Maniacaly Perfect Phantom

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I love music.

But there are three things that consistently spoil what should be an immersive experience:

  1. Distortion
  2. Minuscule sweet spots
  3. Volume controls that don’t go to 11

Number 1 is all about quality; number 2 is about the freedom to move; and number 3 is all about the bass (read: the emotional driver).

Number 3 is usually limited by the need to avoid number 1, while number 2 forces you to choose between headphones and a carefully placed chair. I had once thought that getting all three to be in balance was impossible.

A am a perfectionist, and have had the (un)fortunate experience of a few good audiophiles training me in how to spot even subtle distortion. As much as I’ve tried over the years to un-train my ears, such frequency flaws no longer stealthily slip past my senses. The warmth that a loud and undistorted reproduction creates in the soul is impossible to fake.

Yet when I was invited into the small Devialet Phantom demo room at GetGeeked a while back, I was immediately immersed in the magical fingers of Mark Knopfler, and began crawling around the room trying to figure out where he and his guitar were hiding.

Was there a false wall? Did they use Wonka’s ray to fit the whole band inside the speaker? WTF?

As I turned the volume up loud enough to bother the other exhibitors (and the bartender), I kept probing for flaws—any hint of raspy distortion that would mask the true sound of him bending them guitar strings, or muddle the complex sounds of the Zildjian—and heard none.

As the Wired review pointed out, this magic did not disappear when you wandered away from the midpoint between the speakers. The sound stage was nearly everywhere, with those curious silver domes pulsing out nearly the full range equally in all directions.

That’s the sort of experience that it takes to overcome a field of very good competitors and get noticed by the Influencers that outlast the next five fads.

And it was the first technology experience in 18 months that I gave a damn enough to blog about.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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