Devialet Mania review: A petite powerhouse - MrLiambi's blog

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Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Devialet Mania review: A petite powerhouse

French hi-fi brand Devialet has something of a reputation for stylish, high-quality (and pricey) speakers that pack a punch. However, you've never been able to take that sound on the go with you - until now. 

The Devialet Mania is the result of four years' hard graft cramming all of Devialet's hi-fi know-how, design chops and 95dB of volume into a speaker that's only a shade bigger than an Amazon Echo - and it packs Alexa to boot. 

All that doesn't come cheap, mind you. At £690/$790, there's no doubt that this is a premium product - but with Devialet's name attached to it, that's almost a given. So does its performance match up to its dashing good looks? Here's our full review.

Design and features

  • 360-degree sound
  • 176 x 193 x 139 mm, 2.3kg
  • 4 x 25w full-range drivers, 2 x 38w woofers
  • Alexa smarts built in

Whenever Devialet is involved in a product, you know that its design will have had almost as much consideration as how it sounds, and no part of this design came about by accident.

Its spherical design with carrying handle might look a little like a luxurious kettlebell (and it feels like one too - at 2.3kg, it is reassuringly weighty), but it gives a subtle nod to one of its capabilities, which is 360-degree sound. Place this speaker in the middle of the room and it will fire out sound across an expansive soundstage - to the front, back and sides with equal weighting.

That's all thanks to what's happening underneath that woven fabric exterior, with four 25w full-range aluminium drivers - one for each 'quadrant' of the design - firing upwards in a cross stereo pattern to deliver immersive stereo sound no matter where you are.

However, also under the hood are four microphones with machine learning capabilities to understand where the speaker is playing from. By using Active Stereo Calibration (ASC), the Devialet Mania is able to detect its surroundings through mic feedback to adjust and improve its sound automatically - no separate calibration required.

That means if you place it against a wall, it will tweak the speakers closest to the wall to ensure it's always sounding its best. These microphones also support the Mania's smart capabilities, with Alexa on hand for all your voice assistant needs - just be aware if you turn off the microphones for privacy, this will also disable the ASC capabilities.

Of course, this is all supported by what you can see - the two exposed woofers that it feels like the whole design has been centred around. They're configured in Devialet's signature push-push configuration, as seen in the much more expensive Phantom speakers, and you can see them at work when you play music. They move backwards and forwards as they move enough air to hit those low bassy notes, and creating quite a stylish focal point in the process.

The result is powerful stereo sound at frequencies as low as 30Hz and as high as 20,000 Hz. Not bad at all.

As you'd expect from Devialet, the Mania offers much more than a simple Bluetooth connection. On-board Wi-Fi opens up your playback options to AirPlay 2 for better sound using iOS devices, as well as multi-room capabilities too. There's also Spotify Connect for playing directly from Spotify from any device. However, it does feel like something of a missed opportunity to not include support for a better Bluetooth codec at this price - like aptX or aptX HD - for those not using Apple devices or when Wi-Fi isn't available. The Mania only supports the more basic AAC or SBC - and there's no Cast for Android users either.

The Devialet app can help you control the Mania's playback, and also serves up some EQ controls should you wish to tweak the sound to your taste - and this does come in useful in some situations (more on that shortly). There are some physical playback and pairing controls built into the carrying handle that wraps itself around the circumference of the speaker too, as well as a battery life button and meter to see how much juice you have left.

Speaking of which, the Devialet mania offers up to 10 hours of battery life , and as is now expected from portable speakers, it is also water resistant to IPX4. While battery life feels a little on the short side, particularly when you start to push the volume, this is a portable device that feels more suited to moving around the house and garden than taking it out for a picnic. It's just a touch too heavy to imagine shoving it in a bag for on-the-go.

That makes the shorter battery life less of a concern, particularly when you can play with it on charge. It charges via USB-C or there is a separate charging plate available for £69/$80 - it's a really slick, smart-looking accessory, but it would've been nice to see this included in the box, as Sonos does with its Move speaker.

Performance

But just how good does this thing sound? We turn to Tidal via AirPlay and search out some serious bass to get a leveller on little speaker. Church in the Wild fits the bill perfectly, and the Mania rises to the challenge with ease. The punching bassline is delivered with all the swagger and depth of a much bigger speaker, but also the subtlety. Bass notes aren't delivered in broad strokes, but with texture and detail that goes beyond just a blob of bass giving it weight. That's not to say there isn't a lot of it - there is - and it's fair to say this is far from a neutral speaker. But what's there is good quality, which makes all the difference.

However, when placed close to a wall, the Mania can edge towards having a touch too much oomph in the low end. Thankfully the accessible EQ settings give you the ability to even that out - and they do so without affecting the rest of the frequency range. 

Perhaps unsurprising from a Devialet speaker, but there's power in spades. This will go loud enough to more than fill a room before you're even at three quarters of its capabilities. What's different here though, compared with cheaper speakers, is that the full volume scale is yours to play with - the Mania holds its own even at full volume.

It doesn't ever sound stretched - there's no fragility in the treble, no squashing of dynamics. There's perhaps a slight thickening up of the midrange at the very, very top, but in all honesty, there is more volume than you need here for the majority of situations that it doesn't feel like a problem. 

Outside though, you really do have the freedom to let the volume go. Any suggestion of thickness through the midrange vanishes when given open space, and the bass is less the leading role and more of a equal partner. The soundstage is huge. Very rarely have we heard a portable speaker command quite so much attention in the great outdoors. It is confident and authoritative, with an open presentation and space to spare. Walk around the speaker and you get pretty much the same experience through the full 360 degrees too, but there's a stronger stereo image when facing either the front or back woofer. 

Back inside, and a listen through of Starlight by Alma shows the Mania can handle sweet and delicate too. It's fair to say the Mania's presentation as a whole is more full-bodied than it is clinical, but alongside luscious vocals the orchestral accompaniment is presented with crispness and precision. There's great timing here too, across the frequency range, and a very cohesive performance from the treble to the bass. The Mania grips onto the complicated rhythm of DJ Shadow's Organ Donor without missing a beat, while Tom Odell's Summer Day bounces along with toe-tapping accuracy. 

Ultimately this is a seriously fun but very capable speaker, which will happily command many a house party or summer BBQ. However, at this price, the lack of aptX HD just takes the shine off it for non-Apple users - here's hoping a firmware update can fix this soon.



Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/speakers/reviews/163447-devialet-mania-review

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