I think, will be heard by some as the O/96's unique strength.

The most inviting comparison was that between the O/96 and the outwardly similar Audio Note AN-E—inviting but not entirely straightforward, as the two speakers load the room in such different ways. The Audio Notes, with their corner placements, use the room corners for a bit of gain and, more significant, to enhance their own sense of scale: early reflections reach the ear in a manner that ultimately suggests size, and the effect can be lovely. On the other hand, the DeVores, which are notably more sensitive than the AN-Es, did seem to reach a little further into the bottom octaves (although a dip in the Audio Notes' "richness region" makes them sound as though they have punchier bass with some recordings). It also seemed that the DeVores' response was flatter, overall, in my room—and their ability to convey image specificity and stage depth with stereo recordings was markedly superior.

Although it sells for less than any of Stereophile's Class A full-range loudspeakers—and far less than most of them—the DeVore Orangutan O/96 is an expensive loudspeaker by the standards of average consumers and audio perfectionists alike. Given that the DeVore Fidelity line, as a whole, leans to the more affordable side of the fence, I wondered about the level of value provided by their newest entry. According to John DeVore, the O/96's bass driver is particularly expensive to make, as is the speaker's Brooklyn-built enclosure. "A speaker is a major decorative item in a system," he adds, "and, with these, I felt it was more important to achieve beauty than, say, for an amp. And getting end-grain plywood to look like glass is not easy!"

My own view is simpler: The O/96 is neither a budget version nor a luxury version of anything else. It's an extremely well-crafted loudspeaker that achieves a combination of strengths that is, as far as I know, unique. The O/96 is distinctly easy to drive with low-power amplifiers, yet it's clearer, wider of bandwidth, and more spatially accomplished than most other high-sensitivity loudspeakers.

Colorful yet uncolored, the DeVore Orangutan O/96 is the loudspeaker many of us have been waiting for. Yes, an old Western Electric horn or even an Altec Valencia has more punch and drama, and a Quad ESL has even more clarity and nuance of texture and timbre. But the O/96 gives a lot of everything and sacrifices little of anything. I'm thoroughly, giddily impressed.

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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