The History of Hi-Fi is notable for being driven by the visions and aspirations of mavericks. Those who sought to better the world of audio through their own obsessions and passions. It’s probably fair to say that no Hi-Fi company in recent times have been more maverick, more daring, more visionary and more passionate than that of Tech Start-up Devialet.
You may already have heard of Devialet; Their products have received reviews and accolades from dedicated Hi-Fi press, and unusually – main-stream publications such as Bloomberg News & The Telegraph. Devialet also boast a list of celebrity endorsers and A-List celebs such as Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z. All this from a company which was founded less than a decade ago.
Join us now on another of Audio Affair’s journeys into the history of Hi-Fi, with our exploration into the world of Devialet.
AN ENGINEERING QUEST – NEW SONIC FIDELITY
As is so often the case, the story of Devialet begins with an engineer working out of hours, on a personal quest to solve a unique challenge; After the turn of the millenium, research engineer Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel was working for the telecommunications giant Nortel. His personal quest, was to create ‘The Ultimate Amplifier’. The requirements Calmel set were uniquely demanding: Fuse the technologies of Analogue and Digital amplification.
To understand why someone would attempt this challenge, it pays to examine the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of both technologies:
Class A amplification has long been held as the sonic ideal for amplifier topology. It’s renowned for faithfully amplifying the input signal with very low output distortion. Unfortunately – the downside is very poor efficiency. Class A amplifiers typically run at only 25% peak efficiency with the rest of the energy being turned into heat.
Class D amplification, on the other hand, is capable of excellent efficiency with the result that Class D amplifiers can be much smaller and lighter. The downside, is that Class D amplifiers rarely come close to competing with a Class A amplifier for fidelity.
Calmel’s ‘Eureka’ moment, was to fuse the two technologies to create his ‘perfect amplifier’. A Class A amplifier providing the voltage input, with a Class D amplifier managing the current demands of the amplifier. In 2004 Calmel filed a patent for his new amplifier, and left Nortel for pastures new…
DEVIALET IS BORN
Having left Nortel, with patent safely ‘under his arm’ -Calmel set about finding like minded individuals to harness this new technology. He found just such people in the shape of Mathias Moronvalle, engineer, Emmanuel Nardin, designer and Quentin Sannié, entrepreneur. The group of Maverick upstarts was completed by Manuel De La Fuente, salesman.
By 2006, the new company had produced a working prototype amplifier – and the following year in 2007 Devialet was founded. The name itself is an amalgam of the surnames of two inspirational 18th Century Frenchman: Denis Diderot – writer, philosopher, playwright and encyclopedist. Guillaume Viallet – a comrade of Diderot, who was an inspector of bridges and highways.
It seems entirely fitting that the name of the new company was created from the fusion of an art critic and an engineer. As we shall see, everything about Devialet embodies the fusion of engineering excellence with high art and design.
DEVIALET – BOLD NEW DESIGNS FOR A NEW CENTURY
Devialet had, by 2010, consoldated Calmel’s revolutionary amplifier technology under the banner of ADH (Analogue Digital Intelligence) Hybrid. Devialet’s debut product, the D-Premier Integrated Amplifier, was the first ever unit to utilise Devialet’s patented ADH technology. The D-Premier immediately impressed reviewers with its rare combination of detail, transparency and low noise, whilst at the same time avoiding a clinical, emotionless delivery.
Another, unavoidable quality of the D-Premier, was its beautiful industrial design. It was clear that Devialet were setting out their stall as manufacturers of equipment which combined both exceptional engineering and audio performance, with eye-catching and highly desirable design and aesthetics.
The awards and patents flowed like champagne at a celebrity party. At the time of writing, Devialet can boast 108 Patents and 62 awards. All this, remember, for a company which released its first product in 2010!
THE PHANTOM PROJECT
If Devialet’s range of integrated amplifiers seemed extraordinary, what was to follow proved that ‘You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet‘.
In 2012 – Devialet began a project which was to give birth to one of the most extraordinary examples of audio design, ever produced; The Devialet Phantom. The Phantom project, headed once again by the visionary Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel, successfully raised a budget of 15 million Euros from a team of entrepreneurial investors. Calmel then surrounded himself by a team of 40 acoustic engineers, mechanics, and specialists in electronics , signal processing and computer technology.
Three years of research, design and development were dedicated to the Phantom project, which bore remarkable results: 88 Patents were registered by Devialet as a result of the project. Additionally, the research led to the miniaturisation of Devialet’s ADH technology down to a chip no larger than 1 cm 2
THE PHANTOM IS BORN
A launch event at London’s world-famous Harrod’s department store, birthed Devialet’s radical new baby to the world. A remarkable wireless speaker system, which combined incredible audio quality with truly unique design – the Phantom was a hit.
Comprising three models: The ‘entry level’ 750w Phantom, the 3000 watt Silver Phantom and the range topping 4500W Gold Phantom. All three redefine what we’ve come to accept from a ‘wireless speaker’. Just one look at the Phantom should confirm that; A starkly futurist ‘Egg’, if you will – the phantom is a striking Objet D’art which would be as much at home in an art gallery, as it is entertaining at home.
The three years of research and millions of Euros of financial investment are immediately clear to appreciate. From gut shaking bass to crystalline highs, the Phantom delivers in bucketfulls. It is arguably here, in the Phantom, that Calmel’s vision of a compact, lightweight, efficient, powerful, great sounding amplifier has truly found its home. It’s unlikely the Phantom would have been the success is it without Calmel’s ADH amplifier technology, powering the Phantom’s groundbreaking four speaker system.
The Phantom impressed in mutliple situations. It can be used as a solo ‘wireless’ speaker, or coupled wirelessly, via Devialet’s Dialog networking hub to other Phantom’s. Up to 24 Phantoms can be connected in this way – either as separate mono units, or stereo pairs. With Devialet’s Spark App – true multi-room high fidelity, is truly achievable.
It’s all come a long way from Calmel’s laboratory back at Nortel, but no-one can deny the fruits of his labours.
For more information on the Devialet Phantom, check out our recent blog article on the Phantom Silver.
If you’d like to hear one in person, please contact us at Audio Affair – we’d be happy to oblige!