$9000 speaker Orangutan or speaker + amplifier

Hey guys,

Wanted to see if I could get your opinion on this question I am noodling over.

I really need a speaker upgrade. Of all the speakers I have heard (which are not many) I really like Devore Orangutan (Priced $8000-$12000).

I also liked Harbeth (SHL5).

Am wondering if I should get the the Harbeth (used) and buy a nice set of new amps (Coincident Dragon $6500). Which could cost me about the same as a new pair of Devore Orangutan (cannot find them used).

So my question is :
Devore Orangutan + Pass Aleph 3 (my current amp)
Harbeth SHL5 + Coincident Dragon

What do you think ?

My current system.

Clearaudio Concept
Triode TRX-1 Preamp
Triode DAC
Pass Aleph 3
Pyle pro phono amp ($15)
Stager silver interconnects.
Cheapo AQ speaker cables (will move to something silver soon).
Vienna Acoustics Haydn

I mostly listen to Jazz, Indian Classical, Piano, Vocals
One paper, the Devore combo would appear to be a good one on paper largely due to the fairly high efficiency of teh speakers that should perforkm well with a high quality 30 w/ch amp like the Pass, which you already have.

Second combo uses very inefficient speakers without a lot of power to compensate, so that could be a bottleneck. Still would likely sound quite lovely for a lot of music though, and I could easily see where this might be the preferred combo for some, despite not matching up as well on paper.

So, in lieu of actually having heard either combo, the Devore/Pass combo seems better on paper + you already own the amp, so no change needed there to try. That would seem to be the logical choice based on the information available.

Remember though that one of the things that makes audio fun is that you can never know for certain what might sound good or not on any given day in any particular place until you hear, so while paper specifications are the best indicators of what should work together best technically, it is no guarantee of best sound.
I like the O/96s if you have enough room for them. They need space and at least 8 ft between them and the listener. I heard them in a small room and the magic was missing.

Perhaps you can buy the speaker you truelu love and then slowly build a system around them-- at least that is what I did. The Devore's love tubes.
I agree with Mapman and I really like the Orangutans! That would be my choice.
It is your money and I like the Harbeths & I would buy used and try with your current amp. I have owned the shl5's and they sound great with most amps. Your Pass Alpha 3 would proably work fine. Have not heard the Orangutans which might be a better speaker. Hard to fault the Harbeths. If it doesn't work just sell them.
Where can you get a pair of Coincident Dragons for $6500? PM me thru Agon system if you don't want to post it here.
I am always in favor of getting the speaker you like most and worry later about electronics.
I would get the DEVores.
Swampwalker, I cannot find the Dragons for $6500, If I did.....

Mapman, your reply makes total sense.
though my dealer claims a 40W Tube amp (Quad 2) can power SHL5. I did see some virtual systems powering SHL5s with 70-80W. THough he thinks with 30W I might not get the full dynamics.

One reason I want to try the Orangutans is that I want to venture into the world of SET amps. Would the O/93 work with SET, 0/96 is 4K more $$ :|

Bob, your thoughts make sense, it might cost less for me to try the Harbeths and then if it doesnt work sell it off.

hmmm... too many choices... too little $$ :)
Well, if the deciding factor is cost, then the decision is easy, get the less expensive speakers that you like. Don't overpay used + you can then sell again if needed without taking a big financial hit. Should sound quite good with the kinds of music you mention. Definitely so once the right amp is in place.

Volume sans clipping and dynamics possible are likely where the 30 watt amp with 86 db efficient speakers will have its achilles heel versus the alternative, but might not be a factor in your case. All combos have strengths and weaknesses. THat's why you find so many different ones out there.

Personally, for serious listening, I like to do whatever possible to avoid any chance of an amp clipping. CLipping is audio public enemy # 1, like Kryptonite to SUperman, usually. It is hard to avoid totally with many modern recordings in particular and effects can range from unclear to clearly noticeable. Avoid distortion due to clipping, and many choices then come down to a matter of personal preference. Nobody likes distortion due to clipping yet all hifi rigs are subject to it though, no matter how good otherwise. If dynamics continue to go up in proportion as long as you turn the volume knob up, you are usually in pretty good shape in regards to clipping. if dynamics start to level off even as the volume goes up, then the amp is probably clipping. Teh amount of power needed to prevent an amp from clipping with low efficiency speakers can be quite surprising!
Essrand- Sorry; I misunderstood your comment
(Coincident Dragon $6500)
to mean that you could buy them for $6500. I agree w you, if I could find them at that price, I'd buy them in a heartbeat.
Mapman, thanks for your response. What you say makes a lot of sense, am experiencing it (I think) right now. With Aleph 3 powering my Vienna Acoustics Haydn.

