Contemplating DEVORE SPEAKERS (and others)....LONG audition report of many speakers


Told you it was long!

I figure what the heck, some people may find all of it interesting, maybe only some, maybe none.  No one forced to read it.  So onward....

Folks,

I've had Thiel 3.7s for several years and love them dearly. As I've mentioned in other threads, I have to downsize simply due to some ergonomic and aesthetic issues in my room - the speakers have to go partially by the entrance and so any big, deep speakers tend to get in the way.

Over the last two years or so I did a whole bunch of auditioning of many speakers over a year ago to find a replacement - Audio Note, Audio Physic, Focal, Raidho monitors, JM Reynaud, Paradigm Persona, various Revel models, Monitor Audio, Proac, Kudos, Harbeth, Joseph Audio...

I was going to give a report on all of them individually, at one point, but it's been a while so I'll just throw out some thumbnail impressions. They aren't meant to be particularly descriptive of the sound so much as brief reasons as to why I enjoyed or moved on from those speakers. I always sought the best set up achievable for an audition, but of course that's still not like being able to tune a speaker in one's own room. So caveats given, on with some brief impressions:

Audio Note:

(I forget which exact model but it was in the "quite expensive but not impossible" zone for me)
Excellent clarity. Good impact. Nice woody tonality (as in does wood instruments like cello, stand up bass etc with a convincing tone). My main issue is that I could really hear the corner loading aspect of the sound, especially in the lower mids down. Not that the bass was incontinent per se, more that I was just aware of the way the illusion of the bigger bass and sound was being created, in terms of using wall re-enforcement.

Also, I'm a real stickler about instrumental tone and timbre. I've always found that the more room you introduce into the sound, especially in the upper frequencies, the more it will tend to cast a scrim of room sound over the timbre of voices and instruments, homogenizing the most delicate aspects of the timbre. As the Audio Notes pretty much require or are meant to use the room, this was an aspect it would seem hard to get around. (That's one reason I tend to like speakers that will work closer to my listening position).

Audio Physic:

I'm very familiar with the AP sound - have had the Virgos, Scorpios and Libra in my home and heard much of the line through the years. The Avanti was terrific, tonally neutral sounding, clear lively treble without ear piercing. And of course their magical disappearing act, which I love.   But didn't have enough of the richness I'd become used to with the bigger Thiels. I suspect the larger Codex woud be killer, but they get in to the too deep/large category.

Focal

I've always found Focal to have a "look at me" sound to their tweeter. Nonetheless I often admired the rich tonality of their large speakers at audio shows. Unfortunately I never found this to transfer to their smaller stand mounted speakers. They struck me as more clinical and left me cold. Recent Audition of the Kanta 2 still had the "check out our TWEETER!" Focal sound, but was smooth and vivid enough.   Unfortunately to my ears sounded too "hi-fi" with disjointed bass.   My Thiels at home sounded far more organic and believable.

Raidho

Listened to the tiny X1s which were remarkable performers for their size. Super clear, clean, open, killer soundstaging, good snap on drums - represented Joe Morello's solos on Brubeck at Carnegie Hall far more convincingly than any tiny speaker has a right to. Ultimately, too small.

Dealer had a killer deal on the larger C 1.2 stand mounted speakers and I had hope there. I have never, ever liked a ribbon tweeter with cones because every time I hear the discontinuity. I'd say the Raidhos are the first time I did not hear that discontinuity. So it was all that air and delicacy without the usual drawback. However, I'm thinking part of the magic for this has to do with their house curve, which isn't flat but has a "concert hall" dip in the upper mids (I think). Ultimately I tended to hear this as a coloration, a recessing of a portion of the sound. I'm used to the Thiels which at my place are phenomenally linear sounding top to bottom. So there would be percussion instruments, piano parts, and other instruments that would be more distant and subdued on the Raidhos, losing some of the realistic liveliness. I didn't really hear more detail than I was used to from my Thiels, found the sound a bit "grayed" tonally, though rich in the mids and upper bass. These things KICK in terms of upper bass presence and sound much bigger than they are. But I also found that a slightly over-bearing.

In fact, that's a problem I often have with monitor speakers. So many of them are engineered to sound bigger than they are so you don't feel like you are missing base, but the goosing of the bass to achieve this can be to my ears a bit obnoxious vs the more linear bass of a good floor standing speaker (though down lower, they can have their room problems...my Thiels do not).

JM Reynaud Offrande Supreme v2

I was very serious about these speakers. I'd been around for the initial JMR hype years ago, and heard most of their models at a local store. Always had nice tone, both incisive and warm, but a bit too far into the ever-present-coloration territory to my ears. Still, I believe the Supremes had been updated since then and I had two separate auditions at a Dealer when I was visiting Montreal.

They certainly had the JMR virtues. Super clear, almost hot high end, lively presence all around, yet somehow allied to a gorgeous warm tone. This brings in one of the things I like in a speaker - a warm tone not necessariily in the sense of a ripe lower midrange, but rather timbrally - warm in the sense that when an acoustic guitar track is played through the speaker, the signature is that of the warmth of wood, instead of the cold, electronic coloration of most systems. The JMR does this with acoustic instruments and voices. Everything with an amber or blond-wood "glow."   And they definitley have a dynamic/transient/open sound that gives a feeling of musicians being right there, playing right now vibe.

Ultimately I found they were a bit biting to my ear in the upper frequencies. While the forwardness was a boon to putting musicians right in front of me, it also tended to fore-shorten depth. An always "they are here" vs "I'm transported to there" vibe. Also, the bass which was really big and deep - they are huge stand mount speakers! - was a bit on the pudgy side. But I get why people love them. If I had the opportunity I'd have liked to try them at home. (Though...maybe not. I actually don't like how they look, and REALLY don't like the JMR wood finishes).

Paradigm Persona

(I believe it was the 3F). Yup, these babies are clear, clear, clear and grain free. They are balanced top to bottom and were, like the Revel, the closest to my Thiel 3.7 speakers in terms of sounding balanced from top to bottom. Drum snares, cymbals, rim hits, percussion, guitar strings etc all had a fairly riveting precision. They had an open-window into the recording studio feel on almost every track. Plus, for their size they sounded BIG, including the image sizes, depth, width of the soundstage. A tremendous speaker for the money. Ultimately I couldn't get on with their looks, at least for my room. But most important, I did find them somewhat fatiguing to listen to after a while, and a bit less organic than my Thiels. (Though I'd bet that could change for the better if set up at my home on my gear).

Revel

I'd repeat most of what I just wrote about the Paradigms. They sounded similar, though the Paradigms seemed to have a next-level sense of purity and transparency vs the Revel. And the Revels tended to sound just a bit more linear and controlled top to bottom. The Revels just sounded like really competent speakers, but didn't grab me.
Again, something about the timbre/tone I get with the Thiels (and some other speakers) have an "it" factor I don't get with the Revels.

Monitor Audio (Gold, I believe - a smaller floor stander)

I've always liked the Monitor Audio sound. My father-in-law uses a HUGE pair of Monitor Audio monitors from the 80's that still strike me as one of the best marriages of believable tone with size and richness I've heard.
I own Monitor Audio bronze monitors for various uses, including home theater surrounds. Though I found once they moved to the Platinum line, with ribbons, the tone became a bit too bleached for my comfort.
The smaller Gold line still was able to do the "golden, bronze" tones in the upper frequencies...just turning toward silver a bit. They were astonishingly clean and clear, with a rainbow of timbral colors coming through. My main gripe is that I realized nothing actually sounded "real" - in the sense of believably organic. Everything sounded a bit hard around the edge - sibilance in vocals for instance being laid bare as processed in a bit too ruthless manner.

Proac - D20R (I believe...)

Love the look of these especially the wood finish in ebony on the model I auditioned. Would really have been a perfect size replacement for the Thiels, and went down about as low. Unfortunately I couldn't get around the extremely obvious character of the ribbon tweeter vs the mids/bass. I was always aware of it, and generally found the sound too cool in the upper frequencies to really get into.  Bass was also not particularly impressive in terms of tone and control.  One of the more disappointing speaker auditions.

Kudos

You really don't hear much about Kudos around here. Lack of dealers and North American presence I guess (as it seems to me a majority of people posting here are from North America...if I am indeed right about that).
Anyway, at a TAVES shows a few years ago I was frankly astonished by the sound coming from a pair of Kudos Super 20 floor standing speakers. It had a brilliant, reach out and grab me "alive" tone that made my brain think "real performance" more than most of what I'd heard that day. A bit forward...but wow what an effect. So they went on to my radar.

