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"Can I help you, sir?" "Just looking." If that's you, the following photos shall suffice to tell you everything you need to know to make a decision. And sure, I am being facetious.

Salesmen hate it too. Nothing wrong with just looking - but don't shut the door on a bit of dialogue as though you were highly contagious or fiercely anti social. Any dialogue on the Nines in the flesh starts with their ordinariness of stature.

It's the apartment dweller's answer to giantopia, the Robb Report hunter's limp handshake. It's easy on the eyes, too. The minimalist cover on the sidefiring woofers stays in place - at those frequencies, it's transparent.

The throw cover for the front is magnetized, minimal and leaves no unsightly blems when removed and topless is no big visual deal neither.

Instead of the ubiquitous skinny spikes, DeVore supplies substantial silver points with large lock discs and long bolts which are met by threaded inserts on the integral plinth. The reason for the bolts' length is rake adjustment and thus, alignment with the favored listening axis.

The instructions advise to have very little of the top surface visible from the seat. With my 6'1" frame and standard height chair, this required zero rake but there's plenty of
available play to lean the Nines either forward or backward. Recommended setup for the asymmetrical Nines is tweeters out, woofers in. Single wiring finally makes concerns over expensive dual runs of superior cable or even more expensive biamping obsolete. The pure copper terminals are of the highest quality and hand tighten securely with no wrench.

Lead shot and granite fetishists will question the Nines' lack of inhuman mass. 7th story walk-up residents like our own Ken Micallef in one of NYC's old brownstones meanwhile will breathe a sigh of relief. The Cherry livery on the review pair sported immaculate veneer work, with the sides necessarily halved by a central seam and featuring subtle flame patterns, quite a step up from ordinary flat straight-grained Cherry. Even the brand's name silkscreened in silver across the full width of the bottom front panel is very elegant and picks up the silver in the pointy footers. All in all, a decidedly unpretentious visual presentation that bespeaks conservative tastes implemented to the - well, nines.

The only item demanding adult attention in this instance is the exposed and thereby unprotected ¾" silk dome tweeter. "Just looking" is the operative and only acceptable answer for that. Otherwise, just looking certainly won't be acceptable for an audio review in these pages. Cueing up one of my favorite ambient albums for a quick test drive of low bass, the Nines proved unexpectedly adept and very well damped, erasing any ambivalence Gibbon 8 or Super Eight auditioners may have held about bottom end lightness for the smaller models. The Nines are fully matured in that department, avoiding however conventional 2.5-way trickery. That warrants an explanation and thereby, an admission of personal bias.

On a three-way, the woofer ideally segues in at the same rate the midrange rolls out. The overlap area should add up for a linear continuation of what happens above and below it - flat frequency response. With a 2.5-way, the lower woofer by definition is brought in well above where the mid/woofer begins to fade out. Thus both drivers cover a certain bandwidth in parallel and full force before they both attenuate together. The latter delays death but the former creates excess girth in the 100 -200Hz octave and thus, more weight/warmth and with it a tendency for thickness and slower reflexes. That's a handicap in particular if you equate the third octave with the power band where a lot of the viscerally involving attributes of music live. 2.5-ways in my experience -- Soliloquy's Model 5.3, WLM's Grand Viola Signature MkII for example -- always struggle with this. Hence I'm generally not fond of the concept. Parallel drivers if you must but don't stagger them for that 'snake swallowed a mouse' bump in the lower mids.

The Nines break new ground in this regard and I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around it. How has John DeVore accomplished the sneaking in of his second woofer without incurring the usual response bump? I duly undid the four square-headed bolts of the crossover plate for a casual look-see. That confirmed nothing other than the filter network being indeed potted and housed in a fully sealed sub enclosure that communicates with the ported chamber above only via the wire leads brought through a tiny and caulked-up hole. It's a bit of a mind bender. You know that the overlaid woofer responses couldn't possibly line up for perfect evenness, especially with as physically small and thereby necessarily simple a crossover board as the Nines sport.

Switching gears from head to ears meanwhile betrays no evidence of an artificially goosed upper bass. Yet in the lower second octave and below where it's needed -- and Stereolab's Angelus plainly comes up short with its lone dual-concentric 6.5 incher by comparison -- the Nines have the heft and reach to paint with a full set of colored pencils. This speaker really is a Super Eight with more bottom-end goodness and higher SPL capabilities. On paper, this reads casual, not as big-deal accomplishment. "More bass? Just add a woofer and be done with it." Far from it. Nor would enlarging the mid/woofer and chucking the auxiliary woofer be the answer. Nearly predictably, it'd tamper with vocal band transparency while mandating a larger 1" tweeter and lower crossover point. What the Nines do is leave, over the Super Eight, things alone where no improvements were warranted. They 'simply' extend LF reach and thus, deepen overall tone colors and strengthen the foundation. That's a far greater trick than it would seem. Frankly, I'm at a loss to understand just how it's been pulled off.

