Devialet at AXPONA: Raising the (Sound) Bar

The AXPONA experience is head-spinning in more ways than one. So many rooms, so many people to meet, so much gear to listen to. And so much regret when you realize that you can't fit it all into two or three days, unless each day were to last as long as it does it on Mercury. (Maybe one day we'll have audio shows there—sign me up!)

Another head-spinner occurred Saturday morning when I had to almost forcibly drag myself off the listening couch in the 16th-floor Avantgarde Acoustic room, where dCS front-end gear and a pair of gargantuan Trio G3 horn speakers ($180,000) had bowled me over with perhaps the most heavenly, enveloping sound of the entire show. Why did I leave? Because I had an appointment at the Devialet room on the same floor to listen to...(drum roll) a Dolby Atmos soundbar.

The odd thing is, though, that the Devialet Dione ($2400) wasn't a letdown. Did it reach even 1/10th of the performance the Trios had turned in? That's a negatory. Was I nonetheless chuffed to hear a relatively modest component turn out arresting sonics that ably filled the room? An unreserved yes.

For good-quality, no-fuss TV and movie sound in my living room back home, I use a Dolby Atmos-equipped Samsung HW-N950 soundbar ($1700), connected via an HDMI ARC input. It's quite spiffing, but the fact that Samsung calls it a bar is a bit of a cheat. That's 'cause the N950 comes with three auxiliary wireless speakers (two powered rear satellites and a smallish subwoofer).

With the Dione, Devialet plays it straight. The product is a single-box solution that weighs 26lb and measures 47" across. On board are 17 drivers with neodymium magnets, housed within a core of anodized aluminum, the whole structure wrapped in ABS plastic and acoustic cloth with the exception of an orb-shaped center-channel driver. The black sphere protrudes from the middle of the bar and can be rotated and pointed at the listening position, depending on whether the user has the Dione sitting on a flat surface or hanging on the wall. Total amplification is 950W with all drivers playing in multichannel format. An internal DAC provides audio resolution up to 24/96.

The Devialet team told me the Dione slams down to 24Hz, whereas the company's spec sheet claims the product's low frequencies bottom out at 30Hz. After the show, Devialet's John Mahoney explained that this specification depends on tweaking of the DSP, and in the settings they finally agreed on, the low-end extension "was eventually baked in at 24Hz."

Measurements aside, the Dione sounded sure of itself—bordering on lifelike—in how it sonically painted a helicopter that hovered overhead in an Atmos test recording. There was no obvious scarcity of bass—as befits a company that partly made its name with the very generous bottom end of its Phantom I and II powered speakers.

Optionally, the Dione's proprietary upscaling algorithm can be used to process mono and stereo music, rendering the signal as a virtual 5.1.2 recording. Most purists will probably call that heresy. Me, I'm down for hearing more of what the Dione can do with music and movies alike. Take away my audiophile card if you must, but from time to time I've really enjoyed listening to Amazon 3D music on the pair of Alexa Studio speakers in my bedroom. The technology can only get better, and Devialet seems to have just upped the game a notch or two.

George S's picture

God I loved that Avantgarde room. The most ridiculous setup ever as I think I could ALMOST touch the subs if I sat on the edge of the couch, and I don't have crazy long monkey arms, but the sound....Holy Hell.

But wow..that setup...utterly hilarious as the subs come up close to my shoulders and gave a new meaning to near-field listening.