Turns out a local dealer carried Kudos, and there I heard some very small floor standing Kudos X3 speakers.
Well, there it was! That tone! Like the bigger model I'd heard at the show, this one had a dialed up upper frequency range that gave liveliness and detail. But it was, somewhat like the JMR speakers, allied to a generally warm tone, with a spectrum of timbral color to trumpet, wood blocks, acoustic guitar etc. If found the sound quite compelling, and so wondered about Kudos higher end models. As it turned out, Kudos in the last year has come out with the Titan range, a trickle down from their flagship. I really liked the design of the Titan 606 speakers, they were a great replacement size for the Thiels from the specs. But...my local dealer didn't want to bring them in so I would never hear them (I certainly did not want him to order them just for my sake, given I couldn't know before hearing them if I'd want to buy them).

But then during a recent trip to Europe I ended up in London for a couple days, so I found a Kudos dealer there.
And not only did he have the 606s for me to hear, but also the literally just introduced stand mounted Titan 505 that had many people raving at a recent British audio show.   Very cool. Both speakers, as with most Kudos speakers, employ isobaric loading for the bass.

Both the 505 and 606 displayed the Kudos house sound which was that lively top end. Great for adding bit to guitar picking, hearing the bow on strings, transient aliveness etc. Even if not strictly neutral, it's fun (so long as timbres to my ears are otherwise organic).   I found the 505 to actually sound a bit less balanced than the floor standing speaker. I suppose this is my allergy to the "tiny speaker trying to sound like a big speaker" tuning, but the bass seemed somewhat over-warm, and the speakers themselves a tad clinical from the mids up. Still, they were spacious, enthusiastic sounding, with great separation of instruments and voices. And certain tracks like Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind were actually magical on the 505. A similar warm timbre to the JMR speakers, and the added top end sparkle livened up the guitars and strings which can sound a bit tepid on many other speakers.

The larger 606 speakers sounded more linear, richer, a bit darker, and produced a satisfyingly large sound for their size. Similar to the Revel or Paradigm speakers.   The upper frequency balance was a double edged sword: it could make drum high hats, snares, cymbals, guitars stand out in particularly, and satisfyingly, vivid relief. But could also highlight the studio/microphone/effects on voices making vocals sound a bit more "hi-fi" than most. But naturally recorded vocals were by the same token vivid and clear.   Bass had an interesting character, sort of tight, punchy and big...a sense of the bass "spreading" in the room.   My impression veered between "impressive" on the bass and "hmm...not sure I'm sold on this isobaric bass."  I'll say that Herbie Hancock's Chameleon, one of my test songs on most speakers, was produced in a particularly compelling, vivid manner. The drums were just crystal clear and had that "live drum playing" feeling.   It was one of those "wow" moments that kind of haunt you when you hear a certain track sound different and more realistic than normal.

That said, some other tracks veered into the intolerable territory (e.g. horns too piercing on Earth Wind and F ire live). It's the kind of audition that was very promising in some areas, leaving me thinking "these COULD be awesome if I could tame the problems and keep the good parts." Maybe on tubes, and in my well damped room.   But a one time, not terribly long audition didn't allow me to commit to such an expensive purchase, when I hear some things that leave me with misgivings.I wish these models landed locally because I could further warm up to them, but that was the only shot at them.

Harbeth:

I auditioned the various models - Monitor 30.1, C7ES-3, Super HL5 Plus. (Also listened to the 40s, since they had them set up).

I love the Harbeth sound and there's little need to describe it, since so many are familiar. But wow...their particular magic with voices is something. They somehow capture voices actually being produced by an organic person vs an electronic version of a person. No matter what type of material, jazz, processed pop, R&B, even electronica/dance, they always seem be be able to find the "person" singing in the mix.   And of course they have such a smooth, full, rich sound with acoustic instruments sounding very much themselves.

The Monitor 30.1 had those qualities, but I was a bit too aware of their bass limitations (cut off at the knees), and was also aware of a bit of darkness, lack of "air." In the close my eyes "could I believe that guitar or person is really there" test, a darkening of tone, a shelving of the upper frequencies, are usually a dead giveaway to me of the artifice.   But within it's range....gorgeous.

The C7ES-3 were wonderful. There was that bass extension! Displayed the Harbeth mids if not quite as refined. But over all I found the bass a little less controlled than I'd want.

Super HL5 Plus was the Goldilocks choice of the group. It had the added bass extension I heard from the C7ES, but with better integration and control. It had super refined, open, smooth, rich midrange, but with the added top end openness and extension (addition of the super tweeter?) that made the sound more realistic and believable to me. Though I was still hearing some things that I felt my Thiels did better so I wasn't quite sure yet.
Unfortunately, when I came back to this particular store to audition the HL5 Plus I didn't have a good audition experience.   I've described the experience elsewhere here, so won't repeat it. But suffice it to say, it did not make me want to move forward with this particular store. (I have more recently had very good interactions with this store, so I would say my bad experience probably turned out to be an anomaly at that location).

Anyway, the Harbeths dropped off my radar for over a year until I heard the Super HL5 Plus sounding superb in the Montreal Audio show.   Intriguing. Later on an audio mart I saw a pair in a gorgeous rosewood finish for, by far, the best price I've ever seen for a used Harbeth.   I grabbed them, knowing I could definitely sell them without losing money,  with this thought: They are not in the finish I want. So I'll use them as a "home audition" of the Harbeths and if I love them, I'll sell these ones and go to my local dealer to buy brand new ones in the finish I require.

It turned out I really really liked the Super HL5 Plus, but didn't love. They did all the wonderful Harbeth things, that big rich sound, in this model especially, also with a studio-monitor clarity, and generally organic sound.
However, I simply found my Thiels did essentially everything the Harbeths did, but better. I never could get a satisfying depth to the soundstage of the Harbeths (not usually a problem in my room), always sounding a bit fore-shortened. And it seemed a flip-side of the fullness/lively cabinet design was a certain "filling in the spaces with texture" quality. The Thiels, for instance, separated the Los Angelese Guitar Quartet's guitars more effortlessly, with more precision and realism and tonal density, but without sacrificing any image size or warmth of tone.  Nothing quite sounds like the Harbeth on vocals. But ultimately they could not budge me from the Thiels and I sold them.

That said, I now have a store near me selling Harbeths and I'm in there buying vinyl a lot. Every time I hear the Harbeths playing I just want to sit down and listen, thinking "These are so beautiful. Why don't I own them?" But then I remember, I did...I did the comparisons. Would love them in a second system, though.

Joseph Audio - Pulsar and Perspectives.

As a long time high audio rag reader, I've long been familiar with the Joseph Audio name, but it wasn't until last year in Montreal that I actually heard a JA speaker: the Pearl 3.   Jeff Joseph was playing an acapella group piece and I was just stopped in my tracks. It wasn't just the clarity - tons of high end speakers produce vivid vocals. It was the authenticity of the timbre of the voices! It just sounded bang on. Not cold, gray, steely, silvery, or darkened, or all the "off-timbre" electronic signatures that define for me hi-fi voices vs real. It was that human warmth timbre, that sounded just like the people talking in the room. This was so rare and magical it put the JA speakers immediately on my radar. Upon reading that the stand mounted Pulsars had a similar presentation I found a local dealer and auditioned them. Yup, they did! They were fairly mesmerizing. Even despite my misgivings about small speakers trying to sound big, the Pulsars did this better than almost any other stand mounted speaker I've heard - very rich and satisfying. Though I did note a bit of excess warmth here and there in the lower midrange, upper bass.   And I still wondered if I could end up with a stand mounted speaker after living with big floor standers. At home, I listen not only in front of the speakers for "critical listening" but I'll also crank them to listen just down the hall, in my work office or through the house. And at these times I really start to hear the limitation on the small speaker. It can sound like it's going low, but it becomes sort of "fake bass" in a way, where it just doesn't have the solidity and impact of a big speaker.

So the dealer suggested I listen to the floor standing Joseph Audio Perspective model. I said I don't know, they cost more than I was thinking of spending. But, he persisted and...his up-sell worked ;-)

The Perspectives really grabbed me. They sounded more linear than the Pulsars to my ears through the mids down, had really thick, punchy bass that seemed to make every type of music fun, yet seemed controlled enough to make "audiophile" stuff very realistic.   They really disappeared with a huge soundstage and great imaging. I'm a tone/timbre buy first, but I ultimately want speakers to disappear and soundstage well - it's part of the illusion, the magic show, that I appreciate and that makes me want to sit in front of a high end system in the first place.

