Nothing says rock ‘n’ roll like a loud-as-a-jackhammer speaker
Startup Devialet, which makes the high-end Phantom music speaker popular with pop-star A-listers, wants to broaden its appeal by selling a more affordable wireless version to a wider audience.
Shaped like a shiny white pod, the new $999 wireless Phantom Reactor costs about $2,000 less than its larger sibling. Less than 9 inches wide and 7 inches high, but with a maximum volume of 98 decibels, it’s nearly as loud as a jackhammer or, according to Devialet, a symphony orchestra playing at full force.
Devialet ships tens of thousands of Phantoms each year, said Chief Executive Officer Franck Lebouchard. But by selling through more retailers, including Amazon, he plans to move hundreds of thousands of the lower-cost model.
“We want to bring a pure sound – zero distortion, zero background buzz, zero saturation,” Lebouchard said in the company’s Paris offices, where he cranked up the volume to “Hotel California” by the Eagles. “We’re on a mission to bring that pure sound to more and more people.”
Over the years Devialet’s Phantom – which costs between $1,690 and $2,990 – has wooed famous customers including Beyonce and Jay-Z, rapper Will.i.am, and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. The price tag climbed to 2,790 euros ($3,200) in Europe for a special edition version built for opera fans, complete with 22-carat rose gold-plated sides.
Although the new Phantom Reactor sits in a different, and higher-end part of the market compared to products like Apple Inc.’s $349 HomePod or Sonos Inc.’s $199 One, consumers are nonetheless swarming to the attraction of these smart music speakers. In 2015, fewer than a million U.S. households owned such a product, according to data compiled by Forrester Research. This year, 26.2 million households own one, and by 2022 that number is expected to more than double, to 66.3 million.
Founded 11 years ago, Devialet’s priority is sound quality, and it counts telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel, carmaker Renault, chipmaker Foxconn, and Bernard Arnault – Europe’s richest person and the CEO of luxury giant LVMH – among its investors who believe it’s on the right path. It’s raised 155 million euros to date but has no plans to seek more for now, Lebouchard said.
The company, which doesn’t disclose financials, has a team of 100 people working in research and development. It took three years of R&D efforts to develop the Reactor, and this year Devialet built a factory in Fontainebleau, France, with capacity to churn out a unit every 49 seconds.
To sell the Phantom Reactor, the company said it will expand its distribution network by selling through more retailers, going from 500 sales points to 1,000 within six months. Venturing into day-to-day products like smartphones, isn’t viable yet without compromising sound quality, Lebouchard said.
“We want to keep going towards smaller, more portable, more autonomous products, but we want to do that step by step,” Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel said.
An employee tests equipment inside the Devialet SAS Analogue Digital Hybrid amplification technology showroom in Paris, France.