One week ago Devialet contacted me about returning to Paris to see a new product before it was released to the public. I was provided no additional information. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see a loudspeaker, a DAC, or an iPhone replacement. I said yes immediately because Devialet doesn’t build run-of-the-mill products. The company’s products so far have been fantastic and like nothing else on the market. Thus, My flight was booked and my high expectations were set.
I arrived in Paris on a cold, windy, and rainy day. Due to the time change and eight hour flight I didn’t schedule anything for the day of my arrival. However, I received a hint about the new product from an industry friend still awake in the Pacific US time zone. This friend didn’t know what the product would be, but he had been following a Twitter account named PhantomRising. This account, shrouded in mystery, wasn’t directly linked to Devialet, but both Devialet and this PhantomRising account said there would be a revolutionary announcement December 16, 2014. The hint I received from my friend via the PhantomRising Twitter account said, “RIP CHAINES HIFI, DOCKS, ENCEINTES, HOME CINEMA…” I had an entire day to chew on that information before my scheduled visit to Devialet at 9:00AM the next morning.
The following morning I put in my JH Audio JH16 earphones and turned up Leonard Cohen’s new album Popular Problems via Tidal HiFi as I walked the streets of Paris. I met Quentin Bernard at 9 o’clock sharp outside Devialet headquarters in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement. Quentin didn’t waste any time before leading me to a special conference room cloaked in secrecy. Inside this room were several roundish objects covered by black Devialet microfibre cloths and a single MacBook Air laptop. In my head I was thinking about the previous RIP message and I still couldn’t put the pieces together to figure out exactly what might be under those cloths.
Quentin pulled the cloths off each item to reveal the new Devialet Phantom. Phantom is what Devialet calls a Sound Center. The unit receives music via Optical, WiFi, or Ethernet (PLC Homeplug AV2) and outputs it with 750 watts (Phantom) or 3,000 watts (Silver Phantom) of power. Phantom is design to be used as a single unit, a stereo pair of units, a multi-channel mix of units, or even up to 24 units running in what is called Club Mode. Phantom is a true all-in-one solution that enables the user to bring their own source of music for playback. Quentin gave me a little information about Phantom before asking me to take a seat to have a listen. The sound of Phantom was absolutely terrific. It’s hard to believe these units go down to 16 Hz. After hearing a couple demo tracks I streamed a little Leonard Cohen via Qobuz though a pair of Phantoms. Leonard’s deep baritone vocal sounded as if it was emanating from a large ported loudspeaker and the soft background violin contrasted beautifully. It was hard to believe Phantom’s a sealed enclosure could produce what I was hearing.
Along with Phantom, Devialet has created a new iOS and Android application called Spark to control playback of local music and streaming services like Qobuz, Deezer, and in the not-to-distant future Tidal HiFi. Equally as impressive as Phantom was the demonstration of Spark. The application works exactly how users think about music playback rather than forcing the user to play music based on an antiquated GUI. Spark’s playback queue is so fast and impressive I can’t do it justice via a limited number of words. Dragging and dropping tracks and albums and playlists via iPad and watching them same queue on an optional computer instantly mirror the iPad was extremely impressive. I know what it takes to develop applications and I can guarantee the Devialet team is seriously talented.
There is so much more to say about Phantom because it’s an entirely new product with 77 patented inventions inside. The multitude of uses is endless. For now I will include a couple PDFs with more information for readers and hope to follow up with a full review of Phantom in due time.
Press Release [LINK] (45 MB PDF)
White Paper [LINK] (3 MB PDF)
Devialet Site [LINK]
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