When you charge £140,000 (USD 184,000) for a pair of loudspeakers and call them ‘Eminence’, they had better be good….darn good!
Wilson Benesch have done just that by introducing their flagship EMINENCE loudspeakers at the pinnacle of the Geometry series of high-end hi-fi audio products.
I was surprised to discover that Wilson Benesch is a patriotic British manufacture founded and based in Sheffield, U.K. Starting up with only £25,000 in 1989, matched by an equivalent grant from the Department of Trade and Industry, Wilson Benesch today is a highly optimised and vertically aligned design and manufacturer, comprised of a team of highly trained craftsmen, designers and engineers. Their ‘next big thing’ R&D idea resulted in a multi-award winning product, that would establish the company among the landscape of high-end audio. The product was the Wilson Benesch Turntable with ‘Advanced Composite Technology’ or A.C.T. One Tonearm.
At that time, Wilson Benesch was amongst only four British companies working on composite carbon-fibre technology and two of them were ‘never-mentioned’ military projects!
Today, the Wilson Benesch product portfolio includes high-end loudspeakers, analogue audio nanotechnology tonearms and audiophile furniture.
My surprise came about because I graduated from Sheffield University and had left the dark Satanic mills of South Yorkshire just before Wilson Benesch was founded by Craig and Christina Milnes, who still manage the firm today. In those days, the death of steel and coal-mining industry left a deep depression in the area. Kudos to the Milnes for surviving and flourishing!
Wilson Benesch has been at the forefront of carbon composite loudspeaker enclosures and their proprietary A.C.T. Monocoque enclosure offers the lowest signal-to-noise benchmark ratio in the industry. The Cardinal loudspeaker in 2013 represented a bold design statement, starting a line of products that would become the award-winning reference Geometry Series. Since then, they have continued to develop the technology in the Geometry Series to achieve new levels of performance.
The new Eminence loudspeaker builds upon the patrimony of the Cardinal and its key technologies a step further. Eminence introduces the Tactic 3.0 mid-range and bass driver, the scintillating Fibonacci Silk-Carbon Hybrid Tweeter with a new decoupled motor design and the new A.C.T. 3ZERO Monocoque, occupying the pinnacle of Wilson Benesch loudspeaker design and engineering.
Fibonacci, the latest version of Wilson Benesch tweeter technology, builds on the semi-sphere design (a hybrid dome based on carbon fibre) that the brand introduced in 2012. The faceplate is fashioned from a carbon fibre composite structure and, along with the motor, is decoupled from the rest of the tweeter chassis. Wilson Benesch claims this achieves a flat frequency response, wide dispersion and low distortion levels.
Tactic 3.0 Driver
They optimised Fibonacci to work with the new 17cm Tactic 3.0 mid/bass drivers, which feature cones made of polypropylene for its stiffening and damping qualities. Like the brand’s previous top-of-the-range models, the midrange driver remains crossover-free: what you get is what you hear.
A.C.T. 3ZERO Monocoque
This mouthful of nomenclature is “the most advanced Wilson Benesch enclosure ever built”, or so they say. The secret recipe is a new proprietary core material that increases the stiffness-to-damping ratio of the cabinet by 30%. a Ironically, from a city whose steel industry has died, they use steel ties to compress the vertical structures and reduce resonance.
The largest component that makes up the Eminence needed 250,000 lines of CNC (computer numerical control) code and 16 hours of machining to reduce a 100kg solid aluminum billet to less than half its mass to create a monolithic 38kg plinth. The total weight of each speaker is an awesome 145kg….good luck to the geeky obsessive audiophiles fine-tuning their equipment positioning. When you plonk this baby down, it stays down and you’ll only do it once!
The Wilson Benesch flagship ten-driver, 2.5 channel Eminence with Torus subwoofers, driven by Ypsilon electronics sounds lovely with “breathing” out in space and staging. The strings tone was rich and with powerful dynamics of high frequency twitterings. The bass was boomy and may have needed compensatory adjustments for the room characteristics.
In a word, the Wilson Benesch Eminence is DARN good!
Don’t just take my word for it about how the Eminence sound. The geeky fans can read all the geek-speak by an eminent audiophile reviewer.
“Despite its outwardly familiar appearance, Eminence actually contains three significant technological advances, marking the introduction of the Tactic 3 drivers, an entirely new carbon sandwich for the cabinet and a complete revision to the company’s Semisphere tweeter, in turn promising improvements in system integration, linearity and clarity, especially important given Wilson Benesch’s reliance on mechanical roll-offs between cone drivers and a minimal crossover for the tweeter. The extensive application of composite grown parts has been a significant part of this story, yet more evidence of the benefits accruing from Wilson Benesch’s association with the Sheffield AMP.
Of course, the proof of any audio pudding is in the eating and the Eminence Reference didn’t disappoint. Paired with Ypsilon electronics the sound was quick, clean, lucid, organized and transparent, without ever pulling the music apart.
… we were immediately struck not just by the clarity and poise in the presentation and playing, but the sense of time, the unforced and unhurried ease with which the performance simply unrolled before us. The natural sense of scale and dimensionality played a big part in that, but it was the way this system allowed the soloist’s expressive measure and full range that made it really special.… by far the best speaker I’ve ever heard from Wilson Benesch.”
– Roy Gregory, The Audiobeat, May 2018
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).