Devialet Expert 140 Pro integrated amplifier

My in-person introduction to Devialet's products was under auspicious circumstances. I was in Paris for what would be a month-long vacation; my wife was there to give some lectures, but I was free to roam the city, take pictures, practice my bad French, and enjoy the excellent food—the experience of a lifetime except that, a few days in, I was missing music. Still early in my visit, I wandered by the big Devialet retail store near the Paris Opera; it was closed but it gave me an idea. I soon had two Gold Phantom powered loudspeakers in our Paris studio apartment.

That was my hands-on introduction to Devialet, but I first heard about the company when John Atkinson reviewed their D-Premier integrated amplifier. It was a rave.

The D-Premier wasn't cheap, but compared to more traditional components at the same price point, you got a lot for your $16,000. Included was a DAC, preamplifier functionality, phono-playback capability, and a few other features no analog amplifier can provide. The D-Premier was different—and with its low-profile case and gleaming chrome finish, it looked the part.

A couple of generations of technology later, Devialet's Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) amplifier topology has been refined, and new features have been added. It appears the company has also learned to build these amplifiers more cheaply: The Expert 140 Pro—the least expensive Expert Pro and the one I'm reviewing here—costs almost $10,000 less, at $6490.

What is it?
A product as distinctive as the Expert 140 Pro takes a while just to absorb. It does a lot of things, all in a distinctive way. Designed by French engineer Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel, the Expert Pro, like the D-Premier before it, is conceptually similar to Peter Walker's "current-dumping" amplifier from the 1970s, which coupled a low-power class-A amplifier to a higher-power class-AB amplifier. In the Devialet amps, the current source is instead a class-D amplifier: The digital amp provides the oomph and the analog amp "corrects and completes" the signal, Devialet says.

The Expert 140 Pro is a 140W (specified into 6 ohms) stereo integrated amplifier with a streaming DAC built in. It also has phono preamplification capability; phono equalization and preamplification is done in the digital domain. Because of its onboard computer—Devialet calls it Core Infinity, with the ubiquitous trademark symbol—the 140 Pro is set up to stream music from a variety of sources utilizing a variety of protocols and can be updated as new technologies emerge. It arrived at my house with "RoonReady," "Spotify," and "Airplay" among the preset input choices. Streaming services such as Qobuz and Tidal can be played via UPnP (as with the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge and the dCS Bartók) or Airplay.

1119dev.bac

The 140 Pro has a lot of connectivity options, and the narrow back panel has abundant digital connections—one each for USB, Ethernet, TosLink, and miniTosLink, and two S/PDIF connections, alongside two other RCA jacks that can support a single analog source (line-level or phono) or can be set up as two more S/PDIF inputs. There's also a built-in antenna—for Wi-Fi of course, not FM stereo.

The 140 Pro is compact and solid; it seems very well-made. Removing the bottom cover reveals beautiful circuit boards—almost works of art. The chassis is carved from a chunk of aluminum, plated in a Dark Chrome finish that readily shows fingerprints; my review sample had been around the block enough times that some prints endured. (White cotton gloves are provided, and there's little need to touch the chassis after setup.) For controls, the chassis has but a single button, and there's a very small, round display screen on the top of the chassis, just above the power button.

Most simple adjustments utilize an unusual remote control. Also finished in Dark Chrome, its dominant feature is a large knob for adjusting the volume and certain other settings. The only other controls on the remote are four small buttons: one for power and three labeled source, Mute, and Tone; the Mute and Tone buttons can be reprogrammed—indeed, at least one of them must be reprogrammed for certain setup options.

Also available is a control app—Devialet Expert Remote—of similarly minimalist design, which runs on a tablet or smartphone and offers the same control functions.

1119dev.top

I like the shape and the solid feel of the Devialet, and I admire the decision to make it chrome; it's somehow at once futuristic and retro. If memory serves, the D-Premier was also available in black—and I think the Expert Pro would look wicked in Vantablack.

The following fact—plus the pictures that accompany this review—should give you an idea of what kind of object this is: On its bottom side, adjacent to the four small rubber feet, are slots for mounting the Expert Pro flat on a wall, like a kind of decorative mirror, an objet d'art. A removable panel covers the cables coming out the back; you could run them right into the wall as you might do with a wall-mounted TV.

That's the outside. It's what's on the inside that makes the Devialet unique.

Close-minded analogphiles need not apply
The Devialet is a thoroughly digital device. Apart from its hybrid amplification technology, which is at once both digital and analog, its one concession to analog audio is a line input that can also be used with a turntable—but even if you make that choice, everything is handled internally in the digital domain. (But—here's one more expression of this digital company's analog passion: They offer a series of expensive, well-produced vinyl records dubbed The Lost Recordings.)

Devialet's designers believe—in this they are correct—that analog signals deteriorate in ways that digital signals don't, as long as they (the digital signals) remain error-free, which technology itself can assure. For this reason, the Expert 140 Pro converts its analog inputs to digital as close as possible to the inputs and keeps the signal digital as long as it can, to within a few centimeters of the loudspeaker connections. This, Devialet believes, is the best way to optimize maintenance of signal integrity—a good strategy as long as those A/D and D/A conversions are done with great care. Handling signals digitally allows the Expert Pro to do some things an analog component can't do with ease—or at all. The Devialet can adjust frequency and phase response to various ends, to implement:

• bass and treble controls (but currently no room correction).

