Help with Shortlist of Speakers! (SF vs Devore vs Others?)


Hey everyone,

First time post but long time lurker. I've been aggressively researching and listening to speakers over the past several months and I could use some help with more experienced folks (who are not trying to sell me a product). Here are pictures of my space and dimensions. Essentially 22'X12'x11' but with an open concept into the kitchen and a hallway. A decent size space but the listening distance to speakers is relatively close. Right now I'm using a cambridge audio Azur 651w (amp) and Azur 851N (preamp/dac/streamer). I plan to upgrade the amp in the future so if the sound could be improved but is still enjoyable today I am OK with that.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RL9QojAHog3CjD6HFTToxoat3_i9a4zG/view?usp=sharing, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SO47Y5JEnRY2RGuAlWJsGUI9i8Q42twl/view?usp=sharing, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vNNNCKpn3ywU3ZzE-MxKOT0GjpFu0gF9/view?usp=sharing

So far I know I like a warm speaker with a visceral bass. I like to feel the music and have a very large soundstage. I do not like when the speaker is too bright or thin. The Sonus Faber Olympicas II/III and Devore Fidelity Orangutan 93/96 have caught my attention. A gentleman at the speaker shop recommended the Audio Physic Avanti but I have yet to try them out.

Given my space, what would you all recommend in terms of size? I'm torn between the SF II & III and the O/93 & O/96. I was scared off by a salesman at one of the audio shops here in San Francisco who said the Dynaudio Countour 30i (which I also liked) would be way too big for my space and really drove home the fact a bigger speaker would overpower the room. 

Anyways, would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you have any other speaker recommendations that come to mind for <$15K.

Cheers!


jpearson3131
Last year when I was looking to upgrade my speakers these three (O/96 and SF II/III) were at the top of my list. I listened to both quite extensively at the local dealer and preferred SF over the O/96. All speakers were demoed with the same equipment including top of the line ARC amp/preamp. I had high hopes for the O/96 but was a little disappointed in the end. It had a huge wall of sound but I found it lacking in warmth and holographic imaging. For some reason, the SF sounded more full bodied with better timbre and tonality across the spectrum. The SF II/IIIs drew me into the music more than the Devores.

If you search the forums you'll see that I started a thread last year with the words 'Devore Orangutan' in the title. You can find lots of useful comments and recommendations there. There were folks who absolutely loved the Devore line of speakers. Others felt that the O/96s were a little finicky with partnering equipment, but if you manage to find the right one they absolutely shine. They seem to prefer tubes over SS.

With this kind of budget, my advice is to audition as many speakers as you can. Once you narrow down your choices to 3 speakers, see if your dealer would let you do an in home audition. Good luck!
Thanks for providing so much information via your linked drawing and photos.

What comes to mind is, speakers optimized to go up against the wall, of which there are not very many but they do exist. Larsen comes to mind.

There seems to be a column sticking out from the wall a bit behind the right-hand speaker. IF you were to consider speakers intended to go flush up against the wall, would it be practical to shift your entire system to one side or the other by several inches to avoid that column?

How far does that column stick out? I’d guess 3 or 4 inches. And if I understand correctly, your ceiling height is eleven feet?

Aside from the lack of bass implied by their small size, how well do your current speakers perform in other areas? And, what are they, if you don’t mind saying? What is the approximate distance from their forwardmost edge to the wall behind them, and how important is that distance to your room’s aesthetics?

Also it looks like you couch is not directly across from your system, but rather is shifted to the left somewhat. And I don’t see a center-channel speaker. So I’m assuming it would be desirable for the imaging to hold up pretty well for the person seated at the left-hand end of the couch, so that the dialogue stays on-screen for movies.

I think that there are solutions, but wanted to get a little bit more clarity in these areas first.

Duke
dealer/manufacturer
I like the DeVore speakers you mention.  For that kind of warm sound, I think you should also be looking at Audio Note AN-E and AN-J speakers, particularly if you prefer to locate your speakers close to the corners of the room.  Most other speakers really only sound their best well away from the side and back walls.  Audio Note speakers are not "flashy," but in an extended audition, they come across as sounding very musically pleasing and "right."

