For the last few years John DeVore, and Jonathan Halpern have been hosting an exclusive speakeasy in the Denver Marriott Tech Centre during RMAF. It’s always in the same room, on the same floor, and for those that get the invite to attend it’s always a memorable experience. With rare spirits being poured, obscure, little known, amazing-sounding recordings being played over the sound system, and a cast of characters laughing, and sharing crazy audiophile stories from decades in the business, the evening is mixed into a cocktail of divine esoteric, musical, and intellectual spirituality – a bit closer to the heavens you could say – which makes a sort of sense since Denver is America’s highest city at 5,280 feet about sea level.
This year was no different, except that the hifi hardware menu had changed somewhat with DeVore (of DeVore Fidelity), back from the jungles of his creative mind with a new primate loudspeaker design: The Gibbon Super Nine. The Super Nine (TBD $10, 800 USD) is a compact, 2.5-way floor-standing design that fits between the current Gibbon 88, and Gibbon X loudspeaker models. I caught up with DeVore after RMAF with a few follow-up questions:
RA: What was the impetus for this new model? Did you, yourself, perceive a gap in the current DeVore lineup? Was it owner’s feedback asking for this type of design (ie; size, specs, driver compliment)?
JD: Over the course of developing of the Gibbon X it morphed from a Gibbon Nines replacement to a Silverback replacement, which left a gigantic gap between the Gibbon 88 at $5,800 USD, and the new X at nearly $16,000 USD. So yes, this made a nice, big target to aim for.
RA: What was the design precis for the Super Nine? Was the dual mid/bass design the first thing on the board? Was it to bring the 88 and the X tech closer together?
JD: I approached the Gibbon Super Nine in a similar way to how I approached the original Nines: To make something quite compact that was able to perform to a large degree like the model above it. For the original Nines it was the Silverback, and for the new Super Nine it’s the Gibbon X. The new design is quite similar to the original: it’s a 2.5 way with twin woofers, and the tweeter from the top model. The differences (between the Nines and the Super Nine) reflect the differences between the Silverback and the Gibbon X.
RA: What is the expected MSRP, and what options will you be offering with the Super Nine? Lastly, will the Super Nine phase out the 88, or is this an addition to the current lineup?
JD: Originally, I thought it would be just over $10,000 USD for the Super Nine, but it looks likely we’ll be able to release it for just under: $9,990 USD/pair. The Gibbon 88 will remain in the lineup.
Halpern, who runs Tone Imports LLC, and is well known for being the Shindo Labs distributor for North America (among several other high-end brands such as Auditorium 23, J.C. Verdier, Leben Hi-fi, Sugden Audio, and Line Magnetic to name a few) had brought some of my favourite solid-state gear to power DeVore’s designs – the venerable, powerful, and timbre-rich sounding Sugden Masterclass PA-4 phono stage, ($2,500 USD) LA-4 line stage ($3,750 USD) and FBA-800 Stereo Power Amplifier ($7,500 USD). Source for digital was a totaldac d1-tube-mk2 DAC/Streamer ($11,000 USD), and SPEC GMP-8000 turntable ($24,000 USD) with EMT 997 tonearm ($5,495 USD) , and EMT JSD S75 MC cartridge ($5,400 USD pre-mounted in EMT-J-Shell).
This was once again a system that had been carefully curated from source to transducer to work flawlessly together, so that every link in the signal chain played to each other’s strengths, highlighting the inherent musicality of all the components. Timbre, and tone while rich, and full, never spilled over to sweet, rather, they were able to stay firmly on the side of transparency, with juicy mids from several jazz. blues, and funk LPs, and digital files never softening the detail, and air of the upper registers that the Super Nines were translating into the room. While more diminutive than their larger sibling – the Gibbon X – the Nines never struggled to pressurize the room with ease, and took on massive power/dynamic swings from the Sugden amp with zero strain. If anything it felt like the opposite with a fluidity to the sound that spoke of headroom in spades.
Once again, one of my absolutely favourite-sounding rooms in Denver.