Clube do Audio HiFi Show 2007, Sao Paulo, Brazil - September 28-30
[First public display of the ORION, 1 year before RMAF 2008]
I have been a proponent of Siegfried's ORION design since 2002, when he first posted this design to the web. At that time I was moving to Brazil, where I wanted to live. My Uncle in Bahia had a friend, Wander, that liked Classical music, and who wanted new loudspeakers. I shamelessly used Wander as the guinea-pig to build the first ORION here in Brazil, and the results were so spectacular that I never built my "all out attack" on high-end, loosely based on Tony Gee's Andromeda: The drivers I selected, Scanspeak R2904/700000 , Scanspeak Revelator 12M/4631G00, Scanspeak 18W/8545, FOCAL Audiom 13" woofers, await another application....
When I heard the ORION (actually a semi ORION, due to the fact that side panels were too large) I was so taken with the sound that I immediately built a set for myself. In doing so, I became the principle proponent of Siegfried's designs here in Brazil. I helped others build their ORION's and Pluto's, at no profit to myself.
I had long toyed with the idea of showing the loudspeaker at the Sao Paulo Audio show. This year I decided to finally "Just do it!" Here below are my impressions. My objective was to show my fellow Brazilians that one did not need to spend thousands of dollars in order to obtain a reference sound system, and to steer people to Siegfried's site. Based on the number of "Best sound of the show" comments (even if people were just being polite), I achieved my goals.
Johannes Brahms, Piano concerto No.1
Pre-show day (Thursday): 10:30AM-12:34AM
Set up day. It took two hours to get everything packed and out the door from my apartment on Thursday morning. I had called Marcello -- my woodworker -- to help me move things, and here in Brazil an air cooled VW Kombi (the ubiquitous white one) is the vehicle of choice for woodworkers. So we loaded the VW Kombi and off we went. I sat in the back, while my wife and Marcello chatted about god knows what -- Kombi's are noisy; Great start to a HiFi show -- having ones ears blasted by an air-cooled engine. A constant 600Hz whine, really, really loud. Getting to the hotel/convention center was a chore -- many different entry points, but finally we were orientated and got there -- security is a huge issue here in Brazil. Lenir (my wife) watched the car while Marcello and I slepped the stuff upstairs.
Oops -- had to check in, and get exhibitor badges -- crazy amount of work going on the pavilion where the badges are to be had. Sony, Phillips, Samsung, and Tannoy seem to be large.
Into the room -- my god -- so small ... 18m square -- not good. It took almost two hours to lug everything up the stairs. I had stopped on the way over to buy two pieces of wood -- my estimate from last year show had been right: The room was way too dead. At around 90kg each, these hardwood composite boards 2m by 1.5m by 30mm were difficult to bring up, but I muscled up one and Marcello the other. Sweating and breathing way too hard (need to work-out more)
Finally -- in the room with everything. 14:40PM
I had made the following equipment choices to demonstrate the ORION:
A humble HiFi system -- no way to attribute the sound to the components!
I brought my leather sofas from home, as I wanted customers to be comfortable. I assembled the rack, put things in general order -- then left to eat and get some things I had forgotten, like a Wally Universal protractor.
Back in the room around 16:40PM -- attacked the rack again, cabled everything up, removed the lamps from the walls (hopefully the hotel staff won't notice) and put the wood in its place. Measure 4 feet from the tilted wood to the back of the ORION and 2 feet from the tweeter to the wall. Left about 7.5 feet between the ORION's. By 20:00 I had everything working -- darn -- why did I dismount the REGA Origin-Live adaptor from the Technics -- very difficult to mount. Testing, testing, testing. RTA with CLIOwin. Excessive bass -- I have to use the woofer ASP pots to turn down the bass "big time" -- four notches. Now it looks good. Lenir leaves everything spotless. Out the door at 22:04 -- is my stuff going to be here when I get back tomorrow?
Show day One (Friday):
Wifey does NOT want to go "O que? Eu com este banda de homens? Nao tem nada ver..." Out of home at 07:30 -- need to check things.
