WILSON BENESCH Act One Evo floorstand speakers - satin black

WB 28 FS ACT
NZ$ 39,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Wilson Benesch

The FUTURE is CARBON

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“The A.C.T. One Evolution is the distillation of all the engineering and materials science development that Wilson Benesch can throw at a loudspeaker… where the original A.C.T. One began ‘tabula rasa’, the A.C.T. One Evolution draws upon drive unit technology and high compression cabinet construction  derived from two decades of loudspeaker design......I don’t want to get carried away by the bass. There is a lot more to this loudspeaker than bottom end. It’s just that the loudspeaker does bass so well, and so deep; that unbraced cabinet makes it TARDIS like and far bigger on the inside than you’d expect and that means more cabinet volume and that means more bass - but the level of control the A.C.T. One Evolution has over that bass is insane.....”Alan Sircom, HiFi+, Issue 130

The A.C.T. One Evolution is the best sound I have achieved in my listening room……as with a real stage diva, you like it, because it can do things, of which others only dream. Carbon fibre has always been black, in the A.C.T. One Evolution P1 version, colour is introduced to the fibre for the first time: thanks to a collaboration with Hypetex, a team of Formula 1 engineers who have developed the process, in this sample, it is not simply any colour, but a very strong one: “Enzo Red” – in line with the famous red of the Enzo Ferrari. So the speed and dynamics with which the box performs acoustically is also expressed visually. And in fact she is real eye-candy…..Andreas Wenderoth, Image Hifi, 

7 OWNERS REVIEWS = 5★★★★★ / OUT OF 5

THE G E O M E T R Y   S E R I E S:
The flagship series of the Wilson Benesch product range showcases the pinnacle of the company's extensive research and development in carbon fibre composites, advanced materials science and drive unit design. Deriving its name from the forms used to generate each component's architecture, each speaker in the range is presented to the highest qualities of fit and finish. signed, machined and assembled in-house at Wilson Benesch, each speaker  excels in dynamic, honest and clear sound reproduction.

A.C.T. ONE EVO SERIES:
A distinctive Wilson Benesch floor standing loudspeaker design. The A.C.T. One Evolution references the company's multi-award winning A.C.T. Loudspeaker lineage. A distinctly British design with heritage.

The name A.C.T. is an acronym for ‘Advanced Composite Technology’ - it is a reference to the carbon fibre composite technologies upon which the Wilson Benesch brand was founded and subsequently has become synonymous with. The A.C.T. acronym was used when naming the companies first loudspeaker the A.C.T. One in 1991 and appeared subsequently in the A.C.T. Two, A.C.T. and A.C.T. C60 loudspeakers.

The A.C.T. One Evolution therefore follows a long line of speakers, embodyin the heritage of the Wilson Benesch brand and a now classic A.C.T. design. The characteristic sloping, curved A.C.T. top that was revolutionary in the original design remains, but like the C60 before it, the top is now manufactured from carbon fibre. Similar physical proportions have been retained, however the A.C.T. One Evolution has departed entirely from the traditional drive unit topology used in the previous iterations of the design. The new A.C.T. One Evolution incorporates the Troika System which has been taken directly from the flagship Cardinal loudspeaker.

This revolutionary new drive unit topology, combined with the latest State-of-the-Art Wilson Benesch drive technology sets the design apart from the A.C.T. designs which precede it.

When distilled, the constituent parts of the A.C.T. One Evolution are a bold a statement of the expert engineering, manufacturing and craftsmanship that now pertains at Wilson Benesch. Taken as a whole, the A.C.T. One Evolution — with its characteristic foot design, drive technology and alloy baffle — is a pure Geometry Series thoroughbred.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Features

The A.C.T. One Evolution is a full range, 4-way acoustical, 2.5-way electrical, floor standing loudspeaker that incorporates the latest drive unit and cabinet construction technology derived from the company’s engineering masterpiece, the Cardinal loudspeaker.

When distilled, the constituent parts of the A.C.T. One Evolution are a bold a statement of the expert engineering, manufacturing and craftsmanship that now pertains at Wilson Benesch. Taken as a whole, the A.C.T. One Evolution — with its characteristic foot design, drive technology and alloy baffle — is a pure Geometry Series thoroughbred.

Specifications

DRIVERS:
1 x 25mm ( 1") Wilson Benesch Semisphere tweeter
2 x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II mid-range drive units
1 x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II bass drive unit

CONSTRUCTION:
Poly-alloy hybrid construction,
High performance carbon composite A.C.T. monocoque
Lower mid range ported enclosure
Upper mid range ported enclosure
Bass ported enclosure

PERFORMANCE:
2.5-way floor standing loudspeaker
Impedance: 6Ω nominal / 4Ω minimal
Sensitivity: 89dB at 1 metre on-axis, 2.83V input
Frequency response: 34Hz - 30KHz +/- 2dB
Minimum amplification power recommendation: 100 W / channel
Crossover frequency: 180Hz / 500Hz / 5kHz

DIMENSIONS:
Height: 1190mm ( 46.8")
Width: 230mm ( 9.1")
Depth: 400mm ( 15.7")
Volume: 46L
Weight per Channel: 50kg (110 lbs)

FINISHES:
Black anodised baffle
Satin black spines, foot, division plates
High gloss black top
High gloss satin weave carbon fibre cabinet

Reviews

The A.C.T. One Evolution is the best sound I have achieved in my listening room……as with a real stage diva, you like it, because it can do things, of which others only dream.
Andreas Wenderoth - German / English translation

SUMMARY: Perhaps the most impressive thing for me, however, is how the loudspeaker practically dissolves itself: the music does not play from the housings at any moment, it IS in the room. 
I am amazed at how far you can pull the loudspeaker apart without the sound imaging collapsing. The A.C.T. One Evolution is the best sound I have achieved in my listening room. 
The loudspeaker makes a great impression at the top and never gets tight even in the low frequencies. Timeless and extremely dynamic - despite its versatility, a loudspeaker from a single cask. “Dry and cultivated, like a really good martini,” which I say in an American manner, which is a good thing. In order to remain in the comparison of spirits, it also has the lemony freshness of a good whisky sour.

it remains tonally undisturbed in all its dynamic presence. The stage is fluid, the space impressive, the musicians close to touch. The detachment from the sense of their being a loudspeaker there at all reaches a degree, which I know so of no other! At the end of the last bar, you feel so drawn into the concert hall that you are involuntarily exhorting yourself not to be the first to applaud because you do not want to destroy the exciting reverberation of the music and the wonderful moment. Bravo!

EXTENDED TEVIEW: The A.C.T. One Evolution is a late descendant of perhaps the most sustainable design in the history of Wilson Benesch. In 1994, the first floorstanding loudspeaker in the then entirely new shell construction with carbon fibre caused a furore on the market - and countless awards. Three generations of loudspeakers and almost a quarter of a century later Wilson Benesch wants their new A.C.T. One Evolution to again stir up the market.

With the new replacement I admit that I overslept some developments in Wilson Benesch. I associate with the British company from Sheffield first and foremost the turntable with the unusual carbon tonearm, which annoyed me when it was in a friend’s rack - because it sounded much better than my former LP12 - Good, I had already noticed that at some point in the product range, at the other end of the chain, the speakers appeared (which also used the carbon fibre). But their new ”Tactic Drive Unit" (which replaced the earlier Scan Speak chassis) and their revolutionary Torus subwoofer system had gone straight past me. Luckily, with the A.C.T.One Evolution, I have my hands on a speaker that is widening my gaze. A kind of tutoring in terms of innovative speaker construction. 

To better understand the genesis of the speaker, it helps to go back to the beginnings of the company. In 1989, the current owners Christina and Craig Milnes founded Wilson Benesch with start-up capital of only £10,000 and soon another 25,000 pounds from the English Industry Ministry as part of a research project was made available. But today, together they are leading an extremely successful high-end company forge with 16 permanent employees. 
The background of the couple could not be more different: Christina Milnes studied psychology, sociology and business administration with a focus on human resources. As Chief Executive she is responsible for the strategic development of the company. Her husband, Craig, chief designer of Wilson Benesch, learned engineering at British Steel and joined art studies at Loughborough University. In the third year of study, their daughter was born, Craig wanted to introduce her early to audio with a used Armstrong tube amplifier and the construction of his first speaker to the music. He did not let go of the topic: Besides studying, he explored the high-end market and found that there was no company that worked with groundbreaking innovative materials. Carbon fibre became increasingly popular with the success of the McLaren MP4 / 1, but no one had until then come up with the idea to use the high-tech material for turntables or speakers. A.C.T. means "Advanced Composite Technology" and means: the use of carbon fibre.

This is because it has a very high stiffness and internal damping and so should virtually exclude possible discolouration of colours through the loudspeaker enclosure. "More mass always leads to the problem of a lower resonant frequency," says Craig Milnes. But combine a material of low mass (carbon fibre in the side frames and headboard) with a material of high tensile strength (high-strength steel or hybrid compounds of aluminium and steel in front, back and foot), resulting in a positive effect, a kind of mutual self-damping. That's exactly the reason for the layered structure of the speaker. Due to the shell construction, the entire structure in the vertical axis, the longest length of the speaker, is controlled better, so resonances are avoided. 

