Noth­ing says rock ‘n’ roll like a loud-as-a-jack­ham­mer speaker

Woonsocket Call - - AMUSEMENTS - By MARIE MAWAD

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.

Bloomberg photo by Mar­lene Awaad

An em­ployee tests equip­ment in­side the De­vialet SAS Ana­logue Dig­i­tal Hy­brid am­pli­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy show­room in Paris, France.

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