Ecoustics’ Eric Pye shares his experience with a stunning direct drive turntable. Back in 2021, I wrote about what attracts me to Vintage Audio. I discussed several factors, like style, […]
Vintage Bookshelf Speakers: DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3
If you can find a pair of DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3 Loudspeakers, these are vintage bookshelf speakers that will never disappoint.
DeVore Fidelity has been handcrafting world class loudspeakers out of its workshop in Brooklyn’s Navy Yards for almost 20 years and over that time, I have been fortunate to experience many of its designs at home, dealer showrooms, trade shows, and people’s homes.
Wandering into the Common Wave Audio Hi-Fi room at T.H.E. Show in June 2022, was my first time in many years to have the opportunity to listen to one of John’s latest creations and after spending more than 45 minutes listening to the O/baby – I was left with some serious regret in regard to an older pair of DeVore Gibbon 3s that I was forced to sell back in 2009.
There is a wonderful scene in Carl Reiner’s 1967 comedy Enter Laughing where Reni Santoni’s character enters the set with an insane laugh and then looks into the audience and suffers the worst case of stage fright in the history of theater. After some prodding from Elaine May, he recovers and gets better with each scene, but it’s a good thing that he always had pharmacy school to fall back on.
John Devore doesn’t have to worry about going to pharmacy school, because the smallest member of the DeVore line-up was positively killer. It required more power than the Gibbon Super 8s or original Silverback Reference loudspeakers, but with the right amplifier; and not necessarily a very expensive one, it was one of the best 2-way monitors I have ever listened to and easy to work with if you can’t get away with stands in the middle of your room.
At 12.5”H x 6.5” W x 9.5” D, the Gibbon 3s were not exactly huge; they just sounded that way. They were manufactured and assembled in DeVore’s Brooklyn-based factory and available in several beautiful hardwood veneers. My personal pair were finished in a light cherry and had a wonderful grain throughout.
The fit and finish were superb and while they were not inexpensive at $1,700 USD per pair back in 2006, there was nothing off-the-shelf (minus the Cardas binding posts) about the drivers which were custom-designed by Scanspeak for this specific loudspeaker to John’s very exact specifications.
They were also a rear-ported design that did not suffer from bass bloat if they were placed too close to the wall behind them — a feature that I always felt was unique.
Setting up the Gibbon 3s was a lot of fun, because its size allowed me to try it in more than one room; and even inside a wall unit which is where it might end up for some listeners.
Speakers have come and gone over the years, but speaker stands filled with sand never seem to get the hint. Being 6’ 3” tall, I require taller stands for stand-mounted speakers, so I tried the Gibbon 3s on 24” and 28” stands (both were of the 4-post sand-filled variety with those nasty spikes that pierce flesh), ultimately preferring the 24” height due to the tighter bass response and image height.
My living room (at the time) was 20’ x 13’ x 8’, with my listening chair 4’ from the wall behind it. A 108” wide built-in maple/cherry wall unit took up most of the right side of the room. Additional seating, a fireplace (opening was covered up during reviews), and my equipment rack occupied the left side of the room. Our hardwood floor was partially covered by an 8′ x 10′ wool rug.
The room was on the “lively” side, but the wall unit, seating, and carpet did a decent job of taming it. All the windows were covered with absorbent horizontal blinds.
The first position I tried was on the 24” stands with the rear of the speakers 36” from the wall behind them. The outside edges of the speakers were 20” from the sidewalls. I started with the speakers pointed straight ahead, which is generally how I’ve always positioned speakers in my room. The results were encouraging (after about 30 hours of abuse – AC/DC), but I felt that the sound could be more “open” with them pulled out even further.
At 45”, I hit the target. The distance from the sidewalls was not enough and I ended up pushing them closer together so that they were 32” from the edge to the walls. Everything seemed to gel, and I left them there (making them an easy target for my baby daughter) for the duration of the review.
DeVore Fidelity’s literature claimed that the Gibbon 3’s frequency response was 45Hz – 30kHz (+/-dB?) and while we have no technical measurements to refute or validate that claim, my time spent living with the speakers and specific amplifiers, proved that the Gibbon 3s were certainly capable of reproducing very deep and taut bass response; certainly, a lot more than its size suggested.
At 86dB (8 ohms), the Gibbon 3s were not a SET-friendly load, unless one were thinking of using something with 845 output tubes. My Fi X amplifier loaded with Sophia 2A3s barely made a dent. No shirt, no shoes, no dice. The Fi only offered a mere glimpse of the Gibbon 3’s un-boxy sounding midrange and extended top end.
The late-Don Garber even warned me before I tried his wonderful amplifier that it was not a combination that would work.