But what really grabbed me was the overall tone/timbre of the presentation! I remember playing some Chet Baker and some Julie London mono recordings and being shocked at how clear the sound was - how the Perspectives took a central mono image of voice, guitar, bass, drums etc and seemed to effortlessly unravel the different timbres and individual players. And how realistic the voices were.   Another moment I remember were some tracks from the Bullet soundtrack (I'm a soundtrack fiend). Every instrument that entered the mix - a single sax, a flute, an organ, a group of saxes, horns...sounded incredibly pure, distinct and accurate in timbre!   That's one of the things I always loved about going to the symphony, and sitting close, closing my eyes: that rainbow of different acoustic sources, materials, shiny silvery bells, brassy cymbals, woody reeds, woody cellos, golden hued horns...

The Perspectives (and the Pulsars) were giving me more of this sensation, of "surprise" in how each new instrument sounded, than I typically get from most speakers. And they did it with a particular purity, and lack of hash in any part of the frequency spectrum, making for a less mechanical sound than usual (Fremer nailed this in his Pulsar review).

Plus there was a great sense of "flow" to the Perspectives, the way dynamically the sound would swell dramatically when called fo (again, soundtracks were great on the Perspectives).  All these elements came together to produce a great emotional connection to music through the speakers.

So, they sounded special to me.

I got a home audition and they continued to sound beautiful in my home. But having both the big Thiels and the Josephs meant I could compare, which inevitably gave some ground to the Thiels - the bigger more realistic image size, the slightly better precision in imaging and tonal density, a more linear presentation from top to bottom from the Thiels, where the Perspectives could sound a bit "puffy" in the bass sometimes.
And yet, the Perspectives still had a magic the Thiels couldn't do with tone. I remember playing back Talk Talk's Happiness Is Easy and thinking "I literally don't think reproduced sound gets better than this."

So stuck between A and B I realized this: I couldn't give up the Thiels. After all my auditioning, nothing really did everything as well in the same package and the 3.7s had become very rare on the used market, no longer made, so it could be a big regret to let them go.

BUT...I was also bitten by the Perspectives. Once heard, they were hard to unhear.
So I decided, dammit, I'll have both! I tend to hoard speakers somewhat, so I'd keep the Thiels but buy the Perspectives, and I'd have the Thiels to throw in to the room whenever I wanted the Thiel sound.

But....this meant I'd no longer be selling my Thiels to pay for new speakers. So I'd have to save up for the Perspectives. And this I've been doing.

Then, aha! A pair of Thiel 2.7 speakers in the ebony finish I've always wanted showed up on Audiogon. I grabbed them for a killer price and they have been fantastic! Smaller than the 3.7s, better looking in the room, they have the Thiel attributes. Done...right? Naw...I haven't been a fervent audiophile for decades for nuthin'.
I've been on track toward the Perspectives for so long, it's hard to get off.  So once I got the 2.7s my thinking changed to "Well..now I can sell the big Thiels and have that money to put toward the Perspectives!"

So as I've been readying to sell the big Thiels, and about to spend more than I ever have on a pair of speakers (Perspectives are expensive to us Canucks), I thought "If I'm about to spend this much, I better do some due diligence and make sure I didn't leave another option on the floor."   So I recently checked out a speaker brand that I'd wondered about for a while now. Devore Fidelity.

And that will lead to my next post.


prof
Devore Fidelity O/96 Speakers

I was able to listen to these twice over the past few weeks.

I found them to be terrific in the ways most people think they are terrific.
They definitely have an "it" factor to their sound, their own thing that, if it grabs you, it grabs you.

First, I have always loved the looks from photos, and in person they are beautiful. And that’s HUGE for me as I really like audio jewelry. When I pay for high end gear, speakers in particular, it’s going to be essentially new furniture in my living/listening/AV room. I spent a lot renovating that room to look as nice as possible and I don’t care to throw ugly or plain boxes in there.

The Joseph Audio Perspectives to me are lustworthy not only for their sound but for their great form and awesome cabinetry/wood grains.

The Devore O/96s strike the same "speaker lust" in me. They are funky looking, charmingly retro yet contemporary, with a gratifyingly high end level of finish. My wife even thought so from photos (not a common occurrence for her).

First impressions is that the 96s are significantly smaller in person than they looked to me in photos. That’s a good thing when I’m looking to downsize. Yet at the same time they sounded HUGE, more reminiscent of my big Thiel 3.7s. Everything took on an added sense of body and size, from massed strings, to horns, to acoustic guitars, to even wood blocks. And especially piano!

I was especially struck by a kind of crappy recording I played of a Satie piece. The piano has always sounded thin and distant and dull. But on the 96s the piano came closer to me and actually sounded large! And it actually sounded like it had a body, a sounding board. It was tweaking the "that’s a piano in front of me" parts of my brain, that grew up playing piano. Fascinating.

Timbre of instruments seem great: warm, and rich and organic. And they can do the "golden tone" that I love from a system.

They also sound really alive, open and extended giving the "instrument right THERE playing" impression. But without the mild aggression I felt from some other speakers on my list.

Two things that really stuck out are massed strings and drum cymbals.
Massed strings sounded substantial, with a heft many speakers miss with their more wispy, thin presentation of massed strings.  And massed strings came with bow-texture, yet silky,. That combination that gets closer to the real thing vs the "this could be a sampled string section" sound from so many systems. I’ve rarely heard massed strings sound that much like themselves on a speaker. (The Joseph speakers do very well here too, but without as much size and weight).

Drum cymbals were amazingly realistic. I played a track with a drum solo I’m familiar with (if you want your system to absolutely bristle with the energy of a stand up bass played with frenetic energy, get bassist Koichi Osamu’s album The Chord. You’ll thank me later!). It felt like I was in the middle of the drum set and the cymbals had that BIG open splashing quality of the real thing. So rare to hear drum cymbals sound that real.

Soundstaging/Imaging: They did a surprising soundstaging act for speakers that look so squat. Sometimes images happened well off to the side corners of the speaker, some well back in the center, and usually BIG images. Though it was hard to get an exact read on this aspect. Sometimes it seemed like the 96s bring instruments forward in the mix (worried me about not getting the soundstage depth I’m used to) but other times seem to spread out the images in a very convincing manner.

When seated with head above the tweeter, they also sound taller than they are, which is a neat trick. Though still not as tall as the Thiel 2.7s which have a very realistic image height.

So great warmth of tone, fullness, allied to alive, open and convincing yet unfatiguing high frequencies. That is quite a trick!

The upper frequencies are definitely more directional than I’m used to at home. The Thiels (and in auditioning, the Josephs) sound much the same tonally almost no matter where I move. Whereas I found listener position more critical for the Devores to snap into focus, both tonally and in terms of imaging. Also, they seemed to snap into focus and bloom in imaging once I hit 8 feet from the speakers - as John Devore has suggested. On the other hand, some reviewers and others seem to use the 96s closer and seem happy. I tried around 7 feet off and on, which is about as far away from me as I’d be able to place them, and while they lost a teeny bit of coherence and snap, they did also become smooth and enveloping. Thing is I really should have toed them in a bit more when I moved a bit closer!

Bass on the 96s, in a decent size room with high ceilings, was fascinating. It had a bigger, bloomier quality vs the Thiels which are laser focused and punchy for bass. Certainly there was some additional bloom - a more critical moment would call it "bloat" - on the stand up bass in Talk Talk’s Happiness Is Easy. And a couple other tracks. But aside from those, the bass came across as quite nimble and yet having a rich, lively reach-out-and-make-you-feel-it quality. The result of the bass character WITH the dynamic liveliness, clarity and snap in the upper frequencies meant drums were always fantastic. I was made aware by the 96s, more than any speaker I can remember, of how the drummer was playing, the ebb and flow, the differences in impact between each snare hit, each bass drum hit. It was impossible not to boogey to these speakers.

Once at home playing the same tracks again on the Thiel 2.7, the Thiels impressed me with their massive soundstage, incredibly precise and dense imaging, punchy quality and great tone. If I missed anything sometimes it was the thickness and heft of instruments and voices on the Devores (though the Thiels are surprisingly good here), and especially the open, alive yet smooth quality of the Devore high frequencies. Acoustic guitars, drum cymbals etc don’t have quite the aliveness as on the Devores, and string tone has always been so-so on the Thiels (though helped by my getting into vinyl), but closer to exquisite on the Devores (and excellent, silky and clear on the Josephs).

