In a universe just around the bend, at a time just a few dark years away, I rented a house from Eike Linkwitz in Santa Rosa/CA. On the occasions that I'd hand-deliver my rent check to her house, I'd notice one-up speakers in the living room covered behind some homely grill cloths clearly too thick to be acoustically transparent. The speakers were obviously crafted by hand in a garage workshop. "Another DIYer reinventing the wheel." Some flip thought to that general effect accompanied my first sighting and I thought little of it for a while. What did I know about loudspeaker crossover legend Siegfried Linkwitz and his imminent launch of Audio Artistry? It was a brand soon to be represented by the HiFi shop around the corner from the one I would work in for a few years, kicking off my career in the audio industry. Unlike stupidity, ignorance is thankfully curable with a bit of education. Today's brief report attempts to fill the gap created when Audio Artistry's renowned dipole speakers vacated the market as yet another testament to the vagaries of the HiFi business.

Always a stout proponent of dipole radiation and not one to let the market put a crimp on creativity or his desire to share his vision, Siegfried Linkwitz -- yes, the Linkwitz of Linkwitz/Riley topology fame and a senior HP engineer from 1961 to 1998 - -- has long since launched Linkwitz Lab as a DIY outlet similar to Nelson Pass' countless generations of Zen amp projects. The Orion loudspeaker [above with Thor subwoofer] is the culmination of his design work and represents a sanely sized, sanely prized solution for a decor-friendly full-range loudspeaker that can be built by anyone reasonably handy with a saw, router, sander and soldering iron. It's a 3-way design with open-baffle SEAS tweeter and midrange and dual 10" Peerless woofers in a front/back array also mounted on an open box-less baffle. The system is designed to be actively tri-amped and the sealed-box Thor subwoofer is optionally available to extend bass response.

Various levels of assembly are available including complete DIY whereby Linkwitz Labs provides the schematics and parts lists. The full turn-key Orion system includes an electronic crossover/equalizer, speaker cables, interconnects and an optional 8+4 channel power amplifier, with the speakers in satin black paint finish or solid maple wood. Cost with the 12 x 60wpc ATI-based amplifier is $6,445 plus shipping, or $4,800 amp-less.

Albuquerque resident Frank LaFond and lady friend Gloria Bach have built their own pair and subwoofer from scratch in their garage including the complex crossover. The latter had never migrated into a proper chassis yet and was thus displayed proudly in bread-board fashion on one of Frank's rack shelves. In materials, Frank has about $2,000 invested in his Orion project. I found his name on Siegfried's website as an owner who might be amenable to demo the system. A few e-mail exchanges later, I drove to ABQ for an informal look/listen.

Frank is using two 4-channel Harman-Kardon Citation amps, with both Orion woofers driven jointly from the 3rd channel and the Thor subwoofer from the fourth. A TacT preamp/DSP engine is the brains of the system and Frank's professional involvement with software code writing and testing has him enjoy the endless adjustability and target curves the TacT provides for.

Not knowing the room or the components of the system, I could of course not make any informed judgments but a review wasn't the reason for this visit. I wanted to get a first impression of this genetic inheritor of the Audio Artistry blueprint. My visit left me convinced that the Linkwitz Lab Orion is a monstrous value, with the kind of spacious and deep soundstaging you'd expect from a dipole but much better image specificity than the genre in general is said to enjoy. Active drive inserts the crossovers ahead of the amplifiers to maximize control and the result is high audible precision of very small ambient details.

Due to Frank's TacT, tonal balance was ultimately a moving target over which the user has full control. With the Thor subs, this included extremely stout low-frequency response once the initial -10dB @ 20Hz target had been rebalanced at my request. All I can say? Siegfried Linkwitz' Orion Project has all the earmarkings of extreme value for the money and its cosmetics and size go where other statement speakers cannot. Active equalization and tri-amplification are part of the design brief. They afford the listener a unique degree of adjustability which takes into account personal preferences on tonal balance. Needless to say, these aren't speakers for close-wall placement but Frank's setup wasn't in the least bit extreme or unrealistic in that regard. Especially large-scale orchestral works will be exceptionally well served by this design. Anyone in the market for a high-performance loudspeaker would be remiss not to check out the Linkwitz Lab website and learn more about the Orion. As the pictures show, the open-baffle principle doesn't put undue demands on a beginner's wood joinery skills. It makes this a prospective hands-on venture far more ambitious sonically than it is to put together. The crossover boards are admittedly complex and sizeable and probably not something a first-timer would be entirely comfortable tackling. Check out the website below to learn about the different options whereby you can get involved based on your comfort level and skill set. Make no mistake - while the open architecture here may suggest a less than "professional" effort if you're used to gleaming automotive-lacquered fully enclosed cabinets, the engineering behind it and the resultant sonics are very serious indeed. There's nothing arbitrary about this design. The fact that it doesn't cost an arm and a leg is simply part of the whole approach and a deliberate return to sanity in HighEnd audio.
Linkwitz Lab website