Introduced in Paris, France, at Devialet La Maison (December 10, 2014)
As I was having lunch with Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel, Devialet's cofounder and the inventor of the company's revolutionary ADH (Analog Digital Hybrid) amplifier technology, he reached over and picked up a colleague's Apple iPhone 6 to first praise but then criticize it. He applauded its shape, size, weight, and feel, but then he pointed to the camera lens and said, "I don't believe Steve Jobs would have allowed that." He could tell by my confused look that I didn't understand, so he pointed out that the lens protrudes slightly from the body, which makes the phone not only ever-so-slightly thicker than Apple claims, but also awkward when you rub your finger over it. It was obvious that Pierre-Emmanuel saw this as a design flaw, as he felt it should be aligned with the area around it. "I think he would have challenged his engineers to find a solution," he concluded.
Before Devialet's Manuel De La Fuente introduced me to the Phantom and Phantom Silver loudspeakers, he invited me into the company's boardroom to talk about something he felt was vital for me to understand -- that the resulting loudspeaker designs incorporated plenty of advanced, never-tried-before Devialet-created loudspeaker technologies, but that they were able to implement those new things only because of what the company had previously developed.
I understand enough about loudspeakers to know that when acoustic designer Antoine Petroff told me, "It all started with the acoustic design," he wasn't lying. It was apparent when a box was literally lifted off a table in front of me to reveal a Phantom loudspeaker underneath.
To say that I was impressed with the effort that went into designing the Devialet Phantom and Silver Phantom is as understated as saying Parisian fashion designers know a thing or two about making good-looking clothes. I was absolutely floored by the level of engineering that went into creating both Phantom designs -- acoustical, electrical, and mechanical. The company has gone all out in terms of industrial design, too. From what I could tell, it's left no stone unturned insofar as pushing forward the parameters of loudspeaker design -- or any expense, for that matter, since the effort, which took years, had to have cost a fortune. I was also impressed that the company is pushing forward with technologies that audiophiles have inexplicably resisted -- built-in amplification and digital signal processing, mostly -- because it's the smartest way to go if you're going to push the envelope. Still, the burning question for most audiophiles is: How does this Herculean exercise in audio engineering sound?
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