• The Computer Audiophile
    The Computer Audiophile

    Devialet 200 & 400 Review

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    There’s no question Devialet builds beautiful products. From the moment one opens the box it’s easy to see this company is the Apple of HiFi. Unboxing a Devialet amplifier is like opening a present to oneself. Beautifully packaged, the amplifier comes out of the box with an absolutely perfect mirror finish to the chassis. The same can be said for the one of a kind remote control. Right from the start my experience with Devialet was luxurious. I can see why Devialet has become a media darling and why the press has unanimously drooled over everything the company has released. Are the products that good or are the stunning looks and unique design fooling everyone? I set to find out, first with the Devialet 200, then with a pair of Devialet 400 monoblocks.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

     

     

    Devialet has built an incredibly versatile amplifier platform. Describing what a Devialet 200 actually is can be challenging because of this versatility. Using the online Configurator it’s possible to turn this product into an amp with four digital coaxial inputs or an amp with a phono input and many things in between. It’s also possible to configure the 200 for a single input such as asynchronous USB, WiFi, Ethernet, TosLink, or AES, and disable all other inputs. Heck, it’s even possible to turn a coaxial input into an output or use the USB port as an output for digitization of vinyl. Devialet is serious when it says the inputs and outputs are fully configurable. In addition to fully configurable, the entire Devialet line of amplifiers is fully upgradable because of the EVO platform. Prior to starting this review I received the Devialet 170. shortly after receiving this product Devialet released a firmware upgrade that transformed the 170 into a 200. As well as increasing the output from 170W to 200W, Devialet also added its SAM technology via firmware update. SAM stands for Speaker Active Matching and enables the amplifier to adapt the signal to the speakers provided Devialet has measured the specific model of speaker. This SAM measurement database contains nearly 175 speakers, including the TAD CR1 speakers I used for this review.

     

     

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    When configuring the Devialet 200 for my system I preferred to enable a single digital input and disable everything else. I didn’t hear a sonic difference between this single input mode and leaving everything else enabled, but the audiophile in me just felt better about disabling anything extra.

     

     

    My starting configuration was the Devialet 200 as a stereo amplifier / DAC and the Ethernet input enabled. I installed the Devialet AIR software on a Windows computer running JRiver Media Center, and selected the AIR device as the audio output within JRMC. This configuration enabled me to use the JRemote / JRiver combination that I and many members of the Computer Audiophile Community love. Readers should keep in mind that this Ethernet connection doesn’t support UPnP / DLNA. Devialet wanted what it considered was a better method of transporting network audio, so it developed AIR (Asynchronous Intelligent Route). AIR supports lossless streaming, very low latency, and very low jitter with the Devialet master clock controlling this asynchronous protocol. AIR requires a small piece of software be installed on a Mac or PC to enabled the Devialet 200 to appear as an audio device on the computer. Via wired Ethernet Devialet AIR works awesome. No dropouts and not a single instance of the 200 falling off the network (as can happen with UPnP / DLNA devices). Everything from 16/44.1 up through 24/192 played as smooth as silk. On the other hand, using Devialet AIR with the WiFi interface wasn’t as successful. I was unable to play 24/176.4 and 24/192 content without severe distortion from dropped data packets. I don’t believe my wireless network is an issue because I have been streaming 24/192 audio via WiFi to the Auralic Aries without a problem. Both devices support 802.11n but the 200 only supports the 2.4 GHz wireless band whereas the Aries supports the 5 GHz band as well.

     

     

    I used the Ethernet input first because I was very interested in testing its performance and Devialet AIR, but during most of the review period I used the Auralic Aries as the music source component and connected it to the 200 via USB or AES, depending on the interface I was testing at the time. Both interfaces support up through 24/192 PCM audio but don’t support playback of DSD in either native of DoP format. My guess is that Devialet may eventually support DSD, however DSD doesn’t make that much sense considering the powerful PCM based DSP used inside the entire line of Devialet products. To take advantage of this DSP all the DSD would need to be converted to PCM anyway.

     

     

    Before diving in head first, I should mention that one interesting configuration I used during the review was running the Devialet 200 as a preamp / DAC connected to a pair of Pass Labs XA 160.5 monoblocks. I used this configuration as a test for people who may be thinking about switching to a Devialet unit, but who don’t want to get rid of their large amplifier investment just yet. Maybe some people are a bit skeptical and would like to test the Devialet capabilities before jumping in with both feet. This preamp / DAC configuration enables just that. I was very satisfied with the performance of this configuration. The Devialet DAC sounded very nice in combination with the smoothness of the Pass amplifiers. Using the beautiful Devialet remote control is also a nice benefit to running the 200 as a preamp / DAC.

