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We Love to Listen

15th March 2015 -

Stunning review of Devialet 200/400

- Author:

Read this stunning review of the Devialet 200 and 400 amplifiers in Absolute Sound magazine; book a demo now!!

Devialet 200/400 Integrated Amplifier/Streaming DAC Equipment report

by Robert Harley Mar 12th, 2015

To call the Devialet 200 a technologically advanced audio component is like saying Miles Davis played the trumpet. In fact, there’s no single product-category description that can encompass the 200’s myriad functions and capabilities, nor is there a precedent for the 200’s feature set. The Devialet 200 offers a host of customization and upgrade abilities that have never before incorporated into an audio component. Rather than thinking of the Devialet in terms of traditional component categories, it’s more useful to consider it as a general-purpose multi-function hardware platform controlled by software. That hardware platform includes a 200Wpc integrated amplifier with a DAC, phono input, wireless streamer, A/D converter (with LP-ripping capability), and subwoofer crossover. The 200’s inputs can be configured to fit into just about any system. Don’t have a turntable but have two analog line sources? No problem. The analog inputs can be configured as line inputs. Conversely, those same input jacks can become phono inputs, complete with adjustable gain and cartridge loading (impedance and capacitance). With a new technology called Speaker Active Matching (SAM), the 200’s output signal can be optimized for your particular loudspeakers. To give you an idea of this product’s flexibility: My Devialet 200 review sample was shipped to me as the 170Wpc model 170. A software update turned it into the 200Wpc model 200. You can even convert the 200Wpc stereo model 200 into a 400W monoblock with the addition of a second model 200—which also doubles the number of inputs. This configuration is sold by Devialet as the model 400—which as we’ll see does much more than increase the output power. The 200’s appearance is as radical as the technology inside. About the size and shape of a laptop computer, the chrome-plated aluminum case can be mounted flat against a wall. Only one button, an on/off switch, adorns the front panel (if you can call it that). You interact with the 200 through a square remote control with four small buttons and a huge volume knob. Alternately, you can control the 200 with an app on your tablet or mobile device. The app’s graphic display mimics the remote’s large round volume control, which you “turn” with a swipe of your finger. Configuring the 200 is quite simple. A page on Devialet’s website shows the 200’s rear panel with the configurable components highlighted. Clicking on, for example, the RCA input jacks brings up a screen that allows you to select between line and phono; and, if you choose phono, the cartridge gain and loading become selectable. Other phono options include mono or stereo, selectable equalization curves, and channel balance. A digital-out jack can be changed into an analog line-out jack, with or without high- or low-pass filtering, with selectable crossover frequency and slope. The signal appearing at the binding posts can be high- or low-pass filtered, again with selectable frequency and slope. These filtering functions are ideal for systems with a subwoofer; the signal driving the speakers is high-pass filtered, and the line-out signal driving the sub is low-pass filtered. Once you’ve virtually configured your 200 on the website, you download the configuration file to an SD card. You then insert the SD card in the 200’s rear panel, and in a few seconds the 200 has morphed into an audio product with the parameters you’ve specified. Because the 200 is essentially a digital platform, analog inputs, including phono signals, are digitized. You can select a sample rate of 96 or 192kHz in the A/D converter. The digitized signal, from any input, appears at a digital-out jack (RCA). You could use this function to digitize and archive a library of LPs, for example. I created two SD cards, one with a full-range configuration for driving the Magico Q7s and another with the high-pass and low-pass filters engaged for the Raidho X-1s and a pair of JL Audio e-112 subwoofers (review forthcoming). Similarly, you could create multiple SD cards with different cartridge loadings, for example, and simply swap cards rather than go through the entire configuration process for each adjustment. I found only one drawback to this approach; it’s much easier to experiment with different subwoofer