Every now and then, a product comes along that looks to me just plain unearthly, like something recovered from a UFO. The latest alien artefact is this, a self-contained speaker and amplifier called Phantom, from Parisian company Devialet, which in eight years has grown from a startup to one of the most accomplished high-end hifi amplifier companies in the world. Devialet’s amps typically cost between €5,000 and €23,000, so even though a basic stereo Phantom system – two Phantoms and a router called Dialog – comes in at €3,697, it’s something of a bargain considering that Devialet has put 10 years of research and 77 patents into its attempt to produce, in its words, “the best music reproduction system in the world”.
I’m not sure it has done quite that, but Phantom makes a unique and magnificent sound more punchy and emotional than anything else I’ve heard. Devialet is so excited about the system it describes it not as an active loudspeaker but an Implosive Sound Centre, which makes sense because when it’s roaring away there’s a density to the sound that brings to mind an explosion in a constricted space. Both the hybrid digital/analogue amplification and loudspeakers are pretty revolutionary -– the speaker design brief was to make them sound like something 20 times bigger than their 35cm dinosaur egg-shaped form, and the distinctive feature of a Phantom at full, awesome blast is a gigantic, soul-affecting bass. See those round bits at the side? Each is a massive woofer that vibrates in and out too fast to see, but actually travels a few centimetres with each pulse with a force that could move a 30kg mass. Devialet calls this Heart Bass Implosion – again, both poetic and fitting.
The company’s aim is to make Phantoms the only audio equipment you need, for anything from playing music on your smartphone to a home cinema, and I’m taken with it. If I had somewhere to allow music to truly let rip, I would seriously consider buying a couple of the most powerful (3,000-watt) Silver Phantoms with the Branch stands and the Dialog. I’m not sure the sound is exactly hifi as audiophiles know it (and the Spark control app was flaky and difficult in the early version I tried), but Phantom offers superb entertainment and, thanks to its chic design, stunning equipment to admire even when it’s off.