Arh, I once made the mistake of electronics later, speakers first. Never again. My haydns sound sooooo much better with 6K upgrade in electronics.

Hence my question: Am trying to understand if the Devores are so much better than Harbeth that it might beat a great tube amp + Harbeth, while being powered by Aleph 3.
Swampwalker, are the Dragons that good ? Have you heard them.

I have only heard of them.
Esrand realize also that tube amps will usually "soft clip" meaning that things may well still sound pretty good even when clipping, whereas most SS amps (not all) tend towards "hard clipping" meaning sonic effects of clipping are interpreted more as an unpleasant form of distortion.

I think you would find the clearest difference in performance between the two combos with pop/electronic/rock type music played at higher volumes. This is a listening scenario where soft clipping may often be clearly interpreted as a disadvantage versus no clipping at all in play, with either a suitable SS or tube amp.

NEt result is many get by fine with a lot fewer tube watts than SS, especially for mostly acoustic music played at lower to moderate volumes.

Of course there are many other factors that go into the sound besides clipping, but clipping is no doubt public enemy # 1 for most in terms of threat to achieving excellent results all the time, personal preferences aside.
The Orangutan is intended to be moderately high efficiency and an easy load for tube amplifiers. A transistor amplifier is not likely to show them off properly- I suspect that the design may not work properly with transistors. (for more on why, see http://www.atma-sphere.com/Resources/Paradigms_in_Amplifier_Design.php.)

Given what I have seen of them, to really make them sing you will want some power, of course a lot depends on your room!
Tube amp + Orangutan (very cool name for those speakers BTW) is likely a very good match, but I would still lean towards 30 w/ch Pass SS amp with 90+ db efficient Orangutans rather than any 30 w amp, tube or SS with 86 DB efficient speakers, Harbeth or otherwise, for best performance overall, given the choices, but personal preference in individual cases is probably the deciding factor in the end. None of the combos should sound bad, especially at low to moderate volumes. It all depends. THat's what keeps this stuff interesting. You often never know for sure until you try. Specs and technical designs only tell part of the whole story.

I thought the Orangutans O/96 will go well with SET amps (8-10W), is that not the case ? That would be sad, if so I will not bother with the Devore. My prime interest in this speaker would be to get a chance to try out SET amps and see what the fuss is all about.

Mapman, If I go for the Harbeth I would have to spend the 5K difference in price (between Harbeth and Devore) on a tube amp 50W+

So approx it will be same cost. 10K + change.

12K = Devore Orangutan
6K (Harbeth) + 6K (Higher power tube amp 60W) = 12K

Still wondering which might be better.
Having never heard either speaker, and seeing both options as viable, I see bigger up side with larger and more efficient and costly Devores even off you r current 30 watt amp, so my guess (only a guess) is that is the better way. But no telling which any individual might prefer. If someone has heard both speakers and could chirp in, that would be helpful.

Are you able to audition either before committing to buy new? That would be a big bonus.

Otherwise, wait to buy either used when you can and do not overpay and then sell and try other later if still needed without taking much of a financial hit.

