DeVore Fidelity's 3XL Speakers Artistic Achievement
Audio Equipment Review: DeVore Fidelity, Gibbon 3XL Speakers
by Dennis Russo
Published: July 24, 2012
The DeVore 3XL speakers from DeVore Fidelity are a small 2-way monitor. The drive units are comprised of a .75 inch custom-made soft dome tweeter and 5 inch paper cone woofer from SEAS of Denmark. The cabinets are made out of real Bamboo (no Veneer here) and measure 15.25H X 7.3125W X 10.875D. They are 8 Ohm, 90db sensitivity rated speakers, which makes them very easy to drive by amplification of even modest wattage. The speakers are best suited to be placed on stands, and the matching bamboo stands are not only the perfect match for them aesthetically but sonically as well.
Although they are the smallest of the Gibbon line, they still incorporate the same tweeter that is used in their top-of-the-line Silverback speakers. They retail for $3,700.00 a pair, with an additional $595.00 for the stands, which should be considered prerequisite.
The speakers are made in the USA at John DeVore's facilities in the old Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City.
I'm not going to fill you in here with a lot of back story on John Devore, why and how he started the company Devore Fidelity, how these speakers came into being, etc. All of that information is readily available elsewhere on the web, and on their own website. What I want to focus on here is the speakers themselves and the music which they reproduce.
You'll notice I said music and not sound.
That is important because there are many speakers out there that reproduce sound, and they do an incredibly good job of it. They get the instrument and vocal timbres, the spatial awareness and sound staging just right. However, in their quest to "reproduce" the sound exactly as it was recorded, they somehow lose the ability to play the music that was recorded. The sound they produce is both sterile and lifeless. Interestingly, you don't realize they are missing this until you hear a speaker such as the 3XLs.
The 3XLs are that rarest of gems that walk that fine line between being both a highly accurate transducer that indeed gets all the aspects that the aforementioned speakers get right, but also -- and most importantly -- they are able to capture the pace, the rhythm... the life that the music conveys. They not only do this well, they quite possible do this better than any other speaker I have owned or heard.
Let me attempt to paint you a visual picture of what I mean.
Let's say you are in an art gallery. You're looking at two pictures side by side, one a masterpiece by Michelangelo (you take your pick) the other, say, a Renoir. (Let's say "Luncheon At The Boating Party.")
The Michelangelo represents all of the other speakers I have owned throughout my 30+ years as an audiophile. All highly accurate transducers that were at times considered some of the best available from the likes of Apogee, Spendor, Martin Logan, Duntech, Focal, and Triangle to name a few. Though all different, they all had one thing in common: they drew me right up close to the picture, so close in fact that I could see every nuance, every brush stroke of the artist. I could see color sitting atop of color, which way the brush stroke flowed across the canvas. Every single color was easily apparent to me, and it looked exactly like what it was supposed to, with nothing left to the imagination. I thought this wonderful. I felt as one with the artist. I could see everything he did to create this work of art. However I was so close that I lost sight of the picture that all these colors and brushstrokes were meant to convey. I forgot that they are supposed to work together as one, to blend and unite instead of standing alone as individuals.
The Renoir represents the 3XLs, which invite you to stand back and let all of the colors fill your senses, to see things not only as they are but experience them as well. While the exacting detail of Michelangelo might not be there, everything at once is still easily recognizable as exactly what it is supposed to be. But where the Michelangelo is stoic, leaving nothing to the imagination, the Renoir has a certain life and emotion to it that invites you to experience it in a way that the other just doesn't impart. This life, this emotion to me is essential to music.
This example to me characterizes the way the 3XLs sound too. They throw an expansive, harmonious sound stage that not only extends beyond the boundaries of the speakers sides but also has a depth that ranges from directly in front of you to several feet behind them. While this "wall/hall" of sound fills your listening room and all the instruments and vocals are playing together, you can still sense exactly where each is in the recording and in your room. The leading edges of each note played and sung are so "right" that it makes make the music seem more real, more like it does when it is played live. They can literally cause the hair on your arms to stand on end at times, such is the impressionistic realism they convey. I don't know if those two words have ever been used together in the same sentence to describe the same thing before but they work perfectly together here in describing the character of the 3XLs.
These speakers allow you to immerse yourself in the music. They "disappear" if you will so that you are transported to the event with all the excitement that would be there if in fact you were.
The tweeter on the 3XLs is such an incredible driver. rated with a frequency response of 45Khz, It was capable of handling every form of music I gave it to reproduce, and it did so with aplomb. Never (and I mean never) did it sound harsh, grainy or strained even when played at what I consider fairly high listening levels. It was extremely articulate in that it never sounded muddy or confined. So articulate in fact that, I kid you not, I have heard things in some of my most treasured "go-to" discs and LP with the 3XLs that I had not heard before. I know it is nothing new in the recording; these speakers just get out of the way and let it be heard for the first time.
The tweeter also blended seamlessly with the woofer, which in its own right seemed to play deeper than its 45Hz rating. It, too, never strained with what I fed it and never sounded lean, muddy or thick. It never once conveyed that "one note bass" that many drive units of this size tend to do when pushed. Maybe this was a case of seeing the picture instead of the brush strokes. Maybe that lower octave wasn't there but the speakers painted a picture that conveyed its essence to me. They are wonderfully well balanced and not at all bright or fatiguing.
I really put these speakers through the paces, as I listen to many styles of music on both CD and LP formats (far too many styles to list here without boring you; suffice to say, I run the gamut). I played them all through these speakers and never once did I come away with a feeling of "this is not a good match for these speakers."
Now they will fall short, as any speaker this size would, if you want to feel that bass pump off of your chest -- if that matters to you (it doesn't to me); but again, not as much as you would think if you listen in a small to moderate sized listening room.
I used Naim solid state electronics for most of my listening, but have heard these speakers sound absolutely wonderful with tube and other solid state electronics as well.
Another attribute that I will give these speakers is that they will allow your source components to play the music they were made to play. To use another painting scenario, think of these speakers as a frame around a masterpiece. Art in its own right, but art created to enhance the picture within, not take away from it or call attention to itself. It is in this respect I will say that I have probably not experienced everything these speakers are capable of. I truly feel these speakers will allow whatever component I add to my system down the line to sound its best. They could be the last speakers I will ever own, and I have never said that about any other speakers I've had in the past.
These speakers are about as good as they come in my opinion both in build quality and sonics. They may very well allow you to hear your music perhaps for the first time, or at the very least in a different way that will be refreshing and eye (ear?) opening. If they don't, then I’m sorry but I don’t think it's the speakers fault; it may be time to upgrade your source equipment. Yeah, I went there.
So by now you must know that I absolutely love these speakers. I get very passionate about great sounding stereo equipment and can't hide my excitement about them when I hear them. the 3XLs do so much right for the sheer enjoyment of music and so little wrong (if anything) to my ears, that I encourage -- nay, implore -- you, if you are in the market for an excellent speaker that could provide you with a lifetime of musical enjoyment, to seek them out for a listen with your own ears.
Now I'll easily concede to you that you'll find other speakers that sound different, just as everyone's ears and tastes are different; but I'll argue until the cows come home that you will not find any that play music better.
The DeVore "sound" is intoxicating and once you've experienced it, you'll never look at art or music the same way again.