Simon Cowell (search) can be brutal when he judges contestants on Fox's "American Idol (search)," but he has withheld his caustic criticism from his "popera" group.

Cowell founded Il Divo (search) — which means "the male diva" in Italian — in 2003 after a talent search. The four handsome men are formally trained singers who try to bridge the gap between classical and pop music — sometimes called "popera."

"My first impression of (Cowell) was that he's a really honest man," David Miller, a member of Il Divo, told AP Television on Friday. "He says what he thinks and he doesn't hold back, especially for the TV show. Sometimes he's doing them a favor by being so brutally honest with them."

"He never spoke that way with us," he added.

Urs Buhler, a tenor from Switzerland, said that those who auditioned for Il Divo were not treated like "American Idol" contestants.

"The audition process for us was more like auditioning for an opera," Buhler said. "It was not like, `You are crap. You are pathetic.' That's not the way it went."

Il Divo will release their new album, "Ancora," Nov. 7.