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Devialet Phantom review: Forget everything you thought you knew about speaker technology

Michael Brown | Nov. 16, 2015
This eccentric, powered loudspeaker delivers an unforgettable sonic performance.

When I do look at amplifier specs, I prefer to see them expressed as watts RMS, because that’s the best indicator of real-world performance. But for whatever reason, Devialet decided to use the “peak power” formula to describe the Phantom amplifier’s capabilities, which can be misleading because the typical amp can’t maintain peak power output for more than a few milliseconds. So when you hear that the Phantom can deliver an impressive 750 watts of power to its drivers, know that that is a peak power rating for the sum of all four of its onboard amplifiers.

Devialet Phantom
The Phantom has stainless steel plates on either side. The Silver Phantom adds stainless steel to its dome drivers (it also has a larger amplifier).

A single Phantom doesn’t produce distinct left/right stereo—it can’t because it has just one tweeter and one mid-range mounted in the front/middle of its cabinet. But it doesn’t produce a bland mono experience, either. Devialet R&D Manager Jean-Loup Afresne tells me the Phantom uses digital signal processing that “automatically computes the best mix, for each piece of music, to deliver the best possible listening experience from a single acoustic source.”

The Phantom’s Bluetooth radio supports the A2DP and AVRCP Profiles, and the AptX, AAC, and SBC audio codecs. The Phantom also has a TOSlink fiber-optic connector, and it supports the following audio formats: HE‑AAC (V1), AAC (up to 320Kb per second), WMA, WMA lossless (16-bit only), MP3 (up to to 320Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, OGG, and VORBIS. A Texas Instruments PCM1798 24-bit/192kHz DAC handles digital-to-analog conversion duties.

The Phantom is outfitted with a gigabit ethernet port, an integrated powerline adapter, and a dual-band (2.4- and 5GHz) Wi-Fi adapter. But you’ll need the optional Dialog router ($329) for most networking scenarios; if you want to produce true stereo from a pair of Phantoms, for example, or if you want to deploy Phantoms in multiple rooms as part of a whole-home audio system. The Dialog enables multiple Phantoms—as many as 24—to form a mesh network (similar to the way Sonos handles networking). You’ll also need the Dialog to stream music from the online service Tidal (the Phantom also supports Deezer and Qoboz, but those services are not yet available in the U.S.). You can use a Bluetooth connection to stream from the Tidal app, but it won't be a lossless stream.

Devialet Phantom 
If you'd prefer not to stream wirelessly, the Phantom is equipped with a gigabit ethernet port and a TOSlink port in the back. Credit: Michael Brown

One glaring omission on the networking front: You cannot stream from a NAS box, even with a Dialog in place. Devialet tells me this functionality will be included in a future software update. The Phantom doesn’t support Apple’s AirPlay multi-room audio solution, either, although Devialet describes a kludgey work-around for that.


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