We get this question all the time: "Which one of your full-range speakers is right for me?"
We know that most listeners out there also know themselves well enough to prefer either a warmer and more liquid sound, or a slightly leaner/simply neutral kind of presentation. Or they might need to play things very loud on occasion, but still need warm response all the time.
So we give people the choice between three different optimized single driver full-range models that each have their own unique capabilities suited to different cultures of listening or different spots in the house, car, sailboat, camper, or outdoor awning, etc. that we have encountered over the years.
Each speaker model has additionally had its moving parts/cone suspension and frequency response tuned to match the average frequency response of the human ear within the volume range/intended use and typical placement of each respective speaker model.
3" Orca Deluxes: Best at the lowest volumes up to carefully pushed high volumes.
3" Orca Minis: Can be pushed ever so slightly harder than that
8" Thrashers: Are the loudest, most efficient speakers we make.
Giving a nod to true American design, our product line of speakers initially may seem slightly illogical in upwards progression to the eye. In actuality, the visible and invisible differences between each of our models only has to do with the ear's own logarithmic progression of perceiving higher volumes. (soft, soft-medium, and loud) .
The Orca Deluxe
The Deluxe: where it all started. The Orca Deluxe is the oldest and most soft spoken speaker design in our lineup. In 2014 we formally released the Thrasher and Mini as the two logical side-steps from our Original flavor. The Thrasher has been designed to sound like a gigantic Orca Deluxe. Which is awesome. Like more ice cream. The Mini, on the other hand, is meant to sound like a "Mini-Deluxe." Tuned motor, smaller chassis. A race car with a still surprisingly comfortable ride. Modern Miniaturization technologies are worn all over the Mini's design and are carefully balanced within the sound. And then of course there is the Orca Deluxe, which is still king of its own kind of refinement, overall balance, and sense of ultimate luxury.
All of our speakers can be used either with or without a subwoofer and this choice can and should be made for a variety of reasons. Thrashers can even be paired with a sub(s) below 40-50hz and will experience some benefit.
Thrashers vs. Orcas:
For people wanting to be able to listen at normal levels and sometimes totally crank it off of either high or low wattage, the Thrashers should be strongly considered. (The tradeoffs between the Deluxe and Mini will be discussed further below.) Thrashers are beautiful sounding general purpose loudspeakers that also work magnificently well with high end electronics. There is essentially no downside to the Thrasher besides its size and cost.
Yet if 95+% of your listening is within low to medium volume levels, (and that when cranked up, cranked gently), then it is important to understand that the Orca Deluxe or Orca Mini have been designed specifically for that 95% of listening levels that we have found to comprise the majority of "what people are actually doing out there." And because the Orcas are tuned for this uncommonly considered, but commonly experienced low volume/extreme clarity performance (literally, most likely the "silent majority" of music and media listeners out there). The Orcas are therefore slightly superior speakers to the Thrashers within those early volume ranges. Horses for courses.
Also, the Deluxe's and Mini's, being so physically small in footprint, are better at portraying an accurate soundstage at lower volumes than typical speakers are capable of, and do also have the more ideal impulse response, dispersion, and imaging traits than most any larger speaker or even high end headphones could pull off. These are important factors to assure convincing music and media reproduction at any volume level or taste.
In short, until you have experienced speakers like our popular 3" full-range models in the extreme near-field, then trust us...you are missing out on something in your lifetime.
Its also important to understand that the Mini's and Deluxes can probably be pushed much harder and remain much cleaner than one might think given how small they may appear in terms of the three dimensions in a room that most people are used to products existing in. Given an optimized audio system and associated subwoofer(s), the Mini's and Deluxes can totally disappear at respectably loud volume levels and can be totally engulfing to the senses, just like the Thrashers. These are not your typical wimpy little 3" designs in. the. slightest. I still find myself caught by surprise at the high volume performance of the Deluxes and Mini's when carefully warmed up during a long listening session.
Mini vs. Deluxe:
The first audible difference that people tend to pick up on (in my showroom) between the Mini and Deluxe when used without a subwoofer is the bass rolloff point, which is 10 hz higher for the Mini. This makes just a pair of Mini's the least obtrusive speakers in our line up for bass sensitive environments like small apartments with thin walls. Deluxes without a sub are also a fantastic choice for healthy neighborly relations.
However, with a subwoofer, this difference in bass response between the Mini and Deluxe is significantly less apparent. The Deluxes use a little less of the sub, and so too the Deluxes seem to handle just a little bit less power than the Mini's (because the Deluxe cone is being asked to go lower, and it is also of a more delicate construction than the Mini cone). The Mini's is having more of its bass response supported by the subwoofer, and therefore can "lean" on the power of the subwoofer a little more and gain slightly extra upper volume capability than the Deluxe in that way as well.
The Mini's also have a slightly beefier voice coil and slightly stiffer cone suspension that can take a few more watts. The magnet is also slightly more powerful. The middle of the midrange is almost pancake flat, which lends the speaker very well to multimedia and monitoring of difficult music in the closest near-field environments.
However, please understand that the unconventional delicacy in cone material and cone suspension is key to the Deluxe's openness and dynamics, juxtaposed with their extreme delicacy and transparency at low to medium and slightly high volumes. The Deluxes also have a little more mid bass. which is a warmer "creamier" and more classic audio sound. The Mini's are a little bit more of a crisper, "modern" neutral sound.
All of these differences are important and slight!
In college, I was a music history major who wrote a thesis on the development of early keyboard instruments in conjunction with unequal temperaments. This involved the evolution of harmonic scale, bigger dynamics being written into the scores by composers, and then bigger dynamics needing to be played by the instruments, and so forth until primary musical instrument design (piano/violin) finally slowed down due to changes in musical styles in the 20th century. Piano production (along with all other acoustic musical instruments) slowed down and became more antique and nostalgic and less innovative (alot like most "blah" speaker designs out there these days).
But there is still hope. For instance, there are still some small modern piano makers of all sorts out there...way smaller than Steinway. For instance, some of them like Fazioli are pushing design boundaries. There is another, even smaller community of instrument makers who are pushing physics, materials science and value engineering to achieve phenomenal sound in otherwise ordinary looking upright pianos. All of these makers are huge influences on me as a designer. It takes immense courage to push innovation within classic, campy design or scientific communities. The many varied stories of success and solution fascinate me and motivate me to be a part of.
Since college, I am an avid consumer of modern music and media as well. Relating this music research background to the audio realm, I am not entirely unqualified for the task of having created this lineup of speakers that # 1 works with the actual music and media that is out there, and #2 are ergonomic in design for both the ear and living space, just as musical instruments should sound and feel good to us.
In short, as music changes, so too do the instruments of its play. Which is the real reason behind your choice between a more historically leaning "classic" sound (Deluxe/Thrasher) or a more futuristic "modern" sound (Mini) within our product line.