It's More Powerful, Too
Devialet Phantom Review: The Most Striking Audiophile-Grade Wireless Speaker, Upgraded and More Affordable Than Ever Before
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Devialet’s first wireless speaker, the Phantom, was released in 2015 to almost universal acclaim. Its semi-spherical design, which looked like a high-tech vacuum or a drone from the Tom Cruise film Oblivion, was the result of 10 years of R&D and 88 patents. The speaker had two drivers in front, one midrange and one tweeter, and two huge woofers along its sides that pulsate in perfect symmetry, not unlike a heartbeat, to evenly pump bass in all directions. Most importantly, it produced high-res sound with “no saturation, no distortion and no background noise” — the company’s tagline — that was praised by famed musicians and audiophiles alike.
In the past few years, the French speaker audio company has released two more powerful, expensive and near-identical looking speakers, the Silver Phantom and Gold Phantom. And, just recently, it re-released its original Phantom speaker with the next-gen of its patented ADH technology (Analog Digital Hybrid), called ADH2, which allows the new Phantom to be louder (generating up to 101dB vs the old 99dB) and output more power (1,200-watt vs the old 750-watt). Essentially, this entry-level speaker sounds more like the extremely high-end Phantom Gold, yet costs even less than the original Phantom speaker from three years ago ($1,950 vs the new $1,690).
The Good: The upgraded Phantom can stream high-res 24-bit/192-kHz files and it sounds brilliant at both low and high volumes. It really has two secret sauces. First, its Heart Bass Implosion (HBI) technology, which allows all four drivers to work in perfect unison, maximizing efficiency, minimizing distortion and enabling the speaker to achieve a ridiculously wide frequency range. And second, its new improved ADH2 technology, which allows the speaker to sound way louder than you’d expect from a speaker its size. There are numerous connectivity options, including Bluetooth, Apple Airplay and Spotify Connect. Watching the speaker work, especially with songs with heavy bass like Wiz Khalifa’s “On My Level” and “Jumpman” by Drake, is a visceral experience — it literally takes center stage, no matter what else is happening in the rest of the room.
Who It’s For: Audiophiles, or average joes, that want a statement-piece wireless speaker. It’s a speaker that’s designed to be listened to and looked at. And even though it can work with other Phantoms (you can use them in a multi-room, multi-speaker setup), it’s really designed to work by itself. Also, whoever is buying this shouldn’t really be worried about price.
What To Watch Out For: It has no volume or playback controls on the speaker, so it has to be controlled by your smartphone. It doesn’t have voice control. Like all Devialet Phantoms, the new Phantom isn’t a true omnidirectional speaker. Its two woofers evenly spread bass around the room, but because the tweeter and midrange are located at its head, it’s technically a mono-directional speaker. You can pair two (or more) Devialet Phantoms together in a stereo setup, but that gets expensive and requires Devialet’s own app. The look of the Phantom isn’t for everyone; while some in our office thought it looked cool and unique, others mistook it for a fancy vacuum used to dry wet carpets — and it’s very expensive.
Alternatives: Depending on how you look at it, there are either a lot or no alternatives to the Devialet Phantom. For a better multi-room experience, go for Sonos. For a better smart home experience, go for the Apple HomePod. The Naim Mu-so is probably its closest competitor as a standalone wireless speaker, which is almost as expensive and almost as unique-looking as the new Phantom.
Verdict: As much as I’m sort of obsessed with this speaker, because of the way it sounds and how I can see it working — it honestly feels like a confluence of analog and digital sound — I know that it isn’t for everyone. It’s not for the vast majority of people, in fact. There’s also a part of me that believes that if you’re willing to spend the $1,690 on the Phantom, going up to the Silver Phantom ($2,390) and Gold Phantom ($2,990) probably won’t be that much of a stretch. Still, price and the fact that the new Phantom is better designed for smaller rooms (less powerful than the other Phantoms) could be big factors for you. And if you like the way the Phantom looks, that’s really all that matters. You’ll be hardpressed to find a better sounding wireless speaker.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the speaker was named the Phantom Elevate, when in actuality it’s still named the Devialet Phantom. The company is calling the upgrade “Elevate,” but it’s not the official name of the speaker — you can read more about this on Devialet’s website. The article has been adjusted to reflect this name change.
Power: 1200 watts (peak)
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0005%
Frequency Range: 16Hz to 25kHz
Sound Pressure Level: 101 dB SPL at 1 meter
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Apple Airplay, Wi-Fi, Spotify Connect
Weight: roughly 25 pounds
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