My personal favorite in this price range would be the Charney Audio Companion with the AER driver.  It is a single driver system that is shockingly complete, full and natural sounding (usually single driver systems are very clear and dynamic sounding, but are otherwise one-trick ponies lacking in bass, having rough (peaky) frequency response).  The AER driver puts it at $17,000, but, other driver choices can put it at around $9,000.  These are extremely efficient speakers, so they can be used with low-powered amps (my favorite kind of amp).

The SoundKaos Wave 42 is another warmish sounding speaker that is quite lively sounding.  I like it a lot, but, it will be hard to find.

I am also a fan of ProAc speakers.  The tall floorstanding D48r is probably well within your price range; it is a rare example of conventional drivers mating well with ribbon tweeters.

Ginko Audio makes a modular system (ClaraVu 7 monitor, and ClaraVu 7 powered subwoofer) that costs around $10,000 for the pair that I like.

In the not so warmish category that I still like a lot, I recommend the Martens Oscar Trio.  This is a lively sounding system that remains musical and non-irritating.  

If you think you might have issues with speaker placement, one of the most flexible systems I've heard that sound good with a variety of room placements is the Gradient Revolution (woofer can be configured for close to or farther away from the wall).

Good luck on our search.
There is no one set of speakers that does it all. Wilson and Magico owners don't accept this premise. They need to expand their minds and see the different paradigms. 
As a Devore O/93 owner (and a happy one), I still accept the strengths and weaknesses. The O/96's are more fun, but not quite as neutral. Neutral is boring imho. But you are spot-on, the Devores are not kings of depth or imaging. The O/96's have magic. The O/93's have less. Your room could likely do will with O/96's. Use the long wall.
With my O/93's, I get a wide soundstage. There is a very slight paper-ness to the sound. I like it a lot. If that sounds contradictory then you simply have not had enough time to let the realities of home sound reproduction fully sink in. 
For what you describe, I would look at:

Vandersteen - Treo, Treo CT, Quatro depending on your budget.  These will deliver the exact sound you are looking for and pair well with mainstream electronics though they do like a little power.  

Spendor D7.2 or D9.2 or the Classic line- also on the warm side.  These are very nice, albeit simple looking speakers.   I was very impressed when I heard the D7.2s.  They deliver a big sound for a relatively little box.  

Harbeth  - not sure on exact models as I am not a dealer.  I just had a pair of 40.2 anniversary editions here and they are exactly what you are describing.  The beauty of Harbeth is brilliant low level performance and they have incredible time alignment.  It sounds almost like a single driver speakers.  

I am a dealer but I don't carry any of these three lines and have no affiliation.  Good luck
Do a  dual Seas Magnesium W22 (not the Graphene, as they are 2X's the price of the EX001) add a 
SEas Cresendo
all Mundorf SESGO caps. 
wayyy less than your 15G cap.
Best bang for your buck
xover is gonna be very close as the Crescendo only goes down to 2khz. W22 to ,,not sure, be right back.............
yep 2k. 
gonna be that critical 2khz, cruch time xrossing
Just got my Crescendo in today, its a 
**beast of a  tweet*** 
https://www.madisoundspeakerstore.com/approx-8-woofers/seas-excel-w22ex-001-e0022-8-magnesium-cone-w...

aint no speaker gonna touch the things these guys will do. 
Would help to know what speakers you’re using now. I’d probably avoid most tower speakers in your situation as the drivers may not have the time to integrate before the sound reaches your ears. I’d look at a good monitor like the Joseph Audio Pulsar 2 or similar from the likes of ProAc, Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, Usher, Spendor, and Harbeth among others. I wouldn’t recommend Audio Physic as I don’t think they’ll give you any of the warmth you’re looking for IMHO.  Hope this helps, and best of luck in your search. 
Wow so many great responses here! I'll need to digest them.

@audiokinesis - Yes there is a column that sticks out about 2 inches. I could move the speakers further to the right and avoid it. My current speaker are nice and warm but lack the bass and soundstage. They are Cambridge Audio Aero 2 speakers. I'm currently using a basic Velodyne subwoofer to supplement. The couch is in fact shifted slightly off center with the system due to another similar column on the back wall. The thing you likely see in the center is just a router :)

I think the speakers are a little back in the pictures but I can place any speaker about 24-26 inches from the front baffle to the wall. The larger speaker cabinets will go further back towards the wall but the measurement from the front baffle should not change. Assuming this is what's most important? I could pull the speakers out further during listening if I wanted.

