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There are two types of people in this world: the people who are satisfied with speakers that “get the job done” and people who view their sound systems as personal expressions of premium design and function. The first type of person would opt for a simple bluetooth speaker that they’ll throw in their backpack. They probably don’t use a sound bar with their television, and would never pay more than $30 for a pair of headphones.

People who would buy the Devialet Phantom don’t think that way.

Priced at $1,990, the compact (but hefty) Phantom claims to be the absolute best wireless speaker you can get today. Its sleek design certainly embodies luxury, and its specs leave no uncertainty about the amount of “boom” your Phantom can create. But, even for those who require only the best pairing of design and function, is it worth it?

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Design and Specs

The box of the Devialet Phantom asks you, “Is it alive?” – and for good reason. Devialet has gone a long way to create a futuristic looking device with an unusual shape that will make an impact. Most uniquely, the strange circles on either side of the Phantom literally breathe in and out when the Phantom is resting. When it plays music, they’ll pump with the bass. Despite being stationary, the Phantom does its best to look like a living creature, and it works. It was mildly disconcerting at first, but I soon found myself feeling strangely attached to the little guy and his hypnotic movements.

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At less than a foot tall and wide, and just over a foot long, the Phantom is small enough to fit in a bookshelf, but big enough to warrant its use as a side table centerpiece. Its egg-like form is eye catching, and it feels expensive to the touch. This device is not meant to simply blend into your home; it commands attention with its potentially divisive curves. Those seeking a centerpiece would not be disappointed (mine’s been on my entry table and has started more than a few conversations), but those looking for high quality sound device that blends in would be wasting one of Phantom’s biggest draws.

If I have one gripe with the Phantom’s design, it’d be the charging cord. It’s yellow, thick and utilitarian with a proprietary end piece that looks like it fits a leaf blower instead of a top-tier wireless speaker. Initially, I thought that my review unit came with a sort of loaner cord, but upon looking online, it looks like this is what you get. It’s not a huge deal since you’d probably try your best to hide the cord regardless, but it’s a strangely neglected feature for an otherwise carefully designed device.

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The Phantom’s design houses specs worthy of envy. With 750 watts (3,000 for a more expensive $2,390 version), 0.001% distortion and a slew of other specifications for the audio nerd (and probably only the audio nerd), the Phantom doesn’t cost what it does because of its shell. You can read more about the Phantom’s internals and specifications here.

Set Up

Eager to test out the Phantom’s sound, I first had to download Devialet’s Spark app (available on Android and iOS) and sync my Phantom up to my home’s WiFi network. During the setup process, the Phantom makes breathing sounds as it shudders (remember when I said this was initially disconcerting?). It’s waiting to awakened by you – and thankfully, this process doesn’t take long. The Phantom sprung to life quickly with a bloop and a bleep thanks to the straightforward app.

Phantom Spark App

Currently, the Phantom will only stream music from local storage on your device (my phone has no music stored to its memory and I frankly have forgotten how to do so since I threw out my iPod years ago) or from Tidal (and two other streaming services popular in Europe, but useless in the States). This means that part of the setup process for any Phantom owner will also be the creation of a Tidal account. This is a bit of bummer, but admittedly aligns with the Phantom’s focus on premium audio.

After installing and signing up for Tidal – an annoying experience if you’re one of the few who have done this – I encountered a problem: I simply couldn’t get my Phantom to recognize Tidal as a streaming service.

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Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Phantom doesn’t advise that you use the Phantom with a free Tidal account. Tidal, of course, comes with an unskippable 30 day free trial. So there I was, in my living room, searching on Devialet’s bare-bones support site and Tidal’s even worse FAQ trying to find a workaround or a way to throw my money at Tidal early. It was all to no avail. It’s possible I missed something, but connecting to a streaming service to play music on a speaker should be way easier than this. After begrudgingly downloading music to my phone, it was time to see if the Phantom lived up to Devialet’s claims of being the best wireless speaker in the world.

Sound Quality

Ironically, the first thing I noticed when playing music from my Phantom was how it moved, not the sound. With each beat of the bass, the sides of the Phantom (where the subwoofers are) pump in and out. It’s totally unique. Devialet calls this Heart Bass Implosion ™ and claims that it’s the only way for such a small form factor to generate the low frequencies it does. It’s a total success. Bass doesn’t just sound like bass on this speaker. The bass sounds precisely the way the creator wanted it to. On too many speakers, bass’s minute differences distort, leading to blurry-sounding “womp womps” devoid of nuance. Not with the Phantom.

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The clarity of the Phantom is something to write home about. No sounds blend into each other. No part of a song distorts another. It’s impressive. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard so much audio clarity in my own home. Devialet is so confident in the way its tuned the Phantom that you won’t have any freedom to adjust the bass or treble, and that’s fine because the Phantom is godly. It sounds noticeably better than any speaker or sound bar I’ve ever had. It gets loud – very loud – without sacrificing quality and, when at low volumes, produces the same amount of clarity it does at higher volumes. Using WiFi audio would already contribute to a meaningful increase in sound quality on any device (over Bluetooth), but that’s not enough to explain why the Phantom sounds so good. This thing is made with power and love, and you can definitely tell.

What I’m trying to say is that Devialet has designed a speaker that’s worth every audiophile’s penny. Is this the best sounding wireless speaker ever? Maybe not, but it’s certainly the best one someone can reasonably own without completely breaking the bank.

Controlling Your Phantom

You control the Phantom with the same Spark app used to set it up. This could easily be the Phantom’s Achilles’ heal, but it isn’t. The app is easy to use, simple and doesn’t try to do too much. Anyone connected to your WiFi network with the app can help you build a playlist, control the Phantom’s volume and even view the music library on your phone. My roommates and I played around with this feature at a dinner party we hosted and it was splendid. When I was tired of the few songs I loaded to my device, I hopped into her library and continued adding songs to the playlist.

Devialet wobble

Conclusion

If a few thousand dollars is no problem for you, this is the wireless speaker for you. It sounds noticeably better than $600 sound bars, and has a much smaller profile than $2,000 sound towers that aren’t as crisp. Put simply, the Phantom is an incredible piece of design, engineering and power. The extra touches, like the breathing sides and easy-to-use app, make the Phantom feel worth it even when it’s not blasting music. While the Phantom does have a package deal for multi-room streaming, one Phantom is more than enough for anyone with a condo or apartment who doesn’t want to take out a second mortgage in the name of audio streaming. If you demand clear, clean, loud sound from an immaculately designed piece of hardware, the Phantom is where you should stop looking. This is it.

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