Next up were the Leben CS-300x integrated amplifier and Shindo Labs Montille power amplifier; both push-pull EL84 designs offering 12 juicy watts. The Montille has gain pots which can be raised/lowered depending on your choice of preamplifier (Shindo Labs Aurieges L and Fi Y) and I generally left them at the midnight hour. I occasionally tried them at 1 or 2, but 90 per cent of my listening was done at 12 O’clock.
Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry’s rendition of “Everyday I have the Blues” may have been foreshadowing of some mischief yet to come, but boy did it sound sweet and expansive while it lasted. The Leben CS-300x was a really underrated product.
The Gibbon 3s are a very open and immediate sounding loudspeaker that excel in the midrange and treble; wonderfully open, tonally rich, and blessed with top end extension that is airy and never etched or shrill. While quite resolute in the bass, the Leben just didn’t have the power or grip to really drive these speakers to levels that hard rocking folks might demand.
Folks who enjoy jazz, blues, chamber, folk, choral at sane listening levels will probably deem me a sadist for complaining, but Green Day, Zeppelin, Floyd, and Flea were merely “good” when I pushed the CS-300x/Gibbon 3s.
Mozart and Dolphy were outstanding; the midrange resolution and presence made these speakers really excel with vocals and string instruments.
Eric Dolphy was a genius, and that genius made “G.W.” look almost smart through the Gibbon 3s. His Alto Sax and Bass Clarinet had bite without chewing one’s head off.
The Gibbon 3s and CS-300x are a winning combination if you don’t live on a diet of Pavement, Green Day, and Metallica at levels that even Lars would threaten to kick your ass for listening to music at. Strive for that emotional connection without going deaf.
The Green Machine
The Shindo Labs Aurieges/Montille have wonderful resolution from top-to-bottom, and a slightly warm tonal balance, which also really complimented the immediate and open presentation of the Gibbon 3s. Unlike the Leben CS-300x, which ran out of gas at loud levels, the Montille seemed to take it more in stride and rolled off more gracefully.
Hank Mobley’s “Bouncing with Bud” and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Take it Easy” both offer their own unique challenges and the Gibbon 3s barely broke a sweat. I enjoyed both tracks at low and high listening levels thanks to the extraordinary detail retrieval and clarity. The speakers do not gloss over bad recordings, which will most likely annoy fans of over-produced formulaic schlock pop.
Great sounding pop such as Departure from The Mammals, Winterpills’ self-titled release, and Ruth Gerson’s Wake to Echo kept me engaged for hours.
Absolutely, Your Worshipfulness…
My NAD T753 and T763 surround receivers also worked rather well with the Gibbon 3s, supporting them with a lot more power, but the combination that I really enjoyed was the Gibbon 3s with the Arcam Solo (which I borrowed for a week).
The Solo (“Why you stuck up, scruffy lookin…”) was a 75 watt integrated amplifier/CD player/AM/FM tuner unit from Arcam that really blew the doors off with a speaker such as the Gibbon 3s.
It didn’t quite have the detail retrieval or coherence of the Leben/Shindo Labs equipment, but the price differences were so enormous at the time (almost 50% less than the Leben and 75% less than the Shindo rig), that it was hard to ignore just how well the combination performed.
Ry Cooder’s Chávez Ravine was my sleeper album of 2005, and its unique, dirty, gritty flavor oozed out of the Gibbon 3s like the bean and cheese from a good burrito. It burns your skin and stains like a mother on that new shirt you’re wearing, but man is it good. The Solo had surprisingly fat cajones for a Brit piece of kit. The Gibbon 3s were from Brooklyn.
KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” from Eyes to the Telescope had a snappy beat to it and the Gibbon 3/Solo combination went along for the ride. Good album, gritty singer, great song to get drunk and start dancing to.
There must be something you didn’t like…
My only real complaint about the Gibbon 3s involve their sensitivity; they are not the easiest speakers to drive and that’s a shame because I have no doubt that they would sound great with something like the Fi Super X, Almarro A205A MK II, etc…which were more affordable than the Leben CS-300x and the Shindo Labs gear.
If you can find a pair today in excellent shape, they will work well with solid-state amplification that is slightly warmer sounding. Cambridge Audio, Rega, Arcam, McIntosh, Rotel, and older NAD amplifiers would be a great match as long as the power output is there.
The Unison Research Triode 25 Integrated Amplifier that I reviewed last year would be superb with these loudspeakers but that is a rather hefty investment
Their superb coherence, punchy and immediate midrange, detailed and airy treble, superb imaging, and surprisingly deep bass response all add up to a complete package that is domestically friendly and a very mature sounding loudspeaker that I never should have sold.
This article originally appeared at ecoustics.com and has been published here with permission.
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