crossover frequencies by turning a knob on the JL Audio subwoofer than by changing the setting on Devialet’s website, saving the configuration file, and updating the 200. Digital inputs include USB, AES/EBU, TosLink, and SPDIF coaxial. You can also wirelessly stream audio at up to 24-bit/192kHz via Devialet’s AIR Universal Streamer app on your tablet, computer, or smartphone. Wireless connection between the computer music server and the 200 has a theoretical advantage over USB, largely by isolating the computer’s noise from the 200. The AIR app provides asynchronous connection between your computer and the 200; the signal is buffered, and then processed to reduce jitter. You can also stream music files to the 200 via the 200’s Ethernet connection. With the 200’s unique capabilities, it’s easy to overlook the core technology upon which not just the 200, but the entire company behind it, is based. As described in the sidebar, Devialet arose from a project to create an amplifier output stage that combined a Class A voltage amplifier with a Class D current amplifier. The goal was to realize the sound quality of a Class A circuit with the efficiency of Class D. This topology, called ADH (Analog Digital Hybrid), is what makes it possible to produce a 200Wpc integrated amplifier in a chassis a little bigger than a laptop computer. The power supply is also a power-factor corrected switch-mode type, further saving space and weight. In operation, the 200 runs hotter than a pure Class D design. The signal path from DACs (Burr-Brown PCM1792) to speaker terminals is just 4" long. In most multi-bit DACs, the DAC’s current output is converted to a voltage by an op-amp, or in rare cases, by a discrete circuit. The Devialet takes a different approach; a passive current-to-voltage converter that employs a single very-high-quality resistor housed within a temperature-stable environment. This removes an active gain stage from the signal path. The circuitry inside the chassis is modular, allowing hardware upgrades as well as software updates. Unusually, the Class D output stage doesn’t require a large filter (an inductor and a capacitor) to smooth the switching output stage’s stair-step waveform and switching noise. The 200’s specs are quite impressive, to say the least: THD+N is a very low 0.001% at full power, the signal-to-noise ratio is 130dB, and output impedance is an ultra-low 0.001 ohms. In daily use, the Devialet 200 is a joy. The unit is very simple to operate, and I loved the remote control’s huge, solid-feeling volume knob—much more satisfying than pushing tiny plastic buttons. The top panel (front panel if you mount the 200 flat against a wall) has a small round window that illuminates to show the selected input, volume setting, and other parameters. This display can also show a wide range of technical detail, from the network settings to the heatsink temperature. Bass and treble controls are also provided, accessible from the remote control. Three of the remote control’s buttons can be configured to perform whatever functions you want, including source selection, SAM on/off, polarity inversion, tone controls, and more. The 200’s advanced technology, unprecedented feature set, and sophisticated capabilities are wrapped in an extremely elegant and livable package. A few other notes. Devialet offers a “Companion” model 200 that lacks a remote control and Ethernet/WiFi streamer for those systems with two model 200s operating in mono. The Companion is $7995. The Companion is bundled with the model 200 and sold as the model 400. You can also upgrade a 200 by adding a Companion and turning it into the 400. Devialet also offers the model 120, a lower-powered (120Wpc) version for $6495 that’s based on the same architecture. The 120 cannot, however, be converted to mono operation, and it has only a moving-coil input that lacks the cartridge loading functions of the 200. The top of the line is the $29,995 model 800, which, as its model number suggests, is rated at 800Wpc. Listening The Devialet 200/400 saw time driving the Magico Q7s, the tiny Raidho X-1 monitors, and the X-1s augmented with a pair of JL Audio e-112 subwoofers. In this last configuration, I programmed the 200’s speaker outputs with a high-pass filter at 80Hz, fourth-order slopes, and one of the line outputs low-pass filtered, also at 80Hz, fourth-order. The latter fed the powered JL Audio subwoofer. Before getting to the sound, I’ll comment on my experience with the wireless streaming feature. After installing the Devialet AIR app on my MacBook Pro, I was able to compare the 200’s sound when decoding