Siegfried Linkwitz’s Orion-4 Speakers from Wood Artistry

Having enthused—gushed, really—over the Orion-4s ($15,510/pair in this iteration with active crossover, Bibinga wood and Ebony trim) when I first heard them at Burning Amp 2010, then again at Burning Amp 2011 (as reported in the January 2012 issue of Stereophile), I was happy to encounter them once more in Jacksonville. It was no surprise to find them doing an absolutely wonderful job of capturing the correct sound of a piano, and bringing lovely depth to a recording of Mozart's Piano Sonata in D Major, K.576. They did an equally fine job in showcasing the beauty of a quartet performing music by Lera Auerbach.

Given that Don Naples of Wood Artistry lives in Healdsburg, CA, about an hour north of me, and has been to my house for a BAAS demo, he knows my taste in music real well. How perplexing it was, then, to discover on mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato's Grammy-winning recital, Diva/Divo that, in addition to fabulous detail, there was also a dismayingly bright edge to the upper middle of her voice. I've heard DiDonato live more than once, and am certain that this sharp edge is not a natural part of her voice production.

Perplexed, I suggested to Don that power conditioning might help. When I found out that he had been able to locate a home-built transformer, which he added to the system on the second day only, I returned for another listen. While the transformer certainly softened the edge somewhat, it also homogenized colors and smoothed over detail. Not a satisfactory fix by any means.

Don was obviously as dismayed as I, because we both know that these speakers can sound better. Hence, on the third day, he rotated the entire system 90°. Three visits to the same room, however, are impossible for someone covering an entire show solo. It is rare enough that, given I had only 28 rooms to cover, I was even able to revisit and reassess this and several other rooms before show's end. Ordinarily, we in the audiophile press only have enough time for a single, far too rushed listen before we must move on to the next room. To linger too long, let alone return on the last day when things finally fall into place, inevitably means that other systems will be shortchanged.

The Orion-4s were in a very different configuration than I've heard them before. Here they were paired with Pass Labs' excellent XP-20 two-chassis line stage preamp ($8600), X250.5 amplifier driving the four Orion-4 woofers ($8250), and two XA30.5 amplifiers ($5500 each); MSB Signature DATA CD ($3995), MSB Signature Platinum 384kHz-sampling rate DAC IV ($13,995), DAC optional volume control ($2295), Temo Second Galaxy Clock upgrade ($9950), and Signature Platinum Power Base with digital supply and Signature power cable ($3495); custom 10 ft. speaker cables ($500); and assorted Snake River Audio cables (approx. $15,000 total).