The A.C.T. One Evolution is the logical evolution of the loudspeaker, which was introduced in 1994 as A.C.T. Then A.C.T One appeared and the A.C.T. C 60 continued. "It is Like a Porsche 911, "says Craig Milnes (pointing with this handsome comparison to the league in which he sees Wilson Benesch), In its development, no one would get the idea to tamper with the Basic form or to change the essential ingredients - but probably the technical subtleties and the current interpretation. The utilisation of the high-tech 3-D Cad / Cam process developed loudspeaker still strongly associated with the original (at that time still in Greaves manufactured) A.C.T. just as are also many elements of the current flagship "Geometry" series, whose latest model represents: sculptural lines, a head plate sloping forward (to increase stage presence), the arched, elegantly backwards rejuvenating body designed to prevent standing waves.

Thus the exterior (not the inner) of the loudspeaker developed in the 3D-CAD/CAM still strongly leans on the original A.C.T. One (Then still made in Greaves). However, many elements of the current flagship series “Geometry” have also been incorporated, the latest model of which is represented by: sculptural lines, a forwardly sloping headboard (to increase the stage and presence), the arched, elegantly rearward tapering body, each of which helps reduce the incidence of standing waves. 

One of the obvious differences of the Evolution from its predecessors is the colour: carbon fibre has always been black, in the A.C.T. One Evolution P1 version, colour is introduced to the fibre for the first time: thanks to a collaboration with Hypetex, a team of Formula 1 engineers who have developed the process, in this sample, it is not simply any colour, but a very strong one: “Enzo Red” - in line with the famous red of the Enzo Ferrari. So the speed and dynamics with which the box performs acoustically is also expressed visually. And in fact she is real eye-candy. An almost petite fine spirit, which emanates an extraordinary quality. 

In the foot of the loudspeaker is a comparatively rare tri-wiring terminal, which allows the owner a lot of connection possibilities. The original silver bridges can optionally be converted to bi-wiring or single-wiring. So that I do not have to put the loudspeaker every time on the side, when I change the speaker cable, the distributor had sent me a bridge made by Phonosophie, with which the wiring can be done outside the speaker base. I do not especially like the terminal-in-foot solution, but this is not the manufacturer’s fault, looking at the back of the speaker, apart from the two reflex ports for the midrange driver units (the one for the woofer radiates out of the foot down) there are no other elements and thus this is a choice made on the basis of design aesthetics. Also, because one assumes at Wilson Benesch reasons that the owner of this loudspeaker will not be constantly changing the cable back and forth.

However, one should connect pay close attention when connecting the six cables of the terminal. I had swapped between two different cable types, yet the acoustic result was irritating and sobering: the sound produced by the loudspeaker, was a bit flat, with practically no bass. When I described to Michael Hannig of IBEX Audio, the importer of Wilson Benesch, how the loudspeaker sounds, he says, no, he knows the A.C.T. One Evolution very well, and my sound description certainly does not describe it. When the connection error was identified, the loudspeaker plays however it was still not quite “free”. And so now begins a little odyssey, in the search for how the loudspeaker can elicit its quality (which for the time being it does not share). Should i throw the review because a completely satisfactory result did not arrive at first? If I had followed this impulse, I would have deprived myself of a great experience - and it would not have been fair to this wonderful speaker! Instead an angel (in the form of Carsten Thiele of local hifi-studio 10) hovered, with the necessary calmness and experience - after all he sells the loudspeaker - and helped with its unfolding. By remote diagnostics, Michael Hannig had previously insisted that the Grandinote amplifier might not drive the loudspeaker sufficiently. Although rated with an efficiency of 89 dB combined with four to six ohms impedance is not exactly a hard load to drive, but the speaker does indeed benefit from slightly more power, such as a 200 Watt full-gain amplifier, with this the loudspeaker is dynamic, full-bodied and fleet footed. I then looked at the cabling again. After changing the power cables feeding the preamp and power stage to PS-Audio cables, the sound picture is even better, with discernible gains in the low frequency and imaging. Fine tuning. Now it becomes clear that before me is no “plug and play loudspeaker”, but one that is quite selective with regard to its partnered equipment. But as with a real stage diva, you like it, because it can do things, of which others only dream.

In order to get her full potential, Thiele brings – just for fun - a CH Precision power amp ( of course other amps a few steps below do also work). There was a slight sense before that the bass was kicking and slightly over zealous which has now completely disappeared. Once again, the location of the loudspeakers is fine tuned and some equipment feet later, the A.C.T. One Evolution is now so that I have trouble leaving the listening room at all. Now she literally grabbed me. 

A first rehearsal: electronic music is certainly not my preferred style, but I like to make an exception in the case of Trentemøller’s intelligent minimal album ‘The Last Resort’ from 2006 (Poker Flat, PFRLP 18, 2-LP). The reason why, among other things, is that the loudspeaker can be put to work immediately. 

First surprise: The bass goes very low, which was not to be expected in the face of the modest (though probably average) sized living room dimensions. In addition to the clever reflex tuning, this is attributable to the fact that the loudspeaker can dispense entirely with internal bracing due to its innovative design, which thus increases the internal air volume relative to other loudspeakers of a comparable size and in this aspect there is therefore more air for the bass reflex.

The piece “Into the trees” traverses between ambient and techno; Refined sound layers build up over a driving beat, gently building: When looking behind the chassis, several layers of insulating material appear. The Wilson Benesch speaker is totally connected from top to bottom (a very clear, free-playing tweeter!) putting you directly on the dance floor with primordial force. Very good focus, exploding dynamics and mids, all elements sound great and natural, but their greatest strength is that they have no one particular strength, it is therefore in their balance. Perhaps the most impressive thing for me, however, is how the loudspeaker practically dissolves itself: the music does not play from the housings at any moment, it IS in the room. 

I am amazed at how far you can pull the loudspeaker apart without the sound imaging collapsing (my own loudspeakers do not do that). The A.C.T. One Evolution is the best sound I have achieved in my listening room. 

Normally, says Design Director Craig Milnes, different materials are used in different drive units in the loudspeaker chassis, these have with different resonance characteristics, damping properties, efficiency and linearity. These materials lead to distortions, phase shifts and a negative influence on the impulse behaviour. Electrostatics bypass the problem, but must be quite large to achieve reasonable output. Wilson Benesch solves these problems, says Milnes by using the one and the same drive unit for quite different tasks, with the exception of small modifications which serve the purpose of optimising the frequency response. 

Like the flagship of the company, the Cardinal, the A.C.T. One Evolution is a two-and-a-half-way speaker, but with four chassis. A new, relatively large 25 mm tweeter with a linear response of up to 30 kHz and a drop of -6 dB up to 35 kHz and a very light hybrid membrane made of carbon and silk, with the speed of a hard dome material but the tonal direction and broadband of a classic, rather soft tweeter. Three 170 mm Tactic II drive units made of so-called isotactic polypropylene (IPP), a polymer developed at the Leeds University, is five times stiffer than ordinary xxx polypropylene and, according to Wilson Benesch, in terms of stiffness and damping it has so-called "visco-elastic" absorption properties by virtue of its chemical characteristics, in a simplified manner, that is to say, it is possible for the material to absorb more resonant energy. This in turn makes for an altogether natural acoustic presentation that is free of sibilance. The lowest driver is responsible for the lower bass (up to 34 hertz!). The two others flank the tweeter, the lower one is responsible for the upper midrange, the upper one for the lower midrange: A so-called "Troika" structure (which is also used in the Cardinal) and its independent chambers within the loudspeaker, this is one of the main differences to any other A.C.T. before the Evolution. 

The magnet driving the Tactic II was developed in developed in cooperation with the physics department at the Sheffield University. The neodymium magnet motor has been refined to increase and maximise the magnetic flux in the driver. A polypropylene cone in a streamlined basket combines the requirements of the lightweight construction with a guaranteed high stiffness. The two midrange drive units can be driven directly from the amplifier without any filters. As a result, particular attention has been paid to the critical midrange which is intended to play free of phase shifts, extremely linear and almost completely distortion-free and free from dis-coloration. 

This is clear from another example: Misty is an album that I normally only pick when the system is well tuned. The Yamamoto Tsuyoshi Trio (TBM 30, LP) is in this excellent recording from the year 1974 in the Tokyo Aoi studio - the best performance. The A.C.T. One Evolution is happy with this “diet” and is setting up a stage that I have not yet heard so extensively and plastically. To the left is the piano, with chanting, sometimes hard, and then almost caressing attacks, so eagerly lingering in the room as if you were there. What a breathtaking naturalness: through the filter-liberated midrange drive units, the piano does not only sound like a piano but creates an almost perfect illusion of a real piano. You can see the hand on the keys, the hammer pressing on the steel sides, the sound that resonates and enters the room. To the right is the contrabassist, who reaches deeply into the strings, and the percussionist, whose jazz beads so casually (and yet precisely) sweeps across the skins, as if he were reading a newspaper. The loudspeaker makes a great impression at the top and never gets tight even in the low frequencies. Timeless and extremely dynamic - despite its versatility, a loudspeaker from a single cask. “Dry and cultivated, like a really good martini,” which I say in an American manner, which is a good thing. In order to remain in the comparison of spirits, it also has the lemony freshness of a good whisky sour.

