Test Report: DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 88 Tower Speaker Page 2

Setup

It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the manual that accompanies the Gibbon 88. Rather than provide setup hints, DeVore tells you specifically how he wants you to set up his speakers. There’s still room for experimentation and tweaking, but he explains exactly what tweaks to make and in what order to make them.

That’s especially good because the Gibbon 88’s setup lies a bit outside the norm. The asymmetrically mounted tweeters must go to the outside. You have to tilt the speaker back slightly so you can just barely see the top of the cabinet, but the large, easily adjusted metal cone feet make this task easy. I toe most speakers in so that they point straight at me, but DeVore recommends starting with only slight toe-in and adjusting from there.

I started by connecting the speakers’ single pairs of copper binding posts to my Krell S-300i integrated amp, but also experimented with other electronics, as I’ll describe below. That’s something I usually don’t do when testing speakers, but in this case it made all the difference.

Performance

The Gibbon 88 delivered a lot of the things I expected — and one thing I totally didn’t expect. What I expected was something I assume most audiophile-oriented speakers will offer: precise imaging and huge soundstaging. It was obvious to me even as I was experimenting with the speaker positioning that the Gibbon 88’s soundstaging was among the best I’ve heard from a dynamic (i.e., cone and dome drivers, not panels or ribbons) speaker.

My vinyl copy of Brazilian trumpeter Marcio Montarroyos’s Carioca showed off the Gibbon’s incredible sonic reach. The tune “Aruanda,” with layers of multitracked horns over South American percussion, completely blew me away. I could hear the various instruments placed accurately not only between the speakers but at different distances from me, much as if they were arrayed on a stage (even though, in the studio, they surely weren’t). The ambience wrapped around me, actually distracting me a bit at times when I heard what seemed to be discrete sounds coming from just a foot or two to the sides of my head.

“Aruanda” also revealed something I didn’t expect: The DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 88 has superb mid- and upper bass. The rhythmic bursts of the tune’s bass clarinet, subtly doubled with another bass instrument not identified in the credits, sounded extremely precise and even from note to note, but also exhibited a seductive, human sense of groove. The little towers dug fearlessly into one of my toughest bass test tracks, “Falling” from Olive’s Extra Virgin CD, playing even the deepest notes cleanly and evenly.

Still, I felt like I wasn’t getting the best the Gibbon 88 could deliver. It sounded a bit bright to me, as if the lower-to-mid treble were elevated by about 2 dB. Then I recalled that every time I’ve seen DeVore demo his speakers at hi-fi shows, he used tube amps. This got me thinking that maybe he voiced them using primarily tube amps, which would typically have a softer sound than the Krell.

I didn’t have a tube amp on hand, but I did have my Bottlehead Quickie tube preamp. So I substituted the Quickie and my AudioControl Savoy amp for the Krell. Instantly, the speaker’s tonal balance went from a bit bright to just right. Heard through the Gibbon 88s, the guitars on the LP Collaboration by George Benson and Earl Klugh sounded twangy and “stringy” with the Krell, but perfectly smooth through the Bottlehead/AudioControl rig. How do I know the latter is “right”? Because it’s Benson and Klugh, two of the guys who invented smooth jazz. (So there you go.)

You probably already figured the DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 88 is no rock speaker, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It works nicely for tamer rock, like the Police’s “Walking on the Moon” (from The Police, their 2007 reunion-tour-cash-in compilation double CD), but when I played the title track of Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood CD, the Gibbon 88’s woofer couldn’t keep up and the sound seemed thin and strained.

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