Devialet’s Hi-Fi Phantom Hits the US

The compact, all-in-one speaker system from the French audio masterminds surprises with power, clarity and no distortion

Since it was founded in 2007, Paris-based Devialet has become known for their unusually sleek and compact hi-fi amplifiers. They’ve carved out a special place in the high-end audio marketplace by developing technology rather than repackaging the outdated. A brand first, Devialet has now designed an all-in-one amp and speaker, the Phantom, which will make its US debut this fall. It’s already available in France, stocked at Colette—where the concept shop loved it so much their entire sound system is now made up of 14 Phantoms. And, unlike many new speakers hitting the mainstream market, the Phantom isn’t a lifestyle product meant to “enhance” something; it’s a game-changer that takes its audio technology (so far, 88 patents) and results seriously.

Devialet invented a proprietary technology that garnered, for the first time, the best of both analog and digital amplification—preserving the quality of the former, and the efficiency and power of the latter. They first used this Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH®) technology in their high-end amplifiers, which range from $7K to $30K in price. To bring this sound quality, and the resulting “emotion” it creates, to more people, Devialet’s egg-shaped Phantom was born, complete with WiFi and Bluetooth connection.

“Since the very beginning, our dream was to raise Devialet as the worldwide leader of audio,” Quentin Sannié, Co-Founder and CEO of Devialet, tells CH. “We have a long way to go; each step is both exhilarating and painful. We first wanted to conquer the high-end audio market, and that was the purpose of our first invention, [the] ‘Devialet Expert Amplifier.’ It was a necessary step to build the legitimacy of the brand and our technologies. Once we were established as a leader in the high-end market, we wanted to invent a second product, dedicated to home audio: Phantom.”

We previewed the Phantom in our office here in NYC, and the heavy device (weighing about 11 kg) was placed gently upon the glass table in our library. Imagine our surprise when Moderat’s track “A New Error” (Devialet’s go-to example song) was blasted and the glass didn’t vibrate or react at all to the epic levels of bass in the electronic music track. The table was completely stable and the Phantom did not move at all; when placing a hand on top of the Phantom, too, there’s no vibration either. It’s almost eerie how still it is, especially as the Phantom’s most memorable feature is its two symmetric woofers—one on either side, like eyes on a fish—that quiver furiously as the bass increases. Songs become mesmerizingly visual as you get to see the speaker in action, without it breaking a sweat. They also become experienced physically, as the Phantom emits ultra-dense, impactful bass—without any artificial boost—that’s on par with much larger speakers. Phantom makes big promises—no background noise, no saturation (the sound stays precise even as the volume is cranked up) and no distortion—but lives up to them.

We were pleased to learn that the Phantom is made entirely in France and every component was designed in-house. Devialet compares its design to a Formula One car: the racecars are driven by the laws of aerodynamics. Similarly, there was “no design” for the Phantom; its shape was purely dictated by the laws of acoustics—and the spherical shape was optimal for removing sound diffraction and creating an omnidirectional listening experience. Speakers are traditionally box-shaped mostly due to manufacturing costs.

With a compact speaker system in the $2K range, Devialet opens the confined, too often esoteric world of hi-fi to a much wider audience. While the price is still a barrier for freshly converted audiophiles, we’re excited to see the wheels churning in a somewhat stagnant industry. What the Phantom offers is an organic experience that strips away the stuffiness of high-end audio and lets the music speak for itself; the best part might be listening to your favorite songs and discover just how much you weren’t able to hear before. The Phantom is something that must be experienced in person before purchasing, but one thing is certain: it’ll be hard to return to your battery operated Bluetooth speakers after a day with it. Just imagine how Netflix nights at home can be forever changed.

Pre-order for US customers finally launches today on Devialet, with expected shipping this September 2015. There are two options: the 750 watts Phantom ($1990) and the 3000 watts Silver Phantom ($2390)—the images above are of the Silver Phantom. The Phantom will also be stocked at the MoMA Design Store this fall, as well as Devialet’s new store in Soho, NYC (their first in the US), set to open later this summer.

Phantom at Cannes image courtesy of Devialet, all other images by Cool Hunting