WILSON BENESCH Resolution floorstand speakers - P1 coloured carbon

WB 37 FS RES P
NZ$ 76,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Wilson Benesch

The FUTURE is CARBON

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Wilson Benesch has been named a 2018 ‘Golden Ear’ Award winner by The Absolute Sound USA for its Resolution floorstanding loudspeaker.

In sum, the Wilson Benesch Resolution is a speaker that’s full of surprises. The use of carbon fibre is surprising. The melding of this new-world technology with old-world isobaric loading is surprising. The speaker’s slender appearance is surprising, as are the unique views it affords of carbon fibre and woofer butts. Most surprising of all is the Resolution’s chameleon-like ability to change its colours to reflect the music and the recording it’s playing. This is a speaker that never gets old, familiar, or boring. It’s a speaker you really can live with over the long run……  Alan Taffel - TAS-The Absolute Sound 

The Wilson Benesch Resolution is a superb loudspeaker. It is beautifully engineered from high-tech, high-quality materials. Looking at it, you will never find yourself wondering why it costs what it does or where the money went. It is the best proportioned and most striking of Wilson Benesch’s floorstanding designs. It offers unique and demonstrably effective solutions to the well-recognised problems of T 8 REPRODUCED FROM theaudiobeat.com loudspeaker design. Like any speaker, it offers its own particular perspective on the musical event, its own balance of virtues. Tonal and temporal coherence are its strengths, its holistic, seamless presentation in some ways more akin to an electrostatic, but a ‘stat with bass and balls. 

The Resolution above all, it delivers a level of musical coherence and insight, a balance of the convincing and the communicative, that puts it at the forefront of current loudspeaker performance. More refined and even than most paper-coned systems, more natural and richer than most aluminium- or ceramic-coned speakers, far more expressive and engaging than the “high-tech, high-res” brigade, for all its obvious engineering, this is at heart an essentially simple and unfailingly musical device. No speaker is all things to all people, but in a market that seems increasingly divided and polemic, the Resolution sits astride the middle ground, confidently answering many of the musical questions that other speakers ignore or quietly gloss over. 

"Perhaps what this speaker really resolves is that age-old question: how do you make an all-rounder that pleases more people than it disappoints? Listen -- especially at length -- and you, too, may be beguiled by the absence of intrusive discontinuities or colourations, by the Resolution’s simple, musical honesty" …… AUTO BEAT MAGAZINE

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Awards

Videos

Features

CONSTRUCTION
Poly-alloy hybrid construction
High performance carbon composite A.C.T. monocoque
High tensile steel compression construction
Bi-wireable terminal plate
Bass-Mid Chamber: High performance A.C.T. carbon composite monocoque (infinite sealed baffle enclosure)
Midrange Chamber: High performance A.C.T. carbon composite monocoque (infinite sealed baffle enclosure)
Isobaric Chamber: High performance A.C.T. carbon composite monocoque (on-axis, floor augmented reflex port)

FINISHES
Aerospace silk black baffle, spine and foot
High gloss satin weave carbon fibre cabinet and carbon fibre top
Optional P1 Coloured Carbon Fibre Finishes
Bespoke side cheek options.

Specifications

DRIVERS:
1x 25mm ( 1") Wilson Benesch Semisphere tweeter
1x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II Midrange drive unit
1x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II Upper Bass drive unit
4x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II Isobaric bass drive units

PERFORMANCE
2-way electric, 4-way acoustic, floor standing loudspeaker
Impedance: 6Ω nominal / 3Ω minimal
Sensitivity: 90dB at 1 metre on-axis, 2.83V input
Frequency response: 30Hz - 30kHz +/- 2dB on-axis
Minimum amplification power recommendation: 100 W / channel

DIMENSIONS
Height: 1590mm ( 62.6")
Width: 520mm ( 20.5")
Depth: 547mm ( 21.5")
Weight per channel: 95kg (209.5 lbs)

Reviews

Tonal and temporal coherence are its strengths, its holistic, seamless presentation in some ways more akin to an electrostatic, but a ‘stat with bass and balls.
Roy Gregory

SUMMARY: This is clarity that comes from the effortless ability to let you hear both the length of a note and its natural decay without being swamped or smeared by the next note. It lets you appreciate a singer’s diction, the way he or she shapes a note, as well as the way a player shapes a phrase.t’s all about the whole, and the Semispere’s balance of virtues matches the rest of the Resolution’s drivers, creating a whole rather than a kit of parts, helping to re-create a whole when it comes to recordings. In many ways, it’s the same story -- one of seamless integration, dynamic and tonal coherence -- at the bottom end.....  The result is crisp leading edges, excellent pitch definition and wonderfully natural texture and decay.

I’s the Resolution that is clearer of pitch and timbre, pluck and release, revealing the transition from basses to cellos and the musical progression through the strings. This deft touch and timbral subtlety are what make the Resolution special and what really define its musical character and overall presentation.

It sets up a soundstage and establishes performers that are stable and utterly independent of the speaker enclosures. There are no steps or discontinuities to betray the process, an almost total absence of the usual masking effects that obstruct and obscure, nothing to distract from the music itself. the choice to trade obvious impact for beguiling subtlety is addictively effective when it comes to long-term listening and musical pleasure. No speaker is all things to all people, but in a market that seems increasingly divided and polemic, the Resolution sits astride the middle ground, confidently answering many of the musical questions that other speakers ignore or quietly gloss over.

EXTENDED REVIEW: There’s an argument that says naming a speaker Resolution is just asking for trouble. The word itself is becoming increasingly value-laden in the internecine world of audio commentary, often associated with or used to describe an ultra-detailed, etched, dry, over-damped sound that repels as many listeners as it attracts. That makes such a name a double whammy, with one group of potential customers dismissing it out of hand and others hearing it with certain expectations, and if those expectations aren’t met, they’ll dismiss it too. Of course, there’s always the counterargument, the one that asks what it is you are trying to resolve: detail or information, substance or sensibility? But that’s way too esoteric to play en masse. Then there are the other meanings for the word, suggestive of completion or intent, but they aren’t exactly top of mind in the audio community, merely adding further possible confusion to the name. Such nebulous, semantic distinctions might seem irrelevant, but if bright is a word that sends shudders down the spines of speaker manufacturers and customers alike, it’s getting so that resolution is not far behind. 

Except that the Wilson Benesch speaker isn’t named Resolution in an effort to describe its audio performance or musical aims. So, you may well ask, why call it Resolution at all? To honour a ship is the rather unexpected answer -- but not just any ship. HMS Resolution was the last (and most renowned) ship commanded by the explorer and cartographer Captain James Cook, the man who discovered Australia, mapped New Zealand and debunked the existence of a vast, Southern continent, amongst other things. Born in Yorkshire, where Wilson Benesch is based, he’s something of a hero to the company’s chief engineer, Craig Milnes. Is it too fanciful to suggest parallels between Cook’s spirit of adventure or journeys into the unknown and Wilson Benesch’s quest for new materials and technologies? Possibly, but there’s no escaping the fact that Wilson Benesch has consistently introduced innovative materials and manufacturing techniques throughout its thirty-year history, surmounting significant challenges and incurring considerable financial risk, if not the threat to life and limb that eventually did for Cook, whose other ships included the Discovery and Endeavour. A quick glance at the Wilson Benesch product line and you can see the theme although, while I could envisage products named Adventure and possibly Eagle, Pembroke is way too Tannoy and Grenville is just wrong. I guess that’s why the Cardinal got the name it did.

