Diapason Adamantes II loudspeaker Robert Harley June 1997
When Wes Phillips read Jack English's lukewarm review of the Diapason Adamantes II loudspeaker in the September 1996 Stereophile (p.153), he suspected that Jack's large room may not have been ideal for this Italian minimonitor. The Adamantes II had sounded promising at shows, suggesting it deserved a second chance in a room better suited to its size. Wes therefore arranged for me to do a Follow-Up audition of the Adamantes IIs in my current 15' by 11' listening room. Although I had vowed to review only budget products for seven months, my room was the logical choice for the Adamantes II.
The main amplifier driving the Adamantes II for the six weeks I had them in and out of my system was the Classé CAP-100 integrated amplifier. The 105Wpc Classé is considerably more powerful than the British integrateds I had on hand, and was a better match for the $4000/pair Adamantes IIs. The LP front-end was a Well Tempered Turntable and Lary Pederson–modified arm, fitted with an AudioQuest AQ7000nsx cartridge. CD playback was through a Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 ($3495), the high-value Rotel RCD-990 ($1495), and a Musical Fidelity X-DAC processor ($499). Interconnects were MIT Terminator 2 and AudioQuest Topaz, and speaker cables were AudioQuest Forest and MIT Terminator 2. The equipment sat on a Billy Bags 5500 series rack, and power to the system was conditioned by an Audio Power Industries Power Pack II. The Adamantes II sat on their custom wood stands at the short end of the listening room.
I had two somewhat different impressions of the Adamantes II. One impression was from listening critically to the speaker to uncover and catalog its strengths and weaknesses. The other was my musical reaction to the loudspeaker when listening purely for pleasure. Starting in the critical analysis mode, the Adamantes II had a laid-back character that put the soundstage slightly behind the loudspeakers. This more distant perspective is an advantage in a small room: I don't feel as if the music was being pushed into my face.
Accompanying this overall setback sound was tremendous soundstage depth. The Adamantes IIs presented some images way back in the soundstage. Although the sound always had a slightly distant character, the Adamantes IIs still resolved layers and layers of space and depth when the recording contained such information.
The soundstage width was also stunning. The Adamantes IIs presented images far beyond the left and right loudspeakers, as well as air and space at the presentation's outer edges. The combination of a wide, deep soundstage and that laid-back character made my listening room seem much larger than it was. In addition, the Adamantes IIs had a wonderful spatial precision that spread images out in space. For comparison, the Aerial 5s I reviewed in April (p.217) tended to focus everything toward the center, with less tangible images distributed along a continuum. The Adamantes IIs' relaxed quality, spatial precision, and ability to disappear into the soundstage were very similar to the B&W Silver Signatures that JA owns.
The Adamantes II had excellent bass extension for its size. The speaker went considerably deeper, and had more bottom-end oomph, than the Aerial 5. Bass drum had surprising impact and depth. Even orchestral music had a wonderful body and weight that I don't expect from minimonitors. Although the Adamantes II's bass wasn't as tight or as detailed as the Aerial's, I enjoyed the Italian speaker's warmer, fuller, deeper presentation. Some additional warmth isn't always a bad thing. Once, during a listening session at my house with a manufacturer, JA was sitting in my desk chair at the side of the room as we rotated through the sweet spot. When I told him that there was a big bass boost at that spot, he replied, "Yes, I know. I'm quite enjoying it." That's how I felt about the Adamantes II's bass: not as accurate as that of the Aerial, but more enjoyable.
The Adamantes II's treble was less clean than the Aerial 5's pristine top end. I heard a bit of a hashy quality, along with some coloration, that sounded more "hi-fi"–like than the ultrasmooth treble I'd so enjoyed with the Aerial 5. The Adamantes II's treble also had a slightly dark quality that reduced the openness and clarity of some instruments. Piano, for example, had a subdued sound, lacking a clarity of timbre. The Adamantes II tended to make the instrument sound slightly veiled and closed-in. Similarly, its midrange didn't have quite the openness and purity of the Aerial's.
With that analysis behind us, I'll get to what really counts: how much I enjoyed music through the Adamantes. The specific shortcomings noted disappeared when listening for pleasure. The Adamantes IIs were doing so many other things right that I immediately become engaged musically and ignored the minor imperfections. In fact, I had a great time with these loudspeakers—they were tremendously communicative and involving. Although the Aerial 5 was cleaner and less colored, the Aerial didn't grab me emotionally the way the Adamantes II did. The Italian speaker was simply more musically expressive.
Jack English's review criticized the Adamantes II's lack of dynamics. But in my small room the Adamantes II had wide dynamic expression and solid impact. Partially because of the Adamantes II's dynamic agility, I found it extremely involving rhythmically. The speaker had a visceral immediacy that got my whole body involved in the listening experience—in fact, I think I may have worn out a piece of carpet in front of my listening chair. I had many wonderful listening sessions with the Adamantes IIs.
The Adamantes II should be on the audition list of anyone looking for a small loudspeaker in this price range. I don't know that they'd be my first choice in $4000/pair loudspeakers (the competition is intense at this price level), but they would be one of a handful of contenders. As much as I like the Aerial 5s, I'll miss the Adamantes IIs when they're gone. I can strongly recommend this beautifully made, musically involving loudspeaker.—Robert Harley