So over all, a very promising speaker that has thrown a kink into my plans on route to the Joseph Perspectives. They are two quite different sounding speakers that do their own thing almost peerlessly. Both would be around the same price.

Drivin’ me a bit nuts.

One thing is the Devore Dealer would give me a good trade in price on my Thiels toward a purchase of the 96s. That would be nice, not having to sell them myself. But I do have some major questions as to whether their size/shape will work in my room, as it’s also my home theater room, and speakers too wide may impede the screen image.

Still lots to think about, but thought I"d share what I’ve heard so far.

(And I pretty much consider myself done in speaker auditioning. Right now it’s the Josephs or the Devores...or just sticking with the Thiels).




A shout out to you for the great write up!  Having heard many of these speakers recently at AXPONA, I can largely concur with your impressions.  And I appreciate your reports on those speakers that I'v not heard.

One additional contender that was really hot at AXPONA is the new Magico A3, so you might look into them as well.  The new Revel F228Be drew a lot of raves, as did the new Focal Kanta No. 2.
mtrot,

Thanks!

Yes the Magico A3 is is the ONE other speaker still on my list, for obvious reasons. But I’m trying to resist. It’s a great price and in some ways a suitable size...but hard to hear (though I could drive across the border to hear them). Plus one big strike against them for me is: no nice wood grain finish available, so stuck with the black monolith look. And also no speaker grills. I’ve always preferred speaker grills on a speaker, rather than open drivers, as I can’t help but "see/hear" the sound as coming from the speaker drivers. Once they are covered up, speakers tend to disappear from the presentation much better.

(Also, note I did audition the Focal Kanta 2).
After reading everything that you have wrote,
I would highly recommend the 0/96 or the gibbon x,I owned the 0/96 for a few yrs and had them in my smaller system.I always found them to be highly musical and also forgiving of the occasional bad recording and very easy in placement.After a couple of yrs I moved them into my main system in a very large room but found them to be a little small in image size and scale so ultimately I moved on to something larger.

I’ve never heard the Gibbon x but they certainly do look nice,and without question all his speakers have fabulous wood work.

Good luck to you in your hunt,
Kenny.



Definition: Audio Neurosis - The inability to be satisfied and enjoy one's present system and the embarking on a quest to find the "perfect" component.
Buy a pair of current production Quad ESL's and forget about box speakers!
Nice astute and detailed odsevations. You are really getting to heart of the sound on a few of these speakers.
Don’t forget system/amp matching. I believe some of your concerns raised about a couple of your favorites can be lesened and even improved in areas. 
@kdude66

Thanks for the input.

The Gibbon X would be to large, and too expensive.

@roberjerman,

LOL. 

I'll definitely cop to bouts of A-neurosis!   Though to be fair to myself, it tends to center around speakers only.  Most of my gear is old (amps, cables etc I've had for 20 years) and I don't fuss with changing it.  The last time I went on a round of auditioning like this to replace my speakers was over 20 years ago!  But when I get the itch, I make sure to look at all options.

And, ironically given your suggestion, it was a dissatisfaction with owning Quad ESL 63s that led to that round of speaker auditioning 20 years ago!  (I don't find ESL's satisfying - I like the palpability of dynamic speakers).

I bought the Thiel 3.7s three years ago with a scheme of making them mobile to bring in and out of my listening room.  It didn't pan out.  If their size hadn't become an issue I wouldn't have sought to  replace them as they do pretty much everything I could ask for, for their price.


Prof, looking through your post history, it seems that you had zeroed in on the JA Perspectives almost a year ago. Why are you posting this now? Or put differently, why did you not pull the trigger on the Perspectives? Did you just discover DeVore recently? And shifting gears here, but I hope you agree that every loudspeaker ever put together represents a compromise. I own DeVore O/93's. I love them but I don't pretend that they are perfect. Forgetting low end pipe organ bass-something I don't care to have-there is a certain notch/suck-out in the upper midrange that is ever so slight, but there. I would expect the same from the O/96's due to the physics of mating a large woofer with a tweeter in a two-way. I don't know much about speaker design, but I suspect that the large front baffle and relatively resonant enclosure helps to mitigate this notch, but again, it is not a perfect band-aid. Again, a very slight compromise that is arguably a better compromise than utilizing a three-way design, but a compromise nonetheless. At the end of the day, you find a loudspeaker in which the compromises are not bothersome and then you exhale and learn to relax. It's like choosing a significant other. I am mindful that there are few issues in life in which an analogy to choosing a spouse is not possible. 
Well, since you say you "really like audio jewelry", they are expensive as all get out, but perhaps the most beautiful speakers I saw at AXPONA were the Tidal Piano G2. The wood grain finish is gorgeous, and the metal trim around the drivers is quite "jewel like". Not to mention, the sound was amazing. And, they are not too big.  Here are some pics I took at AXPONA, and they in no way do justice to them:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/40593746455/in/album-72157665772652087/lightbox/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/39678739900/in/album-72157665772652087/lightbox/
fsonicsmith,

I'm also going to check out the Devore 93s as a dealer just got those in.
They would be more affordable, and take up even less space.  Though I'm not as sold on the looks as I am on the 96s.

Devore was indeed a recent discovery for me, as I hadn't heard them before (though was aware of the brand).

I didn't pull the trigger on the Perspectives earlier because I had to save money for them.   I'm certainly aware there is no perfect speaker (but I'll tell you, for my money the Thiel 3.7 was as close as it gets for anything I'd likely be able to afford).

mtrot,

Thanks.  Yup, Tidal speakers definitely fit my ideal of "audio jewlery" in speakers.  I've always admired their design and wood finishes and love the looks of that new model.  It's waaaaay out of my price league.
I agree that the O/96's are the better looking speaker. My dealer, Don Better, told me that the O/96 outsells the O/93 by a large margin and yet he personally felt that the O/93 was the better speaker. Perhaps there was an element of salesmanship involved but I've been in this hobby a very long time and I detected little salesmanship from Don. I think a big reason for the O/96 outselling the O/93 is just that-the looks. We all buy with our eyes. How else can anyone explain why Audi and Range Rover and others are cropping their SUV's to make them look sexier when all they are really doing is decreasing interior cargo space and visibility? Or to stick with audio, how else can one explain the Galileo series of ARC amps in which the GS150 is functionally identical to the Ref 150SE but has sexy VU meters and a sexier chassis at $4,000 of price premium (though it is noted that this silliness backfired and the Galileo GS150 in no longer in production). This is an amusing hobby and we have to laugh at ourselves. I know of one knowledgeable, intelligent, audio enthusiast who has huge loudspeakers in a tiny California listening room so he listens to them nearfield, just four feet away from each speaker, and he shuts off the lights and listens only at night so that he does not need to look at his speakers as he listens. I also have no doubt that the looks of loudspeakers have a very large effect on certain listener's perceptions, i.e. if they love the appearance, they are more inclined to think that they sound great. Unlike any other component, many audio enthusiasts do stare at their speakers as they listen. This opinion is based on my own experience and observing others. 
The Devores are an excellent speaker, but if you really want to hear what they do, use a tube amplifier. They are a great load for tube amps and they don't need a lot of power- I recommend 30-60 watts as a minimum in most average rooms.
what a great review,with just enough personal to further my interest.
I played Talk Talk over and over,years ago on Quad 57s, and still
couldn't get enough.....  Good luck with your speaker quest.

Great report of listening impressions.

But... it you use the 3.7s as a benchmark/litmus test for all other auditions, the only speakers that will ultimately satisfy is another set of 3.7s.

The Devores are an excellent speaker, but if you really want to hear what they do, use a tube amplifier. They are a great load for tube amps and they don't need a lot of power- I recommend 30-60 watts as a minimum in most average rooms.
I do. ARC Ref 150SE teamed up with Ref 6. Complete overkill power wise, but the sound is fantastic. With the ARC gear, I found that choice of IC between the pre and amp and speaker cable was critical. Each cable I tried sounded drastically different. I have posted this elsewhere, so I will stop there-not particularly relevant here. But yes, I imagine that the sound would be too hi-fi and a tad dry/analytical with most solid state. When I auditioned the O/93’s, Don, knowing my electronics, used a VTL ST150 with a Sugden solid state pre and Auditorium 23 speaker cable and that was a very fine combination. The fact that he had an amazing turntable set-up with an SPU cartridge likely was a large component of the overall sweet sound. My ARC gear has been described by critics as being on the dry solid state side of things for tubed gear, and it would be interesting to hear what a "sweeter" sounding amp would add/detract, and whether that perceived notch in the upper midrange I mentioned above would go away.

