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Again, this is a unique innovative and groundbreaking device. Its supremacy on the high-end market should be of no doubt at least to the open-minded. Its uniqueness was quickly recognized by audio magazines around the world. Its picture was on the covers of Hi-Fi News & Record Review, Tone Audio and Stereophile. Alan Sircom of Hi-Fi+ put it on his list of The 10 most significant amps in European history. Need I say more? Probably not. Though I might still add that for the past two years Devialet's D-Premier, presently in its AIR version with upgrades introduced in the newest v5.7 software (I forgot to mention that this machine has been constantly refined via downloadable firmware upgrades) has been part of Paul Miller's reference system as the chief editor of Hi-Fi News & Record Review.


It took Devialet's engineering team 3 years (from 2007 to 2010) to create the final product and introduce it to the market in 2010. Because of its DSP processor heart you might say it runs on built-in anti obsolescence. The particular unit I received for review was perfect proof. Its original name was D-Premier. Two years past its introduction it seamlessly morphed into the D-Premier AIR which added wireless communication with a computer as digital source.
Most wifi-enabled audio devices on the market use Apple's AirPlay configured to enforce the use of iTunes. That scheme delivers decent performance but is surely far from perfect. Devialet's owners have their roots in the telecom business. It was to be expected that they would come up with something special. And with AIR they did. It's in fact standard 802,11 b/g/n wifi where a Red Pine module works with the newest Analog Devices SHARC DSP to allow for asynchronous signal transfer using a single clock – that of the switching amplifier's master clock. After wireless signal receipt there's a buffer and reclocker to reduce jitter. For now the only downside is that the software player still relies on iTunes exclusively. The advantages of AIR are quite unique though. iTunes sound processing is bypassed and future updates will enable competing software players. V5.6 firmware already allowed for 24/96 wifi transmission which automatically downsampled 24/192 to 24/96. Full 24/192 transmission is subject to a future firmware upgrade.


Sound – a selection of albums used during the review: Audio Accessory - T-TOC Records High Quality Data Master Comparison, TDVD-0002, DVD-R (2011), FLAC 16/44, 24/96, 24/192; Random Trip, Nowe Nagrania, 005, CD + 24-bit WAV (2012); SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 1, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/96;SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 2, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/192; T-TOC Data Collection Vol. 1, T-TOC Records, DATA-0001, 24/96+24/192, WAV on DVD-R; Al Di Meola, Flesh on Flesh, Telarc, FLAC 24/96, HDTracks; Annie Lennox, Bare, "Limited Edition", RCA/BG, 22472, Copy Control Disc + DVD (2003); Ash Ra Tempel, Ash Ra Tempel, MG ART/Belle, 101780, SHM-CD (1971/2010); Breakout, Blues, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania, SXL 0721/2007, LP (1971/2007); Carlo Gesualdo, Madrigali, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Concerto Italiano, Opus111/Naïve, OP30486 (2000)...


... Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, FLAC 24/96, HDTracks; Charlie Haden, The Private Collection, The Naim Label, naimcd108, 2 x CD (2007); Depeche Mode, Home, 74321501702, maxi-SP (2007); Jun Fukumachi, Jun Fukumachi at Steinway (Take 2), EMI/Lasting Impression Music, LIM DXD 038, silver CD; King Crimson, Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Atlantic/WHD Entertainment, IECP-20220/221, "40th Anniversary Series", 2 x HQCD (1973/2012); Mark Knopfler, The Travelerman's Song EP, Mercury, 9870986, CD (2005); Metallica, Metallica , Warner Brothers Records, FLAC 24/96, HDTracks; Miles Davis, Tutu, Warner Brothers Records, FLAC 24/96; Pieter Nooten, Surround Us, Rocket Girl, rgirl85, CD (2012).; Porcupine Tree, Deadwing, Lava, 93437, CD (2005); Schubert, Lieder, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore, "Signature Collection", EMI, 55962 2, 4 x SACD/CD; Sonny Rollins, Tenor Madness, Prestige, WAV 24/96,HDTracks.


Experts in any field seem to be some kind of giants who rise above the confusion and ignorance rattling the rest of the population. Experts don't suffer blinders or prejudices, are objective and walk the straight and narrow perfection. Right. My own life would be so much simpler if that were true. Staring at the Devialet there wouldn't be questions like "so light?", "so shiny?", "so digital'?". But regardless of exposure and expertise, these questions will arise in the mind of anyone who's had some experience with audio amplifiers. Experts—in this particular case editors of hifi magazines—are no exception.


That's why the sound of the D-Premier took me by surprise as I'm pretty sure it did everyone else who gave it an open-minded go, be they 'professional' listeners or not. Why? What emerged from my speakers reminded me of what I usually get from high-quality tube amplifiers! Whilst previous experiences with D-class amps gave me an idea what such machines might sound like, in this particular case it was not about a rounded treble as there was no softened attack. This was about a general sonic richness, warm vocals and a richly saturated lower midrange all complemented by a strong open treble. For some time I even though that the tonal balance was set a bit higher than in my Soulution reference amplifier. But after giving my ears time to acclimate this impression disappeared only to return when I switched back to my Swiss amp. It's thus possible that in your system and room this sound might strike you as a bit too lean or bright. But there's also the possibility to equalize that using different settings for bass and treble. Since the D-Premier as a power DAC processes signal in the digital domain, these digital-domain tone control sacrifice sound quality far less than did the analog variants of traditional amplifiers before them. So do use some sound shaping if you need to as this will improve the listening comfort significantly. In my case I preferred the sound without equalization however.