DeVore Fidelity Silverback Reference loudspeaker Page 2

A switch on the crossover panel has two settings, labeled Direct and HT (for Home Theater). DeVore says the Direct position provides the best driver integration and is preferred for most listening in most rooms. HT offers greater power handling, when the Silverback is used as a full-range speaker in a home theater, or when music containing deep bass is played at high SPLs. With tube gear, which position sounds best will depend on the amplifier. According to DeVore, solid-state gear will usually sound "leaner" with the HT setting. As the manual points out, that can sometimes help alleviate boom-inducing room bumps, so it's best to experiment with the switch regardless of application or associated equipment. In my room, the Silverback sounded best in Direct mode.

John DeVore came by to set up the 100-lb Silverback References, which sit on D-MASS outriggers and custom isolation feet. Not surprisingly, the final speaker positions were within a fraction of an inch of where the Wilson Audio MAXX2s usually live, and not far from where Audio Physic's Calderas had sat. The Silverbacks ended up 9' apart, toed-in to fire directly at my listening position. DeVore spent a good deal of time tweaking the front baffle's rake angle; I'll be interested to see the vertical-dispersion measurements of this unusual driver configuration, in which the midrange is above the tweeter.

Going ape
It took but a few minutes to hear that, yes, John DeVore had successfully aped the best aspects of Joachim Gerhard's Audio Physic Virgo II. The Silverback Reference wasn't merely capable of reproducing three-dimensional images in a three-dimensional space—lots of speakers can do that. More important, it was among the very few in my experience capable of carving them with a vivid sonic scalpel—but without leaving sharp edges.

The Silverbacks left in their wake an enormous, wall-to-wall soundstage a good bit taller than their own 4' height, and with notably greater depth than I've heard from any other speaker in this room (I didn't have the Virgo IIs here). That was partly due to the stage's "fourth wall" appearing well in front of the Silverbacks, with images projecting well into the room, and partly due to the Silverbacks' reproduction of vivid, well-focused information at the rear of the stage

The Silverbacks did this spatial trick without etch or cardboard-cutout hyperrealism. One of my longtime reference discs, Mel Tormé and Friends at Marty's (LP, Finesse W2X 37484), seems to make even diffuse-sounding speakers excel at imaging and soundstaging. The Silverbacks produced a solid, three-dimensional Torm centered well in front of their baffles with such believability that they almost painted in the outlines of the spotlight and the glint off the microphone. His voice had all the detail, articulation, and "velvet fog" timbral believability I could ask for. Piano, bass, and drums were equally well rendered, also cast in sensational 3D relief, with the audience pushed well back in the room. (This spatial reversal of the audience seeming to be behind the performers is one of the limitations of two-channel audio that can sometimes be corrected in surround-sound mixes, but is it worth the added expense? In my listening experience, no.)

In my room, at least, the Silverbacks' pinpoint imaging and generous soundstaging bettered those of my far more expensive reference Wilson MAXX2s, which do some other things better—as they should, given their price of $45,000/pair. In any case, if stereoscopic imaging and wall-to-wall soundstaging are crucial to you and you can afford them, move the Silverbacks to the top of your short list.

Not everyone values imaging and soundstaging, and some claim that they're "artifacts" of reproduced music that are heard in concert. But every few weeks I sit in row 20 of Avery Fisher Hall, and I beg to differ. Again, I thought of the Virgo IIs. Their exceptional imaging and soundstaging aside, the Virgo IIs had many limitations and weaknesses cannily hidden by Joachim Gerhard, who had designed the speaker to be profitably manufactured and sold for only $5500/pair. For instance, the Virgo II didn't go all that low, but its well-massaged midbass "bump" made it seem to go low without sounding lumpy. The DeVore Silverback not only seemed to go low, it did go low—well below 30Hz in my room—with impressive weight, solidity, and musically nuanced textures and tonality.

The Silverback's assured low-frequency foundation laid the groundwork for supple and assured rhythmic authority—not surprising, given that John DeVore moonlights as a drummer. "Bass" never appeared as an amorphous thump, but always in the context of a specific musical event created by an instrument's fundamentals and overtones. Many speakers, even small ones, have no trouble reproducing an instrument's initial bass transient; it's producing the weight and authority of that instrument that often leads to such troubles as resonance-induced "bass overhang" and other problems of time and timbre. Though the Silverback delivered tight, fast, deep, "musical" bass, its upper bass was subjectively a bit lean in my room, creating a somewhat cool, analytical-sounding foundation—which I prefer to warm, soft, and sloppy.

In the key midrange and up, the Silverback Reference retained the fast, tight effervescence of what it produced below: a clear, clean, transparent view into the musical event, and into what preceded the speaker in the reproduction chain. The silk-dome tweeter, with its claimed extension to 40kHz, delivered smooth, mostly grain-free highs. When the source was good, the tweeter seemed almost to beam fresh air into the room, so extended, natural, and well-balanced was its performance. When the source was bad, it could sound bright, grainy, and unpleasant—but that wasn't the speaker's fault.

Bright recordings sounded bright, dull ones dull. But great recordings—the ones I've come to rely on over the years—presented themselves through the Silverback with mesmerizing immediacy, clarity, and, especially, vividness. In fact, vivid was the operative word during the time I had the Silverbacks in my system—not in the sense that they imparted an excess of midrange bloom or etchy false detail, but in the sense that they got out of the way, exposing while not accentuating all of the musical detail pressed into the grooves or encoded in the bitstreams of recordings great, mediocre, or just plain awful. Those desirous of a continuous show of "warmth" will not respond to the Silverback Reference's revealing nature.

The Silverback pulsed with musical life as only a few speakers have in my experience. Rhythmically, they left in the dust most other speakers of full or nearly full range. They popped, bristling with vibrant musical energy; their balance of event information and harmonics close to ideal.

The Silverback Reference struck me as being among the best balanced loudspeakers I have ever heard at any price: tonally, rhythmically, harmonically, and dynamically. It caught instrumental transient attacks just about right compared to the live event, and convincingly described the harmonics of brass, reeds, strings, and male and female voices. When I compared, for instance, an original LP pressing of Netania Davrath's highly regarded recording of Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne (Vanguard VSD 2090) with Analogue Productions' outstanding 180gm reissue (LAPC 002), the differences in the mastering chains used were revealed without prejudice.

DeVore Fidelity
Brooklyn Navy Yard
63 Flushing Avenue, Unit 259
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 855-9999