Mention of the flagship model is apposite and not just because the Cardinal established the technological palette and aesthetic stamp from which the Resolution is drawn. In fact, many listeners hearing the Resolution for the first time have thought they were sitting in front of the Cardinal. Short of standing the two speakers side by side, or counting the drivers, they are all but indistinguishable at a quick glance to untrained eyes. It’s a similarity that goes way more than skin deep.

The Resolution’s drivers employ the same materials and technology (isotactic polypropylene cones, silk domes and neodymium magnets) and are, in several cases, identical to those used in the Cardinal. The split aluminum baffle, deep spine and composite sandwich sides that constitute the cabinet more than just echo the flagship’s external construction, while the overall topology and hallmark Troika midrange/treble array are again all but identical. In every important material and technological respect, Resolution can be considered son of Cardinal -- except that’s a concept that involves its own semantic contradictions, even if the reality all too often gives the lie to theory. Besides which, each speaker also possesses its own distinct character and characteristics.

Where does the Resolution differ? It’s shorter and shallower, with a simple four-way topology, the bass end provided by four Tactic 2 drivers mounted in close-coupled isobaric pairs -- hence the visible baskets facing the listener. It also offers prettier proportions than the top-heavy, slightly overbearing looks of the flagship. The more elegant top cap, combined with its more compact dimensions, makes this the most attractive and most easily accommodated large floorstanding system that Wilson Benesch has ever offered. There are those who frown at the exposed baskets on the bass drivers, but as baskets go, these are beautifully finished, and the exposed-engineering aspect of the design doesn’t offend me. Curved and perforated grilles are supplied as standard, but these should be removed for serious listening, as their sonic impact is all too audible. Thankfully, the three-point fixings are a cinch to use.

Other than that, everything else about the Resolution is, er, resolutely familiar, from the three-point speaker base, with its massive spikes and adjuster wheels, to the multiple input sockets on the rear spine. There are four sets of Wilson Benesch’s in-house binding posts (count ‘em), although they only allow bi-wiring. You select one pair from the three lower sets depending on REPRODUCED FROM theaudiobeat.com REPRODUCED FROM theaudiobeat.com whether you want full bass output, a 2dB cut or a 3dB cut, an arrangement that recognises the fact that the Resolution might well find its way into smaller rooms. I’d really love to see those terminals color-coded and/or labeled, but for most people, hooking the speakers up is a one-time proposition rather than the regular go round of the reviewing cycle, so the black-on-black moulded designators will be less of an issue. Just trust me -- a decent penlight is essential.

One other welcome change is to the spikes themselves, which can now be specified with either the standard ball ends (along with the large-diameter footers, topped with three captive balls to ensure stable angular contact on a hard floor) used by Wilson Benesch since time immemorial, or with actual spiked tips for penetrating carpets. In addition, the front spike is now slightly longer and with a much deeper well to screw into, allowing greater adjustment of rake angle, particularly when it comes to tilting the speaker forward, which is a good thing, given its proportions and the height of the tweeter. There’s also now a locking ring for the front spike, although that wasn’t available as I was writing the review

Put all this together and what you have is a surprisingly compact speaker system (at least in visual terms), standing 159cm (or 62.6”) tall and weighing in at a reassuringly substantial 95kg (211 pounds), a pretty remarkable figure considering that so much of the cabinet is constructed from lightweight composite mouldings. Wilson Benesch quote -3dB figures of 30Hz and 30kHz, 90dB sensitivity and a 6-ohm nominal load with a 3-ohm minimum, all of which looks like pretty standard stuff.

What those specs don’t reveal is the minimal crossover employed for the Resolution. It might not be quite as elegant as the purely mechanical roll-offs employed on multiple legs of the Cardinal, but the excellent out-of-band behaviour of the sophisticated polypropylene cones means that simple first-order filters can be used for all but the tweeter, which gets a second-order instead. That makes for a phase-coherent crossover as well as one that’s a light touch in dynamic terms. Passive crossovers are referred to as subtractive for a reason, so the less crossover you need to actually get the job done, the better off you are likely to be. Naturally, like most things in audio, it isn’t quite that straightforward, but the use of woven isotactic polypropylene creates the ability to tailor the response of the individual drivers, meaning that those long overlaps can be implemented without problems. The result is a beautifully integrated and musically coherent speaker, while the minimalist crossover compensates in part for the fact that polypropylene isn’t as light as some more fashionable materials, the low insertion loss making up for inertia in the cones. All speaker design is a balancing act, and this is one that Wilson Benesch has been practicing for a while. It might be a unique approach, but it’s also one that they’ve mastered over the years and continue to refine.

Having already said that, to my eyes at least, this is the most attractive loudspeaker Wilson Benesch has ever offered, I also have to say that there’s no escaping the engineering focus of its overall aesthetic. If ever a product looked built, this is it, with materials and construction more often associated with high-end electronics than loudspeakers. A world away from flat panels and wooden boxes, with its massive aluminium extrusions and high-gloss carbon panels, the Resolution looks more automotive than audio. Which raises the question, do you really want something that looks like it comes from a sports car in your front room? Fortunately, those wanting to soften or domesticate the look can choose from a range of high-gloss wood veneers for the side panels, or even coloured carbon fibre tinted with the exclusive Hypetex process, a closely guarded technique employed by the likes of Aston Martin to pep up their products, although these options come with costs attached. Personally, I like the unadorned honesty of the standard high-gloss carbon weave, although I might be tempted by the gloss white.

Talking of costs, in a world where the global pricing norm seems to be cracking under the strain, what you’ll be asked to pay for a pair of Resolutions depends on where you live. In the US, the Wilson Benesch speaker weighs in at $69,500 a pair, making it around $11,000 more expensive than the benchmark Wilson Alexia 2. Stand the two speakers side by side and that’s both an obvious and a viable comparison, with the two speakers being broadly similar in scale, bandwidth and ambition. But in the UK, the cost equation is very different indeed. Not only does the Wilson speaker cost more in pounds than it does in dollars (!?!), the Resolution is way cheaper, coming in at almost half the price of the Alexia 2, which actually makes it slightly less than the Wilson Sasha 2. So value becomes a question of geographical location as much as, if not considerably more than, performance. Given that the UK will account for a fraction of total Resolution sales, I’m going to apply the international standard, placing the speaker in the same category as the Alexia 2 and judging accordingly. It’s the sort of company that the Resolution is comfortable keeping, in many ways its natural place in the market. Those of you lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your point of view) to live in the UK should appreciate the fact that in looking at the Resolution, you are staring at one very serious bargain indeed.

When it comes to matching amplification, the Resolution’s benign impedance characteristic and shallow crossover slopes make it an easy load. Just don’t think that you can skimp on quality when it comes to electronics. The natural warmth of the speaker’s sound, devoid of edge or any tendency to etch or stripping of harmonics in pursuit of definition, might make it less brutal than many high-end designs when it comes to exposing system shortcomings, but ultimately it’s no less revealing. I used the Wilson Benesch speakers with amps as varied as the Mark Levinson No.585 integrated, the Berning Quadrature Z OTLs, the Engström Lars (20 watts of push-pull 300B power) and the VTL S-400 II. All worked well, but this was the first speaker I’ve used with the Levinson that has exposed that amplifiers’ characteristic slightly dark and shut-in top end -- at least to the point where it has been a musical issue. You have been warned: just because the Resolutions doesn’t shine a spotlight on partnering electronics doesn’t mean they let issues slide. In fact, in contrast, their combination of overall tonal neutrality and musical and rhythmic coherence means that any discontinuities or aberrations are both unmistakable and become increasingly hard to ignore.