Otherwise, take your pick (along with new amp if needed), but be prepared to loose money if you buy new and end up still wanting to try the other and have to sell to finance. With Harbeth, if you sell you might decide to keep the new tube amp to use with Devores and sell old amp, in which case financial loss would be less selling just new less expensive Harbeths.
If you're buying the Devores new, why don't you take advantage of your dealer's expertise? Nobody here owns them, so everyone is basically talking out of their ass. Go to the dealer, try them with a set amp and try them in your home if you need to. Then you'll really know if everything works. When you pay full retail, you should take advantage of the dealer's services. That's a significant part of what you're paying for. I've owned the SHL5 and they are wonderful, so you won't be making a mistake with them either. It's just that if you're buying used, you don't get to hear them before buying. It's a crapshoot at best as to whether they'll work in your room.
As a reality check, given your current system, have you considered upgrading your turntable first. My view would be that you would get a more fundamental improvement by upgrading your front end rather than your speakers.
Having said that, I have heard the Orangutans on quite a few amps. They are very enigmatic. They definitely open up with tube amps, but I have noticed that even with tube amps they can go from closed in, compressed and unimpressive to open, fast and fluid. The best amps I have heard on the Orangutan's were a small Shindo amp, by a long way. I suspect that if you buy the Orangutans you will need to try amplifiers before buying, otherwise you will be risking matching issues and may be extremely disappointed.
Having heard the Tannoy Kensingtons in the same system as the Orangutans for similar money I would look to the Tannoy Kensingtons.
Room size and acoustics.....always a determining factor for what will work best.
I have heard both the O/93 and 0/96. THe 96's with Shindo gear in a large 14X20 room and they make large and involving music that is rich and fills the room. I have also heard them in a small room and I didn't like them as much. They are a no compromise speaker that with the right gear and right room might make one feel they have at arrived at a place where upgrades are no loner needed.
I have also heard the 93's in a smaller room with Line Magnetic gear and also thought they very engaging. My time with the 93s was limited so I have a less solidified impression, but the music sounded right.
Hearing all your speaker choices and find the one you like the best. Talk to John Devore. Talk to your dealer.
talk to the several guys in this forum who own 93s and 96s.
I wouldn`t give up the idea of using a SET so quickly. If the Devore is truly 96 db sensitive and has an easy load(said to be 8- 10 ohms) a good 300b or 845 SET amp would be quite a fine match. Just go to the dealer and ask to hear it with an SET amp as Chayro wisely suggested. It seems to me the chances are very good for a successful pairing. Just go and listen.Essrand for an example, my speaker is 94db -14 ohm load(Coincident) and Chayro`s speaker is 92 db -8 ohm load(Trenner-Friedl). Both of these speakers are driven effortlessly and beautifully with our respective SET amps.These are speakers meant to be very easy loads and mate well with SET amps. Give it a try first before you reach any conclusions.
Good Luck,
Food for thought, the Trenner-Friedl Pharaoh compares favorably to the Orangutan in both price and design objectives.
Chayro, No dealer near me (within 400 miles) deals with Orangutan 0/96. There is one dealer who has a O/93 that they are testing out. So I might be able to audition that with a SET. Its a good idea.

I do like the SHL5, have heard them multiple times, so its a safe choice for sure.

Charles1dad, I cannot find any pricing information for the Pharaoh, do you know how much it retails for ? Would be great to get more suggestions on SET friendly speakers. I know Coincident, Devore. And thats it.
I've heard 97 db zu essence off 6 watt set amp. It worked pretty well with much of the music demoed but Zu guy admitted when I queried that the amp was under powered for certain kinds of music like the Rush lp I asked to hear. Bass was noticeably thin and missing dynamics. Also heard large hi eff classic audio speakers of off beefier atmasphere amp. That combo seemed to deliver the music with ease.
I have heard the Orangutans with a 211 SET amp and the combination sounded nice. If it is an easy load, and truly 96 db efficient, it should work reasonably well with even lower-powered amps. To me, the key is "easy" load more so than high efficiency. I have heard the notoriously inefficient Rogers 3/5A (15 ohm version) used with a 5 watt amp and the combination sounded very good, with no hint of clipping even at fairly high volume.

A lot depends on how loud you require the system to go. Most SET users actually appreciate the fact that their systems can sound very full, dynamic and exciting at surprisingly modest volume levels.

But, if you insist on playing SETs very loud, what you will first notice is that the music actually sounds dull (the dynamics will be compressed long before very obvious distortion from clipping is heard). I think that the kind of music where the limitations of SETs can be best heard is large choral works, particularly works without instruments (e.g., Rachmaninov's Vespers with a good Russian choir)--it is easy to hear the voices become muddled and inarticulate.

I have heard Trenner and Friedl speakers (can't remember the models) and they sound very good to me--they have the great dynamics that one finds mostly with high efficiency speakers.

I personally find that there are very few commercial speakers that I like that are SET friendly, particularly if one is insisting on high volume level and a commensurate efficiency pushing at 100 db/w or more. That usually means horns, and most horn systems have a lot of midrange coloration that one has to either learn to love or ignore. The systems I have heard that minimize horn colorations are custom built, use very hard to find old drivers or use some very expensive new drivers. On the other hand, if one is willing to live with restrictions on use at extreme volume level, quite a number of good speakers can be used, such as Audionote, Spendors, even ProAc.
the Trenner-Friedl Pharaoh I believe is 12,500.00 currently. I heard the T.-Friedl RA Box driven by the Viva Verona at CES a few years ago and it totally outclassed the vast majority of the high power amps driving the typical moderate efficiency(85-88 db)/4 ohm types that were in abundance there.That combination was very impressively natural, involving emotionally, simply realistic.

All SET amps aren`t created equally, get one with excellent transformers and power supply and paired with an appropriate speaker and I think you`d be very happy.

