Tonian Labs Oriaco G6 Loudspeakers

Is the Oriaco G6 by Tonian Labs among the great stand-mounted speakers today? They are...

[Italian version here]

Product name: Tonian Labs Oriaco G6 Loudspeakers
Tonian Labs - USA
Price: $3500 / pair USD
Reviewer: M.L. Gneier - TNT USA
Reviewed: February, 2023

[Tonian Labs G6]
[G6 tweeter detail]

Here's an excerpt of my first chat with Tony Minasian of Tonian Labs.

Me: An integrated amp?

Tony Minasian: Yes. Anything.

Me: Well, I think I have an old one in the garage.

Tony Minasian: And for speaker cable, lamp cord; nothing fancy.

I really did have an old integrated in the garage. It's been there for years and it comes in very handy from time to time. But, I've never thought of using it to drive what are designed to be reference-class monitors and, of course, I've never had the designer of reference-class monitors ask me to pull it out of mothballs. But that's exactly what happened while I was arranging to listen to the Tonian Labs Oriaco G6.

The integrated was fine. I like it and I know exactly how it sounds. Also, the G6's don't present a very challenging load. But, I drew the line at lamp cord. Sorry, Mr. Minasian, but you'll have to settle for Kimber 8TC which is all but welded into my system.

My time with the G6 was short, only a week. The Oriaco G6 look as if they mean business. Everything seems to be where and how it is for a reason. There are no frills to be seen other than the Oriaco name plate. The cabinets are unusual in that they are made from Baltic Birch with a cabinet thickness of .50 inch. I will go out on a limb and say that this is thinner than average even when it comes to relatively small monitors.

The G6 is a two-way ported design with the port firing rearward. The SB Acoustics tweeter is slightly inset as can be seen in one of my photos. The woofer is heavily modified and oddly appears to stand out just slightly from the cabinet. A single pair of solid binding posts are well-spaced on the rear of the cabinet. Not surprising given their intent, no grills are provided. The G6 have a modest and tasteful appearance which will work nicely (from an aesthetic perspective) in pretty much any listening room. The speakers are designed by the aforementioned Tony Minasian. He's a recording engineer by education and profession. In fact, I'll be having a listen to the G6 playing a couple of his recordings later on in the review. Like many other engineers he grew frustrated with what he regarded as errors in the recording process that are amplifier by errors in the playback system, especially when it came to speakers. The G6 are his effort to give the listener exactly what's been done in the recording.

First up is a long-time reference of mine, Immigrant's Dilemma by Todd Garfinkle on his very own MA Recordings label. The first 3-4 minutes of the opening track, Time can reveal a great deal about how much spatial information a speaker can recreate. More importantly, it can tell me whether a speaker can recreate tonal and timbres accurately. Drums start the track followed quickly by piano and the G6 capture the space between the instruments easily. It also conveys the quickness and concussive quality of the first parts of the track. Settling into the track there's a run of pizzicato on the guitar that should stand out clearly and does with the G6. Overall, the Oriaco's were off to a great start. It was a cold (by SoCal standards) evening when I picked the speakers up and Mr. Minasian told me I should consider the G6 as I would a musical instrument, something that would be affected by being out in the cold. These words reminded me of something I read years ago about legendary speaker engineer Richard Heiser. The great man also thought speaker enclosures should be considered as if they were musical instruments. This is miles away from conventional wisdom that considers cabinet resonances to be always and inevitably distortive. I discussed Heiser with Mr. Minasian and he stood by his opinion. I don't have a problem with it. I realize that every listening room is beset by resonances that go largely uncontrolled. Beyond that I know that no one wants to listen to music in an anechoic chamber or even to have a normal conversation while inside of one. Of course, these kinds of thoughts always leads to the question: How do we minimize resonances within a cabinet that are detrimental to music while allowing those resonances that exist consonantly along side it? It's these exact kinds of questions that make me happy I've never had the slightest inclination to design, let alone build, my own speakers. Oh wait. I did. When I was like 12 I bought 4 12 inch coaxial driver's from Olson Electronics and made enclosures out of scrap plywood. Hey, I didn't say the speakers were any good. I think I was lucky to have gotten that particular inclination out of my system when I was young.