     

     

    The Devialet 200 in a stereo configuration connected directly to my TAD CR1 speakers is a great combination. Listening to Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlily album was a treat. On the opening track, San Andreas Fault, the vocals may have been a touch more veiled than I am used to but they were still rich and compelling. Bass control was superb on Carnival as the opening baselines were crystal clear. Each note was delineated well from the others rather than reproducing one large bass-like sound. The Devialet 200 definitely has good bass.

     

    Listening to Christina Aguilera’s Save me From Myself enables the Devialet 200 to really shine. On this track, with just a female vocal and backing acoustic guitar, the 200 incredibly seductive. The smoothness of XTina’s voice and the audible detail as she transitions from line to line (lyrically) are stellar.

     

    The Kansas City Orchestra’s version of Britten’s Orchestra has long been one of my favorite classical pieces. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a Reference Recordings version either. My favorite track is Passacaglia. On this track the opening violin sounds wonderfully soothing through the Devialet 200. The low end is powerful yet controlled about two minutes into the track and again shortly after the five minute mark. There is a plethora of detail to be heard throughout the rest of the track and the Devialet delivers this detail wonderfully.

     

     

    No product is without its issues and one fault I’ve found with the 200 is a slight lack of low level resolution when the volume isn’t pumped up quite a bit. Fortunately once the volume is in the 200’s wheelhouse the resolution is very good.

     

     

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    Speaker Active Matching

     

     

    While configuring the Devialet 200 online I also switched the remote control’s Tone button to work as a SAM on/off button. This enabled me to switch SAM off or on in an instant to compare the sonic characteristics of the technology to the standard “SAMless” sound. I think it’s fair to say that SAM has very different results with different loudspeakers. A speaker that needed some corners cut to save manufacturing costs may receive a larger benefit from SAM than an all out assault loudspeaker where cost is no object. My subjective viewpoints on SAM are thus only valid for the combination of Devialet and TAD CR1 loudspeakers.

     

    When listening to Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlily album I didn’t hear much difference between SAM enabled and SAM disabled. The most marked sonic difference could be heard in a larger soundstage when SAM was enabled. This enlarged soundstage may come off as a bit synthetic sounding to some listeners, myself included. I preferred SAM off.

     

     

    In my system SAM made absolutely no audible difference during the Christina Aguilera track Save Me From Myself. Perhaps this is due to the fact that SAM only operates on the lower frequencies and those frequencies are few and far between on this track. I had no preference for SAM on or off.

     

     

    Passacaglia and the entire Britten album faired much the same as the Natalie Merchant music. The sonic difference was mainly in a slightly wider soundstage, although I’m not sure I can get used to the sound. I preferred SAM off.

     

     

    Adding in another 200 to make a pair of 400s

     

     

    Seeking to upgrade my Devialet experience I turned the 200 into a 400 Master and added a second 400 as a Slave. The configuration of this was done via the online Configurator with just a few clicks and SD cards inserted into the back of each unit. Switching from a single 200 to a pair of 400s not only doubles the power it also reduces the distortion by four times (THD+N 0,00025%) as well as doubles the number of inputs should a user require more that can be offered by a single unit.

     

     

    Listening to Natalie Merchant and Christina Aguilera through the 400 monoblocks didn’t really overwhelm me with anything that wasn’t already present with a single stereo 200. Perhaps the music selection plays a large role in this determination. To test this I listened to Passacaglia, as well as many other albums throughout the entire review period. I could immediately feel the power of the 400 monoblocks when playing this track with its lack of dynamic range compression. This power simply isn’t there with a single 200 stereo unit. Passacaglia, and all the other tracks on this album for that matter, really benefit from the 400 configuration. This is never more evident than when the music increases in complexity and dynamic range. For example, my favorite part of Passacaglia is about 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the track as the tension builds into a big crescendo at about 5:45. The Devialet 400 is able to reproduce the loud and delicate parts of this track with very good resolve where the 200 comes up a little bit short.