On Fink’s superbly produced 2 LP live album (Ninja Tune, ZEN 201) from 2013, the singer-songwriter kindly hands over the last album page to the previously accompanying Royal Concert Orchestra, which concludes with a composition by Charles Ives From 1908: “The unfinished question,” which revolves around the “perpetual question of being”. An almost meditative string theme, in which a glittering “questioning” trumpet bumps from the right, and as a disturbing element and a reverberation a flute quartet, which moves tonally into the quiet chords of the strings. The piece presents some acoustic cliffs, but the A.C.T. One Evolution turns them all in a sovereign manner. Despite the considerable aggressiveness of the flute, which represent a challenge for each loudspeaker, it remains tonally undisturbed in all its dynamic presence. The stage is fluid, the space impressive, the musicians close to touch. The detachment from the sense of their being a loudspeaker there at all reaches a degree, which I know so of no other! At the end of the last bar, you feel so drawn into the concert hall that you are involuntarily exhorting yourself not to be the first to applaud because you do not want to destroy the exciting reverberation of the music and the wonderful moment. Bravo!
........ A
ndreas Wenderoth 

A wonderful loudspeaker, if this were a sane and fair world, the A.C.T. One Evolution would be considered in the same breath as that handful of big names at the top of the audiophile tree. Very highly recommended.
Alan Sircom 

SUMMARY: The A.C.T. One Evolution is also extraordinarily detailed from top to toe. These are great loudspeakers for musical analysis, for listening into the music and extracting both a lot of information and – more significantly – a lot of fun......and the kind of thing that makes vocals and pianos come to life in normal domestic listening rooms. 
What the speaker also does extraordinarily well is create a good soundstage. There was greater depth and width that extended far beyond the limits of the room.
I don’t want to get carried away by the bass. There is a lot more to this loudspeaker than bottom end. It’s just that the loudspeaker does bass so well, and so deep: that unbraced cabinet makes it TARDIS like and far bigger on the inside than you’d expect and that means more cabinet volume and that means more bass – but the level of control the A.C.T. One Evolution has over that bass is insane

EXTENDED REVIEW: When Wilson Benesch stopped being ‘just’ a maker of turntables and started branching out into those transducers at the other end of the system, the company’s first and arguably most important design was the A.C.T. One. Using the company’s ‘Advanced Composite Technology’ monocoque, this floorstander hit the streets in 1995 and won a dozen awards. The A.C.T. One has passed through three iterations to date, including the ACT C60 and A.C.T. The A.C.T. One Evolution is a fitting name for a truly evolving design.

The A.C.T. One Evolution is the distillation of all the engineering and materials science development that Wilson Benesch can throw at a loudspeaker. Of course, 20 years later, there is a lot more loudspeaker history and engineering to throw around, and where the original A.C.T. One began ‘tabula rasa’, the A.C.T. One Evolution draws upon drive unit and high compression cabinet construction derived from two decades of loudspeaker design, which includes the company’s Cardinal flagship.

Like the Cardinal, the A.C.T. One Evolution is a four-driver, two-and-a-half way floorstander, featuring Wilson-Benesch’s novel Semisphere hybrid silk-meets-carbon dome tweeter with a series of Tactic II drivers. The hybrid nature of the 25mm company’s own Semisphere driver is a method of harnessing the speed of modern hard dome tweeters with the frequency extension and tonal accuracy of a classic soft dome. This innovative tweeter unit remains one of the jewels in Wilson Benesch’s crown.

The 170mm Tactic II is also unique to Wilson Benesch, a development produced in association with Sheffield University (its physics department designed a unique motor assembly encasing neodymium magnets that optimised flux across the geometry of the driver). The driver features a light-yet-stiff isotactic (hence the name) polypropylene cone in a streamlined basket.

Clever officially starts here: the Tactic II is a multi-purpose drive unit. So, the Tactic II driver in its own 26 litre chamber is built precisely for its function as a bass driver, while the one below the tweeter is devoid of any crossover and built as a pure midrange. Wilson Benesch class the Tactic II as a ‘multirole’ drive unit, rather like a multirole combat aircraft like a Dassault Rafale, but with fewer hard-points and gun platform options.

That last line wasn’t as throwaway as it might have first seemed, because Dassault – the group that includes the makers of the French fighter – developed the 3D CAD/CAM software that Wilson Benesch uses in the development of all its products, including the A.C.T. One. While CAD/CAM is not a new thing in loudspeaker design, it’s relatively rare for a company of Wilson Benesch’s size to use the technology so thoroughly. When you look at the design of the company’s speakers, you can see precisely why that design program is money well spent.

Nevertheless, the carbon-fibre monocoque design found in the original A.C.T. One is still a vital part of the new loudspeaker’s development. It means the loudspeaker can be completely unbraced internally, and yet retain the level of stiffness required of a loudspeaker at this level. And that means the internal volume of the cabinet is far larger than most loudspeakers of the A.C.T. One Evolution’s footprint, which spells deceptive amounts of bass for the size of speaker. It also uses Wilson Benesch’s ‘Troika’ arrangement of upper and lower midrange units flanking the tweeter. This is not a typical ‘MTM’ or ‘D’Appolito’ arrangement, because the upper driver sits in its own enclosure. This also acts as a lower midrange/bass unit, instead of another midrange driver, as befits the Tactic II’s ‘multirole’ use. The look also harks back to the original A.C.T. One, with its sculptured and curved lines, and sloping top, but there are also clear elements of the company’s other Geometry Series speakers at work here. A lot of this comes down to what other companies might dismiss as ‘trimmings’ but in fact are vital components of how the A.C.T. One Evolution is sited in its surroundings, with hand wheels, inverted cones and – if need be, cups – can be used for installation. The biwire loudspeaker terminals are set into the integrated plinth, and the rear panel just features two small rear ports for the upper and lower midrange chambers.

Wilson Benesch loudspeakers present a relatively easy load (89dB sensitivity, a nominal six-ohm impedance with a four-ohm minimum and no evil phase angles in the impedance plot) but they do like being driven hard. Good, solid-state power and plenty of it is the order of the day. They were in their element on the end of a Devialet 250 and this suggests a brute force amplifier that can deliver enough current to drive an arc welder is not as important as an amplifier with good power delivery. The function of a beneath the plinth cable entry system precluded significant cable playtime, and perhaps not surprisingly the A.C.T. One Evolution seemed perfectly comfortable on the end of a squillion pounds worth of Nordost Odin 2.

Positioning is key with these speakers, although not perhaps as ‘millimetre-sensitive’ as some of the Geometry Series seem to require. The A.C.T. One Evolution is surprisingly room tolerant, working well in big and small rooms. Naturally, the more you can nuance the system in terms of installation, room acoustics, and precise adjustment, the better. This is a loudspeaker that always gets to ‘good’ but with some fine-tuning can easily get to ‘great’. The one caveat to the small room demands is it does need some free-space at the rear in order to deliver bass properly. Put it less than a metre from the rear wall and those two ports begin to interact with the surroundings.

I’m very fond of Wilson Benesch loudspeakers. They are extremely focused and precise. That doesn’t mean they constrain the life out of music, however. They are just dry and sophisticated, like a really good Martini. They are also extremely dynamic when correctly partnered; not in the writ-large style of Wilson loudspeakers, or horn designs, but more than capable of showing precisely what dynamic range is in your recordings. But I understand that this combination is not for everyone, and some would like a bit more bottom end authority to match that mid and top. Yes, that powerful bass comes with the Cardinal and when using the company’s Torus not-a-subwoofer Infrasonic Generator, but in some respects the gusto of cheaper models like the Square Five is hard to find in the brand’s top models.

The A.C.T. One Evolution changes that. It has the perfect combination of extraordinary control and deep, primal bass: not in a wild way, this is no rabid, Jekyll and Hyde speaker, more a classical guitarist who plays bass for Iron Maiden in his spare time. The A.C.T. One Evolution has all the cerebral, sophisticated properties people have come to expect from Wilson Benesch loudspeakers, but these are harnessed to a deep, potent, powerful bass line that could easily be set to threatening levels. What is truly inspiring here is these two elements combine naturally in the way Guinness and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate do: it’s the kind of combination that shouldn’t work, but does… and does magnificently. Try it!

In the case of the Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Evolution, the precision of the midrange and treble do not seem like comfortable bedfellows with that much bass, but the level of clarity and control into the deepest recesses of the loudspeaker make for an excellent loudspeaker. ‘Dayvan Cowboy’ from Boards of Canada’s The Campfire Headphase LP [Warp Records] is a deceptive slice of mid 2000s electronica – there doesn’t seem like much bass going on at all, except that it completely underpins the treated, distorted, synthesised sounds and tremolo guitar, making everything seem less of a swirling, cacophonous mess and more like a slice of post rock brilliance.