a wireless stream against the MacBook Pro’s USB output. Wireless streaming has theoretical advantages over USB, largely by virtue of physically decoupling the computer’s noise from the 200’s DAC and audio circuitry. When I performed this comparison, I was surprised by how much better the wireless streaming sounded than USB (even with a state-of-the-art USB cable). The music had more ease and refinement, with smoother midrange and treble textures. The downside, however, was that the 200 would sometimes lose lock with the MacBook Pro, producing the disconcerting effect of the music going suddenly silent in the middle of a piece—musicus interruptus. Moreover, when I tried to stream 176.4kHz/24-bit files the sound was distorted. These problems are not a shortcoming of the 200, but of my WiFi network. Be aware that you must have a fast and robust WiFi network to take full advantage of the 200’s wireless streaming capabilities. This means replacing the router supplied by your Internet service provider; stock routers designed for e-mail and surfing the Internet are not adequate for the data demands of audio streaming. Now the sound. The Devialet 200 was shocking in some respects—the clarity, transparency, dynamic impact, and bass authority were simply sensational for any amplifier, never mind an amplifier of the 200’s size and price. The overall presentation was big (dynamically and spatially), robust, muscular, and authoritative. Taking iron-fisted control over the Magico Q7’s woofers, the 200 reproduced that almost physical “purring” quality of a Fender bass guitar to a “t.” The bass wasn’t just full-bodied, it was richly textured and finely nuanced as well. The 200’s effortless authority and wide dynamics really showcased virtuoso bass performances, such as Ray Brown’s playing on Soular Energy (96/24 download) or his contribution to Bill Evans’ Quintessence (Analogue Productions 45rpm LP). The bass drum impacts on The Firebird (Reference Recordings 176.4/24) were hard-hitting, nearly lifting me out of my seat. This quality of bass and dynamic agility in an under-$10k integrated amplifier is remarkable. Incidentally, four Stillpoints Ultra SS isolation devices under the 200 further improved the 200’s already superb bottom-end definition. The Devialet 200’s other salient quality was an open, transparent, and dimensional rendering. In the ability to conjure the illusion of instruments in space, each surrounded by a halo of air, the 200 was in the territory of expensive separates. The track “You’re Driving Me Crazy” by Dick Hyman on the Reference Recordings HRx Sampler (176.4/24) is a great yardstick for assessing a component’s ability to present a natural and open soundstage, as well as its ability to keep each instrument’s tonal and spatial characteristics intact within the larger whole. The 200 didn’t homogenize this track (as many components do to some degree), not did it foreshorten the tremendous soundstage depth and sense of live “air” around the performers. The tonal balance seemed a little forward and incisive in the upper midrange and treble. On strings, solo or massed, the 200 tended to emphasize the upper harmonics of the strings rather than the instruments’ bodies. Cymbals were more prominent in the mix than through my reference amplifiers, and vocals had a touch of sibilance. On the plus side, this character fostered a sense of presence and immediacy, with an almost tangible quality to the midrange. The 200 didn’t gloss over recordings that are bright and hard in the treble—Donald Fagan’s otherwise stunning Morph the Cat in 96/24, for example. Yet on a smooth recording such as Duke Ellington’s Duke’s Big 4, Joe Pass’ guitar was reproduced with a stunning sense of the instrument existing in my listening room. Here’s where the 200’s tone controls came in handy; a 1–2dB treble cut took the edge off with just a slight loss of top-end openness and extension. Transients were whip-fast, with percussion and other impulsive sounds taking on life and energy. In fact, “energy” is a good word to describe the 200; between the robust dynamics, incisive tonal balance, and razor-sharp transients, the 200 presented music with a lively, upbeat quality. The Devialet’s character is at the opposite end of the sonic spectrum from the classic tube-amplifier sound. If you’re looking for a relaxed, laid-back, and forgiving presentation, the 200 probably isn’t for you. As always, loudspeaker matching is crucial. Turning to the phono performance, I configured one of the Devialet’s inputs to accept phono signals, and set the gain and cartridge loading for