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Review: Devialet Phantom, the $2000 single-unit Bluetooth speaker that aims to replace your hi-fi system


I’m a strong advocate of the philosophy of buying the right thing once. My view is for any activity you care about a lot, it’s cheaper in the long run to buy an expensive product that will keep you happy for a great many years – maybe even for a lifetime – than a cheap product you’ll end up wanting to replace a few years down the line. Buy cheap, buy twice, as they say.

My hi-fi system is a great example. When I was a lot younger, I splashed out on a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi system that was more than twice the price of everything else I tested. Twenty years on, it now looks like an extraordinarily good value. It’s so old it has a cassette deck (yes, really!), but all it took to bring it back up to date was the addition of a simple Wi-Fi audio receiver to add AirPlay support.

Standalone Bluetooth speakers have therefore been of very limited interest to me – and I’d never have dreamed that one could ever replace a proper hi-fi system. So I was intrigued by one that claimed it could: the Devialet Phantom. As if that wasn’t enough to capture my interest, Devialet is a company with a serious reputation when it comes to high-end audio: they make the amps B&W uses to demo their speakers at audio shows. And yes, I’ll admit that part of what made me want to try it was my profound skepticism that any Bluetooth speaker could be worth $1,990 …

There’s all kinds of clever audio tech in the unit, but the core of it – what Devialet is known for – is what the company calls ADH, or Analog/Digital Hybrid. The unit actually uses both analog and digital amplifiers, operating in parallel. While audiophiles tend to be somewhat dismissive of digital amps, Devialet says that the combination actually delivers better results than a standalone analog amp.

A genuine class A amplifier directly connected to the speaker drives the output voltage: as the master, it sets the sound of the whole ADH core. That’s why what we hear is pure analog sound.

Several class D amplifiers are added in parallel to provide the speaker with the current it requires to sustain the output voltage. They act as slaves to the master class A amplifier, minimizing its workload.

Devialet uses the analogy of power steering. The driver (the analog amp) is in charge, but the power steering system (the digital amps) reduce the physical workload on the driver.

Most Devialet kit runs into five figures, so getting access to this technology for $2000 makes the Phantom, relatively speaking, a bargain. But let’s start at the beginning.

First impressions

Most product first impressions begin when you remove it from the packaging and take a look at it. Sometimes the packaging itself is pretty enough to become the first impression. In the Phantom’s case, I got my first impression as soon as the delivery guy handed it to me: this thing weighs a ton! Ok, not actually a ton, but 26 pounds. That’s an incredible weight for something so small.

The packaging is both beautiful and functional. You slide off the sleeve, then simply pull the box open, dropping the speaker gently onto the floor. This method ensures you don’t have to hold it by any of the speakers themselves, which would risk damaging them.


What you then see is something which looks like a cross between a vacuum cleaner and R2-D2.

Usually I can tell you immediately what I think of the aesthetic appeal of a design, but with the Phantom, it was actually quite hard to say. The resemblance to a vacuum cleaner is a little unfortunate, given the rather vast chasm in price between the two devices, but at the same time there’s no denying that it looks special. I think I’ll just call it unique.

Steve Jobs himself would have approved of the controls. There is precisely one: a power button that doubles as a reset button. Volume control is done from the music source, which is very sensible as you wouldn’t want to get too close to it when it’s at anything close to max volume!

It’s a Bluetooth speaker, so connecting to it is done in Settings on an iPhone and in the speaker selector in iTunes (you can, of course, also choose to output all Mac sounds to it, but I really wouldn’t recommend hearing system sounds through this thing!).

If you prefer wired connections, there are both Ethernet and TOSLINK ports tucked away inside a flap at the back. Pull off the power cable to reveal them. Which is one small complaint: the cable is yellow. Cables, where necessary at all, should of course be black.


The volume curve is quite strange when using the iPhone as the music source. If you use the volume buttons, there are 16 segments, and the speaker is really quiet until you reach about 11 or 12, then it gets very loud, very quickly. It’s a much more normal curve when using the volume slider in the Music app.