Likewise, although the success of the Bernings and Engström Lars suggest that low-powered amps will have no problems, in both cases it is actually the sheer quality of those amplifiers that carries the day, the speaker fastening on the agile clarity and transparency of the Quadrature Z, the natural textures and immediacy of the Lars. But there’s no escaping the fact that these speakers thrive on power: the Quadrature Zs are both more powerful and more load tolerant than more conventional OTLs, while the VTL S-400 II is massively capable by any standards. Every Wilson Benesch loudspeaker I’ve used has preferred to be bi-wired and positively loved to be biamped, and the Resolution is no exception. As impressive as the results were with the amps already mentioned, combining the Resolutions with the CH Precision M1s running in bi-amp mode was nothing short of spectacular. When it comes to selecting amplification to partner with the Resolutions, or selecting the Resolutions to partner with existing amplification, that’s something to bear in mind, either immediately or as a future upgrade option.

While it’s dangerous to draw straight-line sonic conclusions from the technology used in a speaker, both the use of polypropylene and the way in which it is used suggest that the Resolution should possess plenty of natural warmth and instrumental or vocal texture. What might surprise you is that, far from the cuddly or dynamically flabby sound that so often goes with such qualities, the Resolution is also far more immediate and dynamically agile than you might expect. Sol Gabetta’s Il Progetto Vivaldi album [Sony 88697131691] is a perfect case in point. The rich tonality and varied textures of her 1759 Guadagnini are augmented and made that much more particular by the gut-stringing adopted for this recording, while the small band (just seven strong) allows for plenty of space and focus. The Resolutions deliver all of that tonal range and subtlety, held within a broad, deep soundstage, with plenty of dimensionality to instruments and clear air between them. The acoustic stands independent of the speakers, with no tendency for instruments to cluster around or cling to the cabinets. The careful shaping of the baffles and the vanishingly low signature of the cabinets allow the speakers to disappear, passive guardians to the musical event. 

But what startles isn’t just the rich instrumental colours drawn from the instruments, especially the solo cello, but the combination of attack and the absence of edge or glare in the bowing. When you reach side four and the transcription of RV 297 (“Winter” from The Four Seasons), those familiar opening phrases lull you into a false sense of familiarity, quite unprepared for the dramatic entrance of the solo part, as all that body, substance and colour are tied to quicksilver playing that explodes with such verve and life that it literally has you holding your breath. For once you know, absolutely, that this is a cello -- and you know that the playing is absolutely extraordinary

That combination of natural texture and harmonic resolution brings the Resolutions their convincing sense of proportion, rich tonality and presence. Add their temporal and dynamic coherence into the mix and you have a speaker that’s perfectly equipped to reproduce that most testing instrument of all, the human voice -- “testing” not because of its bandwidth or dynamic range, but because of its familiarity. There’s nothing we recognise more easily, separate more discriminatingly or classify more quickly and accurately than another’s voice. That distinction between singers is rarely as apparent as it is with the Resolutions. Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of “This Year’s Kisses” (Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie LP [Verve V6-4053]) shows that her remarkable voice is as impressive as it is unmistakable. The performance is delicate and airy, jaunty and bittersweet as she uses her effortless range, perfect pitch and fluid phrasing to devastating effect. Let the record run and she brings that same purity and rock-solid pitch to the longer blues lines of “Good Morning Heartache,” a song with none of the tongue-in-cheek, almost girlish flippancy of the track before.

Then reach for Lady Sings the Blues [Clef MG C-721] and Billie Holiday’s version of “Good Morning Heartache” -- a gut-wrenchingly raw and brutally exposed performance without the pristine purity that Ella offers. Rarely can the same song have been sung with such different results; rarely will you hear a speaker that can display the difference between these two voices with such clarity and impact -- the sheer beauty, vocal power and dexterity of Ella; the emotional range and immediacy, the raw edge and pain that underpins Billie. For Ella, that heartache is an inconvenience to be studied or embraced; for Billie it’s an old acquaintance, a familiar ache, deep in the darkest recesses of her soul. There’s a clarity to the reproduction that rests not on the sort of etched or spot-lit sound so familiar from previous “‘high-resolution” designs, with their leading-edge emphasis and pared-away harmonics. This is clarity that comes from the effortless ability to let you hear both the length of a note and its natural decay without being swamped or smeared by the next note. It lets you appreciate a singer’s diction, the way he or she shapes a note, as well as the way a player shapes a phrase.

Just as the shape and sense of those voices are laid bare, so too is the contribution of the driving electronics. Swap from the VTL S-400 II to the Berning Quadrature Zs and you gain nimble agility and dynamic precision at the expense of absolute stability, dimensionality, body and musical shape. Swap in the full bi-amped CH Precision rig and you really 6 REPRODUCED FROM theaudiobeat.com do get pretty much the best of both worlds -- at a considerable price. It’s an important consideration, because just as the Resolutions reveal weaknesses, they also underline strengths and character. This means you need to take care in choosing your perfect partner, but that you’ll hear that much more clearly the benefits of the choice you’ve made. Add the Resolutions to your existing system and you’ll hear much more of the system you already own -- for good or ill.

Of course, the other side of that particular coin is that the speakers make system setup that much easier and clearly reveal both the efficacy and full value of any potential upgrade. By shining a light on musical performance, the Resolutions also decode the sonic integrity of partnering sources and electronics, the vagaries of equipment matching and the state of the system union. Living with a system imbalance? These speakers will tell you all about it. Plan a wrong turn on the upgrade path? The Resolutions will let you know. They may not squawk, “Make a U-turn,” but the message will be almost that clear. You might not thank them initially, but you’ll grow to love their honesty and the music they deliver -- as well as the money they save you.

So far I’ve mainly talked, directly or by inference, about the Resolution’s broad midband. Given the softdome tweeter and smallish bass drivers (and not a lot of them), you might well wonder about the speaker’s performance at the frequency extremes. The Semisphere tweeter is the same doped silk-dome unit developed in-house by Wilson Benesch for the Cardinal. It performs beautifully in that speaker, and it does so here too, partly because, like the rest of the speaker, there’s rather more to it than meets the eye. In this case that consists of a carbon-fibre brace that stiffens the dome and raises the first break-up mode significantly without adding undue moving mass. With a response tailored to fit perfectly into the centre of the Troika three-driver array, integration is seamless, with no dynamic, dispersive or tonal discontinuities to betray the crossover point. The sense of space and air it brings to natural acoustics, the lack of edge, halo or glare on violin or soprano voice, the attack, bite and texture it delivers through the treble are, if not perfect, then a perfect match for the Resolution’s honest midrange. Yes, I’ve heard tweeters that are faster and tweeters that seem more extended. They bring a sense of speed and precision to music -- although those qualities can also come at a price in terms of overall coherence or tonal resolution. The fact is, we don’t listen to tweeters; we listen to complete speaker systems. I’ve heard few high-frequency drivers that are more musically informative or integrate as well with the rest of the range. It’s all about the whole, and the Semispere’s balance of virtues matches the rest of the Resolution’s drivers, creating a whole rather than a kit of parts, helping to re-create a whole when it comes to recordings.

