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Article: Devialet Phantom Gold Loudspeaker Review


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Good stuff. Thanks for the thorough review. What you hinted at, but didn't actually say, is if you enjoyed listening to the Phantoms? Could you see this as a speaker you could have as your main one long term?:

 

Also,  didn't you and Chris say you have a review of the Kii Three in the offing? That will be a very interesting comparison, if you make it. 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I auditioned a pair of these late last year and was all set to purchase based on reviews. I walked out of the listening room after 15 minutes. Too aggressive for me, no subtlety or delicacy. Plus the bass sounded like someone banging a shoe on the wall. Most will no doubt love them, but not musical to my ears and not something I could live with long term after the novelty wore off. 

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@mr_bill both loudspeakers have almost identical frequency responses, but delivered in very different packages. As mentioned before, speakers are hard to review as it comes down to ones personal preference. What I am trying to do is verify the speakers advertised performance against a neutral reference or as close as one can get. For my own personal preference, both speakers have too much high frequency energy coming at my ears and a bit too much of a bass bump.

 

As @GrahamJohnMiles has indicated the "type" of bass response of the Gold's is audibly different than traditional box speakers that some may like and others, like Graham, don't like. I mentioned in the article as well that the bass quality is different, I can't describe it, but I don't think I would describe it in quite the way Graham did :) In the case of the 600 XD's, I believe the latest firmware upgrade provided a way to reduce more of the top end, which I did not get a chance to audition, but that would be welcome to my ears.

 

@coot no worries, I found the documentation as different as the speakers.

 

@firedog my preference is for high efficiency speakers, usually large 15" woofers with compression drivers mated to large waveguides, like the JBL 4722, which is as fugly as one can get from a visual perspective. The JBL M2's or JBL 4367 are delivered in a more visual appealing package, but again more along the lines of my own personal preference. Which you can see is far removed from the two speakers I have reviewed so far. The 600 XD's are a competent design and perform exactly as advertised. The Golds are as different as a design as one can get, both visually and sonically. Toning down the bass bump and top end would make them sound more subtle in my opinion. But they do have excellent dispersion characteristics because of the shape of the cabinet. I would love to review the Kii Three's

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5 hours ago, GrahamJohnMiles said:

I auditioned a pair of these late last year and was all set to purchase based on reviews. I walked out of the listening room after 15 minutes. Too aggressive for me, no subtlety or delicacy. Plus the bass sounded like someone banging a shoe on the wall. Most will no doubt love them, but not musical to my ears and not something I could live with long term after the novelty wore off. 

From what I've read about the various models of Phantom, many people react somewhat like you.

Others think they sound great.

It's a good reminder why we should always try to audition before we buy.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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8 hours ago, GrahamJohnMiles said:

I auditioned a pair of these late last year and was all set to purchase based on reviews. I walked out of the listening room after 15 minutes. Too aggressive for me, no subtlety or delicacy. Plus the bass sounded like someone banging a shoe on the wall. Most will no doubt love them, but not musical to my ears and not something I could live with long term after the novelty wore off. 

 I was going to post my impressions but they are the same as yours after hearing them at the same high end shop in two occasions, a couple months apart. Very fatiguing sound and thumpy bass.  Some people there liked them. We all have different tastes and actual auditions, hopefully in your own room, are always recommended.

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3 hours ago, firedog said:

From what I've read about the various models of Phantom, many people react somewhat like you.

Others think they sound great.

It's a good reminder why we should always try to audition before we buy.

While that is true, a lot depends on the conditions for the audition.  I have heard the Devialets three times.

 

First was a single Phantom in a large convention space at CES and, for what that matters, it was loud enough and intelligible.  I could not expect more.

 

Second as at a more recent CES but their prefabricated enclosed demonstration facility was surfaced in hard plastic and had lots of glass.  The sound of any of the Phantoms, single or pair, was intolerably harsh and boomy although the demonstrator (and some other listeners) seemed please with it.  I also pushed them to play something in multichannel  over a quintet of Phantoms but that, too, was in a hard plastic, tiered mini-amphitheater and the sound was equally poor.

 

Third was at their NYC shop in SoHo but the acoustics there were, clearly intentionally, the same.  In fact, they had another (or the same) torture chamber that they used at CES.  In addition, they have continually declined to play any files that I brought with me.

