DEVIALET PHANTOM: A (hopefully) balanced view

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The thread starts: Hi chaps,

A couple of weeks ago I received a Devialet Phantom (Standard white model) to use as a second system in our spare room, which opens up to the back garden.

Main system is a Chord Hugo / Jadis Orchestra Ref SE / Harbeth P3ESR, which I absolutely love. I did own a Devialet 120 for 18 months which I liked very much (And preferred, for several reasons, to many other amps I had tried) but the Jadis took me by surprise one day and it was a keeper.

Anyway, I have been trying various systems as a versatile second system - to be played in the room and also moved easily into the garden. I quite liked the Shahinian Arcs for this aspect. But, still needed to faff around with moving dacs, amps and cables when hanging out in the garden, and needing to position the speakers near the doors so I could hear them better.

I took a punt on the Phantom as it's an affordable, flexible and intruiging alternative. There's quite a mixed reaction to the Phantoms for how they sound, so I thought to offer a (hopefully) balanced view.

I found the Phantom fairly easy to set up, and out of the box it brings a pretty impressive scale and a decent sound, but I did find it a little dark and bassy at lower volumes. I then placed it on a 50cm wooden stool, away from the walls, and it started to open up more, with less boom, and the mids and details were projecting quite nicely. Still, not perfect though.

When turning it up a a little (40%+) things became a lot more balanced I could really start to see what all the fuss was about. No distortion, no emphasis, just an even, powerful, gutsy and life-like sound started filling the room. This is just with one unit, and I imagine two units are fantastic. Moving further away, and even outside, it becomes spooky with its realism. I was sitting in the garden listening to some Nick Drake, Jono Mccleery and Grey Reverend, which worked particularly well in mono from a distance – and it was just sublime. I was thinking, this is perfect, they've nailed it!

Returning to the room the day after, listening at lover levels, it sounded like a boom box – just congested, bassy, and lacking a natural sound. On discovering the night setting (knocks the bass off a little) things opened up a lot more, and in the smallish room (4 x 4.5m) it was sounding pretty good. I normally have this setting on for day to day listening.

Comparing to the main system, it doesn't have the air and delicacy of the Jadis / Harbeths, although when things get a bit louder it starts to overtake with a more balanced sound and more scale. We all know that valves and Harbeths are not made for these sorts of contests! Anyway, the 'old' system has nothing to worry about. Perhaps two Phantoms would be a different story, if we were to ever let them into the lounge 🙂

So, my verdict is the Phantom is an impressive design that probably beats any other lifestyle system out there, and I imagine two units will compete with some pretty high end systems when set up right. Downsides are that I think they could do with an update that balances the sound better at lower volumes. And I don't really like the design so much, I'm a fan of classic designs, however one Phantom unit on its own has a pretty iconic look in the right interior.

Also, I agree with previous comments that many of the demos are probably sounding awful because they're smashing out some awful bass heavy music to show their capability, but I think they have so much more to offer with some well recorded music, in a quiet room, as per any decent system.

Overall, I'm 'mostly' happy with it. It seems like very good value, it's really versatile and has some impressive moments. You can throw anything at it and it will never falter. I probably couldn't have picked something more contrasting to my much loved classic valve / BBC system, but it complements it nicely in its own room with its own requirements. Here's to appreciating the old AND the new!

It has been getting such mixed reviews on the forums, from the fanboys to the haters, hope this is useful to read. As always, go hear one (or two) for yourself.

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