Speed and transparency extend seamlessly top to bottom and unencumbered by any 'border-crossing taxes'. Perhaps because of the small paralleled woofers, articulation and lack of fuzz are very high yet not wiry. Even challenging bass fare at elevated levels doesn't overload the modest artillery in a normal sized room though especially the front-facing woofers are
most certainly working by then. The Nines are very transparent, uncolored speakers. Without their bass extension, you'd call them texturally lean. Even the fully developed bass is lean in character. Yet summed as it were, this leanness isn't objectionable or signifying lack whatsoever. It's simply the quality of transparency that demands a speaker have no voice of its own.

An easily available example is Loreena McKennitt's last album Ancient Muse which features stout bass accents. The Nines not only handle their reach, they resolutely avoid boom and looseness. Compared to my sealed 2 x 12" WLM subwoofer with external crossover and high-power transistor muscle, the Nines of course soften the wiry, stretched-to-snapping tension the former is capable of on LF leading edges. But that's appropriate because the Nines don't evince that behavior anywhere else. Key phrases to circle their wagon of attributes are: 2-way coherence; aqueous clarity; well-damped articulation.

Obviously, dual sixes displace less air than the twin tens in the big WLMs or Zus. This has no bearings on soundstage scale but dynamic impact and thus, emotional scale. While microdynamically very adept, the Nines don't break any macrodynamic records. It's as though their apartment-friendly size was matched to sonic scale in that regard. There's less low-end kick -- welly in the UK, slam in the US -- than bigger-woofer'd designs can dish out; a difference less of 'how low' but 'how hard'. But that's not why anyone would gravitate toward the Nines in the first place. A Nines listener is a smaller Audio Physic admirer who goes for vocal realism; a wide open, natural-over-spectacular top end; fidelity to rhythm; and a non-metallic tonality which won't spotlight sibilants and hash in Pop recordings.

The most poignant way nearly to think about the Nines is as a mini monitor plus subwoofer combo when by sub we mean a 2 x 6" or 1 x 8" bass extender such as for example Energy used to make. The vital difference is, the Nines do stereo, not mono bass and 'subwoofer' integration -- due to being driven from the same amp and crossover -- is seamless rather than blotchy. There's simply no way to screw up how the bass adds up to the remainder.

Fiddleback American Walnut
Inherent in that characterization are expansive soundstaging, defined images and, ultimately, a preference for avoiding the most complex and bombastic of symphonies where a full 3- or more-way with its bandwidth-restricted drivers will have the advantage. Again, that's in keeping with the overall concept of room friendliness especially in apartment complexes and maisonettes. Their permanent presence of neighbors sharing walls takes off the programme melees of 100+ head-strong Mahler and Strauss spectacles at front-row center levels.

The aforementioned relative across-the-band leanness responsible for the low-level clarity also explains why DeVores love tubes. That thermionic touch of harmonic padding marries perfectly and won't introduce the kind of potential blurriness which can be the likely outcome when matching already warmish speakers with amps of minimal damping factor. Strapping the 330wpc Coda CSX stereo amplifier to the Nines curiously diminished top-end air over the 2A3 integrated and pulled down a distinct veil over the proceedings. Whatever benefits to the bass were harvested from the Coda were far offset by this loss of treble openness and the concomitant hollowness which permeated even superior recordings like Vicente Pradal's 1994 La Nuit Obscure, a setting to song of certain texts from The Dark Night of the Soul of Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross. This was unexpected but, just possibly, a case of unnecessary power doing its corrupting business by overdamping the small drivers.

Admittedly stumped by these results, First Watt's unconventional Power JFET F3 amp got drafted into service next. Tonal balance restored immediately. With the 12dB max-gain ModWright LS-36.5, I now played between 1:00 and 2:00 on its dial and goosed the Ancient Audio Lektor Prime's output to ca. 3.5V to offset the loss in sheer amplifier muscle and gain. Regardless, the music clearly benefitted from an increase in elegance and ambient recovery. While certainly inconclusive, these experiments suggest that not only don't the Nines need a lot of power, they may actually not really cotton to excess amounts. Almarro's 18-wpc A318B single-ended 6C33C amp and Raysonic's SE-30A, a triple-paralleled EL34 triode-strapped SET of the same power, seemed to confirm it. There was more song and lyricism to the music, more textural glow to the tones.

