Modern Living

Phantom of the opera

AUDIOFILE - Val A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

If you attended the staging of last year’s November Hi-Fi Show, you must have come across the Devialet Expert line in the showroom of Audio Visual Drivers International Inc. (AVDI). I’ve heard audiophiles gushing over this solid state amplifier, pronouncing Devialet as “the most refined and musical amp” they have heard to date. Considering that some of these audiophiles are hard-nosed tube lovers, that is high praise indeed.

Very recently, AVDI’s top honcho Wilfred Lim called me up to break the news that his company will soon launch Devialet’s wireless speaker product, the Devialet Phantom. He claimed that this new product will totally change the local compact wireless speaker market.

According to Wilfred, the sonic performance of the Phantom “is so mind-boggling for such a compact-sized speaker that it prompted no other than Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy CEO Bernard Arnault (one of the richest men in Europe) to invest heavily in this audio company last year.”

The Phantom has the same engineering pedigree of the Devialet Expert Line which has now become the undisputed No. 1 selling amplifier in the high-end audio industry. Compact and powerful, the Devialet Expert Line is touted for having such a unique software/firmware architecture that it will never become obsolete.

Its sibling, the Phantom, enjoys the same state-of-the-art technology which Wilfred believes will revolutionize how audiophiles listen to music. With Devialet’s enormous research-and-development war chest, he is confident that the Phantom will always keep up, if not remain ahead, of the ever-changing digital market.

But how do wireless speakers fit into your personal listening preference? 

It depends on how many songs you have in your digital music collection and how many Internet radio stations you stream. An average audiophile spends more than three hours listening to his favorite music. It will be such a waste if his ears experience fatigue with a substandard sound reproduction. 

Bluetooth, as a means to stream music, is an epic fail. Wi-Fi audio streaming, on the other hand, is coming of age. Before, Bluetooth was the only way to go in wireless connecting with headphones, speakers and in-car audio. The trouble with Bluetooth, however, is that it includes both a pipe for moving bits and a protocol for streaming audio through that pipe. Bluetooth was born ready to move audio, but the downside is that its narrow pipe limits sound quality.

Wi-Fi, on the other hand, connects our laptop or tablet to the Internet. It has a fatter pipe that allows you to stream audio over Wi-Fi-enabled speakers throughout your home with high-quality sound that can bring back wonderful memories of musical grooves.  Wi-Fi will show you how much groove your music really has.

A few important things are falling into place for Wi-Fi audio to mature:

Ubiquity – While Bluetooth is presently the most common means of audio streaming in the home, Wi-Fi is increasingly gaining popularity.

Ease of pairing – Configuring a Wi-Fi speaker to work with your home router can now be done in seconds, in just a few easy steps.

Quality – High-resolution audio content, including digital downloads and streaming music services, is becoming more prevalent.

The Phantom has a unique proprietary amplification technology previously unheard of in the high-end industry called ADH which stands for Analog Digital Hybrid.  With more than 88 patents in existence, the Devialet Phantom is the single, most anticipated high-end compact wireless loudspeaker today. The Phantoms were exclusively sold in Harrods Department Store in London early this year. Shipments to worldwide dealers and distributors have started this month.

The striking Phantom by Devialet wireless audio system makes a statement in any room. It is not just loud for a speaker that could conceivably fit on a shelf, but loud for any speaker, period. The compact music system has been called a Sonos killer. Indeed, its sound does far surpass that increasingly ubiquitous unit. At a price range of $1,990 to $2,390 per Phantom, the killer part of that equation is questionable. But if the pods battled to the death on the basis of sound alone, the Sonos would be slaughtered.

If it is long on sound, the Phantom is also long on personality. The French company Devialet — known for its svelte and powerful amplifiers — calls it the world’s first cybernetic sound system, giving the impression that it has engineered some sort of artificially intelligent robot speaker. That impression continues when the power button is pressed, and the speaker comes to life by wiggling its “ears.” These |ears” are actually two woofer covers hermetically sealed under high pressure to produce a whopping bass response.

Despite its minimal exterior, the only control on the actual unit is the power button. Everything else is run through an app. The technology behind the sound is complex, with nearly 100 patents involved in the creation of the Phantom. With the assistance of the class D amplifiers, the class A is relieved of much of its workload, preventingn the unit from becoming too hot (though it definitely warms up), but still allows the handling of up to 3,000 watts without distortion.

The sound is beyond dense with the mid and high ranges sticking together, launched out of the front of the Phantom’s “face.” The bass, which emanates from those Mickey Mouse ears (which throb and vibrate with each beat), is something you feel in your chest and could fill even very large rooms. The power and range of the small unit is impressive, but, befitting the strong aesthetic, is also not very subtle or nuanced. Still, its clarity and volume are amazing.

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For comments or questions, please email me at [email protected].












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