Devialet Speakers Offer NYC Integrator High-End Wireless Audio Solution
NYC integrator Sensorium AVR favors stylish design and self-amplification of new Devialet Phantom speakers for large Hamptons project.
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If you are going to choose a high-performance audio brand to partner up with, selecting one that entertainment mogul Jay Z is behind is a good place to start. That’s the case with Sensorium AVR, an integration company based in Manhattan, which signed on to be a Devialet dealer after its client, Roc Nation, owned by the rap superstar, became an investor in Devialet.
“I have a strong relationship with Roc Nation, because we do a lot of commercial audio-video work for them on the West Coast and East Coast,” says Sensorium AVR president Bryan Bilgore. “When Jay Z became one of the recent investors in Devialet, I was heavily exposed to their latest line of products, such as the Phantom Series of amplified speakers.”
Roc Nation is Jay Z’s entertainment representation company that touts clients such as musical superstars Rihanna and Shakira, as well as sports stars like Kevin Durant, Dez Bryant and Robinson Cano. Last year, Devialet, a Paris-based maker of high-end amplifiers and wireless multiroom audio, raised €100 million Euros in funding.
Devialet (CEDIA booth #5700) was founded in 2007 in Paris built around its patent of its Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) amplification technology, which blends the “sophistication of Class A analog with all the power and compactness of Class D digital technology,” according to the company.
Since its launch, Devialet has been known for its highly stylized Expert Series amplifiers. It has now adapted its ADH technology into its new Phantom loudspeakers, which has an internal analog amplifier to generate optimal resistance load, and four digital amplifiers to generate power.
Sensorium’s Roc Nation exposure led it to sign on as an authorized Devialet dealer eight months ago.
“We started our company with a very strict focus on high-end audio,” says Bilgore, who has a background in music and computer technology. “So, putting technology and music together — that was the beginning of the business.”
While the scope of the company has broadened today to include home automation and smart homes, Sensorium has retained a keen focus on audio quality in two-channel, surround sound and multiroom. Bilgore says the company’s high-performance audio focus “is probably one of the keys to the relationship we have with Devialet.”
“I first saw their products at a niche high-end two-channel audio show,” he recalls. “I’ve always appreciated the luxury design aspect of the business, where you not only have high performance, but you can also have something that shows great craftsmanship and design. Devialet certainly caught my attention at that point.”
Large Hamptons Project Takes 21 Devialet Phantoms
Indeed, the partnership was recently on display on a large project taken on by Sensorium in the Hamptons. The job includes the installation of 21 Devialet Phantom wireless loudspeakers, both for multiroom audio and for surround sound in the home theater. The job is for the home of the president of OTG, a technology company that designs airport lounges all around the world. OTG has specified Devialet equipment en masse in airport lounges around the world.
So when OTG’s owner recently purchased a home in the Hamptons, he wanted that same incredible sound quality in his residence.
Sensorium came in as the residential integrator on the project to come up with the best solution of how to get a distributed system that works in a residential environment.
“We optimized the design to bring it to the highest possible level of performance,” says Bilgore. “This is probably the first time that anyone had put 21 of these Phantom speakers inside a single house, and then treated them like a distributed audio system. So, the speakers in three of the rooms are paired with video, and there are 10 zones of audio in total. One of the zones is full surround-sound.”
Sensorium AVR creatively used the optical-only mode in the Phantom speakers that allows for complete third-party control without any internal software taking over any of the functions.
“It becomes a basic, pure chain of a speaker that has an internal amp, and an optical-input digital converter all-in-one,” remarks Bilgore. “So, you feed it optical, and whatever you feed it will come out on the other side as music. You’re no longer using Devialet or iPad controls. You have to use some other digital means of controlling volume, and getting sound optically into the speaker.”
Dante Provides Low Latency
Sensorium AVR also used the new Dante protocol to unite the entire audio system in the home -- both the surround sound and the distributed audio — in a low-latency environment that includes not only Devialet but also Sonos and Crestron controls.
Sensorium has been using Dante for many years on the commercial side.
“It’s a very flexible format. Dante is extremely low-latency. If you try to run a wireless multi-room system with something consumer-grade like Sonos, for example, you will have excessively poor latency (well over 1 millisecond) when you are trying to get multi-zone synchronization. So if the homeowner has a DJ or a presenter that wants to distribute to the entire house, such a high degree of latency will be a killer. Consumer-grade is not going to work there. Dante's ultra-low latency works great when you have certain applications in the home that require performance features that are a cut above the standard residential solution,” says Bilgore.
And he knows what he is talking about from experience. Sensorium AVR just completed live-sound installations using Dante in the Apollo Theater in Chicago and in the SoHo House in West Hollywood.
“Dante is something we’re pretty familiar with. It was the perfect solution [for the Hamptons project]. One of the things I like about Devialet is that they’re very quick to embrace smart solutions. Dante is one of those solutions,” he adds.
At CEDIA 2017, Devialet is introducing its new Dante receiving dongle that takes Dante signals in over Ethernet and sends an optical signal out with a POE feed. It makes the integration seamless with the new Crestron AVIA system, as well as many other Audio DSP (Xilica, Symetrix) systems. Devialet provides support and training for dealers who need help building those systems, with some packaged offers depending on the installation need, including home theater, multiroom audio, live sound and DSP features like room correction.
Weighing Design vs. Technology
Bilgore raves about both the technology behind the Devialet products and the superb design.
“It’s a package deal. You don’t get married to somebody just for one aspect. For us, and what we are focused on — ultimately, the product has to perform. That’s imperative. The quality, design, craftsmanship and service are all really important parts of the package. Because it’s self-amplified, it has built-in protection, so it has a level of robustness. Clients don’t have to worry that the amp may overdrive the speaker on the wrong frequencies like with some high-level systems,” says Bilgore.
He continues, “I’ve always thought audio quality should not be something that only certain — the ‘techno-nerd’ set — should be able to enjoy. Just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it should be hard to use, or hard to look at. That’s something that’s being worked through as time goes on, where technology and lifestyle merge.”
The price points for the Devialet Phantoms help support Sensorium AVR’s business model.
“We have them in our showroom,” says Bilgore, describing the two-channel setup where he and his team conduct demos. “The economics do not support showroom in Manhattan if you take an hour to demo a pair of Sonos Play5’s for $1,000. You need to spend that time educating and exposing people to higher end stereo equipment. A system with a pair of Phantoms and with stands is more like $8,000."
He continues, “I also don’t believe in selling things only because they’re expensive. There’s a fine line, and for me, the difference is that we’re a small company, so we’re not going to be able to service the public like Best Buy or Amazon. I’m really focused on ultra-high-end. The Devialets are probably the least expensive all-in-one system we’ve ever shown on a demo floor. It’s a viable choice, and it’s an amazing value at that.”
He adds, “It’s a great starter system because it’s very modular. You can start with one speaker. It’s high enough quality, and good enough performance that a lot of people who normally wouldn’t even consider something like this see it as a great lifetime investment. We have a wide range of customers, and they’re not all interested in six-figure sound systems, but they want to have great sound.”
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]
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