Devialet 120

photo credit: Devialet

Device Type: Full Function Integrated Amplifier/DAC
Input: 1 Optical Toslink, 1 combined Optical Jack & RS232 Mini 3.5mm, 1 USB for computer, 1 Ethernet RJ45 for connection to LAN, Wi-Fi, 2 coaxial digital inputs, 1 Line/Phono MM input,
Output: Subwoofer output with cut-off frequency adjustment through the online configuration tool (optional), Preamplified Stereo Output for headphones or two subwoofers (optional), 2 pair speaker terminals
Dimensions (W x D x H): 383 x 383 x 40 mm
Weight: 5.65 Kg
Availability: through Authorized Dealers
Price: $6495.00

Luxury Goods
It's funny how in hi-fi some people look at beautifully made gear with scorn. As if that beauty were worse than secondary to its main purpose of playing music. As if beauty was misplaced, as if it was just plain wrong. Of course we're talking about personal taste and nothing more. I happen to appreciate the way things look (and feel) and this pertains to hi-fi as much as anything else. And I find the Devialet kit to exhibit this love of design both in terms of how it looks and feels and of course how it plays music.

photo credit: Devialet

The Devialet 120 is the least expensive product in the Devialet lineup which consists of the 120, 200, 400, 800, and 250. The model numbers corresponding to the unit's output power into 6 ohms. In terms of functionality, moving up the line also gets you more included inputs (including Line and advanced phono stage and AES/EBU) and a digital output. The 120 also differs from the 200 in terms of the ADC employed; the TI PCM4202 for the 120, and the TI PCM4220 for the 200/400/800/250. The 120 employs a "Low Power D-Amp with 1 transformer and 4 inductors per channel" while the 200 contains a "High Power D-Amp with 3 transformers and 12 inductors per channel". That said, all of the relevant specifications including TH+D (0.001% at full power), SNR (130 dB-A), IMD (SMTPE: 0.001%), and output impedance (<0.001 Ω) are identical according to Devialet.

Speaking of power, Devialet have come up with a unique, at least in my experience, method of delivering power which they call ADH (Analog Digital Hybrid), "Within the ADH® core, the two amplifiers operate in parallel: the analog amplifier sets the output voltage while the digital amplifiers provide most of the current." Devialet employs the TI PCM1792 DAC for D/A conversion but again with a twist they call the "Magic Wire" DAC, "by reinventing the way it converts its output current into voltage".

The 120 has but one control on its lovely body which is milled from a single block of aluminum and finished off in a high gloss dark chrome finish—the power button which also doubles as the source selector. There's also a circular display about the size of a wooden nickel (I have one) and that's it. In terms of inputs, they are hidden under a removable sliding panel and include 1x Toslink, 1 combined Optical Jack & RS232 Mini 3.5mm, 1x USB, 1x Ethernet, 2x Coax S/PDIF, and 1x Line/Phono MM input. Outputs include subwoofer out (optional), preamplifier Stereo Output for headphones or two subwoofers (optional), and two pairs of speaker binding posts.

The included matching radio-frequency long-range remote is also a thing of beauty. It contains four buttons—power, source, mute, and tone (yes, tone controls)—and a great big volume knob. If you quickly press the "source" button twice, the display on the 120 will show the incoming sample rate for the music being played. There's also a Devialet iOS/Andoid app that allows you to control volume and input selection.

Since our focus here at AudioStream is file-based playback, I will retain that focus with the Devialet so I will not be talking about customizing its analog inputs to match one or all of my phono cartridges with the online Configurator or the use of its SAM technology since I don't have SAM-ready speakers (here's the list). My focus will be on playing back file-based music through the Devialet 120 using their AIR (Asynchronous Intelligente Route) app as well through its digital inputs.

First a word about AIR. The Devialet DAC can handle up to 24/192 data via wi-fi, Ethernet, or through one of its digital inputs. The interesting aspect of the AIR app is it allows you to control music playback from a wi-fi or wired connected computer but if you have your 120 connected to your network with Ethernet, the data is transmitted over Ethernet regardless. Cool. You could call the Devialet 120 an Ethernet DAC! The AIR app also allows you to automatically stream high res music from iTunes. Just set the AIR app to "Enable iTunes to Bit Perfect" and you're good to go. Of course you can also transmit to the 120 via wi-fi which was John Atkinson's preferred method (see JA's review highly recommended reading). What you cannot do with the Devialet, is play music directly from a NAS (Network Attached Storage) since it is not a UPnP device, it has no OS. You need to have a computer or network player like the Auralic Aries in between. I used the Aries, my iMac, and MacBook Pro with the 120. You can also run the AIR app on an iOS/Android device allowing you to play music directly from its internal storage.