I'd definitely be using the Devores, or the Josephs, with my tube amps - Conrad Johnson Premier 12 140w/side monoblocks.  Still goin' strong!
They've been able to drive every speaker I've thrown at them.

Both Josephs and Devores are touted as tube-friendly, at least in the case of impedance, but the Josephs have far lower sensitivity.
I just noticed another "dream speaker" of mine up for sale on Audiogon: a pair of Audio Physic Avantara, in ebony. I say "dream speaker" because I’ve always liked AP speakers and the Avantara got fantastic reviews as chomping at the heels of the best of the best flagships .

But there’s no way I’d spend that kind of coin without hearing them first, and being unsure of re-sale value if the didn’t work out.

I suspect the Devores would have good re-sale value. Harder to know about the JA Perspectives as they so rarely come on the used market.

Another speaker I was really curious about are the JansZen electrostatic hybrids. They get raves for their tonal purity, coherency and big sound in a small, cool looking design. I’ve never heard an electrostatic that didn’t exhibit the "ghostly musicians" effect (lack of palpable body to the sound) but I wonder if the sealed nature of the JansZens and the rest of the design finally fixes that issue.

Same for the Boenicke Speakers - would love to hear them.

Wilson Benesch is another intriguing brand I’ve never heard.

Anyway...not easy to hear ’round these parts, which is why I seem to be down to the JA and Devore speakers.




Great review of the speakers you listed.  But IMO it would have been more useful if you had listed the amp you are using with your Thiels for reference.  From your comments I can't imagine that you are running a tube amp...
Hey, I forgot to list another speaker I auditioned:

Kharma

Back in the day when they became something of the new rage among well heeled audiophiles, I'd heard several models, including in one gentelman's super high end set up.  They impressed me with a combination of transparency, smoothness, richness, soundstaging...almost the whole ballgame.  But overall I found the tone just a bit too much toward the "dark" side to really warm up to them.

Nonetheless a dealer suggested I listen to a used pair of Kharma CRM 3.2 FE speakers that he had for sale.  I researched Kharma again and got quite excited at the prospect of owning a pair - great looks, good size for my room, wonderful high end pedigree in terms of construction, reputation etc.  And it was a newer model, so I wondered what the Kharma sound was at this point.

What I heard again was that recognizable Kharma sound.  For the size, the 3.2 threw a huge, transparent soundstage with full-bodied, rich images.  The transparency and detail was superbly natural and unforced - effortlessly untangling the layers of sparkling guitars on, for instance, Johnny Cash's Solitary Man and I Won't Back Down, and making each distinct.  Never with ear fatigue. 

Unfortunately I found it veered a bit too much in to the "polite" terrifory, and the sound lost some of the excitement I was familiar with.  The tone was also, as before, a bit too into the darkish territory for me.  Finally, the bass wasn't nearly as tonal and controlled as I'd like.  It was a Big Fat Bottom of a sound, probably great for filling out a big room.  Unfortunately they were played in a room that was no doubt too small for them.

Anyway, just thought I'd add that one in...


br3098

I guess I should have put it in the first post, but I mentioned it later: I use the Conrad Johnson Premier 12 tube mono blocks, 140W/side.

It's one of the last CJ products that still had their "old school" sound.  But the special thing about the Premier 12s is that they are just as Michael Fremer described in his old review of the amps:  they give a great helping of the classic CJ richness, illumination and glow in the midrange, while maintaining great punch, power and grip in the bass region.  At least at the time I bought them I'd never heard such a coherent tube amplifier.  There is nothing I've thrown at them that they haven't been able to control, from low sensitivity/tough impedance speakers like Thiel (various models), Hales, MBL, to all the other speakers I've had, usually floor standing.

The combo of the CJ amps and the Thiel 3.7s produce in my room not only the best - most linear sounding, tight, tonal and controlled - bass I've had in my room.   It's about the best bass in those parameters I've ever heard in a system.  (Not "ultimate slam" bass, but rather free of any box effect or obvious coloration, bloat, etc).   That's one reason it's been so tough in auditioning other speakers, the bar has been set pretty high.
(The smaller Thiel 2.7s are also fabulous in the bass, but not quite as "perfect" as the bigger 3.7s).
prof,
I wanted to commend you on a very well written and thorough descriptions of a nice group of loudspeakers. And bless you for your use of many paragraphs! I am the owner of Audio Note J's and one comment I will make is they work well in a conventional placement they don't have to be corner loaded. Keep it up you have obviously very good ears and a flare for writing!
@prof Nice write up. Our ears are similar :-) 
@prof  ... an absolutely great write-up. I've heard the JA's and the Devores, and I ultimately chose the JA Pulsars on Sound Anchors stands for my very small listening room. Note that the JA's have a house sound that runs throughout the line. Yesterday, I heard the Pearl 3's and they just have more of the same JA goodness that's found in the other JA models. The Perspectives are great speakers and I think you'd be very happy with them. Good luck with whatever you choose.
How much do you sell 3.7 for ?
Before I comment on my fantastic experience with new speakers I would like to ask what price range are all these suggestions. I'm new to the forum and have learned a great amount of knowledge. I bought my first system back in 74. Have been listening to Infinity Kappa *'s for 20 years. I just started with a tune-up of my Thorens Td160. Since then I have bought new cables, replaced my old Adcom pre-amp, got rid of my old equalizer, bought a new NAD $500.00 Cd player to replace my old Technics from 20 years ago. Sound kept getting better, so I bought a pair of Bryston A2's. Then found out I should be concerned about my 25 year old Adcom 500 II amp. Bought a new $1000.00 Emotiva. My sound has reached a level that I never thought was able to be reached. I even spent $800.00 for a power strip and 3 power cords. (Isotek Polaris). I'm retired and somewhat poor. I even had to buy a SPL meter so I don't loose my hearing as I used to trust my Adcom warning lights flashing. That would happen in the lower 80's, now I can go over a hundred. Funny thing is that my old system would shake the neighbors houses, now I can listen to 90 decibels or so and it doesn't even rattle the upstair windows. All you are great and please understand my situation. I have friends that have always loved my system but have nothing at home. They would be happy listening to music through a Sea Shell. For those of you if any that are looking for speakers in the $3500.00 range then do a search on the internet for the Bryston A2's. 20 year warranty. If you experts made it this far then I say thank you. As I've always said, "without music there is reason to have ears"

Prof,
You said that your review was not meant to be particularly descriptive of the sound of the speakers, and yet that is exactly what your comments were. Well done.
You also said that you were pretty much done with auditioning. 
I don't mean to add to your/our neurosis, but have you ever thought about auditioning the Aerial Acoustics.
Michael Kelly spent time as the vice-president of a/d/s speakers, that many people still hold in high regard. He started Aerial Acoustics almost 25 years ago (I think), and from your description of the sound that you are looking for, and your aesthetic considerations, I would be interested in your thoughts on those speakers.
JD
Prof, thanks for the writeup, that was a fantastic read.  Your experience probably echoes a lot of audiophiles, especially mine... auditioning a lot of gear to find out it's not better than what you already have!  LOL

I had the O/93's for a few months.  Great speakers and don't have anything bad to say about them.  My issues were I felt I could hear the crossover (or maybe the suckout mentioned above).  Also they need some room to breathe and ultimately my room was probably a little too small, given that I couldn't leave them pulled out into the room all the time with kids around.  That said I enjoyed what they did enough that if I had the room and money I'd love to get some O/96's.  If they don't work out for you I'm sure you sell them in a hot minute.


Thanks Prof for the information.  This is useful for me since most of these are speakers I would be interested in but will probably never hear -seems we have similar tastes. Since you are from Canada I assume there's a chance you have experience with Tannoy (they seem much more uncommon in the States) - I have the Kensington's; I wonder where they would fit in on your list here in terms of attributes.  Having owned Harbeth (SHL5 also) I find the Tannoys aren't as 'magical' but also can go very loud and handle heavy, complex music (but still have a fair amount of magic!) whereas the Harbeth's will start to break up.  I'm going to make a point to hear the Devore's and JAs some day...   
Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

patrick,  I appreciate the recommendation. As it happens the Ariel house sound and aesthetic has never grabbed me. 

whoopycat, that's informative about the /93s.  I'm curious how the 93s or 96s would work in my room.  On one hand it's a modest sized room, on the other as I mentioned earlier it seems to work for any speaker I put in there so far.   And this is even though, since switching the seating 180 degrees and renovating it for home theater use, I now have an extremely limited distance to deal with.  All speakers end up well away from the back wall, which is good.  But I have very, very little room to modulate the distance between me and the speaker, so between 7 1/2 to 6 /12 feet is about it.

jimmy,  yes I've heard many Tannoys over the years.  I often heard the older but very high end Tannoy Dimension TD10's at my pal's house as well.  Lovely sound, warm, big but a bit too far on the colored side.  Going on memory, the Devore 96s seem to give much of the same warmth and fullness, but with a more realistic balance and presentation over all. 