There are lot's of awesome speaker suggestions here. I guess the one thing I'm still unsure about is whether the SF III's or the O/96 will overpower the room? Also, there's a high likely hood we will be moving in the next 1.5 years and so all of this could go out the window. So I suppose flexibility is also part of the criteria. I just love the look of both of these speakers!
My opinion is that SS amplification the broadly antithetical to the orangutan line. I heard them with NAIM and it sounded like disappointment. Much prefer SF with your current gear. Looking at pictures and hearing in person are very different things. Good luck. My suggestion would be to listen to Wilson Sabrina if accessible, which is a super pleasant sounding speaker.
Thank you very much for the additional information, jpearson3131.

I suggest the Larsen 8 or Larsen 9 as candidates for your situation. Here is a review of the Larsen 9; the reviewer is a concert violinist (whose day job is high up in the math department at UCLA):

https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/larsen-model-9-loudspeaker

I have no experience with the Sonus Faber Olympicas but my instinct is that they are designed to be placed well out into the room. They might well have too much bass up against the wall, and their relatively narrow baffle implies that a fair amount of midrange energy will wrap around and reflect off the wall behind them.

The Devore O/96 looks more promising to me, as the wide baffle makes them less susceptible to negative interaction with the wall behind them in the midrange region. I’d suggest that you try plugging one of the two rear-firing ports, which would lower the tuning frequency and make the bottom end’s native response synergize better with placement up against a wall.

If by any chance you are open to used speakers, you might consider the Snell Type A, preferably in one of its later iterations. You might need to invest in some refurbishing as they haven’t been made in decades. But the Type A is one of the most well thought-out up-against-the-wall designs. That being said, the Larsens will probably give a better soundstage for off-centerline listeners.

If you are willing to go off the beaten path somewhat, PiSpeakers offers designs which work well up against the wall. The GedLee Abbey comes up for sale used occasionally, and is imo (along with the Summa) among the most acoustically advanced designs ever, though subwoofers are required. The GedLees and PiSpeakers can be toed-in aggressively to give very good imaging across the width of the couch. The JBL 4367 is also a candidate. These are all rather large loudspeakers, which may be an issue.

My other thoughts about speakers for your situation involve products that I’m commercially involved with.

But let me at least suggest that, in this price ballpark, it might be worth attending an audio show where Larsen will be exhibiting, or traveling for an audition. They have a dealer in Los Angeles. No affiliation.

Duke
What's the distance of your listening position? John Devore recommends sitting 8' away from the O line speakers to hear all they offer.
Consider auditioning the Devore Gibbons, they're neutral-warm with huge soundstaging and depth. Less lively than the O's but tonally correct with excellent focus.


As a O/96 owner I will say that they would pair poorly with your Cambridge 100w (@8 ohms) SS amp.  I mean the sound will be ok but you won't be hearing anything close to the sound they are capable of producing with a say a 20W-35W EL34 push-pull tube amp (think Leben or even A/N Cobra), a well built SET (preferably with a bit of grunt to control the woofers) like a Line Magnetic, or even low/mid powered Class A SS amp like a Sugden or Pass XA30.8/First Watt SIT-3.  

I think @verdantaudio provided some really good recommendations.

If you have access to a Fyne audio dealer, they are very revealing without fatigue as well as excellent bass.  I am using a 30 watt class a ss amplifier with plenty of power to spare.  They have budget lines, and super hi end lines. Mine are the 702 series and can listen for hours.  Not for everyone , but worth an audition
If you are thinking Larson, and Duke’s assumptions about your room and seating placement and soundstage are correct, maybe look at Ohm Walsh talls.  I haven’t considered other speakers since I picked up original Ohm Walsh 4s many years ago.  A cross over is on the way out, so I ordered the 4-5000 upgrade.
While I like the new line of Sonus Faber the Olympica III is not a dark speaker, it is pretty neutral. It is a hair ripe at 100-200hz and a hint shelved down at 2k. I actually feel it is a little tipped up past 10k. Nice speaker. But you might not like as dark of a  sound as you think. 


