DeVore Fidelity Gibbon X loudspeaker

In 2008, a pair of DeVore Fidelity's Gibbon Nine loudspeakers arrived at my home for a Follow-Up review. Within weeks, I wrote a check for them. That put me in good company: Several other reviewers who reviewed the Nines also bought their review pairs.

Ten years later, the Gibbon Nines are still my main speakers. That's the longest I've ever kept a pair of speakers in my main system, not counting the Polk Audio 7Bs I bought in 1980, when I was 16.

In 2012—four years after buying the Nines and 32 years after buying the 7Bs—I caught wind of an apparent successor, the Gibbon X (X as in 10). Assuming that a Gibbon X would provide that Gibbon Nine sound but more of it, I arranged to review it as soon as the design was finalized and the speaker was in production.

Here's something I respect about DeVore Fidelity and other boutique audio companies: They focus more on their craft than on market expedience. Their release schedules are dictated not by the market but by when a new component is ready. It took three more years for DeVore to finish the Gibbon X, during which time it continued to evolve. By the time the production X was released, in late 2015, it was radically different from the 2012 version. Indeed, designer John DeVore's very ambitions for it had changed.

The first time I (briefly) heard the Gibbon X was in December 2015, at a launch event at DeVore dealer In Living Stereo, in New York's Greenwich Village. The Xes, I wrote, approach the DeVore house sound "from the modern side of the orbit's arc, with ample deep bass, plenty of air and sparkle, a tall and deep soundstage, and imaging well outside the speakers, while still managing to remain earthy and coherent." It turned out that that impression wasn't far off.

The Island of Dr. DeVore
At the Monkeyhaus—founder and designer John DeVore's office, factory, and laboratory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard—lineages get mixed up. Gibbons sire Orangutans, which beget newer, bigger Gibbons, as the shop's inscrutable felines look on.

While the Gibbon X was in development, DeVore created the Orangutan series—first the O/96 ($12,000/pair), then the similar but more affordable O/93 ($8400/pair). At that launch event, DeVore told me that, although they're very different in appearance and execution, the O/93 was the Gibbon Nine's true successor, with similar sonic ambitions and a price just a bit higher than the Nine's (footnote 1). Gibbon begat Orangutan.

Meanwhile, DeVore discontinued the biggest ape in his zoo, the Silverback Reference, which Michael Fremer reviewed in 2006. DeVore's hill now had no king.

Also meanwhile, the Gibbon X was spending time in the weight room. By the time it was released, at $15,890/pair, it was a big speaker, successor not to the Nine but to the Silverback, to which it's similar in size, weight, and sound: full-range, uncompromising, unapologetic, revealing. Gorilla begets Gibbon—the latter technically not even one of the great apes—and the Gibbon becomes top dog. Except for the weird sex, it could be a Disney film.

Ape anatomy
The Gibbon X's genealogy may be confusing, but a close look and listen make it clear who its real father is: John DeVore. Like its daddy, it's tall: 46" in spiked heels (not that JD wears spiked heels). According to the speaker's published specifications, the X is sensitive (91.5dB/W/m) and an easy load (nominal impedance: 8.5 ohms). Design-wise, it combines an old-school aesthetic with environmentally friendly materials—not hemp cones with granola surrounds, but paper, metal, and rubber—with engineering detail and a subjective approach to sonics.

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At the launch event, DeVore told me about his process. "It's literally this: I'm sitting down and I play all my favorite records, and it either sounds right, or it sounds wrong and I have to keep working." Survival of the fittest, with JD as daddy or god. Call it guided evolution.

Like other DeVore speakers, the Gibbon X has an enclosure made of wood, with a (renewable) bamboo outer shell and front and rear panels of glossily painted MDF. But the bamboo box you see is not the speaker's main mechanical structure: inside those pretty panels is a complex enclosure made of plywood and divided into four chambers.

The recessed, slightly horn-loaded tweeter is suspended, for mechanical isolation, in its own solid block of wood, with a thicker-than-usual (and heavier) front plate made of the zinc alloy Zamak to shift the center of mass toward the baffle for more effective suspension, hence greater isolation, hence improved tweeter performance.

Of the X's drivers, the tweeter is the most radical departure. "My concept was a hybrid of the older Silverback tweeter and the Orangutan tweeter," DeVore told me. He wanted to combine the Silverback's speed and extension with the Orangutan's dynamic range and low distortion. "I was able to really optimize the top couple of octaves of the dome, coil, and motor, and then gently horn-load the lower range to bring it down to the midrange with a dynamic range much more in sync with the 7" midrange cone." The resulting loudspeaker is "much more seamless and alive" than the Silverback was, "with a greater sense that the details presented are fully integrated with the other drivers to paint a far more vivid image of the recording."