•for phono, a choice of several equalization curves—RIAA alternatives—to accommodate older vinyl (footnote 1).

• Digital correction for select loudspeakers, allowing alignment of the bass frequencies with the midrange and treble, via a utility called SAM, for Speaker Active Matching. More on this later.

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Setup is complex
If you're accustomed to putting a component on a shelf, plugging in some wires, pushing the On button, and playing music, then you may find Expert Pro setup somewhat involved. But not to worry: Devialet says your dealer will support you. You can also submit support requests via their website, and a phone number is provided for setup help.


Footnote 1: Alternative equalization curves are also possible in the analog domain, of course, and at least one current analog phono preamplifier—the Sentec EQ11—offers a choice of several.
COMPANY INFO
Devialet SAS
126 Rue Reaumur
Paris, France
Sold through dealers and Devialet boutiques.
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
dcolak's picture

and it costs 3K USD

MZKM's picture
JHL's picture

...is no more valuable than when a tossed off opinion invalidates all prior work. When in the market I always dive straight to comments!

JRT's picture

...

dcolak's picture

Even with pre-amp it is cheaper and MUCH MUCH better.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It would be interesting to see, the in-room frequency response measurements of Devialet Expert Pro with SAM, from the listening position of JCA (if, possible), with and without SAM engaged :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

TAS also reviewed one of the models of Devialet Expert Pro with SAM ....... That TAS reviewer also had similar listening experience with his speakers as JCA ....... That TAS reviewer discussion about the significance of bass frequencies on the overall sound quality is an interesting read :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The wave length of 20 Hz frequency is 56 feet ...... The wave length of 40 Hz frequency is, half of that, 28 feet ....... No wonder, JCA's windows 40 feet away rattled with loud 20 Hz frequency ...... It also goes to show the bass capabilities of the Revel Salon2 :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some of that 'too much bass' JCA heard when playing bass guitar, could be due to 'Allison effect' ........ Another good reason for obtaining in-room FR measurements of JCA's listening room :-) ........

tonykaz's picture
tonykaz's picture

Seems like this Devialet Outfit is showing us what the future will be for us Home Music Reproducers. ( from now on )

I've been building Music systems for a very long time, getting not so good results, spending exaggerated sums of money, trying to have fun doing it and constantly searching for "NEEDED" improvements.

Back 1963ish, when I owned a Mcintosh MC40, I'd kinda thought that Audio Gear needed to be bigger to be better. Ideas like a Devialet Amp would be SciFi exaggerations .

Egads..

Now, Devialet is reality. Pinch me, I lived to see it, I won! ( we're all winning )

Tony in Venice

ps. from now on, Home Audio Systems are probably better than my hearing.

Ortofan's picture

It also has a built-in DAC, plus about the same power output as this Devialet unit - but at one-quarter the price.
https://audio.com.pl/testy/stereo/wzmacniacze-stereo/2855-denon-pma-1600ne

The Denon product also won a Hi-Fi Choice group test:
https://files.hifiklubben.com/4a500a/globalassets/tester/denon/2017/pma-1600ne-hfc-group-test-verdict.pdf

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Can it rattle the windows? ....... It doesn't have SAM and DSP ....... It does't have built-in Wi-Fi access capabilities :-) .......

Ortofan's picture

... is it "liquid and unperturbable"?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Denon PMA-1600NE does keep the analog signal in analog domain ....... So, if you are an analog fan and use tube phono pre-amp, then the Denon could be 'liquid and unperturbable' :-) ......

dial's picture

It's a good product. My complaints : don't like the design too, measurements are poor to good, like any gear tested in fact. Nothing exceptional. Overpriced, and very cheap cinch and speakers plugs, do they know WBT exists ? At 2500-3500 bucks, it could've been interesting.

jeffhenning's picture

Wow. Given the hype behind Devialet's products, I expected this box to measure a lot better than it did.

I agree with the first poster about the AHB-2. Also, Bruno Putzeys' work with nCore & Purifi show that you can have Class D with vanishingly low levels of noise and distortion.

I'd be interested in you guys getting a NAD M32 on the bench. It's a very similar product.

It would seem to me that having this much noise (-80dB @ 1 watt) in a product regardless of its linearity and lack of distortion would leave a veil of haze on everything.

A decade ago, I owned a Sony TA-E9000ES digital pre-amp. In spite of it's fantastic tone controls, listening modes and alleged lineage from Sony's Oxford mixing board (which I seriously doubt), the unit was really noisy. Just like this unit. And then, one day, it just died.

I could never truly enjoy my listening experience because of the constant noise which was about 85-90dB below maximum output.

