High-end audio specialist Devialet has entered the portable speaker market with a go-anywhere wireless speaker aimed at quality audio fans with deep pockets.
That said, given the company's hi-fi credentials, the Devialet Mania is no ordinary portable speaker and employs considerable audio know-how to achieve spacious stereo sound from all directions via a ball-shaped cabinet.
As with the Devialet Dione soundbar, which ranks top in our best Dolby Atmos soundbars round up, the French maker is known for its cutting-edge speaker designs and amplification technology aimed at luxury lifestyle buyers with audiophile sensibilities, and the new Mania follows suit.
Prior to today's (November 7) official product launch announcement, I was invited to experience the Mania portable speaker to get hands-on and chat to the design team behind Devialet's latest speaker. While I plan to follow up this hands-on review with an in-depth assessment and a fully rated Devialet Mania review in a few week's time, my first impression of the Devialet Mania was that it took a big step forward in sound quality expectations from a portable speaker.
Devialet Mania hands-on: Price and availability
- High price for portable speaker design
- Docking station costs extra
The Devialet Mania is on sale now costing $790 / £690 / CAD$1,100 / AU$1,400. It's available from Devialet retail stores (opens in new tab) as well as the Devialet website (opens in new tab). It's available in black and light gray options, and a docking station is available separately priced at $80 /£69 / CAD$100 / AU$140.
There's also a Mania Paris Opéra edition embellished with 24-carat 'moon gold' and comes with a docking station included. The Mania Paris Opéra 'package' costs $990 / £890 / CAD$1,300 / AU$1,700.
A cloth bag is supplied, and a Devialet spokesperson told me that a sturdier protective carry case could be introduced if there's enough demand.
Devialet Mania hands-on: Design
- High-quality build and styling
- Weighs 5 pounds
The first thing that struck me about the ball-shaped speaker was its finessed styling. Portable speakers are usually lightweight and rugged designs built for a life on the road, but the Devialet Mania appears to shun such matters and the orb-shaped design has a highly covetable air about it. I'm not suggesting the speaker isn't durable, just that it looks so well dressed and so darn cute that I almost felt like petting it and giving it a stroke when I saw it for the first time.
The Mania exudes an air of sophistication that made me feel that I would really want to take good care of it, and would carefully consider whether I should risk scuffing the stylish exterior by taking it on my travels.
The Mania sits at just 6.6 inches tall and weighs around 5 pounds, which will add a significant amount to any travel bag. Despite being IPX4-rated (meaning it's splash and moisture resistant), this is not the kind of portable speaker I'd personally look to carry into the bathroom or outside to the garden, although I am assured that this is exactly the Mania's intended purpose, and the sturdy handle aids easy transportation.
Anyone familiar with the company's speaker designs will recognize the Mania's heritage. It's an ode to the Devialet Phantom speaker range with a polished design and high-quality woven fabric that reflects the company's commitment to luxury and innovation, and the Paris Opéra edition with 24-carat 'moon gold' is likely to bring some welcome bling to the portable speaker market.
Devialet Mania hands-on: Features
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect compatible
- Adaptive stereo sound
Devialet Mania employs four full range speakers divers and two sub-bass drivers working in a 'push-push' configuration with real-time acoustic technology to achieve a stereo sound listening experience wherever you're located in the room. Frequency range is said to span 30Hz to 20kHz, while ASC (Active Stereo Calibration) uses four microphones and real-time adaptive technology to adjust the sound output to fit the surroundings.
Devialet told me that when Mania is placed in the centre of a room, 360° stereo mode is automatically activated. If positioned near a wall, two full-range speakers at the rear launch into action to seamlessly reinforce the two speakers at the front, creating an expansive, powerful soundstage.
Wireless connectivity runs to Bluetooth 5.0, but there was no mention of codec support at the time of writing, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. Amazon Alexa is built in, and set up is via a dedicated Devialet app.
Battery life is said to run to 10 hours.
Devialet Mania hands-on: Sound quality
- Bass output defies expectations
- Audiophile sound
Although a newcomer to the portable speaker market, Devialet has a considerable reputation in the Hi-Fi world. Devialet’s CEO, Franck Lebouchard, says: “Devialet is relentless in its mission to provide extraordinary sound experiences no matter where you are listening. Devialet Mania marks a major step towards that goal, bringing our proprietary technologies to a portable speaker for the very first time. Great sound has now been unleashed.”
My hands-on listening session was all-too-brief, although it did make a considerable impression on me. Placed on a coffee table in front of me, the stereo effect from the Mania was subtle, but there all the same. It created a sphere of sound around the orb that projected soundwaves outwards, and the sound it produced was several times larger in scale than the compact speaker placed in front of me.
Percussion sounds from a piece of music chosen by Devialet to show off the small speaker's stereo prowess conjured up a sonic aura around the speaker that was very effective with elements bouncing around like table tennis balls being dropped on the floor. This isn't quite to the scale of stereo sound I'd expect from dedicated Hi-Fi speaker arrangements with speakers placed several meters apart to recreate the sonic soundstage with musicians performing in a space directly in front of you, but it's impressive all the same, and as effective as the stereo sound from a single Sonos Five powered speaker, say.
Placement options are effective, and moving the Mania speaker to different positions around the room achieved consistently impressive results, without affecting the tonal balance of the audio output even when placed against a wall.
Bass levels are off the chart for a portable speaker, and Devialet has done tremendous work of employing its SAM (Speaker Active Matching) tech to its dedicated bass drivers. To try out the company's renowned bass speaker performance I choose to play an excerpt of "Dangerous" by Big Data — perhaps not the most audiophile recording ever, but if you ever need to assess a speaker's bass handling capabilities quickly, this is a useful go-to track.
Despite the pulsating bass drivers visibly showing they were being put through their paces by the amount of bass energy they were being asked to deliver, the Devialet Mania handled it with total composure. Even when I increased the volume level, there was no sign of strain, and best of all the Mania's energetic sound delivery made listening to the track a whole lot of fun.
Devialet Mania hands-on: Outlook
Based on my brief time with the exceptionally elegant Devialet Mania portable speaker, I was blown away by the big sound such a small speaker can achieve. Battery life claims may not be the most spectacular and the price is undeniably high, but the company looks set to redefine expectations when it comes to high-quality audio and the amount of bass energy you can expect from today's portable speakers.
Check back for my full Devialet Mania review, where I’ll go into greater detail on the performance when it comes to music playback of all types, and find out where it ranks on our list of best smart speakers, and best Bluetooth speakers.
Next: 5 best bass tracks to give your music system a workout