Wilson-Benesch Owner’s/Admirer’s Circle - Page 4 - AVS Forum
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post #91 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 06:15 PM
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Round 4

Round 4 was a great, albeit limited, audition. I returned to Indianapolis for a fourth day of auditioning. I arrived at a dealer for Dali, Opera, Vandersteen and Wilson-Benesch at around 2:00 in the afternoon. My original hope was to hear the A.C.T., Discovery and Curve as well as maybe the Vandersteen Quattro and possibly 5 or 5A. Turns out, my plan fell through. The dealer felt aside from the ARC only the Discovery is worth flooring, as he would not have enough market for the Chimera. As for why I never got around to the Vandersteen or Dali... read on.


Wilson-Benesch Discovery
Sim Audio P-7 Preamp/P-8 Amplifier
dCS Puccini SACD Player


Every speaker I have ever listened to has made a statement within a very short listening period. Most speakers are like a person with a really strong personality. The Discovery is a little more interesting. It doesn't immediately give you anything, except gigantic sound stage. That you cannot fail to notice. Everything else takes its time to settle in. I was listening to some of the show off tracks coming off an Usher show off disc first. I thought the tracks showed off a nice sound stage and the impressive bass these monitors produce, but otherwise there was nothing much being shown off. Much like people who take a little while to get to know, sometimes taking your time with a seemingly introverted speaker can be quite worthwhile. I started my music with Abbey Rd. And this was the best way to start my day. I noted good bass on "Come Together". It was tight and musical and sounded just about perfect. I had full on chills for "Here Comes the Sun". In truth, there is something about the opening guitar line that almost always gets me. Likewise with the Piano in "You never Give Me Your Money" as it sounded so SO much like a piano in the room. But, and this is where my day got really good, when the hardness I have noted a few times approached, it was there. Here was a system I had been loving for a solid 15 or 20 minutes, never once getting that bitey quality in the midrange. And bam, it comes in exactly where I have noticed it on so many other systems. Suddenly I realize that I might be putting too much emphasis on a CD whose mastering engineer clearly used some edge enhancement. This is something I don't notice on my stereo at home because what is on the disc is masked. It takes a higher fidelity to uncover this glare on the track, and I have definitely entered the territory of hi-fi. You don't notice sharpness as adding grain on a 1978 Magnavox TV either. And I know plenty of people have pointed this out to me and I have even said it before myself. I should not be starting auditions with this track. It's just not fair. To Salk HT3 - I'm sorry.

"Neil Young - 1971 Massey Hall" a disc which was a pretty regular player on my last round of auditioning. The Discoveries presented the same huge soundstage and delivered a nice clarity to Young's guitarwork on "Cowgirl in the Sand" creating a wonderful sense of Neil being right there playing away. I also immediately noticed how tall the soundstage was. This could have been because of the relatively low sitting position, or it could be just the nature of the beast. Regardless, I didn't dislike it and thought it almost gave the illusion of Neil singing on a stage. I moved around the room while listening to "Old Man" and noticed no major changes to tonality or even image placement. This is probably a test unnecessary at this level of price, but still a fun test. I moved off Young and into "Tangled up in Blue" and didn't get the kick-drum slam effect, but the dCS did read off the SACD layer, so that was a nice bonus. What impressed me the most about this track was when the harmonica came in. As large as the soundstage is on these speakers, I was quite impressed that when Dylan's harmonica came onto the scene it was exactly the right size. On at least a few speakers I have auditioned the image cast has been nice and broad. Oftentimes these broad soundstages cause an instrument to sound larger than they actually do. I was delighted when the Discovery pulled off huge soundstaging and a harmonica sized harmonica. Impressive.

