back - home

Venus aloft


Model: Duevel Venus loudspeakers

THIS was surely an “it” moment. After an evening of fine food and drink shared amongst good friends at a pal’s pad, things were being topped off with scintillating conversation. Our discourse began quite earnestly over the host’s recent acquisition; an immense oil painting placed languidly underneath the soft, fixed gaze of warm strip lamps. A combination of intense, yet seared tones, nestled within shadows reached out from the canvas, etching in my mind’s eye an image of a nail-pierced hand.

The drama of the piece struck within me an emotional cord that left me staring at the piece awestruck for some time – redolent of my slack-jawed wonderment standing before the work of the great masters at the Chicago Art Center many years ago.

Beyond the customary where, what, whom, and of course, how much queries, I was still taken aback at how seemingly nonchalant our host was over his possession’s overt artistic and emotional significance. He reasoned that art, like life, is multi-faceted and like many things that it encompasses, just being in the mere presence of greatness was duly sufficient in itself.

The conversation moved on to other more saucy bits that evening, but it set me thinking. Could the magnificence of art be diluted if one’s attention was not entirely fixed upon it?

Home is where the art is

That thought came back to the fore when a few of the AudioFile team were over at my place for drinks and music. We had done the mandatory equipment and CD show’n tell, the obligatory serious reviewer-mode listening session and were well into the heat of discussion in the attached living room when Anthony ”Old Man” Lim, who was tucked in an armchair some five to six metres away from the live end of my system remarked, “You know, these speakers sound really decent sitting over here.”

ANY WHICH WAY YOU PLEASE: The Duevel Venus omnipolar speakers radiate sound in every direction.

And he was right. The Duevel Venus speakers that I’d been listening to for the past few days in regulation-smack-in-the-middle-eyes-closed-darkened-room-dead-serious-audiophile-mode did sound very natural and indeed musical from an off-axis position.

Which begs the question – how do we listen to our music? Is it for the sake of the interpretation of a score? Or is it merely the notes? Or what lies behind the notes? A string of carefully stringed notes in a pleasant or aurally stimulating structure, perhaps?

Some, I’d contend, listen for the pure joy it brings; some, for existential reasons; others, to be transported beyond the sonic layers and somehow revel in the experiential and visceral promise that lies behind a recording, albeit vicariously.

Artistically musical

The Duevel Venus speakers drove this argument home for me. It is an atypical design that would have one scratching one’s head with incredulity.

“Are those speakers?” my wife asked when they first arrived, “they look like pedestal pagodas tipped on end.” I hooked up those unconventional speakers in my living/listening room and let fly with the Unison Research Unico hybrid tube/solid state integrated amplifier, and was amazed. My wife poked her head around the corner and remarked, “I like these. They sound natural.”

The soundscape emanating from the awkward, but novel design – with the tweeter midrange driver firing down and a carbon bass driver firing upwards on a shaped lens throwing a 360-degree soundstage – was amazing. This couldn’t be right. Having heard omni-directional speakers before, I’d found that this particular slice of sonic pie wasn’t for me. The Venus, however, was something entirely different. Even the most tangential associations to little plastic speaker cubes didn’t stick.

To be sure, these speakers do all the audiophile “sit in the middle at the apex of a meticulously measured and positioned triangle, with head affixed motionless” pinpoint, deep sound staging party tricks. But unlike almost every other speaker out there, you can sit yourself down pretty much anywhere else in the room within direct sight of the Venus and still be rewarded with a truly musical listening experience. Some may even suggest that off-axis listening to be more rewarding, allowing communal listening and not having to wait in line for the “sweet spot” hot seat.

Having said that, one cannot assume that the Duevel is a simple device, for it isn’t. It has exacting standards in demanding capable ancillaries and it isn’t wary of showing you the lungs your amplification really possesses.

FOCUS ON THE MUSIC: Much effort is expended in the crafting of the acoustical lens on the Duevel Venus, which is made up of many layers.

Several other caveats do exist. Firstly, don’t stand up. As the mid-tweeter dispersion array is aimed laterally, effective listening height akin to one seated comfortably in an armchair still applies.

Secondly, take some time to position them properly. As omni-directional units, they interact with the room a lot more than conventional speakers. Finally, as far as possible, provision for symmetry in placement as well as room dimensions will have to be made.

Artfully done

The Duevel Venus does more towards bringing its audience closer to the heart of the musical experience rather than expose minutiae with an ultra-definition palette. I found myself listening to more music than I usually do during my requisite time with a component - and more varied types of music at that.

Freed from the confines of the traditional critical listening mode, I could incorporate high quality music playback, and enjoyment thereof, in more aspects of my lifestyle and in relation to that of my family and friends.

Indeed, the Duevel weaves a persuasive tapestry, intertwining lines of art and music, but more than anything else, it allowed me to just bask in the presence of wonderful music, and that just about sums up what the speaker is all about.

For: A revelation, style and sonic-wise; excellent musical communicator, and not just from the sweet listening spot.

Against: Demands capable partners; positioning care a definite must; not cheap.