There are sounds. Dusk sounds. The rising chorus of crickets. Some birds. A call that could be an owl, but with the echoing along the tree line, the cry is fractured and broken and distant. Bats. There are bats, darting into the free air, zipping along a flight path that can only be described as “impossible” as they pursue prey too small to see.
The breeze is picking up. It’s the temperature change, the sudden lack of the heat from the vanishing sun makes the trees seem to exhale, a damp and leafy breath that blows the hair back from your face.
And then, nothing. A blanket cast on the canopy of sound. You hold your breath.
You are alone.
And in the darkness, something moves.
The remakes of the Planet of the Apes films are way more intimidating than the ones I grew up with. Part of that is the grittiness, yes, the feeling of the dirt beneath the nails, but part of it is that, now, it all just seems a bit more plausible. Like humanity — not just society — is this tenuous, fragile thing. One wrong breath, and all the dominos fall. Pardon me while I look for the emoticon for “existential shiver”.
Given my own baggage with the whole Great Apes Rising theme, I’ve always been a bit unnerved by John DeVore’s fixation on the ape motif. I figured it was a play on his absurd height — he may well be 12′ tall — or the fact that he can generate the most uncanny imitation of a howler monkey this side of the Bronx Zoo.
But I recently learned about the passing of John’s uncle, Irven DeVore, a Harvard anthropologist famous for his work on baboons, African tribesmen, and theoretical biology. He also taught one of the most popular classes, ever, at the prestigious school, called “Sex”. Yes, a wide grin is probably appropriate right about now.
I have no idea what it was like, growing up with that kind of intellectual whirlwind so close to hand, and I don’t really know John well enough to ask, but I can imagine that John’s naming choices are something of an homage. And to that, I lift a glass half-empty, in the direction of Harvard Square. Salut.
Turning at last to RMAF, I had the luxury of hearing three different DeVore Fidelity loudspeakers — the exquisite Gibbon 3XL ($3,700/pair), the magnificent Orangutan O/96 ($12,000/pair), and the newest Ape in the house, the Gibbon X ($15,500/pair).
The first of the three collisions happened at the intersection of Friday and O/96. Six pedestrians were struck with wonder, with two fatally robbed of the ability to speak. I’m pretty familiar with the O/96, as I’ve been a proud owner for over a year now, and hearing it driven by the Ayre Acoustics AX5 integrated amplifier ($9,950) was more than a bit weird. I don’t think I’ve ever driven those speakers with any other than tubes, and low-power ones at that. With a 96dB sensitivity and a tube-friendly 10Ω impedance, you’d not think solid-state would be the way to go. Interestingly, the newest from Ayre seem to have been voiced for a bit more growl and a bit less bite. A good thing, in my book.
Also in the system: A Well Tempered Amedeus turntable ($2,850) with the DPS power supply ($400), mounted with a “naked” looking EMT TSD-15n cartridge ($1,950), feeding into an Auditorium 23 Hommage T2 SUT ($4,995) and a Leben RS-30EQ phono pre ($2,695).
Box Furniture, the NY-area company that makes the superlative cabinetry for the DeVore loudspeakers, also made the gorgeous 4-shelf stand (in sapele, $1,995 est.) and amp stand ($825).
All cables came from Auditorium 23.
On my next trip through, I caught the little guys, the Gibbon 3XL stand-mount loudspeakers. These guys, with their matching stand creating an acoustic launch pad of sorts, threw a wicked sound stage into the room I think these speakers may well be the best bang-for-the-buck when it comes to the super-high-end. Again, I’ve heard these speakers several times powered by solid state electronics and have always favored tubes for them, but here the sound was holographic.
After that brief spin, we finally made it to the headliner. The Gibbon X has been a long time coming, and a speaker I first heard back at CES in 2013. I remember being very impressed with that speaker, then, but I also remember John shaking his head saying that he still had “lots to do”. Well, that’s all completed now — the Gibbon X is ready for order.
The iteration I saw in Vegas had three front-firing drivers; the production version has traded in two for a pair of side-firing drivers mounted on the flanks of a similarly-sized cabinet. A narrow fascia, with bamboo cabinetry and a piano-black front panel, round out the visuals.
The 7″ midrange driver is new and derived from the top-line Silverback loudspeaker, but coupled to “a new, far more powerful motor system and carefully designed cast alloy chassis … the new woofer has a 50% larger magnet with double the linear voice coil travel” over the original used in the Silverback. “It incorporates a phase plug for improved transient performance and lower thermal distortion and operates in its own hybrid transmission-line, ensuring truly optimized performance. The massive dual 8.25″, long-throw woofers are also based on the drivers built for the Silverback Reference and take over at owed frequencies to reproduce the full musical foundation.”
Specs on the new speaker: 22Hz-40kHz, 8Ω nominal/7Ω minimum, 92dB. Each cabinet is 89lbs, stands 44″ tall, with a 9″ face and 17.75″ depth.
When John turned it on, all I heard was …. Revolution.
The new Gibbon X is, in this less-than-ideal venue, hard to pin down. It’s clearly better than the Orangutan and the 3XL, both of which could and probably are claimed as direct ancestors to the new ape. But this one appears to throw down a deeper sound stage, with more air and precision, launching from a deeper foundation. By contrast, the 3XL sounded more airy and the O/96 more fulsome, but of the three, the Gibbon X sounded right.
This is a most excellent speaker. A clear standout, and an easy contender for Best-In-Show.
I really don’t need another DeVore loudspeaker, but I sure do want this one!