Lest you think that I didn't thoroughly enjoy my time with the Bella Luna Diamantes, think again. 95% of available treble finesse still equates to excellent treble performance. This treble-producing array -- one must consider the lens part of that system -- may be the most effective I've yet had in my home. Generally speaking, treble extension isn't a great priority for me. I've been known to enjoy speakers with slightly sweet and shelved-off highs as long as they avoided grunge, grit and other nastinesses and were slightly forgiving of upstream system foibles. The Bella Luna Diamantes, however, did impress me with their extension, their highly refined nature and their open and airy presentation - abetted, no doubt, by their omni-directional dispersion.

If ultimate treble extension isn't always my priority, transparency most certainly is. And 95% of operative transparency was enough to make the Diamantes one of the most transparent sub-$10K speakers I've ever heard. It rivaled the Alon Circes, a speaker that has much in common with the Duevel and which I consider to be among a handful of best I've ever met, period. With the right amplification, these German speakers are amazingly colorless. However, colorless does not equate to being without personality. These speakers most certainly have personality.

Before I describe their persona, allow me to mention another trait they share with the more expensive Alon Circe - uncommon dynamics, particularly at the micro level. I suppose this has much to do with the hornloaded mid/tweeter. The speakers are exceptionally quick on the draw, lending an air of speed and excitement to the music that other speakers can't match. A further prominent Bella Luna trait is complete honesty. These speakers exaggerate nothing nor do they omit anything. With the exception of the nethermost bass octave, what goes into them comes out with a confoundingly low level of editorializing. Again then, these are amazingly transparent speakers. They are also extremely coherent. They speak with a solitary voice that is as unified as it is precise.

The Bella Luna is also a highly detailed speaker, superbly focused in a completely natural and easy-to-listen-to way. It doesn't induce listener fatigue as some speakers will - assuming proper system matching that is. I don't believe that there's an iota of musically significant detail that escapes the Bella Lunas' attention. They're amazingly quiet to allow for completely unfettered communication of detail and nuance. And then there's what I find so endearing about omni-directional speakers - a gloriously huge sweet spot married to tremendous soundstage depth. To put it bluntly, the speakers sound essentially the same no matter where you sit. While room modes mean that moving about the room will change bass presentation, tonal balance and soundstage specificity/performer placement remain essentially unaffected.

And those glued to the prime listening chair? They'll enjoy a soundstage width that's accurately prescribed by the musical programme. When prompted, the speakers produce a soundstage that's astonishingly deep and layered. On most music, the front of the soundstage starts behind the speakers (hence these speakers are tailormade for those of us with small rooms). From there, it proceeds to melt away the rear wall until the listening room opens up onto the symphony hall, stage or studio. In the bass, the Diamantes are proficient yet restrained. When the music calls for it even in medium-sized rooms, the Bella Lunas can really energize. They muster a surprising amount of punch and power and are outstandingly clean and incisive. But when the music does not call for bass heroics, the speakers won't exaggerate and artificially pump up the sonics with unrealistic upper bass/lower midrange steroids. On first blush, one may even question if the speakers aren't a touch bass shy. They are not. But this aspect of their performance makes for tremendous agility; just try to catch them flat-footed.

The Diamantes are uniformly sensational with the male voice. Chris Isaak's pipes were delivered with complete aplomb on his Baja Sessions [Reprise 9 46325-2], one of the very few discs that could make the Diamantes sound a bit too rich and warm - congested. No worries though, that's exactly what's on the disc.

Sara McLachlan's Fumbling Toward Ecstasy [Arista 18725-2 07822] was one album among many to which I turned for the Duevels' take on female vocals. I wasn't disappointed. Truth be told, I've never heard her sound better. I was also duly impressed by the bass impact and precision on "Possession", rendered almost unbelievably powerful for two 8-inch woofers yet completely under control.

This lively recording also managed to bring the front of the soundstage forward into my listening room as few other recordings could. Despite its decidedly forward nature, I experienced none of the aforementioned 'edge' thus proving that I had effectively eradicated it from my system [Marcus Duevel to left applauding by banging his horn-lenses like marching-band cymbals.] My notes kept returning to the bass performance on this disc since in the end, I felt forced to characterize it as very chameleon-like. The proper recording will completely transcend the meager 8-inch woofers' physical size, leading the listener to assume far more robust artillery present. "Elsewhere" features a piano that was arresting in its authenticity. Excellent balance and exceptional clarity were its hallmarks, its aura occupying fully 1/3 of the soundstage behind the right speaker. "Circle" impressed with detail and hear-through tonality of the opening drum kit. I could sense the different tensions of the variously tuned drumheads. Curiously enough, this song's soundstage width was completely limited to between both speakers, demonstrating that the Duevels do not superimpose a one-size-fits-all dimensional terrain on the music as omnis are popularly accused of.

