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Devore Fidelity Gibbon 3XLs Loudspeakers

10-20-2016 | By John Brazier | Issue 88

Devore Fidelity Gibbon

I spent over (3) years with the smallish, floor standing Devore Super 8's in my home as my go to reference speaker. Leading up to that time, I had audition and/or reviewed several speakers at or well above the Super 8's price point and volume, but it was not until I heard the Verity Audio Parsifal Ovation at 3x the price (and 5x the weight) was I compelled to upgrade. Put another way, John Devore and Devore Fidelity make great product at fantastic price points.  Enter the stand-mounted Devore Fidelity Gibbon 3XL which, tuning and technical specifications aside, are a truncated version of the larger floor standing Silverbacks, meaning the 3XL employ the same tweeter and a very similar paper midrange as Devore's top of the line Silverbacks.

Yes, I came into this review tainted with the prospect of hearing a great sounding Devore Fidelity speaker of exceptional value. Moreover, it has been many years since I have spent much time with a stand mounted 2-way. There was a time, when both my budget and the size of my listening room, dictated that I was to be a stand-mounted, 2-way speaker guy. To me, the tradeoff between the deepest of bass over a sweeter and abundantly imaged soundscape were well worth it. Times change and tastes change and, if you're lucky, budgets change upward too. Nonetheless, I really wanted to hear the more compact, 2-way Gibbon 3XL's and John Devore obliged.

The pair I received are finished in the Cherry Bamboo and sit atop matching stands. The stands are crafted of the same material and are of high quality, sufficient heft and possess an architectural design element that raise the level of sophistication well above their price point. The stands are a $695/pr add to the cost of the already $3700 3XL yet, as stands highly recommended, a perfect match in appearance and function. Devore offers the 3XL in a Mahogany or Mink Bamboo finish, also with stands to match in the selected finish.

The advertised frequency range is 45Hz – 40kHz, Sensitivity is 90dB/W/M and impedance is 8 ohms. The boxes themselves measure 15.25" H x 7.3125" W x 10.875" D and, my guess, is that they weigh in at about 12-15lbs each. As noted, the tweeter is silk dome is the same as the one found in the Silverbacks whereas the 5" midrange is paper cone and not identical to the one found in the Silverbacks.

Set up was made easy as the speakers and stands are modular and relatively lightweight. I spent a fair amount of time moving the speakers in, out, to the left and then the right all while managing the toe-in toward the listener. More than many speakers, when I got it just right, I knew it. The sound locked in, the bass plunged a wee bit deeper, and the midrange timbers harmonized so sweetly. Off axis listening was good, but when in the "spot" you are handsomely rewarded. The same goes for distance from the speakers, I found that one or two feet in front of or behind the sweet spot had a dissipating effect on the best these speakers could offer. Lesson learned: get comfortable, relax and really enjoy these speakers from the sweet spot.

As a 2-way stand mount, bass expectations must be managed and I found these speakers to be in line with what I had expected. More often than not I have found that the advertised depth of the midrange/port to be what is perhaps possible in a perfected environment with the most well mated of equipment and not rarely duplicated in the real world home settings. While I cannot confirm nor deny the exact low end measurement of the Gibbons, I can say that my expectations were met and I did not feel shortchanged in any way. In fact, I found several bass tracks to be really compelling. Almost the entire Red Hot Chili Peppers catalog is so compressed that I am continually disappointed when I have to get my RHCP fix (of whom I am a longtime fan) and this realization is renewed. However, their latest release, The Getaway, is not as compressed as most of their earlier efforts and is a bit more satisfying in this regard. The 3XL's delivered and the bass was well pronounced and defined.