I'm just theorizing but - isn't it conceivable that the small drivers in the Nines don't really require a slugger's toughened grip in the control department and in fact could react adversely to too much force? After all, we're not talking 15-inch Focal woofers. Claims such as by NuForce, for full-bandwidth damping factors of 4,000, can suggest an absolute necessity and inherent superiority of such amps and for all speakers. Experience suggests that there's more to this extreme damping factor subject than meets the eye. The highest figures don't always win on principle. The upshot of this detour should simply be acknowledgement that lower-power amps work splendidly on the Nines and that high-power weaponry isn't mandatory (though owners of such amps could well enjoy excellent outcomes).

Coming off my customary WLM and Zu house sound including WLM's flaships on loan for review, the DeVore Nine sound is finer boned, dynamically scaled back, not as dense and moves less air. Conversely, there's more air on top and (Grand Viola Signature MkII excepted) resolution in the upper midrange is superior. If the WLMs and Zus are unconventional in their use of pro-arena drivers; and if the DeVore Nines also look more conventional; then they can also be said to sound more conventional by comparison if by that we mean, more in step with the mainstream. Seeing how especially on Zu, listener reactions polarize strongly, that's rather an asset for the Nines.

The prior mention of Audio Physic was deliberate. There are parallels between either brand's sonic ideals. While Joachim Gerhard has since launched his new company Sonics, I'm more familiar with his older work to reference it instead. The DeVore Nines are similarly lithe, unadorned and honest. And like the Germans' push-pull woofer arrays which cancelled mechanical resonance, the Nines, with just a single side-firing driver, manage a similarly non-resonant, smear-free behavior. In fact, touching the woofer-less side during high-excursion bass torture opposite the active driver betrayed hardly any vibration at all while the top of the cabinet above the main driver was rather more lively.

While not as robust as big-woofer'd models, the Nines are surprisingly capable down low and, most importantly, very even and free of ringing and boom. The twin port arrangement surely contributes because I couldn't 'ride the resonance' such as happens with some single-
ported designs where, when the port frequency gets hit, you hear it like a small rubble-inducing mortar attack. It makes a minor mess around the impact crater.

The Nines are very clean then, possibly too clean for those coming from more colored, thicker or overtly voiced speakers. Certain speakers are 'interesting' sounding because their recognizable sonic fingerprint stamps its imprimatur on everything like youths carve their names into trees. 'Johnny was here'. From that vantage point, the Nines are nearly boringly honest. They were never 'here' to be seen or leave marks. They view their job not as interpreters but simple messengers. They pass on orders uncensored from on high - in this case, what precedes them. A clear window on the performance is customary reviewer lingo for that trait. As much as such things can be determined by subjective listening, it's true for the DeVore Nines. They really let you hear your upstream equipment. The right electronic choices become more important then. With flat-sounding electronics, such honesty can nearly turn a bit boorish and dull. It's uncle gigo coughing up his favorite mantra: garbage in, garbage out. With tubes, there's tonal magic aplenty as long as the amp is properly matched for the volumes you're trying to achieve. But don't rule out transistors.
I'd be thinking Red Wine Audio Signature 30, a bridged Firenze Audio Rosso 460 or a pair of First Watt F6s (I'm told Vinnie Rossi owns a pair of DeVore Nines as his reference speaker).

In fact, major props go to an old flame, Peter Daniel's AudioSector Patek SE chip amp. For Holography Central and, in this instance, the absolutely best low-level resolution of any amp I had in-house -- absolutely fantastic in fact for late-night sessions when my wife was already asleep two rooms over -- the Patek ruled on the Nines. I preceded it with the 6H30-powered output stage of the Ancient Audio Lektor Prime and the equivalent power buffer of Dan Wright's newest statement preamp. The amount of resultant low-end growl, layered staging and image lock was quite mindboggling. Transient-led compared to the valve amps, this combo would be a dream for listeners who fancy a very precise, dynamic, see-into-deeply presentation, crave the most control in the bass and must do a lot of serious listening at very non-serious levels. Do not make the mistake then to negate transistors on the Nines. Just insure that your amp is getting out of 1st gear and not operating below its ideal RPM window where it still sounds a bit shut in. The Nines will telegraph any such sub-par performance. That's because their drivers are anything but ordinary.