Look at the YouTube video’s for Fleetwood Audio Deville’s. Not very well known, but impressive sound quality, very efficient and unique with regards to craftsmanship and build quality. http://https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvJy2FGgneI
http://https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-0_PgdoRBM

I’ve owned Harbeth M-40.1’s on and off for 8 years. They are warm, very full bodied and organic. I currently own Harbeth 40.2 Anni’s, which are more dynamic and transparent than the 40.1’s but not as full bodied or organic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing... just different. Both great speakers in my biased opinion. These speakers do like to be pulled out 36" or so from the wall... so keep that in mind.

I also like @larryi Audio Note suggestion, especially with regards to their ability to be placed close to the front wall.
You will always hear the story too big for your space a lot but in fact a big speaker does not have to work as hard as a little one so they will sound much less strained in volume and in the bass range than a small speaker so i say buy the speaker you like in your room with your music and your ears. By the way you should try and listen to some pre 1981 vintage american speakers they will give you that natural tone and extended bass you are looking for and for a lot less money.
Again thanks for all the speaker recs everyone. I'm taking note and researching.

A few have mentioned the SS amp pairing with the Orangutans and I should mentioned I auditioned both the SF and the Devores using my amp. I was impressed with both even still. In both cases I'm sure they will sound much better with an upgrade in that department. We paired the SF with a Luxman integrated amp for example and I could hear the difference in bass response and depth of soundstage.


@lowrider57  My listening distance is about 8-9' feet so should be alright

@james633 You might be right. I guess I heard the SF Sonetto first compared to a Paradigm equivalent and by comparison the SF was much warmer. I've read that the Olympica might actually be more neutral than the Sonetto so maybe I'm just taking my bias with me as I explore up the SF line. 

I have to say, I'm into cars, watches and all kinds of stuff but this forum is by far the most helpful and thorough I've come across in any hobby!
I echo audiokinesis' recommendation of the Larsen 8 or top model Larsen 9.  I own 8's which were purchased prior to the 9's introduction. We used a pair of 9's at the last AXPONA in Schaumburg. Set them up along the long sidewall and attendees were amazed at the sound we achieved no matter where in the room they sat or stood. Tonality and reality weresuperb even in the less than ideal hotel room. Paired with GamuT electronics & cables, Pear turntable, Aurender server, Bricasti DAC, and shameless plug for our Pneuance Audio Pneupod pneumatic isolation feet throughout.  Give Michael Vamos at Audio Skies (Larsen distributor) a call for more details and dealer list.  Good luck!
I absolutely LOVED the SF Olympica Nova 3’s. I had them in a very small room at the time and was driving them with a monster Gryphon Diablo 300. Giant sound stage even sitting 6 feet away from them. I eventually traded up to a pair of Seafino’s. Listened to Wilson’s and B&W’s and these ticked my ear the most…! Good luck…!
I absolutely LOVED the SF Olympica Nova 3’s. I had them in a very small room at the time and was driving them with a monster Gryphon Diablo 300. Giant sound stage even sitting 6 feet away from them. I eventually traded up to a pair of Seafino’s. Listened to Wilson’s and B&W’s and these ticked my ear the most…! Good luck…!
the Larsen throw a massive 2D image with what i call incisive definition…..As others have mentioned there are other speakers you should ALSO audition, especially against the wall.

Please note the perfectly neutral to all tastes speaker as yet does not exist, well except for ….. ( cue the hype crowd )…

So my comments are NOT bad marks for Larsen. I spent a few enjoyable hours with them in Napa….

