My Gibbons had originally been destined for a Listener review. They were thus fully preconditioned at the factory. When said magazine sadly ceased operations -- as my favorite audio print rag, I sorely lament its disappearance and, in tribute, applaud the simple audacity and poignancy of its very name; Listener -- I became the beneficiary of this ready-to-rock pair.

It took all of two minutes to know. I was in the presence of something very special indeed. Complete. Astoundingly communicative. Truly in the service of music in a most unusual, Buddhist sense of suchness - presence. No remains of personality, character or ego. No tacit reminders of self-reference, effort or specific emphasis. No attempts to impress. No manipulation. Just unqualified music. Very non-audiophile.

Recognizing this was spontaneous. Quite instantaneous, too. It took no time at all. Like coming, unexpectedly, across a long-lost friend, the intervening gap of separation, distance and out-of-touchness swallowed up in one moment's gulp of transcending time.

Encountering such a state of perfection -- in food, love, place -- and responding to it with a big Yes takes no genius or effort whatever. But describing this response succinctly -- for someone who wasn't there to experience it personally -- while sensing gratification that one's descriptions do justice? This usually remains the domain of poetry and love letters. Their multi-layered, nonlinear hints capture more profundity with vagueness and ambiguity than mere facts manage with commendable exactness.

Reflecting upon how best to approach this review then posed the usual conundrum. While you cherish your own florid excesses of love letters when delivered to their intended recipient, you might be quite embarrassed to have them read out loud to class and strangers.

Waxing poetic in an equipment review engenders similar reactions. But begging your indulgence in this instance, I see no better approach. There is very little of quantitative substance to report. Like most respectable two-way towers -- say a Proac Response 2.5, a Sonus Faber Grand Piano, a Soliloquy 6.2, a Merlin VSM, a Thiel 1.6, a Meadowlark Shearwater Hotrod -- the Gibbon 8 reaches somewhere into the mid 30s bass band.

At 88dB sensitivity, it's smack in the ballpark of convention. It plays far louder than you should in a rather sizable space. Its pricing just below $3K is right on the nose to take its place in a long line of illustrious forbears and contemporaries. Its looks -- except for the rare earth magnets invisibly embedded in the front baffle that hold the optional grilles -- don't reinvent the wheel either. Nor does uncommon chassis heft or esoteric driver technology (though, to be sure, the drivers used are premium examples of dynamic transducers). In short, nothing to overtly indicate anything of special import.

Until you fire 'em up, that is. And even here I'm not certain. The less experienced audiophile may well overlook the forest for the trees. He's more likely to hunt still for attributes - quantifiable short-list contenders to cross off his list, things to point out to himself and buddies. Items that cash out with pride and thus refer back to their owner. Demonstrable "proof" that you've done good; acquired the in-thing. Here, let me demonstrate. Can you believe that bass? Those propulsive dynamics? The sheer speed of my transients? The endless decay trails that my system now finally produces?

With the Gibbons, there is no "my" this-or-that - save likely comments about the quality of your music. For that's really all you can put your finger on.

Rather than describing the Gibbons via certain music examples then -- which, as pure music reviews, would really belong in my world music section -- I will forgo the usual routine. Instead, in a more poetic/philosophical than customary fashion, I shall attempt to point at what makes the DeVore Gibbon 8 so very special in my experience and estimation. Frankly, I feel predestined to abject failure. Still, I'll give it my best shot. Here goes:

If you've followed my writing, you know that I've worked for Meadowlark Audio and Soliloquy. I've seen how speakers are built. I was present when speakers were voiced. Many times! I've set up countless tradeshows and sweated the details of speaker setup. Many more times! I'm thus exceedingly comfortable postulating that good drivers alone don't make a good speaker. Nor does a chassis poured from solid concrete or cast marble. If there's one item that pulls it all together -- that's senior in impact to these other also-important ingredients -- it's the crossover. Voilà, the brain of the speaker. Simple proof are the various DSP-based speaker correction devices. They always and immediately correct for phase and time. This always demonstrably improves the sound. (This should make owners and fabricators of time- and phase-confused loudspeakers question their tiresome attacks on proponents of time- and phase coherence.) DSP boxes often also correct for frequency non-linearities that are part and parcel of analog crossovers.

Clearly, such black boxes do not replace drivers. They do not re-size or re-brace the cabinet.

The improvements they foster come from increasing the speaker brain's IQ. They come from maximizing the effectiveness whereby this neuro complex controls these important parameters. And, there may well be other parameters we don't know how to measure yet. If, for example, the Gibbon performed poorly in conventional measurements (though I'd doubt that) I would plainly insist that you're measuring the wrong thing. I'd ask you to turn off your scope and test gear, bid you sit down and listen and throw your test rig out the window. I'm sure you need it to design stuff with. I know you don't need it to enjoy the designer's creations. I also know that while measurements can correlate with audible deficiencies, they hardly ever correlate with a speaker's special qualities. Pretty certainly, they won't with this kind of between-the-sheets, er, -lines, type of emotional response the Gibbon prompts. Otherwise, all speakers would be designed this way. And clearly, they aren't.

