Angel of Music
Devialet is turning heads with its eye-catching line of Phantom speakers, but the French acoustic engineering company hopes it’s the haunting,state-of-the-art sound that will linger in your ears.
In Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, set in 1880s Paris, a masked stranger lurks in the cavernous underground of the Opéra Garnier. Revealing himself as the Angel of Music to singer Christine Daaé, the phantom falls in love with her and eventually abducts her. But in a final change of heart, he releases Christine and dies alone.
Today, another phantom lives at the Opéra Garnier. It’s more stylish than obsessive, but has its own penchant for theatrics and a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s the Phantom line of speakers, produced by the French acoustic engineering company Devialet, whose showroom is in the legendary opera house.
Founded in 2007 by engineer Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel, entrepreneur Quentin Sannié and designer Emmanuel Nardin, Devialet has built its reputation, like most artistic acts, on its showmanship. That drama is on full display in Devialet’s Phantom series, ranging from the Reactor 600 and 900 (the number refers to its wattage) to the opera house’s namesake, the premier Gold Phantom Opéra de Paris, a 4,500-watt tour de force plated in 22-karat rose gold.
Made of sleek polycarbonate, the semispherical speakers are outfitted with woofers on each end that expand and contract, pulsating along with the music. There’s a wow factor, to be sure, but the Phantom’s creators hope the sound quality speaks for itself. It is, as they put it, “the best … in the world.”
For a tenant so dramatic — despite its compact size (16x17x22cm and 4.3kg), the Reactor 900 has a maximum volume of 98dB, enough to rival a full symphony orchestra — the opulent Opéra Garnier makes a fitting home. Prospective buyers can bookend their visit to Devialet’s “sound discovery area” with a performance in the auditorium and a tour of the opera house’s gilded sculptures, white marble staircase and immaculately painted salon ceiling.
While Devialet’s speakers — seemingly plucked from an art exhibition — are beauties in their own right, it’s their unseen inner workings that make them so special. Devialet’s engineering features proprietary Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) technology. Invented by Calmel, ADH is a chip that combines digital and analog to amplify sound at high volume while still maintaining precision, subtlety and nuance. ADH isn’t the only patented technology behind the Phantom, which is made entirely in France. The result of nearly three years of R & D, the speaker is powered by no fewer than a hundred other patents.
Despite such a complex system, Devialet believes the user experience should be simple — and accessible to everyone, not only audiophiles. That’s why the Phantom series, unlike Devialet’s high-end Expert Pro line, was designed to be wireless, portable and ready to play straight out of the box. It’s meant to give listeners the immersive experience of a professional-quality sound system, but without the fuss of a complicated setup.
The real pleasure of listening to music doesn’t lie in the mechanics behind it, but in the emotional journey it takes you on. And Devialet, today headed by CEO Franck Lebouchard, seeks to have an emotional impact on everyone it encounters. Gaston Leroux’s Angel of Music was a profoundly lonely creature, so desperate for a companion that he was driven to kidnap one. When Devialet’s Angel of Music sings, there’s no coercion, but its sound is still capable of captivating its listeners.
With the Phantom, Devialet hopes the music isn’t just the soundtrack of a moment, but the moment itself — commanding attention, pulling listeners in and orchestrating an experience that, instead of being confined to your headphones, is shared by all.