Back to the far more interesting G6. Andrew Bird likes his vocals closely, I would go so far as to say very closely, mic'd. This is strongly in evidence on Giant of Illinois from his record Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... wherein it's all too easy for a speaker to go from quick and articulate to hot and excessively sibilant. Through the G6 this song is right at the edge. We simply have to remind ourselves that if the recording is right at the edge the sound coming from the speaker should be also. Sometime fidelity is not quite as pleasant as we might hope.

Shifting to analog I dropped the needle onto For Free from my pressing of Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon. To get this LP right a speaker needs to again ride the edge. This time the edge is comprised by the remnant tape hiss and the strength of the consonants that Mitchell sang and tonal fluidity that this classic record possesses. Here the G6 is truly in its element. The listener is left with the strong impression that while no detail is missed there's also no undue accentuation to any aspect of the presentation. By the end of the side I was exactly where I should have been; lost in the music.

The Shins Oh, Inverted World, also on vinyl, takes the G6 back toward the edge again. James Mercer is a songwriting genius but his recordings, especially early one like this, are quite hot. But, I love the music so there it is, going round and round. Though you can readily hear the flaws of the recording you also get the easy wit, melody and energy through the G6.

Of late I've been thinking and occasionally writing about the question: Could I review with this? The answer when it comes to the G6 is a resounding yes, but that's not the whole story. It's true that the G6 has enough resolving power to satisfy my needs as a reviewer. But there's so much more to this speaker. It is accurate, resolving and musical. It strikes a balance that's not as common as it should be. I'm used to hearing this level of resolution with speakers that, by the end of the review period, I'm happy to send back to their manufacturer. Such lesser speakers convey a lot of truth but often do so a way that is fatiguing in the long run. That kind of resolution at the cost of essential musicality can be fun for a while; rather like a new toy is to a child. But, even for a reviewer there's little benefit to gear, especially speakers, that retrieve that little bit of extra detail but do so at the expense of essential musicality.

Mr. Minasian was kind enough to send along a couple of his CDs and I am happy that he did. Both feature brothers Jasper (woodwinds) and Brad Dutz (percussion). I especially enjoyed Isolation from the CD of the same name. The music is both interesting and enjoyable and the recording is superb both spatially and tonally. I very much look forward to hearing more of Mr. Minasian's CDs. I was lucky enough to speak to Mr. Minasian for a few minutes and I really enjoyed our time together. One thing he said really struck me as true but not something you hear often enough or stated so clearly. He was talking about how some refer to the early days of analog stereo recording being the golden age of recording. He disagrees. Mr. Minasian thinks we're living in a golden age today. Sure, classic recordings like the Mercury Living Presence Recordings, especially those recorded onto 35mm magnetic film, were excellent but consider the cost and resources involved in their creation. Now consider the quality that can be achieved today for very low cost through the use of modern digital. It's very much like comparing book publishing in years gone by to today. If you were Hemingway you had no problem getting your book printed and distributed. But, imagine you're not a contemporary version of Hemingway. You're much better off in these days of digital print-on-demand that's so readily available today than you would have been in any other time in history. Diversity is good. Digital is good. Just listen!

As I said, I only had a week with the G6 so I tried to spend as much of the week as I could listening. It was a very rewarding time. Now you should know I have a soft spot for relatively small stand mounted speakers. I've come to believe that the less, in terms of frequency and dynamic range, a speaker aspires to, the less there is to get wrong. I think that contention is without debate. So, part of what I love about the G6 is that it doesn't try to do too much. It doesn't try to play too loudly, or too low or to retrieve detail that might be amusing but not musical. Best of all, it helps me do the two most important things in my life; it lets me hear into the very heart of a recording while relaxing and enjoying the journey. If you ever have the opportunity to hear the G6, take it. It is a fantastic speaker and I miss them already.

Listen well, but listen happy, my friends.

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