I finally made it! I had planned to spend a few days in Paris before heading to the West Coast to meet with my family there and some of that time was going to be dedicated to my HiFi freakiness! It started very well with a lunch with Jean-Paul Guy, just a few hours after landing from Australia and a visit to Presence Audio Conseil, one of the top dealers in the City of Lights. But first thing, first on the Monday morning (after a pit stop at arguably the best boulangerie in town, Du Pain et des Idées, for the the flakiest croissant ever!) I took the metro to the Sentier station and here it was, a few meters away in a magnificent late 19th century building that took part in the 1898 facades' contest, hosting the whole company from showroom on the ground floor to offices and R&D on the other floors.
It is a very big space, very confutable with the highest quality fittings and finishes, thanks to some famous investors money... The main space is dedicated to static displays of the products and a demo space for the Phantoms in stereo together with a very big screen advertising the company's technological breakthroughs and main features.
The demo itself is completely based on Tidal running on an iPad and feeding the Phantoms via Bluetooth. Difficult to be simpler and at about A$7,700 including a free subscription to Tidal for a year, it would be hard to assemble a separate components system to match the sonic result...
I had listened to a single Phantom at Len Wallis Audio a few months back and was suitably impressed! But the stereo experience is ten times better, as you suddenly can appreciate the polar response of what is essentially a compact Cabasse Sphere (at a fraction of the price...)
Tidal had all my favourite test songs in store, so I could fully investigate these revolutionary speakers. For the first time also, I had a chance to look at the guts of the beast and that was another good surprise - although I was not expecting to be disappointed. This product is highly sophisticated inside and outside, using the best electronic and mechanical design tools and manufacturing techniques available today.
Obviously, the bass driver assembly is the talk of the town here, and even if I still not sure I can trust the distortion figures in the very low part of the spectrum, I have to acknowledge here the fabulous work of Philippe Lesage, ex-Audax Technical Director and founder of renowned pro audio drivers manufacturer PHL Audio. The principle is derived from the Bruel & Kjaer vibrating pot but that's about it in terms of inspiration. The rest is pure mechanical and electronic genius!
If I were a 30 something young executive today, I would certainly buy a pair and be content with it. If I were the same hifi freak as I am, then I would also consider moving up to the Expert amplifier and a pair of SAM compliant speakers...and that was the second part of my demo time there...
Out of 5 or 6 pairs of very good loudspeakers, it just happened that these beautiful Sonus Faber columns were wired in, so I decided these would be good enough for our experiment. Now, we are talking 5 to 6 times the price of the Phantoms, as you will need two Expert amplifiersapnd the speakers... And its shows or rather it sounds!
The specifications are astonishing as per below, to be compared to the latest Bryston 4B cubed amplifier (my reference...)
Whether or not, one can hear the difference is a matter for further discussion, but Devialet has another weapon of sonic construction with their SAM software which basically digitally corrects some of the imperfections of your speakers (645 of them at last count, quite a choice by anybody's standard!). The Sonus Faber are already a very fine set of speakers out of the box, but SAM gives them another level of transparency and smoothness.
Another impressive feature of the Expert is in the range of inputs available from turntable (and precise matching of almost any cartridge...), any line source, bluetooth, NAS or streaming services...
Our friend Ken Kessler, of HIFI News fame, who is not famous for being Francophile when it comes to Hifi is a fan. That says a lot!
I had a great time and I was looked after very well by a quite knowledgeable young man. He promised to send me more technical information, but in typical French fashion, I have not heard from him yet... I will keep you posted with an update when I receive his correspondence.
So, if you are in Paris, spare the time to visit: it is well worth your time!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.