Hummm -- sound not too bad -- used the RR Test and Burn In CD disc with "in-phase", "out-of-phase" tracks (2 and 3) to align the speakers. The "out-of-phase" track works best for me -- when the voice has a direction, rather than being nebulous, push that speaker back and away at a tangent an inch or so, then go back to in-phase redo until the voice is solid and three dimensional in the center -- good enough for government work .... now the Turntable. Running through my check-list. Wow, the Dynavector is actually very nice with my Pearl phono stage. Very dynamic. Waiting -- appears that the show only begins at 14:00.
I had given some thought to what I wanted -- no hallway noise to interfere and detract from the sound in my room-- I leave the door closed -- so what if no one comes in; what would be the point of listening to a compromised system? I taped the latch open and put a small "Open, come-in" sign on the door handle. I listened to things I enjoy; I have recently acquired a taste for Brahms -- never thought that I would really like Brahms, but the first piano concerto is to die for -- I now have four recordings: The CD version that I like best is the DECCA/Curzon , but the new DECCA Nelson Freire is to not too shabby. When the piano finally comes in, it one of those moments of pathos that seem to summarize the bittersweet "glory" of being human. This is what I love about ORION's -- they connect you to the emotional core of the music. I read a quote in the liner notes about the Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 -- it posses "the singularity of a result...." Basically what I feel about Siegfried and his ORION's.
I played Manuel de Falla, "Nights in a Garden of Spain," and "The three cornered Hat," Aaron Copland's "Rodeo" and "Appalachian Spring," Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 4," Gershwins "An American in Paris," and "Porgy and Bess." It was a love feast of all the music I like to hear, basically what I listen to when I can sneak in a listening session after work.
Charles -- sitting and listening
In retrospect, I would look back on Friday as my "best" day -- I simply played the things that I like to hear and more or less sat there mute. People came in, reverently and silently, in ones or pairs, listened (some for extended periods of time) then left saying thank you. I had the first of many complements. Not much talking, people curious, but listening rather than poking around behind the speaker. Three people left saying -- "best of the show."
Things wound down at 22:10 and I took a taxi home. A good day.
Show Day Two (Saturday)
The big day (Supposedly). I got up early and went. I had been asked to calibrate the turntable systems in two rooms, so off I go. First to visit Mr. Eduardo Rebelo de Souza of Avantagarde [Balanced-Technology, Kuzman, Dynavector] -- he had a Triplanar MkVII mounted on Kuzma Stabi Reference, with a Dynavector XV-1S. I get nervous around phono cartridges that are priced above $4K USD, but the XV-1S was a pleasure to work with and calibrate, as it has a rather long stylus, and the bottom of the cartridge has a nice squared set of surfaces. Easy to see when it is aligned properly using Wally's tools. I quoted Wally on one of the main selling points of this cartridge -- Dynavector quality control is outstanding, and it is perhaps the only phono cartridge at this level that consistently "will be exactly like the next." Takes a bit redo this table, as the custom made chromed steel stand (220kg) does not have much in the way of level adjustment. Show them Stan Ricker's ball bearing, un-modulated LP level trick. The table was radically out of level, and the cartridge was a full 2mm out of position: With Wally's fantastic tools, I set it up in a jiffy. They are fascinated by the WallySkater Tool. We fixed the phono stage resistive load, set it to 100 ohms. They were using a Balanced Audio amplification chain all the way through -- a beautiful PHONO satge with JENSEN oil caps, and with Karma loudspeakers at the end of the chain. Nice sound. Then onto Julio Cesar's room, of AudioClassic A Clearaudio TT/arm with an Audio Technica AT-OC3 MC that I had traded for LP's. Really out of alignment. I get to select a new LP out a bin of records that Julio brought to the show as a reward -- I grab a fantastic "RCA" before anyone else sees it. Ya's gotta grab dat thr' vinyl when you can.
Back to my room, waiting. The show started at 14:00 -- forgot to eat lunch -- darn -- wouldn't wish the overpriced Hotel restaurant on my worst enemy. Oh well.
