My expectations of the Devialet Dione were sky high when the soundbar arrived at my doorstep. It came in a box that was almost too heavy to carry around.
Crammed inside the large unit – the 1.2-metre soundbar spans the length of my 65-inch Samsung TV – are nine full-range aluminium drivers and eight aluminium long-throw subwoofers. They are driven by custom power amplifiers pushing out an impressive 950 watts RMS.
Devialet, for those unfamiliar, is the French hi-fi house known to audiophiles for its Expert Pro amplifiers, which look as good as they sound when driving large speakers. They cost upwards of S$7,000 for the entry-level stuff.
So, you can say I was pretty amped when I plugged in the Dione soundbar for a quick listen on the same Friday evening it arrived. Heck, for S$3,790, when some other great soundbars cost less than half that, it’d better be good!
Here, unfortunately, I have to say it is a bit of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good, which is the audio presentation, where Devialet does impress.
Thanks perhaps to its size or its tuning, the Dione is able to project audio onto a wide field. In other words, a large imaginary sound stage seems to be in front of you, giving the illusion of a live performance. Sound isn’t stuck at the speakers.
The curious looking orb at the front, no doubt, adds to this. You can manually rotate this centre speaker by hand but I was happy with the original direction when I placed it on a console table below my TV. The sound appeared just above the soundbar, at the TV level, which is right.
When I mention projection, I mean that the sound isn’t squeezed into a small part of the frontal space facing you. Instead, with a track like David Bowie’s Sound and Vision, for example, you can hear the instruments clearly on either side of a wide sound field.
Vocals generally fare well, too. Diana Krall’s Girl in the Other Room was presented with good focus, never lacking in emotion. The same for Beck’s The Golden Age, which features the singer with an acoustic guitar.
Interestingly, some tracks listed as Dolby Atmos on Tidal play very well on the Dione. A remastered version of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World plays with a lot more air and space than the regular, old version.
To be sure, the Dione does better than other soundbars in terms of the wideness of its presentation, so even if you have a large apartment or house, it can easily fill the space.
What it doesn’t do as well, as with most soundbars, is when you get more complex tracks with multiple instruments or overlaying audio tracks or sources. With these, the Dione often ends up a little veiled and lacking in definition.
Play Damien Rice’s Elephant track, for example, and you’d enjoy the vocals in the opening part of the track. Once things get busy with fast drums, an electric guitar and an accompanying female vocal in the background, the various components come across a little congested and muddled up.
In some tracks, you’d also wish for more transparency and detail. Playing some Massive Attack tracks, like Paradise Circus and Angel, I wished the Dione could offer a bit more clarity and tightness.
Don’t get me wrong: Soundbars in general are limited by size and good music playback is something that is demanding.
You need solid amplifiers along with speakers that sport large-enough drivers to fill a room with great sound. Problem is, the Dione is priced like a traditional hi-fi setup with separate components.
I also need to point out that Devialet needs a bit more work on the mobile app. It comes with four modes – music, movies, voice and spatial – but you lack a more capable equaliser to closely customise the sound.
Hopefully, the company can include this in future updates, though I understand from the Devialet folks it isn’t that easy to do this for a good 17 speakers.
What I think Devialet should have done is integrated Tidal Connect. The streaming service is popular with many users for its hi-fi-quality tracks, but the Devialet app tells you to play the tracks on your phone and stream it to the Dione via Bluetooth.
To its credit and to my surprise, Bluetooth is actually more than passable. Yes, with the decent sound projection I mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately, you can’t say the same for the Dione’s Spotify Connect option – tracks lacked enough detail or precision here and the lower-quality compression from the service seems to be laid bare. I’d avoid this unless the music is just for the background.
Okay, what about the soundbar’s performance in movies? Here, fortunately, the Dione performs as you’d expect, with excellent sound effects and a scale that is impressive.
I fired up the seaside scene in Roma on Netflix, and the waves crashing about as the camera follows the characters into the sea are so real and immersive it’s not hard to feel like you’re in the scene.
I also played several action scenes from Sicario: Day of the Soldado, and one particular scene showed how effective the Dione is in these situations.
As your point of view moved in and out of a Humvee that was pinged with bullets, you hear alternatively the muffled sounds inside the vehicle as well as the sharp whizz of bullets flying around when the camera moves outside. The Dione is adroit at handling these swift transitions.
I also liked the way the soundbar handled the soundtrack. Much of the action movie is filled with tension, from scenes where a character is faced with danger to one where violence seems inevitable. Here, the accompanying music builds up steadily and clearly, without being too dense and overwhelming a scene.
Finally, I also watched the recent The Batman movie and yes, the Dione does the movie justice, particularly with the (many) scenes with extensive exposition. Think of the one where the Penguin stares at the Batman slowly but menacingly walking towards him in the rain.
Another thing I like here is the clear dialogue that doesn’t get lost in the loud explosions, gunfire and other sound effects. I suspect the centre speaker is critical to this.
I have to note that my old Samsung TV only supported the basic Audio Return Channel (ARC), so it was unable to send the Dolby Atmos audio out to the soundbar. I only had stereo output – which was upmixed by the soundbar – but the experience was already very good.
The Dione also supports eARC, which lets you stream full high-quality audio tracks – including with Atmos – from your TV’s streaming app onto the speakers for a more immersive experience. So, if you have a more modern TV, Devialet will take care of things.
To be sure, the Dione shows how far soundbars have come – it is a long way from the thin sounding blocks you used to place below your TV out of convenience over a multi-speaker setup.
When it comes to movies, it offers a wireless and easy way to enjoy immersive audio. The scale it offers is well ahead of other soundbars, making it a great companion for movie lovers who don’t want the trouble of a multi-speaker setup.
Even for music, it isn’t all that bad, considering the limitations of soundbars. However, if you have ever owned a pair of stereo bookshelf speakers, you might not be that easily contended, unless you are de-kitting and want to make things simpler in your living room.
What will be hard to swallow is the high price. Though Devialet’s quality is apparent in some aspects, such as its large sound presentation, there are areas where you think a nearly-S$4,000 soundbar should have built in, like the Tidal service.
If you can overlook some of these issues and have that amount of money to spend on a soundbar, then the Devialet Dione may be worth a listen.