Devialet Dione Soundbar

hcchighreccomendThe debut Dolby Atmos soundbar from French manufacturer Devialet is a sensational performer, says Steve May

French hi-fi auteur Devialet has a knack for delivering seismic bass from compact boxes, as seen in its celebrated Phantom speakers that rock like enclosures three times the size. Now comes the Dione, the brand's first Dolby Atmos soundbar, and it punches even lower.

When Elsa Pataky, as Captain J. J. Collins in Netflix actioner Interceptor, unloads her sidearm into a hulking terrorist early into the attack on her isolated marine station, the gun sounds like a cannon going off. Yummy.

This is because the Dione has no fewer than eight SAM-powered (Speaker Active Matching) bass drivers onboard, which allow it to drop down to a claimed 24Hz. For the end user, this results in a soundbar that lands its low blows with homogeneous, gut-punching skill. Nor does it take long to realise that Devialet's Dione is a devastating Dolby Atmos debut by the brand.

Enter the Orb
Wide at 1.2m (and reassuringly hefty at 12kg), this soundbar is best matched to screens 55in and up, and it promises a 5.1.2-channel performance, courtesy of 17 drivers in total – nine 1.6in diameter full-range aluminium units, plus those eight aluminium woofers, which adopt a 5.25in racetrack driver design. The Dione's forward-facing array is fabric cloaked, the end modules having Dolby Enabled height drivers similarly clad. The real eye-catcher, though, is the spherical centre channel, named the Orb.

When wall-mounted, the Dione's Orb driver can be rotated to still fire forwards

This comes in a default position for horizontal use. However, if you choose to wall mount the 'bar, the Orb can be re-orientated and locked into an alternate forward-facing orientation. An internal gyroscope tells the soundbar how it's been positioned, also resulting in the Atmos drivers becoming front firers, and the front L/R becoming heights. Clever.

Fit and finish is excellent, as it should be at the Dione's premium price. The soundbar has a sleek, classy feel to it – even the on-body controls, over to its left-hand side, look smart. There's no dedicated remote control though – instead you have to perform in-depth operation via an app. This is fine as long as the wielder of the smartphone or tablet is in the room, but isn't convenient for others who might want control when the smart device owner is absent. A usability fail in my book.

The Dione is compatible with Devialet's Phantom remote, but that's a very expensive extra.

Connections, compared to some soundbars selling for even a quarter of the price, are minimal. There's just a single HDMI which is eARC/ARC enabled, plus a digital optical audio input, and Ethernet. With no HDMI switching, you'll need to ensure all your sources come via your TV. Wireless connectivity is more accommodating, comprising AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth 5.0 and UPnP. At the heart of the soundbar is an SoC (System on a Chip) with a 24-bit/96kHz DAC embedded alongside Devialet's analogue digital hybrid (ADH) amplification and SAM technology.

'Appy Families
Setup via the app is slick and intuitive. The software quickly recognises the Dione over Bluetooth, and connects it to your network. A short calibration routine then tailors the output of the soundbar to your room's acoustics, using a quartet of in-built mics. These can be disabled once the calibration is complete, as they're not used for anything else – this soundbar isn't smart, and doesn't support voice assistants of any persuasion.


Devialet's exploded view of the soundbar shows the configuration of its 17 drivers, including side-facing units at each end

The app, which is nicely designed, confirms the source format (be it Dolby Atmos, multichannel or stereo) and offers audio presets: Movie/Spatial, Music and Voice, plus a dynamically compressed Night mode.

Movie is best thought of as the standard option for most material. When there's no Dolby Atmos or core multichannel stream, it'll upscale any two-channel source to 5.1.2, using Devialet's proprietary 'SPACE' upmixing algorithm. With wireless two-channel sources (Bluetooth, Spotify etc), the 'Spatial' upscaling mode is used.

Use the Music preset, and the Dione reverts to a stereo configuration, with only the left and right drivers in use. Voice, as expected, is designed to enhance vocal clarity for TV, news and podcasts. This is a good deal more subtle than some rival interpretations, so credit should be given to Devialet for improving speech clarity without sacrificing overall fidelity.