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DEVIALET DIONE Review – Science of sound

The debut Dolby Atmos soundbar from French manufacturer Devialet is a sensational performer.

Any new soundbar needs to be rather special to A survive – there are pallets of the things sitting in the storeroom of every back-street electronics shop. High-end French audio specialist Devialet has had one in development for over two years, so why does it think now is the time to launch it – and why did it take so long? We went to Devialet’s Paris HQ to check out the Dione, a one-box TV audio powerhouse. Read our DEVIALET DIONE Review.

av info
PRODUCT: Premium singleenclosure Dolby Atmos soundbar
POSITION: Devialet’s only soundbar model
PEERS: Sennheiser Ambeo; Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3; Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage
WEBSITE: www.devialet.com

French hi-fi auteur Devialet has a knack for delivering seismic bass from compact boxes, as seen in its celebrated Phantom speakers that rock like enclosures three times the size. Now comes the Dione, the brand’s first Dolby Atmos soundbar, and it punches even lower.

When wallmounted, the Dione’s Orb driver can be rotated to still fire forwards

Devialet dione vs ambeo

Devialet’s bar is certainly priced for those looking for something more premium than most rivals, even if it undercuts Sennheiser’s superb Ambeo bar. And introducing a Dolby Atmos soundbar at this point in time isn’t so unusual: British company Bowers & Wilkins recently introduced the Panorama 3 as its first Atmos offering.

Devialet CEO Franck Lebouchard has overseen the launch of the Dione, and says it’s not before time, having originally slated the product for launch before last Christmas. “I prefer being ready in March but with an amazing product,” he smiles.

“When I joined the company four years ago, we had Phantom. And it’s successful. But my first move was to say, ‘OK, we have those amazing technologies, we know how to do design, but we want to be in bigger markets.’ The biggest one is true wireless thanks to our friend Apple, and we entered that market with Gemini. And another booming market is TV soundbars.

DEVIALET DIONE Review

“We decided to try and design a product that would be something truly new, using all our knowledge and our technologies. When we wrote the brief we realised that home cinema systems are painful in the sense that you have extra speakers. So we wanted everything all in one.”

When Elsa Pataky, as Captain J. J. Collins in Netflix actioner Interceptor, unloads her sidearm into a hulking terrorist early into the attack on her isolated marine station, the gun sounds like a cannon going off. Yummy.

This is because the Dione has no fewer than eight SAM-powered (Speaker Active Matching) bass drivers onboard, which allow it to drop down to a claimed 24Hz. For the end user, this results in a soundbar that lands its low blows with homogeneous, gut-punching skill. Nor does it take long to realise that Devialet’s Dione is a devastating Dolby Atmos debut by the brand.

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Key FEATUREs
If it makes you tappy
There’s a remote and you can also control the Dione with Devialet’s app, but the panel also has a line of subtle touch controls as a backup.
Bawl together now
The soundbar has eight long-throw subwoofers in a SAM (Speaker Active Matching) configuration to provide beefy bass with no separate sub.
Wish you were hear?
The Dione doesn’t work with voice assistants at present, but Devialet tells us the company will support Alexa if customers demand it.
Orb’s yer uncle
The sides of the central sphere vibrate, just as with Devialet’s Phantom speakers, and it adapts acoustically to the position of the bar.
Spiritin’ the Sky
Some of the tech that Devialet developed for the great-sounding Sky Soundbox TV speaker has also been used for the Dione.
King of the mode
Audio is auto-upscaled into 5.1.2, while it also uses Adaptive Volume Level trickery to raise up dialogue in the mix. There are four listening modes. 

IT’S A DIONE DEAL

The Dione is a 12kg, 77mm-high, 1.2m-long dark grey soundbar that’s predictably high-end, with full Dolby Atmos support and 17 neodymium drivers inside the shell, including the two upward-firing units for Atmos.

DEVIALET DIONE Review

As you’d expect, as well as Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi there’s support for AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and UPnP. While HDMI eARC is recommended, you can also hook it up via optical.

Enter the Orb

Wide at 1.2m (and reassuringly hefty at 12kg), this soundbar is best matched to screens 55in and up, and it promises a 5.1.2-channel performance, courtesy of 17 drivers in total – nine 1.6in diameter fullrange aluminium units, plus those eight aluminium woofers, which adopt a 5.25in racetrack driver design.

Devialet’s exploded view of the soundbar shows the configuration of its 17 drivers, including side-facing units at each end

The Dione’s forward-facing array is fabric cloaked, the end modules having Dolby Enabled height drivers similarly clad. The real eye-catcher, though, is the spherical centre channel, named the Orb.