The standard Phantom is 750 watts with a maximum sound pressure – aka volume – of 99dB at one meter. That actually beats my BeoLab 6000 speakers – yep, the pair of them – which top out at 96dB. The unit I was sent is the even louder Phantom Silver ($2,390). This has an incredible 3000 watts of power, generating 105dB (remember, decibels are logarithmic, so 105dB is much louder than 99dB). Yes, you read that right: a single unit can actually output the maximum legal sound volume for … a nightclub.

I’ve never run my BeoLabs at max volume beyond a brief test, and couldn’t imagine doing so with this. When I did so briefly just to test it, I went and warned my neighbors first. As with my BeoLab speakers, even maxed out there was zero distortion.


The bass is truly something you feel in your chest. The frequency range starts at 16Hz, which is well below the threshold of human hearing, but you can definitely feel it. The top end is 25kHz – so it has serious range.

The bass was an issue for me. We have wooden floors and minimal furniture, causing sound reflections if speakers are not flat against a wall. Which you can’t really do with the Phantom, as Devialet says the sound is omnidirectional. That’s a slight exaggeration, as there isn’t too much direct sound pumped out at the rear of the unit, but it’s otherwise true, so it was actually quite hard to position without getting a double hit of bass – original and reflected. I had to position in right in a corner of the room to minimize this, and still needed to use the iTunes equalizer to tone down the bass somewhat.

But if you’re a bass fan, you will love this. Just make sure your building insurance covers destruction by sound waves.


There was one other issue for me. I like stereo separation, and this is a mono speaker. You can pair them up over Wi-Fi (in fact, you can network up to 24 of them), but you’re then looking at $4,000 for a pair, plus the cost of the $329 Dialog box needed to connect them. Sure, you’d be able to use the combined sound output to carry out demolitions of small planets, but even so, that’s a huge premium just to get stereo sound.

But if you can live without stereo separation (which I accept is mostly useful for live recordings), then in these days when you don’t need anything other than a Mac or an iPhone as a music source, the Phantom is essentially a complete, top-quality, room-filling hi-fi system in an extremely compact single unit. That’s a truly amazing achievement, even for $2,000.

Devialet Phantom is available from selected retailersIf you want something whose price is a little more accessible, Seth’s roundup of the best Bluetooth speakers concluded that the Bose SoundLink Mini II ($200) had the best sound quality, while the UE Roll ($90) was the best option for an extremely portable speaker suitable for outdoor use.

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  1. Julian (@thejulianw) - 7 years ago

    Man that thing is ugly and looks so cheap.
    And then it doesn’t even have AirPlay support. Ridiculous imo.

    • About the design, I’m not a fan myself.
      About the rest, just try to find a place they have these and give them a listen. They are truely impressive. There is absolutely no distortion at any volume.
      The bass booming in your chest is really incredible, something you usually feel only in concert halls or clubs.
      I can tell you, there is absolutely nothing cheap about this.

      So, when you call it ridiculous, I like the fact that you say “imo” ; because talking about a speaker when you have never heard a sound coming out of it is quite shallow, isn’t it?

  2. modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

    This product has peeked my interest, mainly because its designed and made by Devialet and its ‘only’ a couple of grand.This company’s high-end HiFi products have gotten rave reviews across the board, pretty much from every audiophile publication out there! And they’re very pricey and stylish too…far more stylish than this. But their sound quality is supposed to be superb! If true a product of this price from a company like Devialet, should be good value for money. So I can forgive the styling, anyway its not that bad…

  3. I’m not sure how anyone can consider this hi-fi if it’s using bluetooth. That is a lossy format. Even the better “aptX” bluetooth protocol isn’t supported within most devices, let alone “aptX Lossless”. I understand you can do a hard wired connection but meh.

  4. I wouldn’t trade in a Beosystem 2500 for this guy :-)

  5. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

    Um, there’s a little error. B&W owns Classe’ amps, so they use them most of the time. If they use anything OTHER than Classe’ amps, it’s because a retail store set up the system vs the mfg. At these Hi-Fi shows they have both mfg booths and retail store booths setting up complete systems. So, you have to qualify first who is setting up the booth at these HiFi shows. Yes, Devialet is used at HiFi shows to power various other speakers because they have one of the top AIO power DAC.

