This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the June 2008 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or WLM. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: vinyl - Acoustic Solid MPX; Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12 Zoll; Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 501 MK II, Zu Audio DL-103; digital - audiolab 8000CD
Amplification: integrated - Lua 4040C, Myryad MXI 2080; MastersounD DueVenti and DueTrenta [on review]; preamp - bel canto PRe 3, Funk LAP-2; power amp - bel canto M300 monos, SAC il piccolo monos
Loudspeakers: Volent Paragon VL-2, Zu Audio Druid mk4
Cables: low-level - Ecosse Baton + Symphony, fis Audio Livetime, Funk BS-2, van den Hul Integration Hybrid, Zaolla Reinsilber NF; phono - fis Audio, WSS Silver Line; high-level - Ecosse SMS2.3, fis Audio Livetime, Ixos 6006 Gamma, Zu Audio Libtec
Power distribution: fis Audio Livetime
Rack: Creactiv & Taoc AS-3
Review component retail: €2.990/pr

This ain't no wall flower
My secret to-be-reviewed list, subject header 'might be interesting', isn't getting any shorter. A few items have squatted there seemingly forever. Others have slid back because of unexpected incidents. Or because new stuff was added on top. Thus it is that a WLM loudspeaker – their newest model La Scala to be exact – took until now to appear in these pages. But apparently to great anticipation to redeem this delay. Our first exposure to WLM dates back to High End 2007. Something pulled me into the Austrians' exhibit. Well, not just anything. Let's call it "hard-hung paper cones, high sensitivity", a personal penchant groomed by my Zu Audio Druids. Also, WLM's strange treble system had an enviable rep. Indeed, certain sonic virtues which I rate highly -- timing, dynamics, tonal coherence -- were plainly evident.

But there was more, particularly a very strong soundstaging with poignant localization cues, no etching but freely suspended sonic images without disembodied ghostliness. A brilliant demo especially considering the usual room-suck limitations of tradeshow exhibits. Granted, WLM played their special trump card of active electronics to make for adaptive loudspeaker performance (rather than the inverse whereby speaker performance is always imposed upon by the room). Leashed to WLM's Grand Viola flagship, there were quite a few of the firm's own 'black' boxes in line.

At this year's Munich show however, WLM was apparently keen on proving that they can make good sound in a rather lower price class. Instead of showing off their best effort as is widespread practice, they presented their just-launched La Scala in monitor and tower guises (€2.490 and 2.990/pr respectively) which displace the popular Diva models (€2.990/3.990/pr) as the new entry models into the WLM world. At High End 2008, Almarro's new A340 monos provided power and word of mouth had it that they worked well. Truthfully, Munich wasn't my place to get down and intimate with anything. Also, one of my ears was trained on Hannes Frick who is responsible for industrial design, production and management at WLM. I just had to tell him about a certain list I carry around in my grey matter.

A home audition is much better and something I just concluded after a few weeks' worth of moshing with the La Scala floorstander. July 2008 is the anticipated production roll-out. How does this traditional 2-way fit into WLM's range? These folks are a pretty recent outfit whose first production model launched in 2003. During the last five years, our Österreichers managed to expand and meanwhile distribute into 30 countries, apparently greeted by strong reactions from audiophile fans rather than in response to massive marketing pressure. To be sure, this is no massive corporation but rather, an "audiophile blue collar" affair with a concomitant small core team of Thomas Gröfler, Martin Schützenauer and Hannes Frick [left to right, above]. The latter is a trained sculptor, master woodworker and the owner/operator of Fricco Referenz Audio, a high-end boutique in Sulz/Vorarlberg dealing in quality audio components over the last 20 years (and not merely WLM products). Thomas
Gröfler, master cabinet maker, is responsible for anything mechanical, in particular loudspeaker enclosure production. Last but not least, there is Martin Schützenauer, developer of WLM speakers and peak athlete, multiple Olympian and silver medalist bobsledder. This plays straight into my fascination with colorful characters and unusual life experience. Herr Schützenauer is also a trained information technician who got infected by the hifi flu in his teens. The secretive PAC treble module is his invention and all WLM speakers are based on his concepts.

