The Devialet LE-200 is a component that can either be your entire stereo (minus the speakers), or it can be any combination of components you happen to need.
The Devialet is a power amp, it’s a preamp, it’s a digital processer, it’s a DAC, and it’s a phono stage. Oh, and also a network streamer. And it looks good and you can mount it on the wall.
And last but not least, each piece of chain sounds really, really good. This is a completely innovative, serious piece of engineering. Nothing like the the Devialet have come before it. Without a doubt, Devialet have proven that there is still room for innovation in hifi.
What is the Devialet le-200?
The introduction kind of covers it, but the key takeaway is this: there is no genre of component that the Devialet LE200 fits into. It is a sleek, chrome, magical wall-mountable “multi-component”, that is configurable to your heart’s content.
This review will cover the Devialet used in two completely different scenarios:
#1. As a full Do-it-All Stereo (minus the phono, my turntable cable wasn’t long enough 🙁 )
I have to think that of all the ways someone can use a Devialet, this is the one where the heart of the design and engineering is. I cleared out all my stereo gear (which felt pretty good by the way!), pounds upon pounds of interconnect cables, power cables, and not to mention the cold hard steel of several audio components, all to make way for the shiny Devialet with it’s quaint
and round LCD display.
I ran my phono stage into a line input, and digital audio in several ways: coax from the SACD player, USB in from the Mac Mini music server, and coax digital in from the Lynx Hilo DAC.
#2. In Power-Amp Only Mode
This is my more real world usage of the Devialet. I’ve had a weakness in my power amp section compared to the rest of my gear for some time now. I’ve toyed with various very nice power amps over the years (such as Plinius, Conrad-Johnson and
others), and who-knows-what-path has ended me up with a Wyred 4 Sound class D 200WPC little guy. Maybe because it sounds really damn good despite all the audiophile hatred towards class D? Who knows. Either way, I was curious to find out how the Devialet would do in this setup.
How is it operated?
Let’s start with configuration. The cool thing about the Devialet, is that all of the ports on the back of it can be configured to do whatever it is you want them to! Those RCAs there, how bout we make them coax digital inputs to feed to the DAC section of the Devialet? Or rather, instead let’s make them moving coil phono stage inputs configured with high gain and 200ohms load!
This configurability is amazing and in a class of its own. The way it is done is with a really nice, web-based interface where it will store all of your different configurations. In the tool, you click on the port you want to configure, and a panel with all of the options will pop up. Very, very nice. Once you are done, you will save the config to an SD card that loads into the Devialet. No knobs and levers required here!
What isn’t the Devialet le-200?
As of early 2016, the Devialet is not a room-correction device. I struggle with my perspective on this one, because I can see it from two different sides:
- This is a must-have capability for a device like this and a big miss for the Devialet
- Asking for more features on the Devialet is like having Santa Claus hand you a bigger Christmas sack of loot than you ever would have dreamed of, and you looking him right in his Santa Claus eyes and saying : “More?”
The Devialet also doesn’t do home-theater setups. It’s for two channel (or two channel with subs!) setups only. Other than that? It’s about everything else.
Oh, and it’s also not speakers.
Fit and Finish
The build quality on this thing is amazing. It’s a slim, sleek and shiny wall mountable box with a built in LCD screen. It’s very modern, and built like a tank. Excellent standards of craftsmanship and quality throughout.
The remote is also excellent and unique. It has a rotary dial that feels very nice to the touch.
One downside for those of us that use universal remotes is that the remote control input on the Devialet is RF only and as such will only talk to its proprietary remote. Even though the Devialet remote is a work of functional art and I should just leave it out and use it, I have my entire system configured through a Universal Remote MX-890, so it would have been nice to be able to control it via the universal remote.
Some modes that I didn’t have a chance to use the Devialet in are:
Devialet 200 as Phono Stage
Devialet 200 as Vinyl Ripper
Devialet 200 as DAC only
Devialet 200 as Preamp only
Give these a try and let us know how they go!
Listening Tests and Comparisons
To get a handle on how things sounded within the context of our very familliar system, Carolyn and I swapped in the Anthem D2 Preamp/Processor, Lynx Hilo DAC and Supratek Syrah Tube Preamp. A full stack of gear vs the slim & sleek Devialet 200. The Piega C10LTDs were play the role of speaker duty. Some Piegas are in the SAM automatic speaker correction in the Devialet, but unfortunately these ones weren’t in there so we went ‘au natural.’
First up was the classic Fleetwood Mac, Rumors.
After listening to the house system for a few minutes we swapped in the Devialet
We started with the Devialet, and then swapped in the house system.
Carolyn noticed: “Whoa you can tell the difference right away. It sounds… softer”… “not like it’s more muted, but it feels a bit heavier.” To me, the Devialet had a clarity and sense of detail that was unmatched by the house system. The house system was darker. ”
Transients are FAST, the fast guitar work hits you instantly.”
Next up was Norah Jones, “Long Way Home”
We swapped the Devialet in and out vs the house system again and Carolyn exclaimed that: “IVE NEVER HEARD THAT BEFORE!” referring a half picked guitar in the background on one of the tracks. The “half picked guitar in the background are not as clean and clear” with the Anthem and Supratek setup. Details are “not as distinguishable,” however “Her voice sounds warm”. To me, the bass was a bit soft and not as well defined as it was with the Devialet.
Last up was Sufjan Stevens – 7 swans – side 1, first song.
My notes were: “detail on his bango are crisp and clear, though a bit on the thin side.”
“The Female volcals in the right channel are very crisp, but again a touch lean.
“The impact of drum hits sound HUGE!”
Overall the sound was impeccable in so many ways. Clean, clear, natural and pure. The only perceived weakness compared to the setup with the special and unique Supratek in it was that comparativ
ely there was a touch of harshness in the upper midrange.
We tried an experiment where we moved the treble control down to -3 while playing to see if it impacted the brightness. carolyn said “whoa, the sides just went away and all the sound moved towards the middle.” Classic collapsed soundstge. Brought the brightness down a notch, but wasn’t worth the trade-off. This was a shoddy experiment though, because we didn’t try the essential second step of testing our room’s frequency response, and taking advantage of the frequency adjust-ability of the Devialet’s tone controls.
Is reality that the Devialet is dead neutral, and the Supratek is just acting as a tone control against the many acoustic nightmares that I’m sure are taking place in the room?
Power-Amp Only Mode
Next, we set the Devialet up to act solely as a power amp, using the Supratek as the preamp. For us, this was ticket. All of the hallmarks we enjoyed with the Devialet were there, and with the Supratek taking over the preamp section, any hint of upper-midrange leanness was long gone. We left the Devialet in this setup for a few months, enjoying the Devialet’s prowess daily.
This piece of gear is amazing, and we didn’t even use it to its full potential. The Devialet goes highly recommended and sets a standard for clarity, detail, great imaging, and impactful yet clean bass response. The only downside for us was a slight leanness in the upper treble, where I am convinced a little bit of extra tuning would clear up.
Follow this program: Buy a set of speakers. Then get a Devialet 200. Plug it in, and you are ready to go with style, grace, and killer audio all around.