In many ways, it’s the same story -- one of seamless integration, dynamic and tonal coherence -- at the bottom end. But this is where the hard choices are so often made -- and where the Resolution differs from a speaker like the Wilson Alexia 2. Looking at the two speakers side by side, it’s not difficult to discern the difference in approach. Both speakers employ twin bass drivers, reflex-loaded and with very similar efficiency, but there the similarities stop. The Resolution’s twin, 170mm (7”) Tactic II isobaric arrays are mounted in the slim, sealed enclosure, handling the range from 300Hz down to the -3dB point at 30Hz. The midbass driver (the 170mm (7”) unit above the tweeter) handles the range up to 500Hz, where the midrange proper takes over. In stark contrast, the Wilson Alexia 2 uses a pair of differential bass units (one 8” and one 10”) loaded by a far larger volume, the size of the drivers and the volume of the cabinet dictating the thick-set, muscular proportions of the shorter speaker. Together, those drivers offer a significantly greater swept area that, combined with the large internal volume, delivers output down to a -3dB point of 19Hz.

There’s more -- much, much more -- to musical foundations than simple numbers, but you get the picture. I’ve heard the Wilson speaker at a couple of shows and during its UK launch, with various electronics and sources. It moves more air and delves deeper. In comparison, the Resolution’s bottom end seems to roll off more slowly, meaning you get useable output down deeper than the numbers suggest, but it moves a lot less air, although arguably it does so more precisely. The isobaric arrangement delivers notably clean, well-behaved output, reflected in the Resolution’s preference for the lowest damping factor settings on both the Berning and VTL amps. The result is crisp leading edges, excellent pitch definition and wonderfully natural texture and decay -- but the Resolution won’t match the sheer weight, the musical oomph, the unbridled gusto that you get out of the Alexia 2. The Wilson delivers more; the Wilson Benesch delivers enough.

But which one is better? Each approach has its own benefits, qualities that will appeal to different listeners, suit different rooms and place different demands on the driving system. You can argue that the Resolution offers superior transparency and definition -- or that the Alexia 2 delivers greater weight and scale. Ultimately, both propositions are correct, but what matters is how they integrate with and support the rest of the range. The lighter touch of the Resolution will certainly suit it to solid, European construction materials and make it easier to accommodate in smaller rooms, but, rather like KT88s and 6550s, or Reiner’s Chicago Symphony and Barbirolli’s Philharmonia, ultimately you pays your money and makes your choice. Just make sure it is your choice, because the musical results from what are two excellent speakers will be very different in style and highly dependent on the room and driving system.

At its best the Alexia 2 does scale, presence and immediacy like no other speaker of its size. The Resolution relies on a more refined and subtle perspective, as well as its rich, natural tonality. Play the Sibelius Second Symphony (Barbirolli conducting the Hallé Orchestra [EMI Sibelius Edition 7243 567299 2 6]), the opening of the second movement, with its extended pizzicato passage, and the Wilson has the authority to give you the weight of the massed basses and cellos, the familiar volume of Kingsway Hall -- but it’s the Resolution that is clearer of pitch and timbre, pluck and release, revealing the transition from basses to cellos and the musical progression through the strings. Which is more important to you? Only you can -- and only you should -- decide, but this deft touch and timbral subtlety are what make the Resolution special and what really define its musical character and overall presentation. Interestingly, both companies offer superb subwoofers to underpin their quasi-full-range offerings. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Wilson Benesch Torus is the perfect partner and an obvious (and seriously cost effective) upgrade to the Resolution. The floorstander is more than capable in its own right, but adding the Torus brings an added sense of muscle, scale and attitude to the mix, as well as simply offering extra bandwidth to underpin all that subtlety and refinement.

Which, given the price differential, makes comparison to the flagship Cardinal almost inevitable. How do the two relate? They are different products. The Cardinal is bigger boned and handles scale with ease. It is more immediate, more dynamically responsive and breathes more easily -- but it doesn’t match the sheer continuity and tonal refinement of the Resolution, trading ultimate sonic invisibility for energy, presence and impact. Even adding the Torus to the Resolution, it struggles to match that physical presence and impact, but it has its own cards to play. It sets up a soundstage and establishes performers that are stable and utterly independent of the speaker enclosures. There are no steps or discontinuities to betray the process, an almost total absence of the usual masking effects that obstruct and obscure, nothing to distract from the music itself. Perhaps that reflects the benefits of a more carefully executed crossover, or perhaps it’s simply the result of accumulated experience and a smaller enclosure, but, either way, the choice to trade obvious impact for beguiling subtlety is addictively effective when it comes to long-term listening and musical pleasure.

The Wilson Benesch Resolution is a superb loudspeaker. It is beautifully engineered from high-tech, high-quality materials. Looking at it, you will never find yourself wondering why it costs what it does or where the money went. It is the best proportioned and most striking of Wilson Benesch’s floorstanding designs. It offers unique and demonstrably effective solutions to the well-recognised problems of loudspeaker design. Like any speaker, it offers its own particular perspective on the musical event, its own balance of virtues. Tonal and temporal coherence are its strengths, its holistic, seamless presentation in some ways more akin to an electrostatic, but a ‘stat with bass and balls.

The Resolution above all, it delivers a level of musical coherence and insight, a balance of the convincing and the communicative, that puts it at the forefront of current loudspeaker performance. More refined and even than most paper-coned systems, more natural and richer than most aluminium- or ceramic-coned speakers, far more expressive and engaging than the “high-tech, high-res” brigade, for all its obvious engineering, this is at heart an essentially simple and unfailingly musical device. No speaker is all things to all people, but in a market that seems increasingly divided and polemic, the Resolution sits astride the middle ground, confidently answering many of the musical questions that other speakers ignore or quietly gloss over.

Perhaps what this speaker really resolves is that age-old question: how do you make an all-rounder that pleases more people than it disappoints? Listen -- especially at length -- and you, too, may be beguiled by the absence of intrusive discontinuities or colourations, by the Resolution’s simple, musical honesty
……. Roy Gregory

Wilson Benesch, CH Precision system - “This system was built to reproduce the signals generated by a record player.”
Roy Gregory

COMMENT: So why do we keep the faith? Because occasionally, just occasionally, you experience a system that really delivers – one that ticks all the boxes and keeps all the promises; one that is so sonically adept and musically capable that listening and music take on that addictive quality we all remember from the very first good system we heard – the system that set our feet on this path in the first place. This is one of those systems…

EXTENDED REVIEW: Suggesting that high-end audio has anything in common with Little Orphan Annie might seem like a stretch, but in one way at least they share a reality: for audio pilgrims who sign up to the quest for musical and sonic perfection, no matter how hard we try – or how much we spend – the constant evolution of equipment and technology means that the audio state-of-the-art is always a day away. No matter how hard we run we never quite catch up – and to make matters worse, these days the gap between dreams and reality has stretched to a yawning chasm. With more companies offering more and more expensive products, with speakers that shatter the six-figure price barrier seemingly run-of-the-mill, and with even a basic, high-end system costing more than a (very nice) car it’s harder to compete and far more confusing to try – not least because so many of the super-expensive products on offer so often fail to deliver on those rare occasions you get to hear them.

