Speaker designers are fascinating people, and each one has his or her own unique perspective and priorities. Some are "pure" engineers, and spend most of their working life in front of a computer; others test and measure their designs, but invest countless hours listening to prototypes.
I recently interviewed Dave Wilson, founder and chief engineer for Wilson Audio Specialties for The Absolute Audiophile magazine. Wilson Audio is the high-end audio equivalent of Ferrari; the Provo, Utah,-based company makes ultra-high-performance speakers for the most demanding audiophiles and music industry professionals. Warner Brothers, Pixar, Disney, and CBS/Sony are all Wilson customers.
Q: The greatest challenge is making highly accurate speakers that still sound good with less-than-stellar recordings. Accuracy can't be the only design goal. Wilson: Right, it's like designing a car for sports car enthusiasts, and developing it entirely on a smooth racetrack. You find that if you take out all of the suspension compliance, the car performs better and lap times go way down, so it's great on the track, but it will be hell to drive on a real road. [In audio] a lot of people use "accuracy" as a pejorative, meaning the sound is bright, forward, or lean in the lower midrange; so it emphasizes high-frequency detail at the expense of the music's body and soul.
So the art of speaker design is all about preserving accuracy without losing musicality. Wilson: The speaker needs enough resilience and latitude to sound great with all types of music. As our designs have improved over the years they have become more tolerant of imperfect recordings. It should just sound right.
That's exactly what I thought when I heard your new speaker, the Sasha. It's highly resolved and it's still very easy to listen to. Your designs of the last few years have more curves and fewer hard edges than before; do I see a Ferrari influence in the Wilson aesthetic?… Read more