the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. The sound was very much like the sound through the digital inputs, with the characteristic bottom-end punch, wide dynamics, and surprisingly three-dimensional soundstage. I thought, however, that the Devialet added a bit of sheen to the treble, heard as a slightly thinner sound to strings, cymbals that came a little closer to the fore, and a hint of sibilance on vocals. I next converted my two stereo review samples to mono operation. This conversion process is quite simple: Create a new configuration file for each 200 on the website, load it into each 200; run one coaxial cable between them; and the two amplifiers now operate in tandem from the remote control. Even the displays on each unit are updated, changing from “Devialet 200” to “Devialet 400.” As great as the 200 was in bottom-end definition, weight, dynamic impact, and control, it was even better when running a pair of 200’s in monoblock mode. No one would listen to a single 200 and want more from the bass (I didn’t, and I’d been listening to the incomparable $155k Soulution 701s), but adding a second 200 rendered a surprising increase in bottom-end punch and bass authority. Even more surprising was the increase in clarity, resolution, and transparency, and, in particular, the improvement in treble quality in mono operation. The tendency toward treble incisiveness described earlier disappeared in mono operation, something that I wasn’t expecting. In mono, the upper-mids became more liquid in texture, and the treble was decidedly gentler, more refined and nuanced, and smoother. Why this should be I have no idea, but the difference was unmistakable. I would have thought that connecting a second 200 via a coaxial SPDIF link would have degraded the treble performance because of the jitter added by SPDIF. In addition to the greater midrange liquidity and smoother treble, the mono pair also exhibited finer resolution, not so much of low-level details but of the ability to separate individual instruments from the whole. Whatever was happening, in mono mode the pair of 200s offered stunning performance. Even under the unforgiving microscope of the Magico Q7s, the pair of Devialets sounded like much, much, more expensive electronics. This level of dynamic verve, bass authority, clarity, and resolution is unprecedented at this price, in my experience. Just to check myself, at the end of the auditioning I switched back to the Berkeley Alpha USB and Alpha DAC reference digital front end, Soulution 725 preamp, and 701 monoblocks, a roughly $230k combination (which I had not heard for about two weeks). This juxtaposition only reinforced just how great a pair of Devialet 200s sound, and what an amazing value they represent. A mono pair is significantly better sounding in all respects than a single stereo unit. Conclusion The Devialet 200 is one remarkable component; its hybrid Class A/D amplifier, innovative software-controlled architecture, advanced features, and genre-bending shape and operation are unique. But the 200 is more than a just technological wonder—its sound quality is in many ways superb. The 200’s bass authority, dynamic impact, soundstage transparency and dimensionality, and transient speed far exceed expectations for an under-$10k integrated amplifier/wireless streaming DAC. The upper-mids and treble are a bit on the incisive side, a character that can be tamed with the 200’s tone controls or ideal loudspeaker matching. This outstanding performance was catapulted into another realm by running a pair of 200s in mono. The monoblock 200s not only improved upon the best qualities heard in stereo operation, but more significantly, ameliorated my reservations about the treble. Surprisingly, mono operation rendered a more refined presentation by virtue of the greater midrange liquidity and a significantly smoother and more relaxed high end. The Devialet 200/400 is, by a wide margin, the most advanced, flexible, and technically sophisticated audio product I’ve reviewed. It may look like a lifestyle product, but underneath the 200/400 is a serious piece of audiophile hardware. It’s a compelling package that just happens to sound great, too. SPECS & PRICING Power output: 170Wpc into 8 ohms, 200Wpc into 6 ohms (model 200); 340W into 6 ohms, 400W into 8 ohms (model 400) Digital inputs: AES/EBU, coaxial SPDIF (RCA), TosLink, USB, Ethernet, WiFi Digital output: SPDIF (RCA) Analog inputs: Two line or phono (software selectable) Analog outputs: One stereo or dual mono, selectable filter, fixed or variable level Dimensions: 15" x 15" x 1.57" Weight: 13 lbs.