     

     

    Conclusion

     

     

    As I said in the opening paragraph, I set out to find if the Devialet products were really as good as the press would have us believe. Starting with the Devialet 200 stereo amplifier / DAC, I found a product that sounds very good, looks very good, and is truly capable of replacing tens of thousands of dollars worth of HiFi gear for $9495. The sound quality of a single stereo unit can be as good or better than many of the industry’s traditional behemoth systems. Users seeking an even better system can add a slave unit for $7995 and increase performance, lower distortion, and produce the power necessary to reproduce all types of music nicely. Use of new technology and excellent engineering has enabled Devialet to offer, at less than ten thousand dollars, an ADH amplifier, preamplifier, and a DAC in arguably the industry’s most luxurious chassis. Music lovers seeking a system upgrade must consider Devialet for a partial or full replacement of a traditional HiFi system. Devialet is the real deal.

     

     

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    Product Information:

    • Product - Devialet 200 Stereo and 400 Monoblocks
    • Price - $9,495 for the 200, $7,995 for the second "slave" unit
    • Product Page - Link

     

     

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    Where To Buy:

     

    The Audio Salon

     

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    Associated Music:

     

     

     

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    Associated Equipment:

     

     

     

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    User Feedback




    I was over at a friend's house last week listening to his Devialet 200 and it sounded very good indeed with digital material., via both computer and SACD player inputs. However, with vinyl, it's internal phono preamp couldn't compete with a separate one from Sutherland. Operationally, the remote is somewhat problematic because the Devialet's volume display is on the top rather than on a faceplate. However, using an available iPhone app readily gets around that problem.

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    Nice review- it added to my sternly suppressed desire to hear and purchase one of these! Fortunately I have zillions of ohms of resistance to parting with case. ;)

     

    I did not see a C.A.S.H designation for the 200, did it make it to the CASH list?

     

    -Paul

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    I went from a Simaudio 110LP phono preamp to the Devialet 200 and for me it was an extreme upgrade. That said, I basically just needle drop and don't spend too much time listening to vinyl. The Devialet is a needle droppers dream machine!

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    Thanks for another great review. I was tempted to get rid of everything and switched to the Devialet. And then I read your review of the Berkeley Alpha Reference DAC and went to listen to both products and changed my long-term plans again. Thanks for introducing us to these great products.

     

    With respect to SAM, I wonder if the lack of difference or questionable improvement is due to how it actually works.

     

    https://en.devialet.com/assets/Press...slation_EN.pdf

     

    In addition to correcting for phase errors and general speaker bass frequency response issues, it seems that it can extend the TAD to a lower frequency (33.2Hz to 23.2Hz) at lower volumes but at higher volumes, it would not be effective (so as to protect the speakers). Moreover, extending speakers to a lower frequency can be a double-edged sword. If there is a significant say 26Hz dip or peak, what was previously an insignificant frequency response abnormality can become problematic and may require re-positioning the speakers or listening position to re-optimize for a smoother bass frequency response. Obviously, this is all guess work from my part.

     

    Once again, a fantastic review. Thanks.

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    As a Devialet 250 owner, I can only confirm the excellence of the Devialet.

     

    My Wilson Benesch Vector speakers should get SAM support very soon, I'll be able to check in my own environment the value of SAM. ;)

     

    Cheers,

    Bernard

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    Nice review Chris........and very transparent I might add. I found the part about SAM very interesting and in fairness to the product and what SAM does, some speaker systems and environments will have better or 'positive' results. It's VERY hard IMO to top the performance of your TAD system!

     

    I was concerned with the choice of a separate remote as an ergonomic disaster with a product at this pricepoint, but as AllanF suggested,there's a functional iDevice App?.............if so, that certainly avoids an otherwise epic fail IMO.

     

    Expensive?.......for me.....you bet ya. But compared to the comparison high end product in it's class and it's functionality I'd suggest a very high dollar to performance ratio.

     

    Again, I really enjoyed the format of this review Chris. Form and Function meet Hifi!

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    Heard Devialet with PMC 26s. Pretty big floorstanders. The Sam helped. I can accept that it makes a bigger difference with smaller speakers - reports in reviews say that it extends the bass much lower by optimizing the woofer excursions (length and timing).

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    I have to agree the display on the unit is a pain. Fortunately I have only 3 inputs programmed and I have it to start in Home Theatre mode. Phono is one click away and USB input is 2.

