Is the Devialet D-Premier in the same league?

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks for the fine review on the Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifer. You spoke in-depth about the technology, value and the great sonics with the music you auditioned with, but there were no comparisons with other audio components to see how they compared. I am specifically interested for the reasons I summarize below.

I am totally upgrading my audio system after many years of pleasure with it. I have always used separates and, specifically, with monoblock amplifiers chosen for the usual reasons: no crosstalk, better headroom for musical peaks, etc. My choices were narrowing down to Pass Labs monoblocks or Bryston SST2 monoblocks, which I had heard and liked. Now these beasts are sporting 2kVA transformers, 150,000-200,000 microfarads of capacitance, weighing 70-80 pounds/monoblock, and giving off lots of heat.

Then along comes the review of the Devialet amplifier that you absolutely rave about sonically. I am really excited about its potential, but how can Devialet do this technically in a 25-pound package while the monoblocks need the big transformers and huge capacitance to work their magic?

If there was a dealer near me, I would listen and trust my ears, but there is none so I need you to make that comparison. And that's my question. Is the Devialet D-Premier in the same league sonically (or better) as the well-respected separates you've heard. In a similar vein, is the Devialet DAC in the same league as, say, a Weiss Engineering INT202 DAC or a dCS Debussy DAC?

My other comment takes us in a somewhat different direction. In recent years, I have come to appreciate the ease and relaxed organic sound that high-efficiency speakers convey, whereas many fine, low-efficiency (lower than 86dB) speakers sound good but not relaxed; that is, they feel as if the music is being pushed or pulled through them. When that comment was posed to a panel of reviewers, they commented that massive power has to be given to low-efficiency speakers to get that relaxed feeling. Do you have any experience that relates to this?

Michael Goldin

You have a number of questions in here, so I’ll try to address them all.

I didn't write about any direct comparisons because I felt that it was clear in my review that the D-Premier was better than any combination of gear that I’ve ever reviewed. So I wasn’t going to pick a select group of products and beat them up in the review just to say it’s better than this or that. That would have been too limiting. In a nutshell, the D-Premier is the best I’ve heard. On the other hand, I haven’t heard everything there is out there so I can't say that it's the best there is.

The D-Premier puts out a lot of power because it incorporates class-D technology for part of the amplifier design (it's a class-A design for the other part). Class-D amplifiers are known for high power and high efficiency, meaning a smaller chassis and less heat. That said, I also don't think that the D-Premier is as powerful as the monoblock amps you're looking at. I don’t know which Bryston model you’re considering, but their smallest one, the 7B SST2, is said to deliver 600W into 8 ohms. In comparison, the D-Premier outputs about 190W into 8 ohms. Pass Labs’ mono amps range from 60W to 1000W, and some run in pure class-A mode. My suspicion is that you're looking at one of the higher-powered ones, given the power ratings of the Bryston monos. Therefore, in terms of sheer power output, any comparison between the D-Premier and the amps you're looking at isn't an apples-to-apples one.

As I said in the review, I’m aware that the D-Premier’s small size will scare some people away -- plenty of audiophiles like mass. But power output and physical size aside, is the D-Premier in the same league sonically? Definitely. Might it surpass those amps? Maybe, maybe not -- you’d really have to audition them all to find out. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, though. Yes, the D-Premier is that good. In fact, I'd own one if I could.

As far as DACs go, you can’t compare the D-Premier to a standalone DAC because its DAC and power-amplifier section work as one. As Bascom King said, it’s more or less a “power DAC.” A relevant comparison would be to something that operates similarly, though there are few units on the market like that.

Regarding efficiency, I need to first say that sensitivity is a more accurate word. The sensitivity of a loudspeaker is a measure of the output with a given input, which is usually 2.83V (2.83V into an 8-ohm load is 1W). A speaker with higher sensitivity will play louder with less power than a lower-sensitivity one. But do higher-sensitivity speakers sound more relaxed? I haven’t found that. I’ve found higher-sensitivity speakers to sound more lively and immediate when driven with a moderately powerful amplifier; however, when you put hundreds of watts into a speaker the way a high-power Bryston or a Pass Labs amp can, even the lowest-sensitivity speaker you can find springs to life. More than anything, the relaxed sound and sense of ease has to do with amplifier power along with the amp's ability to handle demanding loads.

I hope that answered your questions, which are definitely good ones that I feel other readers will probably want to know the answers to as well. The biggest problem you face is not being able to audition Devialet’s D-Premier. This, to me, is a prerequisite for buying anything, no matter how good some reviewer like me says it is. . . . Doug Schneider