Read this stunning review of the Devialet Expert Pro amplifiers in Absolute Sound magazine; book a demo now!! Devialet Expert Pro Integrated Amplifier/Streaming DAC Equipment report To call the Devialet Expert 200 a technologically advanced audio component is like saying Miles Davis played the trumpet. In fact, there’s no single product-category description that can encompass the 200’s myriad functions and capabilities, nor is there a precedent for the 200’s feature set. The Devialet Pro 200 offers a host of customization and upgrade abilities that have never before incorporated into an audio component. Rather than thinking of the Devialet in terms of traditional component categories, it’s more useful to consider it as a general-purpose multi-function hardware platform controlled by software. That hardware platform includes a 200Wpc integrated amplifier with a DAC, phono input, wireless streamer, A/D converter (with LP-ripping capability), and subwoofer crossover. The 200’s inputs can be configured to fit into just about any system. Don’t have a turntable but have two analog line sources? No problem. The analog inputs can be configured as line inputs. Conversely, those same input jacks can become phono inputs, complete with adjustable gain and cartridge loading (impedance and capacitance). With a new technology called Speaker Active Matching (SAM), the 200’s output signal can be optimized for your particular loudspeakers. To give you an idea of this product’s flexibility: My Devialet Expert 200 review sample was shipped to me as the 170Wpc model 170. A software update turned it into the 200Wpc model 200. You can even convert the 200Wpc stereo model 200 into a 400W monoblock with the addition of a second model 200—which also doubles the number of inputs. This configuration is sold by Devialet as the model 400—which as we’ll see does much more than increase the output power. The 200’s appearance is as radical as the technology inside. About the size and shape of a laptop computer, the chrome-plated aluminum case can be mounted flat against a wall. Only one button, an on/off switch, adorns the front panel (if you can call it that). You interact with the 200 through a square remote control with four small buttons and a huge volume knob. Alternately, you can control the 200 with an app on your tablet or mobile device. The app’s graphic display mimics the remote’s large round volume control, which you “turn” with a swipe of your finger. Configuring the 200 is quite simple. A page on Devialet’s website shows the 200’s rear panel with the configurable components highlighted. Clicking on, for example, the RCA input jacks brings up a screen that allows you to select between line and phono; and, if you choose phono, the cartridge gain and loading become selectable. Other phono options include mono or stereo, selectable equalization curves, and channel balance. A digital-out jack can be changed into an analog line-out jack, with or without high- or low-pass filtering, with selectable crossover frequency and slope. The signal appearing at the binding posts can be high- or low-pass filtered, again with selectable frequency and slope. These filtering functions are ideal for systems with a subwoofer; the signal driving the speakers is high-pass filtered, and the line-out signal driving the sub is low-pass filtered. Once you’ve virtually configured your 200 on the website, you download the configuration file to an SD card. You then insert the SD card in the 200’s rear panel, and in a few seconds the 200 has morphed into an audio product with the parameters you’ve specified. Because the 200 is essentially a digital platform, analog inputs, including phono signals, are digitized. You can select a sample rate of 96 or 192kHz in the A/D converter. The digitized signal, from any input, appears at a digital-out jack (RCA). You could use this function to digitize and archive a library of LPs, for example. I created two SD cards, one with a full-range configuration for driving the Magico Q7s and another with the high-pass and low-pass filters engaged for the Raidho X-1s and a pair of JL Audio e-112 subwoofers (review forthcoming). Similarly, you could create multiple SD cards with different cartridge loadings, for example, and simply swap cards rather than go through the entire configuration process for each adjustment. I found only one drawback to this approach; it’s much easier to experiment with different subwoofer crossover frequencies by turning a knob on the JL Audio subwoofer than by changing the setting on Devialet’s website, saving the