It all started when I was looking for a high quality valve amplifier. At that time I had a good PP-amplifier from Jean Hiraga ('Lectron') driving my Audiostatic electrostatics. This combination was giving me much pleasure, although the low end was very weak and not dynamic. The midrange, that's what I liked the most.
I thought I could improve this midrange further by upgrading my amp, so I looked mainly for OTL- and Single Ended valve designs. These designs sounded very open and lifelike. Searching for information, through the web, I always saw on several pages Single Ended combined with Horn speakers. By that time I had little knowledge concerning these horn designs and I decided to read a bit more about these 'exotic' designs. Especially the high efficiency of the speakers got my attention, because this should be the perfect combination with low power valve amps. I 're-thought' my present electrostatic speakers and I decided that these low-efficiency speakers were not the perfect combination to match these amps.
So what, forget the amps for a while and start with better speakers. I was after all not happy with the low ends of my speakers and playing very dynamic music I always missed the 'live sensation'. Easy said than done, but at that time Bert Doppenberg's Webpage was a interesting source for information regarding horn speakers. I liked the horn designs but I also heard from other people and some magazines that horns can sound very 'colored'. Yes, I also had my prejudice and in my first correspondence with Bert this was the main item But I (Bert too!) was convinced that you must believe your own ears. And strangely I always read something about "Lowther" clubs. Who is "Lowther" anyway? "Lowther" clubs, are these 'snobbish' clubs who believed the earth was flat???? ;-)
No, Lowther is playing a key role in Bert's designs and are one of the very few 'full range' dinosaurs who survived the n-way speaker design area. At this time I liked the parameters: no filter necessary, full range, nice impedance and high efficiency.
I started (together with my wife) with a first listening session at Bert's studio. Took my own valve amp with me and some favorite CD's (yes, I'm waiting for SACD too...). I listened to several back loaded designs (Medallion, Belcanto), we were rather overwhelmed by the first tones. Very bright, detailed and much 'air' with depth, how was this possible? I always thought that only electrostatics (very low mass) could produce this sparkling sound. Bert was telling us something about paper cones and very big magnets, which are the keys for this "Lowther" sound. After further listening for a couple of hours, we were convinced that we should continue with a listening session at home. The Medallion had our interest. The next week Bert installed the Medallion (with DX4 drivers) at our place. It was an enormous difference compared to our electrostatics. Open sound, very detailed and again those damned dynamics. Now my amp could show, at last, it's full potential.
There was one aspect which could be improved and that was the low end. Although this was 'n-times' better than my old speakers it lacked the real low freq. information. But we were convinced that we could live with this, especially taking the other qualities in consideration.
But Bert is something special :-) He knew by now our home acoustics and sound preferences and he was convinced that within time I would ask for more 'low end' information. At the end he was right after all.
At our first listening session at Bert's studio I was rather impressed by the size and design of the "Oris" system. Also a real sub horn was installed and believe me, if you want to hear a real dynamic bass, this is it! For us, Bert demonstrated the Oris front horns with the accompanying Oris "Onken" reflex subwoofers (not the sub horn).
We (my wife and I) were overwhelmed. We thought we heard all the details possible through the Medallions, but this was really some other stuff. Percussion and guitars were absolutely real, you could really hear every detail. Maybe the Medallion had some coloration? The Oris sounded 'clean', very detailed with an incredible 'air' around the instruments. And those dynamics......Richterscale like :-)
But now, there was also a very tight and clear low-end reproduced by the subwoofers. Live-recordings are now really a joy to listen at. The basses are very good balanced with the "Lowther" driver. All the important details and sound stage were not "blurred" by the subwoofer (a very important aspect!). I personally think that the Oris combined with these subwoofers is the only way to prevent you to dismantle your house in order to install a real big sub horn :-)
Bert used several Unison Research valve amps on the Oris which really kicked the Oris into heaven with only a couple of clean Watts. My wife likes good music too and therefore no WAF factor in our house, but we thought that the big front horns could be too much for our listening room. Bert was very patience and gave us an pre-production (with no driver) 'Oris', so we could play with it in our listening room.
This model was white and therefore had a big impression in the room. But we were convinced that with darker colors (looks smaller) the horn would fit very nice in our interior. And it did. The placing of the subwoofers required some experimentation, but we are satisfied with the results.
Now we are listening for about 6 months to this "Oris" system (with PM4A driver) and we are convinced that this is "the Holy Grail" we were looking for.
I visited several "High End" shows and listened to several very expensive gear, but it's really mind-blowing, that this "Oris" horn design can let you hear so much detail with such ease and, if necessary, with incredible dynamics and most important, the price is a bargain compared to other well known 'High End' manufacturers.
Now I also use the modified Unison Research Smart 845 single ended amp on the Oris. A perfect combination.
There is a saying "Lowther for Life". For me it's definitely "Oris for Life".
John van Spijker.