I moved on to a mix disc and noted again impressive bass for this size cabinet on my Dead Can Dance track. On my Aretha song, "Dr Feelgood" she was singing down at me, which I found distracting. I sat up and that helped. Listening to "Dancing in the Dark" by Cannonball Adderley I was very struck by the brushed snare. It was perfectly sized, placed and rendered. Art Blakey was brushing that snare drum, just a few feet behind Mr. Adderley. Fantastic. At some point fairly early in I stopped notating. And that is what the Discoveries did for me. I just got completely wrapped up in what I was listening to. Even the Kinks were enjoyable on this system. And I wouldn't say that the Disco's are warm or that the gear was either. I think they just never did anything overtly offensive. I could see where some people might call these speakers dry. The one word that continued to pop in my brain was clean, though. I didn't find them to be uninvolved or disinteresting, but they begged you to come closer or turn it up just one more notch. When I did turn it up that one more notch there was more but nothing new. Another excellent aspect of this system. At low levels it performed exactly the same as it did at or around reference levels. There was a linearity here that was quite fun to play with, as sometimes I think a little musicality and some dynamics can be lost at levels low enough to talk over. Not the case here.

At one point in the afternoon I had the chance to switch the Sim P-7 to a CAT LS1 tube preamp. The change was not huge, but it was undeniable. Voices took on an almost wet quality. It was mesmerizing. I loved the sound of this fine tubed preamp with the guts of 250 watts of Sim solid state behind it. And I was impressed at how quickly the Disoveries laid bare the differences between pre's. We lost a little oomph and there was a more laid-back quality to the speakers. Pushing them about 6 or so inches closer to the back wall gave the same basic soundstage as previous only with the magic tube midrange. This was not a lush over-warm tube product. It is clear detailed, fast and musical. I think there are a couple people around these parts that think tubes adding to the signal. You need to hear some well designed tube gear.

These are just great little speakers. After chatting with the dealer rep we played around a little with placement and I got to experience exactly how much you can do when a speaker that is so mobile. You can create a pinpoint stage of fairly impressive depth and width, or give yourself a true studio-monitor presentation where it is almost like you're wearing nice studio cups. Yet with every move, I never noticed a change in tonality. And we weren't moving the speakers mere inches. At one point they went from being about 4 feet off the back wall and 8 feet apart to being 8 feet off the back wall, 13 feet apart and seriously toed. Never a change in clarity or tone quality. Excellent.

-Michael
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post #92 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Michael -

Thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts on the Discoveries, and I'm thrilled that you made the time to go out an listen to them.

Despite their cold hard exterior, they make beautiful music, that as you pointed out, isn't overt, but at the same time doesn't leave me wanting.

The soundstage is to die for. I'm listening to a little Jack Johnson, which is a rare occasion for me, but wow, for such a minimalist disc, the sense of space is incredible. And I have to say again, that the silk tweeter is very "sweet" and delicate sounding.
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post #93 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 09:13 PM
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Not a problem. I am just glad I took the time for the audition. These are pretty rare speakers and certainly worth a look for anyone who has the chance to hear them. Something that I failed to mention in my impressions post was the lack of a subwookie. We only had it hooked up for about 10 minutes through the entire audition. I was wanting a bit more on only a couple of occasions and when the sub was running it was not well integrated into the sound.

Yesterday was a catalyst for me, and I am hoping that I can hold off on a new purchase while I try and determine what I want that purchase to be. I won't go into too much detail here since this is a Benesch thread, but I am pretty interested in a monitor setup right now after yesterday. I just hesitate about sub integration in a true 2.1 setup. I imagine it won't be too difficult, as I have never had trouble in the past. Not sure what the issue was with the Genesis.

-Michael
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post #94 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 10:56 PM
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Once again Michael, your review was a pleasure to read. Since both of you guys like them so much, I can now add the Discoveries (or anything from Wilson-Benesh) to my list of speakers I want to hear... How are they treating you today, Tim?

->>>≈<<<-
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post #95 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 11:14 PM - Thread Starter
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^^^ Really good. I've got a good 50 CD's in my Mac Mini Music Server, so I set it on shuffle while I ripped a few more discs. My favorite today is a Jack Johnson disc my friend gave me. Great sense of space on what is really just a man and his guitar. And the vocals sound so natural a real. Good stuff!

But I didn't spend much time critical listening because I was working on that mod of the wall brackets for the rear speakers that you gave me the idea for. After that, it was the joys of drywall repair in prep for the wall mounts.
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post #96 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 11:21 PM
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Is it going to work out okay?

Jack Johnson is pretty good, not bad at all for a pro-surfer, huh? I really like his music, and decent recordings to boot.

