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Does Devialet’s phantom I wireless speaker deserve a listen? Here’s our review

The latest in luxury speakers, we put the powerful device through its paces

David RS Taylor
Tuesday 13 July 2021 12:42
<p>They may look like something from the future, but it’s their bass quality that’s truly out of this world </p>

They may look like something from the future, but it’s their bass quality that’s truly out of this world

It’s difficult to bring something to the speaker market that hasn’t been seen before. From novel design approaches, to new connectivity possibilities, to an extra driver, the speaker industry is almost as saturated as the razor market (Gillette: stop adding blades, five is enough).

Parisian luxury audio brand Devialet doesn’t do things by halves when it comes to going a little left-field. Since its founding in 2004, it has seemingly dedicated itself to providing elegant, sophisticated, technically supreme – and particularly pricy – speakers.

Its latest product is the phantom I, an evolution of the previous phantom generation, promising elevated sound, an upgraded design, and a new talking point for any prospective owner.

Devialet certainly talks the talk when it comes to its products. After closing our double-glazed windows and turning up the volume, we’ve looked into whether it produces.

Read more:

Devialet phantom I

Buy now £2,790, Devialet.com

Rating: 8/10

  • Weight: 11.4kg
  • Size: W 252mm x H 255mm x D 342mm
  • Output: 1100W
  • Connectivity: Wifi, Bluetooth, ethernet, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon Ready

Design

It feels like there’s a generally-accepted aesthetic when it comes to the futuristic room set-ups you see in films like Blade Runner 2049 or Oldboy: lots of marble, too much space between single pieces of furniture, and one table at the end of a long corridor. Not the cosiest, but looks great on video. The Devialet phantom I fits this perfectly.

It’s a hefty bit of kit at 11.4kg – probably best to scout out a spot in your living room first – but this weight is put to good use with myriad technical improvements on previous Devialet speakers (more on this later). The weight also serves to add an extra premium element: solidity is luxury, after all.

The general design is perhaps a little Marmite, as it divided opinion while testing. It’s certainly one of the most striking speakers we’ve ever seen, an immediately recognisable product. Devialet’s preference for out-there design continues here, with a hint of the extraterrestrial about the phantom retained from last generation’s aesthetic. The palm-sized control that comes with the speaker perpetuates the “luxury science” vibe – a sleek, circular remote with pleasing movements for various commands.

Read more: We put the Sonos move bluetooth speaker to the test

The phantom is primarily a wireless speaker, although there is an Arch audio stage available to buy for connecting wired sources. Besides this, wifi and Bluetooth are available, and we had no connectivity issues with either. The phantom supports most streaming services, including Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, giving users plenty of options.

There are some beautiful finishing touches, such as the 22-carat rose gold-plated side plating that covered the drivers on our test units. It feels like a product from a future era, a proper statement piece in any home that’s worthy of your full attention.

Sound

The phantom I can produce sound that goes well above anything acceptable in civil society. It’s massive. The version we tested could reach 108 decibels – just short of a jet engine – which would make even a lullaby sound like a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. This doesn’t mean, however, that the audio drops in quality. We played tracks from a variety of genres at the highest level we found socially-comfortable – and then a little louder – and found no distortion in sound as we waited for the wrath of our neighbours to come crashing down.

At both high and low volumes, the phantom manages to produce some impressive audio intricacy. The speaker’s analogue digital hybrid technology, a Devialet-patented system, promises to provide the best of analogue and digital listening, and manages to do so with aplomb, bringing as close to analogue sophistication as you can get without plugging the speaker in.

While this delicacy is appreciated, it’s the phantom’s bass that is the real showstopper. When a company names an aspect of its tech the “heart bass implosion”, the tech better deliver. Luckily (well, by design), the phantom’s bass is among the heaviest we’ve heard, and without a doubt the deepest from a wireless speaker. The phantom’s hermetically-sealed casing combines two lateral woofers that generate sound you’d expect in a cinema, down to a claimed 14Hz: the sort of frequency that could trigger fight or flight mode in your ancestors, or at least annoy anyone nearby.

Read more: Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds review

The fancy-sounding patented tech doesn’t stop there. Devialet’s active cospherical engine – almost definitely named that to create its fun ACE acronym – ensures that sound spreads evenly from the speaker, something that we found worked perfectly when positioning the phantom both in the middle of the room and next to a wall.

There’s a lot of new technology in the phantom. Sometimes, it feels like acronyms are thrown about to make a product sound more impressive and to add an extra £100 on the price point. The research and development here isn’t just for show – the sound you can get out of the phantom I borders on ludicrous.

The verdict: Devialet phantom I

The phantom I is a unique wireless speaker that would remain a talking point in anyone’s home until the world runs out of juice. The side panels are striking, especially in 22-carat rose gold, the speaker’s shape is unlike anything on the market, and the remote is intuitive, sleek and suitably “luxury” for the machine it controls.

The phantom’s sound is among the best you can get in a wireless speaker, with an earth-shattering bass and impressive intricacy. The price point is one to potentially balk at, especially if you make the £900 jump from the 103db (£2,790, Devialet.com) to 108db (£1,890, Devialet.com) version. However, this is a truly unique speaker design, something that demands comment and appreciation, with an incredibly capable sound. If you have the money, the phantom I makes a strong case for its own purchase. It’s a sophisticated, high-tech speaker.

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Check out our review of Marshall’s new portable bluetooth speaker for more audio insight

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