I know of no audio company like Devialet. The company started with Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel's analog digital hybrid amplifier invention, followed by the meeting of the four founding partners, each of which specializes in different areas such as component design, industrial design, business, etc… The four partners launched Devialet using 500,000 Euros of their own money. Five years later, investor extraordinaire Bernard Arnault and others poured 15 million Euros into Devialet in a huge vote of confidence in its technology and to bring the company to the next level. As a business Devialet is a powerhouse. A young company that consumers should believe in as if it has been around for decades. Many audio companies in this industry could only dream of Devialet's success in both securing financing from some of the biggest names in global finance, and producing one successful product after another. I was lucky enough to visit Devialet headquarters in Paris and visit the facility where its products are manufactured in Normandy, France. After two days studying this company I walked away in awe at how they have setup themselves for success and how they're succeeding in delivering products like no other audio company. One of the company's mottos is, "Someday everyone will own a Devialet." At its headquarters in Paris, I could sense everyone truly believed that someday Devialet will have a product in every home.
Visiting Devialet in Paris wasn't the toughest assignment I've ever had. Fine food, fine people, and fine products help make such visits delightful. Too bad I'm not a travel writer focusing on the finer things in France :~) However, all of Devialet's products should be considered some of the finest in the audio industry. I arrived at the Paris headquarters and walked into a beautiful Devialet store housed on the ground floor. After shooting several pictures of the space I was told it would be updated fairly soon to look like the newly opened Devialet store in Shanghai, China. Once I saw the pictures of the new Shanghai store I understood why, it looks even more stunning than the downtown Paris location.
My tour guide, translator, and point person for the two days with Devialet was Quentin Bernard. A young lad, fresh out of business school who is passionate about Devialet despite having no prior experience with high quality audio products. It was refreshing to spend time with Quentin, hearing about his global travels to audio dealers and shows, and to get his perspective on the industry. Without a doubt Quentin believes that Someday everyone will own a Devialet.
Throughout my visits to Paris and Normandy, Devialet's core technologies were a major focus of conversation. Devialet started with its Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) technology as the foundation of all products. In addition Devialet products have what is called Asynchronous Intelligente Route (AIR) as the audio streaming technology. At the Munich High End show in 2014 the company introduced Speaker Active Matching (SAM) that enables the amp to adapt to the individual loudspeaker. The fourth core technology called EVO is the software driven platform that makes in-field upgrades and production additions (such as SAM and doubling of amp power) possible. Thus, Devialet product can evolve as the company evolves and customers receive these evolutionary upgrades for free.
ADH and SAM are amazing technologies. However, my two favorites are the EVO platform and AIR. As a computer audiophile I've long waited for the day I could configure my HiFi components like my computers or even my smartphone. I've also wished for an easily upgradable system much like computer and smartphones. Devialet's EVO platform is the answer to my wishes. For example, I received a Devialet 170 for review earlier this year. After the Munich trade show I was able to update the 170 to a Devialet 200 and add the SAM technology. The EVO platform is what enables this flexibility. A few months later I received a second Devialet 200. I entered the Devialet Configurator online and turned these two units into Devialet 400 Monoblocks. While I was at it, I disabled a couple inputs and configured the wireless interface, all from Devialet's website. This brings me to Devialet AIR. The acronym AIR shouldn't be confused with wireless only or DLNA / UPnP technologies. Devialet AIR can be used over wireless or wired Ethernet. AIR currently supports up to 24 bit / 192 kHz audio. Devialet invented AIR because it wasn't satisfied with the standard UPnP/DNA protocols. AIR enables the Devialet unit to be the master clock, reduce jitter, and limit latency to 50ms. The AIR software installs on Mac OS X and Windows machines and appears just like a sound card or USB DAC. This enables users to select the Devialet unit within any sound application such as JRiver, iTunes, Audirvana, and many more apps. This may sound like a Devialet commercial, but this is what the company is all about. Discussing a trip to Devialet without mentioning its core technologies is like going to Paris and eating only MacDonalds.
The day-long trip to Normandy began very early at one of the many train stations on Paris. Two hours later we arrived at the shared facility where Devialet components are manufactured and assembled as well as a host of other extremely high tech products are made. Due to the success of Devialet, this manufacturing facility has dedicated a large physical space for Devialet production only. I'm no expert at electronics manufacturing, but I've never seen machines place components on a circuit board as fast as those populating the Devialet main boards. I've seen several that pale in comparison to these machines, but nothing like this factory. Audiophiles should not confuse this high speed with lack of quality. I asked about the number of product failures and was astonished by the single digit number I was given. This facility is as good as it gets, or at least as good as I have seen in the audio world. Leaving the board population area, I was shown the final assembly stations before packaging. This area was a Devialet lover's delight. There must have been 100 shiny new units near completion or ready for final inspection. There was also a special area for the exquisite Devialet remote control assembly. This area reminded me of a fine watchmaker's quarters with perfectly polished pieces and white gloves for double-checking the motion of each volume dial.
Again, this shouldn't appear like a commercial or advertorial for Devialet. There is no way I could visit the headquarters in Paris and manufacturing facility in Normandy and not gush about the fine things I saw. Devialet is one company to watch now and in the future. I wouldn't hesitate to spend my own money on a Devialet product based on the feeling I had after leaving Paris and based on how the business is run. This is an innovative company not stuck in the past and not resting on laurels of old designs and a brand name. Devialet has made a name for itself through innovation, smart business, and most of all products that deliver quality and great sound. I won't be surprised to see a Devialet in more homes than most other audio companies.
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