->>>≈<<<-
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post #97 of 461 Old 11-12-2008, 11:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I think the mod to angle the speakers is going to work out great. I cut the pieces myself, but handed them off to a wood working shop to do the drilling. I just don't have the tools or the trust in my skill to get the angles right.

Thanks again for the idea!
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post #98 of 461 Old 11-13-2008, 12:55 AM
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I helped flesh it out a little, but that idea was as much yours as it was mine... brainstorming is good.

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post #99 of 461 Old 11-14-2008, 08:40 AM
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Thanks so much for starting this thread. I've owned Chimeras for about 4 1/2 years now. Prior to that I had ACTS for about 6 weeks ( while waiting for the Chimeras). I've listened to Discoveries extensively and ARCs briefly. All of these speakers are really really good. Unfortunately the dollar devaluation has made them also really really expensive. Despite this I think compared to other top speakers they still represent pretty good value and the dollar is once again gaining ground. The philosophy of using small bass drivers creatively gives them super accurate upper and mid bass. There is no intentional midbass hump so often seen in other designs. This takes a little getting use to but once you do there is no going back. They are magical. WB claims that the Chimeras bass is actually more accurate than the midrange. The only shortfall of this design ( as pointed out in the TAS review of the Torus is that the bass drivers produce the frequency but don't move alot of air in reproducing say a kickdrum. Properly integrating dual subs with such an accurate speaker is no small task and I've spent almost two years trying to do so. I would not trade WB's for any other speaker in there repective price ranges. In my experience they benefit from lots of high quality SS power and because they are on the "accurate" side of things a good tube preamp. jmho - Jim
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post #100 of 461 Old 11-14-2008, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aldavis View Post

Thanks so much for starting this thread. I've owned Chimeras for about 4 1/2 years now. Prior to that I had ACTS for about 6 weeks ( while waiting for the Chimeras). I've listened to Discoveries extensively and ARCs briefly. All of these speakers are really really good. Unfortunately the dollar devaluation has made them also really really expensive. Despite this I think compared to other top speakers they still represent pretty good value and the dollar is once again gaining ground. The philosophy of using small bass drivers creatively gives them super accurate upper and mid bass. There is no intentional midbass hump so often seen in other designs. This takes a little getting use to but once you do there is no going back. They are magical. WB claims that the Chimeras bass is actually more accurate than the midrange. The only shortfall of this design ( as pointed out in the TAS review of the Torus is that the bass drivers produce the frequency but don't move alot of air in reproducing say a kickdrum. Properly integrating dual subs with such an accurate speaker is no small task and I've spent almost two years trying to do so. I would not trade WB's for any other speaker in there repective price ranges. In my experience they benefit from lots of high quality SS power and because they are on the "accurate" side of things a good tube preamp. jmho - Jim

With the gaining dollar, we can only hope to see prices ease, which will make the European brands more affordable for us in the US. Unfortunately, I don't think companies are as likely to cut prices as they are to raise them.
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post #101 of 461 Old 11-16-2008, 03:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aldavis View Post

Thanks so much for starting this thread. I've owned Chimeras for about 4 1/2 years now. Prior to that I had ACTS for about 6 weeks ( while waiting for the Chimeras). I've listened to Discoveries extensively and ARCs briefly. All of these speakers are really really good. Unfortunately the dollar devaluation has made them also really really expensive. Despite this I think compared to other top speakers they still represent pretty good value and the dollar is once again gaining ground. The philosophy of using small bass drivers creatively gives them super accurate upper and mid bass. There is no intentional midbass hump so often seen in other designs. This takes a little getting use to but once you do there is no going back. They are magical. WB claims that the Chimeras bass is actually more accurate than the midrange. The only shortfall of this design ( as pointed out in the TAS review of the Torus is that the bass drivers produce the frequency but don't move alot of air in reproducing say a kickdrum. Properly integrating dual subs with such an accurate speaker is no small task and I've spent almost two years trying to do so. I would not trade WB's for any other speaker in there repective price ranges. In my experience they benefit from lots of high quality SS power and because they are on the "accurate" side of things a good tube preamp. jmho - Jim

Thanks for chiming in Jim. I created this thread in hopes that others like you would come here to share their experiences and those curious about Wilson-Benesch would have a resource of information to turn to.

