Fleetwood Sound Company DeVille SQ loudspeaker Page 2

Another unusual design choice is the use of phenolic for the cabinet's back panel. What's behind that decision?

Phenolic, "a very old technology that predates modern plastics, was a very expensive decision," Weiss said. "The paper phenolic we use is a laminate structure, both extremely hard, dense, and very well damped. The rear wave of the woofer interacts with this surface; its materiality is very important sonically."

The Fleetwood DeVille SQ looks like no speaker I've had in-house or, for that matter, seen in anyone's house. It's a lovely design—not the typical slim-profile speaker—something it shares with speakers from AudioNote, Harbeth, and DeVore's Orangutan series, including my O/96s. Yet, the DeVille has a unique look, completely different from those. The SQ's natural finish tripod stands, which attach to the speakers with robust metal clips, are also lookers, reminding me of a '50s-era cartoon illustration of twin legs with elongated feet.

Setup is for closers
Weiss and Viesulas visited to help set up the DeVille SQs. We started with the speakers in the same spot as my DeVore O/96s, but some experimentation was necessary before their placement was optimized. I used the speakers on their dedicated stands.

Locating the DeVilles on the long wall, 5' from my listening seat, delivered a pronounced low end and a congested midrange. Moving them to where they were parallel with the short wall and 2m from my seat gave wide-open upper midrange and treble but unsatisfactory low end. When I sited the speakers diagonally across the room, toed in to fire directly at my head, 56" apart and 8' from my listening seat, everything locked. This positioning gave me open-sounding mids and treble and natural, tight bass.

Setup also benefitted from cable changes. Trading out Triode Wire Labs Spirit II (RCA) interconnects in favor of Analysis Plus Silver Apex (RCA) from phono stage to preamplifier gave me increased focus and weight. (Weiss recommends and sells Analysis Plus Silver Apex cables for use with both their Fleetwood and OMA speakers.) AudioQuest Robin Hood speaker cables proved a mite forward, while my Auditorium 23 cables were too soft.

Twelve-foot runs of Analysis Plus Silver Apex gave me tauter, better-defined bass and better resolution, and the longer length allowed me to move the speakers around the room more freely.

Sometimes an audio product shakes up your brain, altering your views on the role of hi-fi equipment in the home. The Fleetwood DeVille SQs did that. They impressed me no end. Their upper midrange and treble poured out music with microscopic detail, tactility, and complexity. Performers had body, weight, and motion. The DeVilles lit up my room like 1000 dancing fireflies, exposing the music much as an illuminated manuscript elevates text.

The SQ played all music as a live event, floating large, stable images of surprising depth, layered front to back, on a stage that extended beyond the speakers. The DeVille SQ reproduced each recording in its respective era and location, from late '50s jazz through '60s/'70s classical and rock (I slung ZZ Top at them) to contemporary R&B and electronic music. The DeVille's see-through quality was addictive; its top end was meticulous yet never analytical. Micro- and macrodynamics were first rate and fast as hell, making dynamics embedded in well-recorded classical music LPs resound like an earthquake.

The DeVille SQ's midrange was clear. Its low end was tight and focused with no boom or muck. On electronic-leaning vinyl from Burial, Loscil, and Billie Eilish, the SQ's bass had potent density and color. Bass produced by some standmount speakers trades grip for warmth; the DeVilles held fast to bass notes without applying lipstick. That 8" woofer couldn't convey the depth and bass weight of my reference speakers, but the SQ's detailed, firm, efficient bass paired well with its immaculate top end.

Driving the SQs with the Sugden Masterclass LA-4 preamp and the powerful LKV Research Veros PWR+ amplifier, it felt as though I could get up and walk between the performing musicians on a well-scaled stage. Familiar and new recordings gave up their secrets within a large, open, airy space.


Les Baxter's 1957 exotica-meets-percussion shindig Skins! (LP, Capitol Records T-774) pounced on my cranium with visceral drum-head textures, cranking percussion dynamics, and complex bell-and-conga images. Studio musicians' hands banging bongos practically punched my face. Timbales had natural, metallic ricochet reverb; sticks on temple blocks produced palpable, popping rhythms. The SQ's speed, clarity, and dynamics knocked me down and out.

The superbly swinging mono pressing of The Poll Winners (LP, Contemporary Records C3535) with guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Shelly Manne yielded acoustic bass that was solid, weighty, clear, and clean via the DeVilles, especially on "Jordu" and "Satin Doll." Kessel's guitar had fantastic sweep and scale. The DeVille SQs played music with microscopic detail and harmonic nuance. The SQ was all about interior shading, subtlety, and depth, bringing the recording's secrets out in the open.


Similarly, John Coltrane's tenor saxophone tone on Ballads (LP, Impulse! A-32) sounded as natural, sweet, and humanly textured as I've heard it. When Trane ripped a solo of whirling 64th notes on Settin' the Pace, he stood before me. The SQs distinguished good from lesser recordings. Played back through the DeVilles, my 1983 green label Prestige OJC of Settin' the Pace (Original Jazz Classics OJC-5078) somehow bettered my 1961 Prestige original issue (LP, Prestige PRLP 7213).