"My speakers will often get overlooked because the components seem ordinary. They are not. I have included a frequency sweep of my tweeter (in the Silverback baffle). This is no ordinary tweeter and no one else uses it. It is flat to 40kHz without any of the bumps or notches of the ring radiators. It is a moving coil driver with the speed and extension of a ribbon. In my opinion people love/hate ribbon tweeters because you will always hear them as a separate element. It is impossible to truly integrate a ribbon and a moving coil driver. The midwoofer is also quite ordinary looking. But I'll put its midrange resolution up against anything, including midrange-only drivers - and mine goes down to the mid 30s at the same time! Combined with that silk tweeter, it makes for a speaker that is truly more detailed than anything at twice its price while at the same time retaining a musical and even relaxed tonality."

While at features that aren't fully apparent to the naked eye: there are eight hidden rare-earth magnets embedded in each Nine - four upfront to fix the grill (which contains another four magnets of course), four 'round back to park the grill right between the port holes for serious listening. That's not only trick, it's also a manufacturing expense of the non-glamorous kind. Ditto the American hand labor with controlled environmental impact. There are no uninsured assembly-line workers at DeVore housed and fed in factory dorms.

Such characterizations might seem anti climactic and contra indicative for one more 'the reviewer won't return my speakers' motion. However, it's the usual trouble when approaching neutrality. Little meaningful can really be said about it. What there is occurs mostly in the negative: The bass doesn't boom. The midrange doesn't bloom. The treble doesn't ring or shout. The cabinet doesn't talk. Images don't stick. Sibilance doesn't sizzle. There's no hooding, veiling or honking. Nothing stands out or attracts attention. In short, there are no compelling reasons on that side of the ledger where all the impressive, obvious and loud qualities congregate. By now then, we've come full circle with the opening statement of ordinariness.

The virtues and merits of the Nines grow on you quietly and without fanfare if you're coming from fanfare. If the Nines were a poem, it'd be brief, concise and entirely non-flowery. If the Nines were a symphony, it'd be by Mozart - well-structured yet lyrical, with a compact ensemble, fetching melodies and elegant 'handwriting'. If the Nines were a lady, she'd be pretty but non-glamorous, intelligent, of average height and non-voluptuous measurements. If the Nines were a gent, he'd be strong yet nimble, trustworthy and unprepossessing. If the Nines were a landscape, it'd be a mid-afternoon setting with strong but not bright light, wide-open vistas, light colors and non-dramatic features to let space do the talking. If the Nines were a speaker, you'd have to be a music lover rather than gear head to want it - and you'd have to listen to a lot of music rather than talk about doing it to really get the Nines.

At the risk of sounding pretentious with such a lead-out, John DeVore isn't getting this pair back. The Nines will become part of my tool box and stand in for conventional everyman speakers that are full-range for most, easy on amplifiers, ultra transparent to electronics changes and non-editorializing to pass judgment on what precedes them. Altogether anti sensationalist then, soberingly normal in a world of plastic surgery pretenders and, while certainly not an outrageous value, highly commendable for an all-American hand-crafted hifi specimen whose appeals won't wear thin over time. Well-tempered, exceptionally even-handed without hot spots, a downward-grown Super Eight in virtually the same size enclosure - there's a fair bit of sorcery in how this 2.5-way concept won't betray its mechanics to act as a mini monitor with perfectly integrated true deep bass. It also plays shouldn't-be loud without frazzling at the edges.

In short, it's a Dustin Hoffman-type Little Big speaker. It tells extremely convincing tall tales. Yet you're not sure. In the movie, you're not sure whether Jack Crabb is one brazen sonuvabitch liar or not. With the Nines, you can't be sure how John DeVore pulled it off. He's not telling about his all-silver crossover. That's where the movie parallel fails. The Nines tell the truth (don't blame 'em if the truth of your system doesn't appeal). It's how they manage where things get nearly a bit too fantastic to be completely true. But that's not a problem. That's just a brain twister. For rattling the grey matter; for packing such even-keeled transparency and fullrange extension into so friendly a box; for doing it all without outsourcing assembly; John DeVore deserves a round of applause especially from those in the peanut galleries who'll judge this speaker solely on its demure stature and apparently modest firepower without first listening to the Nines. Make no mistake, there's more hear here to meet the ear than mere fi for the eye.

