To Hans Wetzel,
I read your column about the Devialet Phantom with interest! How would you compare this product (Silver version) to the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9?
In order to answer this faithfully, I should state two things at the outset. First, I have yet to physically hear the Phantom or Silver Phantom. And second, I haven't spent more than a few minutes listening to B&O gear over the course of my life.
That said, I definitely have a few comments. B&O has a reputation for distinctive luxury products, and while they've done some serious audio work over the years -- think of their pioneering ICEpower research -- I don't think anyone other than the average consumer would equate their products with cutting-edge hardware. I don't doubt that their products sound very good, but their marketing and design efforts seem to point to sonic considerations taking a definite back seat to aesthetic ones.
As far as the B&O A9 is concerned, it looks like an interesting loudspeaker at $2699. Dual tweeters and mids, a ported 8" woofer, built-in amplification, and wireless connectivity. Note, however, that the frequency response is listed at 33Hz to 25kHz, but without qualification, so 33Hz may well be -10dB, or worse. Moreover, the A9 appears to use several generic class-D amps, probably of the ICEpower variety. Finally, the A9 looks to be pretty sizable, at 35" high with a stand, and 28" in diameter.
For $2390 per pair, the Silver Phantom is a different proposition. Its design is, believe it or not, totally geared towards maximizing sound quality. In terms of acoustics, it's pretty much ideal, with a single apparent point source for treble, midrange, and bass drivers. Further, its amplifiers aren't the now-common class-D variety, but a proprietary and patented design based on the company's high-end amps. The French company's amps aren't just different, but to my ears, as well as to those of SoundStage!'s Doug Schneider and Jeff Fritz, better sounding than just about everything else on the market, irrespective of price. I've been told that the Devialet team set the target of equaling, or bettering, the performance of their $6495 Devialet 120 amplifier and a pair of $20,000+ loudspeakers. I've also been told that they met their performance-related targets. If this were any other company, I would have dismissed such a claim. But given what the company has been able to do since they debuted the D-Premier in 2010, and how much cleverness they appear to have built into the Phantom and Silver Phantom, I'm incredibly excited to find out how they sound.
So, on the one hand is a pretty cool wireless floorstanding speaker that probably sounds pretty good, and on the other is an even more flexible wireless loudspeaker that promises nearly state-of-the-art sound. Interestingly, I suspect Devialet is targeting roughly the same kind of consumer that the A9 is. I suspect that the Silver Phantom will be the better loudspeaker, and by a wide margin. We won't know until the Phantoms begin shipping in the coming months, though. I hope this helps. . . . Hans Wetzel