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Reviewer: Marja & Henk

Financial Interests: click here
Sources: PS Audio PWT; PS Audio PWD; Dr. Feickert Blackbird/Zu DL-103;
Streaming sources: XXHighEnd; iTunes
Preamp/integrated/power: Tri TRV EQ3SE phonostage; Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Yarland FV 34 CIIISA; Qables iQube V1; 2 x Devialet D-Premier
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Arcadian Audio Pnoe; Vaessen Aquarius
Cables:complete loom of ASI LiveLine cables; full loom of Crystal Cable cables; Nanotec Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotec Golden Strada #79; Nanotec Golden Strada #201
Power line conditioning: Omtec Power Controllers; PS Audio Powerplant Premier; PS Audio Humbuster III; Isotek Syncro [in for review]
Equipment racks: ASI amplifier and TT shelf
Sundry accessories: Furutech DeMag; ClearAudio Double Matrix; Nanotec Nespa #1; Exact Audio Copy software; iPod; wood, brass, ceramic and aluminum cones and pyramids; Shakti Stones; Manley Skipjack
Room treatment: Acoustic System International resonators, sugar cubes, diffusers
Room size: ca 7 x 5m with a ceiling height of 3.5m, brick walls and concrete floor downstairs; ca. 14.5 x 7.5m with a ceiling height of 3.5m, brick walls, wooden flooring upstairs.
Price of review item: €0.0

It is very rare if not altogether never that we get to review hardware that's free. Yes, hardware. In this case it was the long awaited WiFi extension board for Devialet's ingenious all-in-one phono/pre/DAC/power amp called D-Premier. This board adds streaming to its vast arsenal of competencies. Developing the Devialet AIR as this function was baptized took longer than anticipated. The French had to do some really hard work to not only nail the hardware but also the accompanying software. To avoid delaying the launch of the original D-Premier, the Paris headquarters had wisely decided to launch the audio platform when it was ready and to subsequently upgrade to streamer status as soon as the required hard- and software would be signed off. Upgrade for free that is. When that time arrived, all new D-Premiers would be shipped with the streamer installed at the same price as before. This open-ended strategy created less stress on the developers to fully concentrate on the design project without a clock ticking over their heads.

One very strong point of the D-Premier had always been ease of operation. There’s just one switch on the gleaming main unit and four plus a rotating knob on the chunkily stylish RF remote block. That same simplicity with its near zero learning curve was to extend to the streaming facilities as well. As many of us have seen with the wide variety of media streamers on the market, only a few sport an interface that is dirt-simple intuitive. There we think Sooloos has a real winner. Their team put in the necessary time and money to develop a proprietary operating system and user interface which really liberates the end user from technical hassles to get up and running. But the Sooloos is purely a streamer. Devialet wanted their D-Premier to be a streamer besides all its original and already very comprehensive capabilities.

One big question that arises before any such development project kicks off is deciding whether one will reinvent the wheel or instead piggyback on preexisting technology. Following the French saying of not having gas but ideas—on n’a pas de petrôle mais on a des idées—Devialet went for using the well thought-out library and user interface of Apple’s iTunes. ‘All’ that was needed was hooking into iTunes to tap the digital output from its music library for the Devialet software. This software would then stream the music data via WiFi to the D-Premier. The D-Premier on its end would get equipped with the long-awaited receiver board between built-in WiFi antenna and signal processor.

From the Devialet website the software that includes the iTunes ‘hook’ and streamer can be downloaded in two flavors, Windows and Mac. Both are based on the Qt framework development platform. Qt—pronounced cute—is an open-source community effort heavily backed by Nokia. Besides strong graphical interface support, the Qt framework also contains a multimedia-class library whereby developers can access low-level computer OS components. It is with this multimedia-class library that Devialet’s developers gained access to the digital output signal of iTunes. To play almost any format available, Devialet’s Mathias Moronvalle explained that the AIR software also contains the ffmpeg library. This derives from another open-source project and makes it possible to handle AIFF, WAV, ALAC, FLAC, AAC and MP3 codecs. With the addition of this capability, the AIR software takes the iTunes feed, decodes any format that might appear there and then forwards it wirelessly to the D-Premier.

At the iTunes end inside your PC or Mac the installed software recognizes the presence of a D-Premier. Later we will see how the D-Premier safely connects to the wireless home network. With us having two D-Premier on hand, the software promptly saw both and displayed their connection status. With a mouse click either of the two units could be chosen as streaming partner. In the screen shot the devices labeled One and Two (our names) can be seen as available. Only D-Premier units that are active and not in standby are visible.

After installing Devialet’s AIR software—an acronym for Asynchronous Intelligent Router—an icon appears in the toolbar of PC and Mac systems alike. It is then the owner’s decision whether to start AIR at system boot-up or manually at a later time. Once launched, AIR intercepts all iTunes output and routes/streams it to an active D-Premier instead. Stopping AIR reactivates the PC’s or Mac’s local audio output. Other player applications hooked into iTunes like Amarra or Audirvana should be deactivated as AIR does not defeat them automatically. Leaving such player software running can interfere with the signal routing. And why run two player softwares simultaneously in the first place?