Vancouver 2015: Devialet and Magico


by Rafe Arnott

Vancouver-Audio-Show-CustomDevialet is one of those brands that seem to either really turn people on or really turn people off.

I’ve yet to speak with someone who is familiar with the brand who wasn’t in one camp or the other.

Devialet (pronounced Dee-vee-a-lay) is not a manufacturer who seems to elicit any middle-of-the-road responses from people I either met at Vancouver 2015 or those in my own loose-knit circle of audiophile scamps that I imbibe with.

One friend described his time with a Devialet 200 (or 240 Premier, can’t remember exactly) in less than glowing terms (the word painful was used several times).

I can’t exactly say why this is, but I’ll use Nutella as a personal point of reference for comparison.

I love Nutella.

I can’t have it all the time mind you, but when I’m in the mood, I spread it all over some nice thick-cut, peasant-style bread that I’ve lightly toasted and smothered with butter.

It’s effing amazing. Brilliant, really.

My children on the other hand, loathe it.

They tried it a few times and found it overwhelms the taste buds and sweetens the experience so much that the mere mention of it as an option on toast produces an instant grimace and a look of dubiousness in regard to my sanity.

And it’s these types of responses that are similar to both my own and my children’s that I seem to get when I mention Devialet to those with firsthand experience.

I’ve demoed the Devialet 200 previously with a pair of Revel F208 loudspeakers using its built-in AIR streaming card and an iPad, so I’m somewhat familiar with what its capabilities are. I’ve yet to hear it paired with an analog front end though, which I would love to do as I’ve read about how infinitely tailored Devialet can program their phono stage.

From the Devialet website:

“Thanks to a built-in, trendsetting phono stage, the analog signal’s lossless digitalization allows you to configure and adapt the Devialet 200 precisely to your turntable’s cartridge and generate superlative sound quality. What’s more, the online sound configuration utility lets you choose the cartridge type (MM/MC) and set the sampling rate and the RIAA curve for customized adjustment of your phono pre-amplification. That’s the power of sound in your hands.

Phono stage parameters: Cartridge type – Channels – Max level – Loading – Startup RIAA curve – Balance – Sampling rate”

Pretty cool right? I mean who wouldn’t want to at least try this setup with their current analog rig and see if their was any magic?

Anyway, the peeps from the Sound Room were running the Magico S3 speakers with the Devialet 800 dual-mono system (approx. $31, 500 CAN). Talk about effortless reproduction. It doesn’t seem to matter what speaker you hook up to a Devialet either, they just rule it.

Their Speaker Active Matching technology (SAM) doesn’t seem to hurt either. From their website:

“For the first time, your speakers operate at peak performance levels while being perfectly protected. Your speakers are not exactly like any others. Devialet Expert sends a signal that is precisely adapted to their acoustical architecture. Displacement, driver excursion, acceleration, speed… with SAM® technology, the Devialet Expert system has perfect knowledge of how your speakers behave.”

So far, Devialet has coded their software for more than 200 speakers, so check and see if your current models are already on the list, and if not, you can lobby to have them added.

Much has been written on the Magico S3, and its larger sibling the S5, and to be honest I only listened to this set-up for about 15 minutes, but it was enough time to reacquaint my ears with the powerful, and effortless sound that I’ve come to associate with Devialet and get a grip on what the Magico’s were capable of.

The S3s are a unique presentation on their own, but paired with the 800 streaming from a MacBook they were offering up very deep, solid bass and a powerful, punchy, uncolored midrange. They easily pressurized the hotel room with excellent spatial cues (even off-axis, I was impressed), and a precise, if somewhat analytical top end to my ears. Romantic speakers these are not. But if detail, precision, punch and accuracy are your bag, then this is a system to be content with. Plenty of space between the notes too, but ultimately, while the sound was great and had me oohing at how perfect everything sounded, my desire for this sound was short-lived and came, and then went.

Much like my appetite for Nutella, I guess: I love it sometimes, but I couldn’t have it all the time.

Magico S3 specs:

  • (1) 1” MB30 Tweeter
  • (1) 6” M380 Midrange
  • (2) 8” Hybrid Nano-Tec woofers
  • Sensitivity: 88dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 26Hz – 50kHz
  • Recommended Power: 50 – 500 watts
  • Dimensions: 48”H x 14”D x 12”W (122cm x 35cm x 30cm)
  • Weight: 150 lbs. ea (68 kg)
  • Ships in (2) two wood crates. Shipping weight: 210 lbs per crate.
  • $22,600.00 US per pair (M-Cast finish) or $25,600.00 US per pair (M-Coat finish)