The audio world has a peculiarly long memory. Any company that has been in business for less than 20 years counts as a ‘newcomer’, but Devialet seems to have risen above this. In just a few short years, the French high-technology company went from ‘Dev-ee-a-who?’ to delivering some of the most desirable audio gear on the planet.
Recently, however, Devialet has become something of a company of two halves. The first is a direct derivation of the original D-Premier project, which morphed successfully into the Expert line. This remains a range of slim, elegant digital integrated amplifiers, designed for the traditional audiophile wanting to replace a series of digital audio and analogue amplifier electronics with one simple, highly polished solution.
The other side is the Phantom, an active wired or wireless loudspeaker system with high performance and even higher aspiration. This started a couple of years ago as part of a rapid expansion phase, the company shifting up several gears from a handful of staff members in Paris to a full-fledged, dozens-strong team, and factories scattered across France. In fairness, this was an expansion plan that could only work with a product like Phantom, because of the potential numbers involved: the Expert is a specialist, high-end audio product that, even if successful beyond the wildest dreams of audiophile makers, will sell at most a few thousand per year, where Phantom is the kind of product that sells a few tens of thousands of products per year.
Phantom at once takes the ADH (Class A/Class D hybrid) amplifier design and high-performance digital pathways from the Expert model and shrinks it down to the internals of a network-enabled loudspeaker. Of course, the ‘imploding’ drive units mounted to the sides don’t make this just another wooden box of dynamic drivers; these force-cancelling mid and bass units essentially work in an unconstrained tandem manner to deliver full-range sound. It’s almost exactly how you would expect to design a dynamic drive unit system, had there not been almost 90 years of dynamic drive unit history in the way.
If you get the chance to see inside a Phantom (Gold, Silver, or standard), it’s a testament to how much electronic engineering you can place inside an extremely limited amount of real estate. The electronics sit in cordoned off parts of the Phantom’s spine, and every millimetre of allocated space is used up (looking at the space around the side ‘imploders’, the engineers built right up to the edge of the drive unit, giving the internal architecture an almost architectural look, akin to a beach-front property building. It’s impressive – and the polar opposite of audiophile engineering that considers the more space between the components, the better they sound.