Design & Manufacturing; A story of High Risk and Innovation

Wilson Benesch Directors Christina and Craig Milnes with the Head Design Engineers, Alex and GordonFinancial 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

Wilson Benesch - Turntable - A.C.T.One Tonearm - Strong Carbon Fibre - British Innovation - Engineering - Legacy - 2013 - Analogue CollectionWhilst 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.

The McLaren MP4-1 Carbon Fibre Tub used in the 1982 Formula 1 World Championship Winning Car. The same RTM Technology is used to mold the Wilson Benesch Carbon Fibre Monocoque

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”.

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SMART Funding & The Advanced Manufacturing Park

Wilson Benesch win substantial Technology Strategy Board SMART Funding

The ‘step change’ in performance witnessed in the Cardinal was due entirely to decades of consistent re-investment in ambitious Research & Development programs that have always focused on the fundamentals. This commitment to innovation has been further supported by consistent ground level investment in our manufacturing suite and intellectual property.

With these unique strengths we have put in place the building blocks that enable a step change. The cabinet architecture, the Tactic Drive Unit technology, Isobaric systems, the Torus, the Semisphere each and every building block provides the grammar and syntax of a unique language that delivers distinctively different beautifully designed and quintessentially British designs.

As 2013 drew to a close, many will recall it as yet another year of instability and uncertainty in markets across the globe and yet the seeds of economic recovery appear to be rooting and from it there are signs of growth across the UK, Europe and USA. With the UK Manufacturing sector tipped to outgrow Europe and exceed the overall growth of the UK economy in 2014, Wilson Benesch are delighted to announce that the company has applied for and won further government ‘SMART’ funding to enable its high risk R&D program to continue.

Driving Innovation, a Technology Strategy Board Initiative

In winning SMART Funding in 2014, Wilson Benesch add a fourth such SMART project to the rich history of highly innovative projects led by the company, such as the Bishop project. A remarkable feat in itself, but one that proves without reservation, the unique position attained by the Wilson Benesch and it’s ability to satisfy the strict criteria for grant funding to be awarded.

With Four patents already in place and a further eight in progress, the TSB SMART funding is valued at approximately a quarter of a million pounds that is in part supported by the Technology Strategy Board and in part by Wilson Benesch.

Expansion: The Advanced Manufacturing Park
The new Research & Development Facility will allow Wilson Benesch to accelerate its product development and SMART Funded Research program

The huge success of Wilson Benesch’s many pioneering R&D programs has always been built upon collaboration with the greatest minds and organisation’s across the globe. In October 2013 Wilson Benesch opened a new R&D / Demonstration Facility on the UKs largest advanced manufacturing park, the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).

From the Wilson Benesch window the logos of Rolls Royce and Boeing Aerospace The Nuclear Research facility and the Technology Transfer Centre and many more reside next to a broad range of the most pioneering high tech company’s in the world. A purpose built AMRC Training Centre opened on the 23rd January 2014. The new intake of 150 Engineering apprentices starts this January and will ensure a rich vein of quality trained people for the region and the UK as a whole. This will further bolster the already massive investments made by Sheffield’s two leading education institutions, the Sheffield University and the Sheffield Hallam University.

Having completed large parts of the Cardinal loudspeaker and Geometry Series developments with the Universities, the new Wilson Benesch Research Facility will provide a vital base from which these key partners can work collaboratively on the new technologies born from the SMART Project.

In 2014 Wilson Benesch celebrates it’s 25th Anniversary and begins what promises to be a rich period in the companies history. We look forward to sharing it with you. The Future is Carbon.

The new Research & Development Facility will allow Wilson Benesch to accelerate its loudspeaker and analogue replay system product development and SMART Funded Research program

Wilson Benesch: The Future is Carbon

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Square Series II, Square Five Review 2014

Wilson Benesch Square Five receives strong UK review in 2014

With 2014 just 10-days old, Wilson Benesch are delighted to be able to share with you the first product review of the year, in the shape of the new Square Series II flagship, the Square Five. The review is a tour de force and firmly stamps the authority of Wilson Benesch’s new design path, which has been led by the extensive research and development completed in the Cardinal project.

if the Square Five were developed from scratch, I hate to think how much it would have cost. But because it can piggyback on the development costs already invested in the Cardinal, the result is, in technological and material terms, really quite incredible. A true example of trickle-down technology, it’s way beyond a bargain; by any normal measure this is an absolute steal

Roy Gregory, The Audiobeat, January 2014

The Troika System seen in the Series II, Square Five loudspeaker

The Square Five is a four-way system acoustically, but presents itself electrically at the amplifier as a two-way system; a trick made possible by the complete autonomy and control the Wilson Benesch design team has over every element in loudspeaker design. Precisely it is the highly optimised and totally bespoke multi roll Tactic Drive Unit that allows Wilson Benesch to carefully tailor the Square Five so that subtractive crossover filters on three of the driver interfaces are entirely absent. Instead Wilson Benesch rolls off each driver mechanically with absolute precision.

the ability to shape each driver’s response with such precision, to fit it so precisely to purpose, that makes the Square Five possible. The result is not just tonally even and dynamically coherent; absent the discontinuities in harmonic color and musical energy that mar so many loudspeakers, the Square Fives achieve a level of musical expression and communication that belies their price… it brings a sophistication, nuance and substance to the musical event that make for both instant engagement and long-term satisfaction

Roy Gregory, The Audiobeat, January 2014

The Square Five was launched in August 2013 at the luxurious London Smart APP-artment, Cornflake. It will make its UK Exhibition debut at the Bristol Sound & Vision Show on 21st February 2014.

