Devialet Dione Dolby Atmos Soundbar Review
- Big, detailed, organised sound
- Remarkable low-frequency presence and midrange fidelity
- Looks smarter than your average soundbar
- Not exactly ‘affordable’
- Will bare its teeth at volume
- No HDMI passthrough
Introduction - What Is the Devialet Dione?
The Devialet Dione is the French audio technology company’s first foray into the world of soundbars. Of course, because this is Devialet we’re talking about, its initial impact is as much visual as it is aural.
At £1990, it’s priced - like almost all Devialet products - at the upper end of its particular market. In fact, only Sennheiser’s mighty (and mighty expensive) Ambeo soundbar can match the Dione in both concept (full-on, full-range Dolby Atmos sound from a single enclosure) and cost (more than three years after its launch, the Sennheiser has only just ducked below the £2K mark).
The numbers associated with the Dione are almost as big as the soundbar itself. These include;17 drivers, 950 watts of power, 5.1.2 configuration and a claimed frequency response of 24Hz - 21kHz. Not for the first time where its products are concerned, Devialet seems to have gone to town - both in terms of specification and industrial design.
But let’s face it, at this money we’re approaching “could buy a whole surround-sound system for that” territory. So while some aesthetic excitement and on-paper promise make the Dione an intriguing device, it’s got it all to do where actual sonic performance is concerned. Especially as Sennheiser has already demonstrated how these things are supposed to work.
Design, connections and control
The Devialet Dione is available in just one finish - Devialet describes it as ‘matte black’, although in practice the anodised aluminium that constitutes most of the cabinet is a variety of very deep grey. The acoustic cloth that covers a good portion of the soundbar is a slightly lighter shade of grey. No matter how you describe its colour, though, the Dione is as robustly built and finished as its price-point demands.
The numbers associated with the Dione are almost as big as the soundbar itself
At 1200 x 88 x 165mm (HxWxD) the Devialet is a sizable unit, although the design and finish helps mitigate those dimensions a little (visually, at least). And if it wasn’t for the ORB, that height would be even more manageable.
Though the ORB (Devialet naturally insists on the capitalisation) looks a little like a big, super-dense golf ball that’s sinking inexorably into the surface of the soundbar, it is in fact where the Dione keeps its centre channel. And because the Dione is just as happy to be wall-mounted as it is to sit on a shelf (Devialet helpfully provides the necessary bits and pieces to facilitate wall-mounting), the ORB can be manually rotated to ensure it’s optimally positioned. If the wall-mounting option takes your fancy, though, be aware the Dione weighs 12kg - so it’s a two-person job, and the wall in question needs to be something other than plasterboard.
Connectivity is strongly of the ‘adequate’ rather than ‘lavish’ type. On the rear of the cabinet there are inputs for mains power, Ethernet, digital optical and eARC HDMI. The lack of HDMI passthrough rankles, even if the rationale behind it - that anyone with this sort of money for a soundbar is certain to have an equally high-end TV with plenty of eARC sockets available - is understandable. Wireless connections consist of dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. The Devialet is UPnP-enabled, too, so any content on network-attached storage can be accessed easily too.
There are a few capacitive touch-controls on the surface of the soundbar, and they handle the most common ‘volume up/down’-type operations. Complete control is available through the Devialet app (for Android and iOS), though - and as far as control apps that don’t say ‘Sonos’ on them, this is a good one. It’s home to very effective auto-calibration software that lets the Dione trim its audio response to your specific environment. It’s where you can investigate the EQ presets governed by Devialet’s ‘Space’ technology (‘movie mode’ for upscaling lesser audio content to the full 5.1.2 standard, ‘music mode’ for restricting the Dione to stereo sound, and ‘voice mode’ for projecting dialogue even further forward) and it’s also where you get confirmation of the native standard of the soundtrack you’re listening to. It’s not much to look at, in all honesty, but it’s very effective.
Which is just as well, because the Dione ships without a remote control handset. Oh, it’s compatible with Devialet’s ‘phantom’ remote control but, given that’s a £179 option, it doesn’t really seem worth it. And although there are microphones integrated into the soundbar to assist with room calibration, there’s no built-in voice assistant either.
Features and Specifications
To deliver on its promise of 5.1.2 sound, the Dione features 17 neodymium drivers, driven by an all-in total of 950 watts of power.
When in shelf orientation, four aluminium long-throw subwoofers, plus a pair of aluminium full-range drivers and the ORB, face forwards, while four more aluminium full-range drivers (a pair at each end) fire upwards to provide some audio elevation, another aluminium full-range driver fires from each end of the chassis for sonic width, and four more aluminium long-throw subwoofers face out from the rear of the cabinet.
If you attach it to the wall, the previously forward-facing drivers now face upwards, the previously upward-firing drivers now fire outwards, and the rear speakers continue at the rear but with their left/right output reversed. And then don’t forget to manipulate the ORB to ensure it’s facing the right way. Don’t worry if this seems a bit involved - the Dione is fitted with gyroscopes and always knows which way it’s facing.
All the heavy lifting is done by Devialet’s ‘Intelligence’ processor. As is the company’s established method, an in-house 24bit/96kHz DAC is embedded in the circuitry.
