The Devialet 200 is unique in its technology, form and functionality.

It’s far more than a simple amplifier component, announcing itself first through the French company’s choice of radically different external design, but really set apart by the hybrid amplification circuit that lies within. It also incorporates a state-of-the-art DAC, Wi-Fi streaming and internet music services, plus — as if biting a thumb at its own futurism — a superbly featured on-board phono stage for turntables. Sonically, it’s in the top tier of digital and amplification technology as it stands today.  But it’s also for tomorrow — the 200 is upgradeable via software. Indeed it arrived with us as the Devialet 170, and after we reviewed it, Devialet released the software to turn it into the 200. So we reviewed it all over again. It wasn’t too much of a chore.

Let’s start with the remote — it’s the best we’ve ever used. It’s a machined chromed metal box like the main unit, with a large central and beautifully-actioned volume dial with small buttons for power on/off, input switching, muting and, interestingly, ‘tone’, arranged around it. This last adjusts treble and bass in subtle increments via DSP.

DSP is used extensively in Devialet’s amps, and the French company is making something of a specialty of releasing DSP ‘profiles’ for different loudspeaker models which tailor the Devialet’s output for the precise characteristics of that model. They call this SAM — Speaker Active Matching.

The phono stage is similarly innovative, digitising the turntable output so that it can then apply DSP here as well, adjusting to match the precise characteristics of a particular cartridge. Heaven knows what vinyl aficionados will make of this digital treatment of the analogue domain!

But that’s Devialet’s point. The amp combines old and new tech without prejudice, parallelling a low-wattage Class-A amplifier with a high-power Class-D amplifier dedicated to providing current, in a hybrid arrangement that promises and delivers the sweetness of solid-state Class-A circuits with the bass power and control of good Class-D designs. In fact we found the presentation uttterly neutral. The Devialet 200 does not editorialise the music. It’s neither cold nor warm, dark nor bright. Pair it with an equally neutral speaker and you’ll get a presentation that is as honest as high-end audio gets.

It is, of course, $10,500. But when you consider what it replaces, and the level at which it performs, we reckon that counts as top value. More info: www.avation.com.au

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