Devialet Phantom Reactor hands on review: big sound, miniaturized

Devialet has a plan for audio domination and it’s taking its time to make sure it works. The latest part of this is the brilliant Phantom Reactor and it’s been 10 years in the making. 

Devialet managed to gain prominence in the audio industry around three years ago, thanks to its elaborate, bombastic speaker - the Devialet Phantom.

This is a speaker with enough grunt (the Gold version at least) to make as much sound as a small aircraft taking off - a huge 108dB. Its look is unique, too, lozenge-shaped with bass drivers that protrude from the sides and pulse while the rest of the speaker stays absolutely still. 

Design brilliance? Well, that’s down to your own specific tastes, but nobody can deny that it’s a masterclass of audio engineering. 

The Phantom lead to a surprise partnership with Sky in the UK to make the Sky Soundbox - a chunky powerful soundbar rival that replaced the unique looks of its previous speakers with something rather more traditional. It was an unconventional team-up but one that offered a sound quality that was impressive and helped Devialet garner mass-market appeal.

Now we have the Devialet Phantom Reactor, which retains to looks of the Phantom range and marries this with the potential of mass appeal. With this launch, it’s massively expanded the retailers that will stock the speaker and it has its eyes on getting as many ears as possible to listen to the device - and listen we did, at a recent secretive reveal.

Looks-wise, the Devialet Phantom Reactor is a Phantom ‘mini me’. It’s a near carbon copy of its bigger sibling, but is a quarter of its size - measuring 219mm x 157mm x 168mm. 

This size is significant as it no longer means that the Phantom range is a ‘wow’ device that simply doesn’t fit the house you are in. It’s listened to the issues with the Phantom (that its too big, too heavy and too expensive) and created a version of the speaker that alleviates all of these problems. 

Designed for a table top, the Phantom Reactor is a great-looking speaker. It couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a Devialet device. Its shape is identical to the bigger version (now rebranded Phantom Premier) but it’s design is slightly different. Instead of the chassis connecting together in the middle and leaving a small crack around the chassis, the look of the Reactor is much purer. 

There are some decent hardware changes, too, with the biggest being the addition of capacitive buttons on the top of the device. 

Flip to the back and you have a newly instated mini jack, optical and Ethernet slots. 

The bass drivers, their case you can see protrude from the sides, have been custom made for this device. And it’s taken a huge amount of R&D work to make sure everything inside could be shrunk without degradation to the sound - interestingly, the grille has stayed a similar size, which proves how much ventilation needed to make sure its internals don’t overheat.

Yes, it’s small but this form factor certainly doesn’t compromise the sound. There are two versions of the Phantom Reactor - the Phantom Reactor 900 and Phantom Reactor 600. The numbers correspond to the wattage. The 900 has a 98db range which is unbelievable for the size of the thing. 

We listened to a number of records, both live and studio recorded, and the clarity was just sensational. This is a very loud device if you want it to be, but it works just as well at a lower volume - the clarity and crispness of the vocals was utterly impressive, then when the bass kicked into a track you could feel it in the back of your throat - and see it pulse through the speaker. 

It’s packed with smars, too, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Airplay and UPnP are all present. 

The smaller form factor lends itself well to some sort of home entertainment setup, which is why it’s disappointing that stereo pairing won’t be available at launch. This will be rectified later down the line and is the only real issue we found in our short time with the speaker. 

The Devialet Phantom Reactor is available for pre-order from 10 October, with pricing from from $999 / £990.

Marc Chacksfield is Director of Shortlist Media and Editor-In-Chief of Shortlist. He's been a technology and entertainment journalist for 15 years and was previously UK Editor In Chief at Tom's Guide, TechRadar and Digital Camera World. He's also written for the likes of T3 and Tom's Hardware. In his spare time he tries to play guitar, PlayStation and supports Chelsea.