Essential Macau | Magnum Opus

Wilson Audio unveil the best speakers in the world to the European press

By Guilherme Marques

There are invitations that have to be read twice in order to believe them. An invitation for the European launch of WAMM Master Chronosonic is, without a shadow of a doubt, just such a case.  Fortunately, it was not just my imagination working overtime.

The Magnum Opus from Dave Wilson, generally considered to be the best sound speakers in the world, were the star attraction in a five-day programme in which the national and international press, the general public and special invited guests by Wilson Audio had the opportunity to discover a product which has no equals. The 70 pairs that Wilson Audio will produce will have the hefty price tag of around US$1 million depending, of course, on the taxes in each country.

The listening experience was the responsibility of Peter McGrath, one of the biggest names in high-fidelity in the world. Wilson Audio’s commercial director leads over 100 invited guests from various countries through various sessions, demonstrating all the potential of WAMM through impressive Dan D’Agostino Relentless amplifiers, each with 258 Kg and 1500W of power.

But where actually do the WAMM Master Chronosonic come from?

David A. Wilson II was born on 8 September 1944 in Inglewood, South Carolina.   From childhood Dave was interested in music and equipment, particularly sound speakers.  In 1964 he transferred from American River Junior College to Brigham Young University where he completed a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology and Chemistry. Perhaps even more important than that, it was at BYU that Dave met Sheryl Lee Jamison. As it happens, the two got together through a project that Sheryl was working on to do with audio recording.  Dave got interested in the project and then got interested in Sheryl Lee. The two got married on 6 September 1966 and went to live in Glendale, California.

Dave Wilson’s first job was working for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer but his years working for the drug giant did not tear him away from his true passion: music.  While meeting his professional obligations, this zoologist by training continued to research around his hobby: how to create the perfect sound speakers?

In 1974, Dave and Sheryl Lee founded Wilson Audio Specialities Inc. in his own house in Novato, Marin Country, California.  Like so many other companies which today are giants in their market, Wilson started off in its founder’s garage which served as an incubator for a whole host of ideas which today have materialised in each pair of speakers that leave the factory.

At the start of the 1980s, Dave unveiled his first Wilson Audio Modular Monitor speakers.  The WAMM were modular speakers which were physically adjustable in relation to others in the time domain, which, in fact, was nothing more than the physical manifestation of Dave’s theories regarding a realistic musical recreation.  To slap the label of progress on the original WAMM is to downplay the significance that this product has had on the high-end hi-fi universe. Obviously, it is for some reason that Wilson Audio is today the most famous name in its segment.

From a garage in California, the Wilson couple moved on up to larger and larger commercial premises until in the mid-1990s they settled in a flagship premises in Provo, Utah – strangely enough the same small town where the two met while attending Brigham Young University.    

The desire to be different and rival the greatest and best brands at that time did not distract Dave and Sheryl from the essential and Wilson Audio has always been based on the principles of authenticity and excellence which, in time, attracted one of the most talented, if not the most talented team of engineers in the history of audio.   Wilson Audio became a highly specialised technology centre where the reality of the tools available to the team and the speed of their discoveries had nothing to do with the heights that the original WAMM were catapulted to by a young and ambitious zoologist.

Particularly well known for its use of exotic materials, completely ruling out the use of wood derivatives, Wilson focused on epoxy laminates and composites and phenolic resins, achieving a peak of development and use of the same that has no parallel in the hi-fi market.   For that, one has to look to the automotive and aerospace industries.  Research into these materials in relation to factors which actually improved the sound of music have been a key point in the continued efforts by Wilson to raise the benchmark of its performance.   The US brand is equipped with space-grade tools that enable its engineers an observation and correct procedure in terms of casing vibrations and at the level of nanometres (a billionth of a metre).

Dave Wilson died on 26 May 2017 in his house at Provo after a long battle with cancer, surrounded by Sheryl Lee and his 4 sons and 15 grandchildren, but not before revealing to the world his greatest work, the Wilson Audio Modular Monitor Master Chronosonic, his life project which is also a reflection of all the ideas and possibilities ever dreamed up from a small garage in California belonging to who is universally considered the most brilliant creator of audio speakers of all time.  

The idea behind the Master Chronosonic is relatively simple: and what if the modular concept of the original WAMM was revised and adapted using the very latest technology?

An idea of over 15 years which took five years to develop from the moment that Dave Wilson decided to move forward with the project, the WAMM Master Chronosonic is a product without equal.  Each unit weighs 408kg, the packaging for the pair weighs 1188kg and air transport implies a crate of almost 2 tonnes.  It takes 40 hours to set the sound system up and only 8 people in the world have the skills necessary to do so.

From the moment the order is received, Wilson takes two months to build a pair and with countless possibilities for customisation the final cost of the pair can be over US$1 million.

The two hours spent hearing a sound system costing €1,500,000 was a new, unique and probably unrepeatable experience in which one understands that the world belongs to those who can break existing frontiers and make to what others seems to be only possible in the realm of dreams.

The legacy of Dave and Sheryl Lee is today bequeathed to Daryl Wilson, CEO of Wilson Audio since 2016 who is the eldest of the couple’s four sons. The responsibility that has fallen to Daryl is huge and involves maintaining the name Wilson Audio alive, a company whose average price tag for speakers sold to the public is US$70,000 and which over the past 45 years has transformed the scientific process into an art form, materialised in products that have spread the ingenuity of Man in its maximum exponent.   In general, all the Wilson models are a reference in their segment and any new model from a competitor is inevitably measured by the maxim: Are they better than Wilson? The reply tends to be no.