This day was a blur -- many people, but mostly just curious about the design -- not really listening to it. But some interesting visits: two loudspeaker designers come in and declare that "this is the first new idea in loudspeaker principles that I have seen in thirty years." (Turns out this was Mr. Dorival de Oliveira de Santo André , who makes a CDROM sampler of his impressive vinyl and CD collection, called "My Musical Universe.") They brought their own CD-- a CD-ROM -- some of which were excellent -- a mixed selection of RR, Chesky, Sheffield Labs music that was perfect for loudspeaker evaluation. Especially a piece called "Scene de la vie pastorale" by Martin Xavier -- (apparently, part of a B&W Sampler CD). WOW! If you ever want to hear what real live uncompressed bass sounds like on the ORION, play this. What also made many "pause" was when I played my vinyl records, such as the beautiful LINN SONDEK recording of Carol Kidd. She was there in the room.
Carol Kidd -All My Tomorrows
My friend Wander helped me on Saturday. Wander is a consummate salesman; he was in the hall, directing people in with bait line of "do you want to hear the best loudspeaker at the show?" As a result, many more 'eyeballs' glanced through my room -- but they left their ears somewhere out in the corridor; the net effect was that the door stayed open too long, which diminished the ability to enjoy the sound. My philosophy was to convince "one" person of the legitimacy of Siegfried's design -- this has more intrinsic value than a million curious "equipophiles" who inevitable roared to back of the loudspeaker to check out the naked rear end of Siegfried's creation. But this is something of a cultural trait, shall we say....
Anyways, I appreciated the help, and I think many more people saw my room than otherwise, and will be curious as to "what the hell was that room all about?" Perhaps they will remember the foot high web site banner that I suspended over the speakers. Perhaps not.
I shocked many people by pointing out the cables that I was using -- RCA cables direct from "Rua Santa Efigênia" where Brazilians go to get their "gutter components." In other words, I was using the cheapest of the cheap -- common RCA to RCA that SL likes you to use. It was funny to see the expression on the hard core $9K USD a cable run people after having listened to something beautiful on the ORION, and then having that "slapped" into their minds. Worth the price of admission. Some laughed, some stormed out. Interesting.
A confusing and tiring day. I was glad it was over. Went home at 23:04.
Show Day Three (Sunday)
Perhaps if I had really wanted to "shock" people and drive them batty, I would have demo'ed the PLUTO, as the PLUTO is a far more radical loudspeaker than the ORION. Given an unlimited budget, perhaps even a simian could design a reasonable sounding loudspeaker -- but what if your budget was restricted to <$1,000.00 for the pair? How then would you go about building a reference caliber loudspeaker at this price point? The fact that Siegfried was able to do just this with the PLUTO design speaks far more loudly of his design prowess than the ORION. It is a 'truly' shocking and radical product, especially when built with PVC tubing - the visual impression of a Rube Goldberg product, with the resolution of a QUAD.
But my affinity for the ORION was too strong to overcome -- even knowing that the PLUTO would sound better in these circumstances. Brazilians need to hear what the lowest distortion, most linear, most accurate non-monkey-coffin loudspeaker sounds like, even if it was somewhat compromised by the room.
This day started out very slowly -- it opened (as usual) at 14:00, but I did not have visitors until around 16:30, only three and a half hours before the show ended at 20:00. It was a mixed crowd, but (thankfully) more inclined to listen than to observe. I was able to shift from "demo" mode, into music listening mode, and I think the results were very favorable. People expressed their approval of Siegfried's design; most notably, a group of professional musicians from the Orchestra de Sao Paulo, who had listened to the whole show, searching in vain for something that reminded them of what they heard live ever day. They settled into my room and thankfully would not leave, handing me choice pieces of music to play, which caused the passers-by to stop and ask -- "what was THAT?!"
This to me was the justification of the entire show, and was the highest compliment that I (and Siegfried) could possibly receive. Professional musicians, who listen to music every day for subtle nuances of rhythm, harmonic structure, and timbre -- both in themselves and in the others that they work besides -- proclaimed that the ORION was the GOLD standard. Best that they had heard, and the first time that they heard things that they hear in the Orchestra.
Just when I thought I could close shop and leave happily, in march a couple of recording engineers, who sat and listened to a number of things. When the other occupants moved on, they jumped up and cursed in Portuguese "Puta merda que pariu de caxias!" -- This is what I hear coming off my mike feeds! I can't believe it!!!!
