Review: DeVore gibbon Xs, These Monkeys Can Play Music

With this review of the gibbon X speakers, I have now reviewed all of the current lineup from DeVore Fidelity except for their O/Reference speakers. The gibbon X is the most expensive model in this lineup. Thank you, John, for the opportunity to hear them in my listening room. 

The gibbon series strives to maintain the wonderful color tones of the DeVore sound with even better imaging, sound staging, and scale. On the other hand, the Orangutans focus on dynamic impact and a slightly fuller sound.

The O/96 and O/93 models comprise DeVore’s orangutan line. These are two-way speakers with a wide-baffle design. They have an efficiency of 96dB and 93dB respectively.

Unpacking the Boxes

Even though I have seen the DeVore gibbon Xs at shows, I was shocked by the size of their shipping cartons. They arrived superbly packed. Trust me, I needed a helper to unpack them. It was definitely not a one-man job.

Once I had them out of the boxes, I could see that both the fit and the finish were beautiful and precise. It was obvious that DeVore paid attention to the smallest of details when designing these speakers. My review pair came in a cherry bamboo finish that was simply stunning.

Setting Up the DeVore gibbon Xs

Like all DeVore speakers, the Xs are designed to sound beautiful in the average living room as well as in an audiophile’s listening room. However, these speakers need more precise placement than the SuperNines or the Orangutans. They like lots of space. I expect that if you place these speakers on the long wall in a room, you can place them closer to the wall behind them and further away from the side walls.

This placement isn’t possible in my room. We live in a tri-level, and the top half of the back wall is open to the kitchen. I ended up placing them on the short wall with the tweeter about 124 inches from the center of my listening position. This placed the tweeters around 69 inches from the wall behind the speakers. If you can’t pull them out this far into the room, you should try placing them further apart. In my room, the speakers were 84 inches apart and about 31 inches from the side walls.

I also tried different toe-ins, but in the end, these speakers sounded best and produced a better soundstage with no toe-in at all. My Super Nines benefit from a very careful setup. They also sound really darn good placed just a little out from the wall behind them. However, this is not the case with the Xs. They need space!

For this review, the DeVore Xs simply replaced my Super Nines in my reference system. Everything else stayed the same.

Description

John provided the hand drawing above to show the design of the DeVore gibbon Xs’ speaker cabinet. The solid bamboo panels will immediately catch your eye as well as the beautiful, glossy black front panel. Two types of plywood and two types of MDF are also used to construct the cabinets. The woofers do not attach to the outer box. Instead, there are four plywood chambers inside the cabinets as shown in this illustration.

The slightly horn-loaded tweeter was developed for the Xs, and it is also used in the SuperNines. Recessed, it is mounted in the upper chamber. Very well isolated, the tweeter is spring-suspended in its own solid block of wood and has a thicker than normal front plate made of the zinc alloy, Zamac.

Of the Xs’ drivers, the tweeter is the most radical departure. “My concept was a hybrid of the older Silverback tweeter and the Orangutan tweeter,” John told me. He wanted to combine the Silverback’s speed and extension with the Orangutan’s dynamic range and low distortion. “I was able to really optimize the top couple of octaves of the dome, coil, and motor, and then gently horn-load the lower range to bring it down to the midrange,” he said.

Listening to the DeVore gibbon Xs

If you are like me, as soon as you unpack these speakers and hook them up. Then, I know what you are going to do next. You are going to sit down and listen to them. I also know that their sound will underwhelm you. John had told me that they would take two or three days to wake up, and man do they wake up!

If you have been to audio shows and listened to some of the huge reference systems in the “big rooms,” you probably thought as I did that you could never get sound like that in a room of normal size. Well, I’ve got good news for you, you can get a great taste of that kind of sound in your room, and it doesn’t have to cost six figures.

My listening room is basically 14’ by 25’, though a staircase and the door going to the garage break up this space.  The sound produced by the gibbon Xs in this room was huge. The bass went as deep as any speaker system I have had in this room that sounded like music. This powerful bass down to the low 20hz seems to be what makes the system sound so big. While the top-end is very extended and detailed, it isn’t the least bit bright. My experience is that it is this kind of top-end that gives speakers incredible imaging.

Some Observations on the DeVore gibbon Xs

My Electrostatic Solutions QUAD 57s and my gibbon SuperNines have a slightly softer high-end and less bass extension, especially the QUADs. They both transport me to very nearly live sound enabled by their ability to convey the harmonics, textures, and timbre of instruments. The gibbon Xs give me all of these qualities with an ever so slightly leaner sound. They add to this the qualities I discussed above.

The Xs are the most neutral of all the DeVore speakers that I have heard in my home. They also have more energy in the top-end. This is also true of the bass, which goes deeper with more power but is tighter than the bass of either the SuperNines or the QUADs. The X’s have dynamics and startle factor in spades. 

So many box and panel loudspeakers seem to compress extreme dynamics, which makes them easier to listen to in your home but not nearly as exciting.

Soundstage

Even if you are like me and the soundstage is not the most important thing about reproducing a performance, it is impossible not to enjoy the huge soundstage of the Xs. It spread wall to wall, it was very deep, and the reproduction of the vertical portion of the soundstage was exceptional. 

I listened to so much music over the Xs that I’m not going to try to list it all. If voices are your thing, these speakers color voices less than I have heard before. It reproduces small jazz groups with exceptional aliveness. A classical orchestra was as realistically reproduced as you can get in a 14’ room. I did not find that these speakers favored one genre of music over another. I enjoyed all my music over the Xs.

What are the weaknesses of these speakers? Well as I mentioned, they need and take up space in your room. Their startle factor, dynamics, and deep bass may bother other people in your home. Other than these, there are very few weaknesses to mention.

Conclusion

These are not inexpensive speakers. In fact, they are expensive. Having said that, for those of you who love the sound of big reference speakers, the Xs are probably the best value you will find in high-end speakers. This is true, especially if you are looking for a speaker under $100K with a neutral sound, real-life frequency extension, and incredible dynamics. Before you spend more, you should give the Xs a serious listen with electronics that are worthy to drive them!

Price: $15,890

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