Recent and Upcoming Events May/June 2003 Volume 2 Issue 3

May/June 2003
Volume 2 Issue 3
Recent and
Upcoming Events
June 3-9, 2003
Stereophile Show
San Francisco, CA
Wilson Audio
will be showing
with VTL
& Transparent Audio
April 22-23, 2003
Innovative Audio
New York City
WATT/Puppy 7
and Sales Training
with Peter McGrath
April 23-24, 2003
Salt Lake City, UT
Open House
for Invited Guests
with John Giolas and
Dave & Sheryl Wilson
June 16, 2003
Audio Centre
Montreal, Canada
Dave & Sheryl Wilson
and Peter McGrath
meet with specially invited guests.
Excerpted with permission from Hi-Fi News March 2001
Room Acoustics with Attitude
By Keith Howard
With so many dealers moving into the
“acoustical design” of listening rooms and home
theaters, it has become more and more critical
for dealers and custom installers to gain genuine
insight and understanding of room accoustics.
We have observed a trend toward overdamped,
overly absorptive rooms designed and installed
by “professional acousticians.” These type of
rooms are adverse to both music reproduction
and theater sound. Simply stated, most “purposebuilt” rooms sound bad. Conversely, properly
designed and executed rooms can benefit your
client by adding enjoyment to his/her audio/video
investment. We also believe that treating the
client’s room and home as an adversary in the
sales approach (in an effort, perhaps, to sell more
acoustical products) can be counterproductive
to closing the system sale. Here is an article by
Keith Howard, first published in Hi Fi News, that
gives some very good practical insight into room
treatment. –John Giolas
“I can’t pinpoint when or how, but at some
time in the recent history of the audio industry it
became received wisdom that the listening room
is the last remaining barrier to true high fidelity
“In response to a 1959 paper on the subject
of talks studio and listening room acoustics in
broadcasting, he (James Moir) observed: ‘…in
my view, if a room requires extensive treatment
for stereophonic listening there is something
wrong with the stereophonic equipment or
recording. The better the reproduction system, the
less trouble we have with room acoustics.’
“How true. To this day, supposed room
acoustics problems continue to dematerialize
when system improvements are made, which
strongly suggests that those problems truly
attributable to the room cannot be so fundamental
as ‘the last great barrier’ contention suggests.
“This is reinforced by the second observation:
that DSP room correctors, for all the extravagant
claims made of them, have failed to set the audio
world on fire....
“Third, some of the worst listening rooms
I have ever experienced have been purposedesigned, often at great expense, by acoustics
“Fourth and last, most music – live or
reproduced – actually sounds better indoors
than out.... In other words, rooms are essentially
good for music reproduction, not bad – a positive
attitude I far prefer to the doom and gloom (should
that be boom and gloom?) alternative. The room
is an inherently good thing, let’s make it better;
not, ‘the room is bad, let’s try to write it out of
the script’.
“So much for the manifesto, what does it
mean in practice? That I consider there is little
that can be done to improve a room? No, but my
prescription for improvement is rather different
to those you may have read elsewhere....
“Unsurprisingly, listening room acoustics
has been the subject of considerable research,
not least by the redoubtable Floyd Toole and
within the Eureka Archimedes project, partially
funded by KEF. The authors of these and other
papers on the topic will, I hope, excuse me if I
characterize their work as being of little practical
use in deciding what if any acoustical treatment
to apply to a given listening room.
“In the conclusion of his paper, for example,
Floyd Toole admits, ‘A little knowledge of room
acoustics, and some reliable technical data on
the loudspeakers can help to avoid the worst
problems, but selecting the options for maximum
satisfaction may be difficult. A major problem is
that recordings present something of a moving
target.’ Elsewhere in the same paper, on the
subject of side wall reflections, he writes, ‘…the
lateral reflection zone is a critical one. If the
loudspeaker behaves like the example in Fig 29 [a
studio monitor with poor off-axis performance],
timbral considerations alone demand absorption,
and the result is a ‘dead end’… however, with a
loudspeaker like the one in Fig 28 [a model with
(Continued as Room Acoustics on pg.
Page 2
Room Acoustics (Cont. from pg.
well maintained off-axis response] there is a
choice. With reflecting or diffusing surfaces,
the sense of spaciousness is substantially
enhanced. With absorbing surfaces, the
sense of space is restricted to that which can
be conveyed by the two loudspeakers.’
“ is entirely reasonable of Toole
to suggest that optimum room acoustic
treatment will depend on the characteristics
of the loudspeaker. He might have added that
it will also depend on the preferences of the
listener...but even if I lever myself into a less
partial position I believe the idea of applying
absorbents to side walls is fundamentally
“It’s something you can easily try for
yourself, without going to the expense of
buying specialist absorbents or the trouble of
making major changes to your room. Some
heavy drapes, a couple of duvets – any thick
soft furnishings will do for experimental
purposes. Try hanging them on the side walls
of your listening room, around the position
where the side wall reflection from each
speaker originates.