@prof 

Wonderful epistle.....

It apprears you have quite a following, as your description’s are supurlative and follow my “ears”, too

I’ve listened to devores, as one of my top choices, too

I’m a Thiel Guy/CJ  too and wondering what the next step is......

I’ve fallen for the Paradigm Persona 3f, And working on home auditions....
amps make them go from perfect to possibly fatiguing..........

Anyway, Before you take the plunge 

Listen to Volti Rivals, you will be pleasantly surprised and price is right 

All your choices and descriptions match mine , so , my guess that you will have added one more to your “ swirly” of decision’s

The Rivals are a wonderful transducer with a 15” woofer.....the dynamics of drums are amazing 

good luck,   Choosing is a real “ pisser”

jeff

id I’d love yo see a pic of your system 


So I am a Harbeth SHL5 guy. Did audition the Devore in a store here in NYC and found they had a plasticy edge to them on voice and in certain instruments. Midrange is too far away from the tweeter (in range - not distance). Just my opinion. What whoopycat says may be what I’m hearing (crossover issues trying to blend two speakers too disparate).

Have fun and enjoy!



acknowledged, jkorten.

I didn't find the O/96s to be "perfect" in the audition I had.

In some string quartet pieces, where the strings took turns slowly ascending to very high notes, I detected a lack of coherence sense of a "hand off" to tweeter - the sense the instruments were being composed of two different drivers.

I also noticed a strange mix of clarity and reticence: most often cymbals and other transients were bolder on the 96s and "popped" more than I hear at home. But occasionally it was the opposite, where some areas of, say, harp or piano, seemed a bit less vivid or pushed to the background.  This would seem to match John Atkinson's comments in the Devore review where he found a bit of muffling/coloration in some midrange frequencies.

Of course...it also may not have been the case, and I wouldn't have such observations if set up at my home.  Either way, overall they sounded terrific.

It’s clear you have a certain type and sound you are seeking. What a nice list you started with. You started out mentioning that speaker size, I assume positioning, and looks were factors in addition to wonderful sound (a must). As someone who still uses Thiel CS3s in my HT, I "get" what you like.

I also have a close friend who uses Devore Speakers. They are wonderful, but..... he has them pretty far out into the room for their best soundstage generation.

I use JansZen hybrid ESL Valentinas. They are not dipoles and have a very different design from typical ESLs. I think these fit into your list. The sound is better than my Thiels but share the Thiel values in what’s important. They are quite attractive (high WAF), have a similar footprint to my Thiels, and can actually be placed up against a wall if you must. Mine are no more than 2’ out in any direction. The placement for good sound is flexible. They also have bass and tweeter controls to tune to the room.

Like the Devores, I found running tubes was not only possible, but the best. They are not as efficient as the Devores, but are a very easy load for the amp.  If you seek simplification, they are also offered as powered speakers.

jsm71,

Thanks for your input.

As I've mentioned before, JansZen is one of the speakers I've been very curious about, and read all the reviews.  But no local dealers.  I know I could buy them - I think they have a 30 day return policy? - but I'm not quite up to pulling that trigger on a speaker I've never heard.  Further, the two dealers I'm talking to can do a financing scheme to spread the pain a bit, which is a help.

Hopefully some day I'll hear the JansZen speakers.  They are a great size, I like the looks. 

BTW, do they need to be plugged into the wall?

A BIT MORE TO REPORT TODAY:

The Devore dealer got in the smaller O/93s last week. Burned them in (I’m pretty skeptical of equipment burn in, but whatever...) and then I listened to them today.

First impressions visually:

They are nice looking, nice finish, and being slightly less deep and less wide, they would make life easier in my room (the wider the speaker, the more potential of blocking the projection screen behind those speakers).
They look easy to move around.

That said, the design does not have the "lust-inducing" factor that the bigger 96s have. Something about the dimensions of the 96, on their stands, just seems aesthetically more compelling.

Anyway, on to the sound:

The 93s sounded pretty much exactly as I imagined they would: They had essentially the "same" sound as the 96s, so much of my description would be a repeat of my earlier audition of the 96s. Big, warm, open, detail without fatigue, etc.

The soundstaging seemed a bit more limited in height vs the 96s, for whatever reason. It wasn’t bad or distracting, just generally looking lower at the "musicians." And when at the right seating position the 93s did a great disappearing and soundstaging act. Really open and spacious...though... still with that Devore signature that seems to pull everything closer to the listener. A drum set seems almost "in your lap" sometimes, single vocalists, e.g. Julie London, who are placed more distant on my Thiels and other speakers, sound larger and just behind the plane of the speakers. There’s usually a sense of "bringing the musicians here" vs transporting you "there."

The bass frequencies, though not spec’d as low as the 96s, seem comparable to the 96s, at least without a side by side. I could hear sometimes that the bass wasn’t as deep, but it definitely wasn’t a difference that stuck out. Bass had that big, round, room filling quality like the 96s. It’s an engaging bass character that reaches out and involves me, vs some audiophile speakers that can sound so controlled, distant and staid.

The two instruments that really grab me on the 96s continued to on the 93s: drums and acoustic guitars. Acoustic guitars have a sense of "touch" and texture that is very realistic and warm - strummed guitars especially sound so much like a guitar strumming in front of me. And the tonality of acoustic guitars, especially classical, seems really convincing and organically right.

Drum snares sound fat and tonally "that’s a drum" as do cymbals etc.

And something about the snap of the upper frequencies making drum snares pop, with the way the bass frequencies always make you hear and feel what the bass drum is doing, makes the two work together like real drummers in front of you do. I’m always more aware of the rhythm that’s being pounded in front of me.

I loved how big and fat the clavier was on some Commadores songs, e.g. Sweet Love hard panned right to begin with. It sounded wider, bigger than I’ve heard it before, more life-sized, but really in character of that instrument. Those big drivers and wide baffles do seem to aim more sound toward me, maintaining a bigger sound for voices and instruments.

The beginning of one song, The Groove Collective playing Louisaida from their We The People album, starts with an urban soundscape from which various percussion instruments seem to march toward you in the mix until they are full sized, whacking away. The Devores just love sounds like this because they capture that top end texture and air that gives the "percussion hitting the air in front of me" sensation. And there is a single wood block going on that, on the Devores, just leaps to front and center, almost a full sized wood block. Whereas on my Thiels it sounds smaller and a bit more distant. On the Devores, that wood block just floats big, just behind the speakers, and actually starts driving the rythms. Fascinating.

Like the 96s, the 93s are a speaker that I can just sit in front of, throw anything at all at them, and just flat out enjoy.

So...any snakes in Eden?

Sure, a couple.

The bass, like the 96s, did have a warm character that mostly served the music in most tracks. The occasional track, like Talk Talk’s Happiness Is Easy does show some extra bloat that isn’t there on other speakers (e.g. on my Thiels that stand up bass is just tonally solid and controlled top to bottom). So I do get a bit more of a "speaker is producing this bass" rather than just the instrument. But in most tracks, the bass warmth is actually very cannily integrated to enhance the sound.

Another issue is that for much of the audition I had the speaker grills on.
I love the sound without the grills, but put them on because I find speaker drivers so distracting. Once they were on it really changed the listening experience for me, where, perceptually, the speakers "disappeared" much more as the creators of the sound in front of me, more like I get at home. The cost was a slight but obvious darkening of the sound, and loss of a bit of "air." The speaker with the grills retained most of the great things about the sound, but it is that last bit of opened up high frequency quality that helps the Devores sound so alive and convincing. With grills, they get *just nudged* into the "slightly darker than life" tonality.

Finally, what may turn out to be my biggest issue is one I mentioned before: listening distance. These things really DO seem to require some distance to sound their best. Once I’m 8 feet away the sound just snaps together, the high frequencies taking on a more vivid, snappy, extended and realistic character. Get even a bit closer, e.g. 7 feet which is my normal listening distance, and they still sound great, warm etc, but they do lose some vividness, snap, and the sense of vocal and instrumental separation.

