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Any monitor speaker worth its salt demands a premium stand. Enter the stainless steel models from German custom firm Liedtke Metalldesign. Hannes used to sell the original Acoustic Energy AE-2 and -- rightly, I remember them too -- was very fond of their cast Dorian twin pillar'd support which even then was very expensive. For a more cost-effective rendition, he contracted with Herr Liedtke whose firm handles many custom projects for loudspeaker makers. Think expat Sound Anchor and you're probably not too far off. WLM doesn't add any charges to Liedtke's own pricing. This gets their customers into a high-quality -- mandatory -- accessory without quite the usual wallet wince.

My dispatch from Sulz contained the top model [upper right] and the ubiquitous Blu-Tac which WLM feels is far superior to the usual miniature spikes between top plate and speaker. It also avoids marring the fine veneers. A brazen daylight stint to my local beach down the stairs netted the equally ubiquitous sand filler. A few minutes later, I had two unmovable back-breaking pedestals rather heavier than their 27kg/ea. on arrival to do justice to the Diva Monitors (or any stand-mounted speaker for that matter). Liedtke uses stainless steel for superior surfacing and the columns can optionally be ordered unpainted. Fit'n'finish are first rate - no burred edges, no out-of-true cuts. Everything assembles square and once you torque down the fitting bolts, you've got the ideal inert pulpits from which to let your speakers speak.

If you were sharp enough in the first place to opt for a monitor over an equivalent floorstander -- because it can develop more pressure in the midbass; because there's less cabinet talk; because there's even better soundstaging and disappearance -- be sure to harness its advantages by avoiding rickety and unstable contraptions. Wave launch mandates stability to avoid blurring. With a monitor, that means a solid stand and proper interface between the two to combine into a complete unit. End of lecture.

By using drivers with a hard suspension, the Diva monitors and Duo sub benefit from and mandate lengthy (two months) break-in. For review purposes, I'd requested preconditioning at the factory. The below photo shows my drivers during this process.

The outer right subwoofer cabinet is that of the review loaner as is the left-most carcass of the lineup. While the 12-inch woofers on the bench look menacing and chunky, the Duo 12 itself looks positively anorexic compared to the Makassar and Tineo-clad Duo 18s.

Woofer size follows the he-man rationale of "no replacement for displacement". But dual pro twelves seemed plenty butch for my purposes...

Four strategic crisscrossed hardwood braces inside the Duo 12 further reinforce its solid plywood panels for minimized cabinet action during serious woofing.
Inspecting the brilliantly laid out and applied heavily patterned veneers on the subwoofer was plenty of evidence that WLM principal Thomas Gröfler earns his keep in the wood shop. Even the under and backsides of the leg extensions are flawlessly dressed, areas where lesser artists won't even bother because they figure you won't see it. Below a contented Hannes Frick next to a Diva from the same production run.

Word has it that Mama is the hardest working woman at WLM. She's in charge of dressing all the grills with finely trimmed and wrinkle-free stretched cloth. She also bakes a mean apple pie.

And finally, the review shipment.

Meanwhile, US distributor Jody Hickson from Globe Audio Marketing had returned from CES 07 where the Diva floorstanders had premiered. According to Hannes, Hickson is already juggling six different requests for American and Canadian review loaners, sorting out his busy time tables. Expect a lot of ink on the Diva range, stimulated by Globe Audio's apparently first-rate WLM demos in Vegas. Hannes also shared one telling sentence of Jody's report to him. "X (maker of very expensive loudspeakers) was taking pictures of our speakers. He looked a little confused as to the performance." Experienced listeners -- competitors in fact -- proving confounded by the apparent simplicity of ingredients and the altogether unexpected performance derived from them confirms that the secret sauce of the WLM recipe is the crossovers, the brains of any loudspeaker. These are smart speakers though what makes them so is the least sexy of loudspeaker ingredients. Most of us never get to see the crossovers. Even if we did, they'd probably tell us nothing. It's far easier to obsess over exotic cabinet and driver materials. On that count, WLM offers no bragging rights. They vacate that field to others inclined to parade on it. They promote user-adjustable active crossovers instead.

Lust, not frust: "Your Diva Monitor left me sleepless last night and I worked into the wee hours," agonized an e-mailing Hannes. "After breaking in your 10" Eminence units on the bench for weeks, I compared your review pair against my personal one. Right now, we're talking two completely different loudspeakers. Yours would take weeks, more realistically months still before they'd reach the plateau of mine. Since my boxes have seen duty since the High End 2006 in Munich, their drivers are optimally seasoned. While everything's there with your pair, the difference is audible within seconds. The properly conditioned drivers play far more relaxed and with notably more swing. Newer units simply come across as stiff and mechanical. So I burned the midnight oil. I disassembled your and my pair and swapped drivers. Now your pair plays like a bat from hell while for me, the suffering begins all over again. But I'll survive. These weren't my only speakers. Only someone who has performed the 1:1 comparison will understand and actually believe the magnitude of improvement that break-in nets with these professional transducers." Hannes' report echoed my prior experience with Zu. All good things to those who wait; reviewers excepted. Even the control boxes were preconditioned on the designer's bench [below].

First impressions in Coral Bay outside of bomb-proof packaging and first-rate documentation to suggest a class act? The Diva Monitors plainly are not me-too-ians. They are meatarians. They do not make your typical heroin-chic anorexic sound so popular in certain ceramic transducer quarters. No, this is very fleshy, gutsy and dense sound. Meaty and feisty. Toneful and jumpy.

My 2wpc Yamamoto A-08S SET proved underendowed in the damping department as expected but the 18wpc Melody Valve HiFi I2A3 push/pull integrated develops plenty of taut sound pressure at 12:00 o'clock on the dial. The Eastern Electric M520 sits in standby to test the benefits -- or not -- of higher power while on the horizon are the 75-watt Vietnamese OTLs from Navison Audio to really put the pedal to the metal in the valve power department. WLM fancies Manley Labs amps and recommends 30 to 40 watts to really get the Diva Monitors off the leash.

The first order of business will be to test the Diva Monitor solo in passive mode, then to explore bass augmentation via the passive control. To facilitate subsequent integration with the Duo 12, WLM had dispatched the full-blown Pre/Passive Control. Unlike the Diva Control, this box adds a divider network for 'sat-woofer' mode. In that hookup, the external Bass Control gets strapped to a specific Pre/Passive Control output and then allows separate gain and EQ contouring below a selectable 4th-order low-pass at 80 or 90Hz. This transfers bass duties to the subwoofer and removes the two bottom octaves from the monitors. Alternately, the Diva Monitor can be run full-range and the sub added in augmentation mode. By offering separate hi/low paths, the Pre/Passive control can also be used for bi-amping, though of course not the Diva Monitor with its single pair of speaker inputs. That feature is for the PAC and Super PAC equipped WLM models.

More soon. First impressions are extremely promising just as I remember the Diva Monitors from the shows. The addition of the weapons-grade Duo 12 will mandate a light touch on the controls. With 560 bridged 8-ohm watts into 100dB professional duty sealed 12-inchers, the potential for serious -- and irresponsible -- fun (or damage) is ever present...