“...What you should hear with the
absorbent in place, as Floyd Toole describes,
is a narrowing of the stereo image. What
you may also note, which Toole doesn’t
allude to but which is at least as important,
is a disconcerting flattening of dynamics
and a general dulling and emasculation
of the sound, typical of what you hear
in acoustically dead rooms....What you
have done is interfere with the lateral
early reflections from the side walls, the
consequences of which are invariably bad
news in my experience, no matter what
loudspeakers are involved.
“...(See Table 1) The feature to note
is that the foam is highly frequencyselective in its absorbing power, doing
little to attenuate the reflected sound at
low frequencies and much more at high
frequencies – a characteristic shared by all
boundary absorbers that work by increasing
the friction experienced by the vibrating air
“This means that the absorbent doesn’t
suppress the reflection so much as skew
its frequency content. High frequencies
are preferentially absorbed, so that the
reflected sound becomes bass heavy/treble
light compared to what it would be were the
absorbent not there. As most loudspeakers
have frequency-dependent directionality,
in which their output is restricted to
progressively narrower angles about the
forward axis as frequency rises, the sidewall
reflection is already lacking in treble and so
the absorbent acts to compound the existing
spectral disparity between the sound that
reaches the listener’s ears direct and that
which is reflected via the side wall.
“...It is a bad idea to exacerbate the
disparity which already exists between the
spectra of direct and reflected sound due to
speaker directivity. It threatens to defocus
the stereo image (due to the apparent position
of the loudspeakers varying with frequency)
and to bleed life from the sound as a result
of dulling the overall tonal balance. These
effects can be clearly heard when absorbents
are used to suppress early reflections, and I
deprecate the practice because of it....
“None of this should be interpreted as
meaning that I’m against sound absorption
per se. Although I’d always rather listen to
music in a room that inclines to being too
live than one which has had the sparkle
damped out of it, I certainly don’t enjoy the
aggressive jumble of sound that characterises
an overly live room when the music becomes
loud and complex. It’s where you put the
absorbent in a room which concerns me.
“One of the more extreme approaches
to acoustic treatment developed in the past
20 years is the so-called live end, dead end
(LEDE) concept. As the name indicates,
one end of the room is reflective and the
other is highly damped, the intention being
to surround the speakers with absorbent
surfaces to suppress early reflections. If
you’ve been following me thus far you’ll
appreciate that this doesn’t square at all with
my thinking on the subject, which is to keep
absorbents away from places where they will
distort the spectra of early reflections.
“LEDE was, in any case, a design
approach conceived with the particular needs
of the studio control room in mind, which
don’t necessarily carry over to a domestic
listening environment. What I’d advocate
is more of a live bottom, dead top (LBDT?)
approach, where the reverberant sound
in the room is controlled by absorbents
placed above the seated listener’s ear level.
As I write I’m currently in the process of
redecorating and refurbishing what will be
the listening room in my new house, which
will be configured this way. Panels of RPG’s
superior ProFoam absorbent (available
from Acoustic GRG Products in the UK,
telephone 01303 230944) will be placed high
(Continued as Room Acoustics
on page 3)
(Fig. 1) A typical LEDE (live end, dead end)
control room layout. Boundary absorbent
(shaded) is deployed throughout the end of
the room in which the monitors are situated,
to suppress early reflections. Surfaces in the
remainder of the room are reflective.
Page 3
Room Acoustics (Cont. from pg.
up on the front, side and back walls, each
facing an area of bare wall opposite (See
Fig. 2). In this way the average absorption
along each axis of the room will be kept
roughly equivalent, the fitted carpet and its
underlay taking care of the vertical direction
(with some low frequency contribution from
the suspended floor) and the glass of the
bay window helping out along the length
of the room.
“ . . . M a n f r e d S c h r o e d e r, w h o
revolutionised diffusor design with his
invention of diffusors based on number
theory (primitive root and quadratic residue
diffusors), deployed his creations principally
on the ceilings of modern concert halls, the
intention being to reduce the dominance
of the ceiling reflection and restore greater
influence to the weakened side wall
“If diffusors are to be used anywhere
in a listening room it should surely be with
an eye to Schroeder’s original motivation
which was to suppress ‘mono’ reflections
and encourage the ‘stereo’ ones. On that
basis the rightful place for diffusors must be
the walls behind the speakers and behind the
listener - not the side walls - since these are
where the more ‘mono’ reflections originate
(See Fig. 3).
“But do bear in mind that all such
‘rules’, whoever espouses them, are for the
adherence of fools and the guidance of the
wise. You won’t find me arguing with the
maxim: if it sounds right, it is right. However
you achieve it.”
Fig. 3 Spatial distribution of early reflections in
a rectangular listening room. Solid rectangles are
the loudspeakers; Color-coded open rectangles
represent their images in the side, end and rear
walls (the last brought to the front for clarity).
Note how the reflections from the end and rear
walls subtend a narrower angle at the listening
position than the speakers themselves, so they
are more ‘mono’ than the direct sound. Only
sidewall reflections act to increase interaural
disparity, which is why they help conserve a
sense of spaciousness.