I performed one firmware update which was a simple process, detailed in the manual, consisting of downloading the latest release from the company's website, copying the files onto the supplied SD card, re-inserting the SD card into the unit, and powering on (hold the on/off button in for about 4 seconds to initiate the update). While there were no relevant functional updates for the 120 in this release, this is certainly a possibility for future updates as it did provide new and improved features for the higher priced models.

Deep Beauty
Crystal clear. That was first note I noted when listening to the Devialet 120 and that thought remained throughout the review period. There is a beautiful clarity to music reproduced through the Devialet that allows one to focus on its composition. Its constituent elements. There's also an uncanny grip on dynamic flow, which amounts to an effortless natural quality to even the most challenging music. Lovely.

Most of my listening time was spent through the 120's Ethernet input using my iMac, MacBook, and also via USB using the review sample Auralic Aries to send it my tunes. Interestingly, I was using the Aries to connect to my network via Wi-Fi and did not experience any issues whatsoever, even with 24/192 data. While the Aries can also handle DSD over Wi-Fi, the Devialet doesn't do DSD. The Aries also allows you to stream from the Qobuz Hi-Fi lossless CD-quality service which I happen to have a review account for and I spent a considerable amount of time streaming all manner of CD-quality music from this most enjoyable of services. Sound quality wise, it sounded stunning. I've been fixated on Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson from 1971 and its orchestrated funk was delivered by the 120 in all its glory. Big tympani hits resounded realistically while delicate things like violins and Jane Birkin's giggles were reproduced with stunning grace.

Compared to the similarly priced Naim SuperUniti, which is a true network player, the Devialet sounds more lean, less fat. This is one of those examples of two exemplary components that will each appeal to their respective owners while offering up different sound from the same sources. The Naim being more concerned with tone and body while the Devialet delivers a greater sense of dynamics and crystal clear resolution. Your choice.

In terms of using the 120 wired versus wi-fi, I did not notice an appreciable difference between them. While Ethernet is truly plug and play, you have to go to the online Configurator to enter the settings for your wi-fi network and save them to an SD Card which gets loaded into the 120 around back and restart the device. This took all of 2 minutes. Again, sound quality wise the wired connection and wi-fi sounded the same. Remarkably. Switching between the two was simply a matter of selecting "Devialet-ETH" or "Devialet-WIFI" from the Devialet AIM app's drop down so A/B'ing was instantaneous. If you've been on the lookout for a great sounding amp/DAC that you can stream to via wi-fi, your search may have ended.

I also tried the Devialet's Coax input via the Auralic Aires Coax output and found I preferred Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB. This preference can certainly be attributed to the Aries but with Coax I felt I lost some of the openness, air, and resolution found in the other connection methods.

You'd nearly expect the Devialet to have a sterile or cool side but you'd be wrong. That's perhaps one of the uncanny things about its sonic presentation in that you get gobs of resolution like looking through crystal clear water, without the cold. When the instrument or voice calls for warmth, there it is in all its glory. I'm really talking about rich timbral character which often comes at the expense of resolution in other systems. Not so with the Devialet. It truly marries the best of both these qualities, resolution and tone, so you can listen in or lay back and simply enjoy the music.

These combined skills mean that all types and sizes of music are equally well served. From the intimate Skip James singing and playing by his lonesome, to Janis Joplin romping and rolling, to Beethoven's grandest gestures, and everything in between. Throughout it all the Devialet remains in control and out of the way of the music.

To Have and to Hold and to Hear
Here's what John Atkinson said in his review of the original Devialet D-Premier, "Devialet's D-Premier amplifier is the most extraordinary product I have reviewed for Stereophile." That's an extraordinary quote! The Devialet 120 appears to have inherited the lion's share of the D-Premier's genetics delivering a hugely compelling sound picture as finely detailed as you're likely to hear while also providing rich musical warmth all in a package that's very easy to love.

Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the Devialet 120 review: Naim SuperUniti

christopher3393's picture

Hi Michael,

Just wondering how you would compare the sound with the Auralic Vega?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I focused on a comparison to the Naim since it is close to the Devialet in terms of functionality and price.
christopher3393's picture

sorry, of course that makes sense. I was just wondering about how it compared with your Vega/Pass Integrated combination because your description of the Devialet sound struck me as having some ballpark similarity. And that would give me a concrete reference point. But your choice for comparison makes perfect sense.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I do offer some comparisons to the Vega/Pass in the Naim review if that helps ;-)
otaku's picture

They had both at the headphone event at Stereo Exchange. The Auralic's were only connected to headphones IIRC, but the Devialet's sounded great driving some B&W's.

DH's picture

You can "vote" for your speakers to have the SAM software written for them with the link Michael provided in the review. The software enables Devialet to perfectly match the amp and the speakers. Devialet wants 100 votes for a speaker before they will write the file for a specific model

Anyone with Devore "The Nines" - please go to the Devialet site and vote for them.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
DH's picture

They told me via email that they will probably add some form of DSD support in the future.

soliver40's picture

Hello Michael,

Since you are using the pure class A Pass Labs INT30A, have you found the Devialet sound akin to pure class A like they claim their ADH technology works?

Pure class A is a special colour that I like a lot. Thus I was wondering If the Devialet has It - or not - like they say It does. Nothing's wrong with not having it but since they kind of play that card... I was curious about your thought about that matter.

Thanks in advance.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...that is typical of some class A implementations I've heard. But this is a difficult question to answer since I don't really know what the "special color" is you're referring to.
soliver40's picture

I know Its difficult but I guess what I meant is that a tube amp will have one color, where a solid state will have another or a horn speaker will have one color that is quite different from a more traditional cone speaker...

I know its cliché but its kind of the way I look at it. Every color is good its just a matter of what color ones likes best...

I know you are asked to play the comparison game often and the sought answer is always which is best in the end but... I don't really see It that way even though that is the world we live in. Best, best, best, always.

I thought that because your reference is a pure class A amp, you'd knew what a quintessential class A sound like and If the Devialet fit that bill - or not, or somewhat but not really.

Then again, I know Its all clichés and the frontier between, say tube and SS, is narrower than ever. Still, a 7 watts single ended amp will have a different color than a 1000 watts digital amp.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
But in my experience, this 'color' is nearly never a universal trait. I've owned different SETs that sound different, heard different horn speakers that sound different, and on and on. Perhaps there are some shared traits among like topologies but the designer's hand has always been far more important than tube or topology.
bobflood's picture

when it delivers like this, who cares. And, it delivers without 50lbs of transformers (per channel sometimes). Great review! You really gave a concise picture of what this baby will do. Finally, "New Tech" is coming of age.

CarterB's picture

Thanks for the review. This is one of the most interesting devices out there and I really want one. :) Their English website is lacking in details for sure.

Your phrasing on the analog outs confuses me. Are any analog outs included or all optional? How much to get one (or both)?

If I have a Mac and Devialet on the same Ethernet network, am I running software on my Mac so the 120 can be feed by modified iTunes? Or am I adjusting my outbound sound to be their DAC? Basically, is Mac pushes sound out or is Devialet pulling what I request?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I'm waiting to hear back on the pricing for the analog outputs.

Yes, you need to run the Devialet AIR app on your Mac (or PC) in order to play your computer or attached storage-based music.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...are $550/each. This includes the Subwoofer output (optional) and Preamplified Stereo Output for headphones or two subwoofers (optional).
Georgethesixth's picture

If you need a lot of analog ports, or need RIAD-support, the price gap with the 200 might be very small. To give an idea of a firmware upgrade -impact : I bought a 170 (170 Watt), and after a firmware upgrade, it became a 200 (200 Watt)

derneck's picture

I am guessing not much... With only a Class A and a tube amplifier to work with, this would make a great summer companion for me, IF the sound is there, along with the emotional component.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
It does not get warm but I cannot say if that's "to the touch" since I feared smudging that mirror-like finish ;-)
Georgethesixth's picture

The question is : what is warm ? Consensus on the unofficial Devialet forum is that a 200 with the latest firmware runs on average at about 42 degrees Celsius. Before the upgrade, it could get hotter.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Georgethesixth's picture

The higher 250 and 400 seem to get hotter than the 200. I suppose there are not yet a lot of 120 forum members because the 120 is not mentioned (yet).

