TONEAudio Magazine Review
Jeff Dorgay of TONEAudio Magazine reviewed the Orca Classic and Dungeness Subwoofer in the March 2014 issue of the e-journal. We've copied the review in full below, and you can also download the entire issue for free as a PDF on TONEAudio's website (note that it may take a few seconds for the file to load).
"I have a soft spot for single driver speakers. While they don’t do everything right, the level of coherence and midrange purity exhibited by a great single driver speaker system is intoxicating. The Orcas from Blumenstein Audio, combined with their Dungeness subwoofer are even more so, because now this setup has some serious bass, so I guess it’s not really a single driver system.
No, they still don’t play AC/DC like my Focal Maestro Utopias, but the Orcas/Dungeness combo will only set you back about $900, and that’s pretty cool. Again, everything has its strengths and weaknesses. The $1,500/pair KEF LS-50s are imaging masters, the $1,149/pair Vandersteen 1Cs (reviewed this issue) are incredibly musical all-rounders, and the Orcas are masters of tone – and isn’t that just fitting?
As with any great single driver speaker, the Orcas have an extremely wide dispersion characteristic, so they are not as position critical, from either speaker or listening chair placement, to get a full-bodied sound with a big soundstage. And thanks to the combination of a wooden port and strategically braced cabinet with no sound deadening material, the Orcas don’t waste mechanical energy converting the signal to music.
Though a fairly young guy, designer Clark Blumenstein brings serious chops to the table. Formerly working with Cain and Cain loudspeakers, he has also spent time in Japan, apprenticing with Hal Teramoto, master driver maker at Feastrex in the summer of 2008. One listen to the Orcas and you know he’s absorbed a lot from this experience.
While these speakers are absolutely sublime as the anchors to a spellbinding desktop system, they can fill a decently sized room with sound, as Clark and Molly Blumenstein found out when they delivered the Orcas right after the Consumer Electronics Show early this January.
As they have an 87dB sensitivity rating, and possessing no crossover, you might be thinking “perfect candidates for a great SET amplifier.” And you might be right. We’ve had great results with our 845 monoblocks, and even though they are not SET, the 20wpc push-pull 300B amplifier from Nagra.
No one was more surprised than yours truly, when we heard a major difference going from the 20 watt tube amplifiers to the enormous Pass Xs300 monoblocks. Yes, we were crazy, hooking up an $84,000 pair of solid state monoblocks to the diminutive Orcas, barely bigger than the power meters on the Xs300s, yet it worked. Not only did the soundstage explode in all three directions, these little speakers distinctively revealed the differences in amplification handily. Pretty damn impressive for a $500 pair of speakers.
Yet as cool as the Orcas are, they still sound a little, well, small without the matching subwoofer. And for the extra $400, it is a must-purchase, taking these speakers from intriguing to serious. Its six-inch driver in a small ported cabinet is small but very mighty, reminiscent of the powered woofer that Spica used to make. Featuring adjustments for crossover frequency and output level, the Dungeness can be connected via line level outputs or directly to the speaker outputs, in a similar manner to REL subwoofers. We used speaker level for two reasons – it was easy and with many people using these speakers in a modest system, and possibly not having access to an extra pair of variable outputs, this will most likely be the more common way these speakers will be used.
Five minutes’ worth of tweaking and the sub/sat balance was set perfectly. Bottom line – these are incredibly easy speakers to set up, another bonus.
In the main listening room, alongside the mighty Focals, these little wonders proved intriguing, filling the room with aplomb. Recordings more towards the sparse side really make these speakers come alive. Paul Weller’s self-titled album proved particularly groovy. With no crossover to introduce distortion or time/phase errors, the vocal purity is tough to beat. And while these small speakers can only move so much air, at modest volumes they are eerily realistic.
Moving the Orcas out of my 16 x 25 foot main listening room into the 10 x 13 foot room in my house is much better. Putting the sub close to the corner of the room for maximum bass reinforcement and bringing the speakers about four feet out in the room (much like I would with a pair of Rogers LS3/5As) provides as nearly an immersive experience as listening on the desktop. These speakers are absolutely wonderful in a small room.
With the Orcas on the desktop between a computer monitor and the Dungeness tucked well under the desk, out of sight, it’s easy to forget that there is even a sub in the system, it integrates so well. Listening to these little speakers extremely near field, the soundstage is encapsulating – sorry, headphones just don’t do this.
Playing to their strengths, I run through a medley of vocal-heavy tracks. CSN’s “Helplessly Hoping” is magnificent, with all three vocalists clearly delineated, floating in front of my head – totally trippy. Crowded House’s “Whispers and Moans” is equally lush, with the speakers disappearing in a three-dimensional presentation that is totally stealthy.
Though large scale rock is not the Orcas’ true strength, they handle AC/DC well at modest volume, close up. “For Those About to Rock” comes through loud and clear, with good distinction between Angus Young on lead guitar and brother Malcolm on rhythm guitar, providing the necessary bite and texture. Lee Ving’s “Wife Is Calling” has the necessary grit, but pushing this too far reveals the limitations of these diminutive speakers – the point is reached where the soundstage just collapses and becomes one-dimensional. Back off just a tad from this point and it’s all good.
While there are a number of choices in this price range, this combination from Blumenstein Audio is fantastic, doing so many things incredibly well. If you’re looking for a small speaker system that not only plays way bigger than its size suggests, but one that truly captures the tonal richness locked away in your favorite recordings, you need to give these a listen. And if you’re a tube/SET listener, all the better."
by Jeff Dorgay, TONEAudio Magazine, March 2014