Is it an “implosive sound center” that offers, in Devialet’s words, “The Best Sound in the World—1000 Times Superior to Current Systems,” or can it double duty as a vacuum cleaner? Such thoughts crossed my mind as a Phantom listener, standing behind a curtain, fed techno music to the Phantom ($1990) and Silver Phantom ($2390) at #CES2015 whose side panels hypnotically pumped in and out as it flooded a large-ish suite in the Mirage with the driving beat of loud music that you would have expect coming from a pair of huge towers and a ginormous subwoofer.
According to Devialet, the Phantom takes advantage of “three major engineering inventions involving 77 patents. An Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) intelligent amplification directed by a powerful microprocessor, drives the Phantom’s speaker.” As explained by Devialet in their previous training in Toronto, that means that a class-A analog amp sets the output voltage and drives the music, while four class-D amps, slaved to the master class-A amplifier, provide current in parallel. “This enables class-A to be more linear, with the lowest distortion on the market,” according to Iain Richardson from Plurison, the distributor of Devialet in Canada. Speaker Active Matching (SAM) processing technology then controls the drive-units, “reproducing the exact acoustic pressure recorded by the microphone.”
Second, the Phantom uses a unique “Heart Bass Implosion” system that produces ultra deep bass (down to 17 Hz at -2 dB !!) by high pressure beating of the unit’s two lateral high-excursion bass driver “wings.” Hence the similarity in appearance to a Dyson vacuum cleaner. In truth, the Phantom is far prettier, and, if its not turned on at ear-damaging levels while you’re unwittingly standing right next to it, a lot more fun.
Lastly, the Phantom’s spherical design creates a “homogenous sound no matter the listening angle.” I can’t verify that as I was listening to these speakers not in my home turf but in a room with unknown (to me) acoustic characteristics.
Fortunately, I was literally the first person at the suite that day (I was actually waiting for Michel Plante from Plurison to open the Devialet’s room for me) and had the luxury to evaluate Devialet’s claims that the Phantom has zero distortion, zero background noise, and zero saturation. Although there is no space to discuss everything laid out in the Phantom’s white paper, including the nature of “Magic Wire” and claims of 17Hz–25kHz bandwith, ±2dB, 20Hz–20kHz bandwidth, ±0.5dB, and 105dB maximum SPL (the legal limit in clubs and live concerts), I can attest the maximum SPL thanks to my iPhone 5S SPL app from Studio Six accompanied with a calibrated Dayton Audio mini microphone. On the frequency response front, my RTA (Also from Studio Six) shows that they can easily reproduce down to 22Hz with ease.
Although a proper test bench will need to be done, there is no question that Phantom is a whole lot more fun than anything I’ve run into in the audio world in a very long time, be it audiophile-class or home-theatre class.
Phantom should net Devialet a fortune. It might even change how people listen to music. Units will ship in Europe on February 15, with prices set for €1390 for the standard 750W Phantom with 99dB peak volume, and €1690 for the Silver Phantom, which claims 2000W and 105dB peak volume. Projected arrival date in the US and Canada is March 2015
Regardless, from my near-two-hour listening experience, the Phantoms are perhaps the most affordable high-end active speakers that easily can be used for both music and movies.