When you say portable speakers, most people think about cheap Bluetooth speakers that you can easily put in your backpack when you’re going to the park. But Devialet has something different in mind with the Devialet Mania.
The French high-end speaker maker wants to make the most luxurious and best sounding portable speaker around. The Devialet Mania costs $790 (€790) and is available today.
“We are launching a new product, the Devialet Mania. And it represents the end of a long process. We started with amps, then there were the Phantom speakers, the Gemini earbuds and the Dione soundbar,” Devialet CEO Franck Lebouchard told me. “We are entering a new market with this portable speaker.”
When Devialet decided to build a portable speaker four years ago, the concept was quite simple. Devialet wanted to design a speaker that works on battery, but a hi-fi speaker.
“Hi-fi means a lot of things. It means great sound quality of course. Hi-fi also means stereo sound or at least stereo rendering,” Lebouchard said.
The Devialet Mania is a spherical speaker with no front or back. There is a handle at the top of the device that invites users to pick it up and carry it around.
But you won’t put it in your backpack to go to the park as it weighs 2.3kg (around 5 pounds). You can take it with you when you go on vacation, but it has mostly been designed to carry around the house.
When you start playing music, the first thing that you are going to notice are the two woofers that are set up in a ‘push-push’ configuration to avoid unwanted vibrations.
At the top of the device, there are four full-range speakers each pointing in a different direction. When you put the Devialet Mania on a table in the middle of the room, the full-range speakers alternatively broadcast the left channel or the right channel (clockwise: left, right, left, right).
This way, wherever you sit, you mostly hear sound from the two full-range speakers that are in front of you — and you get stereo sound.
There are four microphones in the device as well as an accelerometer. The Devialet Mania detects when it has been moved to a new location. Thanks to its built-in microphones, it can also detect when it’s next to a wall.
In that case, the Devialet Mania determines the front and back of the device. The two full-range speakers on the left of the device broadcast the left channel, while the two speakers on the right broadcast the right channel.
Using microphones to actively adapt the sound of the speaker was one of the selling points of Apple’s original HomePod. But Devialet insists on sound quality as well, such as its SAM proprietary technology (Speaker Active Matching).
“We are the only ones that combine portable, hi-fi and automatic calibration,” Lebouchard said.
The Devialet Mania works with Devialet’s own app and features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. On Wi-Fi, it supports AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. The battery is supposed to last 10 hours at a normal volume.
There are some built-in buttons that let you pause the music, change the volume, activate Bluetooth and more. There’s a single USB-C port on the device for charging.
And because the Devialet Mania has microphones, the company is integrating Amazon Alexa for the first time. You can disable the feature entirely with a physical slider button near the USB-C port.
In addition to the base model that comes in black or white, there’s a $990 (€990) ‘Opéra de Paris’ model with gold-plated finishes and an optional docking station — the base can also be purchased separately.
“If we want to become a global player in the audio industry, we need to have a product in each major segment of the audio market — wireless earbuds, soundbars and portable speakers,” Lebouchard said. According to him, portable speakers and soundbars each generate €6 billion in sales every year.
As for the company’s older products, Devialet released an update to its Phantom speakers in January 2021 with newer components and a matte finish. “With Phantom, we release a big update every couple of years,” Lebouchard said.
When it comes to amplifiers, the Expert Pro was the company’s first product but it hasn’t been updated in a while.
“Amps aren’t a priority for us because it’s a very small market. But the Expert is an important product for our brand, for audiophile enthusiasts. We want to make the best amplifier in the world because we can’t say that we are the company with the best sound in the world without selling the best amplifier in the world,” Lebouchard said. So I guess it means “stay tuned.”
Over the past year and a half, Devialet has shipped wireless earbuds, a soundbar and a portable speaker. Lebouchard told me that there’s one missing product in the lineup — and it’s headphones.
But don’t hold your breath for Devialet headphones as the company is not sure it would be a strategic move. “When you go outside, people moved on from headphones to wireless earbuds,” Lebouchard said.