Last time I’d wondered if this was perhaps simply due to the directionality of the partially-wave-guided tweeters, so that simpy leaning forward from 8 feet to 7 feet meant going a bit more off-axis the tweeters, hence the mellower sound.

But in this case when I leaned forward I had the dealer adjust the toe in accordingly to fact the speakers more toward me. It still didn’t give quite the same "snapping into place" quality as being 8 feet away. And too much toe-in started narrowing the sonic images more than I’d like.
But 8 feet from the speakers, with the speakers about 8 to 9 feet apart is killer.

Finally, similar to the 96s, that character that gives that big lush image size and fullness also can seem to work against it sometimes in terms of separation of instruments and voices in the mix. Often they are awesome in this regard, but certain frequencies seem to "confuse" the 93s (and 96s) just a bit. So, for instance, tracks of the Los Angelese Guitar Quartet can sound a little bit more muddied when they are all playing complex lines together, whereas my Thiels at home do a superb job making each guitar discernible.

I think this also shows up a bit on some voices. For instance the Julie London track Cry Me A River is quite revealing on many speakers, as she tends to go down into a range where, it seems, some speakers perhaps resonate and there is this slight hoot/boxiness to some notes. This happened on the 93s. (When I hear things like this, I move my position around to make sure it isn’t just a room node I’m sitting in).

But, on the other hand, Julie sounded more life-sized (maybe even a bit bigger than life-sized), rich, lush, clear and present on the Devores. Like the Harbeths, the Devores give more of the human being, chest, not just mouth etc.

When I got home and spun many of the tracks on the Thiels, yes some elements suffered in comparison (that wood block! Some other sounds). But on the other hand, the Thiels sound in their own way "more real." The Thiel’s soundstage is HUGE, and life-sized in height, so a live concert really sounds like a live concert. Elements in the mix, various instruments, are beautifully separated, rendered, and have nice life and punch. It’s a pretty big, full sound as well, not giving up too much to the Devores, but a much larger soundstage. When I listen to the Thiels compared to the Devores, probably the thing I miss most about The Devores is that upper frequency detail and texture. The Thiel 2.7s could use a tiny bit more life in that region. I can get some more of it with positioning and playing with acoustics, but the Devores sound more effortless in pulling that off.

Bass on the Thiels vs the Devores is 6 vs half a dozen. Sometimes I miss that added bloom, size and warmth of the bass that drive a song a bit better on the Devores. Other times I appreciate the superb control, pitch and punch of the bass on the Thiels. (Electronica, one of my favorite types of music, can just be astounding on the Thiels, the way they place such dense, palpable synth and bass lines in a huge soundfield in my room).

So, at this stage, I’m pretty comfortable that I really do love the Devore house sound. I’ve listened to a lot of speakers and the Devores stick out with an "it" factor that sucks me in. The 96s were top of my list vying against the Joseph Perspectives, but given how the smaller 93s convey so much of what I like about the 96s, they are now atop the list too. They would be an easier purchase, financially. Though I’m less sure about re-sale value of the 93 vs the super-hot 96s.

I guess the next up, whenever I can get the time, is to hear the Josephs again, and that should give me my decision.

Oh and...as Steve J used to say..."one more thing..."......

To my surprise, I also listened to the Devore Gibbon X speakers today!

The dealer had them, newly in, set up and ready to play. You know how dealers love to upsell :-)

I told him the X’s are beyond what I’m looking to spend, but since they were set up we listened to them briefly. The Gibbon Xs are surprisingly nice looking speakers for their size (which is...quite large). I’m not a fan of black speakers generally, but the glossy black finish on these ones was quite classy. The speakers were set up in a narrower part of the room (even though the room itself is fairly large especially once you include the very high ceilings), so they were closer together than I’d like.
But with that caveat....

First some jazz vocals, male and female (famous singers but I’m drawing a mental blank), some organ, nice drums etc.

They sounded really gorgeous with this track. As some have reported about the Gibbon X, it does, at least in the midrange, sound like a bit more sophisticated and more neutral version of the Orangutang’s sound.

The vocals were human sized, warm in timbre, rich, with nice open textures so had a "thereness" that was really involving. Same with the drum cymbals and snare, which were sort of "cleaner" sounding on the Gibbons. By that I mean a bit more "audiophile-like" in terms of the way the soundscape was really clean between the instrumental images. But yet still with a warm engaging sound. I was instantly falling in love with the sound I was hearing.

Then I put on Talk Talk’s Happiness Is Easy, which starts for quite a while with just a drum track before the stand up bass kicks in. The drums sounded clean, real and punchy, with obviously deeper, bigger bass than either the 96s or 93s. Vocals sounded nice, though maybe not quite as rich and big as on the wider, more squat speakers I’d been listening to.

Once the stand up bass came in, though, it was "bloomsville" in terms of the bass. It was huge, strong, room filling and if that is what one wants, and it is fun, the Gibbons had tons of spectacular bass impact. It’s just that it was really, really overwarm. It had more of a "subwoofers are on" bass sound vs the actual sense of the lowest vibrations of the stand up bass.

I’d read here and there that the Gibbon X can be challenging for dialing in the bass at it is quite generous, and now I can see why. How much of what I heard was sheer room node/room interaction, I can’t tell from my brief encounter.

That said, I can imagine that in the right space, set up with attention and presuming that bass can be tamed, this is one heck of a compelling speaker! You don’t get that combination of clarity, presence, realism AND beguiling warmth of tone in one package, very often.

And the fact that Devore manages to maintain this quality among various different speaker models, sometimes very different, tells me he has a good idea of what he is doing and going for in his speaker designs.

FWIW.....


Prof,

I live in Cincinnati Ohio and David Janszen operates out of Columbus, a 1.5 hour drive north.  I demoed, bought, and have had a couple of minor upgrades done while visiting with him.  I was one of his early customers.  He may be able to say if he has a customer near you.  I recommend you talk to David.  He'll work with you.

To answer your question, yes, you can't get past the requirement with ESLs of plugging them in.  The panels need to be juiced, but that is not part of the signal path.  All ESLs need this and it's a small inconvenience for getting the best transducer type.  If you like the realism you get with the Thiels, ESLs are even better due to near zero distortion. 

BTW, on my journey I went from Thiels to Maggie 1.7s, to the JansZens.  I'm done.  

Prof;
As an owner of O/93’s, having read your description above, I can only say that you are truly gifted at describing the qualities of speakers. On this Board and most other audio boards, it is rare to read intelligent, well-written, accurate descriptions for a variety of reasons (bias, lack of experience/knowledge, many people are nuts, etc). Thank you for your contributions on this thread. Keep it up and I will look for other posts on other threads from you.
jsm71,

I'll consider your advice!

Btw, never believe an audiophile who says he is "done" until he's under the ground ;-)

fsonicsmith,

I sure appreciate it.  At one point I reviewed speakers for a short while for an on-line audio publication, but that was long ago.  My goal when I wrote about speakers was to describe the sound as accurately as I could so that a reader could get a sense if he/she would likely be interested or not - that is act as a virtual "pair of ears" to the extent possible for the reader.  

But when I do posts like this it's more of a stream of consciousness.  I'm typing so quickly, not nearly as concerned with a precise goal in my descriptions.  But if they are interesting for you, I'm glad to hear that.


Great write ups prof. I’ve attended TAVES annually since it began and I must say that some of my fave rooms did have JA and Thiel in them. A few years ago a dealer from Montreal brought in Devore mated with Shindo tube amps, which sounded pleasant with very nice tone but lacked a bit of control and was a bit wooly, which I blamed on the set up. The same dealer also brought in Avalon speakers albeit mated with Spectral ss amps. One of the best I’ve ever heard and you might also like the Avalon sound but maybe not visually. Also the Ref 3A Taksim I thought was one of the best values under $10k and would no doubt match well with your CJ amps. Curious what you think of these if you’ve heard them...
But when I do posts like this it's more of a stream of consciousness. I'm typing so quickly, not nearly as concerned with a precise goal in my descriptions. But if they are interesting for you, I'm glad to hear that.
My comment was in the context of your very accurate description of the SQ and relative strengths/weaknesses of the O/93. "Stream of consciousness" and "not nearly as concerned with a precise goal in my descriptions"? I don't buy that. As I said a ways up in this thread, every loudspeaker known to mankind presents compromises, some more than others. Even S'Phile reviewers struggle describing the compromises and faults of the loudspeaker under review. You nailed those of the O/93's. I think of my O/93's as a beautiful blonde young woman with a slightly prominent nose. Some would say, "I love her beauty just the way it is and would not change a thing, her nose gives her character and only adds to her beauty" and others would say, "She's beautiful, but it sure is a shame she has not had her nose fixed". 
kesheri,

Sorry, forgot to respond:

I haven't heard Avalons for many years now, but back when they were hot I never really loved their sound.  They certainly disappeared and soundstaged well, excellent imaging, and competed with the Audio Physic speakers of the time in the "best disappearing speaker/imaging" category.  But I always found the Avalon sound a bit to tight, dry and buttoned down. 

