In Hong Kong, the Devialet Phantom is, in audiophile terms, ubiquitous. At HMV in Causeway Bay the French company enjoys a fully branded room. At the airport’s Sound&Vision store the now familiar halo stand casts a long shadow over several rows of headphones and portable loudspeakers. A senior sales assistant tells me that the Silver Phantom is a strong seller but that, carry-on baggage restrictions means it often takes a buyer two separate trips to acquire a pair.
The Phantom can parse an Bluetooth input signal but it’s far, far more than a Bluetooth loudspeaker. Synchronising two units as a stereo pair using the Dialog router delivers unto us sound quality that will rival numerous similarly-priced passive loudspeakers driven by an outboard amplifier. As we discovered earlier this year, the Silver Phantoms’ low frequency mining and front-to-back imaging betters a pair of Expert 200-fuelled KEF LS50. Put that in yr pipe and smoke it.
At the Hong Kong High-End show, Devialet representative Julien Bergère was on hand to talk us through the v2 ASIC innards of the recently announced Gold Phantom and how its development informed the Expert Pro series introduced by Bergère in Sydney a mere two weeks ago, which in turn fed back into honing the Gold’s higher output power and lower distortion.
ASIC? ‘Application Specification Integrated Circuit’ – a single chip with many functions; here a miniaturisation and reinvention of the discrete component-loaded board used for ‘Magic Wire’ D/A conversion inside each Expert unit. One hand washes the other.
Like many a slow-burning album, the following video bounces between Phantom and Expert and serves up multiple layers of technical exposition. It therefore rewards repeated viewings:
Devialet are spearheading the popularisation of better sound by manufacturing more visually approachable hardware that, in the case of the Phantom, ties up the hitherto physical intrusion of separates and the associated kabelsalat into an all-in-one system-in-a-box that’ll stand up to audiophile scrutiny (and then some).
That same system-in-a-box mentality is carried over to the similarly futuristically stylised Expert Pro series to which we add loudspeakers of our choosing. The Expert is an elegant piece of hifi hardware that you won’t want tucked behind the couch.
Those who would dismiss the Expert as just another Class D amplifier (it isn’t) or a pizza box (nope) cast themselves as dinosaurs marked for extinction.
With both Phantom and Expert, Devialet show us a shiny future for high-end audio. Disagree? Ask yourself which other high-end audio loudspeaker/amplifier manufacturer enjoys a presence beyond the walls of the local audio show, where it can be found in local record stores and airport duty free shopping malls?
Yup, thought so.
Further information: Devialet