Consistent throughout the disc were crisp instrumentals that never became fatiguing, and outstanding depth both in timbre and soundstaging. I couldn't take my leave of the McLachlan disc without some "Ice Cream". Once again, the Diamantes demonstrated their fabulous treble extension on the song's cymbal work. "Bright, shimmering and smooth" were the words I chose to annotate my notes with; but now I'll add "delicate". Having amply demonstrated their chops on Pop recordings, it was time for something a little more sophisticated. Groove Note's hybrid SACD release of Jacintha's Lush Life [GRV 1011-3] seemed like a great place to start. It was.

The two different ride cymbals used on "Manha De Carneval" were spellbinding in their smooth and delicate refinement. The Bellas offer treble performance that I've never heard significantly bettered. Jacintha's voice arose from one of the blackest and most silent of backgrounds on "The Shadow Of Your Smile". She was all but standing before me, the Duevels delivering every breathy phrase and seductive nuance. Though the music just flowed with this disc, my listening notes did not. The Duevels provided a superior disappearing act and picking out individual aspects deserving of special attention was difficult. It was much like going to a live concert and thinking to yourself, "My, how those triangles just hang in mid-air." You just don't analyze live music that way - and such was my hypnotized mood while listening to the entrancing Duevels.

The total package just sounded like music and scrutinizing was made most difficult. But to be sure, all the important elements were present - a wonderfully fleshed-out soundstage with tons of air and loads of depth; resonant pianos, silky strings and an elegant simplicity that certain far more complex speakers can only dream of recreating. The Duevels went about presenting music that was a relaxed, non-pushy and completely natural in a way that I've only encountered in electrostatics before. They seem so unfettered by technology and distinctly non-HiFi. I call that a sure sign of the most mature of technologies implemented without compromise.

One day I broke out the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over [GEFD-24725]. I'd been watching the DVD and was curious about the two-channel CD. Well, screaming guitars on "Get Over It" and periodic billowing drums along with clear and present vocals pretty much sums up the experience. "In The City" featured excellent, clean and energizing bass power while percussion seemed to cut through time itself, such was its penetrating incision. And, it all arose from a stage as wide as my room. "Life In The Fast Lane" features an opening drum riff that was rendered powerfully dry. An oxymoron, this? Not at all. It was immensely powerful and real yet didn't incur excessive boom or overhang. Also featured was a dizzying array of dueling guitars guaranteed to quicken the pulse. Suspended above it all were Henley's vocals, again as transparent and open as I've ever heard them. Tying it all together with body and foundation were Schmitt's bass lines that were as skillfully reproduced as the bass drums.

For a classical fix, I turned to Jerry Goldsmith's Christus Apollo as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra [Telarc SACD 60560]. I knew by now that the Duevel Bella Luna Diamantes would get the nuts and bolts of the encoded data right. What I was looking for was musical emotion. Sweet and soothing melodies are not what this music is about. Think turbulent and cathartic outbursts instead. Think turmoil. Think played back loud for maximum impact. Rather than symbiotic harmonies, think contrasting discord that relies on divergent tonalities and textural counterpoints to succeed.

Again, the listening notes refused to flow. How many times can I reference transparency? How about coherency or outrageous soundstaging replete with cubits of space and air? After a while, it just becomes expected business-as-usual and accepted as something these speakers do so well - until you remove them from the equation to notice that these strengths are not the norm. These omnis illuminate inner detail with unforced transparency and microdynamic ease rather than supernatural in-your-face pyrotechnics. By doing so, they allow the listener to stay attuned to the music and forget about the speakers. It is in this way that they remain one of the most musically beguiling speakers I've ever had the pleasure to spend time with.

The Wrap Up

Saying that I'll miss these speakers once they are gone seems trite. It is trite. But dammit, it's true. I wish I had more time to spend with them. Sadly, they're leaving shortly for their CES engagement in Las Vegas. If I ever have occasion to review another Duevel speaker, I'll make sure to reserve more time. The Duevel Bella Luna Diamante combines terrific coherency and transparency with wonderful spatial dimensionality, life-like detail and ease. For all their sonic precision, once broken in, they are remarkably easy to position and their omni-directional dispersion pattern makes them indescribably easy to live with in real-world rooms and homes. Throw in excellent fit & finish and conversation-piece styling and you arrive at a truly outstanding loudspeaker. Perhaps best of all? The speakers' chameleon-like nature means that if you like the sound of your electronics, a pair of Bella Lunas will allow those components to shine as these speakers largely assume the character of whatever resides upstream in your system.

In any event, the Duevel Bella Luna Diamantes are an excellent value especially at their new price that no longer converts punishing but realistic Euro exchange rates. It's a speaker around which one can assemble a fine system that's immensely musical, pleasurable and relegates solitary sweet spot listening -- which, depending on speakers, could collapse with harmlessly tiny head movements -- to a diametrically opposed type of narrow-dispersion, highly directional speaker design philosophy. That makes the Bella Luna Diamante the perfect family-friendly living room speaker.

US direct-sales headquarters
Manufacturer's website