Paper and silk need a little bit of running in, but positioning and amplifier choice are more important. In terms of positioning, there seem to be no hard and fast rules here, apart from the usual ones of away from the walls and a slight toe-in. How far from the rear and side walls, how far apart, and how much of a toe-in, however, make crucial differences in the O/93’s overall performance. This can’t be stressed enough: if you get poor sound when playing, then it’s probably down to placement.
The choice of amplifier is relatively easier, as this is a sure-fire case of quality over quantity. As it’s an easy load and a relatively efficient speaker to drive, the O/93 doesn’t need a powerhouse amplifier and is arguably best with Class A solid-state amplifiers or low-power valve designs. The UK distributor, of course, resolves this because Graham Tricker makes some of the nicest valve amps out there in his Tron range, but those with a power house amplifier looking for something a little out of the ordinary should note that they will probably end up with an entirely inappropriate gain structure. This will necessitate using a volume control like a safe-cracker where small changes in volume level create large increases in outright volume.
There seems to have been a continued trend in loudspeakers toward a forward and bright sound. This seems to have been going on for as long as there have been metal dome tweeters, and that zingy, immediately gratifying sound shows little sign of such a trend abating. The alternative is often seen (with some justification) as the ‘pipe and slippers’ style laid-back sound of older loudspeakers. In fact, there are a handful of loudspeakers that take a middle path; a sound that isn’t an immediate crowd pleaser and isn’t like musical Mogadon, but instead makes a sound that is more honest to the music itself. The O/93 is very much in this smaller, but highly valued camp.
The O/93 is very definitely rich, in that it has a distinct sense of fullness and warmth across the midband that is extremely alluring. This is at odds with those who want to strip their music apart, and is the diametric opposite of the analytical studio monitor. Instead, using the O/93 is like side-stepping the whole studio system and sitting in front of the musicians. At times, this can get eerie: listening to ‘Jubilee Street’ by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away, Bad Seed Ltd] – a track never far from ‘disturbing’ – might make you want to get clean after listening, thanks to a presentation so vivid and visceral. But on most tracks, that ‘vivid’ and ‘visceral’ comes across as ‘realistic’ and ‘natural’ sounding.
The strange thing is the speakers don’t produce the kind of sound that you might imagine. They don’t give off the big, flubby, wobbly sound that you might expect from a 10” paper cone. They are actually quite taut and energetic sounding. They give good imaging – the wide baffle almost guarantees that – but don’t necessarily draw attention to that fact. Most of all, though, they are just so damn musical and enjoyable, and yes there is such a thing as a ‘musical’ loudspeaker: if you play ‘Love In Vain’ by the Rolling Stones from their live/studio tour album Stripped [Virgin] through the O/93 and compare the sound with that of many other loudspeakers, you’ll hear precisely what ‘musical’ is all about. It’s a sound that manages to convey ‘vibe’ as much as ‘information’, and that’s extremely alluring. Audio is in an entertainment business, and these are exceptionally entertaining loudspeakers, and that applies universally to all musical genres.
Perhaps the best thing about the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 is it is like a time machine for the listener. It winds the clock back to a time when music played through good audio was something new and exciting because it was new to you. We all remember that first, great audio system we experienced (whether it was your father’s hi-fi, or a friend’s system at college) and we tend to paint that experience in nostalgic colours. This isn’t a nostalgic view of the past, but it has something about it that will remind you of that first, great audio experience. Music is new and exciting through the O/93 and not only will you want to play those old favourites, you’ll probably enjoy them in a way you might have lost, too.
There’s a distinctly ‘turntable and tubes’ vibe about the O/93’s presentation. It does extremely well with solid-state amplification and digital sources, but those who think there’s some magic in vinyl and valves will see the Orangutan O/93 as the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle. While I don’t find the loudspeaker ‘fussy’ in terms of source components, digital audio replay needs to be exceptionally good when output through the O/93: otherwise it can sound either extremely ‘peaky’ or, paradoxically, rather dull sounding. When it’s good, though, it’s extremely good.