PS: Moon men Michael Lavorgna and Ken Micallef are niners as well, with Ken already delivered while Michael's order pends the pennies in his piggy bank. The virtues of the Nines seem quite self-authenticating once you hear 'em, even to presumably jaded been-there done-there ears. For a second opinion, I asked Ken to pen a brief sidebar after reading my review - and to disagree and show where his opinion -- based on taste, ancillaries and room -- diverged from my own. His sidebar follows below:

Ken Micallef comments:
Having been a proud owner of John DeVore's Super 8s while also favorably reviewing the Gibbon 8s and 7.1s, I was tickled pink to finally be receiving my Nines. I'd hoped that they would match the Super 8s' clarity, tonality and soundstaging but with considerably more bass punch. Any audiophool who knows me accepts my predilection for down and dirty bass. My select CD pile is a bass lover's wet dream: Brian Bromberg's Upright, Donald Fagen's Morph the Cat, Pat Metheny Group's Speaking of Now, Danish bassist Niels-Orsted Henning Pedersen's Those Who Were, Dave Holland Big Band's What Goes Around. As a former musician, I've found that authentic bass is one the hardest things for any system to replicate. Sure, oozing bass blobs are a snap for any mid-fi rig but truly exceptional, extended bass with accurate tonality, weight and clarity is a rare commodity in my experience. Read on.

Of course the low end must be matched to the high end and that is the first quality the Nines present: absolute coherence from top to bottom, a seamless joining of frequencies that frankly makes the Super 8s sound a bit shut in and restrained. Tied to the Nines' solid frequency coherence is spatial accuracy/soundstaging expression. The Nines well reveal spatial cues, production mix placement and the speed of every note. I agree with much of Srajan's review, especially where he states that the Nines will reveal everything upstream. Not only did the Nines reveal every CD for its own unique production values, but also the sound of my individual components: the warmth of the Art Audio Diavolo SET, the tonal accuracy of the Shindo Allegro and the brilliance of the Raysonic CD128 player.

Those looking for midrange bloom or something in that flavor might be disappointed with the Nines. They just don't do that midrange thing some people crave. They are flat-sounding speakers as in, spot-on tonality. If you use a guitar tuner for your acoustic axe like I do, you know there is a point where the string resonates with the other correctly tuned strings and the meter needle lies perfectly down the middle: flat. That expresses the Nines' tonality perfectly. Here they are rich-sounding speakers but perhaps only because the rest of my rig is balanced to achieve that richness.

Though the Nines are not that much larger than the Super 8s, I believe they are superior speakers. They share front baffle drivers but somehow John DeVore has, for my money, produced a vastly more revealing and satisfying speaker. The tonal ID is very similar: exceedingly natural reproduction of vocals and instruments and a slightly forward presentation that works well in my smallish room. There is no glossing over or romanticizing of sounds - truth serum time for good or bad. The Nines' smooth treble is seamlessly tied to a flat-sounding midrange and tight, deep bass. No one frequency holds sway, the speaker, again, is exceptionally coherent. Boringly honest? More like refreshingly honest, true to the source and like the DeVore 7.1s I reviewed a few years ago, as natural as you would desire in the perfect studio monitor. Wanna hear your favorite vocalist or instrumentalist revealed as they were in the studio or live performance? This is the speaker to achieve your goals.

As to Srajan's perception that the Nines are lean or lean in character, I don't really get that. In my room, the bass reproduction is exceptional. Yes, it never booms but more importantly, it feels and sounds absolutely right. Whether acoustic or electric, bass notes (bass drums too) have slam, weight, warmth, extension and spot-on tonality. The softness of a felt beater on the bass drum head? For sure. The wiry coil of an electric funk bass? Ditto. The Nines reproduce a quality of bass that I always hoped for in my rig, one with clarity, weight, slam, deep tonal accuracy and correct speed of note release.

When John DeVore delivered my speakers, he said "I'll bring the shipping boxes later." Don't bother John, I'm at the end of my speaker quest. The Nines won't be leaving and I got no room for empty boxes...

Quality of packing: Sturdy outer cardboard with strapped longitudinal edge reinforcers, hard-foam inner corners and plastic liner.
Reusability of packing: Can be reused at least once.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Very easy.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Includes magnetized grilles, screw-in footers, owner's manual and setup instructions [all of which ship in a separate small third box].
Quality of owner's manual: Just right.
Website comments: Informative, with good photography and product specs but no pricing info.
Warranty: 5 years.
Global distribution: Company manufactures in New York City and has agents in Europe, Israel, South Africa, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.
Human interactions: Professional and courteous, timely responses to questions. An enthusiast operation.
Other: Very compact for true full-range performance.
Pricing: Somewhat expensive for the small 2.5-way concept.

Application conditions: Dual and separately tuned ports cause far less setup limitations than conventional single ports. Exposed soft dome tweeter vulnerable to prying fingers.
Final comments & suggestions: None. This is a matured, fully thought-out product for the real world rather than Interior Decorator dreams where all people live in lake shore mansions.
Manufacturer's website