We're huge fans of innovative design, and especially of innovative speaker design. Which is why we were simultaneously delighted and bemused when we first got a look at the Pantheone I that goes on sale in the U.S. today. Looking like a cross between a silicon oven mitt and a male sex aid — and one letter away from the Pantheon range of sex toys sold by Walmart — it's nothing if not striking. It also weighs 55 lbs and stands almost 26 inches tall, making it the perfect statement piece for the audiophile in your life who won't balk at the $2,190 price tag, or its suggestive geometry.
That price point makes its peers other, unique-looking, high-priced speakers like the Devialet Phantom (in fact, it's exactly the same price as the Classic Phantom) and the Naim Mu-so. Aside from being bigger than either, though, the Pantheone has another standout feature you can't see with the naked eye unless you notice the small microphone hole near the physical controls: Amazon Alexa support.
"Alexa, play 'Nessun Dorma'" — You may be able to use Alexa with compatible refrigerators, microwaves, and other appliances, but the Pantheone is the largest device that can respond to your vocalized demands. It's also substantially more attractive than any of the rectangular prisms in the average kitchen.
Like Sonos devices, the Pantheone comes with its own app that allows for multi-room audio (for up to eight devices), and as you'd expect of a contemporary audio device, it supports a huge range of services and standards, including Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, and even the forgotten child of streaming, Amazon Music. There's also the option of using AirPlay or DLNA, and support for Apple's Lossless Audio format (ALAC) and other lossless formats like FLAC and WAV. If you want to stream — at up to 24 bit / 192 kHz — there's ethernet and Wi-Fi for that, too.
Seamless design — The cabinet is molded resin, so there are no visible joins or other potential failure points for the substantial volume the four tweeters, pair of 70-watt midrange drivers, and pair of 130-watt subs can output. If you live in a New York apartment, it best be a pre-war building with thick walls, or old neighbors, or you're going to get complaints. Even better would be a whole floor, of course. And at this price, you might well have that.
The Pantheone may officially take its inspiration from Roman architecture, but we'd argue it's the bacchanalian and orgiastic proclivities of the ancient world that are more appropriate. Regardless of its muses, we love it. And we'd abandon our puck-in-a-sweater smart home speakers for it in a heartbeat.