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    I have to agree the display on the unit is a pain. Fortunately I have only 3 inputs programmed and I have it to start in Home Theatre mode. Phono is one click away and USB input is 2.

     

    Home Theater mode? Does the beastie have HDMI inputs available for it?

     

    -Paul

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    Consider the overwhelming response from Jeff Fritz at Soundstage or Robert Harley at Absolute Sound, the tone of this review could be viewed more in the range of "damning with faint praise"....interesting or is this simply due to the excellence of the new Berkeley and it sitting close by for easy comparision.

    Cheers,

    wdw

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    Home Theater mode? Does the beastie have HDMI inputs available for it?

     

    -Paul

     

    No, preamp bypass so you can feed it from the preamp outs on your multi channel reciever.

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    Consider the overwhelming response from Jeff Fritz at Soundstage or Robert Harley at Absolute Sound, the tone of this review could be viewed more in the range of "damning with faint praise"....interesting or is this simply due to the excellence of the new Berkeley and it sitting close by for easy comparision.

    Cheers,

    wdw

     

    wdw, I really don't think this is about "damning with faint praise". Having listened to the Devialet 200 on a few occasions, at the Devialet 200 price of $9500, I think it would be very difficult to come up with a streamer, DAC, preamp and amp combo with the same power (200W into 6 ohms) for the same price that sounds as good or better. Even at the $17500 price of the Devialet 400 which I had the pleasure to listen to on one occasion, I think it would be challenging to come up with a combo of separates that would sound as good with the same power (400W into 6 ohms). And this is completely ignoring the nice form factor, the space savings and the cost savings for cables.

     

    The Berkeley Alpha Reference DAC alone costs $16000 and the BADA USB cost another $1900 so at $17900, I think we are dealing with a completely different grade/level of performance in a completely different price range. Otherwise, there is no way how the BADA Reference DAC can justify its price.

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    Chris, nice to read your D200 review. I am using my D250 (ex D-Premier) with the digital cross over function (adjustable through the configurator) and I experience a significant better sound quality than using it "straight". Of course not many speakers allow to benefit form it except you build your own. This precludes SAM but I guess from your review I am not deprived of to much.

    One question is not quite clear to me which input you prefer! I am using now AES for my Cd-transport and it still sound the best. For computer audio I got the best sound through Devialet AIR software and ethernet but after some "upgrades" it became completely dysfunctional. Presently it is Audirvana+ and USB.

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    wdw, I really don't think this is about "damning with faint praise". Having listened to the Devialet 200 on a few occasions, at the Devialet 200 price of $9500, I think it would be very difficult to come up with a streamer, DAC, preamp and amp combo with the same power (200W into 6 ohms) for the same price that sounds as good or better. Even at the $17500 price of the Devialet 400 which I had the pleasure to listen to on one occasion, I think it would be challenging to come up with a combo of separates that would sound as good with the same power (400W into 6 ohms). And this is completely ignoring the nice form factor, the space savings and the cost savings for cables.

     

    The Berkeley Alpha Reference DAC alone costs $16000 and the BADA USB cost another $1900 so at $17900, I think we are dealing with a completely different grade/level of performance in a completely different price range. Otherwise, there is no way how the BADA Reference DAC can justify its price.

     

    For $10K, the big advantage will be the sleek all in one Chassis. If multi boxes is not a problem, then I think an Aries with Hynes/Pardo LPSU, Lampi L4 with DSD and volume contol and a pair of Job 250 monoblocks should take it for SQ and come in at about $10K.

     

    Devialet will be sleeker/prettier for sure, but will lack DSD and the ultimate oomph of those Job monos. Also, the possibility of tricking out the Aries is still being looked at (Regen, Digi-lamp, etc), to make it a slam dung better streaming solution than the Devialet Air (and Lightning is the better app).

     

    Still, the Devialet is very competitive, but if it was 20% lower, it would be a more "killer" price.

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    Still, the Devialet is very competitive, but if it was 20% lower, it would be a more "killer" price.

     

    If you don't need to move to the 400 down the road. The 120 model gets you to the 20% lower price point.

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    Less power though... and wont be eqivalent to Job 250 monoblocs.

    More like the Stereo 225 and so $1700 less in the setup I elaborated.