 

I had completely written them off following my personal experiences.  Even though I do acknowledge the influence of the acoustics, their lack of concern or apparent lack of awareness of the truly awful sound was truly discouraging. So, Mitchco's report of what he heard and measured in his listening room is intriguing.

 

 

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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As indicated in the article, there is too much bass and treble, which is reflected in the comments here. The most telling chart is the frequency response comparison between my reference/preference and the Golds. There is a +10 dB SPL bass boost from about 20 Hz to 80 Hz with the Golds. Perceptually to our ears, that sounds roughly twice as loud as compared to my reference. So I can understand the comments of thumpy bass, which may be more problematic in some rooms compared to others.

 

From 5 kHz to 20 kHz, the Golds have approximately +5 dB SPL more high frequency output as compared to my reference/preference. As indicated in the article, too bright for me. And understand for some, including myself, can sound fatiguing.

 

However, both my reference and the Golds measured frequency response fall within the range as indicated by Dr. Toole's (and Sean Olive's) research on subjectively preferred steady-state room curves looking at the chart in the article. The difference in curves are that the Gold's fall in the "untrained listeners" curve and my reference, that has been DSP'd falls in the "trained listeners" curve. I call the untrained listeners curve the "candy" curve, which after too much, one wants to leave, as @GrahamJohnMiles did (novelty).

 

I hope Devialet reads the review and readers feedback. I use DSP already on my reference system, and given that the Devialet speakers are DSP'd, it should not be a big deal to dial back the bass and treble to fit more with Toole's "trained listeners" curve and likely a better fit for folks that don't like the candy curve. Or at least have two or three user selectable curves. Of course, one can DSP/eq the speakers to one's preference, but it would be nice, like the 600 XD's, to be able to tailor fit the bottom and top of the frequency spectrum to better fit one's listening preference using controls that came with the speakers. Further, I feel if Devialet fine tuned the time alignment of the bass drivers with the mid and high frequency drivers, would also better integrate the transient response of the Golds.

 

Given the excellent dispersion characteristics of this loudspeaker, reducing the acoustic output at the frequency extremes would realize its full potential.

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just sayin'

check out this thread for a sample of Devialet's relationship to their customers....I have their mono blocks and these are simply amazingly, wonderfully musical, dynamic and all the audiophile bits (seriously!) but as a company their customer relationship team is so poor as to be simply astonishing.  Is it a French thing...dunno.

https://help.devialet.com/hc/en-us/articles/115001996589

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7 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

Third was at their NYC shop in SoHo but the acoustics there were, clearly intentionally, the same.  In fact, they had another (or the same) torture chamber that they used at CES.  In addition, they have continually declined to play any files that I brought with me.

 

I had completely written them off following my personal experiences.  Even though I do acknowledge the influence of the acoustics, their lack of concern or apparent lack of awareness of the truly awful sound was truly discouraging. So, Mitchco's report of what he heard and measured in his listening room is intriguing.

 

4 hours ago, mitchco said:

However, both my reference and the Golds measured frequency response fall within the range as indicated by Dr. Toole's (and Sean Olive's) research on subjectively preferred steady-state room curves looking at the chart in the article. The difference in curves are that the Gold's fall in the "untrained listeners" curve and my reference, that has been DSP'd falls in the "trained listeners" curve. I call the untrained listeners curve the "candy" curve, which after too much, one wants to leave, as @GrahamJohnMiles did (novelty).

 

I think these two comments hit the nail on the head. Devialet made this advanced tech marvel, which they talk about as being the best in the world, but basically voiced it for non-discriminating users. I guess they think that if you want to sell a $4-6K pair of speakers to the general public, you have to make it sound like "ear candy", which impresses at first.

Strictly in marketing terms, if you want to sell expensive equipment to people that think good sound comes from mp3's on Beats headphones, then maybe you need to make it with that same type of pumped up sound that many people associate with "good sound". I know that sounds snobby, but I"m merely pointing out that "untrained listeners" will often prefer mp3 and boosted frequency response, because that's what they're used to and think that's how things are "supposed" to sound.

