Financial Times report highlights the latest SMART Funding award that will bolster Wilson Benesch research and emphatically recognises the company’s single minded pursuit of perfection in audio reproduction through innovation an ethos that has been adhered to and which is to be celebrated by the company’s silver jubilee.
‘The tenacious mavericks who stick with their inventions’ the title says it all. After years of research Wilson Benesch released its first design in 1989 the ‘Wilson Benesch Turntable’. It was a product that countered the media frenzy about CD and “The perfect sound” of digital. In retrospect it is clear that the carbon fibre / nomex advanced composite sub chassis at the heart of this radical design was a statement of intent, that this company wanted to do things differently, to genuinely bring something new and highly innovative to the high end audio fraternity. It was also unashamedly in complete disagreement with the audio world about the future of analogue.
We have a clever team of people who do not want to do what has been done before. We want to provide better ways and more efficient ways of getting the perfect sound – Craig Milnes, Design Director, Financial Times, February 2014
Whilst the A.C.T One Tonearm may not have been the first carbon based tonearm (it was preceded by the black widow which was never commercialised), it was the world’s first arm to benefit from a hyperbolic curve. The helix of carbon that forms tonearm tube flows seamlessly into a four millimeter thick solid carbon headshell. Like the ACT sub chassis it was in ever way truly innovative, with exceptional performance to match. The design went on to become a classic and laid the foundations upon which Wilson Benesch could grow its manufacturing and design operation.
At the time when Wilson Benesch released the A.C.T. One Tonearm, Lotus Cars were the only other company in the UK manufacturing carbon composite components for use in commercial products using the same Resin Transfer Molding Technology (RTM). RTM allowed for complex, geometrically optimised shapes to be formed, which maximised the incredible strength and damping properties of this new space age technology which was itself a British invention.
Years prior, McLaren raised the profile of carbon composites with the introduction of the MP4/1 Formula One racing car. The carbon fibre tub was manufactured using RTM. However, the first McLaren production car to see this kind of technology rolled out on mass wouldn’t be until 2009 when the MP4-12c was announced. Today McLaren can manufacture the tubs used in the MP4-12c in 4-hours, where the original MP4/1 tub required 4,000-hours.
There in lies the problem. Manufacturing carbon composites is expensive and incredibly difficult to perfect. For all the unique properties that carbon composites bring; stiffness, to resist deformation in the cabinet walls and therefore low frequency distortions or cabinet noise, low mass to give a very high cabinet first resonant frequency, high frequencies are much more easily damped by surrounding structures, and high energy absorption or damping properties to absorb and dissipate much of the cabinet born resonances aforementioned; it is still an expensive and high risk business.
Wilson Benesch apply a total system approach to design and manufacturing. We have complete control over every element of a product; from concept, through manufacturing and into production. The Wilson Benesch brand and product portfolio is totally unique. Manufacturing and producing a Wilson Benesch product is akin to building a luxury sports car such as a Ferrari or McLaren. We are talking about highly skilled craftsmen, hand built components and meticulous attention to detail. The fit and finish is always perfect – Christina Milnes, Managing Director, Wilson Benesch
To make matters more complex, the carbon fibre seen in a Wilson Benesch product is entirely absent from imperfections, a feat achieved by very, very few. Pioneering carbon fibre, ‘Advanced Composite Technologies (A.C.T.) in High End Audio design has been a long, hard and at times perilous pursuit, but 25-Years later, the Wilson Benesch product line bears testimony to the original ethos. As the FT asserts “the success of innovative technology often depends on persistence”.