I don’t want to get carried away by the bass. There is a lot more to this loudspeaker than bottom end. It’s just that the loudspeaker does bass so well, and so deep: that unbraced cabinet makes it TARDIS like and far bigger on the inside than you’d expect and that means more cabinet volume and that means more bass – but the level of control the A.C.T. One Evolution has over that bass is insane. But, let’s move on. What the speaker also does extraordinarily well is create a good soundstage. That requires some space around the loudspeakers that my tiny room generally precludes, but even here it was clear the loudspeakers were doing something remarkable to the soundstage. There was greater depth and width that extended far beyond the limits of the room: so deep in fact, I kept expecting passers-by to be hit in the face by an invisible tympani player!

The A.C.T. One Evolution is also extraordinarily detailed from top to toe. These are great loudspeakers for musical analysis, for listening into the music and extracting both a lot of information and – more significantly – a lot of fun. Play something like Bach’s Art of Fugue [Emerson String Quartet, DG] and you need to hear both the cerebral and the visceral. This should be extremely precise and very clearly a string quartet, but it should also come with a sense of musical joy and vivacity, taking the birthplace of modern music and making it their own. Less detailed loudspeakers fail at one of these two aspects, either making the precision or the fun-factor disappear. Wilson Benesch’s A.C.T. One Evolution combines both elements of the recording with lithe elegance. Paradoxically though, what the A.C.T. One Evolution doesn’t do is pretend to be a studio monitor. If you want that stark, flat sound… look elsewhere. By comparison to that monitor-like sound, the Wilson Benesch has a slight zing in the upper mid to treble. Not much, and the kind of thing that makes vocals and pianos come to life in normal domestic listening rooms. Ultimately, I’d prefer this presentation in the home to a flatter, more dreary sound.

Some of the reason why this isn’t a monitor sound is the A.C.T. One Evolution appears more dynamic than many monitors. This is perhaps excusable in monitor loudspeakers (that close to the real instruments, dynamic range is something studio monitors ‘tame’ rather than ‘exploit’), but the Wilson Benesch loudspeakers do present an effortless, and easy dynamic range.

The A.C.T. One Evolution also go loud. OK, so not as loud as that other Wilson product line, but for real world users who aren’t looking at using their £20,000 loudspeakers in endless party mode, they will play ‘La Grange’ by ZZ Top [Tres Hombres, London] at air guitar levels quite, quite happily.

In short, this is a great all-rounder. You could happily spend hour upon hour sitting in front of these loudspeakers loving every minute. Alongside the analysis and the soundstaging and all the other great aspects of this loudspeaker, that ‘sitinfrontability’ (a poor neologism, I know) is all important. This is a loudspeaker that simply works for long term listening.

The interesting thing with loudspeaker buyers is sometimes we have a taste for the exotic. This means UK high-enders often buy products from far away lands, and ignore home-grown devices, where our international counterparts will consider a UK based loudspeaker on its own merits, because it has its own taste of the exotic if you are on the other side of the world. While ‘designed and built in the UK’ has significant traction outside of the UK, many British people may well skip over the A.C.T. One Evolution because of its local origin, and it’s very much their loss. This is a wonderful loudspeaker, capable of great subtlety at the same time as deep bass wigging out. If this were a sane and fair world, the A.C.T. One Evolution would be considered in the same breath as that other Wilson loudspeaker brand, as well as that handful of big names at the top of the audiophile tree. Very highly recommended!
........Alan Sircom 

CH PRECISION C1, D1, A1 AND WILSON BENESCH A.C.T. ONE EVOLUTION

SUMMARY: you could argue that this model is more music oriented. Instead of listening from a certain distance, the listener gets closer to the music and involvement is increased...... the presentation of the high frequencies has a softer character, totally devoid of hardness or false accents. Together with the fuller mid bass presentation, this results in a - so eloquently called by a colleague from The Absolute Sound - ‘bottom up’ balance. In other words a characteristic which is full blooded and rich instead of shrill, thin or threadbare. And yet, this character never veers into colouration and is in essence close to the sound you can perceive in concert halls. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: In the first part of my story about these special and ground breaking products, I explained the ideas and thoughts of these two totally different - but in a way connected - companies through the means of two interviews. CH Precision with its historic and heroic Goldmund background and forward thinking Anagram Technologies experience and Wilson Benesch as the innovator and pioneer in the use of carbon fibre in their products. In this second part my available space will be dedicated to a thorough review of the most recent designs of both parties involved. Products that made me wonder if they would be innovative not only technologically, but sonically as well.

CH Precision 
After some deliberation with Garmt van der Zel from Audio Ingang - distributor for both brands, we decided to choose an illustrious foursome for this particular review. A combination in which the C1 D-to-A convertor with built-in streaming facility served as the nerve centre and two ‘small’ A1 stereo amplifiers - bridged to mono - would take care of power amplification. The last candidate in the system was to be the very prestigious and most of all very weighty D1 SACD/ CD transport/player. This might seem a strange and in this case expensive choice in an age where streaming audio is the default, but as a supporter of the still unbeaten control simplicity and typically engaging sound quality of the different existing disc media, I find this type of high end products still enormously captivating. 

C1 ‘D/A controller’ 
On first acquaintance with CH Precision, these products turn out to be the most solid, weighty and different audio products I have ever had the privilege to meet. Although the looks are not alike, both the choice of materials and certain aspects of their implementation make me think of another well-known Swiss brand: Soulution. In both cases, the enclosure of thick and beautifully machined aluminium ooks as if it is one single part and the pricing for both is also comparable. Additionally, both Soulution and CH Precision design for almost endless (power supply) stability and the widest possible bandwidth / shortest rise times. That’s where similarities between both companies stop and it turns out their design methodology, functionality and musical approach are very different. Despite earlier encounters with CH Precision during shows, I must confess being surprised by the substantial weigth of the C1 when lifting it from the box. No thin metal sheet, no tolerance in the fit of the controls and no visible screws or other imperfections... Just a simple but elegant design that feels like it is made out of a single block of solid aluminium. With dimension 44 cm wide, 12 cm high and 44 cm deep, its dimensions are not out of the ordinary. The looks are though... It’s beautifully curved fascia featuring only one big two-part turn/press dial and a big AMOLED display looks very balanced and uncluttered. 

A beautiful and subtle detail is the red LED in the second ‘leg’ of the ‘H’ in the CH logo that shows operating status. By turning and pressing the two-part dial, most of the functionalities of the C1 can be controlled. A very complete set of options can also be accessed through a specially developed Android App. For an owner of very conventional high end products, this really was an eye opener! Apart from configuring display info and sources, a vast amount of other options can be changed. To keep this short, I would like to point to the first part of this story, where these possibilities are detailed. A very solid all-metal remote is also included for the most basic functions. This handsome device is felt-lined on the bottom and can be attached to the side of the C1 by magnetic force. What a great detail! Simple but clever is the mechanical coupling present in each CH Precision product. By using adjustable spikes hidden within the structure of the enclosure, the devices can be easily stacked. Not only does this sound better, it looks fantastic as well. Very smart and practical!

A1 stereo power amplifier 
In the next two boxes, both A1 stereo power amplifiers are packed and these turn out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Not because they look so much different from the D/A Controller, but the weight has been increased from 24 kg to a back breaking 43 kg! Just as the C1, the A1 is a token of elegance. Not the least because next to the big AMOLED display, only five very tiny round knobs can be found. Although a networked CH Precision system can be fully controlled with a tablet, it is comforting to have a way to control the devices from the front panel.

The A1 can be used in a number of ways: as a stereo power amplifier, bi-amped (both passive and active), bridged or mono (with double power supply). For maximum control and grip on the Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Evolution, the A1’s were set for bridged operation. A big advantage of this is an increase of the nominal 2 x 100 W (8 Ohm) power to 1 x 350 W. But don’t let these numbers fool you, because in use I have found the A1 to be the most stabile and powerful power amplifier that has ever graced my listening room, regardless of its configuration!

D1 (SA)CD transport/player 
Although I am used to (I might even say, spoiled by) high end audio, the D1 (SA)CD transport/player still makes a deep impression from the very first moment. Not by its looks, which are mostly identical to the C1, but by its 32 kg weight. A mass which is to my knowledge only surpassed by the famous Japanese manufacturer Esoteric with their Grandioso models. Speaking of Esoteric: CH Precision makes use of their beautifully constructed Esoteric VMK-5 VRDS-Neo in the D1. A mechanism right in line with the amazing touch that makes the World’s best turntables such desirable objects. In this case, it is almost a shame the user is unable to see the beautiful insides of this machine, except enjoying the smooth and silky movement of the solid aluminium tray. The extremely stabile and musically convincing presentation however leaves no doubt! 

A state of the art optical transport is of course just one (although very important) shackle within a digital disc player’s chain and other aspects like mechanical decoupling, construction and digital/analog engineering are just as important. Like mentioned earlier, CH Precision takes great care in the mechanical construction of its products. Other aspects of it’s design are just as accomplished however, thanks to the combined Anagram/Goldmund background of its designers. The D1 is a completely modular device, like the other models. This means a very wide choice of output options, including high end surround! As expected, extreme care has been taken to ensure extremely low jitter by means of a VCXO (Voltage Controlled Crystal Oscillator). If this is not enough, a possibility also exists to buy an optional synchronisation board. When combined with a similar board in the C1, all clocking will be externally controlled by the C1. To be able to transport uncompressed DSD streams for ultimate performance from the D1 to the C1, CH Precision developed encrypted ‘CH Link’. Icing on the cake are the completely discrete, zero feedback, fully balanced circuits, completely biased in class A. 