So why do we keep the faith? Because occasionally, just occasionally, you experience a system that really delivers – one that ticks all the boxes and keeps all the promises; one that is so sonically adept and musically capable that listening and music take on that addictive quality we all remember from the very first good system we heard – the system that set our feet on this path in the first place. This is one of those systems…

This combination of CH Precision Electronics and Wilson Benesch speakers, all laced together with Nordost’s ‘value option’ Valhalla 2 (well, it seems like value compared to Odin!) is one of those systems where the music just is. It doesn’t obviously explode into the room or cuddle you seductively, it isn’t propelled ever forwards by a metronomically toe-tapping beat, nor does it exist in a permanently cavernous acoustic. Instead, it just happens; a natural extension and impression of the original event, performance that is all about THE performance; that resides with the performers rather than the equipment in the system, that simply sounds like real people and real instruments. This is still recorded music, but it’s recorded music with that instantly identifiable quality, the gestalt character of the real thing – and that makes it rare and wonderl.

On the basic, material level, this system could be described as impressive, complex, extravagant, or just plain expensive. In fact, expensive doesn’t really cover it: in all honesty it demands the addition of a few adjectives – like “ruinously”, “eye-wateringly” or perhaps the simple, expletive quality of Ireland’s favourite descriptor, “fecking”. But there’s no denying that this system cuts no corners in by Roy Gregory CH Precision, Wilson Benesch, and Nordost system its pursuit of audio and musical excellence. On paper at least, it looks like a classic, high-tech, high-powered solid-state rig, with a stack of front-end boxes feeding a pair of massive mono-blocs – and that’s partly correct. The CH electronics offer levels of software derived control and configuration that go beyond the necessary and well in to the realms of “because we can”. I mean, who needs to control not just the duration and brightness of the displays but the test colour as well – and if the nine colour options on offer don’t match your mood, shirt, or latest motor, there’s always the opportunity to dial in a specific RGB shade! But as easy as it is to poke gentle fun at such electronic excess, there’s a very real purpose behind it, the degree of configuration on offer allowing both topological simplicity and unparalleled versatility, the ability to adapt the amplifiers to the surrounding system to an almost unprecedented degree – and that has a direct, positive, and dramatic impact on performance.

This system is built around the L1 linestage, supported by the X1 power supply and flanked by the P1 phono-stage and a pair of M1 power amps. Of course, it will accept digital sources, but the raison-d’etre for this system and, in a very real sense, the secret of its success is the declared intent to extract the considerable best from record replay. To that end, the P1 offers no fewer than three independently configurable inputs (two current sensing and one voltage driven) with variable gain and loading as appropriate, as well as the option to include switchable EQ curves – all for the princely sum of £22,400 (EQ Filter £1,300). At the other end of the chain you find not one but two M1 amplifiers, a wallet wringing extravagance in the sense that these are not mono-blocs – at least not all of the time! In fact, the M1 is five amps in one: a straight stereo, a bi-amp (one input, two identical outputs), an active bi-amp (two inputs, two independently configurable outputs), a mono-bloc with the whole power supply dedicated to a single output stage, or a high-powered, bridged mono-bloc. Meanwhile, gain, and the ratio of local to global feedback can be set to further match the amplifier to the speaker’s sensitivity and electrical demands. With a rated output of anything between 2x 200 and 700 watts on tap, perhaps it’s not surprising that a single M1 will set you back a slightly gasp-inducing £37,400, making a pair cost £74,800!

Compared to the P1 and M1, the L1 seems almost prosaically simple: inputs, outputs, and a volume knob. But that is to misunderstand both the remarkable care that has gone into the design and construction of the L1 – and the critical role of the line-stage in any genuinely high-end system. I’m afraid that, if you want realistic dynamics, full bandwidth, convincing staging, and a real sense of scale, then neither passives, auto-transformers, nor a direct output from your DAC will deliver. Real systems use active line-stages, despite the demonstrable difficulties of getting one right – and the L1 is one of the select few that actually gets it just right. It is both the heart and soul of this system and is, in a very real sense, the root of its greatness. Having said that, this is a set-up that takes no chances, so both the L1 and the P1 are backed up by the X1 external power-supply – just to be on the safe-side. It’s a wise decision, and the benefits are all too clear to hear, but it does add another £12,400 to a final price-tag of £110,900 for the electronics alone.

Just as well then that we’ve got the budget options from the other suppliers, with neither the cables nor the loudspeakers representing their respective manufacturers’ flagship options. Nordost’s Valhalla 2 might use more conventional shielding and less metal than the Odin 2, but it shares the top product’s core technologies and all-important proprietary connectors – and it’s backed up here by their Q-Kore 6 grounding system, to help reduce system noise-floor and deliver realistic dynamics. Take one look around the back of the CH components and you soon realise what makes V2 make so much sense: when it comes to power cords this is one greedy system, with each power amp requiring two and the P1 and L1 still needing their own, despite the presence of the X1. Look at the price of Odin 2 power cords and all becomes clear…

The Wilson Benesch speakers might look familiar, but these are not the Cardinals. Instead, what we have here are the smaller but easier to accommodate and rather more elegant Resolutions, making up for their reduced internal volume by adding a Torus Infrasonic Generator to the mix. Named for another of Captain Cook’s vessels rather than their undoubted performance attributes, the new speaker shares the same driver and cabinet technologies as the flagship, but in a more compact, simpler and easier to govern package. The tailored response of the drivers makes for a minimal, phase-coherent crossover, while also delivering the often mutually exclusive attributes of tremendous low-level detail and a fully developed harmonic envelope. The cost in this case takes the form of lower than average sensitivity – which could impact dynamics except that the light-touch crossover makes the Resolution sound more efficient than it is while the system topology and L1/M1 combination takes care of the rest. Like other WB speakers this one just loves to be vertically bi-amped, which helps explain the over-kill option of that second M1, while in practice, I found that 10% feedback worked best on both the mid and the bass ranges, allowing me to run the amps in straight bi-amp mode, saving the price of a set of interconnects along the way.

After that? Well, there’s always Odin 2…

There are some systems that simply sound the way they look. There are others that are defined by their chosen technologies, be they direct heated triodes, horn-loaded drivers, Class A solid-state output stages, or more ceramic than you can shake a stick at. But then looks can also be deceptive and technology can be applied in many different ways. Examine this system on paper and – price aside (and Lord knows, that’s no reliable guide) – there’s little to suggest the magic lurking within. The CH Precision electronics, with their near identical styling and muted blue-grey casework couldn’t look more Swiss if they tried. The Wilson Benesch speakers offer, as I’ve already suggested, a familiar appearance and nothing new in terms of their technology. It’s all been done before, in previous WB designs. Yet, just as there’s an air of solid, compact competence about the CH pieces, the Resolutions have a certain confidence that comes from their balanced proportions and the sculpted elements from which they’re built. This is a speaker that just looks right and that alone, even if you think you know what Wilson Benesch speakers sound like, should give you pause for thought. Hear them on the end of this rig and you’ll almost certainly be recalibrating those expectations.

