We Ask 10 Questions For High-End
During Enjoy the Music.com's very special 25th Anniversary we're asking various high-end audio manufacturers to answer the same ten questions. Their answers may surprise you! This month we're featuring John DeVore, Founder And Top Banana At DeVore Fidelity. Their goal at DeVore Fidelity is to create products that communicate the life-breath of music. They believe that the best means to this end combines the art of aesthetics with the science of physics in such a way that each complements the other, and together yield a product far greater than the sum of its parts.
Founded by President, Chief Designer, and self-proclaimed "Top Banana" John DeVore in 2000, DeVore Fidelity has gone on to win awards and universal acclaim for every one if its products, as John continues to push the state of the art in speaker design. John brought his 30 years of experience as a musician, 20 years of designing speakers and 18 years of hi-fi industry experience to his company.
Q. What is your first memory of falling in love with music?
A. My mother was a concert pianist. When I was really little I used to lie under the piano while she practiced. I could lie there for hours — I will always remember that visceral and complete connection with music and it continues to be my lode star, not only guiding my speaker designs, but also sculpting my hi-fi experiences.
Q. How did you first get introduced to high-fidelity audio gear?
A. I've been into hi-fi since I was just a kid (can you tell by the first two answers that this is a lifelong thing for me?). I used to camp out in our living room listening to records on the family hi-fi, an entry-level Kenwood/Advent system. After much pestering, I finally got my system and retreated to my room. I mounted that first pair of speakers (1977 Realistic Optimus 10s) up on the wall so I could get a stereo image while sitting at my homework desk, and I was the guy who made actual cassette mixtapes for everyone in school.
Q. What is your favorite piece of vintage hi-fi, and why?
A. This is a tough one, there are many vintage pieces that I love. I've been lucky enough to be able to hear a huge number of 'grail' vintage hi-fi in-depth, including much of the top Western Electric, Klangfilm, Siemens, Neumann, and EMT stuff. So much incredible gear there. My main system includes a bunch of vintage gear: a Garrard 401, Ortofon RF-309, and several mono and 78 cartridges. I guess I disqualify the Garrard and Ortofon though because both are modified. I love the Sansui TU/AU-9500 tuner and integrated. I love the Revox B-710 and Nakamichi ZX-9 tape decks. I love the Fisher X-1000. I could go on...
Q. When did you decide to start a high-end audio company?
A. I've been designing and building speakers since 1986. I flirted with starting a company in early 2000 and we were selling speakers in stores in 2001. In fact, it was Steven R. Rochlin of Enjoy the Music.com first covered me and my speakers, at the 2001 New York Noise show — I had two pairs there, a three-way paired with a Komuro amp and the first gibbon 8 paired with my friend JC Morrison's amp.
Q. What, and when, was your company's first product?
A. We started off with two models, the gibbon III, a very small 4" two-way, and the gibbon 8 (gibbon Super Nine pictured below in black), a small, floor-standing, 6.5" two-way. These both came out in 2001. Again, here it was Clark Johnsen writing HE2002 show coverage for Enjoy the Music.com, with the first real mention of my speaker, and the first very positive review.
Q. What challenges did you face during those early years?
A. Ha! Wow. Where to begin? It took a couple of missteps before we got our cabinet manufacturing right. Of course 9/11 collapsed the New York economy. Getting the packaging right was also a trial — with UPS providing some very thorough field testing. The first five years were a near-constant struggle, which I think is pretty much standard issue for any small start-up.
Q. How have your products evolved over the years?
A. In my mind, the products have been very consistent. "Evolve" is really the right term here, with each successive generation of models building on what was learned in the previous generations, while honoring those earlier models by adhering to the same core design principals and ideas. Our speakers tend to have model runs far longer than the industry standard. Our most popular current model hasn't changed since it was introduced nine years ago, and the Silverback Reference was in the line for a dozen years.
Q. What is your company's most popular product(s)?
A. Our best-selling model is the Orangutan O/96 as pictured below.
Q. What is your next planned product offering and its' features?
A. Next year is our twentieth anniversary, so I've got something very special planned...
Q. What advancements do you speculate high-end audio will offer ten years from now?
A. I hope the current trend of lossless music becoming more widespread will continue, and finally, just become ubiquitous. Another trend I hope to see continue is the (re)growth of LPs. I doubt there will be any revolutions, but hope the current evolutions above will maintain and help to nourish new generations of audiophiles and music lovers.