    As far as these speakers are concerned, I have read they are better for Electronic/Pop music rather than acoustic music (classical, jazz) as they just don’t have the realism of other speakers. But if you want clear sound and you listen to more modern electronic oriented music, they are a very nice all in one setup that’s has that High Tech modern look.

    They are extremely well made and very substantial units weighing in at 11kgm per unit.

    Obviously they aren’t for everyone, but for those with the cash, they do sound great and are units you can link throughout the house.

    I believe it supports AirPlay when you have them hooked up to a Deviate Dialog unit to an Apple TV/AirPort Express via Toslink.

  6. Lane Cipriani (@ozlanus) - 7 years ago

    For that price, look at the Beoplay A9 ( – it does Airplay, Bluetooth, and DLNA. And it looks incredible, and more importantly sounds incredible – thunderous yet controlled bass with a sweet, open midrange. DSP options handle positioning (wall, corner, freestanding) to eliminate placement issues.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Yes, I haven’t tried the Beoplay A9, though I’d expect it to be fantastic. Nothing like the same power, though.

  7. For 2 grand it better be able get me a cold beer too!

  8. Ilko Sarafski - 7 years ago

    Great review, Ben! I immediately checked it, and I hope I’ll be able to try (buy?) it sometimes! :)
    So, does it have to be on the ground? Because it seems quite small, like 15cm high to 20cm wide or something like that? It looks a bit funny – so powerful device, which looks like a football (soccer) ball, to stay on the floor. You said few things about the bass, but what about the highs? DId you test any operas?
    Thanks once again!

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      It’s great throughout the frequency range. It is very heavy, so you’d need to be careful if mounting it off the ground. Opera isn’t my thing, I’m afraid! I tested mostly with singer-songwriter, acoustic and pop.

  9. This speaker is really good if you have all the perfect conditions but when you don’t it feels really overpriced. I had the opportunity to stress test this thing. It shines with lossless files and a blazing wifi connection. The bluetooth connection sounds cheep for the price your paying. The problem them comes with the software you MUST use to connect to the speaker via wifi. Another thing to consider: while having to rely on their app for wifi connection, Tidal and two others are the only built in streaming services. This speaker is very comparable to getting a 5.1 setup with Sonos except your paying more and getting one speaker. If you have the wifi, pay for Tidal, or have a large digital lossless collection that is bass/pop leaning: this this is for you. Which is great… if your into all that. Also I don’t think you mentioned this: if your actually use Tidal or those other 2 streaming services you will HAVE to have the $329 Dialog Box!

  10. eninety2 - 7 years ago

    Hey Ben, what case do you have on your phone?

  11. freediverx - 7 years ago

    A $2000 bluetooth speaker with $19.95 product design.

  12. One thing that was not mentioned, and might make the reviewer end up owning the Phantom longer than his B&O’s, is that Phantoms will be upgraded through software/firmware updates. Devialet started this with their amplifiers and it was quite astonishing to hear them keep getting better and better. I’m sure that will also be the case with the Phantom’s. In fact Devialet is also talking about adding new functionality.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Yes, will be interesting to see what Devialet does with that. Though no chance of keeping it longer than my B&O: the Phantom goes back tomorrow.

  13. davidhunternyc - 7 years ago

    Thank you for your considered review. Yes, I think the speakers are kind of ugly. If I got these I would get the Phantom Silver for the power but I just don’t like the cheap silver spray painted color on them. I would prefer them to be all white, all black, or perhaps more interesting, all chromed: then they would really look like something from Mars.

  14. davidhunternyc - 7 years ago

    A couple of more comments. Would you do a review comparing the Devialet Sliver Phantom vs. the Naim Muso (perhaps a video review)? Also, I have heard Bluetooth and AirPlay and I agree that these lossy formats are not optimal, especially not on a $2,000 speaker. Has Devialet checked into integrating a lossless format such as SKAA into their Phantoms?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      I’ll check out the Mu-so, thanks. On lossless, not as far as I’m aware. Although the company undeniably has the hifi creds, I suspect this product is primarily being marketed to those who want the volume …


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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