The midrange cone fires from a triangular top chamber isolated from the lower chambers by a thick layer of plywood, which provides structural integrity and damps vibrations in the walls of the box. In the chamber below are two opposite-firing 9" woofers. The woofers and midrange "are direct evolutions of the corresponding drivers in the Silverback Reference," DeVore told me. The woofers are mounted directly to the speaker's internal plywood structure, not to the exterior bamboo walls. Such a woofer configuration—in phase, opposite-firing—can increase output by as much as 6dB due to a combination of magnetic and acoustical effects, while reducing cabinet motion.

This chamber is divided from the one below it by another rigid, horizontal plywood crosspiece, positioned to damp vibrations in the side panels but penetrated by holes that permit vibrating air to pass through. In this, the third chamber down, the main plywood structure has no outer walls—just the pretty bamboo you see from the outside. The bamboo is allowed to vibrate. Each sidewall is tuned differently, DeVore told me, by treating its inner surface with vibration-modifying materials.

The fourth and lowest chamber, which contains two rear-firing ports tuned to somewhere in the lower 30Hz range, is again rigid, with inner plywood and outer walls all around.

Frequencies and phenotypes
As I moved the Gibbon Xes around my listening room, I learned that they love space. Moving an X away from the wall lets the sound relax and stretch out. The sounds these speakers produce should fill any space you put them in, no matter how large.

My listening room isn't small—32' long by 24' at its widest—but the space must be shared with other activities of daily living: live music (a piano with occasional visiting string players), dining (a 5'-long table with chairs), reading and entertaining visitors (sofas, tables, more chairs), and thinking (many book and record shelves). The stereo system is confined to a corner in an area roughly 18' square—but of course, the pressure waves the speakers produce are free to propagate through the entire space.



Footnote 1: DeVore has since released the Super Nine, which resembles the Nine both sonically and visually.
COMPANY INFO
DeVore Fidelity
63 Flushing Avenue, Unit 259, Building 280, Suite 510
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 855-9999
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COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wonder how the 'Spinorama' graphs would look like of this speaker? :-) .......

Axiom05's picture

My guess is that it would not look particularly good.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Some of the info can be gleaned from JA's graphs.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I know ...... It looks somewhat similar to 'speaker C' :-) .........

... or may be, 'weird' frequency response is the proper description :-) .......

RH's picture

Ha! ^^^^ "Nice one centurion. Like it, like it"...;-)

david_I's picture

So the Gibbon Xs are at the same price point as the Monitor Audio Platinum 300 II. As well as some Focal speakers. I'd be curious to read about a comparison.

jonmeier59@gmail.com's picture

A question for Jim Austin: I see that you own a Leben CS-600 integrated amplifier in the Associated Equipment section of the review. Did you try that amp with the Gibbon X? (I know this is one of the amps that Devore has shown the Gibbon with at shows.) If so, what were your impressions and how did it compare with the Pass and the PS Audio?

doak's picture

Is it the “presence region suckout” that makes its sound so appealing?

Long-time listener's picture

God-awful ugly measurements!

(Although, having said that, if everything else measures well, a tasteful presence-region dip is ALWAYS welcome here, after all the over-aggressive sounding speakers I've heard that measure completely flat through that region.)

Jason P Jackson's picture

Lower midrange/Upper bass? You mean the "power range"? BAH! We don't do that these days. It ruins the imaging.

hb72's picture

@ John Atkinson: I am a keen reader of your measurement section, but of course I am well aware, that pleasure taken from listening via certain equipment and measurements of same equipment are not exactly the same thing nor fully correlating, but need to be put into relationship i.e. understood (the hard work!).
Thus I really wonder about the somewhat unusual disparity in the relationship of measurement vs percieved sound quality & joy of these speakers. Any findings/comments here?

tx for comment,

cheers
hb

Indydan's picture

I'm obviously not JA, but maybe this article he wrote will answer your question.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/tale-two-speakers

Lorton's picture

There is a difference between comparing the sound of 2 well-engineered products, to a speaker like the DeVore, which does not seems to take any engineering into any account. It is hard to imagine why would anyone choose to build such a speaker on purpose.

hb72's picture

have you heard the speakers yourself?

Lorton's picture

Of course I did. All the Devore loudspeakers sound to me like they measure; quite badly. But, there is always going to be someone who would like what they hear, so what?

RH's picture

Lorton wrote: "But, there is always going to be someone who would like what they hear, so what?"

Well, for one thing, you just answered your own previous puzzlement when you wrote:

"It is hard to imagine why would anyone choose to build such a speaker on purpose."

