Devialet Gold Phantom review: Devialet’s gold-plated speaker is a 22-karat corker
With a stunning design, you’re not paying for the sound, but the materials used to create this ludicrously expensive wireless speaker
Ever wondered what every audiophile wants for Christmas? How about a gold-plated wireless speaker, or two? Of course, that’s if you’ve got a rich heritage, but in case you don’t the investment might still be worth it.
Having already reviewed the original Devialet Phantom a couple of years ago, and loving its way of portraying sound, the new 22-karat gold-plated Devialet Gold Phantom is even more expensive and provides, even more power to annoy your neighbors.
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On paper, this £2,190 speaker does look enticing, apart from its ridiculous 4,500W of output power of course. This wireless Bluetooth speaker is no ordinary one, as thanks to its audio prowess, is able to deliver sound that’ll produce seismographic levels of audio output. So, is it all bling or does the speaker provide something new to the table?
And, with its unique design, it’s hard to think of anything that’s on the same level as the £2,190 Devialet Gold Phantom. Its main competitor is, ironically, the regular £1,400 Devialet Silver Phantom speaker, which has a lower-grade DAC (digital-to-analogue converter), misses out on the 22-karat gold trim.
If you’re looking to pair two Devialet Gold Phantom speakers, you’ll need to purchase the £250 Devialet Dialog Wireless Hub. But look on the bright side: after purchasing that, you’ll be able to connect up to 24 speakers with the system. And if you have that sort of money, lucky you.
Devialet Gold Phantom review: Build quality and design
The design is beautiful, mesmerising, the very definition of supremium (ahem). The sphere-shaped speaker looks like a mini-nuclear reactor; admittedly, I’ve never actually seen a mini-nuclear reactor, but this is what I imagine one would look like. Alternatively, you could describe it as something out of Area 51. If you don’t know where that is, you’re already lost.
No matter what you describe it as, the speaker looks fantastic, at least in my eyes. From the carved-out details surrounding the front-facing tweeter, to the overactive woofers on either side that make it look like it will fly off like a giant bee, it looks incredible.
It would be hard to ignore its centrepiece, though. The 22-karat gold-plated panels on either side of the speaker make the speaker stand out like the Shard in London. These gold panels look amazing, albeit a little bit over the top.
Around the back you’ll find a heatsink radiator that keeps the speaker from overheating, two inconveniently placed inputs – an optical input and an Ethernet port – and its AC power input.
The speaker weighs 11.4kg and measures 253mm wide, 255mm tall and 343mm deep – it’s not designed to be an easy thing to carry around, despite the fact that it comes with its own bowling-ball-style carrying case.
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Devialet Gold Phantom review: Spark app
The Devialet isn’t just a weird-looking active speaker, though: it’s also fully wireless, and boasts multi-room features via the Spark app. This is available on both Android and iOS and is necessary in order to connect to the speaker(s) and manage your multi-room setup. You’ll need to follow the instructions to complete the setup. When it’s in pairing mode, the woofers give you a visual prompt that pulses – it’s rather cute.
The app’s functionalities are rather basic. Beyond its setup capabilities, you’ll be able to browse music that’s on your device, and control other Devialet speakers that reside on your network. However, if you’re looking to stream directly from popular music services such as Spotify and Tidal, you’ll need to purchase the £250 Devialet Dialog Wireless Hub.
Still, you can achieve this from your phone via Bluetooth and the speaker supports a wide variety of codecs, including aptX, AAC and regular SBC. On the plus side, you can also install Spark on your desktop (Windows 7 and above and macOS 10.9 and above) and the cross-platform integration makes it seamless to move from one device to the other.
Devialet Gold Phantom review: Sound quality
It looks great as a coffee-table talking point, but how does the Gold Phantom sound? Ultimately, the Devialet Gold Phantom is a work of art in both its design and sonic capabilities. Powered by an aluminium mid-range driver, a grade 1 titanium tweeter at the front and two aluminum bass drivers on either side, the speaker is accurate and can reach extremely high volumes.
Upgraded from the Texas Instruments PCM1798 DAC from the Devialet Silver Phantom, the Gold Phantom has an in-house Devialet DAC with embedded ADHV2 intelligence, which is the company’s own patented technology, and allows it to blend “the sophistication of Class A analog with all the power and compactness of Class D digital technology”. To my ears, it results in a clean sound that isn’t hampered by any unwanted noise or distortion.
Even at peak volume, the speaker’s woofers aren’t fazed. That’s 4,500W of power by the way, with a quoted 108dB SPL at one metre; in other words, enough to pump your house into another dimension. The speaker’s ability to deliver such a loud sound is a testament to Devialet’s craftsmanship and tuning. The DAC is also capable of playing high-resolution 24-bit, 192kHz audio files over Wi-Fi.
When the speaker is cranked up, the sheer amount of sub-bass is astoundingly good. The mid-bass slam is clean, precise, accurate and extremely well reproduced. And it isn’t just quantity, but quality too. Capable of extending down to 14Hz with no audible distortion, the sub-bass extends astonishingly well and isn’t overdone. It’s so good you’d think there was a massive subwoofer in your room.
Naturally, you’d think the mids are drowned out and recessed. Not a bit of it. The mid-range is forward-sounding, with vocals surprisingly taking the focus. In Portugal The Man’s “Feel It Still”, the voices aren’t overshadowed by the mid-bass slam or the beat.
It doesn’t end there. Thanks to its grade 1 titanium tweeter, the highs extend remarkably well. There’s no audible roll-off, and why would there be, with an impressive 27kHz ceiling. In Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl”, cymbals are unbelievably crisp and accurate-sounding, and there’s no sibilance to Jackson’s voice at all. Devialet has done a fantastic job here; the new improved tweeter on the Gold Phantom really shines through.
But its soundstage and instrument separation are both disappointing. In spacious songs such as ZHU’s “Stardust”, music is congested, claustrophobic, uni-directional and lacks space to breathe. There simply isn’t enough distinction between different notes and positional cues are rather poor. I expected better here, but it’s to be expected from a mono speaker that has a forward-firing speaker design.
On the other hand, tonality and imaging are accurate; just don’t expect a warm woody sound from a speaker with a composite body and an external ABS plastic housing.
Devialet Gold Phantom review: Verdict
Despite all its prowess, this speaker isn’t worth paying £2,190 for – especially as you only get one speaker with mono output, resulting in a rather claustrophobic soundstage. I’d expect more from a premium hi-fi product costing this much, but if you want more from the Gold Phantom you’ll need to purchase a set of Gold Phantoms and a Devialet Dialog wireless hub, which will set you back a cool £4,630.
But this isn’t your ordinary speaker: it’s a statement of wealth. If you have the cash at hand and understand its limitations, then go for it: the Devialet Gold Phantom will deliver a truly unique listening experience and you can be sure that not many other people will own one.