Devialet SAM

Devialet SAM

I saw this new product reviewed on the HiFi+ web site.

We are getting closer to the ‘rational’ hi-fi system that I allude to in my About page, and yet are so far from it. I said

…Such systems could still give audiophiles what they crave, conceivably allowing them to mix and match amplifiers and high end speakers (or even speaker drivers in individual enclosures), and to install off-the-shelf calibration files or even create their own.

Well here’s a product that heads towards that, but doesn’t attempt to quite reach the full monty – for perfectly understandable reasons, probably. This is a stereo DSP/amplifier system that can be configured with ready-made calibration files for a large list of existing passive speakers via an SD card – with the possibility of adding more to the list if there is the demand. For me, the most significant step is the idea of ready-made calibration files, downloadable from the manufacturer’s web site, allowing the non-technical audiophile to play with the benefits of DSP without the hell of sine sweeps and microphones.

The DSP does the following (quoting the manufacturer’s web site):

  • Phase alignment over the full spectrum

  • Extension of the low frequency response (down to 25Hz)

  • Effective protection of the loudspeaker, helping to prevent any damage due to listening at high levels

But quoting their white paper (possibly out of date..?), it appears only to affect the bass and lower mid:

In its current implementation, SAM is effective on lower frequencies, up to 150Hz; yet its effects
can be heard throughout the audio range.

So we have a hybrid of DSP correction at line level and 1930s technology in the form of the existing passive crossover –  and unfortunately there are many aspects of passive crossovers that cannot be corrected by DSP. Clearly, as a purist, this offends me – but I’ll get over it. I would rather have this than no DSP correction at all. Maybe this is as close to the fully active DSP speaker that the typical audiophile can allow himself to get at the present time, and allows his faith in a particular speaker manufacturer’s ‘house sound’ to remain relatively unchallenged.

Clearly, I would like to see the system extended to four, six or eight channels with DSP implementation of the crossovers themselves and correction over the full spectrum, which would then open up the possibility of fully-active systems, bypassing the passive crossovers. Unfortunately Devialet are in the ultra-engineering camp, so building it using their current product line-up (even if it were possible) might prevent them from selling it for less than many thousands of pounds. Of course by removing the passive crossover the total power requirement of a speaker is drastically reduced, and individual drivers only have very modest power requirements. Maybe a future product could capitalise on these mitigating factors for a reasonable cost.

It’s something new, and I will follow this product’s progress with interest.

(Another review of the system that suggests, contrary to my implication above, that this is a budget product. It’s all relative, I suppose!)

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