Michael Lavorgna's picture
And thank you for your other posts. It's good to hear from an owner.
Georgethesixth's picture

Thank you for your site ! I learned a lot here. Sharing info is what the Internet is all about:)

ErikM's picture

Nice review Michael.. I'm very close to pulling the trigger on a model 200 so I was very interested in your review. I do have a question. I am considering getting the ARIES as my streamer so I was wondering if you could comment on the sound quality of the AIR function built into the Devialet versus the sound quality of using the ARIES?? Since the ARIES is $1600.00 if the SQ is equal I'd probably pass on it.. Although I do prefer being able to stream from my Synology Nas with out the need for a computer on..Thanks for your thoughts.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
The AIR app, via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, is on par with the Aries via USB and superior to it via Coax, imo. Of course with the AIR app, you can stream from any computer-based source whereas with the Aries you are limited to what it supports. I'm thinking specifically about streaming services, internet radio, etc.
derneck's picture

In person, does it look masculine or is it a bit on the "fruity" side? Ie what would it look like in a man cave vs. a lifestyle setting

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Depending on the setting.
Georgethesixth's picture

It's wall mountable so if necessary, you can hang it behind the gun rack :) If you want to use the remote, you need to keep the Devialet in line of sight. The remote has no screen, only buttons and volume knob.
My Devialet is out of sight and I use the App to control the box. The app allows you to toggle active/power saving mode so that is not an issue. It has no ventilator.

ErikM's picture

Ok so I can't stream directly from a Nas (for now) so if I stream off my iMac ( music is still on the Nas) and I have J.River could I steam from that? Or if I have Logitech Media Server on my iMac I can steam from that?? Obviously I can stream from iTunes but iTunes doesn't have Pandora or other services.. And what control point would I use on my iPad??

Michael Lavorgna's picture
So you need to use the Devialet AIR app to stream content from your computer to it. With an iPad, you can either stream locally stored content using the AIR app or use it as a remote for your iMac.

While I did not try JRiver, you should be able to stream from it to the AIR app to the Devialet.

Georgethesixth's picture

Hi. A lot of people use it with Jriver. Some one Windows, some on Mac, even a few brave man on Linux (no AIR, only USB)
AIR creates a virtual soundcard in Windows or Mac. Personally, I use Jriver / Windows / USB at the moment.
I use Jremote to control the music, and the Devialet app to select the source.
The reason I use USB is a bug in the AIR software that generates occasionally white noise. After the bug is removed, I'll move back to Air because it sounds fantastic !

Georgethesixth's picture

There are some people who connect their NAS via USB to the Devialet. I thought I've read somewhere you need an XMOS USB chipset. A member of the Devialet forum promised to write an article about this.
It will depend on the technical implementation of the NAS I think. If you have an accessible Linux partition like Synology or QNap NAS and the Devialet is a recognised DAC, it should work with a music player.
From a support point of view you are on your own if you go for Linux : I asked Devialet the question and they give no support. I got no answer on the question if a Linux AIR-client was on the roadmap.

ErikM's picture

Thanks Michael.. I'm starting to think the ARIES would be pointless.. I did check the Devialet site and they list only iTunes as a option... they list J.river for window but not mac. I really don't want to give up pandora and my local radio stations so I'm going to need to do some research on this..

Georgethesixth's picture

I'm sorry to say it, but Devialet support site is not as good as it should be. The information that it is only usable with iTunes refers to a fairly old version of the firmware. Today, AIR creates a virtual soundcard, so it can work with almost every music player. JRiver/AIR is fairly common on both Windows and Mac and poses no problem whatsoever. I use it now for about 60 days. There is an occasional bug with AiR so I switched to USB, but once the bug is solved I go back to AIR.

Georgethesixth's picture

Just a personal remark. I added a Sonos for my wife and kid, and configured the Devialet to use the Sonos source as default source. I use a headless Win 2012 with Jriver /Jremote to do the fun stuff. I find myself qualified to build a headless config and after a power failure, our systems boot in a serial way so in 95 percent of the cases the JRiver/NAS works ok. But we all know Murphy, not ? The Sonos works allways.
Is there a sound difference between the Sonos and an Auralic Aries in combination with the Devialet : I hope so for Auralic but I don't know.

audiodoctornj's picture

Dear Micheal,

As usual you have summed up a product perfectly, Audio Doctor was one of the first of the new breed of Devialet dealers once the new models started shipping and we put out both the 110/20 and the 170/200

I must say it has been and interesting ride the sound quality of the Devialet is fact, with remarkable dynamics, and steam roller bass control. These amplifiers seem to never really run out of steam and seem to play much loader then their power rating.

