After a history of mostly solid state amplifiers and standard 2 way speakers, I decided that is was time to radically change this path of upgrading. Every time I visit live concerts I am thrilled by the sheer openness and dynamics of real music. Even though the sound of some concerts was terrible, it has always pleased me more than listening to well recorded music at home. Live had guts, impact and a sheer communication of purpose. Listening only to beautiful tonality and great soundstaging etc. just didn't do it for me any more. I want that live feeling. For me no more listening to sluggish rhythms, slow beats, and dynamic compression.
I started to visit sites like audio-asylum and soon found out that the guys on the asylum that use horns and SET amplifiers definitely had more fun. My first step was to buy a good 300B SET amplifier and as soon as my funds allowed I plunged into the horn scene. The final choice was made between the Avantgarde Uno and Oris 150. I listened to them both on the same day. First the Uno's and I immediately got the picture were all the fuzz was about. I liked them very much, even though the bass did not integrate as much as I liked it to, but the listening fun was there. What a relief to listen to complex busy upbeat songs with the same amount of pleasure as listening to simple acoustic songs. Okay, I am on the right track.
Next stop was at Bert's house in Nunspeet. He had the Oris 150 running at low volume, but I immediately noticed an even better discrimination of subtle micro details, and more purpose of the performer. After listening to the Oris for about half an hour, not even at loud volumes my choice was made. The Oris 150 (with AER-nd's) convinced me more than the Uno, in at least one major area: you hear more of the music. With the Oris there is even more musical information available that I thought was not possible after listening to the Uno's. Another choice decision was that with the Oris you have some flexibility due to the possible upgrades of the drivers, different choices of bass systems, and off course the fact that the horn was able to go down to 160 hertz as compared to the 220 hertz of the Uno is very nice bonus . Furthermore, I was very pleased with its looks as well. They definitely make a statement. I like that. As I was a bit disappointed about the bass integration of the Uno, I decided to use the LaScala bass bin to accompany the Oris. They did a very good job in Bert's studio, and I don't have a large room. But be aware, I have not listened to the Bert's Onken bass system.
I initially ordered the Oris with AERnd-bd drivers, but now use the AER-BD3. All my impressions are related to the BD3's. The AERnd-bd's are really good when your former speakers are 'standard' medium efficiency speakers. With the BD3's however, you forget that you are listening through a system. For once you are really able to forget all the hifi, and just plain enjoy the music; no more limitations of any kind that stand between the music and your involvement to it. The LaScala is the 'original' 18 mm, with no side braces, and uses the Craaft 15-LC400 woofer.
Bert build the LaScala's and helped me with the installation of the whole system, as I am, sorry to say this, not much of a technical guy (thanks Bert). After the installation, I sat back and played some funky tracks (Dr. John, Allen Toussaint etc.) and some Dutch bands De Dijk, Blof. Even though at that moment my SET amp hummed, I could only use 3 notches of my volume control for real loud music, and the bass didn't sound as it should as I had some problems with the standing waves in my room, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to music. When playing De Dijk: 'Dansen op de vulkaan' live, there was no way I could just sit still and listen. There was vibrancy going on that I normally only get at live concerts. Finally, the fun was back, but I still needed to do quite some work to get the system performing at its best, especially the bass.
First thing needed was to get rid of the standing waves in my room, especially a huge bump at 80 hz was messing up the sound. To get rid of this, I now use a Behringer Ultracurve, which is fed via the speaker level outputs of my amp, the equalized signal is the input for the bass amplifier, and thus the signal to the horns remains pure and simple. Thanks Bert for this tip. After EQ-ing, things really started to shine. Bass had now the speed to keep with the horns, and a plucked bass was as easy to follow as the guitar. Another small tweak I did was to put the LaScala bass bins on 3 thick rubber tiles (3 tiles were more stable than 4 in my situation) as I have a wooden floor and I felt the floor vibrating a bit at certain frequencies. The last tweak I am going to do, is to add some weight (lead-bitumen) to the side panels of the LaScala because at real loud and deep bass notes, these side panels vibrate a bit too much, making the bass less tight I think (another nice tip of Bert). I am also still in the process of finding the right balance of coupling caps and driver (E182CC or 5687 types) and input tubes (6072a, 12AU7 and 13D3 types) in my amplifier. The fun part here is that these differences are much better noticeable than with the former speakers I have used.
The first and foremost quality of the Oris 150 is its speed. This speed is not only a major attribute for macro dynamics, but also for micro-dynamics, i.e. subtle cues about how a musician phrases the music. It is now really interesting to compare performances of a classical piece by different conductors, pianists etc. Furthermore, this speed is I think also able to create a much better scene of the recording atmosphere than all other speakers I have used. There are really huge differences noticeable between different cd's and even between different songs on one cd. The Oris is very good at creating a you are there feeling. One evening I was part of the lucky crowd at the legendary concert of The Bands' Rock of Ages. This is not the best recording ever, but even not very well recorded cd's sound much more enjoyable, i.e. are less dull and at least besides its recording deficiencies you are aware of the fun the band has playing. Old recordings of the Rolling Stones and The Beatles gain a lot of impact and sound more convincing and realistic than on 'normal' speakers. Play 'Symphony for the devil' and 'Can't you hear me knocking' and be prepared for a real thrill. A very worthwhile bonus is that the whole musical picture is rock solid and very stable. No matter how complex the music, every instrument can be easily followed. This stability is very relaxing. These qualities: dynamics and stability is what I have really missed in my other speakers. No more nervousness when playing music.
Another, for me very important quality of the Oris 150 system is its capability to portray rhythm. Again I guess that high efficiency pays off here. Subtle rhythms hidden inside the recording shine through and create a very rhythmically natural whole of music. Play some Lou Donaldson or Blue Note's Blue Break Beats 1-4 through the Oris and you know what I mean. While dynamics and stability are more or less a pre-condition for really enjoying music, these subtle rhythmic cues are really what makes the music more interesting. Once knowing that dynamics and stability are no problem anymore, you can really concentrate on the music, and even Nirvana and the Black Crowes to name a few, have much more music hidden inside the recording than I previously thought. I really love that. You exactly hear how a guitarist changes his sound during songs, you hear the subtle drum beat rhythms and the snapping plucks of bass guitar. Furthermore, you can perfectly understand the lyrics no matter how frantic or hectic the music gets. And if the music contains some brass, you hear them play their melody lines with full gusto. Music through the Oris 150 is real..!
I can go on and on, but I think Dan McFarlow (see showroom) has done a pretty good job of specifying the qualities of the Oris 150. All I can say is that the Oris 150 is a speaker that makes all music alive and kicking. It is a real pleasure to finally have found a speaker that brought back the fun and sheer emotional impact of listening to all types of music with equal pleasure! Well done Bert!!