WILSON BENESCH A.C.T. One Evolution speakers
The full meaning of the acronym A.C.T. is ‘Advanced Composite Technology’ and refers to the carbon fiber technology that started Wilson Benesch as a venture in 1989 and made the company known and famous. A.C.T is also the name of the first loudspeaker - actually, it was called A.C.T. One - Wilson Benesch made in 1991. The fact that designer Craig Milnes and his team again have chosen for this historical, almost ‘sacred’ name, adding ‘Evolution’ to point to the new technologies inside, says a lot about the significance of this new Wilson Benesch model in the line-up.

The sloping top, which is so typical for this model has been present in every incarnation of the A.C.T. and the One Evolution version is no exception. Nevertheless, together with the comparable dimension of earlier models, any similarities end. Not only is the Evolution a much taller speaker with it’s majestic 119 cm height, it’s 2.5 way bass reflex driver layout with three independently tuned internal compartments is completely different. Apart from the lowest woofer, the main trio of drivers form the Troika system: a concept for optimal tonal coherence and linearity of phase in the very important midrange for a more natural rendition of the original recording. As you may have gathered - Troika is Russian for ‘group of three’. The upper 17 cm bass/midrange unit is completely unfiltered and plays uninhibited, while the two other Tactic II units are only filtered by a first order crossover. The ‘Semisphere’ tweeter, also made in house by Wilson Benesch, has an upper range limit of 30 kHz and is filtered below 5000 (!) Hz by a second order high-pass. In tandem, these drivers are responsible for the completely natural presentation which is so typical of the Geometry series, according to Wilson Benesch. Specifications are quite normal (apart from the weight of 50 kg): frequency range is quoted from 34 Hz - 30 kHz +/- 2 dB and sensitivity is a highish 89 dB. Nominal impedance is 6 Ohm, with 4 Ohm minimum. In theory, it should present a benign load. The A.C.T. One Evolution easily competes with the International elite regarding concept, design and choice of materials.

CH Precision listening test 
Although I was completely unknown with the CH Precision brand before this review, I wasn’t with Wilson Benesch. Not only have I been playing for more than 10 years with the ‘Arc’ monitor from the ‘Odyssey’ series in my second system in the living room with total satisfaction, I also have tested several models from this lovely and technologically advanced 66tested NEXT company during the last decennium. If I had to describe the sound of all these earlier WB models, it would be characterised as composed, without any exaggerated edges or frills and with a very spacious sound completely free from the cabinets. Tonal balance is usually very even and combines a slightly warm touch with very controlled bass and open sounding treble. Wilson Benesch speakers generally are not bought to go through life jumping on the beat, but for deep and conscious musical satisfaction. One of the main reasons for the described sound characteristic with basically all WB models is the extremely low degree of cabinet colouration and smearing, thanks to the stiff and resonance free carbon fibre enclosure.

Because the A.C.T. One Evolution was delivered a few weeks later that the CH Precision equipment, it was the ideal time to explore the operation and sound of the electronics hailing from Switzerland. The first round of listening begins with streaming audio from the C1 through the means of a separate Synology NAS running Minimserver, supplied to me by the distributor. During the complete evaluation, the unit was used in its complete form, using the built in volume control. It can also be used as a DAC/streamer with the volume at a fixed level. 

Although the range of musical expression of these Swiss components almost reaches into the extreme, I found the rated album ‘Electrified’ by Yello cofounder Boris Blank (Polydor 4708870) to be extremely well suited to these electronics, especially because this very tastefully produced electronic music spans the complete creative gamut of Mr. Blank. Played back through a system that starts and stops the music as perfectly as this one, musical information - hidden on most systems - is brought to the fore almost as transformed. The rendition of tiny sounds in the stereo image - in focus and out of focus and especially the reordering of chaos both in tonal colours and transients always remaining completely in line, makes for extremely compelling listening. The influence of the adjustable amount of feedback in 20% steps in the A1 power amplifiers can also be traced very vividly with this type of music. The CH Precision components show all the typical solid state virtues from the first moment. Not a cosy emulation of something resembling tubes or fake behaviour trying to confuse the listener. Instead, I immediately hear a very high degree of definition, extreme ease and drive and near perfect control over the loudspeakers connected. Never does the playback have a ‘dead’ or mechanical character - it remains realistic and relaxed at all times.

Extreme current delivery 
How powerful, even and stable the qualities of these CH Precision components truly are, was quickly evidenced when I received the very impressive YG Carmel II loudspeakers during the review period. As my own Master Contemporary C loudspeakers or the A.C.T. One Evolution were dissipating a ‘mere’ 140 W during peaks (the track ‘Amuseum’ from ‘James Newton Howard & Friends’ - Sheffield Lab CD 23), the YGs were coping with very real extreme levels of 1200 W power, as read from the A1 display. Ouch... That is intense and a testament to the extreme undistorted (!) performance on musical peaks from the bridged A1 power amplifiers with their 350 W (8 Ohm) rating. Just when you were wondering if I might be crazy playing so extremely loudly... I can tell u that these extreme peaks in the music were short and not perceived as overly loudly. Fortunately however, the performance of these amplifiers entails so much more than mere brawn! Generally, they are not flustered or impressed by any single genre, dynamic jump, loud or soft passage - no matter how extreme. I would describe the total tonal signature as ‘fast transistor realism’ without any frills or false accents.

It’s funny most people think that ‘fast’ amplifiers sound analytical, thin or even shrill - in other words: unmusical. In practice, the opposite is the case most of the time. Anyone fortunate enough to have a listen to the latest generation amplifiers from Spectral Audio, Soulution, Constellation Audio or - for that matter - CH Precision, will realise that the sound instead becomes more fluid, softer, more informative and accurate. Where the confusing may come from, is the fact that all these brands - despite their individual sound signatures - in a way sound very neutral. No excess fat, vagueness or ‘blowing up’ and no exaggeration of harmonics. The latest generation of Spectral Audio amplifiers for example tend to be tonally saturated with a beautiful and infectious combination of ambience and musical realism. The latest Soulution products are tuned richer and more powerful than their predecessors, with extreme bass definition and performance, irrespective of volume level. Constellation Audio has very different priorities and combines a remarkable softness with extreme levels of delicacy and very airy ambience. With CH Precision, aspects like sobriety, endless ease, almost limitless dynamic contrasts without any form of exaggeration and a natural direct form of communication come to the fore. Although each of these brands have their own positive traits, it is CH Precision that forms the most beautiful package of qualities in these products tested. Together with the super solid construction and almost endless tuning/configuration possibilities, I have met a brand that in my opinion belongs in the top echelons of High End audio. Not bad for such a relatively ‘young’ brand!

C1 versus D1 
Personally interesting for me is the ‘battle’ between the disc based versus streaming audio. As more or less expected in this price class, I immediately hear the extreme composure and stability that also comes naturally to the top Esoteric players, with which the D1 shares its mechanism. The extreme care taken with the retrieval of information makes the following data handling an easy job and this is what clearly can be heard. In practice, a very even tonal balance without disturbing dissonance can be heard with the D1 and beautifully fleshed out powerful tonal colours. The stereo image is placed ultimately stable and rock solid before, behind and outside of the speakers. Streaming the exact same music, the presentation changes subtly. You could call it more finely pitched and clean, but in absolute terms also less grand, less colourful and in my experience also a bit less emotionally involving. Not less in quality, but ultimately, my preference tends to be (like usual) the physical disc medium. 

Listening to Wilson Benesch ACT ONE EVOs
In this second and last listening report, you can meet the beautifully formed Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Evolution. Beautiful in a way that made me subtly but blatantly greedy when these beauties were gently towed into my listening room.

Wow, these loudspeakers look truly beautiful! Just the right use of materials (in my opinion), dimensions and design befitting a pair of loudspeakers costing € 28.500,-/pair. Not particularly ‘cheap’, but you get a lot in return, like with the CH Precision components.

Besides being partnered with CH Precision, the A.C.T. One Evolution was evaluated with a large array of top amplifiers from the likes of Accuphase, T+A HV series, Constellation Audio and Zanden. And although the differences were at times big between these amplifiers, the general impression of this Wilson Benesch remained surprisingly comparable.

The first thing that struck me, when compared to its predecessors and other WB models, was the much greater power and drive especially in the lows and lower mids and a much ‘softer’ tweeter presentation. Where earlier generations could sometimes be described as somewhat ‘static’ and less involving, the same could not be said about the One Evolution. Stated differently, you could argue that this model is more music oriented. Instead of listening from a certain distance, the listener gets closer to the music and involvement is increased. I did have to get used to the somewhat shy high frequencies. Not that it can be called reticent or even dull, but the presentation of the high frequencies has a softer character, totally devoid of hardness or false accents. Together with the fuller mid bass presentation, this results in a - so eloquently called by a colleague from The Absolute Sound - ‘bottom up’ balance. In other words a characteristic which is full blooded and rich instead of shrill, thin or threadbare. And yet, this character never veers into colouration and is in essence close to the sound you can perceive in concert halls. 

