January 08 2011
This gleaming block of mirror-polished alloy, designed to hang on the wall like a work of art or lie flat (in which case it looks slightly like a pair of bathroom scales), is being hailed by unbelievably serious – nay, sombre – hi-fi critics as one of the best amplifiers ever – possibly even the best.
It’s called the Devialet D-Premier, comes from a new French company and costs £10,900. Now you will know that a serviceable – very decent, indeed – amplifier can be had for less than £200, which begs the question of whether the Devialet is worth 54 times as much as machines that do, superficially, the same. In the somewhat rarefied realm of high-end hi-fi, however, the Devialet is mid-range – and is causing some discomfiture among makers of more expensive – and less beautiful – kit. It is, indeed, an £11,000 bargain.
OK, I have been listening to the Devialet in propitious circumstances, via £58,000 speakers (Magico Q5) and fed by £57,000-worth of CD player (the Metronome Technologie Kalista Reference CD transport with C2A digital-to-analogue converter, since you ask). So, this “bargain” amp does like expensive company. But it’s just as happy teamed up with less fancy friends. The Devialet, you see, wasn’t really designed to be high-end hi-fi, with the snotty connotations that phrase embodies. It was conceived as the kind of “one-box solution” that brings hi-fi nerds out in hives – high quality, but beautiful and home-friendly.
Indeed, the Devialet company has its roots in aerospace – something you may appreciate if you get to open it up or, more likely, beg the dealer to open it up as a pre-condition to buying. I always like to look under the bonnet of a piece of technology, nod sagely and look as if I know what’s what inside. And, compared to most stuff whose innards I inspect, the Devialet looks like a captured component from a UFO, with not a wire or soldered joint to be seen. The technology, for reasons I don’t have the space (or brain) to explain, is revolutionary. And the sound? People’s response to recorded music is an individual thing and there are few absolutes. But, I promise, this is absolutely extraordinary.