DeVORE: Gibbon X Speaker

The Gibbon X, a new floorstanding, three-way loudspeaker from Brooklyn-based DeVore Fidelity. The event attracted a crowd of Manhattan-based audiophiles—among them Andre Phills (below) and Paul Baldasare, with whom I had the pleasure of speaking—and audio luminaries Herb Reichert, Ken Micallef, and Steve Guttenberg. Also in the house was tall person and loudspeaker designer John DeVore, who is known for naming his speakers after apes: gibbons, gorillas ("silverbacks"), orangutans.

The (guided) evolution of the newest gibbon commenced four years ago, DeVore told me as we chatted near the beer-and-cheese table in In Living Stereo's office-lobby, when he began to map out a successor to the widely praised and successful Gibbon Nine. While the speaker was in development, something unexpected happened—some unexpected cross-fertilization—and the newest Gibbon ended up resembling a gorilla; its sound turned out to share more with the Silverback, DeVore's larger, recently discontinued model, than with its Gibbon ancestors. There's a more than passing physical resemblance, too, although the new speaker is considerably smaller.

Meanwhile, an orangutan—specifically, the O/93 (a finalist for Stereophile's 2014 Joint Loudspeaker of the Year), which outwardly resembles a gibbon not at all—emerged as the older gibbon's natural aural heir. It's enough to make you wonder what goes on in the monkeyhaus after the lights go out and the workers go home.

The new ape's true sire is, of course, John DeVore (above); it's his ear and skill that drove the speaker's evolution. "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," he told me. "Regardless of how disparate the models are"—from the wide, shallow orangutans to the tall, skinny gibbons—"it still has to make it through that pass."

The result of père DeVore's work and discernment over the last decade and a half is a range of speakers that regardless of morphology orbit a certain house sound: coherent, robust, musical, organic, non-fatiguing. DeVore speakers also possess, to varying degrees, old-school technical virtues such as high efficiency and an impedance curve that makes them easy for power amps to drive.

Thursday night, the 92dB/W/m-sensitive Xs, which DeVore says will sell for about $15,890 for a pair, demonstrated that they approach that 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. Thursday night's performance was achieved in a good room with a first-rate system: two vinyl front-ends, amplification by Shindo and Leben, and passive components by Shindo and Auditorium 23 (including the latter's expensive and highly regarded T1 Hommage step-up transformer).

The X's should work well even in more modest settings and systems because DeVore auditions his prototypes in many environments and with a wide variety of power amplifiers. "If you try it with just one power amp, and you make a speaker that's particularly sympathetic [with that amp], and you put it on another amp, it could sound terrible," he told me. "If something is not up to that level, it's not done. I just have to figure out why. "

"My taste, and what I'm listening for when I'm in the chair, is balance," DeVore told me. "And that requires a lot of different things to be working right."

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