Vinyl Nirvana with the Devialet Silver Phantoms. It’s possible, here’s how.
By Steve Huff
It’s 2AM. I am sitting in my sweet spot in my listening room (my office) where I have always had a pretty nice two channel audiophile system set up. Over the last 6-7 years that system has changed three times and a few more than that when I was actively reviewing audio gear. Today I want to talk about good old-fashioned ANALOG…yep, Vinyl…records…albums…the preferred audio medium I grew up with. Back in the early and mid and late 80’s it seemed like all I did was listen to my albums. I had hundreds of them and would buy one new record each week with my then $20 allowance (up until I was 17 or so) and I had a system then that most thought I was nuts to pay for. While it was NOTHING like what we have today, for a 15 year old it was amazing.
Yep, a 100 Watt Per Channel powerhouse. I would jam Kiss, Led Zeppelin and even Adam Ant or The Cure (I had and still have a huge huge love for ALL music) and do my best with air guitar and acting as If I was the performer. I think we have all done this at one point in life 😉
Fast forward to the 2000’s. I was building a high end HiFi system, my 1st uber high end system. I bought an amp, a pre amp, speakers, cables and a turntable. This was around 1998-2000 actually. So 16-18 years ago. For these past 16 years I have NEVER had any Vinyl rig sound as good as my digital sources. Ever. I never understood what the hype was about going back to Analog and Vinyl. The sound I was getting from my digital sources wether that was CD, SACD, DAC or high res as recent as these past 4 years always was a better, bigger, fuller, more detailed sound that was much more organic and pleasing.
Why the Vinyl hype? Well, as I found out tables, cartridges, arms, pre amps and cables all have something to do with the final output. I always spent more on my digital sources and dac’s and spent maybe 1/4 of that on my Vinyl rig, with pre amp and all. THAT was my issue, well, part of it. Another was system matching. In order to have Vinyl playback sound as good or better than my digital I needed the perfect system matching, cables, etc. Not easy and a very costly thing to experiment with. Over the years I have tested many turntables, even a VPI Classic 2 years ago that sounded sterile and dull, without life. This was in a big mega buck system, with a nice Phono Pre Amp.
I was about to give up.
I would think it was my table or cartridge. I would spend money, more money and even more money on a cartridge upgrade only to be dissapointed. I ended up getting to a CRAZY expensive turntable, and while it sounded very good, it was nothing like my digital sources. To me, modern day analog was missing something…that drive, rythym and heft I remembered as a kid. Was gone. It sounded flatter and with much less life. About a month ago I was ready to give up on Vinyl forever as I realized chasing that old sound I remembered was costing me a fortune. Sort of like the stories you hear about Crack or Heroin..powerful drugs that hook you, only to never get that original feeling you had the 1st time you tried them. Now, I’ve never done crack or heroin in life but I can see the resemblence here. Chasing that ‘High” from my youth..those memories. I realized that the sound I had back then probably was not very good, especially compared to what I have access to today.
So I sold my mega TT, and setup to prepare for a huge move into a smaller house. I ended up buying some Devialet Silver Phantoms due to the hype and my curiosity. I LOVED THEM, and LOVE THEM TO DEATH. Listening as I write this. (See the review here). Since the Phantoms do not have any analog inputs, I thought it was a done deal! No more turntables or vinyl! Then I read that we CAN hook up a turntable to the Phantoms using an Analog to Digital converter. Basically audio out from your phono stage to input of the converter and then optical out to the Phantoms.
I bought a $250 turntable to test it…and that $250 table sounded better to me than most $3k tables I tried in past systems, Hmmmm. I immediately realized it was the Phantoms at work here. For kicks I tried a $1500 table with an amazing Cartridge that usually sells for $800 on its own, the Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood. The table is the Marantz TT15 which is a Clearaudio Emotion…upgraded, and for less. Through my awesome dealer, Dedicated Audio in Scottsdale AZ, I was able to get this table all new and set up perfectly for $1300 or so. (I’ve been a good customer for many years).
I brought it home, hooked it up and was literally BLOWN AWAY at what I heard. THIS was the Vinyl sound I was seeking for the past 20 years. It was here, and I was puzzled as this was not even Analog anymore! It was Analog converted to digital using a my Sonos connect analog in, and then optical out to the phantoms! The soundstage was HUGE, ENVELOPING, AND DEEP. The sound was organic, rich, had some heft and drive and the midrange was out of this world good. It made these Phantoms perform BETTER Than my old $25k Sonus Fabers, just with a tad smaller sound. I mean, I have not heard ANALOG sound like this since the 1980s when Vinyl was king.
Was it the table? The Cartridge? Nope…as I have had this cartridge before (On a VPI Scout), and it never sounded this amazing. This is the Phantoms at work and with Vinyl, the source is important with these speakers as this table is a HUGE HUGE upgrade over the $250 Audio Technica 120 USB I originally tested which had an AT100 cartridge attached ($70).
So here I am, all of these years later, on the verge of dumping vinyl forever..I was ready to go sell all of my albums…and I am now enjoying amazing vinyl sound, how I remember it sounding. Soulful, rich, deep, with balls and amazing liquidity. All thanks to these Devialet Phantoms. Vinyl with these speakers sound better than I have heard vinyl in 30 years. Better than with my old Sonus Faber’s, Better than with my Focal Sopra #2’s, better than any system I have owned since getting into “high end”.
So now my vinyl rig consists of:
So I now have sound beating ANY TT rig I have owned in the past, even when those vinyl rigs/setups cost me double of what this one did. This now sounds better than my digital sources as well. It has that special something that we do not hear with digital, and I am not talking about the clicks and pops. It’s beautiful, it’s just what I have been wanting from my vinyl forever. Thanks to the Phantoms I have it and how amazing is that this entire audiophile system can be bought on Amazon via Prime? Crazy cool.
These Silver Phantoms have left me wanting for NOTHING audio wise. Since we are moving and I had to sell off my HUGE setup, I ended up getting a huge chunk of change for my used system once I sold it all off from dac to transport to cables to speakers to turntable to amp, etc. I then paid $5100 for the Phantoms and Dialog, $150 for the remote, $1300 for my turntable and cart and $500 on the Phono Pre amp. $200 on cables total and that was it. So $7k leaving me with mass cash in my pocket for my new home down payment and…..the sound is better than ever, smaller than ever and simpler than ever.
I HIGHLY recommend the Silver Phantoms (stereo set) with Vinyl. Set them up on stands (I already had a great set of solid stands), position them correctly and use quality cables (though no need to go crazy there) and you will have a legit audiophile system that beats many audiophile systems costing quite a bit more. I should know, I have owned many of them over the years. If you see any HiFi audiophile snub the Phantoms they either have an agenda, have not had them set up correctly in a stereo set or have not heard them at all.
I am excited for this technology and can not wait to see the Gold Phantoms and to see what comes next. Diamond Phantoms perhaps?