configuration file, and updating the 200. Digital inputs include USB, AES/EBU, TosLink, and SPDIF coaxial. You can also wirelessly stream audio at up to 24-bit/192kHz via Devialet’s AIR Universal Streamer app on your tablet, computer, or smartphone. Wireless connection between the computer music server and the 200 has a theoretical advantage over USB, largely by isolating the computer’s noise from the 200. The AIR app provides asynchronous connection between your computer and the 200; the signal is buffered, and then processed to reduce jitter. You can also stream music files to the 200 via the 200’s Ethernet connection. With the 200’s unique capabilities, it’s easy to overlook the core technology upon which not just the 200, but the entire company behind it, is based. As described in the sidebar, Devialet arose from a project to create an amplifier output stage that combined a Class A voltage amplifier with a Class D current amplifier. The goal was to realize the sound quality of a Class A circuit with the efficiency of Class D. This topology, called ADH (Analog Digital Hybrid), is what makes it possible to produce a 200Wpc integrated amplifier in a chassis a little bigger than a laptop computer. The power supply is also a power-factor corrected switch-mode type, further saving space and weight. In operation, the 200 runs hotter than a pure Class D design. The signal path from DACs (Burr-Brown PCM1792) to speaker terminals is just 4" long. In most multi-bit DACs, the DAC’s current output is converted to a voltage by an op-amp, or in rare cases, by a discrete circuit. The Devialet takes a different approach; a passive current-to-voltage converter that employs a single very-high-quality resistor housed within a temperature-stable environment. This removes an active gain stage from the signal path. The circuitry inside the chassis is modular, allowing hardware upgrades as well as software updates. Unusually, the Class D output stage doesn’t require a large filter (an inductor and a capacitor) to smooth the switching output stage’s stair-step waveform and switching noise. The 200’s specs are quite impressive, to say the least: THD+N is a very low 0.001% at full power, the signal-to-noise ratio is 130dB, and output impedance is an ultra-low 0.001 ohms. In daily use, the Devialet 200 is a joy. The unit is very simple to operate, and I loved the remote control’s huge, solid-feeling volume knob—much more satisfying than pushing tiny plastic buttons. The top panel (front panel if you mount the 200 flat against a wall) has a small round window that illuminates to show the selected input, volume setting, and other parameters. This display can also show a wide range of technical detail, from the network settings to the heatsink temperature. Bass and treble controls are also provided, accessible from the remote control. Three of the remote control’s buttons can be configured to perform whatever functions you want, including source selection, SAM on/off, polarity inversion, tone controls, and more. The 200’s advanced technology, unprecedented feature set, and sophisticated capabilities are wrapped in an extremely elegant and livable package. A few other notes. Devialet Expert Pro offers a “Companion” model 200 that lacks a remote control and Ethernet/WiFi streamer for those systems with two model 200s operating in mono. The Companion is $7995. The Companion is bundled with the model 200 and sold as the model 400. You can also upgrade a 200 by adding a Companion and turning it into the 400. Devialet Pro also offers the model 120, a lower-powered (120Wpc) version for $6495 that’s based on the same architecture. The 120 cannot, however, be converted to mono operation, and it has only a moving-coil input that lacks the cartridge loading functions of the 200. The top of the line is the $29,995 model 800, which, as its model number suggests, is rated at 800Wpc. Listening The Devialet Expert Pro 200/400 saw time driving the Magico Q7s, the tiny Raidho X-1 monitors, and the X-1s augmented with a pair of JL Audio e-112 subwoofers. In this last configuration, I programmed the 200’s speaker outputs with a high-pass filter at 80Hz, fourth-order slopes, and one of the line outputs low-pass filtered, also at 80Hz, fourth-order. The latter fed the powered JL Audio subwoofer. Before getting to the sound, I’ll comment on my experience with the wireless streaming feature. After installing the Devialet AIR app on my MacBook Pro, I was able to compare the 200’s sound when decoding a wireless stream against the MacBook Pro’s USB output. Wireless streaming has theoretical