For a little less money, you can get Benchmark's AHB-2 amp & DAC3 as well as a MiniDSP Dirac processor. That will give you everything the Devialet offers, but the phono pre. You will, though, gain room correction on top of speaker correction. So long as you don't need analog inputs, you'd be getting much better performance.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile has already reviewed NAD M32 :-) .........

JHL's picture

Bench-racing technophiles are never gone long. Too much correcting of the legions of rubes in audio remains to be done.

It's audio virtue signalling. Its ultimate expression is to reduce all audio down to about six components, none of which actually need to be experienced, much less enjoyed.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

NAD M10 ($2,750) ...... Stereophile review coming soon :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

NAD M10 has 2 subwoofer output connections :-) .......

dcolak's picture
Bogolu Haranath's picture

See Stereophile review and measurements, January 2020 issue :-) .........

Archimago's picture
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Well ....... Better than twice as expensive BorderPatrol power-amp :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you consider integrated amps between $5k and $10k, more powerful 220 Expert Pro with SAM ($9,990) is also available ...... 220 Expert Pro was TAS 2019 'Golden Ear' award winner :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

More powerful 300 WPC McIntosh MA9000 integrated amp is $10,500 (reviewed by Hi-fi News) ........ MA9000 has 8 band parametric EQ :-) .......

doak's picture

"analog signals deteriorate in ways that digital signals don't, as long as they (the digital signals) remain error-free, which technology itself can assure."
This is a ridiculous statement,particularly the final part.

tonykaz's picture

Is ridicule necessary or appropriate?

Audio engineering in France has been at a consistently high level.

Tony in Venice

Jim Austin's picture

and self-apparently so. Very simply, digital signals have dual "natures". They exist as an analog electrical signal and as data--information. The latter aspect of their nature is of course the "digital" part; "digital", used this way, refers to the fact that each piece of information exists in one of two levels, up or down, 1 or 0, 0V or 5V, or what have you. The integrity of their digital nature can be assured with error checking--as anyone who has ever copied a CD with EAC, or done a bit-perfect test on a digital audio stream, can attest.

So while all analog signals degrade--including those representing digital data--the digital aspect of their nature in general "remain error-free," even as that degradation occurs. It is of course possible for those signals to degrade to the point where the integrity of the digital data is compromised, but this rarely happens in a properly functioning audio system.

And before you start lecturing us about jitter, bits not being just bits, and all that, please know that I'm aware of it, but it in no way contradicts what I wrote. And please notice this phrase from the review: "as long as those A/D and D/A conversions are done with great care."

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Archimago's picture

Excellent summary of the situation and clarifying the true nature of digital.

doak's picture

...was not addressing the equipment under review. The language I quoted distinctly reminds me of the "perfect sound forever" line we were sold by companies and reviewers way back when. It was not true then and remains untrue.

Jim Austin's picture

What I wrote--what you called "a ridiculous statement--was true, and it remains true.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

doak's picture

What you stated is a theoretical ideal - one that is never fully attained.

Archimago's picture
JRT's picture

If you have been brainwashed by Pastafarian cultists into believing in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it will be very difficult to reprogram your thinking and convince you that your deep dish plate of frutti di mare fra diavolo is merely the main course of your dinner and not the Pastafarian Holy Eucharist. ...perhaps more especially when the eating feels much like some sort of reborn religious experience.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Man, you are making me hungry :-) ......

JRT's picture

...perhaps I should have reworked that to utilize bouillabaisse, loaves and fishes instead.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Sorry .... We will just settle for either country ham and grits or, fried chicken and grits ....... Or, may be just Buffalo wings and Budweiser :-) .......

Jim Austin's picture
SETTLE for country ham and grits? I'm OK with a good French fish soup, this is when my Alabama roots kick in: Country ham and grits makes me hungry. Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Country ham and grits is the secret to success, the Alabama Crimson Tide had all these years ....... Alabama native Tim Apple also owes his success to country ham and grits :-) ........

Jim Austin's picture

Well, while I didn't exactly grow up in Alabama--we left when I was 4--most of my family was still there so we visited often, several times a year. But I did not discover true country ham--salt cured--until we started vacationing in North Carolina and Virginia. So I feel comfortable saying that it's not so much an Alabama thing.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

True .... Lot of southern states restaurants serve country ham and grits, and shrimp and grits :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you like seafood, shrimp and grits is also excellent :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is that French baguette with that bouillabaisse? ....... Actually, JCA likes French baguette ....... Now we know how Devialet got a favorable review :-) .......

airdronian's picture

I think the owners of the Devialet gear and the Benchmark gear should gather together with said gear and have a small party. Bet everyone comes away happy.

Now, the reference to Pastafarians got me. I recall a few years back a dispute in the local media of a Western Canadian city - the Province was refusing to issue a drivers licence to an individual because of his photo.

The official photo was of the individual wearing of his religious headgear that consisted of a plastic colander (!). Personally, I was good with it, it showed his features, and apparently a willingness to cope with linguini at any moment.

Hope he got his licence.

T-NYC's picture

M2Tech Joplin Mk III DSP-based phono stage. It's possible that this is a remarkable phono preamp based on the architecture. A thorough bench test and audition would have real value.

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