DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3XL loudspeaker Page 2

Set Up 2 has the speakers no more than a third of the way into the room from the front wall, and the listening chair . . . well, wherever. Furniture placement and room size may dictate what works best. I guess most DeVore Fidelity owners listen alone; the diagrams show a single chair, not a couch or love seat.

The Gibbon 3XLs worked exceptionally well in my room, in both the nearfield and at greater distance—a tribute to that 19mm tweeter. That doesn't mean you shouldn't audition, and maybe buy, a pair of Gibbon 3XLs.

John DeVore set up the speakers in my listening room using Set Up 1, which worked so successfully in terms of soundstaging and imaging that I was loath to move them again. That, and my physical difficulty with moving anything. Finally, with help, I tried Set Up 2. I gained bass reinforcement but lost some of the transparency. The 3XL does appear to offer exceptional flexibility, which is one reason I'm so keen on it.

Tonal balance is another. I used my Denon DCD-1650AR CD player as a transport, my Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, my Little Dot Mk.III headphone amp as a (glorious) tubed line stage, and the Quicksilver Silver 88 monoblocks, which I reviewed in the April issue. The speaker cables were Atohm ZEF, from France. I love the Atohm because: a) it's made in France, b) it's hard to find, and c) it doesn't cost $15,000/8' pair, but "only" (as Audio Advisor might say, if they sold it) $250/8' pair, unterminated.

Atohm recommends its own WT-LMB banana plugs. I used solderless banana plugs from (Product ID 2801, Model No. JX-74043), which I bought for $1.73 each in quantities of 20 or more, plus shipping. Before you go bananas elsewhere, take a look at some of Monoprice's nice plugs, and their other speaker terminations and connectors. It's like buying pens by the dozen at Office Depot.

No time left for the usual audiophile song and dance about how I heard this nuance or that for the first time. I enjoy music far too much to obsess over the details. I noted excellent low-level resolution, reasonably wide dynamics (what nerds call macrodynamics) for a small speaker, and stable, pinpoint imaging. My main quibble: I did not find the Gibbon 3XL particularly forgiving of crappy recordings. In other words, the 3XL didn't sound peaky or confused unless the recording was.


The Gibbon 3XL reminds me of speakers from European manufacturers such as Opera, Sonus Faber, and Audio Physic (whose speakers I haven't heard for a long time). I found its tonal balance pleasing, not hyperanalytical or inherently bright—unless the recording was crap.

An obvious contender at the Gibbon's price of $4295/pair (including stands) is my reference Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3 at $3495/pair (plus stands). I find that the Harbeth provides a somewhat richer, fuller sound—its cabinet is larger—but maybe a little less immediately apparent low-level detail.

If this is your price point—especially if you're into classical and jazz—then I strongly recommend that you audition both. To say that the DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3XL compares favorably with the Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3 is high praise indeed. I could really DeVore them.

As with any loudspeaker at this price or above, I strongly suggest an audition in your own room with your own gear. In your own cage, if you will.

Herb Reichert wrote about the Gibbon 3XL in April 2017 (Vol.40 No.4):

About three years ago, after a long day of busking and barking for biscuits, I called my lifestyle consultant.

"Listen, Sphere"—he's not round, that's just one of his nicknames—"I'm down to $161 in the bank, I have no construction work, haven't sold a painting in a year, and now I'm spending my days on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign, a stinky dog, and a paper cup."

After a long pause, Sphere grunted.

"What should I do?" I blurted. I was impatient.

He grunted again, then paused even longer. Finally, he growled, "Why don't you get a job?"

"Doing what?"

"What about writing for Stereophile?"

I began to stutter. "What? That—that's ridiculous! Why? I—I couldn't do that—no way! I don't even have a fancy hi-fi!"

Sphere then explained that I needed to write a "pretend" review in the form of a regular Stereophile equipment report, and send it to John Atkinson. "And after you do that, you must lean on your friends and try to borrow a reference system."

After some due diligence, I decided to review Rogue Audio's Sphinx integrated amplifier, and concluded that DeVore Fidelity's Gibbon 3XL should be my reference speaker. After all, it was listed in Class A (Restricted Extreme LF) of Stereophile's "Recommended Components." I phoned John DeVore and asked to borrow a pair.

"No," he said.

I felt rejected, but still, it was nice to reconnect with my old friend. We continued our conversation, talking about rat rods, how rust is the new gold leaf, automotive paint jobs, and vintage watch movements. Finally, I complained, "But John, I need to borrow a good speaker!" He told me not to worry.

The following night I drove my low-torque, 72hp, nickel-green 1977 Mercedes 300D to the DeVore Fidelity factory, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where John stuffed a beautifully veneered pair of Orangutan O/93s into the trunk. Driving off, I felt more disappointed than grateful. The O/93s seemed too big (15" wide by 35.5" high and 10" deep) and too expensive ($8400/pair, footnote 1). Nonetheless, within a few days, the Orangutans had become my reviewing reference—but I never stopped longing for Gibbons.

Last September, when I noticed that the Gibbon 3XL was no longer listed in "Recommended Components," I decided it was time to again ask for a pair, and maybe write a Follow-Up on them. I called John DeVore and told him about the plan. After a short conversation about torque vs horsepower, he acquiesced.

The next day, the Tall Wizard (DeVore) parked his gloss-black 2013 Cadillac CTS-V wagon by the curb outside my bunker. As I stood there grinning, he opened the hood and showed me the supercharged 6.2-liter, 556hp motor. I got on my knees to examine the undercarriage and noticed that it had rear-wheel drive. Meanwhile, John had opened the trunk and shouldered the Gibbons.