I do find that the 170/200 does sound to me to sound even better than its little brother, howerver, the sound is really quite similar.

The shear clarity without harshness is very addicting, I am still playing around with power cables and footers.

I have been using both the USB and finally with the latest release of the firmware the air streaming function over ethernet seems to work well, I do get an occasional drop out but it is a huge improvement over the earlier firmware.

We have found that setting up a separate bridged network to greatly increase the reliability of the streaming.

To do so connect an airport extreme or express via ethernet to your main switch, and then configure as a new network name, as it is wired to the switch it then appears as a new node off of the main switch, you then hook up the ethernet cable to the Deivialet and set your computer to the same network and viola enhanced stability as now there are only two devices on that node the Devialet and the host computer.

As per no UPNP if you slave your J River to a NAS then you can still have the music files residing on the NAS you just need to keep the main J River or Itunes computer on. Okay not quite as good as a dedicated NAS.

We are using a Sony Vaio 21 inch touch panel with 2 tb running J River and J Play with Windows 8 and it works great.

I also agree on your Naim Superuniti findings. The Naim is really also delightful but different, I find the ability to play anything on the Devialet from U Tube to Spotify to J River a fantastic feature that the Naim doesn't offer although you can use Tunebridge to stream the content of a computer wirelessly to a UPNP device.

Whew I think you can see I have put my time in, the new firmware is a huge improvement, the SAM functions and I think eventual true room correction plus the up-gradable nature of the Devialet, plus its stunning looks, configurable set of user features, and stunning sound quality, in a very compact package, makes the Devialet a really exciting product!

[No direct solicitations allowed, Ed]

CarterB's picture

Room correction with speaker correction is so unheralded for this device. DAC, phono pre, integrated, and a room correction possibility? Crazy features. And it hangs on the wall.

Georgethesixth's picture

Room correction is currently NOT a feature in 7.x

andrew47's picture

In the system where I listened to the Devialet, the Devialet sounded like a glorified mp3 player so solidstaty as can be.

Georgethesixth's picture

Strange : reviews and user experiences are generally saying it is a very 'analog sounding' device,
Like every Hifi component, the sound of the Devialet depends on speaker-combination, and sound source quality. Off course : I'm biased.

audiodoctornj's picture

To the guy who doesn't like the sound of the Devialet you have to understand what they are going for.

If you are looking for a tube sound the Devialet is not, nor does it sound like solid state.

The sound of the Devialet is pretty much not there, the amp just disappears, what you have is clean, fast, detailed, with a very big sound stage and fantastic articulate bass.

Is the Devialet perfect, no it is not, but in many ways the sound is really something. I will say as the other gentleman did it all depends on voicing, cabling and speaker matchlng I haven't played with SAM speaker matching but Jeff Fritz said the difference with the Magico was really something.

taylor made's picture

The photo at the beginning of the review is not of the Devialet 120, but of the LH Labs Geek Out.

Eltonnotjohn's picture

Beauty? What's beautiful about bathroom scales, which it closely resembles?

Sound quality? You say it sounds different from the Naim. Which one is wrong then? The more expensive they are the more all HiFi boxes should sound alike. Or they aren't 'HiFi' at all.

It's only a tarted-up Quad 405 from the 1970's anyway. That used a small accurate amp to correct the inaccuracies of the main one. This, in principle, is no different.

Its analogue inputs are poor.

It is trying to do too many things. This makes upgrading impossible. A buyer is stuck with what Devaliet thinks is good for us.

papa kief's picture

i currently have (and enjoy) a Peachtree Grand Integrated x1 with a Chord Hugo dac and B&W 805d speakers. i am thinking about trading in my Peachtree & Hugo for a Devialet 120. my questions are:

1. would i notice the difference in amp power (440 wpc vs 120) with my speakers?
2. what is your opinion about the dac in the Devialet vs the Hugo? I really enjoy the sound of the Hugo, especially with redbook cd material.
3. i would also like to hear your opinion about my setup compared to the devialet. i think you should be able to provide this since all products are listed on your recommended products except for the speakers.

my real main reason to make the switch would be for ease of opperation. the devialet seems to offer everything i am looking for in a one box solution. especially with the AIR streaming feature. i am very concerned about giving up the additional power and potential sound. really looking for your advice/ opinion.