There just isn't enough info on the internet about these fine speakers when you do a google search.

Please post pics when you have the chance.
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post #102 of 461 Old 11-16-2008, 03:01 PM
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Sadly I am illiterate with a digital camera but maybe someday I'll get pics up. I am,however, quite familiar with Wilson Benesch and would gladly give offer mho on any WB subjects. - jim
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post #103 of 461 Old 11-16-2008, 04:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aldavis View Post

Sadly I am illiterate with a digital camera but maybe someday I'll get pics up. I am,however, quite familiar with Wilson Benesch and would gladly give offer mho on any WB subjects. - jim

Jim -

I'm interested in know what attracted you to the sound of the WB line. What's your story? Which other speakers did you compare them to? What were the front runners at the time you purchased them? That sort of thing.
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post #104 of 461 Old 11-16-2008, 06:31 PM
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Well, I was a big fan of the big maggies (3.6,20.1) and was in the process of figuring out how to maximize their dynamics ( which is their big weakness) when I came across W.B's. Dynamic box speakers never really appealed to me until I listened to the ACT's. These had the presentation of stats but with better dynamics. They didn't have the glare of alot of speakers ( silk dome tweeter) or have the typical overblown sluggish bass which is so common. The dealer didn't have the Chimeras to demo and for the first time I just took the plunge believing him that they were worth the price difference. He lent me his ACT's for six weeks while I awaited the Chimeras. I thought the only difference would be spl and bass response but when I first hooked up my Chimeras I was amazed. The word I use to describe what I heard is "presence". The Chimeras have ALOT more than the ACT's although in a smaller room the difference might be minimized. You really are THERE when you put on a good disc.At first I used a Chord SS amp which supposedly was unclippable but I did in fact blow it up during an insanely loud passage. The Chimeras impedance dips to around 2 ohms and requires a very stout power supply capable of doubling down output.This lead me to a Gryphon Antileon Signature amp. When I first hooked it up I heard so many small details that I hadn't before on familiar recordings. It will double down output all the way to 1/2 ohm and remain in pure class A. The Gryphon only accepts balanced inputs so after 6 months with an adapter I reluctantly sold my beloved single ended conrad johnson preamp and switched to an ARC ref 3. Again this was a leap forward in dynamics and clarity but I do admit to missing ,on occasion, the golden glow of the C.J. To mate with the ref 3 I purchased the ARC cd7 which in my experience is terrific with redbook cd's. For the last 2 years I have been experimenting with subs and crossovers. It has been a descent into madness. It is very tricky with wb speakers. After a million combinations I can only tell you :1 that if you buy a sub buy 2 subs and place them next to your speakers.2 You may not need a sub.3 external crossovers are a mixed blessing and become more important with higher crossover settings.4 W.B. speakers are particularly difficult to integrate because of their accuracy and small drivers.5 Pass labs makes a great analog crossover the xvr1. 6 Right now I'm not using an external crossover and as discussed in an interesting jl audio Gotham review in ultra audio I've set up my speakers for maximum imaging without regard to bass output ( which is always a compromise) . This rolls off the bass output acoustically and allows me to run a pair of f112's crossed at 40 hz ( in my room) with 12 db octave slope. Curiously the larger jl f113's drivers don't integrate as well with 7 inch tactic drivers nor has any other sub with > 12 inch drivers except W.B's own Torus system which was cost prohibitive when buying pairs. Despite all this technical stuff I am at heart a music lover and am very fortunate to be able to enjoy music every day via these wonderful speakers. - Jim
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post #105 of 461 Old 11-17-2008, 12:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Jim -

That's quite the set-up you have there and quite the jump in cost from the Maggie's. I've only recently had the chance to hear the Audio Research stuff. It was my first experience with tubed gear, and based on what I heard, I can see why it has such a following. I may look into a tubed pre in the future, but it is not in the cards for me right now.

I didn't realize that the Chimera's dropped to 2.5 Ohms. They must be running the four woofers in parallel. That would be a tough load for an amp.