You can read the full unedited review of the Square Five here.

For more information about our Bristol Sound & Vision Exhibition please see here.

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The Vinyl Revival

Wilson Benesch celebrate Record Day UK 2013, Vinyl on the Full Circle Turntable
The figures are In
At the turn of the year the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) releases details of music sales performance for the previous year. The 2013 figures are in and they show a number of interesting changes in the the way that the public are consuming music.

Overall, music sales in all its various incarnations were in excess of £1bn – good news for the music industry as a whole. Physical sales of CDs remains the largest slice in this pie, representing a total of 64% of this figure in 2013. However this is not the whole story. The future of the CD medium might well be on shaky ground, as this market share is down 12.8% on the 2012 figure.

So what’s steadily replacing it you might ask. Well leading the way in terms of overall increases in market share is digital streaming. Until now streaming data had not been included in the BPI report for UK market figures, however the BPI has calculated that the value of subscription services such as Spotify and Deezer has now exceeded the £100 million mark for the first time and now accounts for 10% of the total market share. A 34% rise on the 2012 figure, when its share stood at 7%.

The way that music is discovered and enjoyed by fans continues to be shaped by the rapid evolution of digital technology, and 2013 arguably witnessed an even bigger shift in this dynamic as growing numbers took advantage of increased ownership of tablets and smartphones to either download or stream their favorite songs and albums ~ The British Phonographic Society, January 2014

Digital downloads show a 6.8% increase from the 2012 figures. 32.6 million albums were downloaded in 2013, but the really important figure here is that this represents a 100% growth on the level 5-years ago. Digital downloads therefore represent the most significant positive growth in any medium as far as actual consumer ownership is concerned.

The Vinyl Revival
Another striking figure from 2013 is the unbridled success of vinyl – dare we say it ‘the vinyl revival’. In 2013, 780,000 LPs were sold in the UK an astounding 101% increase on 2012′s figure and over 270% on five years ago. The total sales figures for vinyl have not been seen since 1997.

The vinyl format increasingly appeals to an engaged audience of younger artists and consumers alike, who appreciate its iconic heritage as part of Rock and Pop culture. The format’s profile and sales have also been driven by the success of annual events such as Record Store Day.

The first product that Wilson Benesch realised was the Wilson Benesch Turntable in 1989. For the High End Audio enthusiast, vinyl still represents to many the finest medium in which to replay your most cherished music. Wilson Benesch still believe the best way to enjoy music in high fidelity is on vinyl. It is why analogue still forms the backbone of all our High End Audio demonstrations globally. In 2014 Wilson Benesch continue to manufacture some of the finest analogue playback systems available. This year Wilson Benesch celebrate our heritage with the release of a special Anniversary Edition of the Full Circle, the Full Circle 25 to mark our 25th Anniversary and our continued commitment to the medium that is vinyl.
Wilson Benesch Celebrate Record Day 2013 with Vinyl on the Full Circle, A.C.T. 0.5 Tonearm, vinyl revival

Retail investment in the future of music reached an all-time high in 2013 as streaming services scaled up their offering. It means UK music fans now have an unprecedented choice of ways to enjoy the music they love – from traditional indie record shops to specialist High Street chains, supermarkets and a dizzying array of internet and digital services. As long as labels keep producing hits, our members will be there to deliver them to music fans ~ Kim Bayley, Director General of the Entertainment Retailers’ Association (ERA), 2014

The good news is, regardless of your choice, be it vinyl, CD, streaming online or via digital downloads we are all consuming and enjoying music more. Ultimately this is our shared passion – long may it live.

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WB Launch in Vietnam with Norman Audio

Wilson Benesch, A.C.T. C60, Vertex Loudspeaker, Geometry Series, Square Series II, Wide Bandwidth Collection, Vietnam, Hanoi Audio Visual Show 2013, Norman Audio DistributionThe impressive rise of the Wilson Benesch stock in Asia continued last weekend with the announcement that Premier Vietnamese Distributors Norman Audio, would now be making Wilson Benesch one of its leading brands.

During the Hanoi Audio Visual Show, Norman Audio unveiled products from across the Wilson Benesch portfolio, including the Geometry Series, Square Series II and the Wide Bandwidth Collection. The main presentation was made using the A.C.T. C60 and the Vertex in partnership with Dan D’Agostino Amplification.

Wilson Benesch Managing Director, Christina Milnes added:

“It is an honour to be working with the Premier Audio Distributor in Vietnam, Norman Audio. The Vietnamese market is developing quickly and there are many discerning clients who, like our clients in Japan and China, recognise the unrivaled quality, craftmanship and prestige that comes with a British Audio Design like Wilson Benesch.”

Wilson Benesch, A.C.T. C60, Vertex Loudspeaker, Geometry Series, Square Series II, Wide Bandwidth Collection, Vietnam, Hanoi Audio Visual Show 2013, Norman Audio Distribution

To arrange a demonstration please contact Norman Audio.

Norman Audio Vietnam Co. Ltd.
213 Bis Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street
Ward 7 District 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel. +84 – 90 8130686

Wilson Benesch: The Future is Carbon

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