The Gibbon 3XL ($3700/pair) and its dedicated, 26"-tall stand ($695/pair) are made mostly from solid bamboo laminate. Mine sported a rich, dark finish called Mink Bamboo (Mahogany Bamboo and Cherry Bamboo are also available). The 3XL has a frequency range of 45Hz–40kHz, a specified sensitivity of 90dB/W/m, and its impedance is said to hover around a benign 8 ohms. Each speaker is 15.25" high by 7.3125" wide by 10.875" deep.

As good as I imagined?
Imagine coquettish maidens with lip rouge and satin dresses! Imagine sweet champagne and furtive kisses, set against a backdrop of Black-Death corpses! Imagine a stunning digital recording that captures this exact vision: Unrequited, a selection of songs by Guillaume de Machaut (ca 1300–1377) sung by two women and a man who collectively call themselves Liber unUsualis (CD, LU 1001). Via the Gibbon 3XLs, my aural and musical experience of Unrequited was as pure and evocative as Machaut's lyric poetry.

This is music of courtly love, coy and flirtatious. With the DeVore Gibbon 3XLs powered by a Hegel Mohican CD player ($5000, review underway), Mytek Brooklyn DAC ($1995), Pass Labs HPA-1 preamplifier ($3500), and First Watt J2 power amplifier ($4000), I experienced the sublimely rendered flux and flow of Machaut's duet ballade "J'aim miex languir en ma dure dolour." Vocal tones felt exactly right. In fact, the Gibbon 3XLs excelled at reproducing the human voice. Both male and female voices sounded natural in a way that suggested exceptionally flat in-room frequency response.

All the way through this extraordinary album, I experienced the unmistakable effect of looking through an open window and keenly peering down on the singers of Liber unUsualis, imagining that they looked up at me. This feeling of looking down—from the microphone's perspective—was so sharp that I found it riveting, sometimes even distracting. But it showcased what my experience of the Gibbon 3XLs was all about: Leica-like focus, pulsing flow, fresh-air transparency.

That open window also revealed the 3XL's main limitation.

Automotive engines can be designed with big pistons and long piston strokes, to deliver stump-pulling torque at low rpms—or with smaller pistons and shorter strokes, to deliver pure horsepower at higher revs. The Gibbon 3XL is the latter type of audio engine. Of course, the 3XLs are small speakers on high stands—they didn't deliver stump-pulling bass, but their ability to reproduce human voices, chamber orchestras, and architectural spaces was as good as those things get.

I liked the Gibbon 3XLs best when they were only about 6' apart, with about 34" from the front of the cabinets to the wall behind them. With the speakers in these positions, the music sounded fast, tightly focused, and firm-bodied, with a fundamental character that was neither thick nor thin, warm nor cool.

But what about the 3XLs' bass and treble? What about organist Gaston Litaize playing "Suite in the First Mode, on D," and French coloratura soprano Mady Mesplé singing the Motet de Saint Michel, both by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (CD, EMI C 065-12589)? The soundstage was enormous. High notes were wide open and undistorted. Bass, down to 50–60Hz, seemed neither too loose nor too tight. Low notes from the Great Organ of Notre-Dame de Caudebec-en-Caux expanded outward from the DeVores to fill my room from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall. Mesplé appeared like a vision of sacred purity, her spectral voice floating on a cushion of organ air.

The DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3XL's best features are its unflappable coherence and lack of colorations. If I were to find fault, it might be that DeVore's own Orangutan O/93 ($8400/pair) and Zu Audio's Soul Supreme ($4500/pair) can both wring more warmth and human expression from a song. Three years ago, I was right: the Gibbon 3XL is a reference-quality small speaker.—Herb Reichert

Footnote 1: Sam Tellig reviewed the Orangutan O/93 in January 2014, with further reports by Herb Reichert in December 2015 and June 2016.—Ed.
DeVore Fidelity
Brooklyn Navy Yard
63 Flushing Ave., Unit 259, Building 280, Suite 510
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 855-9999

mrkaic's picture

It is a pity that measurements are not a part of this review.

Solarophile's picture

I haven't auditioned these but have heard the O/96's.

Considering the coloration of the sound from the Devore O/96's which were shown in the measurements but not reported in the review, it would be good to have JA run these through the lab.

Bruceov's picture

Why have you not reviewed the Harbeth Compact 7. It is very easy to auditions vs the Devore. The latter has very few deslers and none in my state.

John Atkinson's picture
Bruceov wrote:
Why have you not reviewed the Harbeth Compact 7?

Sam Tellig reviewed the Harbeth Compact 7ES-2 in our December 2003 issue and it was featured in "Recommended Components" for many years due to John Marks's continued advocacy. But no-one on the staff has auditioned the Harbeth for some time now.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bruceov's picture

The 3 is different fro the 2. Different tweeter may be different woofer. Supposed to be very improved

Anon2's picture

The best I can do to hear the Gibbon is to watch Youtube videos of the speaker. While not a critical listening session, Youtube does give a person some rough insights into how a speaker or system sounds.

I have enjoyed the videos of the Gibbon that I have seen. I first saw one with an Antonio Forcione recording, thus starting some purchases of this guitarist's Naim label CDs into my collection. But that's another story.

I like how DeVore has recognized that many of us don't want to, or can't, spend on speakers and then have to buy amplification to suit the speakers. High sensitivity + High Impedance = Big Savings for many of us. They also get some good bass extension with such a small driver.

I enjoyed the review. We now know that the review was partially carried out in the candlelit inner sanctum of your writer, whose pad was covered a few weeks back in a memorable video. I am sure that the Gibbons, regardless of placement, and amplification, sound best in the candle light mystery of Brooklyn.

Some measurements would have been welcome, though. Perhaps the measurements are forthcoming. Keep up the good work. Perhaps there will be some simian speakers from DeVore at Axpona next month.

Shangri-La's picture

So this is a 2017 re-review of a 2010 speaker?