I'm curious, did you notice any changes in the sound character of the speakers during a given "break-in" period?
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post #106 of 461 Old 11-17-2008, 09:17 AM
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Changes are small.Maybe 10%
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post #107 of 461 Old 11-17-2008, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aldavis View Post

Changes are small.Maybe 10%

Do you remember which Chord amp clipped badly and blew?
I own the SPM1200E and I must admit I am pretty impressed (also own a MF KW550), seems strange the protection system did not kick and I guessed surprised you as well
The next amp up by Chord Electronics has +-110 volt rail and this is even greater than the 600+watt KW550.

However, I have always wondered after the Stereophile measurements of the SPM14000 reference amp whether their high frequency power supply works better with the UK voltage specification instead.
I live in the UK btw.

Ah just to add three of the WB dealers over here are also Chord Electronics dealers as well, with the SPM amps usually used to present the WB.

Cheers
DT
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post #108 of 461 Old 11-17-2008, 04:23 PM
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The cord 1200e. In fairness I was never able to determine if there might have been an electrical surge which contributed. Cord dealer handled it very professionaly and I do miss the cool blue glow from the top. It is a very fine ab amp but the Gryphon is just better with Chimeras.
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post #109 of 461 Old 11-18-2008, 01:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aldavis View Post

The cord 1200e. In fairness I was never able to determine if there might have been an electrical surge which contributed. Cord dealer handled it very professionaly and I do miss the cool blue glow from the top. It is a very fine ab amp but the Gryphon is just better with Chimeras.

Thanks for the response, and good to hear someone with the reference Chimeras
Even ex-demo ones over here in the UK are an eye watering price.

And like you, I do love the design looks of the Chords.
Edit:
From my conversations in the past with the engineers at Chord Electronics they strongly suggest not to use power conditioners/etc with their amps (not saying you did but just throwing it out there for others).
Still something curious as for me the 1200e outperforms the very solid KW550 and provides a more stable sound on my speakers that drop to 3ohms and have a very rollercoaster impedance and phase.
But that is the joy of audio, each person has different preferences when it comes to products such as amps.

Cheers
DT
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post #110 of 461 Old 11-18-2008, 09:19 AM
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My friend has the kw 550 and the cord IS substantially better. The 1200e is a terrific amp but does begin to run out of gas at 2.5 ohm loads. The power supply is dwarfed by the Gryphons. As to the Chimeras pricing I bought them when they were alot cheaper because of the dollar. I think all amps should go directly into the wall preferably into a dedicated a 20 amp circuit.
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post #111 of 461 Old 11-18-2008, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aldavis View Post

My friend has the kw 550 and the cord IS substantially better. The 1200e is a terrific amp but does begin to run out of gas at 2.5 ohm loads. The power supply is dwarfed by the Gryphons. As to the Chimeras pricing I bought them when they were alot cheaper because of the dollar. I think all amps should go directly into the wall preferably into a dedicated a 20 amp circuit.

Thanks for the heads up, that is good to know for the future.
I guess either you need to move up to the not very cheap SPM4000 or 1400e for 2.5ohms or lower.

Cheers
DT
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post #112 of 461 Old 11-18-2008, 07:41 PM
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I was looking at the 1400e monos when I ran into the Gryphon. They would do a great job. - Jim
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post #113 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 06:48 AM
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As Design Director of Wilson Benesch I have to say that this is the first Forum that I have ever joined.

I would like to support the group and hope that I can lend a designers point of view to any points raised by members.

The US market is an important one for any manufacturer. Its size and diversity makes it very difficult for companies like Wilson Benesch to reach as many people as it would like to. As a Director the decisions behind allocating budgets is always a difficult one. To date Wilson Benesch has always chosen to invest heavily in R&D and our audited accounts supplied to grant providers record that this is significantly more than half a million $ over the last ten years. Although we have won substantial funding from Government for this work it is still a large investment. This philosophical stance of the company is then about the long haul, word of mouth, satisfied customer route. So naturally I am very glad to see Tim supporting our efforts and in such a splendid way. The Discovery's look superb in Tim's system.

