No monkey business

The $2,850/pr DeVore Fidelity Gibbon Eight is a mystery speaker. Its keeper John DeVore -- as unlikely a soft-spoken Niyawker as I've ever heard one over the phone -- doesn't offer much to dispel said mystery. While his self-lauded Gibbon crossover is clearly an exceedingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed critter (truly special in other words) he won't divulge its secrets. Is it parallel, series, low- or high-order? He wouldn't say. Not that it matters, really. It either does its job or not. And just how well it goes about this job -- out of sight, out of mind like the most obsequious yet perfectly self-assured butler who makes your every day and evening perfectly memorable -- we shall shortly see.

The offset 3/4" softdome tweeter below the 6.5" mid/woofer with inverted surround and massive phase plug are both sourced from Seas. The hand-selected four-sided cheery veneer is distinctly high-grade, book-matched and painstakingly applied. The seams are as crisp as steam-pressed slacks, the overall level of fit'n'finish in stark contrast to the firm's apparently short years in business. The bullnosed, black-lacquered front and back baffles are a classy touch. Select luxury continues with the mid-height mounted, solid copper, single-wire Cardas terminal. This theme of simple elegance continues with the modest 8.25" w x 11.5"d footprint. Perfect for uptown apartments and condos - as is the friendly 34" height. Prying eyes would have to unscrew the woofer to peek inside the chassis. There aren't any other means to "enter" the mystery. Except listening of course. Duh!

And yes, while that mandate admittedly gets right to the point and should in fact be all that's essential to music lovers, readers of professional reviews demand at least some background on a company they likely haven't heard of before either. So who the heck is DeVore Fidelity?

I first divined their existence via an excited phone call from Art Audio's always jacked-in Joe Fratus. He routinely hips me to up-and-coming firms, or products that trigger his well-polished audiophile buttons. He had heard these Gibbons at the NYC Primedia Show and fallen for them, hard, like a teenager's first crush. As I found out perusing sundry show reports, so had others. Including the inimitable Clark Johnsen whose hearing acuity I always trust.

To get to the bottom of this -- still leaky -- mystery, I badgered and steamrolled, charmed and cajoled, using every dirty trick in the book of hard-sell phone solicitors to pry into John's skull. Here's what DeVore -- humble and distinctly not one to blow his own horn -- was willing to relinquish about himself:

"... it's something that has grown out of my lasting passion, for getting more out of the playback of recorded music. I want to be able to feel what Ella wants me to feel. See into a passage of Bach only possible because Glen Gould expressed it so eloquently. I own thousands of records. Each one of them has an emotional texture. That's all but lost except on the rarest of systems. I have found that audio components that do less usually sound better. Components that try fanatically to eliminate frequency anomalies with notch filters, or to lower distortion with gobs of negative feedback, tend to miss the point. A simple device allowed to work in harmony with itself will always work better. I use the gibbon crossover not as a corrective but supportive element in a holistic design. The concept of harmony is very important to me. Not just in Hi-Fi but as a world view. I guess that influences my approach to design.

I started building my first pair of speakers way back in the 80's when I was still an undergrad at the Rhode Island School Of Design. Over the course of many passionate years of hobbyist experimentation, I began to zero in on those design elements that allowed my playback system to communicate more than just the notes of a performance. I'm a musician. I come from a family of musicians. I grew up listening to live chamber music in my own house. What I've always found most missing from recorded music playback is the emotional content. Of course playback will never approach the live experience. Still, it became my goal to create audio equipment that brought the listener into the listening experience, and then held their interest there like a live performance

Two circulated press releases made additional mentions, of DeVore playing with formations The Scholars, Noxes Pond and Savalas as well as recording not only his own bands but classical chamber music. Kurt Leege, owner of a recording and post-production studio in New York's Lower East Side called Lucid Productions, swears by the Gibbon Three monitor speaker. In fact, he openly endorses it.

As of this month, DeVore Fidelity has moved its headquarters. Having outgrown its former Lower East Side facility, it nows joins the cabinet shop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard industrial park. The new design center includes a fully isolated, 3,200 cubic ft sound room fitted with the latest testing and measurement gear. "This building was built in 1920," says DeVore while looking at the rock maple floors. "You can tell times have changed, by the number of boards that have this beautiful figuring - even birdseye. This wood would cost a fortune now."

Speaking of fortunes -- or more correctly, fortuitous monkey business -- let's take the Gibbon Eight for a swing, between the rafters spanning its stated 35Hz to 25kHz bandwidth (88dB sensitivity). While I cue up the first album, check out the following close-ups.

The SoundAnchor stand is optional. When used without it, DeVore recommends angling the Gibbon Eight back in Thiel fashion. Four spacer discs for each front spike are provided for this purpose. Despite its then modest height, this aligns the mid-woofer with the listener's ear axis. The mirror-imaged tweeter arrangement allows two placement options. DeVore prefers tweeter-out in his space. I concur.