The best thing about high-end audio, at least in my book, is that it’s rarely boring. There’s always something new, something “out there”, something off-the-wall that really just leaves you grinning with outright admiration.
This year’s Grin of Admiration goes to Devialet. Their Phantom is just plain cool.
I got to hear it for the first time at this year’s High End show, but while the setup was odd and the room acoustics were rubbish, the speaker was absolutely mesmerizing. I’ve never seen anything like it, this side of a Rube Goldberg device. It’s clearly out of Star Wars. Think: R2D2’s far more eloquent cousin.
The setup here had about 5000 of them, all arranged in some semblance of surround-sound, with extremely hard-surfaced tiered seating and way too many bodies in an artful arrangement of disarray. Around us were shelves hosting these pulsating droids. And it was fascinating.
There are two iterations available currently, the “standard” Phantom ($1,999 each) and the significantly upgraded Silver Phantom ($2,390 each), the latter improving on the former by upgrading the internal, integrated amplifier from 750 watts to a whopping 3000 as well as adding a silvery side-panel to separate the two models, visually.
John Darko, who spent quite a bit of this show cheerfully marching me about the Munich environs, is quite enamored of the form-factor. That is, the fact that it’s all-inclusive. It’s a speaker, a DAC, an amp … all you need is a source to stream your tunes from. Oh, and if you want stereo (or multi-channel) sound, you’re going to need a clever little $350 “bridge” they call the Dialog to divide up and route the audio channels appropriately. Me, I’ve always been more of one-tool-for-every-job/one-job-for-every-tool kind of audiophile, but I have to admit that “lifestyle” solutions like the Phantom are not only compelling, they’re downright impressive. I can only imagine that the gnomes at Bose are looking nervously at Devialet right about now. And they should be.
Given Devialet’s success in impressing the heck out of even hardcore doubters of anything even remotely resembling Class D amplification (and some reviewers of notable repute), I cannot help but be intrigued. I’m really hoping to get a pair of Silver Phantoms to play with at some point, but US distribution is still an evolving beast. We’ll see.
Some new bits from the show (or new to me) include the Speaker Active Matching (SAM), a rather clever tool that lets their flagship platforms alter their output to best map to the performance characteristics of your chosen speakers. SAM is, apparently, backed by a rather large database of measured speakers — audiophiles exploring the Devialet solution would be well-served to peruse the (lengthy!) list of speakers that are SAM-ready.
Also new is v8.0 of the Devialet firmware, which includes improvements to the phono processing, DSD64 support, SAM and more.