Sadly for the headline writers and bandwagon jumpers, there is no secret sauce in this system. It’s not about the what: it’s all about the how. This is an object lesson in understanding what a given product wants and then making sure it gets it, both in terms of interfacing between components and in designing those components themselves. Rich in terms of tonal colour and instrumental detail, the Resolutions need an amplifier set up that’s capable of delivering emphatic dynamics. Bi-amping helps but it’s all about clean, available headroom and just enough damping. Given their substantial size, you might well consider the M1’s 200 Watt per channel output as modest, but what it really reflects is the size of their power supply. Or as someone once famously said, the quality of the first Watt is really what matters – but then so does the quality of the other 199 just waiting to get past it. Add that to the ability to adjust amplifier damping factor via the feedback ratio and you’ve got pretty much the perfect match for the Resolutions, a match that’s heard in the weight, scale, and impact they bring to the more Zimmer-esque moments of the GOT soundtrack [Sony] as obviously as it contributes to the vivacious attack and intimacy, cut, thrust, and counterpoint of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra’s scintillating performance of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik [Decca], a record that breathes new life into this most hackneyed of Mozart masterworks. Of course, the Resolution’s are getting an awful lot of help from the Torus. Just how much is evident from the totally OTT percussion on the Game Of Thrones recording, but its sheer quality and seamless integration really comes into play on the fleet-footed bass arpeggios of the chamber piece. 

As well as highlighting the temporal and spatial integration of the system, that Stuttgart disc also switches the focus of attention to the other end of the chain. One of the main reasons this Decca SXL recording sounds so wonderfully immediate and present is the ability to replay it with the correct EQ. Switch to the standard RIAA curve and the incisive brilliance in the playing is dulled, the energy level drops, the physicality diminishes, and the band recede. This is no matter of taste or preference. The Decca curve captures the frisson of this remarkable performance and RIAA doesn’t – and as we all know, any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This system was built to reproduce the signals generated by a record player and I was lucky to have the Grand Prix Monaco v2.0 on hand. But even with a record player of such undoubted excellence, the ability to switch replay EQ on older classical and jazz pressings in particular was often the make or break factor when it came to delivering the difference between a good record from a stunning musical performance – from the self-same disc. Whether you need switchable EQ depends on the nature and content of your record collection, but its availability as an option on the P1 and underlines yet again how the versatility and configurable nature of the CH electronics plays directly into this system’s stellar musical performance.

Meanwhile, sitting quietly at the heart of proceedings, the L1 goes calmly about its business, the anchor to which the system’s absolute spatial and temporal stability are tied, the root of its remarkably low-noise floor and sudden dynamic response. In many ways it’s the understated star turn that sums up the whole system. Is it perfect? No – and nor is it beyond criticism. But the real quality of this system, the thing that makes it a system in the true sense, rather than a simple set of parts, is the fact that its flaws do not intrude. Yes I could ask for more individual dimensionality and intra-instrumental air. I could wish for even deeper bass and a shade more immediacy – but do I notice those things when listening? Not for a moment. Not unless I go looking for them – and I don’t do that because I’m so darned engaged by the music, the performance, and the performers. Perfect? No – but near enough for that not to ruin your enjoyment; near enough to deliver a timely reminder of just what’s possible; near enough to convince you that, as expensive as it is, this is one system that’s worth every penny. If you thought that the light at the end of the audio tunnel had finally flickered out, think again. It’s there, it’s stronger than ever – there’s just more ‘noise’ between you and it. This system isn’t a new dawn – it’s just the same old sun, shining as brightly or brighter than ever.
............. 
Roy Gregory

One Step At a Time… Although this system is both seriously expensive and topologically complex, thanks to its almost modular versatility it’s also surprisingly versatile and stepby-step achievable – assuming that you’ve got access to the considerable necessary funds! You could start with the P1, L1 and a single M1 driving just the Resolutions. Then you could add the X1 – which I have to say is pretty much essential to either the L1 or P1, or the pair if you are lucky enough to own both. Next you could add the second M1 and run bi-amped. Along the way you could also add the Torus, which would bring you up to the level of the system reviewed here. Somewhat alarmingly, that’s only the start…The next obvious step would be to add the second Torus – but after that things get seriously silly. Both the L1 and the P1 offer dual mono options, with a single chassis for each channel. Of course, that would necessitate an X1 for each pair, as it will only drive two external units. But then, having got this far, why wouldn’t you dedicate an X1 for each individual, mono L1 or P1 chassis, making for an eight-box pre-amp. You could then add a second pair of M1s and run them all as monoblocs and I’m sure that, if you really put your mind to it you could add two more and use those to run the Torus subs – although you’d need to meet the crossover requirement, surely a minor issue for anybody with this much invested, as between them I’m sure that CH and Wilson Benesch could be ‘persuaded’ to run something up… 
............. 
Roy Gregory

There is a third possibility, but it’s a highly unusual one..... listening to them is constantly surprising, such speakers are scarce, but the Resolution is one of them.
Alan Taffel

SUMMARY: There is a third possibility, but it’s a highly unusual one. There are speakers that, over the long run, neither grate nor demand acceptance of their drawbacks. They do pretty much everything well, including conveying—without interference or editorialising—the diversity of material and recordings embedded in our music libraries. This quality of capturing diversity is what prevents speakers in this category from becoming familiar. Instead, listening to them is constantly surprising. Such speakers are scarce, but the Resolution is one of them. 

The Resolution is nonpareil at unearthing cloaked bass lines—and revealing everything about them. Listening to bass, even on familiar recordings, through the Resolution is a constant journey of discovery. 

Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship 800 D3. This particular bass line happens to fall into an anaemic zone of the B&W’s. The effect is a bass line that, while not exactly inaudible, feels like it’s hiding behind a tree. But the Resolution has no such anemic zone, so this bass line takes its rightful place among the rest of the complex instrumentation. Excellent imaging assists by giving the bass the physical space its due........The Resolution, possesses superior speed and transient precision. Thus, even when tackling the work of the most nimble-fingered bassists, there’s never any mystery; the speaker tells you exactly what’s going on.......the Resolution serves up every note distinctly, then goes further by telling you the specific character—timbre, touch, etc.—of each tone.......Finally, the Resolution’s bass is resolutely linear. You can hear this easily on “Jamaican Turnaround” from Michael Wolff’s indispensable CD, 2AMI’ve played this cut through literally hundreds of speakers at audio shows, and the song’s walking bass line contains notes that invariably get reproduced either as too pronounced or too recessed. But the Resolution loudspeaker is the exception, where output is constant across the bass spectrum. 

Zooming out from the bass region, it becomes clear that linearity is a hallmark of the Resolution overall. Thanks, no doubt, to the in-house-made, carefully matched drivers and an equally well-thought-out crossover, these speakers possess uncanny coherency. Back on 2AM, the Resolution spans the big Bösendorfer’s entire range—from core-of-the-earth lows to sparkling highs—without any imbalances or hint of changing drivers. 

Rounding out the Wilson Benesch’s virtues are a deathly quiet noise floor and low overall distortion. These traits, too, add to the speaker’s sense of musical suspense, since dynamic bursts seem to come out of nowhere. Yet there is a remarkably delicate filigree to quieter passages. Through the Resolution, overtones and decays hang in the air like drifting clouds. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: If you live with a speaker for a while, as Wilson Benesch was gracious enough to allow me to do with its new Resolution towers, one of two things happens. Either the speaker’s flaws become increasingly apparent and start to grate on you, or you come to accept those flaws, learn to hear past them, relax, and enjoy the music. The commonality between these two scenarios is that in both cases the speaker’s sound becomes familiar.

