I tried Devialet’s spherical new speaker and it makes Amazon Echo feel like a toy

Devialet Mania three-strong products, on beige table
(Image credit: Future)

How often does a world-renowned audio team breeze in from Paris for 24 hours and invite you to a salubrious London hotel, to hear what they will only call "Mania"? Not often. And when such invitations do arrive, you drop what you're doing and go. 

You see, as anyone familiar with Devialet knows, Mania is built from strong stock. The French audio specialist's hits include the high-end Dione soundbar, Phantom I wireless speaker, and most recently, a pioneering foray into luxury in-flight sound systems to name but a few. But Mania is different again. 

What you've got is a futuristic eyeball-shaped wireless speaker with a delightful little handle at the top and push-push bass radiators like irises on either side. And at 2.3kg it's reassuringly heavy, almost like a kettlebell, but far more beautiful. 

There are two major proprietary technologies to tell you about: ASC (Active Stereo Calibration) and SAM (Speaker Active Matching). 

The former uses four mics and embedded intelligence to allow the speaker to automatically adapt the audio rendering to suit its surroundings. No wafting your phone around the room, no space-age noises for several minutes, it just does its thing in a matter of seconds. I placed it on various surfaces in the aforementioned hotel suite and never noticed the calibration happening. But from the audio performance that ensued, I know in my heart (and ears) it did happen. 

The latter acronym involves four full-range drivers in the top portion of the speaker and those two SAM-powered subwoofers in a push-push configuration, to promise true omnidirectional stereo sound from 30Hz to 20kHz. 

The speaker is only 17cm tall, but close your eyes and you'll think it's much larger. 

Opinion: several smart speakers should be worried about Devialet's Mania – chiefly the Amazon Echo

Devialet Mania in gray on a beige table

Devialet Mania: a strong aesthetic and sonic performance, however you look at it.  (Image credit: Future)

Other specs? Why not: as well as capacitive on-device buttons and a mic-mute slider, Amazon Alexa is built-in (a first for Devialet), and set up is via the Devialet app. You're also getting Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect support, 10 hours of wireless playtime, and an IPX4 splash-proof rating. 

I took it onto the balcony and while gazing upon central London rooftop terraces and listening to The Streets (and subsequently Prince), I have to tell you that this thing makes even the best smart speakers and in particular, the best Alexa smart speakers sound woefully wanting (sorry, Amazon Echo, but I'm looking at you). 

This is not a full-fat review, but in my short time with it, Purple Rain was underpinned by a sturdy but agile bass weight, while Blinded by the Lights revealed the Mania's considerable rhythmic and layering talents. 

If you'd like it, Devialet sells a docking station for easy charging with the regular Mania (a special Paris Opéra edition is also available, which is embellished with a 24-carat moon gold baffle ring and comes with the docking station as standard) for $80 / £69 / AU$100, but otherwise, it charges via USB-C. 

Prices? Of course. The Mania is available now, in your choice of Deep Black or Light Gray, for $790 / £690 / AU$1400

The Devialet Mania Opéra de Paris edition is $990 / £890 / AU$1,700

So, the Devialet Mania is not cheap and I suspect hardly ripe for a best cheap Bluetooth speaker deal ahead of Black Friday. But that's not the point. It is quite beautiful. It is the ideal unfussy product for the aspirational space I'm in – and in case I forgot to mention it, you can also wirelessly stereo pair two of them for some seriously technical stereo capabilities.

Devialet Mania in midnight black, from above on beige table

The Devialet Dione is equally otherworldly from above.  (Image credit: Future)
Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.