Feeling in a symphonic mood, I put on Ernst Ansermet conducting the L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande performing Stravinsky's Symphony in C (LP, Speakers Corner Records SXL 2237). All the breadth, depth, and measure of this recording was heard and felt through the SQs. Again, the DeVilles practically disappeared. With the DeVille SQ's, orchestral imaging was lucid, texture-rich strings and reeds flowing together within the orchestra's myriad complexities, exposed but natural-sounding and unforced.

The words "scale," "space," "density," "detail," "dynamics," and "separation" repeat in my notes; these were all reliable traits of the DeVille SQ's SQ (sound quality). They made listening to my most cherished black discs a revelation, a truth-revealing event as it pertained to the character of each recording's production.

On hard-bop/post-bop pianist Jaki Byard's Hi-Fly (LP, New Jazz NJLP-8273), acoustic bass and drums were upfront and highly detailed. Ron Carter's bass sounded especially delicate and resolute, while Pete LaRoca's drums were more prominent than Byard's piano (hello, Rudy Van Gelder). The DeVilles rendered this music with brisk dynamic attack.


When I switched to my Shindo Allegro preamp and tubed Haut Brion power amp (20Wpc into 8 ohms), the Byard disc delivered more detail, a sweeter tonal balance, and improved spatial characteristics. The music swung with a lighter gait—just a tad—but bass, drums, and cymbals were better defined. Byard's piano became even more distant, behind the bass and drums. The DeVille's lucidity quickly registered the differences between the amplifiers.

The Fleetwood DeVille SQ worked well with every kind of music, even my beloved ZZ Top, and made jazz and classical its willing bedfellows. But it's not for everyone. Beef and brawn are not its calling cards, but rather lucidity, spatial beauty, clarity, dynamics, and precision. I found the sound of the SQ model intoxicating, which made me wonder what degree of SQ magic is present in its $12,600 sibling.

The Fleetwood DeVille SQ is a marvelous loudspeaker. I wish everyone could hear it.

Oswalds Mill Audio/Fleetwood Sound Company
130 South Walnut St.
Fleetwood, PA 19522
(917) 743-3780

thatguy's picture

Kids, stay in school, pay attention and work as hard as you can, always towards a goal of a solid career. Use the money to enjoy hobbies that entertain and fulfill you. Which means you can buy beautiful speakers like these without batting an eyelid.
I on the other hand never listened to that advice so I get to look at pictures of them.

And remember, try your speakers in different positions to get the best sound out of them.

Anton's picture

Thanks for that glimpse into their world.

I love the look, too.

I could see this as an 'exit level' speaker to cap off one's 'career' as an audiophile.

Lovely to listen to, lovely to behold, relatively easy to drive. Pair it with a great integrated amp (Leben, Luxman, etc...) and donzo!!!

These are REALLY pretty.

bhkat's picture

The frequency response looks a lot better than I expected.

Anton's picture

My mind shrinks their look in the pics. In real life, I bet they loom larger.

Metalhead's picture

I am sadly but definitely in the small speaker-small sound clique.

I would take used big ass JBL's, Altecs, Klispch, et al over small speakers. Probably even in a small room as I need John/Paul, Joe, Jimi, Jim, Mick, and Roger to tell to me loudly.

If I HAD to live in small speaker ville I would definitely check them out. They are frigging GORGEOUS!!!!

remlab's picture

...loved the look of these speakers. She never says that. She would probably like the sound of the in room response too. :)

trmntr03's picture

Roughly $20K. I ain't losing sleep, though.

MattJ's picture

Although I am generally perplexed with the fascination that many audiophiles have with vintage design equipment, I have to admit that some of the aesthetics are really amazing. If you haven't checked the Oswalds Mill Audio's site, go look at the Ironic speaker!

MattJ's picture

In addition, the nearfield responses of the woofer and ports roll off faster than the expected 12dB/ octave.

I thought ported speakers typically had a 24 db/octave roll off?

John Atkinson's picture
MattJ wrote:
I thought ported speakers typically had a 24 db/octave roll off?

That's correct, for the overall low-frequency rolloff. However, the port and woofer individually roll off at 12dB/octave. Because their outputs are in opposite polarity below the port resonance frequency, the combined rolloff is 24dB/octave.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

ARX's picture

First of all, this:
"Conicals don't behave or sound like any other horns, they work differently. They have no constriction at the throat like curved-wall horns, which produce that honky, nasal coloration. They have a continuous expansion of the flare. Curved-horn walls change the wavefront as they expand. Conicals don't, so, you get a perfect spherical or hemicylindrical wavefront and constant directivity. So ... you don't have beaming."

...isn't entirely correct.
Not all curved horns are constricted at the throat, this even applies to Western-Electric's axisymmetrical wooden horn.
In an axisymmetric conical horn the wave-front is only purely spherical in the (hypothetical) 1P case.
The wavefront shape of conical horns also depends on the (compression) driver, more specifically the type of diaphragm and phase plug.
The transition from driver exit to horn throat is equally important.

The response irregularities in the top octave resemble break up resonances, but I wouldn't be surprised if the additional phase plug is also partly to blame.

That said, after a short initial listening session, my impression of the Deville is mostly positive.