To end the day, a nice couple listened with me to the entire Beethoven 4th Piano Concert with William Kempf. They were very moved, and left smiling. "If we had the room, these would be the speakers we would put in them...."
Thus ended my HiFi show experience; in the end, I believe that it was a success, at least in terms of opening the eyes of many to the fact that much of what is said in High-end audio is total hype, and has nothing to do with the recreation of music in the home. To those that are reading this from the show -- trust me -- build a pair of one of Siegfried's designs -- you will be much happier than with anything that you can buy commerially.
Sala de Sao Paulo Ticket
Retrospective: There be heroes amongst us.
Last week (21:00, October 25th, 2007) I was invited by the same group of musicians that so loved the ORION's at the show to sit and listen to a performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, . This was a revelation for me, in that it had been a LONG while since I had last heard a live performance. The Sala de Sao Paulo is considered (at least by Brazilians) to be one the top five acoustic spaces in the world -- all I can say is that it was extremely impressive, and beautiful.
But holy ear protection, Batman! -- was that performance ever so loud! I was given an excellent seat to sit in, just a little off-center and about six rows back from the podium, and I listened as if I were listening to my stereo system -- eyes shut, absorbing the sound. Strangely, that "live" unamplified sound characteristic was present, but diminished, and I was hearing things that I am used to hearing with the ORION's. But if I had it been sitting in my living room, playing my stereo, I would have reached for the volume control first, the bass reduction second, the treble reduction third, and I would have considered purchasing an audio compressor for the brass, so dominate it was when they played 'fortissimo.' WOW! So that is what a live symphony sounds like!
Now I can see what Siegfried is after with his design, and it has put a whole different perspective on the loudspeaker. My concerns about what I hear occasionally with the ORION's have been laid to rest, as I now realize that I was laboring under a romanticized misconception of what real music should sound like. And here I was complaining about tube guys -- boy, if they ever entered into a symphony hall like this, their ears would explode!
This issue apparently has been getting some traction recently in this month's Stereophile [As we See It -- John Atkinson, Vol.30 No.11, November, 2007] there is a report from the editor asking if J. Gordon Holt feels we have come any closer to achieving the goals of reproduction of live music in the home -- J Holt had written a rather dismal appraisal (page 9) of the industry some twelve years back -- answer back -- NEGATIVE. Interestingly, J Gordon Holt uses the one other loudspeaker -- as his reference -- that I have huge respect for -- the Sound Labs A1 Electrostatic speaker.
"We seem to have come to a tacit agreement that it's no longer necessary, or even desirable, for a home music system to sound like the real thing. We speak in hushed and reverent tones about reproducing the ineffable beauty of music, when in fact much real music is harsh and vulgar and ugly. We design the all-important musical midrange out of our equipment in order to try - vainly, I might add - to recreate the illusion of three-dimensional space through what is essentially a two-dimensional reproducer. And whenever we hear a loudspeaker or a CD player that shows subversive signs of sounding more 'alive' or 'realistic' than most, we dismiss it out of hand as being too 'forward' or 'aggressive.' As if a lot of real music isn't forward and aggressive!"
This is why I think that Siegfried is a "hero" and deserves the Noble Peace prize -- in spite a huge edifice of ludicrous pseudo-science techno babble looming over him, not to mention an entire industry bent on pandering to a romantic ideal of sound, Siegfried has methodically moved forward with his analysis of what makes the re-creation of live musical events in the home possible, pulling from many disciplines, and offering -- essentially for free -- the scientific and testable basis of his conclusions as shown on his web page, and the embodiment of his concepts as expressed in the ORION, PLUTO, and PHOENIX designs. The scientific proof is in the pudding my friends -- all you have to do is taste it.
Follow-up: Brazilian reviews
My only comment is to read my retrospective (above), especially the comments of J. Gordon Holt.
Audio & Video Magazine ano 12 - no 129 Novembro 2007
Article by Ricardo di Marino
As a counterpoint to Hi-End concepts, but promising the same type of auditory Nirvana, a simpathetic American named Charles Port showed the Orion of [Siegfried] Linkwitz.
