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Extreme! Devialet’s Gold Phantom loudspeaker

  • Previously on Phantom: A quick glance at the Devialet marketing spiel for their Phantom loudspeaker series reveals an extreme factoid-based approach – “10 years of R&D”, “a $30M budget”. This might play well with the mass market but audiophiles are a different species altogether. This kind of technological fancy dress can put noses out of joint. After all, we have no reference points. Is $30M a lot? 10 years – how does that compare with other products coming to market?

    Then there are the numerous acronyms and abbreviations: ACE, SAM, EVO, ADH and HBI. Again, extreme. On these we can peel back a few layers…

    “Speaker Active Matching” (SAM) is the French company’s somewhat awkward way of referring to the Phantom’s DSP-based signal processing that ensures optimal driver performance. “Analog Digital Hybrid” (ADH) signifies the deployment of seemingly disparate amplifier technologies: Class A for linearity, Class D for muscle.

    According to the manufacturer, the base model delivers 750 peak power watts, whilst the Silver version offers four times that amount. Distortion is rated at 0.001% for both. Which brings us to…

    “Heart Bass Implosion” (HBI) – the Phantom’s must-be-heard-to-be-believed bass output which is rated down to 16Hz and dug out by a pair of bass drivers that flutter on either side of the unit’s ACE: “Active Cospherical Engine”.

    It’s a brave man who doubts the Phantom’s ability to deliver on formidable in-room SPLs, even when running only one. Power would all for nought if it the darn thing didn’t sound good. Thankfully, the Phantom delivers oodles of bass note articulation, vocal transparency and rhythmic poise. Future-fi that connects the audiophile world with the mainstream (and vice versa).

    Make no mistake, this is no one-dimensional wireless loudspeaker. Its streaming connectivity goes far deeper than Bluetooth, which is rumoured to have only been added after eleventh hour focus group feedback demanded its inclusion. Out back, tucked away inside the power cable enclosure, a TOSLINK hookup accommodates third party streamers.

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    The majority will reach for Devialet’s control app, SPARK. It handles device setup before interfacing with the Phantom’s internal EVO software system to facilitate playback of music from the smartphone itself or any other device running SPARK. Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS versions are available. A recent over-the-air update to EVO added Spotify Connect.

    For anyone with even a passing interest in s t e r e o, one Phantom isn’t going to cut it. An audiophile-grade experience proper only comes from two. The additional expense of the Dialog router (US$329) is required; it divvies up the signal between left and right channels and keeps them in sync. End users are also advised to BYO patience. It can take several failed attempts at navigating the SPARK-based setup process before the Phantoms’ ambient standby drone and cheek puffing/pulsing begin to make sense.

    Like any loudspeaker, the Phantoms sound even better when placed on stands. Besides, their bass output will be too much for your average credenza. Devialet offer the bespoke Branch Tree stand that also internally routes power, TOSLINK and Ethernet cables. At US$750/pair you certainly pay for the privilege.

    Devialet’s biggest challenge with the Phantom is overcoming the skepticism that seems endemic to the audiophile community. Skepticism is healthy but keeping an open mind is healthier. As such, the Phantoms are perhaps best recommended to someone who listens to rock and roll, R&B, electronic music, garage, psych, soul, funk – basically anything BUT 24×7 audiophile music. On the back of my own Silver Phantom review (here and here) I purchased a pair.

    It’s like the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a bad product, only a bad price. One would be hard pressed to compile a system of separates – streamer, DAC, amplifier/s, loudspeakers – that’d offer as much all-round performance as a pair of Devialet Phantoms.

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    And now, the news:  Come Bastille Day 2016 (that’s 14th July), the white Phantom (US$1990) and Silver Phantom (US$2390) will be joined by a new model.

    The Gold Phantom (US$2990), identifiable by its “22 kt Rose Gold-finished exterior highlights”, promises greater bandwidth than either of its predecessors. A titanium tweeter has the Gold Phantom’s high frequencies stretching out to 27kHz. At the other end of the frequency spectrum, the manufacturer rates the Phantom Gold as good for 14Hz. Down by how many dB they don’t say.

    Juicing the newcomer’s internals are 4500 watts of peak power that brings at potential for 108db at maximum volume – that’s the lower end of your average rock concert. And that’s just one unit! According to Devialet, a single Gold’un is equivalent to eight Whites or a pair of Silvers. Also claimed is a measured THD rating of 0.0005%.

    A handful of reasons why this French company are calling the Gold Phantom “the most extreme speaker ever made”.

    Further information: Devialet

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    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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