In Focus: DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96

Every now and again, I get my greasy monkey paws on something truly fine. This? This is one of those times.

Say hello to the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96.

I borrowed this pair from my local dealer Command Performance, down in Falls Church VA. He’s had them as demos for about a year or so now, and I’ve been itching to bring them for an extended visit pretty much since I first heard about them, much less heard them. The stars aligned, and I got to borrow them — and now, you get to read about it in my unreview.

I’m a fan of John DeVore’s work, and the O/96 marks a happy milestone, if not precisely a departure for him. That is, the Orang isn’t entirely different in kind — it still has DeVore sensibilities. The presentation is engaging and there’s a that signature emphasis on tone that is altogether beguiling and seductive. You probably already know that it’s a 10 ohm loudspeaker with a 96dB sensitivity that (figuratively speaking) screams SET, something and of itself rather remarkable, especially given how rare this approach is (at least these days it is). And yes, I can happily report that this Orang pairs spectacularly with an 8wpc BorderPatrol 300b-based amplifier. Oh yes, yes indeedy.

The speakers are rear ported, so expect to fiddle with their placement. Let me suggest you also endeavor get adequate distance for the listener — John says that the design, which may seem to sit a bit low on the visual horizon, works best from 8’+. My listening agrees with this. Sit too close and the sound stage “feels” a bit short, get the distance right and everything unfolds like a giant sunflower, and you’ll be prompted to over-write sentences stuffed full of absurd strings of adjectives that no one is going to take seriously.

The bass response on the O/96 is actually what drew my eye, if you’ll pardon the confession — John has it spec’d at 25Hz (F3). That’s deep, folks! 25Hz, with a high sensitivity, for $12,000/pair, that’s a really an unusual combo. And that bass is outstanding, just have a care as proper positioning will take it from “plummy” to “punchy”.

The front baffle is a thick slab of plywood, but that big, flat surface is just begging for an exotic-wood veneer, which John is very happy to help you select. The veneer here was  specifically selected for a “light” appearance, but most of the O/96s you meet in a dark alley for that longed-for nightly tryst will have a bit more dramatics thrown in. Special order veneers will add a bit to the order time and bottom line, but given the flexibility, I’d strongly suggest considering getting your jollies out and picking a veneer that screams sex at you turns your particular crank — you’re going to want to put these babies where everyone is going to see them and not just hear them.

If you look at the rear of the cabinets, you’ll notice there are no terminals — they’re actually mounted on the bottom of the cabinet. Tricky! Getting to them means reaching up under the separate, matching, four-legged stand. Personally, I think this tidies up the appearance quite a bit, but tightening up a pair of spade-laden speaker wires may require some careful tipping — or smashing your fat face onto the floor as you try to get at least one eye to focus enough to see which terminal has the red ring around it.

The tweeter sits in a small horn, which means you’ll have to toe the speakers in. I found that on-axis was best. Shooting over my shoulders widened the sound stage without detracting from focus, which was eerily pin-point, but the best height and depth came from straight-on.

So, in this unreview, I can tell you that the O/96 sounds and looks killer. The sound is big and bold, and that bass is so terrifically welcome … yeah.

As part of my ongoing search for a SET-based system, this was a huge score, and yes, I’m thrilled with this speaker. Some day, I hope I’ll have the permission opportunity to do them justice with a full review, but in the meantime, Art Dudley, a real reviewer, did a fine job of that over at Stereophile. Check that out, here.

Just a side note, in case you were wondering. I ran these with an S10 EXD stereo amplifier from BorderPatrol, a dual-mono/dual external PSU 300b SET. I paired that with a BorderPatrol Control Unit EXT1 and iced that cake with a NOS DAC that I need to talk more about at some point. Best sound I’ve heard in the home system. Budget permitting, I’ll be bringing all of this stuff in as part of a more permanent relationship.

I think I’m done!

About Scot Hull 1039 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.


  1. I have to ask as you have both: Magnepan 3.7’s (which I have) or the O/96’s?
    This question is killing me, I love the open panel sound however there is something about the O/96’s that intrigue me as well as the smaller package. That said I have not heard the O/96’s.

    • The Maggies are half the price of the Orangs — does that help?

      Half that equation is going to be the amps. Got amps you love? If so, are they high output or low?

      But from a SQ issue, they’re both very good even if they’re very different.

  2. There is no such thing as a perfect speaker, regardless of price, but these have a very well balanced set of qualities. Good sensitivity, high(ish) impedance, generous bandwidth, no obvious colourations and a lively, clean, engaging sound. They worked fine with my BorderPatrol 8W SET and a 20W PP. I’m not easily pleased, but I like these.

  3. I, unlike most of the women on this earth, like the look of these sort of speakers. Much like the Audio Notes and Voxativ there’s something attractive about their homeliness. Having said that, I recall hearing from those that measure these things that they measure incredibly poorly and ring like a bell and hence sound rather rubbish.

    • Stereophile did some measurements, and did mention some of the issues. That said, I’ve heard them in several locations and spent a couple weeks with a pair. “Rubbish” is probably what you could get if you didn’t set them up correctly, perhaps, but it’s more likely what you’d get if all you did was not listen to them.

      • Wide baffle. Live cabinet. Medium sensitivity.

        The Stereophile measurements suggest a warm, somewhat dynamic speaker when paired with an amp with >1 ohm output impedance. Based on Atkinson’s measurements, I’d probably look to push-pull designs that offer around 20-50 watts. I’d worry about single ended designs that offered much less than ten watts. This clearly isn’t a speaker for the 2a3 fan club.

        It would seem to measure extraordinarily well given its driver complement. I suspect that cabinet resonance and directivity issues could be a greater or lesser problems depending on positioning, but I’d hardly call those measurements “rubbish.” I would say that this is a speaker that probably needs a bit of care in positioning if you want to get the best out of it, and a bit of care in selecting its amplification if you don’t want to be miserable.

        I haven’t listened to a pair for more than a few minutes at a stretch. They seemed warm, rich, musical, and promising — probably the most immediately *pleasant* DeVore speakers I’ve heard. I’ll let the people who’ve lived with them decide if they’re any good.

  4. I like the O96, they strike me as Audio Note AN-E’s on steroids, which might be why I have some reservations about them. Yes, lots of bass, but to me, a disproportion between their big bass driver and their tweeter. I’d be interested in the O93 to see if the balance shows more finesse.

    • I think that’s a forgivable conclusion, but inaccurate. I think the AN-E would very much like to sound like this, without resorting to turning the corners of your room into a half-assed horn in order to produce real bass. Both derive from another design, entirely, but I suspect that it’s the O/96 that cleaves more truly to the original design (which I forget — was it Snell?).

      Bass balance is a matter of positioning. The DeVore is ported to the rear, and that’s always harder to integrate that a front-facing or down-facing port (or a sealed enclosure, for that matter).

      That said, the O/93 is an excellent speaker in it’s own right. Not really suitable for an SET, though, and hence out of scope for my purposes ….

      • Yeah, both are similar to old Snell designs. Audio Note actually bought the design from Snell when the founder died and the successor took the company in a different direction. While the geometry is similar, the materials and drivers are different now, as well as a redone bass port meant to load a corner, less be int he middle of a room.

        DeVore I think it closer to the original Snell, actually, so Snell fans can get something pretty close to what they would have done today with them.

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