advantages over USB, largely by virtue of physically decoupling the computer’s noise from the 200’s DAC and audio circuitry. When I performed this comparison, I was surprised by how much better the wireless streaming sounded than USB (even with a state-of-the-art USB cable). The music had more ease and refinement, with smoother midrange and treble textures. The downside, however, was that the 200 would sometimes lose lock with the MacBook Pro, producing the disconcerting effect of the music going suddenly silent in the middle of a piece—musicus interruptus. Moreover, when I tried to stream 176.4kHz/24-bit files the sound was distorted. These problems are not a shortcoming of the 200, but of my WiFi network. Be aware that you must have a fast and robust WiFi network to take full advantage of the 200’s wireless streaming capabilities. This means replacing the router supplied by your Internet service provider; stock routers designed for e-mail and surfing the Internet are not adequate for the data demands of audio streaming. Now the sound. The Devialet 200 was shocking in some respects—the clarity, transparency, dynamic impact, and bass authority were simply sensational for any amplifier, never mind an amplifier of the 200’s size and price. The overall presentation was big (dynamically and spatially), robust, muscular, and authoritative. Taking iron-fisted control over the Magico Q7’s woofers, the 200 reproduced that almost physical “purring” quality of a Fender bass guitar to a “t.” The bass wasn’t just full-bodied, it was richly textured and finely nuanced as well. The 200’s effortless authority and wide dynamics really showcased virtuoso bass performances, such as Ray Brown’s playing on Soular Energy (96/24 download) or his contribution to Bill Evans’ Quintessence (Analogue Productions 45rpm LP). The bass drum impacts on The Firebird (Reference Recordings 176.4/24) were hard-hitting, nearly lifting me out of my seat. This quality of bass and dynamic agility in an under-$10k integrated amplifier is remarkable. Incidentally, four Stillpoints Ultra SS isolation devices under the 200 further improved the 200’s already superb bottom-end definition. The Devialet 200’s other salient quality was an open, transparent, and dimensional rendering. In the ability to conjure the illusion of instruments in space, each surrounded by a halo of air, the 200 was in the territory of expensive separates. The track “You’re Driving Me Crazy” by Dick Hyman on the Reference Recordings HRx Sampler (176.4/24) is a great yardstick for assessing a component’s ability to present a natural and open soundstage, as well as its ability to keep each instrument’s tonal and spatial characteristics intact within the larger whole. The 200 didn’t homogenize this track (as many components do to some degree), not did it foreshorten the tremendous soundstage depth and sense of live “air” around the performers. The tonal balance seemed a little forward and incisive in the upper midrange and treble. On strings, solo or massed, the 200 tended to emphasize the upper harmonics of the strings rather than the instruments’ bodies. Cymbals were more prominent in the mix than through my reference amplifiers, and vocals had a touch of sibilance. On the plus side, this character fostered a sense of presence and immediacy, with an almost tangible quality to the midrange. The 200 didn’t gloss over recordings that are bright and hard in the treble—Donald Fagan’s otherwise stunning Morph the Cat in 96/24, for example. Yet on a smooth recording such as Duke Ellington’s Duke’s Big 4, Joe Pass’ guitar was reproduced with a stunning sense of the instrument existing in my listening room. Here’s where the 200’s tone controls came in handy; a 1–2dB treble cut took the edge off with just a slight loss of top-end openness and extension. Transients were whip-fast, with percussion and other impulsive sounds taking on life and energy. In fact, “energy” is a good word to describe the 200; between the robust dynamics, incisive tonal balance, and razor-sharp transients, the 200 presented music with a lively, upbeat quality. The Devialet Expert Pro character is at the opposite end of the sonic spectrum from the classic tube-amplifier sound. If you’re looking for a relaxed, laid-back, and forgiving presentation, the 200 probably isn’t for you. As always, loudspeaker matching is crucial. Turning to the phono performance, I configured one of the Devialet’s inputs to accept phono signals, and set the gain and cartridge loading for the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. The sound was