Fig. 2 Live bottom, dead top approach preferred
by the author. Here the absorbent panels (red
rectangles) are all positioned above the seated
listener’s ear.
From Grandpa to COO: Contrasts, but not Contradictions
by Sherri Burge
With white hair and an easy smile
reminiscent of Santa Claus, Howard Van
Orman chuckles as he hunts Easter eggs
with several of his nine grandchildren.
Perhaps it would surprise his grandkids
to know that their soft-spoken, easy-going
grandpa once worked for Deloitte Touche,
one of the “Big 6” international CPA firms,
or for a division of Baker Hughes, which
was voted in the top five best managed
companies in the USA.
Howard has successfully applied some
of those strong family values his six children
grew up with as he manages many of the
day to day decisions he makes as Wilson
Audio’s COO. Perhaps this is most easily
seen in his emphasis on treating dealers as
partners and seeking to maintain long-term
business relationships.
The seeming contradiction in Howard’s
somewhat laid-back demeanor is that his
career has shown him to be plenty capable
of taking off the gloves when necessary. He’s
not afraid to do what it takes to protect the
company and readily acknowledges that,
“Cash flow is the name of the game.”
When Howard’s not in the office
managing money, he enjoys traveling,
especially in Europe, and has been all over
the world. However, Howard’s not afraid to
lay aside his frequent flyer miles to put one
foot in front of the other. He’s pounded the
pavement to complete 10 marathons and
hopes to do at least one more.
Far different from the solitary miles of
training, Howard and his wife love attending
the Shakespeare Festival, which brings
thousands of people to southern Utah each
summer. One might guess that a person who
enjoys Shakespeare and lists Phantom as
among his favorite plays would spend his
leisure time listening to classical music, but
Howard is just as likely to be letting down
his hair with some Pink Floyd.
A study in contrasts? Perhaps, but
Howard would just claim he’s got a
diversified portfolio.
Page 4
Translated from image hi-fi (Germany) March 2003
“Speaker Test:
Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy System 7”
by Dirk Sommer
X-2 Alexandria watches as Dave Wilson speaks with Micael Wolke April
23 in an Aurant showroom. The event was the first public showing of the
Alexandria enclosure.
Sneak Preview : X-2 Alexandria
“After two more well-known songs - Jacintha’s ‘In the Wee
Small Hours of the Morning’ and Jona Helborg’s version of Jimi
Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing,’ it is clear to me that the Wilsons are among
the best speakers I have ever played in my room. But they are not
just fun. You know immediately, that they are outstanding tools for
judging components and recorders. They produce almost no sound
of their own, but reproduce what is fed into their clips, without
coloration or improvement.”
Of Eberhard Weber’s solo bass album Pendulum, Sommer
writes, “Try as I might, I cannot remember ever to have heard the
electric double-bass so differentiated, impressive and explosive.
For the title piece of the CD, the WATT/Puppys are brilliant in reproducing the melodically flowing lines, rumbling bow sounds and
rhythmical slides with their coarse and fine dynamic capabilities.”
“Neither major electronic systems nor huge living spaces are
needed in order to enjoy music at its finest. The WATT/Puppys can
magically create, even in a room of only 20 square meters, the illusion of a concert hall, a stadium or a Jazz-Keller (‘jazz club’). Even
at high sound volumes, 100 watts is completely adequate. And the
extremely moderate dimensions of the system should make them
completely acceptable to your partner. Unfortunately, all of that
has its price, which may appear to be too high based on a glance
at just the volume of the speakers. Workmanship, use of materials,
tonal potential and - at least for me - the bass, justify it in any case.
Caution: Listening to the Wilsons is addictive.”
X-2 Alexandria - The Speaker with a Heart
Page 5
X-2 Alexandria was named in honor of the daughter of a former Wilson Audio employee. Steve Portocarrero worked in sales and marketing and died
in 1999 as a result of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, leaving behind his wife and his young daughter, Alexandra. In conjunction with our desire to pay tribute
to our fond memories of Steve, we have named our new flagship speaker after Alex.
The name “Alexandria” has additional meaning to us. The great library of Alexandria was a repository for the collective wisdom of the ancient world.
Similarly, everything Wilson Audio has learned over three decades of speaker design is now contained in Alexandria X-2.
Page 6
Salesman Mark Platt of Soundex in Willowgrove, PA, is the first recipient of a Wilson Audio product
during the current sales promotional. The program, available to US dealers and their staff, runs until
September 1, 2004. Contact John Giolas or Peter McGrath for futher details.
Cashmere Beige WATT/Puppy 7s with Parchment
Gray grilles are on display at Music Lovers Audio
& Video. Music Lovers is located in Berkley, CA
and became part of the Wilson team of dealers
in March 2003.
Don’s Hi Fidelity of Amarillo, Texas, features black
WATT/Puppy 7s and a black WATCH Dog. Don’s
Hi-Fi hosted an open house in March. Local radio,
newspaper and television covered the event, which
was very well attended.