Trying to describe the sound of this speaker with typical audiophile parameters is of no real use because of the almost 1:1 sense of scale and rich live experience. Everything is there and everything is in perfect balance. Just like it needs to be, but is seldom experienced with hifi. To further illustrate my take on the musical presentation of the A.C.T. One Evolution, I would like to let the great American composer David Maslanka describe it himself through his ‘Garden of Dreams’ (Reference Recordings RR-108) album. This album is full of mysterious music full of sweet promise. The sound comes on at once, can be enormously layered and triumphant, to end again in silence. The tonal colours of this album, it’s enormous stereo image and the suspenseful atmosphere are brought fully alive by the CH Precision and A.C.T. One Evolution system, by virtue of its qualities that perfectly match the sound of the album. Together, music and system form a wonderful unity and it makes me think this is how high end music playback should be sounding, totally forgetting all technicalities and be one with the music.

Conclusion 
The system tested here has been the most expensive one to have ever graced my listening room. It is truly a top notch system however that never ever puts a foot wrong and especially shares a lot of common ground with real music. The best thing is that this time the theoretical backgrounds beautifully match the hard reality. Both the CH Precision as Wilson Benesch components share a common and clear vision: a solid and matured design as a basis, moulded together into a completely natural and self evident unity with knowledge and craftsmanship. In the first phase, I was very much busy trying out all of the equipments’ settings and possibilities – as an example, playing with the amount of global feedback within the A1 amplifiers, 0% of feedback turned out to be the most natural in my room (the distributor had found different values to be applicable for other loudspeaker designs, rooms or tastes, quoting 40% as the most chosen). But during the course of the review I found myself relaxing - and in the end totally giving in to - the grand musical scale, communication and grandeur. Again, the total cost of the system is quite high and for less it also possible to find musically satisfying products. If you however search for technological, technical and musical perfection in one complete single package, this system scores extremely high. Despite the ambition of both Wilson Benesch as CH Precision to make the best they can make, the best thing is that both companies remain very modest and sober and let the products speak for themselves: beautifully built pieces of art with a deeply rooted vision of quality, but without the false (commercial) bling that typifies so many other brands of the same breed.

A.C.T. One Evolution are technologies that set the loudspeaker apart and create a new Wilson Benesch loudspeaker of stunning pedigree.

The A.C.T. One Evolution is a full range, 4-­‐way acoustical, 2.5-­‐way electrical, floor standing loudspeaker that incorporates the latest drive unit and cabinet construction technology derived from the company’s Cardinal loudspeaker.

Standing at 1.2m (47”) in height, the A.C.T. One Evolution is a combination of precision-­‐machined alloy baffle, alloy side panels and the Advanced Composite Technology ‘A.C.T.’ Monocoque. The A.C.T. Monocoque is a geometrically optimised carbon fibre composite structure that exhibits “industry leading” resonance damping and signal-­‐to-­‐noise characteristics. The inherent stiffness of the A.C.T. Monocoque allows the removal of complex internal bracing commonly used to control cabinet resonance.

Each A.C.T. One Evolution is fitted with three Wilson Benesch Tactic II drive units and a Wilson Benesch Hybrid Dome Technology Semisphere Tweeter. Every element of the drive technologies and the cabinet in the A.C.T. One Evolution has been designed and developed using Wilson Benesch’s 3D Dassault CAD/CAM systems. The degree of control over the design of every component, allows ground up optimisation of the A.C.T. One Evolution and has led to the development of unique drive unit topology and cabinet construction.

In the midrange, Wilson Benesch introduces technology taken directly from the flagship Cardinal loudspeaker. A two part cabinet construction sees a single 7” upper midrange Tactic II drive unit and Semisphere Tweeter operate in a volume-­‐optimised enclosure, allowing acoustical roll off of the drive unit. Directly below the Semisphere Tweeter in the main enclosure, a 7” lower midrange Tactic II drive unit resides -­‐ placing the Semisphere at the heart of the midrange design in a formation known as the Troika System. “The reduction in complex crossover elements translates directly into a highly articulate and natural midrange sound and marks a significant advance in the performance of the midrange to Wilson Benesch” says the company’s press release.

At the centre of the Troika System is the Hybrid Dome Technology Semisphere Tweeter -­‐ a highly engineered solution for high frequency sound reproduction. Wilson Benesch drew upon more than two-­‐decades of knowledge and expertise to create a hybrid diaphragm for the Semisphere consisting of carbon fibre and silk. The hybrid dome is a direct departure from hard dome technologies now used as standard across the industry for wide bandwidth tweeter design. “The natural sound produced by the Semisphere dovetails directly into the open sound of the midrange to create a highly integrated system, with stunning soundstaging and detail” .

The A.C.T. One Evolution bass frequencies are delivered by a 7” Tactic II Bass Drive Unit. Like the midrange drive units, it features a powerful Neodymium rare earth magnet encased in a motor assembly developed with the Sheffield University to optimise flux across its geometry. This exotic magnet design is combined with a streamline basket and a light stiff Isotactic Polypropylene cone to create a powerful bass drive unit. By installing the Tactic II Bass Drive Unit inside the 26-­‐litre lower enclosure of the A.C.T. One Evolution, maximum dynamics, deep powerful bass frequency response and precision are achieved.

The A.C.T. One Evolution is a distinctive Wilson Benesch design drawing direct references to the company’s A.C.T. loudspeaker lineage. Its sculptured, curved and sloped top is a direct descendant of the original A.C.T.

Despite references to a classic design before it, when distilled the design philosophy of the A.C.T. One Evolution is a clear descendant of other Geometry Series designs before it. Aesthetic cues can be observed in the foot design, where hand wheels and the partnering kinematic cups sit either side of the distinctive curves that form the A.C.T. One Evolution foot. Like the Cardinal and the Endeavour, the terminal is recessed underside of the foot; whilst upfront the baffle features the subtle machine finishing as seen in the Vertex and Vector loudspeakers. But the Geometric cues are more than skin deep and at the heart of the

A.C.T. One Evolution are technologies that set the loudspeaker apart and create a new Wilson Benesch loudspeaker of stunning pedigree.

7 OWNERS REVIEWS = 5 ★★★★★ / out of 5

 7 REVIEWS - 5★★★★★ / out of 5

Dlam Audio Enthusiast

STRENGTH:

Very neutral! easy to drive, top end sweet, full body of mid range and deep bottom end. Easy to position in a room slightly toe in. Very transperant and musical. Not as much ingradient as sonus faber but all round singer. The string music is still excellence!

WEAKNESS:

very expensive for new but good retain of value for 2nd hand market

I have the wilison benesch act 1 mk2 speaker for one year. Very good match with my goldmund CD player and modified old model NAD3130 amp.Thin silver plated speaker cables and standard copper interconnect cable. 

The amp is modified by a master of sound engineer. Very dynamic, very good balance of full range of sound. The excellence control of bass is unbeatable. The high range is also very sweet and transperant. I compare it to the e new version ACT 2 and ACT, the ACT 1 is sweeter in high and mid range. More musical indeed. 

The stereo image is excellent. Lots of detail! The speaker suitable for all kinds of music! Very neutral! I like the system very much!

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★

VALUE RATING5 - ★★★★★

 

Jim Audiophile

STRENGTH:

Clarity, responsiveness, open, smooth, controlled, dynamic

WEAKNESS:

Lowest bass response, but the cabinet shape minimises internal volume available

These speakers are very open and dynamic, the clarity is wonderful and the bass, though not the deepest, is well controlled and responsive. One of the best i've ever heard, in fact! (System was Chord Electronics SPM1600 range, which sounded wonderful with them.

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★

VALUE RATING5 - ★★★★★

 

David Antonelli Audiophile

STRENGTH:

Seamless integration, timbral accuracy, clear imaging, musicality, tonal richness, easy to drive

WEAKNESS:

None, but must make sure speaker is placed correctly to get right bass

I finally got to home demo these speakers after about six months of trying (thanks to the guys at tricell for bringing them down) and although I was prepared to be disappointed I ended up being completely enthralled with what I heard.

I have an all naim system with CDS 2/52/250 and very fine Royd Albions. My dilemma was whether or not to go to super speakers first (and which ones as taste and system matching is always important) or to get a nap 500 and accept the limitations of the albions until I could get great speakers later. I thought on the basis of what I had heard over the internet and in private conversations that the ACT 1s would be a poor match with naim and would be difficult to drive. So I was more than pleasantly surprised at what happened.

When the speakers were first plugged in they needed about half an hour to charge up before they sounded smooth. After this half hour I was convinced that the mid range and treble crushed that of the albions, already considered by many as having one of the best mid ranges below ten grand. At times it seemed a bit edgy, however, and the bass transients had a jumpiness and slam quality to them that didn't suit the music. So I moved them out from the wall by six inches and the bass receded and smoothed out. It was now quick and tight and had a great tunefulness about it. Things were much better integrated from the silky highs and subtle ebbs and flows of the music down to the grit and punch of the bass. They were much more detailed, yet more controlled, sweet, fast, and rich than the albions and had all the advantages of JM Lab mezzo utopias (although I heard these in the context of infereor Mark Levinson electronics - yes, inferior to naim in spite of their 85 K label) but they were more lively and sounded real as opposed to manufactured. At times, though, they were a bit too quick sounding in a way that was not quite musical.