 

In terms of showroom/quick sales, they are probably right. That's also why it is being marketed through Apple Stores and some department stores. Walk in, get impressed by the looks and form factor, hear the "impressive" demonstration. Buy on the spot. Less emphasis apparently given to audiophile dealers for this item.

 

It's a pretty interesting approach,as their power DACs are totally marketed to audiophiles (and well heeled ones, at that) and by all accounts sound great. And they include DSP. I've heard them, and concur with the positive opinion.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Wow, that's a review I've been looking for! Well done Mitcho! This show exactly what I've been hoping for. Meaning that the potencial those speakers have in the bass and treble department is excellent! I take overly "bassy and trebley" every day if the sound can be reproduced clear and loud. You can (and they will in the Devialet app later) take it down with the DSP (or Dirac, Acourate DRC.) and get your desired curve or sound signature without boosting what's not there! 

I've been surpriced as well to see the direct comparison with the XD600 being as well a DSP speaker they output very similar in your room (withing couple db's of boost in the lows and highs).

Some have swapped the Phantoms for the KEFs LS50 wireless and I can understand why now. But the LS50 can't performe in the bass region without the addition of a sub like the Phantom. LS50s might have enough bass but not sub-base like the Phantoms.

I've heard the Kii's then in a smallish Hotel room with Phantoms next door and lately I've auditioned the BeoLab 90s and I can say that HiFi is looking damn good those days with all-active DSP speakers whether you like that fact or not.

Cheers from Slovakia and thanks a lot again!

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I had a connecting flight in Houston last Thursday. Wandered over to get breakfast at the new restaurants where you order on iPads and then your food is brought out, and while I was waiting I thought, wow, that music sounds pretty decent for being played in a cavernous airport terminal on airport terminal speakers... Looked up and I saw several of these Devialets mounted up 15 to 20 feet or so on the scaffold-like structure over the middle-of-the-terminal restaurants. It was no doubt Devialets, unless someone else is producing a speaker of the same size, profile, and round and moon shaped fronts.  I'm sure that they were picked by the designer because of how they looked - fit right in with the overall design.

I think there were four, two pointing in each direction, and the pairs weren't arranged like they were being used as stereo pairs. I just went searching all over the web to see if I could find a picture to share here but no luck. If you're passing through Houston, Terminal E - when you get to the string of restaurants with iPads for service, look up.

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Thanks Mitch for the wonderful review! Appreciate the time to get all those measurements; not easy... Definitely difficult to get a grasp on the sound at the Vancouver Audio Show last year!

 

A buddy recently commented to me that he was interested in getting these but I know he'll be wanting them attached to his big screen TV and using them for movie purposes. You commented on the slight audio lag and voice sync - presumably due to communication overhead and FIR filter latency... Did you by chance estimate how many milliseconds that was? I suppose one would have to use a computer or blu-ray player with audio compensation features to get it spot on.

 

I'd certainly be curious if Devialet publishes any information on this and whether latency changes in a 4-speaker multichannel configuration. Also, you're using the Dialog which I gather allows more connectivity options. Does this device also decode home-theater multichannel CODECs? AC3+/DTS? I see there's no HDMI input so I assume lossless surround like DTS-HDMA and TrueHD are out? Can it handle multichannel 5.1 FLAC over the ethernet?

 

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

Free The Music - No MQA!  :nomqa:

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i recently purchased a pair of golds for my second home.  it was a bit of a leap of faith, but here's some thoughts:

1) i have a reference rig at home with wilsons and jl subs and a lovely mix of simaudio and wavelength electronics that i love for its subtlety AND slam

2) the devialets are not that setup at all, but what they are is AUDIO FUN!

3) i had auditioned them pre-purchase in the soho showroom.  it's literally all glass and tile and basically death to all subtelty ... i don't know why devialet auditions them that way but i do suspect that casual listeners might appreciate some of the slammy, bright chaos that can emerge under those conditions

4) i was actually surprised at how capable they were under those super hostile conditions, and how much "fun" they still conveyed, so i figured they would get a lot better properly set up

5) they do

6) i am not done playing around with them but the imaging and off axis performance od these things is phenomenal, and what they give up in subtelty they add back in attack and effortlessness and joy factor.  i think that if devialet can add eq / voicing to spark software that will be fascinating, and i think that if they can knock a little more price off of the base phantoms and emphasize selling them in stereo pairs, they would have a home run that would make terrific audio very appealing to a huge swath of customers.  these things are fast and loud and emotional and kind of silly and draw you out of your seat to move.  not my classic audiophile sound but damn i really like them.