Whatever John DeVore has stumbled upon [right, during HE 2002 in New York co-exhibiting with Luke Manley of VTL] is not plain Jane, text-book speaker design stuff, no monkey-see, monkey-do (doo-doo?).

This Gibbon's got a monster brain. Embedded in its passive network resides a genius level IQ. I'm sure that's why DeVore remains so mum about it. After all, apes don't talk. The cute kind merely steal your heart - and whatever else they can get their hands on...

Certain components and/or combinations of components stimulate intense emotional responses. Don't ask me why or how. In fact, some -- like my reference rig -- can't be listened to as background music at all. They always project this kind of get-involved-or-turn-me-off intensity. It's how I listen to music and what's important to me.

However (and to be perfectly honest) that's something that should properly be called charismatic. It's an enhancement of sorts, aural MSG. There's an extra dose of energy, shininess. A stronger-than-natural fragrance which, however compelling and gripping, still falls under the category of "doing". Benign doing, mind you, but still what Buddhists or Zen masters would call self-effort. Adding to the flow, paddle in the river.

By comparison, the Gibbon just gets truly and completely out of the way, to be replaced directly and fully by this very flow of the music. No intensifying additive enhancements, no otherwise altering subtractions. All I can point to as the party responsible for this illumined disappearance act? The mysterious Gibbon crossover. And (since a brain doesn't work isolated in a formaldehyde jar) how it communicates and integrates with the remaining aspects of speaker design - amplifier interaction, cabinet interaction, driver interaction.

One slice of the Gibbon's vanishing act could be termed transparency. But transparency is like a mountain. It requires a surrounding plain to be a mountain. There is no mountain per se. Nor is there speaker transparency per se. Saying that the Gibbon remains utterly transparent to the music rings true. Calling it a speaker of great transparency does not. Can you appreciate the fine yet distinct differentiation between either statement?

And therein lies the crux of describing what it does. Its true nature is more one of non-doing. Descriptors that point at it --but, by themselves, still fall short -- include the following: Ease. Naturalness. Relaxation. An absence of anything mechanical, tense or charged. The tacit presence of an organically unfolding dialogue between you and the music. What Taosists, at the end of the long road up the mountain to enlightenment, call the return to ordinariness. When the master, figuratively and literally, comes down off the mountain to merge into the crowd, relinquishing all outer attributes of specialness such that his inner state is contained and invisible. Nothing now separates him from the teeming masses. Nothing makes him stand out. The king in search of Lao Tzu doesn't recognize him when he finally encounters him - a plain old man fishing by the river side. Only when he asks for directions is he answered. "I am he". The famous discourse that follows leaves no doubt in the king's mind that indeed, he has found the famed sage.

Here, it is a self-effacing mien that eliminates the compulsive impulse -- and ability, really -- to identify specific qualities that traditionally make up performance reviews.

For example, my Avantgarde DUOs produce lower bass. I knew that going in, in the same obvious way that I know what my name is. But just as I never wonder about my name, I never noticed the bass while listening to the Gibbons. I'm sure the DUOs are faster and more dynamic. But again, that question or concern never arose or presented itself during my audition. Having listened to plenty of speakers over the years, this is a rare occurrence. Rather than puncturing it by insisting on "take notes, dissect this, your readers want to know", I'm convinced that John DeVore's creation benefits most by staying my course. Because if this vague hinting at what is a powerfully obvious and acute listening sensation gels with your expectations or hopes for your own system, I can do no better. This, plainly, is what the Gibbon does, and does better than any speaker I've had come through my house -- or encountered at trade shows or dealer showrooms -- over, say the last 8 to 10 years.

You see where I'm going. In the best sense of the word, this happy monkey is a very non-audiophile critter. He'll best be appreciated by "professional" audiophiles who're approaching natural or forced retirement, the latter induced by frustration, exhaustion, dawning maturation or a move-to-the-country, return-to-the-basics, simplify-things impulse. I need a new speaker like a hole in my head. Still, if, right now, I had to agonize over what to get for my living room system that customarily houses my Triangle Ventis 222 (see, how many speakers does one guy need?) I'd opt for the Gibbon Eight. Considering how many speakers have and continue to come through here that are far more expensive, this should tell you something.

Now, it does seem a bit weird to conclude writing (off?) an audio equipment review without music references. I shall thus depart with the covers and pertinent data of some of the CDs I listened to -- and enjoyed tremendously -- while forgetting about the DeVore Gibbon 8s. The first two covers are linked to reviews I wrote. All are highly recommended as the kind of music you'd enjoy with these apes - i.e. simply good music without any audiophile pretensions (though the MA Recording in particular is phenomenally well recorded).

Romane & The Frederic Manoukian Orchestra
(Guitar Gipsy Jazz with BigBand)

Harmonia Mundi 87
Juan-Carlos Formell
las calles del paraiso
(neo Cuban vocals)

EMI H2 7243 5 39860 2 5
Sera Una Noche
(Argentine neo tango)

MA Recordings M052A
The Dance of Heaven's Ghosts
(Compilation of Greek vocalists)

Metro Blue 7243 8-55644 2 0
Debashis Bhattacharya
(Indian slide guitar)

India Archive Music 1007
DeVore Fidelity website