Then my dealer suggested I try a new speaker cable. I was a bit reluctant as changing cable in a naim system is violation of the holy of holies, but he assured me that the cable was of similar specs only much higher quality. The new cable smoothed everything out and gave a redoubled effortlessness and fullness that solved the slight problems mentioned above regarding the all-too-sudden transients. It made the naim cable seem thin and brittle in comparison.

As it was this was enough to convince me that a) I am buying ACT TWOs. They are said to have an even better mid range (approaching or surpassing that of a full blown audio-note or quad system) while having improved dynamics, greater fluidity, and deeper bass along with a super revelatory rather than the revelatory on the ACT 1s. 

I was also surprised that the 250 had such little trouble with them. I know ACT 1s are supposed to be a moderate load, but the 250 is said to struggle with quite a few non-naim speakers. I now know I am spending my money right and I may never even need to get the mighty nap 500 when the 250 does such a nice job with these. I know the 500 would improve things immeasurably, but when it costs as much as a nice car, one has to have a few doubts. For the cost of a 500 while keeping my limited but OK albions, I could get ACT 2s and 135s and not have to worry about replacing the speakers later.

Another thing, these speakers have the most natural and effortless musical presentation I have ever heard with a clarity and liquidity that make the albions seem strident and grainy. They truly vanish and there is never the sense that the speakers are even there or that the soundstage and imaging is un natural and taking the music out of the system as is so common with high end US stuff. And with naim speakers you get all the rhythm and control but an unnaturally narrow soundstage and dry shut-in quality that is at the end of the day just as heinous as the overblown US systems with their utter lack of musicality but pin point imaging and hyper-detailed sound.

They are also great on poor recordings (although I do have what many regard as the best source and preamp ever made, so be careful!) and I enjoyed the Live Birthday Party CD as much as I did my Bach or jazz

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★


Ray Hunter
Audio Enthusiast

STRENGTH:

Stereo focus

WEAKNESS:

absolutely none (of course you have to buy quality components as companions.)

I have a stable set-up of:
Meridian 506 CD player,
Krell KRC III pre amp,
FPB 300 power amp
Wilson Benesch Act 1 Loudspeakers
Transparent Music Wave interconnects & speaker cables.

The whole system sounds just great, looks just great, and works extremely well together.

I originally went into the hi-fi shop looking for some replacements for my ancient ARC 101's, fully convinced that I would not hear a great improvement on my previous system. I had already listened to some fully active Meridian 5000 & 5500DSPs but thought they were thoroughly rotten. Unusual, I thought because I love the Meridian CD player.

I saw these Act One speakers ex. demo at an unbelievable bargain price. They had maybe one scratch on the wood finish, and I had several weeks of home use before I had to decide to buy.

The soundstage is frighteningly accurate. Things seemed to just appear in recordings that I previously thought I knew. The level of detail that was exposed even when normally it would be masked by other competing loud instruments was amazing. I kept on putting on old CDs and wanting to listen more and more.

Other reviewers have talked about lack of bass. Well that could be the amp or room, because I certainly have discovered an extra octave or so of low end. Just try Massive Attack or the Crystal Method to hear the effect.

I can honestly say I've never heard anything better.

Nothing this expensive can be worth a five out of five for value. IMHO Value in hi-fi stops at around five hundred dollars... invite your normal friends round one evening and play "guess the hi-fi price" with some of this esoteric stuff. Then you'll see what I mean.

I also can't recommend these speakers to those on any sort of a budget, or those with a partner who want some of those nice small white Bose speakers that can be mounted in the corner of the room.

But I won't even be looking for anything else or walk into a hifi shop for around another year or two.... no constant stream of upgrades for me.

In the meantime its a real pleasure every time I hit the "play" button.

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★


Bora Hatanaka
an Audio Enthusiast

I'm not sure what sort of reception the ACT ONE's have had in the states, but they have become a fairly popular high-end choice in Japan as well as Europe.They are not a light purchase, and the most expensive audio component I have yet owned. But I must rave that in my many years of listening experience I have never been so totally captivated by an audio product.My previous speakers have run through Martin Logans, Quad's, Ensemble, ProAc response 3.5 most recently and finally on to the Newcomer Benesch. Where all these speakers have shined in particular areas, only the ProAc's came close to the ACT ONE's integrity, but lacked that little extra magic that makes the Benesch so complete. And the ProAc's speed and dynamics are far behind the ACT ONE's, as one one expect with the ACT ONE's total Carbon Fibre design. The newer ProAc response 2.5 with the carbon fibre bass/mid is better in this are than its 3.5 big brother, but 3.5 makes that up in granduer and integrity of sound. 

The Benesch has the best of both worlds and the result is stunning, nothing can quite explode with sudden power like carbon fibre drivers. 

The scene in The John Eliot Gardiner version of Don Giovanni on Archiv where the Don is dragged down to hell burst forth with such ferocity and clarity on the ACT ONE's compared to my old Pro Ac faves that I seriously wondered if I wasn't witnessing the birth of a new era of loudspeakers! 

Well, I came back to my senses later and realised there are much higher price ranges of speakers which no doubt excel the ACT ONE's, but in my long listening experience I safely repeat that nothing has touched these gems. 

Again, integrity is the word that comes to my lips. A deep rarely achieved integrity that allows a unique naturalness to the sound. Enough said for interested parties to inquire further on their own.

All in all then, a gem of a product and wonder of wonders, a speaker that looks almost as good as it sounds. For further info, check out the Wilson Benesch web site
OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★


Brian Edwards 
an Audiophile

I first heard these speakers at Bora's recommendation and now own them. They have purity and grace all their own. However I went through *a lot* of ancillary components before I was happy with them. They need a lot of power, are exceedingly sensitive and will show up any harshness of ancillaries in a very revealing way.

The cabinets are finished on the outside in beautiful wood in a design reminiscent of the BW 805 Nautilus, but much slimmer and more elegant. In fact I'm sure B&W pinched the sloping top design from the ACT ONE's. However the cabinets themselves, rather than MDF, are 80% carbon fibre panels. This material is extremely inert meaning two things

1) This speaker is so pure it will knock your socks off. There is absolutely *no* smearing or smudging, even way down into the bass. This is the single most important aspect of the design I think

2) Those inert cabinets need a lot of juice to get vibrating. This is why these 89db speaker really need powerful amps to sound good. The problem is that amps with lots of power that sound totally smooth in the upper registers are very expensive. I was not happy until I got the LAMM m1.1s, magnificent amps that match the ACT ONE's perfectly yes, but 15000$ OUCH! 

Overall the ACT ONE's presentation leans slightly towards cool--I think this comes from all the carbon fibre. I would definitely not pair them with cool sounding ancillaries. Again I recommend the LAMM's as the absolute reference. That is after going through a huge range of amps, two of which I bought and sold again after several months because the ACT ONE's exposed them.


But give them a lot of warm musical power and you will be gifted with the most incredibly pure presentation imaginable. After hearing lots of music on the ACT ONE's then going to most other speakers you will miss the palpable clarity, the freedom, the lack of smudge, especially from the lower mids down. Others have praised the upper reaches, finding them electrostatic like in upper midrange integrity.

Their overall balance is very neutral, perhaps slightly too delicate on top and some slightly over impressive slam in the bass. This slam is particularly impressive because it is so pure.

But like all high end works of art they have a definite character which you may or may not like. As I said before they might be too cooly intelligent for some tastes. But those who hate romantic speakers yet love musical speakers may find their holy grail in them. Certainly have a listen if your budget is around 10000$.

Oh, they look gorgeous, another plus.

Wilson Benesch ACT ONE speakers, bass/mid/treble triwirable
Lamm m1.1 monoblocks
Lamm L1 linestage
Audio Note Anvz interconnects Anspz speaker cables, two runs with jumpers
Mccormack DAC-1 deluxe, Denon D1 transport
Nirvana digital cable
Magnan reference power cable/conditioner

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★


Jim
an Audiophile

It was by pure luck that I found these speakers since there are no Wilson Benesch dealers in Arizona. Someone traded them in after owning them for several months, for what other speaker, is a mystery.
I have auditioned many speakers including some of the newest like the Reval Salon, Reval Gem, Linn Keltik (Fully Active), Linn Kaber (fully Active), ProAC 2.5, B&W 801 Nautilus, Wilson Watt/Puppy 5.1, etc. In my listening experience, I have yet come across a speaker that has such pure delivery of music then these Act One's. There are much more expensive speakers out there but when I brought these home, I could not believe the accuracy of pure music that flowed through these speakers. 