For a time, I had a pair Bryston 28BSST mono blocks driving the Gibbons which at 1000 watts per side knocked out every last bit of depth one could imagine such a speaker could possibly bang out. Known for the power-packing punch, the Bryston's certainly established that these speakers are capable of reasonably deep fundamentals that permeate and bolster the majority of the frequency range. However, for most listening, I had a 100-watt McIntosh integrated amplifier pushing the sound. While the latter compressed and narrowed the sound in almost every aspect compared to the Brystons the bass was still very satisfying and enjoyable.

As for the midrange and vocals in particular, all my usual suspects were thrown at the Gibbon's and the Gibbon's always responded appropriately. Diane Reeves, Stacy Kent, Sasha Dobson, and Ani Difranco are the 'dream team' of vocal test tracks and, as it so happens, are all so packed with talent and skill it can be jaw dropping. The Gibbon 3XL captured the emotion and detail of each performance in a way that I have come to expect from much more expensive speakers. Only occasionally was a reminded that the sound was emanating from a relatively small and limiting sized package. In most of these cases I could have just as easily pointed to the recording or other weakness in my supply chain.

There is a flavor to these speakers and they are not entirely neutral. At the same time, I can say that many of my all-time favorites speakers (which are also critically acclaimed) are not at all neutral either. Thus, deviations from neutrality are not bad things so long as they are designed into the large signature sound. The Gibbon's hint at a leanness in the mid-to-upper midrange that did, at times, mitigate an otherwise desirous undying warmth. They are not forward, or analytical, but there are times where I heard a sterility that did distract me. This is a quibble but is a notable (sometimes) characteristic. It is worth noting that from the electrical outlet in the wall to the speaker binding posts my system is wired with silver—power cords, interconnects, digital and speaker wires—all silver. Thus, it is not unrealistic to conclude the sound is, in fact, shaped by the use of silver and that this "hint of leanness" is a consequence of the same, i.e. "your mileage my vary".

As with most stand-mounted speakers, the soundstage is a strength and with the Gibbon's the soundscape might even be epic. I miss the disappearing and enveloping of all things musical that such speakers bring to the table, where the sound of larger floorstanders is typically "anchored", the Gibbon's floated about the room and I never found myself wishing for more scale, slam, impact or any of the accolades that tend to attached to large speakers'.

As for the highest of highs, I found these particular tweeters to be of the highest caliber outdoing the Verity Audio, Sonus Faber and Gamut speakers which I have lived with over the years. Not surprising, the highs were of the same character, quality and strength as I found in the Gibbon Super 8's that I lived with for a number of years. No hint of strain. Ever. The signal was at all times smooth and extended.

Construction, fit and finish are top notch. The face of the speakers are a black polished finish that sits nicely in contrast against the bamboo cabinet, the driver mounting screws and the sophisticated font and layout of "Devore Fidelity" as written along the bottom of the speaker. The back side is ported and is also finished in the black polished finish and within the circular speaker post insets are one set of high quality binding posts.

Value. For $3700 (plus stands if you elect) you get a highly crafted, beautifully designed and remarkably clear, articulate, musical, and compelling sounding speaker. The drawback are those that are associated with any stand mounted 2 way speaker, i.e. you will not get explosively dynamic nor hugely scaled speaker sound in a box this size, such would belie the laws of physics. But, you will get an expansive soundstage, the sweetest of vocal ranges, and tuneful bass in support.

When I first got into this hobby, the most expensive of expensive "stand-mounted" speakers (that I knew of) were the $1600 B&W Matrix 805s. Since then the market has exploded and prices can now top $25,000 for a 2-way, stand mounted monitor (insert yellow emoticon with gun to head). Bringing the real world back into perspective is the $3700 Gibbon 3XL that I cannot recommend it enough for anyone looking to get outstanding sound at a "reasonable" price.

In the end I am purchasing the review sample. While I have the "large scale" system in a larger listening room, I do not have a smaller set up for more intimate listening session in my smaller living room. That is where the Gibbon 3XL's will be set for the foreseeable future.

Gibbon 3XL

Retail: $3700 a pair, stands are $695 a pair

Devore Fidelity