There is a third possibility, but it’s a highly unusual one. There are speakers that, over the long run, neither grate nor demand acceptance of their drawbacks. They do pretty much everything well, including conveying—without interference or editorialising—the diversity of material and recordings embed- ded in our music libraries. This quality of capturing diversity is what prevents speakers in this category from becoming familiar. Instead, listening to them is constantly surprising. Such speakers are scarce, but the Resolution is one of them. 

Nowhere is the Resolution’s element of surprise more apparent than in the bass. Naturally, as you’d expect in this price range, the speaker offers excellent extension and definition. Yet scads of speakers can make those same claims while failing to do what the Resolution does.

The Resolution is nonpareil at unearthing cloaked bass lines—and revealing everything about them. Listening to bass, even on familiar recordings, through the Resolution is a constant journey of discovery. 

There are several factors that contribute to this overall effect. Most significantly, I believe, is prodigious (yet well-controlled) output throughout the bottom octaves. This allows reticent bass lines, or those overwhelmed in the mix, to step out from the shadows. For instance, compare listening to “Spinning Wheel” [ORG LP, Blood Sweat and Tears] through the Resolution with the same tune heard through Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship 800 D3. This particular bass line happens to fall into an anemic zone of the B&W’s. The effect is a bass line that, while not exactly inaudible, feels like it’s hiding behind a tree. But the Resolution has no such anemic zone, so this bass line takes its rightful place among the rest of the complex instrumentation. Excellent imaging assists by giving the bass the physical space its due.

The second factor contributing to the Resolution’s low-frequency prowess involves its fast, intricate response. In the low end, most speakers incur some blurring—or even miss notes— as their woofers struggle to defy inertia. The Resolution, however, possesses superior speed and transient precision. Thus, even when tackling the work of the most nimble-fingered bassists, there’s never any mystery; the speaker tells you exactly what’s going on.

As an example, consider “I’m an Old Cowhand” from the Analogue Productions LP of Sonny Rollins’ Way Out West. There’s a tricky bass run at the start of the piece. Most speakers, when faced with this challenging run, blur notes together. In contrast, the Resolution serves up every note distinctly, then goes further by telling you the specific character—timbre, touch, etc.—of each tone.

Finally, the Resolution’s bass is resolutely linear. You can hear this easily on “Jamaican Turnaround” from Michael Wolff’s indispensable CD, 2AM. I’ve played this cut through literally hundreds of speakers at audio shows, and the song’s walking bass line contains notes that invariably get reproduced either as too pronounced or too recessed. But the Resolution loudspeaker is the exception, where output is constant across the bass spectrum.

Zooming out from the bass region, it becomes clear that linearity is a hallmark of the Resolution overall. Thanks, no doubt, to the in-house-made, carefully matched drivers and an equally well-thought-out crossover, these speakers possess uncanny coherency. Back on 2AM, the Resolution spans the big Bösendorfer’s entire range—from core-of-the-earth lows to sparkling highs—without any imbalances or hint of changing drivers.

Rounding out the Wilson Benesch’s virtues are a deathly quiet noise floor and low overall distortion. These traits, too, add to the speaker’s sense of musical suspense, since dynamic bursts seem to come out of nowhere. Yet there is a remarkably delicate filigree to quieter passages. Through the Resolution, overtones and decays hang in the air like drifting clouds.

No speaker is perfect—not even those that fall into this rarified class. My first nit with the Resolution is that, outside the bass region, transients are not quite as well-defined as they are on, say, the aforementioned B&W flagship. Through the 800 D3 Wes Montgomery's guitar on the SACD of A Dynamic New Sound exhibits slightly more incisiveness on the instrument’s leading edges. My second and last nit is that when it comes to high-end extension, the Resolution can’t quite match the infinite airiness of my reference Metaphor 1s. That’s not surprising, given that my reference is equipped with Raven ribbon tweeters, which always outdistance dynamic drivers in this regard. 

The important point about these minor shortcomings, though, is that while they do exist, they’re not a factor during actual listening. I only became aware of them when comparing the Resolution to speakers that are out-performers in these respective areas. The diminutive degree of the Resolution’s drawbacks meant that I never had to listen “past” them.

So how did Wilson Benesch pull all this off? I’m sure it’s due to a combination of hundreds of choices both big and small. But I’d like to focus on just two of the speaker’s design elements, because they are so uncommon.

The first of these is the use of carbon fibre in the Resolution’s cabinet. As all TAS readers are aware, in speaker cabinets stiffness is everything. The extreme lengths to which manufacturers go to make their cabinets immovable is proof of that maxim. Magico, for instance, famously uses elaborately braced sheets of CNC aluminium to ensure stiff cabinets. Estelon makes its speakers out of solid marble. Both Rockport and Wilson developed synthetic, ultra-inert proprietary materials for their enclosures.

In a way, though, all of these are brute-force approaches. They’re massive, heavy, and thick. Wilson Benesch sought something more elegant. Wouldn’t it be nice, they thought, if there were a material even stiffer than aluminium, etc., that also did away with the associated mass? Wouldn’t such a material make possible a speaker with the low coloration of a stiff cabinet, while allowing for greater cabinet volume even as it reduced the speaker’s overall size? Yes, it would be nice, and such a material exists. It’s called carbon fibre.

Most of us have heard of carbon fibre, a high-tech substance that offers an unparalleled combination of lightness and rigidity. The most frequent sightings of this exotic substance are in the form of dash appliqués in sporty cars, where its benefits are largely cosmetic. However, a select few cutting-edge sports cars—BMW’s i8 and the McLarens come to mind—are made from carbon fiber precisely because it is much lighter and stiffer than aluminium, let alone steel.

To appreciate the virtues of carbon fiber, imagine a normal ice cream cone. If you try to bend it in the middle, it’ll crack in half. No surprise; sugar cake is brittle. Now imagine that same cone made out of paper. Try to bend it the same way and, although it won’t crack or tear, it’ll immediately cave in. Paper isn’t brittle, but it’s also not very stiff. An ice cream cone made of suitably-thick aluminium wouldn’t bend or break, but it’d be shockingly heavy and, assuming the same exterior dimensions as the other cones, wouldn’t leave much room for ice cream. Now imagine that this ice cream cone is made out of carbon fiber. (Actually, I didn’t have to imagine this, since the Wilson Benesch folks who installed my Resolutions carry around such a carbon fibre cone for illustrative purposes.) This cone is just as thin as our previous paper version—less than a hair’s thickness—and light as a wisp. But try to end it and you’re in for a shock. It’s impossible. I tried my damnedest with the WB sample and couldn’t get it to budge. Carbon fibre is truly miraculous stuff.

So why doesn’t everyone use it in their speakers (or cars)? The reason is that, pound for pound, carbon fibre is incredibly expensive. Furthermore, working with CF requires a completely different skill and toolset than working with metals. This is because in raw form CF is more like cloth than steel. Consequently, it gets woven, not hammered, into place. As it happens, though, Wilson Benesch knows a thing or two about carbon fibre. The company has used the material in its turn- tables and tonearms since 1989, and began employing it in speakers in 1994. In the case of the Resolution, the entire monocoque enclosure is made of CF, which is visible along portions of the speaker’s rear, sides, and forward-canted top surface. Carbon fiber gives the Resolution a uniquely cool look, but it also imbues the speaker with uniquely serious stiffness.