The key attribute to these speakers that sold me was the its ability to sound good with many types of amplifiers. Several other speakers that I have auditioned only sound good with specific types of amplifiers. I initially tri-amped this speaker with Linn Klouts using Tara Lab Ref Gen 2 speaker cables. Using the Wadia 9 dac with Wadia 2000 transport with P2S upgrade with Auro symphonic AT&T optical cable and Tara One interconnects. The sound was glorious in every sense of the word. The dimension of my room is about 20 feet X 34 feet with 15 foot vaulted ceilings. These Wilson Benesch Act One speakers filled the room and delivered all of the punch that I wanted. The special thing about this is that it delivered the large sound with accuracy and liquidity of the best small 2 way monitors (like the ultimate Gem or some of the extremely expensive European monitors), except it also has a lot of clear, tight bass. The best of all worlds. 

Then I recently replaced my Linn Klouts with my new reference amps (Linn Klimax Mono) with Tara Labs One speaker cables and Kimber KS 1130 balanced interconnects. WOW!!! The sound stage was unbelievable. The speakers absolutely disappears in your room. Almost like the speakers are not there. These speakers image so well that they need very slight toe. After experimenting in my large room, I have them 8.25 feet apart and 1.5 feet from rear wall, and 3 feet from right wall and 8 feet from left wall due to the walk way. These speakers do not have a tight sweet spot. I almost feel guilty because I picked these up at half of the cost of the new pair since they were used. I continue to go to my favourite high end shops and listen to their best systems, and then come home to my Act One's and I feel that the Wilson Act One's with the setup that I have beats every high end the stores have on display. Which include the Reval Salons with ML33, Linn Keltik with 4 pairs of Linn Klimax (Fully active) using Linn Sondek CD12 and all using the same Tara One speaker cables and Tara One interconnects, Wilson Watt/Puppies using Jeff Rowland and Transparent XXL cables. 

If you have not heard these speakers it would be wise to take a listen to these before shelling out the funds. 

If you are interested in purchasing these speakers, you also want to drive them with ample power, at least 80 - 100 watt rated class A amps. . Like I always say, listen for your self and be your own judge. 

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★


Stephen

STRENGTH:

Clean, clarity, very focused image, detail, warmth

WEAKNESS:

None

I made a trip to Hong Kong and stop by a hi fi shop demonstrating a pair of WB ACT 1 speaker drive by a pair of 300B amp. Sound was very attractive especially the high and mid range, but bass was too lean and seems like not synchronised well with high and mid. At that time the shop manager told me that the bass unit was Scan Speak. Earlier this year, I went to Hong Kong again for a business trip and was wandering again around the area, I don't know why I stop by that shop again and look through the window glass. Then I saw a pair of new ACT 1 (solid Cherry wood finishing as compare to old Reddish solid wood), it was so beautiful that I can't control myself to step in. The same shop manager was demonstrating to a few customers at that time. The magic came once I step in, I can't imagine that the tonal sound change so much compare to old version. The same 300B map drive it so well that all ranges are very balanced. The shop manager explain to the customer that the bass unit was a new version and not the Scan Speak any more, that is the major break through to improve the sound quality of the hi tech designed speaker. I almost missed an appointment I made with my boss after staying at the shop for 2 hours. I went out with a copy of my credit card slip and 2 weeks later the speaker arrived my apartment in Taipei....this is the best speaker I have ever used and it is not cheap at all when the credit card billed me .....with no regret.

OVERALL RATING5 - ★★★★★

VALUE RATING5 - ★★★★★

the A.C.T. One evolution suggests what I mean by a perfect loudspeaker: they are highly authentic, lively, with enormous dimensions and believable spatiality. ....Very close to perfection
Hans Heid - LP Magazine Absolute Sound (German translation)

CONCLUSION: the Wilson Benesch ACT One Evolution plays every kind of music from very soft to very loud so that I always want to hear more and more. I can not expect much more from a speaker.

REVIEW: Wilson Benesch is a company with an iconographic character.The understanding of shapes and proportions as well as the consistent use of carbon, long before the material became trendy, make their products un-mixable. Coincidence is not all, because the first meaning of carbon is carbon, and Sheffield, headquarters of Wilson Benesch, has a very long industrial history. The promotion of coal and the production of steel have always been closely linked, symbolising Europe's break with industrialised modernity. However, the structural changes that have been so painful for some industrial regions as well as for the Ruhr have already started in Sheffield 100 years ago, right after the First World War. The city, which was responsible for half of European steel production in the 19th century, opened the way for the Harry Brearley patent for stainless steel in 1915, moving away from the pure production area to the refining location.

Fast forward to the year 1989. The young Craig Milnes, together with his wife Christina, founds the company Wilson Benesch. However, their roles are quite different than you might think: Christina is as Managing Director and responsible for the company's strategy. Craig, on the other hand, is a design director with a particularly interesting background: not only did he graduate from the Art Academy, but he also did an apprenticeship with British Steel. So he combines the engineering tradition of his hometown Sheffield with the fine feeling of the designer. Incidentally, son Luke is now responsible for marketing.

At the company's headquarters, the hypermodern "Advanced Manufacturing Park", high-tech collaborations with companies such as Boeing and Rolls Royce are held in constant exchange. In addition, there are numerous university research products, which place Wilson Benesch technologically at the forefront of what is feasible. You may wonder what A.C.T. In fact, Advance Composite Technology means the use of carbon fibres. What seems logical and consistent today was new and innovative in the early 1990s. Incidentally, Wilson Benesch produces their own, acoustically very affordable carbon fibre and the matrixes of synthetic resin, in which they are structurally embedded. In fact, 90% of the ingredients in all Wilson-Benesch products are made from raw materials on-site, as Milnes credibly assures. That's something to keep in mind as you approach Wilson Benesch's high quality and costly products.

The A.C.T. One has only been evolutionary since 1994, but has not changed fundamentally. Milnes compares them to a Porsche 911, which in its basic form is built more or less unchanged for decades. No wonder then that the coloured carbon fibres that make the exterior of this design so distinctive have been created in collaboration with Hypetex's Formula One engineers and appropriately named Enzo Red (meaning Enzo Ferrari). Nevertheless, the speaker with its elegant lines never pretentious or obtrusive, but like a future design classic. 

The chassis have long been from in-house production. A special feature of Wilson Benesch is the use of virtually identical chassis (except for the tweeter of course), which are tuned and tuned differently for their use. As a result, according to Milnes, takeover distortions, phase shifts and different impulse behaviour, which are common in the use of different drivers, are minimised.

The A.C.T. One Evolution is a 2.5-way speaker with a total of four chassis. Three externally identical 17s thus cover middle and low frequencies. They are made from the in-house Tactic II material, which is said to be far superior to conventional polypropylene and was developed in collaboration with the physicist Ian Ward of the University of Leeds. Their drive also comes from a research project, this time with the University Sheffield, and is encapsulated in a certain way so that the two mid-range speakers can pass on the most delicate signals unfolded. Surely a reason why the speakers sound so immense natural. The trio's woofer is set to go down to 34 Hz, while "above" is supposed to go up a light and stiff hybrid dome of silk and carbon linear to 30 kHz. The shell construction Made of metal alloys and carbon has been retained since the original model and, of course, optimised. It leads to a kind of self-damping and resonance control, which is continued consistently through threaded rods along the housing. The 50 kg of a speaker are elegantly coupled with spikes in plates with three steel balls. 

But how does the A.C.T. One evolution for now?

Do you know Daft Punk's great-style disc "Random Access Memo-ry"? On "Giorgio by Moroder" the legendary producer tells how he became "Giorgio". I promise you, you want that with the A.C.T. Listen to One Evolution over and over again. And when this irresistible, fluffy beat sets in, you want to get into a car right away and drive to the end of the world. Such a room opens in which one simply wants to rise. At the other end of the room Esbjörn Svensson waits with his legendary trio. The tension that builds on "Tide of Trepida-tion" makes whole films come to my mind's eye. Movies that lift me from the present, back to my schooldays in nonstop cinema. I do not want to wake up from this wonderful musical permanent loop now. But then Dave Liebman's soprano saxophone picks me up gently. So tender, so he can play this difficult instrument and if, as in "Ceremony" such a casual bass is added and the percussion fills the room, I am relieved of my everyday life.

Is the A.C.T. One Evolution the perfect speaker?

No, because perfection is an illusion. So I am almost happy to be able to express a small criticism: The connections in the foot for the speaker cables are out of place. With the standard spikes you can practically attach only cable lugs, but you have to connect carefully. With the optionally available longer spikes that should be better - I would be happy to lay the connections. Otherwise the A.C.T. One evolution suggests what I mean by a perfect loudspeaker: they are highly authentic, lively, with enormous dimensions and believable spatiality. 

……….Hans Heid

TEST: Well balanced frequency response with slight center emphasis and a gently sloping course towards the high tone. Very good omnidirectional behavior and deep bass. The resonance behavior is optimal thanks to the special housing, distortion does not matter at 95 decibels yet.

Videos

Wilson Benesch A. C. T. ONE EVOLUTION P1 @ CES INNOVATION AWARD 2017 w TORUS & YPSILON components

ACT ONE EVO w VITUS AUDIO @ Absolute Hi End

Wilson Benesch ACT ONE EVO w Torus Generator & Ypsilon amps