I have not heard the Orangutans but judging by Art Dudley's description in Stereophile and knowing what he likes a stereo system to sound like I would go with them. But I am not buying them. And judging by your description of the music you like I would go for the Harbeths....
"The best amps I have heard on the Orangutan's were a small Shindo amp, by a long way. I suspect that if you buy the Orangutans you will need to try amplifiers before buying, otherwise you will be risking matching issues and may be extremely disappointed."

All the Shindo amps are small...?
I thought the Orangutans O/96 will go well with SET amps (8-10W), is that not the case ? That would be sad, if so I will not bother with the Devore. My prime interest in this speaker would be to get a chance to try out SET amps and see what the fuss is all about.

Essrand, as you have seen from the responses an SET might be a very good idea to try out with this speaker. A lot is going to depend on your room- in a bigger room you are going to need more power and an SET may not work so well then. Generally to get the best out of an SET you want the speaker to be very efficient so that the amp does not make over about 20-25% of its full power. That way the low distortion/inner detail of the amp will be best shown off.

We have customers running that speaker too, so from our point of view the speaker is very tube friendly, enough so that a small OTL works just fine on it. The speaker is pretty revealing, so whatever amp you get, you will want to give it your best shot.
Essrand, whay dont you go up within Vienna Acoucstic line and get something like Baby Grand SE or Imperial grand.
Denon1, I think those speakers might need more power than my Aleph 3 30 watts. Also am looking for a change, I love my Haydn they are detailed, warm but I feel like I am looking for something more, like transparency. I am tempted to go up the VA line, its a safe bet for sure.

Dover, Do you really think an upgrade on TT will be better than an upgrade on the speakers (going from VA Haydn to Harbeth) or an upgrade in amplifier (Aleph 3 to Coincident Dragon). Also I am new to Vinyl and this is my first serious TT.

I have recently heard these speakers at a show. They were driven by a Luxman class A integrated rated at 30 watts in 8 ohms (I believe it was the L-590AII integrated). The sound was very good and the speakers were able to fill very well a large room that had 15 - 20 people in it. I have actually looked for a short while at the power meters of the integrated, and to my surprise it still had 10-20 dBs of heard room even though the music was played quite loud (i.e. around 90 dBs).
Hi Nvp,

Thanks for your response.

Do you know if these the Orangutans O/93 or the O/96 ?

(The O/96 have stands on them)
Hi Essrand,

It was the Orangutans O/96 model. (I left our this detail because, for what ever reason, I was convinced this thread is about the O/96 model.)

10-02-13: Essrand
Dover, Do you really think an upgrade on TT will be better than an upgrade on the speakers (going from VA Haydn to Harbeth) or an upgrade in amplifier (Aleph 3 to Coincident Dragon). Also I am new to Vinyl and this is my first serious TT.
Hi Essrand - you have some nice gear in your present system. If you spend $9-12k on speakers the potential of the speakers will outstrip that of your turntable. The question of where to spend your money depends on how much are you going to use the vinyl front end. If you are going to invest heavily in more vinyl records, then I would suggest you would be better off spending $5k on your TT, and the balance on some speakers that work with your existing gear. On the other hand, sometimes it is more economical to buy the best components you can each time that you buy to reduce the changeovers and the inherent cost of changing gear more often, so if you find some speakers that you really like go for it. Whichever way you go - good luck with your upgrade. My best advice would be to listen before buying whenever possible.
Yes yes on the suggestion of Tannoys. Get the real deal, a speaker that will stay with you for decades and be supportable for decades. But, if you go with the Orangs, nice speaker.

Don't go for the Zu's....how can these guys stand the high distortion/harshness from these? I know of several people who had to get out of them after a few years due to fatigue, and I have direct experience. They get reeled in by dynamics and and driven away due to harshness. You never hear that about Orangs or Tannoys.

I agree with you about the Orangutans, Tannoys and Zus. I like the Tannoy Kensingtons I heard at a local dealer. It sounds reasonably lively while not being exremely colored like many lively, higher efficiency speakers can be. But, like all other speakers, it has its weaknesses and strengths and requirements for coupling with other components. To me, there is a slight raspiness in the midrange that needs to be tamed with the use of the right kind of amp and careful setting of the controls on the speaker. Still, I enjoyed it very much.
Hi Larry,

Not surprised we agree....those traits are there, if folks want to ignore them, fine, but they ignore the reality.