enjoy your journey and the search and most importantly the music !,,,,
Go listen to the monitor audio Platinum 200 Gen 2 or the 300 Gen 2 you'll be how huge the soundstage is with those speakers. And how natural and life like everything is.
Tomic 601, unfortunately 2D is not very good the speakers out there that give you an incredible three-dimensional soundstage so your Larson don't cut the mustard as they say.
One of the audio shops in town also just recommended I come in and listen to the Audiovector R 3 Arrete. There doesn't seem to be as many reviews for these out there but I’d be interested to know if anyone has a take on these as well. Based on some quick research they seem like a good option for near wall placement.
@havocman a careful read of my comments might reveal that I was being generous and in ALL caps recommended other speakers be included in. the audition list. Ya, have a look at my various systems page for many speakers capable of 3D “ cut mustard “ imaging….
op

my 2 cents

agree heartily with recommendations for spendor classic series, larger harbeths, vandys - they have the warm full sound signature you seek AND are done right by good solid state amplification - also consider upper grahams and stirlings

i also agree that devores o series and audio notes are best driven by tube amps

proacs and spendor d series will not sound warm driven by solid state

parenthetically, i would consider your cambridge gear not quite really good solid state, but close... kinda sorta

i have not yet heard larsens nor the latest high line sonus fabers

good luck
for fun go see Randy. at Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica and give the Vandersteen Quattro a listen Built in powered subs, 11 bands of room taming EQ below 120 HZ, your main amp can loaf, Award winning 3D sound, made in Hanford ( you will drive right by the exit headed to LA ). Or simplify your life with the Treo CT ;-) no sub but plenty of bass in a back wall friendly bottom port design. Also with the famous carbon tweeter…made in USA

Bratwurst with cut mustard.
I do not think your source and amp merit really expensive speakers. Smaller Monitor Audio Golds and a pair of REL T5x will sort it.
You do not say at what decibel level you listen. If low then speaker size not relevant.
 The great mid range and strong bass are not usually found together.

Sonus Faber although pricey are good speakers.

From what I read you need to learn a good bit more before buying anything.




A gentleman at the speaker shop recommended the Audio Physic Avanti

Definitely audition these...
I highly recommend SF Olympica III in a 16x18 room. I’ve had in the space QAcoustics (way too small and not refined); Tekton Electrons (great sound stage and dynamic but lacking refinement); Dynaudio Countour 30 (picky about speaker wire; lacking dynamics, and small sound stage—particularly vertically), and then there are the SF, sublime. I had also demoed Focal (Kanta was on the short list) and B&W—too bright for me.

SF smooth, great detail in the treble (I was worried they would be too laid back—no way), fantastic 3d soundstage and tight imaging, tight base. A real treat is low volume performance. Can listen to them effortlessly at any volume. I like smooth sound: paired with McIntosh MA352 with vintage tubes and a Paradigm x10 sub.


+1 @jjss49 — wholeheartedly agree with these comments. Also, the reviews I’ve read of the Arrete characterize it as a very neutral, white wine kinda speaker so not sure it’s what you’re looking for. Certainly no harm in listening though. FWIW.  BTW, what speakers are you using now?
vs Others? that's actually a long list, lol
As an update - I went and listened to the Vandersteens and Audiovector R3 Arrete. I was really impressed by both.

The Audiovectors had a very unique and engaging soundstage. It might have something to do with the rear firing tweeter? The only problem is they didn’t pack the low end bass I am looking for. It was certainly punchy and tight but not something I could feel. The shop owner suggested I pair them with a subwoofer. Now I’m considering this option as well because it would give me much more flexibility in my current space and also down the road when we inevitably move in a couple years. I live in San Francisco where large rooms are hard to come by.

The Vandersteens were also awesome. Especially the Quatro CT, which had a bigger soundstage and deeper bass. Although I can’t say I really like the look of either, which might be a roadblock when I’m paying this kind of money for something in my living room.

Looks like I’ve got an even tougher decision to make now!
So I ended up getting the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova II's!! The Audiovector R3 Arretes didn't have the visceral bass I was looking for and the O/96's just look too old school for me. I even tried the Audiovectors with a sub but that didn't provide the type of bass I am after. I was really impressed with those speakers otherwise. Down the road I'll have to look into the R6's.

In the end it was a toss up between the Nova II's and Nova III's. My instinct is to just always go bigger = better. But in my San Francisco home, I feared the the III's would overwhelm the space (21X12). At best I could move the III's about 12 inches from the wall (from the back of the speaker). 

Unfortunately the there's a 2 month wait, but I'm very much looking forward to setting these puppies up. Next on the upgrade list is a new amp!