As mentioned earlier, lavishing this much carbon fibre on a product isn’t cheap. The Resolution runs NZ$77k per pair. But, aside from their uncommon sonic virtues, they are something that most speakers in their price range are not: slim, lithe, and elegant. Say what you will about the Resolution’s massive competitors, none of those words typically come to mind. Deploying carbon fibre enabled Wilson Benesch to build unimposing towers that nonetheless boasted plenty of internal air space for the woofers.

Yet the company wanted to do even more to ensure that the Resolution’s svelte proportions didn’t compromise low-end energy, clarity, or extension. This brings us to the second rarely seen design element: isobaric woofer loading. Unlike carbon fiber, this technology goes way back. Robert Harley’s sidebar explains how it works, but the gist is that an isobaric configuration involves two mechanically coupled woofers with an air gap between them. The result of this seemingly simple arrangement is that, for a given front baffle area and internal air volume, an isobaric configuration will deliver twice the bass output of a non-isobaric system. The Resolution incorporates two isobaric pairs, for a total of four woofers, each measuring 7" in diameter. This quartet is complemented by a 7" upper-bass driver, a 7" midrange unit, and a 1" tweeter, all in a modified D’Appolito configuration.

The two design elements I’ve described bestow upon the Resolution two corresponding visual cues. I’ve already mentioned the carbon fibre peeking through in various spots. In addition, the use of isobaric loading explains why, when facing the speaker, you see the back end of two woofers pointing toward you. You see, isobaric woofer pairs can either face the same direction (an “in-line” configuration), which is the scenario Robert’s sidebar describes, or they can face each other (a “clamshell” configuration). In the first scenario, both woofers face forward, though you only see the one in front. But in a clamshell arrangement, the one used in the Resolution, it’s impossible not to have one woofer magnet per isobaric pair facing the listener.

The Resolution’s unique aesthetic took some adjustment on my part. I just wasn’t used to looking at a speaker and seeing the backsides of drivers. When Wilson Benesch told me that Resolution customers love the reverse-woofer configuration, I was initially skeptical. However, over time I joined their camp.

A woofer magnet, I decided, is no less attractive than its cone. Plus, it’s kind of fun to see the working end of a driver for a change. For those who can’t go there, the manufacturer provides grille covers. In sum, the Wilson Benesch Resolution is a speaker that’s full of surprises. The use of carbon fiber is surprising. The melding of this new-world technology with old-world isobaric loading is surprising. The speaker’s slender appearance is surprising, as are the unique views it affords of carbon fiber and woofer butts. Most surprising of all is the Resolution’s chameleon-like ability to change its colors to reflect the music and the recording it’s playing. This is a speaker that never gets old, familiar, or boring. It’s a speaker you really can live with over the long run.

Setup Tips

If you think the Resolutions are going to be featherweights thanks to their carbon-fibre monocoques, your back will quickly inform you otherwise. Though carbon fibre forms the Resolution’s rigid foundation, it’s complemented with internal and external applications of machined aluminum. The result is a speaker that doesn’t look as heavy as it is. So be cautious during setup, and let your dealer take the lead. As for placement, in my room the speakers ended up being well apart, comfortably ahead of the wall behind them, and only slightly toed in.
Your dealer may well encourage you to use the beautifully-machined feet that Wilson Benesch supplies with the speaker. However, if I were you I’d stick with the spikes, also supplied. I tried the feet on my carpeted listening room floor and found the sound problematic in multiple ways. Switching to the spikes, which dug down to the concrete below the carpet, ameliorated all issues. Even if I had a wood floor that I didn’t want to mar, I’d use the spikes in conjunction with those little cups that protect the surface below. (it is worthwhile to trial both options to see whats best for your situation)
The back panel of the Resolution supports bi-wiring and that’s clearly the optimal arrangement. However, not having two identical runs of speaker cable, I used the usual single run. This necessitated jumper cables between the speaker’s high-frequency and low-frequency binding posts. Wilson Benesch thoughtfully provides suitable jumpers, but I found them lacking in energy and openness. Further, they imparted a midbass heaviness and an upper-end shrillness. I therefore enlisted my cable provider, Empirical Design, to build me a set of suitable jumpers. The new jumpers eliminated all of the above concerns.

The superior sound I achieved by using ED jumpers won’t necessarily translate to every setup. The improvement I heard may well have been due to the speaker wire and jumpers being of identical material and construction. The lesson here, though, is that if you’re not bi-wiring you shouldn’t simply assume that the supplied jumpers are ideal. Instead, experiment a bit and consider getting a set that matches your speaker cables.

Robert Harley Explains Isobaric Loading 

How a woofer and its enclosure are configured is called the woofer’s “loading.” The three main types of loading are, in descending order of popularity, reflex (also called “bass reflex” or “porting”), infinite baffle (also called “air suspension” or “sealed”), and transmission line. But there’s a fourth type of loading that’s rarely used despite its technical advantages over these other techniques—isobaric loading. Isobaric loading is also known by the more descriptive generic term “constant pressure chamber.” (Linn Products trademarked the name “Isobarik” for its loudspeakers that employ isobaric loading.)
In isobaric loading, a second woofer is mounted directly behind the first woofer and driven in parallel with it. As the front woofer moves back, so does the second; this maintains a constant pressure inside the small chamber between the two woofers. This technique offers deeper low-frequency extension, higher power handling, greater linearity, and reduced standing-wave reflections inside the enclosure. Isobaric loading reduces sensitivity because the amplifier must drive two woofers, although only one produces acoustic output. The technique also increases the cost because the number of woofers must be doubled for approximately the same bass output as a single woofer. Two woofers mounted in an Isobaric configuration can be modelled as a single woofer whose greater mass and compliance deliver deep bass in an enclosure half the usual.

Awards

Wilson Benesch has been named a ‘Golden Ear’ Award winner by The Absolute Sound USA for its Resolution floorstanding loudspeaker.

4th August, 2018 – Wilson Benesch today announces that it has been named a ‘Golden Ear’ Award winner by The Absolute Sound USA for its Resolution floorstanding loudspeaker.

Wilson Benesch’s Resolution loudspeaker was launched in 2017 and has received praise from across the industry, winning a Los Angeles Audio Show ‘Alfie’ the summer of its launch, with Jonathan Valin commenting,

“On a roll lately, Wilson Benesch was debuting the Resolution, a seven-driver three-way (four clamshell-mounted Tactic II woofers, two Tactic II midranges, and a single silk-dome/carbon-fiber tweeter in a monocoque carbon-fiber-composite cabinet). In the first room… the sound was stat-like in its clarity and absence of enclosure coloration… in the second room the sound was… reminiscent of the Rockport Cygnus in the Soulution room—beautiful in color, with superior pace and definition in the low end. Wilson Benesch makes swell loudspeakers.”

The Resolution has since been submitted for review with the Audiobeat’s Roy Gregory who added,

“The Wilson Benesch Resolution is a superb loudspeaker… it delivers a level of musical coherence and insight, a balance of the convincing and the communicative, that puts it at the forefront of current loudspeaker performance.”

The full Absolute Sound review to compliment this award will be available in winter 2018. Until then you can read both the Audiobeat Resolution review and the recently published HIFI+ system review of Resolution with CH Precision.

Videos

Wilson Benesch Resolution & Circle 25 TT w CH Precision @ Bristol Show Sound and Vision 2018

New! darTZeel NHB-108 Two w Wilson Benesch Resolution at Absolute Hi End