very much like the sound through the digital inputs, with the characteristic bottom-end punch, wide dynamics, and surprisingly three-dimensional soundstage. I thought, however, that the Devialet added a bit of sheen to the treble, heard as a slightly thinner sound to strings, cymbals that came a little closer to the fore, and a hint of sibilance on vocals. I next converted my two stereo review samples to mono operation. This conversion process is quite simple: Create a new configuration file for each 200 on the website, load it into each 200; run one coaxial cable between them; and the two amplifiers now operate in tandem from the remote control. Even the displays on each unit are updated, changing from “Devialet Expert Pro 200” to “Devialet Expert Pro 400.” As great as the 200 was in bottom-end definition, weight, dynamic impact, and control, it was even better when running a pair of 200’s in monoblock mode. No one would listen to a single 200 and want more from the bass (I didn’t, and I’d been listening to the incomparable $155k Soulution 701s), but adding a second 200 rendered a surprising increase in bottom-end punch and bass authority. Even more surprising was the increase in clarity, resolution, and transparency, and, in particular, the improvement in treble quality in mono operation. The tendency toward treble incisiveness described earlier disappeared in mono operation, something that I wasn’t expecting. In mono, the upper-mids became more liquid in texture, and the treble was decidedly gentler, more refined and nuanced, and smoother. Why this should be I have no idea, but the difference was unmistakable. I would have thought that connecting a second 200 via a coaxial SPDIF link would have degraded the treble performance because of the jitter added by SPDIF. In addition to the greater midrange liquidity and smoother treble, the mono pair also exhibited finer resolution, not so much of low-level details but of the ability to separate individual instruments from the whole. Whatever was happening, in mono mode the pair of 200s offered stunning performance. Even under the unforgiving microscope of the Magico Q7s, the pair of Devialets sounded like much, much, more expensive electronics. This level of dynamic verve, bass authority, clarity, and resolution is unprecedented at this price, in my experience. Just to check myself, at the end of the auditioning I switched back to the Berkeley Alpha USB and Alpha DAC reference digital front end, Soulution 725 preamp, and 701 monoblocks, a roughly $230k combination (which I had not heard for about two weeks). This juxtaposition only reinforced just how great a pair of Devialet 200s sound, and what an amazing value they represent. A mono pair is significantly better sounding in all respects than a single stereo unit. Conclusion The Devialet Expert Pro 200 is one remarkable component; its hybrid Class A/D amplifier, innovative software-controlled architecture, advanced features, and genre-bending shape and operation are unique. But the 200 is more than a just technological wonder—its sound quality is in many ways superb. The 200’s bass authority, dynamic impact, soundstage transparency and dimensionality, and transient speed far exceed expectations for an under-$10k integrated amplifier/wireless streaming DAC. The upper-mids and treble are a bit on the incisive side, a character that can be tamed with the 200’s tone controls or ideal loudspeaker matching. This outstanding performance was catapulted into another realm by running a pair of 200s in mono. The monoblock 200s not only improved upon the best qualities heard in stereo operation, but more significantly, ameliorated my reservations about the treble. Surprisingly, mono operation rendered a more refined presentation by virtue of the greater midrange liquidity and a significantly smoother and more relaxed high end. The Devialet Expert Pro 200/400 is, by a wide margin, the most advanced, flexible, and technically sophisticated audio product I’ve reviewed. It may look like a lifestyle product, but underneath the 200/400 is a serious piece of audiophile hardware. It’s a compelling package that just happens to sound great, too. SPECS & PRICING Power output: 170Wpc into 8 ohms, 200Wpc into 6 ohms (model 200); 340W into 6 ohms, 400W into 8 ohms (model 400) Digital inputs: AES/EBU, coaxial SPDIF (RCA), TosLink, USB, Ethernet, WiFi Digital output: SPDIF (RCA) Analog inputs: Two line or phono (software selectable) Analog outputs: One stereo or dual mono, selectable filter, fixed or variable level Dimensions: 15" x 15" x 1.57" Weight: 13 lbs.