As before, the Devialet Expert Pro relies on the on-line configurator to establish who talks to what, and this is stored as a small file on a supplied SD card that sits round the back of the Expert Pro chassis. Configuration is easy, especially as Devialet stores an ever-expanding list of cartridges and loudspeakers, and their key characteristics can be programmed into your Expert Pro with little more than a drop-down menu. Or, in the case of the cartridge, you can enter its parameters manually.
As before, this leads to discussions about Devialet’s Record Active Matching system, which both optimises the cartridge loading and amplifier, and also digitises the LP input at source (to 192kHz precision). Equalisation is then performed in the digital domain, and this allows some of the lessons learned in the Lost Recordings to shine through, as the Devialet has highly adjustable curves. It’s even possible to adjust those curves on-the-fly, via the RAM menu on the front display, which can be accessed via the super-elegant remote handset.
Core Infinity also unlocks some new wireless technologies, most notably Roon across Devialet AIR, AirPlay, SpotifyConnect, and UPnP. Truth be told, AIR has always been something of a weak spot in the Devialet chainmail, and while drastically improved, it still remains perhaps the one part of the whole Devialet package that could benefit from some improvement. That being said, Apple went through a fairly hefty Operating System update mid-way through the review, and there are many companies playing catch up. AIR, to its credit, remained stable and unfazed by all of this.
We were loaned the Expert 140 Pro, which is the ideal ‘UK domestic’ model. The bigger Expert 220 Pro, and the biggest Expert 250 Pro bring more power to the game (and in the case of the 250 Pro, the original D-Premier chassis), but are otherwise functionally identical, rather than good-better-best options.
The new Core Infinity board completely changes the performance of the Expert. This is a more accurate, precise, and focused sound, which is saying a lot given that these were the same attributes for which the Expert was famous. The Core Infinity board takes those attributes and pushes them to their detail-driven logical conclusion. This is an exceptionally detailed presentation; if playing an orchestral work of old and one of the tubes on a microphone preamplifier is on the way out, you’ll know. If you want to know why Brad Paisley and others cling to their Ken Fisher designed Trainwreck amps, you’ll hear the difference the rectifier circuit makes, and find it easy to identify and differentiate from the more common (and more affordable) Fender amp/stomp box pretenders. That’s the sort of detail the Expert Pro puts out.
While SAM might tame some of the more wild beasts that creates, bear in mind that the detail of the Expert 140 Pro coupled to the wrong loudspeakers could be toodetailed. And, it must be said, the latest Devialet platform is all about the speed – rather than the pace – of delivery. You get all the leading-edge detail and remarkable transparency, and no aspect of the performance is accented. But that includes the rhythm, and that might upset those who listen to a sound directed toward almost imperceptible timing changes.
As with previous iterations of Devialet products, I find myself looking less to rock and more to baroque. That’s not a function of the amplifier tailoring the presentation, but a ‘I wonder how that will sound?’ enquiring mind seeking out detail. And, sure enough, Bach is played with rare insight; Cazals fantastic Cello Suites [Archiv LP] renditions may have arguably been technically eclipsed, but the performance is one of the true masterworks of the 20th Century, and here you get to hear every last finger scrape and even the most subtle ornamentation. It’s that precision that draws you in.
The change is also deceptively potent. If you think you have become adept at spotting where Class A ends and Class D begins, the new Core Infinity shifts the goal-posts and no matter what you try, you just can’t hear that point of inflection (some will ‘hear’ it, all the same). However, where in the past you used to think you were listening to a huge Class A amplifier (but without the heat), this time Devialet seems to have gone for the accuracy and linearity of Class A rather than its sweetness. Once again, that’s no bad thing, just a different set of priorities from the last iteration.