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Who doesn’t love going to the cinema? There’s a sense of occasion and anticipation - you get your snacks, you settle into your seat in front of that big screen, the curtain opens and the volume swells. But what if you want to go out but you want to stay home? How do you recreate that cinematic experience with a home theater system?

Well, the audio is a big part of it. We’ve done the homework on the specs and the listening experience to round up some home theater speaker systems that will suit any space and a variety of budgets. And what time better than now, with Oscar winners out on Blu-Ray?

Here’s Part 1 featuring Devialet.

Product tested: Phantom Gold

Configuration tested: 1, 2, 5 and 7 speakers

Punch factor: Explosive

Fidelity: Excellent

Devialet is a relatively new player that’s had a lot written about it. Most of which can be summarised as ‘The tech sounds fancy but is it actually that good?’

In a word? Yes. It will give you the punch you need for high-octane films, it will probably drown out whatever your neighbours are watching and you may even expect a Jaeger to crash through your building. And it does all this at an impressive level of clarity across the dynamic range.

OK, maybe not THAT realistic. Image copyright Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Essentially, Devialet has done this by combining the all-round performance of a Class A amplifier with the best of a Class D (like efficiency with low-power input). And they’ve integrated it into a sleek, low-vibration package with a sub-woofer, mid-range driver and tweeter. But what does that mean? To find out, we tilted a critical ear towards it with select scenes from The Last Jedi and Mother - from Blu-Ray-quality sources, of course. (Note: you can cable Phantoms with optical connections or set them up with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but bear in mind that Bluetooth’s bitrate is too low for high-quality audio such as Blu-Ray - it will be compressed to a lower quality.)

With one Phantom: More than we expected.

Even with only the centre channel, the sound is surprisingly full and the bass travels remarkably well - if you’re watching something with sound towards the low end of human hearing be prepared for it to give you the jitters. And the power shifts without distortion - a big moment, sudden explosion, punchy part in the score? Reproduced here incredibly well and with brilliant clarity. Remember it’s a mono setup, which limits it a bit spatially. But if fidelity with a good amount of power is your aim you won’t be disappointed.

With two Phantoms: Satisfying and full.

All of the above plus of course it feels fuller with the physical separation of the speakers. Reverb is produced really well from the source - it’s starting to feel cinematic. (Side note: you’ll need a controller to manage input to output channels if you have more than one Phantom.) We listened to some music through this setup as well, and bass, mid and high all sounded excellent, especially for strongly vocal music (European speakers are known for this).

With five Phantoms: OK, now we’re talking.

This is actually 5.5 surround, as each Phantom has a sub-woofer. They’re arranged in a ring, with tweeters and mid-range drivers pointing towards the centre. Dialogue is still focused from the centre (depending on the source, but that’s usually the way it’s encoded) with other sounds arrayed around the ring. The controller faithfully reproduces sounds that travel around and behind. Raptors got you surrounded? What a shame - but your death will sound great.

Hey! You guys wanna watch a movie? Image copyright Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc

With seven Phantoms: Wait, seven?

Yeah, you might not seriously be looking at seven Phantoms, but with 7.1 audio on the market for those with 7.1 speaker systems we had to test 7.7 - for science, you understand. And what a test it was. Everything we’ve said about the 5.5 setup applies here but it feels even more epic, and is the closest experience to cinema audio we’ve felt outside of one. The floor rumbles, so do your back teeth, and everything - everything - sounds incredibly full, from a Star Destroyer engine to a lightsaber clash. If you decide to take the plunge, Devialet will send engineers to your house to make sure the installation and setup are optimised.


There’s excellent response through the frequency ranges, the controller handles crossover seamlessly, and spikes in volume and bass are pumped out without distortion. If you want to nitpick (and that’s our job), experienced audiophiles might wrinkle their noses at the lack of control over crossovers, the inability to choose your own digital-analogue converter and a possible lack of definition compared to having a more differentiated setup. But that is nitpicking.

But with all that in mind, the best thing is that if you don’t want to take our word for it you can check it out yourself in Devialet’s demonstration room - go to it!