BALL ON THE WALL

The sphere is the key design element of this soundbar, and is designed to hark back to the look of the company’s hefty Phantom speakers. It sits in a recess in the centre of a bespoke anodised aluminium plate. Because the soundbar can be wall-mounted or not depending on your preference, the ball twists around with a smooth action according to which way you want to use the soundbar.

Amplifier power is rated at 950W via Devialet’s custom ADH technology

This comes in a default position for horizontal use. However, if you choose to wall mount the ‘bar, the Orb can be re-orientated and locked into an alternate forward-facing orientation. An internal gyroscope tells the soundbar how it’s been positioned, also resulting in the Atmos drivers becoming front firers, and the front L/R becoming heights. Clever.

Fit and finish is excellent, as it should be at the Dione’s premium price. The soundbar has a sleek, classy feel to it – even the on-body controls, over to its left-hand side, look smart. There’s no dedicated remote control though -instead you have to perform in-depth operation via an app. This is fine as long as the wielder of the smartphone or tablet is in the room, but isn’t convenient for others who might want control when the smart device owner is absent. A usability fail in my book.

The Dione is compatible with Devialet’s Phantom remote, but that’s a very expensive extra.

Connections, compared to some soundbars selling for even a quarter of the price, are minimal. There’s just a single HDMI which is eARC/ARC enabled, plus a digital optical audio input, and Ethernet. With no HDMI switching, you’ll need to ensure all your sources come via your TV. Wireless connectivity is more accommodating, comprising AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth 5.0 and UPnP. At the heart of the soundbar is an SoC (System on a Chip) with a 24-bit/96kHz DAC embedded alongside Devialet’s analogue digital hybrid (ADH) amplification and SAM technology.

‘Appy families

Setup via the app is slick and intuitive. The software quickly recognises the Dione over Bluetooth, and connects it to your network. A short calibration routine then tailors the output of the soundbar to your room’s acoustics, using a quartet of in-built mics. These can be disabled once the calibration is complete, as they’re not used for anything else – this soundbar isn’t smart, and doesn’t support voice assistants of any persuasion.

The app, which is nicely designed, confirms the source format (be it Dolby Atmos, multichannel or stereo) and offers audio presets: Movie/ Spatial, Music and Voice, plus a dynamically compressed Night mode.

Movie is best thought of as the standard option for most material. When there’s no Dolby Atmos or core multichannel stream, it’ll upscale any two-channel source to 5.1.2, using Devialet’s proprietary ‘SPACE’ upmixing algorithm. With wireless two-channel sources (Bluetooth, Spotify etc), the ‘Spatial’ upscaling mode is used.

Use the Music preset, and the Dione reverts to a stereo configuration, with only the left and right drivers in use. Voice, as expected, is designed to enhance vocal clarity for TV, news and podcasts. This is a good deal more subtle than some rival interpretations, so credit should be given to Devialet for improving speech clarity without sacrificing overall fidelity.

There’s no DTS:X support on this ‘bar, but that’s no biggie. Most TVs can’t pass it through anyway, and it’s not used by streaming services.

Stern test

Devialet’s Dione makes everything sound great. Even the simplest mix – David Letterman interviewing Howard Stern (My Next Guest, Netflix) – is buttery smooth. The soundbar’s central Orb unit comprises one active driver, plus two passive radiators, which goes some way to explaining its rich timbre.

In particular, the Dione is superb when it comes to ambience and mood. In Moon Knight (Disney+, Dolby Atmos) when Mark Spector makes a break for it in the mental institution, unsteady on his feet and struggling to comprehend what’s going on, his every stumble is distinguished by deep, bassy thumps. As the score swells around him, the presentation becomes symphonic.

Volume, source, power and Bluetooth controls are located on the top of the chassis. Physical inputs are Ethernet, optical and HDMI eARC

As I’ve come to expect from most single-piece soundbars, the sense of surround is left wanting. For all its reflective beam-forming and high-end processing, the Dione can’t create the illusion of sounds to the rear. But it does at least deliver surround mixes with a pronounced width, plus smooth panning of effects across the front soundstage.

‘The Dione is a thrilling all-in-one Dolby Atmos model, notable for its rich tonality and best-in-class bass’

Meanwhile, back with Interceptor (Netflix, Dolby Atmos), the honking Michael Lira score, deep ‘thwupping’ chopper blades, and clanking bombastic action, are sounding joyfully dramatic and largescale. The movie’s sound design is visceral, and that’s largely what’s delivered by the Dione. The ‘SBX-1 Interceptor’ base, centre of the action, reverberates to an ominous LFE rhythm, and when the shooting starts, the mix is immense.