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On ‎6‎/‎23‎/‎2017 at 8:06 AM, Archimago said:

Thanks Mitch for the wonderful review! Appreciate the time to get all those measurements; not easy... Definitely difficult to get a grasp on the sound at the Vancouver Audio Show last year!

 

A buddy recently commented to me that he was interested in getting these but I know he'll be wanting them attached to his big screen TV and using them for movie purposes. You commented on the slight audio lag and voice sync - presumably due to communication overhead and FIR filter latency... Did you by chance estimate how many milliseconds that was? I suppose one would have to use a computer or blu-ray player with audio compensation features to get it spot on.

 

I'd certainly be curious if Devialet publishes any information on this and whether latency changes in a 4-speaker multichannel configuration. Also, you're using the Dialog which I gather allows more connectivity options. Does this device also decode home-theater multichannel CODECs? AC3+/DTS? I see there's no HDMI input so I assume lossless surround like DTS-HDMA and TrueHD are out? Can it handle multichannel 5.1 FLAC over the ethernet?

 

 

Hi Arch, thanks for the kind words. Yes, I was going to use the acoustic timing reference feature in REW to determine the milliseconds delay, then work got in the way and ran out of time.

I could not find any info on home-theater/multi-channel type configurations. Not supported it seems. However, your friend should contact Devialet directly to get the definitive answer.

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Something not mentioned: they are unserviceable. Devialet claim this is due to their inability to open and reseal the cases. This could be important for prospective purchasers, since outside warranty they're essentially throw-away if they develop a fault. 

 

@cootI don't think you'll be able to connect your Aurender via Ethernet, but I could be wrong. 

 

All ill say is as an existing Devialet customer I ruled them out simply because they're Devialet. (And the fact that the Spark player went wrong in all three demos I had, despite very unconvincing assurances that it never happens. Not least since in one demo the guy said it happened all the time).  They are amazing tech, but it takes more than that to make a good product. 

Roon lifetime > Mac Mini > ethernet > microRendu (RAAT) w/ Paul Hynes SR3 > Intona > Curious USB link > Devialet 250 Pro > PMC fact 8.

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Thank you for the detailed measurements of the Phantom Gold in a stereo setup. I may be wrong, but I believe this is the first true measurements of any Phantom, which is something a lot of people like myself have been waiting to see.
 

I think it's worth noting that the comparison to the Dynaudio 600 XD is quite interesting, in that the measurements are nearly identical as stated in the article, but the 600 XD retails north of $13K USD. So it seems Devialet accomplished what they set out with the Phantom series, which was to offer the experience of the traditional designed much larger speakers, but at a fraction of the size. It also appears they have done so at a fraction of the cost too when put into perspective with this comparison.

 

Looks and sound quality are of course subjective.

 

I think a lot of the harsh criticism could have been mitigated if Devialet didn't make so many bold claims. And i think people coming from an audiophile background are harsh critics in general. But let's put things into perspective. These are quite simply a groundbreaking approach to hifi reproduction. And being they are in uncharted territory, there is room for improvement. Such was the case in delta between the White and Silver. And now the delta between the Silver and Gold. It's not unreasonable to see the evolution of Phantom get to a point where even the most jaded traditional audiophile will be impressed. Let's be glad companies like Devialet are pushing the envelope and bringing audiophiles into the 21st century. Lest not us forget they are a very small company to boot as well.

 

 

 

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On 6/24/2017 at 3:31 PM, hifi_swlon said:

Something not mentioned: they are unserviceable. Devialet claim this is due to their inability to open and reseal the cases. This could be important for prospective purchasers, since outside warranty they're essentially throw-away if they develop a fault.

 

For me, this is the one question mark. These are not the most expensive speakers, but if they do have a hardware issue, they are still a decent amount of money to throw out the window.  Knowing they are unserviceable is a strong reason to put off some prospective buyers.

 

Hopefully there is a plan to make them serviceable for later revisions.

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