Can you imagine a reason for building such a speaker now? :)

Lorton's picture

Nope, still can’t.
These are two different subjects (from two separate posts). One has to do with objective assessments (JA measurements), the other is subjective.

RH's picture

Lorton,

"Nope, still can’t."

Really? I find that odd, since the answer is pretty obvious.

You talked about comparing "well engineered" speakers to the Devores and concluded: "It is hard to imagine why would anyone choose to build such a speaker on purpose."

Ok, I guess you could use some help in the imagination department.

You admitted that some people will like the sound of the Devore speakers, right?

That's obviously a reason someone would choose to build such a speaker!

If you are selling speakers, and you come up with a design that some significant number of customers will like...however it measures...THAT'S OBVIOUSLY a rational reason to build such a speaker.

In fact, most speaker designers build the type of speaker THEY LIKE to begin with. John Devore has explained before that he plays a wide range of his favorite music on any of his designs, and they have to pass his own "I like it" test before he considers the job finished. So if a speaker designer likes a certain sound, is aiming for that sound, achieves that sound, and finds a paying audience for that sound...all those amount to good reasons someone would deliberately design such a loudspeaker.

Right?

Maybe *you* wouldn't design a speaker that way, because you have different goals and criteria. But you weren't asking about you; you were wondering why anyone ELSE would design such a speaker. If someone else has different taste, different criteria and goals, then it's entirely explicable and rational they would design to meet those goals.

Is that clear enough I hope?

(Some people seem to have trouble thinking beyond their own goals; if "I" wouldn't do that...it doesn't make sense anyone else has reasons to do it...")

Lorton's picture

Designing a good speaker, one that will cost $15K, should require a basic understanding of the science involved (and it is not philosophy). For example; what can possibly be the point of using multiple drivers that cancel each other at the output (due to poor XO implementation)??
If you don’t want to hear the full output of your speakers, in the Devore case is anything between 100Hz-500Hz, and 2KHz-4KHz, then just don’t have any drivers playing at these ranges (I bet you some will like that as well). Will be cheaper, and will, at least, look like you meant to do that ;)

RH's picture

I dunno; must be that it achieved the sound he liked. Check the manufacturer's comment and you'll see he's aware of the way his speakers would measure, could have addressed it, but gave his reason why he didn't bother.

Another manufacturer may not have used drivers and crossovers the same way, and hence ended up with a more textbook response like the one that apparently you'd like to see. However, that would change the sound of the speaker, and it clearly wasn't what JD was going for. So it seems more deliberate design choices vs lack of knowledge.

michaelavorgna's picture

I'll agree with JA's findings:

A couple of years ago, DeVore Fidelity's John DeVore gave me a ride from Brooklyn, where we both live, to Michael Lavorgna's place, in New Jersey. John was delivering a preproduction pair of his Gibbon X loudspeakers for Michael to set up in his then-new listening room, and I'd tagged along to give them a listen (footnote 1). Michael's room and system sounded superb, and I made a mental note that when the Gibbon X went into production, we should review it.

Seems to me that "superb" sounding is a design goal for every manufacturer of hifi gear and John DeVore has clearly hit the mark with the X.

Happy Listening,

Michael Lavorgna
Editor, twitteringmachines.com

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be you (ML) could review the new Elac Navis active, self-powered floor-standers, $4,000/pair, and compare them to Gibbon X? ......... Elac Navis don't need any power-amp(s) :-)...........

michaelavorgna's picture

...you were to include a number of different amplifiers for the DeVore's since the speakers on their own don't sound like anything ;-)

Cheers,

Michael Lavorgna
Editor, twitteringmachines.com

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ok ....... Don't compare Navis to DeVores ........ You (ML) could just review the Navis floor-standers and tell us what you think :-) .........

michaelavorgna's picture

...of reviewing 4 pair of active speakers and one all-in-one. This will keep me busy for a while.

Cheers,

Michael Lavorgna
Editor, twitteringmachines.com

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Great ...... Active speakers, with or without external EQ/DSP is the future ..... Some active, self-powered subwoofers are already doing it :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

We may have to wait for a while for A.I enabled loudspeakers :-) ........

michaelavorgna's picture

...most intelligence is artificial.

Ba-da-boom.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Siri, Alexa and Cortana are not sure about Socrates saying that :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"A.I will be the best or worst thing for humanity" ......... Elon Musk :-) .........

hb72's picture

tx, Indydan!!!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If we didn't have all these measurements, we would not know about all these deliberate design choices. Thank you again JA :-) .........

dial's picture

Almost 16 000 $ for a pair of loudspeakers. Almost same price as the Coincident. Many firms seem to be attracted by woodworking.

Bertie Bucket's picture

Yeah, yeah, measures crap and sound great? You want some oil with those fries?

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