One proprietary Devialet technology in use here is Adaptive Volume Level (AVL), which adjusts sound levels in real-time to minimise the too quiet/too loud listening syndrome (we first saw this on the Sky Soundbox). I suspect this is slightly cramping dynamics -Interceptor tends to play at a constant volume. It does make dialogue easier to follow though, which could be seen by many users as a positive, and the influence of AVL isn’t as obvious as it was on the Sky speaker.

That distinctive deep bass doesn’t dissipate when listening in two-channel music mode. Car Crash, by Idles, is a thumping, bulldozer of a track, and the Dione doesn’t flinch. Its performance is muscular without sounding over-bearing.

Similarly, Kagutsuchi, by Ibaraki, is wildly percussive, but the soundbar still manages to handle it with the discipline of two discrete stereo speakers. Channel separation is pronounced, in the best way.

Still, I often found myself hankering for the soundbar’s upscaling talents. Belle & Sebastian’s Talk to Me Talk to Me gains welcome spatial depth when upmixed to 5.1.2 by Devialet’s Spatial mode. The vocals float, the band has more space.

Inevitably, the best option of all is Dolby Atmos music, delivered in my case by the Tidal TV app. Foreigner’s Feels Like the First Time enjoys stadium-style scale. Shut your eyes and you’re there.

Blockbuster ‘bar

The Dione might be Devialet’s first ever soundbar, but it performs as if the brand has been making movie machines for years. It’s a thrilling all-in-one Dolby Atmos model, notable for its rich tonality and best-in-class bass. It sounds glorious with movies, is tailor-made for action blockbusters, but is no slouch with music either.

The price tag is obviously a bit rich, eclipsing the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 (HCC #332) and Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage (HCC #310) by quite a few quid, but style, bass profundity and musicality are jaw droppingly fine.

At retail you’ll find it squaring up alongside Sennheiser’s venerable Ambeo (HCC #302), which in terms of immersive performance has the edge, but it can’t match Devialet’s Dione for elegance

Verdict

EISA HIGH-END SOUNDBAR 2022-2023 – DEVIALET DIONE

With its debut soundbar, Devialet delivers authentic, high-fidelity home theatre audio from a stylish enclosure that hides a slate of innovations. Chief among these are the brand’s proprietary ADH amplification and speaker active matching (SAM) processing, which provide both tangible power and exemplary control over the Dione’s eight independent bass units. Joining the fun are side-firing and upfiring full-range drivers for Dolby Atmos/surround playback, plus the distinctive Orb centre channel, which can be rotated to ensure an accurate performance when the soundbar has been wall-mounted. In use the Dione astonishes with its low-end poise and slam, evocative ambience and smooth detail reproduction.
To hear one is to want one.

9 Total Score
Recommended DEVIALET DIONE Review

Devialet brings home the box office with a blockbuster 'bar offering smooth and syrupy sound - it's a sumptuous listen, and stylish too. A remote control would be nice, though.

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Specifications

Product NameDevialet Dione Dolby Atmos Soundbar
DesignBar
AmplificationSelf-powered
Separate SubwooferNo
Wireless SurroundsNo
Number Of Channels5.1.2
Dolby DigitalYes
Dolby AtmosYes
Dialogue EnhancementYes
Auto VolumeYes
Night ModeNo
Auto CalibrationYes
Optical Digital Inputs1
HDMI ARC InputYes
HDMI eARC InputYes
USB Type-A InputNo
Subwoofer Output0
Midrange1.625" Dome (9)
Woofer5.25" Cone (8)
EnclosureAcoustic Suspension
System Frequency Response24-21K Hz
Sound Bar RMS Power950
HDMI Outputs1
HDMI Version2.1
Includes RemoteYes
Voice ControlNo
Control by AppApple iOS, Android
HDMI CECYes
Remote IR PassthroughNo
Learns TV RemoteNo
Bluetooth ConnectivityBuilt-in 5.0
Bluetooth Audio PlaybackYes
Bluetooth Transmitter ModeNo
Online Music Sourcesvia Network Connection
Apple AirPlayAirPlay 2
Chromecast built-inNo
Amazon MusicNo
PandoraNo
SpotifyYes
TIDALNo
YouTube MusicNo
Files on Your NetworkYes
Built-in Wi-Fi Version802.11ac
Bands2.4, 5.0 GHz
Wall-mountableYes
Mounting Bracket IncludedNo
Sound Bar Size (inches)3-5/8H x47-1/4W x 6-9/16D
Sound Bar Weight26.4 lbs
Subwoofer Size (inches)No Subwoofer
frequency response24-21,000 Hz
maximum volume101 dB SPL