Speaker production is 100% Austrian in a kind of East/West time share. Crossover and electronics production occurs in Vienna under the aegis of Herr Schützenauer while Sulz/Vorarlberg in Western Austria is WLM headquarters and shipment central with the speaker assembly line/woodshop. With numerous upgrade options, WLM's catalogue is a mite confusing. There are three ranges. The Basic Series includes the La Scala and Diva (possibly the most popular WLM speaker) in monitor and floorstanding versions. The Aura monitor and Lyra tower make up the Reference Series but also show up in the top Signature Series, albeit now fitted with the top Super-PAC treble system. WLM's top model is the Grand Viola, likewise in stand-mount or floorstanding iterations.

Models in the Reference and Signature lines can be had in fully active guise. At first curious is that the active models cost less than the passives. On second glance, that's deceiving because the active crossovers must be acquired separately. While on electronics, there's a true handful of low-frequency equalizers, passive line stages, an LF amp and active networks to which the speakers can be strapped to adjust to room and taste. And WLM has three different subwoofers. As suggested earlier, for a newer operation, this is a massively deep (and somewhat confounding) lineup.

A glance at the company's core philosophy adds relevant data points:
1. High to very high voltage sensitivities combined with benign impedance curves. At 91dB/W/m, the La Scala monitor occupies the lowest sensitivity rung on WLM's speaker ladder. Typical house values are 97-98dB. This penchant for effective power conversion could be due to a love of valves or dynamics. In either case, small signal fluctuations translate into greater voltage swings. Nor are WLM speakers thin-skinned. They easily absorb 200 watts if not more.
2. Diaphragm material: paper. After extensive tests, Herr Schützenauer concluded that good ol' paper is the optimum material to balance the triangular demands of mass, stiffness and resonant behavior. He's a particular stickler on the latter. No driver made is utterly free of breakup modes or resonances. Hence it's not just distortion reduction that's vital but spectral distribution of said artifacts. Here paper turns out to be harmonically more benign than other materials.

3. The Reference and Signature ranges benefit from PAC or Super-PAC tweeters, an abbreviation for Phase Acoustically Corrected. Developed in house, these HF modules are exclusive to WLM but marginally documented. Clear only is that two dynamic drivers make up each module, with one aiming directly at the listener's ear (ascertained with the included aiming device), the other at the side wall to feed the reflective ambient field. The goal is a phase-correct natural mixture of direct and reflected sounds in the treble range as well as proper blending with the midrange and bass. All this is said to be responsible for the uncommon soundstaging brilliance of WLM speakers. The Super-PAC system is exclusive to the Signature models, offers greater surface area than the standard PAC, pure silver cabling and tighter driver matching. On demand, WLM can upgrade PAC with Super-PAC modules regardless of model.

4. Two beliefs seem central to our Austrians: a/ All else being equal, active drive is superior to passive. b/ Deliberate electronic compensation is desirable by offering adaptation to room-induced conditions. But it's not mandatory, hence optional. This prompted not just WLM's own electronic boxes but the passive to partial/full active conversion scheme. In the Reference and Signature models, a €200 surcharge adds a passive/active toggle which can bypass the internal crossover altogether.
5/ "Compact speakers are for small rooms and hifi newbies, floorstanders for bona fide audiophiles with bigger rooms." Poppycock. Well, that's a bit harsh perhaps but if my perusal of WLM's price list adds up properly, one could spend well in excess of 20.000 euros for a top system consisting of monitors, subwoofer and active crossover whereas the top Grand Viola MkII floorstander clocks in at a 'mere' 14.000. That's telling. As are three different subwoofers. I read into that "less flex and cabinet talk with smaller enclosures" and "subwoofers offer more setup flexibility".