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    Other than the price and versatility in regards to customizing, what is high end about these two products? I can list off a dozen systems in this price range that offer far better sound fidelity, especially when it comes to resolution. These glowing reviews, at least when it comes to sound quality are unfounded in my opinion and makes me question the integrity of this website which until today, I viewed at a high level. I'm absolutely mystified...

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    Other than the price and versatility in regards to customizing, what is high end about these two products? I can list off a dozen systems in this price range that offer far better sound fidelity, especially when it comes to resolution. These glowing reviews, at least when it comes to sound quality are unfounded in my opinion and makes me question the integrity of this website which until today, I viewed at a high level. I'm absolutely mystified...

     

    Have you heard them? I have, and believe they give better SQ than separates in their price range. When I heard them there was plenty of low level and detail resolution. Better than many expensive combos I've heard.

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    Have you heard them? I have, and believe they give better SQ than separates in their price range. When I heard them there was plenty of low level and detail resolution. Better than many expensive combos I've heard.

     

    Of course. How can someone make a judgement without first hand experience? I had it in my home for a week. The aesthetics and interface are beautiful. I liked the small footprint and the phono connectivity, but the amplifier and phono stage was coarse and lacked low level detail. I'm not good at describing sound, but the 200 was basically fatiguing with none of the associated micro detail. I may not have been so critical if the unit was half the price or if it made bad recordings sound palatable.

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    Well Prince you have somehow managed to experience the exact opposite of most everyone else: Course, lacking low level detail, lacking micro detail and fatiguing.

     

    I can say one thing from my own experience, the Devialet is so quiet and has such superb SNR that it confused me at first. I thought something was missing. I went back and forth for hours with my Simaudio 600i/QB9 on various tracks and realizing the detail was there it was just missing a hard edge to everything. It dawned on me that the hard edge wasn't actually suppose to be there because I could now pick out the instruments better and there was less of a haze around them with the Devialet.

     

     

    .02

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    Prince, I think your observations are fascinating. For most of us, I think we are thinking in terms of using Devialet 200 as a digital streamer/DAC/preamp/amp and most of us are very impressed with the result. From your experience, you are using it as a phono stage/preamp/amp and you have a completely different experience. I can definitely see someone getting a phono stage/preamp/amp combo for less than $9500 and get very satisfactory sound. I am not certain if Devialet actually converts the phono output into digital first. I have never tried the phono input of the Devialet as I have always listened to a digital source.

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    Of course. How can someone make a judgement without first hand experience? I had it in my home for a week. The aesthetics and interface are beautiful. I liked the small footprint and the phono connectivity, but the amplifier and phono stage was coarse and lacked low level detail. I'm not good at describing sound, but the 200 was basically fatiguing with none of the associated micro detail. I may not have been so critical if the unit was half the price or if it made bad recordings sound palatable.

     

    Prince, what digital source were you supplying to the D200? What speakers were you driving?

     

    I replaced a dCS Debussy DAC, SimAudio P-7 pre and W-7 Amp, along with all the cables, footers, etc. and believe I'm hearing noticeably better sound quality with my D200 for less than half the cost. I'm thrilled with it driving my Vandersteen 5A's.

     

    Kenreau

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    Dr Tone, A quiet background and resolution are not the same thing. The 2oo is indeed very quiet, but I had a very different experience than yours. A few friends of mine did blind A/B testing and 6 out of 7 of us could identify the D200. Our test is hardly scientific, but it does say something about this particular device. It does have a very "digital" sound signature in my opinion.

     

    ecwl, I tested the 200 primarily as a dac/preamp/amp. The fact you can play records on this machine is a welcomed feature since I have a lot of vinyl. I'd like to know if the phono signal is converted to digital as well. I don't believe there's anything out there that offers the same amount of customization. You can literally use any cartridge on the 200. My preference is for a phono stage works well with just one type of cartridge.

     

    kenreau, I tried several digital sources. Jriver on a mac is my main source, an old Tascam studio CD player and a 3rd gen iPod through a Luxman digital dock. My speakers are from a company called Tonian Labs which I use with tube amps of my own design. I didn't compare the 200 to the tube amps (not a fair comparison), but I did do an a/b against an Audiolab 5000 integrated and an NAD Integrated (both from the 90). The Audiolab/Berkeley Alpha DAC combination sounded better to me and this isn't exactly the most resolving system in my opinion.

     

    In Chris's review he had a similar experience to mine when listening at low levels, but I guess i'm more critical. I would say there's a fall off in resolution below 65db.

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