Set-up and Operation
Despite its considerable presence and fearsome specification, the Dione is at heart a straightforward product. And set-up is equally straightforward.
Plug the Devialet into the mains, and attach it to your TV using the supplied high-speed HDMI cable. Open the control app and request ‘room calibration’. Stay nice and quiet while the soundbar fires off a brief series of test-tones covering the entire frequency range. And that’s set-up complete.
It’s worth noting that Devialet Phantom owners can integrate the Dione into a multi-room system using AirPlay 2. In fact, any AirPlay 2-enabled speaker can form part of a wider set-up with the Dione as part of it.
It might be worth starting by asking a question. Where do you stand on the word “thunderous”? If it has entirely positive connotations where your home cinema enjoyment is concerned, read on. Devialet has a soundbar you might well be interested in.
By the standards of stand-alone, single-unit soundbars operating in isolation, there are very few words more appropriate than ‘thunderous’ when it comes to describing the low-frequency presence, substance and simple punch the Devialet Dione is capable of generating. It digs deep (that claim of 24Hz extension seems a lot less fanciful than it did prior to switch-on), hits with complete conviction and carries plenty of detail along with it - so texture and timbre are available even in the midst of the pummelling. Control of all this uproar is good, so there’s little bloom - the Dione’s bass action stays quite carefully in its lane. A listen to the nicely mastered Dolby Atmos soundtrack to The Mitchells vs the Machines makes it readily apparent.
At the opposite end, the news is equally good in an equally forceful sort of way. The lack of dedicated tweeters may not fill you with confidence regarding the amount of top-end bite and shine the Dione can produce, but in practice it’s perfectly capable of creating bright, crunchy treble sounds. They’re pleasantly substantial, too, which is just as well given they’re trying to compete with this prodigious low-end activity.
Despite all this shock and awe, though, it’s the midrange that’s the genuine star of the Devialet show. That show-off ORB centre channel proves to be as much about substance as style, and it delivers dialogue with really impressive directness and positivity. As throughout the rest of the frequency range, the midrange is alive with detail - even the most transient information is identified and put in its proper context. Voices project well, even when not in ‘voice mode’, and soundtracks are informative and easy to follow as a result.
Where do you stand on the word “thunderous”?
Despite the soundbar’s numerous drivers, the frequency range integrates well - there’s unity and singularity to the Dione’s presentation. And though it probably doesn’t need emphasising, dynamic headroom is considerable. It’s no blunt instrument though and the more minor dynamic variations are identified just as readily as the crash-bang-wallop stuff.
As far as sound staging is concerned, the Dione is equally confident. Naturally enough there’s not a hint of actual ‘surround’-sound, but as far as the stage that’s described in front of you is concerned the news is pretty good. Even if the Devialet is accompanying a very large television (as its dimensions suggest it ought to), the sound easily exceeds the confines of the screen. There’s significant sonic width to the stage and, while you’ll never be fooled into thinking there are speakers above you, height is equally considerable. And just as with the frequency range, the Dione does very effective work in presenting this broad sweep of sound as a consolidated, coherent whole where every element of a soundtrack relates to, rather than fights against, all the other information involved.
All of this assumes a volume level not in excess of ‘reasonable’, mind you. If you’re tempted to really show the Devialet the whip, it’s happy to go very loud indeed - but it alters its attitude somewhat. Low frequencies, already no shrinking violets, gain a whole new level of confidence and, as a result, the overall presentation skews towards the bottom end to the extent that even the ORB has trouble keeping its head above water.
It’s a similar story if you decide to use the Dione as a music speaker. All the positives of sound staging and frequency integration hold true if you’re listening to material that’s been mastered in Dolby Atmos - but if you’re not, far better to stick with ‘music mode’ and have the Devialet function in stereo. Trying to force a 5.1.2 presentation from a 2.0 source results in a rather edgy, forced sound that’s not in any way naturalistic. And again, don’t get carried away where volume levels are concerned, lest your Dione’s bass response gets carried away in return.
Devialet Dione Dolby Atmos Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?
There’s lots to like about the Dione, and that’s even before you’ve plugged it into the mains. Devialet always tries its heart out where industrial design is concerned, and there’s plenty more visual drama to the Dione than to any nominal competitor.
... the unity and togetherness of the overall presentation can’t help but stir the listener
As far as performance is concerned, it’s deeply impressive on many levels - not least its low-frequency presence and midrange fidelity. The soundstage is good, if not as Atmos-y as you might be hoping for, and the unity and togetherness of the overall presentation can’t help but stir the listener.
Downsides are few, but fairly significant. That price is a hurdle that needs to be cleared, of course, and the tempation to listen at anti-social volumes is to be resisted unless you’re all ‘bout that bass bass bass. Accept these facets and there’s lots to like here.
What are my alternatives?
Sennheiser’s Ambeo Dolby Atmos soundbar looks like a Transit van next to the Dione’s sleek roadster. It’s even bigger, even heavier and even more expensive than the Devialet - but it has spent the last three years explaining why it’s the best single-unit soundbar around. It’s a touch more Atmos-y, a touch less bolshy at volume… really, you need to hear it back-to-back with the Dione.
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