Re: Kensigntons, they have a small degree of raspiness, but so much less than Zus....and so can the Orangutans. SETs help, but this is a coverup and like all coverups, not completely effective.

For no rasp Tannoy performance one must go to the pepperpot waveguide, which is on the Prestige series.

He seems to want DeVores, guessing he'll go there. That's not a mistake speaker, and they do not gloss so many things over like the Harbeths....which are pleasurable, but we have to be truthful and say that the honey is due to nice colorations and forgiving some of the real detail and bite of some instruments. To me, far better than harsh gritty speakers that over emphasize things yet seem so popular.
OP says "Of all the speakers I have heard (which are not many)...."

For that much outlay, unless that is a small amount for you, is there any way you can go out to do more listening?

RMAF is coming up.....

Before you go, if you could find some unamplified concerts (orchestral, chamber, jazz with no PA, which can be found in small venues, friends who play instruments) so you can get a dose, a good dose, of the real thing sitting in your short term memory?
Good and interesting impressions of various speakers. I'd suggest Coincident speakers as another easy to drive and very balanced and honest sounding speaker.Zu seems to be very polarizing brand, there doesn't appear to be a middle ground. There are people who's judgements I respect that say the new Druid V and the Definition IV models are excellent, I've heard neither.

Tonian Labs and Ocellia are two other considerations to mate with lower powered amplifiers. I agree wholeheartedly with Kiddman regarding listening to live acoustic instruments, there's no substitute for hearing the real thing. Live jazz (and also my own trumpet and our piano) are unbeatable templates. There's more full body and warmth of tone with live instruments that many speakers/components tend to thin out and sound artificially lean and colorless. Live is very vibrant with harmonics, tonal and timbral color
Good Luck,
Thanks Charles. We agree. Two to three hours a day I hear myself play, as well as record myself and play it through my system. You need to keep the ears/brain educated. One can improve pitch through practice. A player can improve musical phrase recognition through practice. Likewise, a listener can improve the skills of listening through practice, but not by listening to stereos, but rather real music.

And yes, we agree about Coincident. I don't know if he's brilliant, smart, average, if he has taken technical courses, but he just has to be a good listener. His exhibits sound much more like music than the vast majority. I know of two current HOT brands that could only dream about lower levels of distortion like Coincident achieves.
Sorry Charles, about the typo of lower case "C" on our name.
I think Harbeth versus the Devores will lead down two significantly different paths to get best results. One is high efficiency, one is not. THat alone makes a huge difference regarding what might be needed for best results for a highly discerning listener.

Not all listeners are equally discerning. Those that are not have it easier and are not as hard to please.

If op has not heard many speakers/systems, I agree it would be desirable to get more mileage under his belt with various types and what to expect from each before deciding. Or, just pick one and focus on getting which ever choice it is set up and performing as best it can based on whats best for that kind of speaker. Its all good stuff, but apples and oranges from a pure technical perspective and what will go along with each in order to make shine.
How about the size of the room, as far as larger speakers go.
Agree with Arh, get the speakers you most prefer FIRST. On a further note it would be easier and quite likely less expensive to find a quality amp that would meld more ideally with a higher efficiency speaker than choosing a lower efficiency speaker that is going to be more limited in amplifier choices. Go with the speaker you REALLY like, which you indicated is the Orangutan, is this right? Your Pass is a really nice amp, maybe limited in the lower frequencies but I'd still bet it would sound great with those speakers, high efficiency and higher impedance. That speaker is going to love a lot of amplifiers if the Pass doesn't work out, even inexpensive SETs and of course OTLs, if either turns out to be your thing.
And Kidmann, I feel your passion, you make some very excellent points.
Larger speakers might be overkill for smaller or more lively rooms. Definitely worth considering.
Kiddman, based on your post I am now looking for flight tickets to Denver for RMAF. Will update if I make it there.

I did listen to number of speakers at CAS 2013, but I think RMAF might be the way to go.

Am also intrigued about your comments on Harbeth. Can you elaborate ? I did not realize that Harbeth are known to be a bit colored and lacking in detail.

I have heard Tannoys, but only the 35K Royal Westminister SE, which I felt was not that impressive. It might have been the SS amps though. The dealer did not have any Tubes at that time.

Heard Tannoy DC10 at CAS 2013, it was extremely impressive.

My preference has been with Devore because when I heard it, I loved it. and it might go well with SET amps, which is something I want to explore.

My safe choice was Harbeth, cheaper but harder to drive, and I will have to upgrade my amps.
The various higher efficiency speakers mentioned so far would all work very well with a SET amp. There may be no looking back.