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Devialet Mania is a definitive case for portability as a passage to luxury audio

Aug 21, 2023 09:54 AM IST

With the Mania, Devialet leaves little to chance with wireless connectivity options, and can deliver a detailed soundstage despite its compact size and slight bass bias

Devialet, the French luxury audio brand, is quite renowned for its rather radical take on audio speakers. The Phantom and Phantom II carry that legacy. Therefore, when they decided to appeal to slightly broader demographic with a comparatively more affordable speaker, they homed in on a rather interesting name — Devialet Mania.

The Devialet Mania speakers. (Press image)

There is a reason why we’ve reached where we’ve reached with the Devialet Mania. It is reflective of a strategy that many luxury brands have adopted of late, coupled with the aspirational ‘pull’ element with a few products that are comparatively more affordable than their luxury line. In the case of Devialet, the Mania ($900; or around 1,02,000 in India) complements the Phantom I ($2,500 onwards) and Phantom II ($1,300 onwards). The hope is that those buyers will upgrade to something from their traditional luxury line, sooner or later.

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The Mania is a really compact wireless speaker, but neither the size, nor the significant reduction in asking price has blunted the visual drama it creates as it sits on the mantlepiece, an end table or the bookshelf. The design isn’t exactly a sphere, though very well looks like one. Devialet’s approach involved creating what they call an “exoskeleton”, quite apparent if you look closely at the metal lines that run through in different directions. All of that is then wrapped in a woven fabric.

The silicon-esque strip that wraps the circumference of the Devialet Mania, is where the controls sit and it extends to create a handle to carry this around too. We’ll get to that in a moment, because every time I interfaced with this, a singular question arose without fail – what was Devialet thinking? This material simply feels out of place, amidst the glistening metal frame and a luxurious woven fabric.

You’ll also have to factor in the eccentricities of button placement. The battery status button (also called the Devialet Button) is placed on the left side of the Mania (as you look at the speaker). The battery status indicator lights, are on the right side.

There’s little left on the table in terms of wireless connectivity options. Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2 from Apple devices, Spotify Connect and Wi-Fi to configure Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Behind the scenes, the Devialet Mania is running the same DOS2 software that powers its more expensive siblings too. That’s a good foundation to build the experience with.

Devialat’s smartphone app (for iPhone and Android) gets you set up with the Mania in a couple of minutes, including any firmware update. On the iPhone, there is HomeKit set-up mode, if you choose that, which is a quicker method to get started with Wi-Fi.

We couldn’t find any option to configure Google Assistant or Apple Siri, on the iPhone or Android app, at least in this region.

A big limitation with the Devialet Mania is codec support. There’s SBC and AAC which means wide support for media playback formats across paired devices. Yet, it misses the high-quality audio formats, AptX and LDAC, which even mid-range Android phones now support. Music streaming apps too, including Apple Music, have enabled lossless audio streaming. The emphasis should have been on quality too, and not just wider compatibility.

Before getting started with the tunes on the Mania, you may want to toggle on a feature called ‘active stereo calibration’ in the companion app. This will be a real-time assessment of where the speaker is placed, reflective surfaces such as tables near it and relative positioning against a wall or a bookshelf, for instance. It may only lead to incremental quality improvements overall, but eliminating even the slightest of reflections can be important for a portable speaker that may not always be optimally placed.

The default tuning of the Devialet Mania doesn’t exactly give you an idea of its bass prowess, till you set about tweaking the EQ in the app. It can make a few window panes audibly vibrate if the song being played is conducive to the idea. While the compact footprint doesn’t get in the way of a wide soundstage which helps reproduce the finer details, pushing the volume too high leads to the impression that everything sounds unbalanced. It is quite expected from a speaker of this size.

Whether you’d classify this as “room filling sound” will depend on how loud you like the music to be. Keep the volume in control, and there is remarkable coherence that manages to keep lower, mid and higher frequencies well distinguished. There is no muddle, no spillover. The powerful lower frequencies, in particular, will be music to the ears of the demographic that prefer up-tempo tracks.

The versatility across the spectrum gives the Mania the sort of vibrancy and versatility that holds it in good stead with a variety of genres, and complex tracks. That isn’t always the case, with speakers that have a compact footprint.

Battery life is a strong point with the Devialet Mania. At a fairly loud 40% volume level, this streamed from our Apple Music app for close to 12 hours on a single charge. Volume level changes will lead to some variation. Weirdly enough, there are no warnings once the battery level goes below a certain threshold. The Mania simply powers off when it’s out of juice, or wouldn’t power on the next time if you haven’t noticed the critically battery charge level at the time of turning this off.

It’s quite fast charging though – completely discharged to 100% charge, in about 2.5 hours. Mind you, this USB-C port is only for charging, and will not play music if you’re attempting to experiment the wired route.

As a first step into a luxury audio ecosystem, the Devialet Mania is delivering on most aspects albeit with a few things missing from the package. You shouldn’t have expected anything less. The sound, for instance, is ready for the sort of excitement and up-tempo music that a younger audience would appreciate. That’s not compromising on the mids and vocals, but the extra emphasis on sculpting the bass, seems to have paid off. For the rest of us who may be searching for neutrality, this is perhaps not the answer.

Despite its compact size, the Devialet Mania can go quite loud too, while retaining excellent battery stamina. There’s no shortage of wireless connectivity options too. Yet, limited codec support is perplexing, as is the material used for the handle and control panel. But then again, how many wireless speakers as compact as the Devialet Mania can actually fill a room with brilliant sound? Not many. This is one of the few.

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