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE UNITS9 x 1.6in diameter full-range aluminium drivers; 8 x 5.25in-wide aluminium long-throw bass drivers in push-push pairs
ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED)950W, via analogue digital hybrid (ADH) technology
CONNECTIONSHDMI eARC connection; optical digital audio input; Ethernet
DOLBY ATMOS/DTS:XYes/No
SEPARATE SUBWOOFERNo
REMOTE CONTROLNo, Devialet app instead, or optional Devialet Phantom controller
DIMENSIONS1,200(w) x 88(h) x 165(d)mm
WEIGHT12kg
FEATURESDolby Atmos/Dolby Digital Plus decoding; wall-mounting; rotatable Orb centre driver; Apple AirPlay 2; Spotify Connect; UPnP; Bluetooth v5.0; Movie/ Spatial, Music, Voice and Night listening modes; SPACE upmixing; Adaptive Volume Level (AVL); Speaker Active Matching (SAM); ‘Advanced Dimensional Experience’ beam-forming; 24Hz-21kHz claimed frequency response; 24-bit/96kHz DAC; app control; room calibration

TESTED WITH

INTERCEPTOR: An unapologetically generic Netflix actioner with a fine Atmos soundmix. It’s big on bombast, with an insistent, driving score – just the ticket to test out low-frequency effects and directional steering. Listen out also for more subtle reflective ambience as our heroes scarper about their beleaguered marine base.

SPHERE IS THE KEY

“It’s a reduction in size from the Phantom,” says Emmanuel Nardin, Devialet’s design director, referring to the company’s mega-powerful one-box speaker range. “But we wanted to reuse this kind of concept [with the central sphere].”

Emmanuel then talks us through the fundamentals of why the new soundbar looks like it does. That sphere can be physically twisted on an axle depending on whether you have the bar on a TV stand or wall-mounted, so it’s always in the correct orientation.

“When you have such a big plate, it’s very difficult to make. It’s cheaper to make it in plastic but there are lots of reflections. We wanted to make this a high-end product, so we had to use high-grade materials. That’s why we decided to use sand-blasted aluminium to limit reflections from the TV above the soundbar.”

“WHEN I TOLD OUR DESIGNER WE WERE DOING A SOUNDBAR HE WAS UNHAPPY. YOU DON’T LOOK AT THE SOUNDBAR!”

ALL THINS MUST PASS

Emmanuel doesn’t want to talk about compromise, but it’s clear there has to be some with this kind of design. After all, you’re dealing with a long, thin box that has to fit underneath a telly and a height dictated by the driver units inside – and with Atmos there are other restrictions in the form of the upward-firing drivers. And then there are other materials, such as the acoustic fabric, for which the options are not plentiful.

Franck muses: “When I told our designer we were going to do a soundbar he was pretty unhappy because the brief was ‘as thin as possible and black’ – what you’re looking at is the television, not the soundbar!”

The response was to create the distinctive sphere design inspired by Devialet’s other technologies, but also to introduce some more subtle touches. “It’s been very complicated,” says Franck.

“We wanted to make the fact that it has two side speakers for Dolby Atmos very easy to understand,” adds Emmanuel. “So we cut it in sections.” The Dione has three clearly defined parts, with each up-firing Atmos unit also subtly sectioned off as part of the design.

“The 17 speakers, the aluminium plate… it’s super-nice but a total nightmare to produce. It was very important for us to have perfect sound horizontally or vertically. That’s been a headache but we’ve ended up with a product we absolutely love.”

We also ask Emmanuel about the inclusion of physical buttons: “The buttons are backup. When people want to turn up or turn off they can still do that if they can’t find their remote or their phone. In the past we made some products without an interface but customers didn’t like it.”

GESTATE OF INDEPENDENCE

On the subject of future products, Franck says Devialet is readying to launch several new devices this year… but each one has again taken a long time to emerge: “The reason for that is, if we don’t do things different and higher-quality we are useless, basically. Plus people here would not be interested.” He adds that there had been other companies offering to make him a more generic soundbar than the Dione would have been.

Would he like to launch products in a shorter time? “I would love that, but it seems that we are unable to do so. For good reason: everyone in this building wants to do something disruptive.”

Devialet dione vs sonos arc

TBU

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