Thanks Tim. Congratulations on making a purchasing decision that reflects you're appreciation of the hard work that we have put into creating new solutions to the accepted paradigms. There are too many designs with large price tags that roll on regardless on the back of huge advertising budgets. This philosophy delivers no change or improvement to anyones listening and is diametrically opposite to everything that the WB logo stands for.


Craig Milnes
Design Director
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post #114 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 08:10 AM
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Well put. I think it's fair to say that, for many of us on this forum, Tim provided our introduction to Wilson-Benesch, and they do seem extraordinary.
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post #115 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 09:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Craig -

Thanks for visiting this thread.

Feel free to chime in at any time with tidbits about your design philosophies, manufacturing processes, history, and so on.

I for one would like to know how you get such a big sound from such relatively small speakers. The soundstage on the Discovery's is markedly larger than many of the speakers I have auditioned in my home.

Also, if you have the time and the interest, I would like it if you could share some pictures of your facilities. I found a slide show on your web site, but since it is in video form, I can't pull of the pictures and put them into this thread.
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post #116 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 11:01 AM
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craig, forgive me for asking but i think i'm reading your post wrong - are you saying that wb has spent 500k total in ten years on r&d? i'm confused because that is only 50k per year and would only be enough to pay the wages of one person doing r&d research with nothing left over for the research itself. are you doing all of your r&d at a government paid for site?

Close your eyes and hear the truth!
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post #117 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 03:23 PM
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I can't speak for Craig but I believe (though I could be wrong) the 500k in question was spent in development of the tactic driver which is designed and built by W.B. Almost nobody engineers and builds their own drivers. It's expensive and requires a lot of skill.It is the basis, along with very inert cabinetry, of the W.B. presentation. 95% of other high end speaker "makers" are in fact" kit "speaker makers buying off the shelf drivers possibly modifying them or special ordering them and then building cabinets around them. W.B's cabinets are carbon fiber which anyone can read about and evaluate. You know it's a very expensive material to work with next to mdf for example. Value is an almost imposable term to define in high end audio these days. One of the things I like about W.B. is that when you buy a pair of their speakers you know that they invested in, developed and manufactured most ( aside from the tweeters) of the speaker you purchase. This is almost never the case and is (imho) because they REALLY believe that this makes a better speaker.
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post #118 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 04:02 PM
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I agree, a speaker manufacturer that designs AND builds their own drivers is certainly rare. One that does this and also builds a cabinet out of anything other than MDF is arguably even more rare. To top it off, building said cabinet out of Carbon Fiber is just badass. The number of speakers I have heard that have been made up of the builder's drivers and non-MDF cabinetry I think I could count on one hand... probably without using all my fingers. Magico V3 and WB Discovery I believe are the only two in fact.

Speaking of WB, the dealer rep that I dealt with felt there is no reason to bother with anything in the WB lineup aside from the ARC, Discovery and Chimera, because the ARC is so affordable and the Chimera/Disco are the only two that utilize the clam shell isobaric tactic unit. Any thoughts?

-Michael
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post #119 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 04:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grenamc View Post

Speaking of WB, the dealer rep that I dealt with felt there is no reason to bother with anything in the WB lineup aside from the ARC, Discovery and Chimera, because the ARC is so affordable and the Chimera/Disco are the only two that utilize the clam shell isobaric tactic unit. Any thoughts?

-Michael

I suppose it depends on how important you think the cabinet construction is. It is my understanding that the ACT uses a considerably more inert internal structure than the ARC, Curve and Disco. Though I have to say that I am a fan of the the the tight, punchy bass provided by the isobaric woofer arrangment of the Discos. In the end, I would have to have a listen to the ACTs as compared to the Curves and the Discos to know for sure where I stand. Unfortunately, the local dealer here only carries the Discos, so I may never know. . . . probably a good thing since I wouldn't want to be tempted into buying the ACTs at twice the price of the Discos.
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post #120 of 461 Old 11-19-2008, 04:27 PM
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Heh, I can understand that. I considered it unusual that he was so adamant about the Isobaric arrangement being what made a WB special. I can think of a number of things I am impressed by with their design choices, and even their choice of OEM-supplied tweeter. I can think of very few that would fit the sound they were clearly going for better than that soft dome.

-Michael
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