(Pocket-lint) - Back in 2016 we tested out some of the very finest all-in-one speakers we've ever heard - and, frankly, seen - in a pair of Devialet Phantom Gold. Which, at £2,190 each made for a very expensive living room setup. But it was one that saw us shed a tear when they had to be returned (our then neighbours probably didn't mind, though, given the 4,500W of power delivered from each).
Our bank balance never permitted us to buy one (nor two, funnily enough) but now, come 2019, the proverbial offspring of those fine Devialet speakers has visited Pocket-lint towers for a number of weeks. Say hello to the smaller yet still ultra-powerful and great-sounding Phantom Reactor.
The obvious benefit of the Reactor is that it's about half the price (and about half the size) of its parent full-size Phantom models. Yes, yes, so it's still around a grand to buy just one. But given the sound quality there's a strong argument that you would find little better or more stylised in the all-in-one audio world.
Design and setup
- Glass fibre-filled polycabonate interior, aluminium core, stainless steel white exterior
- AirPlay, UPnP Renderer, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, 3.5mm jack input (AUX)
- Touch contols: play/pause, volume up/down, pairing, link
- Dedicated Devialet app (iOS / Android) for control
- Dimensions: 157 x 168 x 219mm; Weighs: 4.3kg
Devialet isn't shy to make bold claims about its "immense" product (as it says boldly on the company's website). Its self-confidence is evident beyond just words though: just look at this thing - it's an outlandish yet wonderful design like nothing else out there.
If you're a Destiny video game fan then this spaceship-like orb style might remind you of Ghost (a similar-looking floating robot, rather than audiophile speaker). If you're not a fan then, well, let your eyes do the work and decide whether this distinctive design is going to suit your tastes and your living space or not.
The Reactor has an aluminium core, which explains its near-4.5kg weight, along with stainless steel white exterior (slightly pompous Pantone provided: RAL 9016). It's not light, but that's not a problem as you're unlikely to move it around often. After all, it needs mains power. Problem is the provided power cable is frustratingly short for no apparent reason. Please, Devialet, we need longer cables.
Setting up the speaker is delightfully easy once plugged in. You can use it like a Bluetooth speaker. Or you can use it synched, via local network, to play using Spotify Connect, AirPlay or UPnP (here there's access to a variety of other sources: Google Music, Tidal, along with local and online storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive and more)). There's a physical 3.5mm input too.
Getting the app to sync with UPnP isn't an issue, although in our use it sometimes has forgotten the speaker pairing (despite still being paired and playing) which has required an app reset. UPnP, which is a separate app to download (mobile or desktop) can also be glitchy with playback and the delay in actioning track skip, play/pause is a bit of a nuisance.
The Reactor has physical touch-sensitive controls on top too, which you'll need to use during setup and to Bluetooth pair on the fly, but the volume up/down controls can come in handy if you're not the Devialet app user or you're just nearby the product and want to adjust the volume from there. There are no track skip functions on the speaker itself though.
- Supports: MP3, HE-AAC/AAC, Apple Lossless, WMA, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, Vorbis, Opus
- 1x aluminum full-range driver, 2x aluminium bass drivers
- Frequency response: 18Hz - 21kHz
- Up to 900W peak power
Looks are one thing, but how the Phantom Reactor sounds is enough to forgive the minor playback issues within the apps. It's really hard to believe that this speaker can output such loud and exquisite sound from its relatively small dimensions.
The main strike is the bass response. With a low-end capable down to 18Hz - which really is really lower than anyone masters to, even Reggae subs hit in and around 40Hz - the low-frequency output from this speaker is second to none.
If you're into underground music then watching in fascination as those bass drivers wobble madly as if they're going to spend the speaker into orbit is quite something to behold. The bass is smooth and impactful beyond anything else we've ever heard at this size, with true sub levels put into play.
What's particularly interesting about this design is that the bass drivers are contained in a way that causes no vibration to the speaker and its surroundings. Place a hand on top of the speaker and you won't feel it vibrating - the output is very controlled horizontally - which is really impressive.
It's not all about bass, though, that's just one of the Reactor's greatest successes. There's another full-range driver that handles the mid-to-high frequencies, using that front grille to disperse sound in a three-dimensional form. Yep, that snowflake-like design to the front isn't just a pretty face, it has purpose too.
We find there's ample snap and sparkle from this driver, dispersing sound in a convincing way. Sure, it's not fully 360 degrees like many speakers these days, but position the Reactor carefully within the room and everything sounds crisp and rich.
In the ner future you will also be able to pair Devialet devices. When we had the Phantom Gold the two took the sound up a notch from great to amazing as a stereo pair. While two Reactor units can't be synched in stereo just yet, when this feature comes online (due "first semester 2019") we're sure that the effect will be much the same... if you can afford a pair, that is.
Sound quality is the Reactor's forte, with incredible low-end bass that will make people think you're hiding a dedicated subwoofer elsewhere in the room. The connectivity is strong, although minor hiccups with the Devialet app, the lack of equaliser adjustment, and UPnP's slowness in response are slight drawbacks. But if you're streaming via AirPlay or Spotify Connect then none of this is likely to matter.
Most people will baulk at the Phantom Reactor's price and cross it off their speaker shopping lists. But you really shouldn't because this is an incredible sounding speaker, delivered with space-age styling, that's better sounding than anything we've heard at this scale. And when a mobile phone costs just as much and will be half way to the trash within less than 24 months, surely an investment such as this is worthwhile for the years of musical joy it'll bring?