Ref 3A have always sounded nice to me but, to my ears, don't quite get tonal color right, or at least as I like it.  (And I think those who love 3A speakers would argue exactly the opposite).

I get why many people really love the 3A sound, though.
I had heard the Devore speakers at Don Betters place too. Very fine speakers, both of them. I own some Vandersteens which are a better fit for me, and those speakers are somewhat like the Thiel in design. The Devores sounded good with tube amplification (as one had mentioned) and a good turntable/cartridge playing vinyl.
Speaker selection is very much “what one prefers or likes”. Speaker brands/variety are like ice-cream flavor. There is one for everybody.
For jazz/acoustical/vocals or small ensemble intimate music the Devores/tubes/vinyl is hard to beat. IMHO.
BTW the design of the Devore is beautiful. I actually own a Line Magnetic amp, which is the brand Devore had demo’d his speakers with in past shows.

Well I did a bit of testing today, investigating how the Devore 96s would fit in my room.

I have an adjustable height side table, and it turns out my old Thiel 02 speakers, when turned sideways, are the exact width of the Devore 96s.
So I put them sideways on the side table and raised the height to the 35 1/2 inch height of the Devores.  I moved them around, putting them in pace of my bigger Thiel 2.7s.

Ugh...not sure I could get the 96s to work in my room!   The main issue is that the room does double duty - it has a big projection screen and nice L/C/R Hales speakers and surround system.  The room was designed as a home theater fit into a living room.  My getting back into 2 channel is something of an add-on, so 2 channel speakers have to share the room with everything else, and go in front of my L/C/R home theater speakers.

The stereo speakers are pulled way into the room, almost mid way, so that when you walk in to the room you are essentially walking in between the home theater speakers by the screen wall on your right, and the stereo speakers to your left.  That's why the big Thiel 3.7s have to go - they are so deep they make that space between the HT speakers and stereo speakers a bit too narrow to easily navigate when entering the room.

The Devores are good this way being about 1/2 as deep as the bigger Thiels.

But...they are also of course much wider.

I was having a hard time finding a set up with the "fake Devores" that didn't block the HT speakers behind, or didn't impede a view of the projection screen.  This is why narrower floor standers tend to be more suitable for the 2 channel speakers - they "disappear" from view more, don't block the HT speakers behind them, and allow for good viewing angles of the screen.

So.  I dunno.  

I was getting more intrigued in going for the Devore 93s - cheaper, still sound great, and less wide than the 96s.  So I'll have to try similar tests with an object fitting the width of the 93s.

This all may go more in favor of the diminutive Joseph Audio Perspectives (my original plan) which really sit nicely in that room.
Sonically such a tough call:  The warmth, openness, fullness and texture of the Devore sound, vs the more pristine, even more tonally precise and ultra-refined JA sound (still with guts in the bass department).

If I ever find myself getting annoyed in trying to figure out which way to go, I have to remember: I'm lucky.  These are first world problems to be sure!


Small update:

I auditioned some Wilson Benesch speakers.

It was an interesting experience.

That’s a brand that has intrigued me - never heard them but have read some raves. Turns out a local dealer sells the brand so I dropped in and he had the smallish floor-standing Square Two, two-way speakers set up. They are about $7,000 CDN.

He told me quite a bit about the WB design techniques and philosophy.
Also said he carries them because they are more about making music, and for people who are more in to music than obsessing about hi-fi.

Funny thing is almost every single dealer says the same thing about the gear they carry. ;-) . "That other stuff is for audiophiles obsessing about detail, slam etc. I’m more about The Music which is why I carry this gear."

But of course, if anyone were really just about The Music they wouldn’t be an audiophile, or run an audio store. That’s always been an old diss between audiophiles "You are an audiophile - I’m a Music Lover!" And then you see the Music Lover’s system obsessively tweaked out in a way that clearly shows their obsession with The Gear.

Anyway...that's no knock on the store owner as it's common among audiophiles (just funny when I hear it).  The owner was an amiable, helpful gentleman and I appreciated his time.

He insisted I do not bring my music burned to a drive, as he didn’t think this is capable of producing satisfactory digital sound (though at home I have my CDs ripped to a cheap little usb drive, using a cheap Raspberry Pi as a server. I certainly don’t have any problem with getting stupendous sound, nothing of any lesser quality than any CD player I’ve owned).

The owner demagnatized my CDs (burned CDs as well). Wow...didn’t think anyone was still doing that! (I don’t believe it does a thing, as anyone who may have read my posts would infer, but hey if it makes the proprietor feel more comfortable that he’s providing an optimal demo, far be it from me to complain).

Placed in to a very expensive CD transport, to a high end DAC. The whole shebang. (We later switched amps/sources to another high end CD player).

Anyway....playing my test tracks, especially starting with Talk Talk’s Happiness Is Easy: the WB Square 2s immediately impressed me on these counts: Really boxless, low coloration, nicely controlled top to bottom, nice clarity, good "round" bass, good image focus. Detailed with good transient behaviour, but easy on the ear. So in that sense a good start.

However...one sort of "curse" for me in speaker auditions is that I can almost always tell immediately if the speaker is for me or not. It reminds me of my 4 years as a caricature artist at a local huge amusement park.
We did caricatures of people in profile. Doing up to 100 caricatures a day meant getting awfully fast at recognizing the essence of someone’s profile. It got to the point that I could literally see someone’s profile for about 1 second - even a glance at someone passing by - and I could produce an accurate likeness.

Decades of obsessing about speakers - like no doubt many here - has left me with a similar level of recognition in terms of a speaker’s general tone and characteristics. I barely need to get through the first test track and I pretty much know the speaker to a great degree.

And so it was with the WB speaker which immediately registered as "dark toned" to my ears. Just a bit less airy and organic than I’d like.
I can get into a darkish tone on some level, in which it can be comfortable to the ears and emphasize the lower harmonics. But such a speaker can never sound "real" or beautiful in the way real voices or instruments are, to my ears.

Anyway, as the audition went on, the speakers generally sounded very good sound for the money. But I became more aware of the limitations as I played more tracks - there was some blurring/confusion in some tracks (Everything But The Girl) that just don’t occur on my system or on many other speakers. I also found the overall presentation too small - acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments sounding a bit too toy-sized. Not terribly surprising given this was a relatively small two-way speaker.

And the Devores I’ve been auditioning recently are a tough act to follow if you are a smaller speaker, given the huge presence and richness found in the Devore presentation.

Got home and, as I always do after a speaker audition, spun the same tracks on my home system (the Thiel 2.7 speakers currently being used)., and it was just another world of sound - bigger, more organic, more tonally realistic and beautiful, better imaging, even more insight into the recording space/reverb etc. Funny that, given I use a lowly streaming set up and cheap speaker cables, vs the digital source/cabling at the store that surely ran over 10 grand. But that’s a common experience I have, after store auditions).

As I’m told the WB speakers have a very consistent house sound, I’m pretty sure they are not for me. At least the ones I could afford - they get super expensive really fast. Worth a try though, as you never know.

Next (and I expect last on my list) would be to listen to a pair of the new Magica A3s.


“ Happiness is easy “...... keep the T ‘s

Jim RIP knew what he was doing in preserving the phase integrity of the waveform....

as for Talk Talk, one of my favorite bands and indeed Colour of Spring is a favorite emotional listen but I guess to be honest sound effect driven.... would not be my reference for unprocessed acoustic anything.....

but it I do very much enjoy reading your posts and the quest....

have fun

the CJ iron are awesome amps IMO

If you want a speaker with a small footprint the Zu Druid VI might float your boat. Their aluminum base is 1ft. square and cabinet only about 7” deep.

They are a little finicky with amps and set-up, but can sound very dynamic and alive.
When i have a week to spare ill read this thread!!
Prof,

It's nice to see you write so eloquently and enthusiastically about your passion for music/sound.  If you love the Thiels, is there any chance auditioning a higher quality/different source in your own home could bring you a few rows closer, or make that wood instrument larger, or ???

Have you listened to any Verity speakers?