DeVore Fidelity Silverback Reference loudspeaker Page 3

Netania Davrath sings these folk tunes in an operatic style, backed by an orchestra conducted by Pierre de la Roche. There is an exquisite delicacy and purity to the recording of her voice that comes through on both versions, the original having a slight edge in natural warmth and purity, the reissue leading the way in transparency and clarity. A "warmish"-sounding speaker might make the original sound a bit syrupy and cool, an "analytical" one might make the reissue sound hard and mechanical. I've usually preferred the original LP, but the Silverback References made both masterings sound credible and enjoyable—while still very different from one another—by neither trying to impose a specific version of "musicality" onto the signal nor by hyping, say, transient performance at the expense of harmonic integrity.

Usually, the transducer is the weakest link in the audio chain because it is the least linear. Other components in the system might need changing in order to accommodate a speaker's idiosyncrasies. I found myself catering to the Silverback's subjective tonal neutrality by changing other components to get them out of the way, or to catch a glimpse of their character.

When I switched between the 1000W Musical Fidelity kW monoblocks and the 100Wpc Music Reference RM-200 tube amp, I was gratified to hear the Silverback lay bare the differences between them, though these weren't enormous. (They better not be, if I consider both to be reference-quality amps capable of passing the signal without noticeable addition or subtraction.) The MF kW has solid-state's advantages of musical grip, tonal neutrality, and bass control, without the disadvantages of harshness, etch, and threadbare harmonics. The MR RM-200 is a remarkably neutral-sounding tube amp with fine bottom-end grip, extended highs, and the midrange lucidity and harmonic complexity one expects from a tube amp, but without tubes' cartoony "bloom," or midbass sogginess posing as "warmth."

Both of these amplifiers drove the Silverback References equally effectively, and both produced music that was harmonically rich, complex, and believable; images and soundstages that were credible and well-proportioned; and macro- and microdynamics that breathed life into musical gestures large and small. The kWs gripped the woofers somewhat more effectively to produce greater dynamics, while the RM-200 expressed harmonics and a sense of a direct connection to the music with greater truth. Overall, though, I'd say the Silverback was designed with tube gear in mind.

The DeVore Silverback Reference was not without limitation. Tweeters are always a matter of personal taste, and the Silverback's silk dome won't please everyone—sometimes I felt it sounded a bit forward or "hashy." I've heard speakers produce greater dynamics, play louder without strain, and resolve a bit more low-level information with subjectively lower levels of distortion. I've also heard speakers with greater bass weight and authority. In fact, before getting the Silverbacks here, I reviewed just such a speaker and bought a pair of them: the Wilson Audio MAXX2 ($45,000/pair). I've also heard far more expensive speakers than the Silverbacks that couldn't match their bottom-end performance.

However, compared to the Wilson MAXX2, the Silverback Reference was tonally somewhat more neutral, resolved more upper-octave information (especially "air"), delivered greater image specificity, and soundstaged somewhat better—at least in terms of depth in my room. Had the review order been reversed, I would have bought the Silverback References and right now would be missing the MAXX2s' fabulous bass performance, low distortion, low-level resolution, and overall musical suppleness.

But I committed to the Wilsons and, like every other MAXX2 owner I've met or corresponded with, I enjoy them greatly. But, as with any hi-fi component, no matter how expensive or high-quality, there are tradeoffs. I'm not a rabid partisan of the MAXX2 or of any hi-fi product. I save that level of commitment for love and politics.

By harmonically and spatially getting out of the way as well as any speaker I've reviewed, and by delivering a musical presentation that is vividly honest and endlessly pleasurable in every parameter of performance, the DeVore Fidelity Silverback Reference is one of the most enjoyable and highest-performing speakers I've reviewed. Like an empty vessel waiting to be filled, the Silverback had an uncanny ability to assume the character of whatever was poured into it.

Whether or not you'll be happy with such a revealing speaker will depend on the quality of the recordings you mostly listen to, and on the degree of care you take in choosing associated gear. Don't be surprised if switching to Silverbacks ends up causing you to change much of what precedes them in the audio chain—especially cables. I ended up much preferring the Shunyata Research Antares interconnect and Orion speaker cable to the Transparent Audio Reference wires that better complement the Wilson MAXX2s.

It was no small irony that the DeVore Fidelity Silverback References arrived just as the first pair of Audio Physic Calderas departed, and were in mid-review when the second pair of Calderas arrived. The first pair of Calderas had sounded just plain bad: boomy and bright. The second pair sounded better, but I felt their sonic and measured performance didn't justify their $30,000/pair price.

The Silverback more closely resembles "old school" Audio Physic speakers, physically and sonically: a Virgo II on steroids. At half the Caldera's price, I think the DeVore Fidelity Silverback Reference is twice as good. If you're thinking of spending between $15,000, or even up to $25,000, I urge you to give the Silverbacks a listen. Even if they're not your cup of sonic swill, I think you'll be impressed. Now, let's hope the measurements back me up...

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