French audio maker Devialet is best known for speaker collaborations, unique designs – and often heady prices. Having experimented with UK broadcaster Sky, the sound company is ready to launch its first solo soundbar for TVs, the Dione. And it’s huge.
Devialet pitches the Dione as a high-end soundbar, offering Dolby Atmos 5.1.2, as well as the ability to upscale stereo content into an approximate 5.1.2 audio signal, offering a richer sound stage and augmented spatial effect even if what you’re watching isn’t primed for Atmos. During a preview event in London, I got to listen to the new soundbar, with its eye-catching “orb” detail and well, it sounds deeper, crisper and outright louder than the mid-range soundbars I’ve owned myself. And pretty much any other soundbar I’ve heard
There’s also the reality that it’s likely as wide as your new 4K TV. And as deep too. That’s because it houses 17 speaker drivers – including eight subwoofers, all custom-built to Devialet’s specifications. This means, according to the company, that there’s enough oomph to sidestep a separate subwoofer unit, with the built-in woofers reaching bass levels as low as 24Hz, and attempting to fill the company’s aim of, as CEO Franck Lebouchard told me, “bringing everything to one object”.
As is the case for most modern soundbars, there are increased processor demands, and Devialet is using a Qualcomm SoC (System on a chip), which helps with room calibration and several of the company’s proprietary sound engineering features, like adaptive volume level (AVL), which automatically adjusts sound levels to help you hear speech, or avoid getting blasted by loud ads in the middle of quieter programs.
The most impressive trick is still the upmixing. I watched a nature documentary, first in stereo, then in Devialet’s SPACE upmixed mode, which attempts to add the richness and breadth of 5.1.2 audio to stereo audio. It works – even if this might not be true 5.1.2 audio. I could hear a richer soundstage, with the background rustles of the jungle, and the separate tweets of two birds in the midst of a courtship dance. Switching back to stereo, and everything sounds narrower, tighter.
Besides this movie mode, which is available when connected through HDMI or optical input, there’s also “spatial mode”, which attempts to upgrade audio from wireless sources (Spotify Connect, AirPlay or Bluetooth) and a voice mode which boosts, well, voices. This is aimed at news programming and podcasts.
You can switch between the modes through the companion app, as well as use the app for volume controls. There’s also a standalone controller from Devialet – sold separately – which looks like a smart thermostat. Because of course.
The company’s new Advanced Dimensional Experience (ADE) is its take on beamforming audio. According to the company’s white paper on the tech, this helps to optimize the surround audio, boosting soundwaves from certain angles and “rejecting” other soundwaves in an attempt to optimize audio for the listener in front of the soundbar.
The Dione can be laid beneath a TV or mounted on the wall. The aforementioned “orb” rotates to match this, but the bar can detect its orientation with its built-in gyroscope. The soundbar has specific audio profiles for either orientation. The orb, a nod to its Phantom speaker, also houses one active speaker and two passive radiators.
Devialet wants the attention of audiophiles – as well as those not looking to place multiple speakers around their living space. It’s difficult to compare to most of the smaller, cheaper products. The best comparison may be Sennheiser’s Ambeo, a $2,500 6.1.2 Atmos bar with plenty of tricks of its own. The Dione is a substantial investment, priced at $2,400 in the US, or £1,800 in the UK.
It’s another all-in-one solution, but at these specs, size and price, it’s for those interested in upgrading their entire viewing experience. What’s the point of a 4K OLED TV if everything doesn’t sound as good as it looks?