The Devore Fidelity Orangutan Reference

Why travel all the way from New York City to Munich to hear (and see) a loudspeaker made in Brooklyn? Because it’s easier to get from the Munich High End press room to the Devore Fidelity listening room here than it is to get from Manhattan’s upper west side to the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where the Devore Orangutan Reference loudspeakers are made.

I first heard a prototype of what would be come the O/Ref a couple of years ago at least; at that time the Reference was a very different beast, housed in a single rectangular box, much like the O/96 but, because of its brass fittings, even better looking. The most obvious evolution is that there now are two boxes for each channel. One box, dubbed the Ref A, looks much like the other speakers in the Orangutan line except for the brass fixtures (including brass ports on the Ref A) and the presence of an extra driver: a super tweeter. Also, the final (?) version’s top-down profile—both boxes—is an irregular pentagon—the back is no longer parallel to the front baffle but includes two panels that meet at an angle. Devore told me that the main, O/Ref/A box has a sensitivity of 98dB/W/m.

The second box—O/Ref/B—is the bass unit, with two 11″ woofers on the front baffle and a 700W analog amplifier inside. The two boxes are connected by a flat umbilical long enough to allow the bass unit be pushed back out of the way, perhaps into a corner. Unusually, the bass unit takes its input not from the preamp but directly from of the Ref A—which is to say, it further amplifies the bass part of the already amplified signal. The O/Ref/B bass unit has a very high input impedance, which preserves (via the voltage) the character of the loudspeaker/amplifier interaction while reducing the current.

Devore Fidelity has long manufactured products that, by high-end audio standards at least, are quite affordable. The Orangutan Reference, though, ups the ante considerably. The room sheet for the DeVore room at Munich lists the estimated price of the O/Ref at €90,000. John Devore told me that that the estimated U.S. price—the actual price will depend on options including the wood finish—is $85,000 for the four-box system.

The cabling in the room, by Tellurium, was priced proportionately: the Q Statement speaker cable at €12,900 for a 3-meter pair; Statement interconnects at €5500 / pair; €8600 worth of power cables. Electronics were by Audiomat, including the Solfege Reference amplifier (€7990 €) and the Maestro Reference DAC (€11,000), and the turntable and tonearm were by Frank Schroeder (€8000). The MC cartridge was a Dynavector XV1-T, stepped up by a Consolidated Audio transformer, which must be a prototype since the cost is only estimated: €4100.

In Munich, the O/Ref system was set up firing diagonally across a nearly square room, into which Devore had jammed a variety of organic soundproofing including some house plants; the inevitable room resonances were tamed, not killed. I’ve owned a pair of Devore Fidelity speakers for more than a decade, and I’ve listened extensively to two others in my own system, so I’ve got a good fix on the “DeVore sound:” warm and inviting, with good resolution but also rich, relaxed, comfortable bass. It’s an excellent sound—definitely a sound I can live with. Assuming I’m right about what he’s aiming for, then, with this system, John may have achieved his objective. Good as it is, it’s hard to imagine taking this sound much further.

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