Orpheus 808 loudspeaker Manufacturers' Comment

Manufacturers' Comment, from August 1988 (Vol.11 No.8)

Editor: Recent examination of the returned speakers indicates that the Orpheus 808s reviewed by John Atkinson in the June 1988 issue were not set up according to manufacturers' instructions—that is, the bases were not attached to the speakers.

I also received from Stereophile the bases for speakers #808112AB, which were stolen from John Atkinson's home. Why weren't these bases taken along with the speakers they were supposed to have been attached to? Inspection of these bases reveals no thread marks on the bottom, and the bag containing hardware is unopened. These bases, quite obviously, were never attached to the speakers.

Atkinson had the speakers in his possession for about a month before they were stolen. During our telephone conversation on March 15, he informed me that, although he had done some initial listening and had conducted "phase tests," the review was, however, incomplete and he requested that I ship a second pair. All this, with the speakers sitting directly on the floor?!

Examination of the second pair of speakers and bases, #808113AB, revealed no thread marks on the bottom of the speakers. The cloth is in original condition, and shows no signs of penetration by the wood screws.

Atkinson mentions in the review that the 808s do come with wood bases featuring integral spikes. He does not state, however, whether the bases were actually screwed on to the speakers. Clearly, they were not. Why not?

The bases are absolutely essential if the 808 is to deliver its designed performance—they provide time alignment between the tweeter and top woofer, and they decouple the speakers from the floor. The carpet-piercing spikes anchor the speakers for improved image stability, and act as conduits for channeling stored acoustical energy away from the speakers—a vibrational ground, if you will.

My measurements indicate (yes, John, I do use test instruments) that, with the speakers sitting directly on the floor, there is a large hump in the midbass region and the treble becomes quite peaky—all to the detriment of the midrange. Sounds familiar? This is exactly what Atkinson heard and measured in his review!

Atkinson's review is an intentional misrepresentation of my product with the sole purpose of falsely discrediting the 808. In so doing, he not only discredits himself, but also the integrity of Stereophile. I demand that this "review" be retracted.—Louis Montesano, President, Orpheus Loudspeakers

John Atkinson Responds

Oh, dear: "intentional misrepresentation . . . falsely discrediting the 808 . . . ": what we have here, dear reader, is an attempt to counter the effect of a negative review by implying that the reviewer doesn't read the instructions, can't be bothered to set the speakers up correctly, and tells lies. "Reviewed In The Box" (RITB), I believe, is the appropriate term.

I do not like answering manufacturers in this space. We have had our say in the review, and this is their column to respond appropriately. But in return for our granting of that privilege, we do expect respondents to stick to the truth of the matter. To insert some of that precious commodity into Mr. Montesano's tale of woe, this is the saga of the 808 review.

Upon receiving the first sample, I measured, not the "phase," but the nearfield bass response and the modulus of impedance. I did not do any listening other than to check that all the drive-units were connected—not always the case with review samples. Mr. Montesano is correct when he says that the bases of this pair had not been attached; their presence was not necessary for these tests and the speakers were less cumbersome without them. Before I could set the speakers up for listening, I had to go to Europe to visit the Paris AES convention and to spend some time with my daughter, during which time thieves broke into my home and stole the original review speakers (but not the bases).

On my return, I asked Mr. Montesano to invoice us for the stolen pair, so that we could make an insurance claim, and to supply a replacement pair of 808s for the review.

His response was that the timely appearance of the review in Stereophile was very important to his company and couldn't I write the review based on what testing I had already done? I replied that this would be very hard to do as I hadn't actually listened to the speakers. He, however, didn't feel this to be an obstacle, and put forward the hypothesis that the theft was really an attempt by other speaker manufacturers to abort a favorable review for what would be a significant competitor. However, I persisted in my attitude that I really would need a replacement pair of speakers in order to write a fair review; eventually these arrived in Santa Fe.

I repeated my preliminary measurements, screwed the bases to the speakers using a screwdriver attachment for a Black & Decker drill, and carried out my in-room measurements and auditioning with the speakers set up exactly as Mr. Montesano recommended. I was less than impressed with the sound and wrote the review. The 808s were then disassembled from the bases and returned to Mr. Montesano, along with the bases for the stolen pair.

In my subsequent telephone discussions with Mr. Montesano, no mention was made of the "base-less" hypothesis; indeed, Mr. Montesano implied that the considerable degree of mid-bass boost was how he liked the sound.

I suggested that the best way for Mr. Montesano to respond to my negative findings was to send me a "Manufacturer's Comment" letter to appear in the same issue as the review. He replied that he was too busy to write a response, and that he didn't regard it as important for his letter to appear in the same issue.

I suggest, therefore, that when Mr. Montesano saw the review in print, he realized that he had missed the optimum opportunity to answer my findings. As he had received the unopened box containing the pristine bases for the stolen pair of speakers, he decided to use that fact to make up out of whole cloth a refutation of the review's findings. And as to his assertion that the review speakers bore no woodscrew marks in their bottoms, in the words of Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the prostitutes who brought down Britain's Conservative government in 1963, "he would say that, wouldn't he."

I stand behind my review. Regarding the sound of the Orpheus 808 loudspeakers, if you are still interested despite my considerable reservations, I would suggest you listen for yourselves—except that the Orpheus speakers are only available via mail order from Mr. Montesano.—John Atkinson

Postscript

My list of speakers to be recommended in the approximate $1000–$1600/pair region now consists of, in alphabetical order: Epos ES14 ($1100/pair), Magnepan MG2.5/R ($1550/pair), Monitor Audio R952MD ($1549/pair), Rauna Balder ($1500/pair), Spendor SP1 ($950/pair), Spica Angelus ($1050/pair), Synthesis LM-210 ($1050/pair), Thiel CS1 ($950/pair), and Vandersteen 2C ($1150/pair). All, apart from the Spendor, Epos, and Vandersteen, are floor-standing. All, with the exception of the Monitor Audio, need to be positioned away from the rear wall. Of these, the Magnepans, which offer sound an order of magnitude nearer the ideal, are the only ones to get my vote for the Class B category in Stereophile's "Recommended Components" listing.

The quest goes on. Even as, this month's writing safely committed to floppy disc, I reach for a Tanqueray Martini—straight up with two olives, the glass too cold to touch—Daniel Reilly is unloading more cardboard boxes from the Stereophile truck: two pairs of Canadian loudspeakers, the Image Concept 200 and Camber 3.5; a pair of speakers from local New Mexico manufacturer TNT; the relatively new Celestion SL700s; the MB Quart 280s from Germany; the Linn SARA Nines to replace the ones stolen from my listening room in March; not to mention the intriguing Acoustic Energy AE1s from the UK, which are already in a holding pattern next to my listening room.

Will it never stop? Why does J. Gordon Holt get to review all the high-end loudspeakers? Is there really one more loudspeaker manufacturer in the world than there are audiophiles? Watch this space for developments.—John Atkinson

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