“Absolutely full range, absolutely modern transparency, imaging and sound-staging capabilities combined with impedance and sensitivity… that is tube friendly.” – John DeVore on his Gibbon X loudspeaker, RMAF 2015
The man looked haggard, eyes slightly bulging, sweat on his brow. A disheveled air about his clothes as though he had slept in them. The pass hanging around his neck identified him as press, a pen clipped on his shirt collar, rumpled papers clutched in one hand, more stuffed in his pockets… a camera dangling precariously off a shoulder and an unkempt beard bursting off is face contributed only in making him appear more frazzled.
Who was this stranger?
Ah, it’s a mirror I’m glancing in. This weirdo is me.
I’m at RMAF 2015 and lurching around like Quasimodo as I’m covering “The Tower” here, so it’s staircases and elevators for me as I try vainly to get to more than 30 rooms to bring you coverage. Pray for me. Please.
First stop is a chat with John DeVore of DeVore Fidelity, up on the 10th floor…
The $15,890 USD Gibbon X is slotted as the replacement for the roughly 10-year-old Silverback design according to John DeVore, who was talking with me outside Jonathan Halpern’s Tone Imports room at RMAF on Friday morning. DeVore, tall, rangy with an easy smile and quick wit, was explaining how the new speaker design had come about.
The X is a roughly 92 dB efficient, 22Hz-40kHz, three-way design featuring a new midrange driver, a new tweeter, and two side-firing, long-throw woofers, all in a stunning wood-finished cabinet with internal bracing and interior compartments specifically designed to both isolate certain aspects of driver interaction and build on those interactions.
Being driven by new amplifier designs from SPEC Corp. of Japan, which I’ll post on separately later, the sound was incredibly impactful, dynamic, room-filling and had the delicacy of timbre and tone that I’ve come to expect from the O/96 and O/93 models. Textural reproduction and detail on drums, horns and voices was staggering, and left me shaking my head at what this final, production iteration of the Gibbon X was capable of. DeVore said this particular pair had drivers with approximately 200 hours on them, but to expect slight improvement over the next few hundred hours or so.
The origins of the Gibbon X started out as a replacement for the Gibbon 9, albeit a higher-end model, but as he delved into the project, it morphed, and the O/93 became the Gibbon 9 replacement.
“O/93’s really do everything the old Gibbon 9 did, plus, they have all the Orangutan attributes. So that allowed me to move the Gibbon X up to become a full three-way and more similar to the Silverback in our range. It has a less-elaborate Gibbon-style cabinet, but performance-wise, what the Silverback’s had.”
DeVore said there a few Silverback cabinets still left, but they will be discontinued as the new X contains all of his current thinking on driver, crossover and cabinet technology – and also features the first fully new tweeter design by him since the 10-year-old Silverback debuted.
“The idea behind [the X], it’s different than the Orangutans, all my speakers have a certain quality to them, but the Orangutans clearly are better at certain things and the Gibbon X is better at other things, so in terms of more modern audiophile attributes like pinpoint imaging, incredible sound-stage depth and really making the walls of your room disappear, they’ll do that more, they’re more cutting edge in that department. Whereas the O/96 is going to beat the X for effortless dynamic impact and energizing all the air in the room so you really feel like there’s musicians boogieing in the room.
“They each have different strengths based on the [respective] design briefs.”
The new X contains more of the Orangutan tonality and jump than any of DeVore’s previous Gibbon or Silverback designs because as he says, “it’s progress.”
“[It’s] a three-way that’s obviously more modern, conventional and narrow… with baffle step-response… you use that to provide that more modern feel and get all that texture, all that real high frequency – that tweeter goes higher than the Orangutan tweeter does – those woofers [in the X] go down lower than the Orangutan woofers do, so in that sense it’s a more modern, linear approach.
The impedance curve of the Gibbon X is nothing like a modern speaker that drops down to two ohms, then four ohms, it’s above 8.5 ohms all the way across the board to 40 Hz, and then there’s a dip to 7.5 ohms at 20 Hz, so a tube amp – even a single-ended tube amp (driving the X) – is awesome… because they’re above eight ohms it’s an easy load.”
DeVore says his desire to produce speakers that reject the need for massive solid state watts was a direct result of the glut of difficult-to-drive speakers that plagued ’80s speaker designs.
“That’s why I started my company, that’s very much the reason I started to make my own speakers… I said to myself ‘Why aren’t they making all the great things these [low impedance] speakers can do, in a reasonable load? Why just assume people are going to be buying giant solid state?'”