Sold in the United States mounted or in kit form, this box is an Open-baffle, dipolar, tri-amplified loudspeaker using an active crossover that is part of the project and showed as its main virtue a broad Sound Stage with non-fatiguing reproduction. This using cables from "Santa Efigenia," and a modest CD and pre-amplifier.
If the system was without certain Hi-End attributes, such as precise textures and extensive macro-dynamics, for example, it was able to attarct many visitors, who stayed and listed to the inviting sound and beautiful musical selection of Mr. Port.
by Ricardo de Marino
It remained to visit the newcomer Charles Port and check out the Orion of Linkwitz (Riley) that he represents here in Brazil, which were playing in an environment completely different from what I heard a few months back.
The system that Charles brought to the Hi-Fi show was quite simple, and his goal was to demystify that such boxes need a top of the line system.
I confess that I liked much better the presentation in Charles Port's home (as well as a room with larger dimensions, especially towards the right), the [playback] system was more conducive with the boxes. But still the main characteristic of the box (its strong point), the sound stage, was able to enchant many visitors.
by Fernando Andrette
Article by Fernando Andrette
POST post retrospective
Compare what is written above with this below, which is but a small sample of this type of sentiment, and typical of what is said about the ORION. It is also important to note that the "visitors that I was able to attract" and who stayed in my room were musicians.
Re: Best Speaker Choice 188.8.131.52 [ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Thread: Display All Email ] [ Speaker Asylum ] Posted by Winefood ( A ) on December 14, 2005 at 12:06:13 In Reply to: Re: Best Speaker Choice posted by RGA on December 12, 2005 at 16:50:05:
I see a discussion has ensued re: what speakers have we heard on Bullgrumbles list. I have only heard the B&W 802's .
However, I think I should elaborate on how I settled on the Linkwitz Orions. Over the course of 6 months, I listened to many wonderful pairs of speakers in 14 different high-end stereo stores. I was consientious and brought my amp and pre-amp to audition anything that seemed promising. On the same day I heard the Linkwitz Orions I was sure these were the ones and the search was over. To be sure, that same day, I went back to a few stores and heard among other speakers, the B&W 802s, the Joseph Audio Pearl, some Watt Puppies and a pair of DIY Thors. I went to hear the Watt Puppies not because I can afford to spend $25,00.00 on a pair of speakers but because another Orion owner told me he sold his Watt Puppies that he had paid $25,000.00 because he got 1/3 more music quality from the Orions. I believe he arrived at that conclusion from A - Bing them in his home.
My conclusion at the end of my search was and is that these are the finest speakers I have ever heard at any price. What sweetened the deal but was not the determining factor, was that because I built them, they were the least expensive as well.
POST post post retrospective
The ORION (PLUS) was displayed at the RMAF 2008. I thought a very significant perspective on these wonderful loudspeakers was written by none less than Lynn Olson, of Ariel fame:
"And now for something completely different - the Linkwitz Labs Orion.
The (analog) active crossover and equalization is the best active-crossover system I've heard so far, with the smoothness, elegance, and seamless quality of the best passive crossovers, combined with the characteristic big dynamics of a multi-amped system. The 12-channel (!) ATI power amplifier, at a modest US$1799, sounded really good, with no transistor edge or hardness - of course, multi-amping reduces IM distortion by not exposing any one channel to a wideband input signal, thus reducing amplifier coloration significantly.
The bass is surprisingly deep and powerful for petite dipole system - I heard a room-filling 22~25 Hz, with no stress or strain from the pair of 10" drivers on each side. They must be low distortion indeed to do what I heard them do.
Of all the "mainstream" 87~90 dB/metre efficient speakers with Scan-Speak/Vifa/Seas drivers, the Orions are probably the best-sounding and best-engineered. They make the heavily-advertised $30,000 to $100,000 "Class A" speakers you see in the magazines sound pretty bad.
The truly surprising thing is that the OMA and the Orion have nearly the same voicing - on the slightly warm side, with no upper-midrange hardness or harshness, and balanced for classical music. And both play a lot louder, and more effortlessly, than you'd expect.
Last edited by Lynn Olson on 10-13-2008 at 10:29 AM "