Into the future

Wilson Benesch are pleased to announce the latest addition to their reference loudspeaker line, Omnium. Omnium is a celebration of the 'modular design' that Wilson Benesch added to their design philosophy when it released the ground-breaking Odyssey range in 2001. With each new design, the modular design approach builds upon the subtle lessons of its predecessor. Like the Porsche 911, the Omnium is then not a singular design but rather the latest evolution of a living lineage – more than 30-years of incremental improvement in the pursuit of genuine world class audio reproduction. It is this heritage that can be seen to have honed every single detail of the new Omnium loudspeaker. Omnium – from the Latin "of all".

It is a reference to heritage of three decades of R&D before it. Whilst the Omnium references all that came before it, it is also a product that marks the dawn of the next generation of materials technologies developed through a collaborative research and development project: SSUCHY. On Wednesday 9th February 2022, Wilson Benesch design director Craig Milnes will be one of 20 project partners to present in public for the first time the outcomes of this 4½-year project  on Sustainable Structural & Multifunctional Biocomposites from Hybrid Natural Fibres and bio-based Polymers. Wilson Benesch's presentation will be entitled "Next Generation Advanced Composite Technologies".

The world's first 'green loudspeaker' is just one of numerous deliverables that was the ambition of the pan-European SSUCHY Project which began in 2017. Europe's 'Horizon 2020' invested €7'400'000 to enable 13 universities, 4 SMEs and several blue-chip companies to come together, collaborate and innovate. The objective was to deliver cutting-edge science and materials technologies required by the circular economy with the mission to replace oil-based non-recyclable materials or in effect deliver next-gen materials technology. In 1994 our A.C.T. One loudspeaker disrupted the audio market. The curved carbon composite flanks, sloping top and metal baffle were radically different from the wooden enclosures of the day. The A.C.T. One loudspeaker was based upon the same honeycomb Nomex core and skins of carbon fibre prepreg that had been researched and used in the development of the Wilson Benesch turntable.

In 1999 P.E.R.A. International collaborated with Wilson Benesch to enable the company to invest in resin transfer moulding (RTM) manufacturing tech. Wilson Benesch was one of four organizations to pioneer this process in the United Kingdom. The successful results paved the way for the development of the Odyssey range launched in 2001. Thanks to continual reinvestment of profits, the move to vacuum-based systems or VRTM soon followed and in 2011 the Geometry series launched. Wilson Benesch's proven track record of successful collaborative R&D project outcomes and manufacturing excellence was central to the invitation for Wilson Benesch to become a partner in the SSUCHY Project.

SSUCHY brought together scientists from across Europe who are at the very forefront of developments in their field. Together with applied engineering expertise it became possible to accelerate work that would have taken decades for even the largest of companies. The scientific understanding of how the materials behave at the microscopic level has been validated by measurements of the actual materials. The outcome for Wilson Benesch is the new A.C.T. 3Zero Monocoque. This advanced composite structure is the largest single component in the Wilson Benesch loudspeaker enclosure and at the heart of the Eminence loudspeaker. The independently supplied data shows that for stiffness and damping, the monocoque delivers orders of magnitude superior damping capabilities than the previous generation A.C.T. Monocoque.

The A.C.T. 3Zero Monocoque is constructed from natural materials both renewable and sustainable. Through a collaborative effort with our partners, an exhaustive list of materials and hybridized structural layups were analyzed, tested and evaluated. The resulting biocomposite monocoque is almost entirely free of oil-based materials. Even the resin which the previous generation of carbon-fibre monocoque used has been replaced with a bio resin. Manufacturing is an energy-intensive process so as part of the SSUCHY Project, the manufacturing process has also been refined and optimized. Wilson Benesch's vacuum resin transfer moulding (VRTM) manufacturing systems have been fully upgraded to the state of the art. Thanks to rigorous testing and development using finite element analysis (FEA), the SSUCHY team have been able to model and determine optimal resin flow and other critical settings for the VRTM systems. This means that the new A.C.T. 3Zero Monocoque at the heart of the Omnium now requires just half the energy that was used to produce the previous generation monocoque.

"Sustainability has been at the forefront of the company's business plan for some years but as a direct result of the SSUCHY Project, the outcomes can be truly described as transformational. The SSUCHY project team has been able to not only meet the aims and objectives set out in the original project plan but to also go well beyond this to achieve market-ready finished parts."

In 2012, Wilson Benesch introduced the Semisphere, the world's first hybrid tweeter dome design based on carbon fibre. The design highlighted our understanding of composite materials technology, specifically the need for damping as well as high specific stiffness in audio structures. The latest iteration of Wilson Benesch tweeter technology builds upon the Semisphere pushing it into the next generation. The Fibonacci tweeter faceplate is formed from a carbon-fibre composite, creating a geometrically optimized waveguide tailored exactly to the unique output of the silk/carbon hybrid tweeter dome. This faceplate and motor are in turn decoupled from the rest of the tweeter chassis, achieving not only ruler-flat frequency response and ultrawide dispersion but optimal frequency and timing integration with the Tactic 3.0 midrange. The proprietary neodymium magnet open architecture precision-machined componentry ensures optimal energy paths for both acoustic and thermal energy-critical design considerations where super-low distortion levels are aspired to.

A new generation of drive unit that adheres to a steadfast design philosophy, the Tactic 3.0 drive unit retains the isotactic polypropylene cone for optimal balance of stiffness and damping. This unique blend of material properties allows Wilson Benesch to maintain the crossover-free direct amplifier-coupled design for the midrange driver. The direct link maintains zero-phase distortion. It is the harmonious relationship between these two elements that opens the heart of the music, providing the listener with a realistic, immediate, highly articulate yet natural character of the sound. Inspired by solutions found in nature and interpreted by Fibonacci's formula, the new Fibonacci element results in a drive unit that produces text-book-perfect roll off without any inductor, extended frequency response up to 4kHz and a flat frequency response within its operating range.

The principle low-frequency load of the Omnium is delivered by a series of isobaric drive systems. Here two drive units combine to create a clamshell formation with one diaphragm facing the other working in push/pull. This isotactic drive system is responsible for reproducing incredibly tight and controlled bass perfectly integrated with the Tactic 3.0 midrange driver. There are no transient delays in nature so it should come as no surprise that transducers which exhibit the fastest transient response come closer to reproducing natural sound more accurately. This has been a guiding principle in all Wilson Benesch drive unit development. The basic laws of physics dictate that a large woofer will never function with the speed and dynamics of a small drive unit. Such drive units cannot accelerate or decelerate at the same speed as smaller woofers and timing and integration are central to creating natural, lifelike audio reproduction. The step-response of the isobaric drive system is almost identical to that of the Tactic 3.0 midrange units ensuring almost perfect integration across the audio band.

When a sound wave strikes a flat surface, sound reflects in a predictable directional manner provided that the dimension of the reflective surface is large compared to the wavelength of the sound. However, the reflective nature of a structure varies according to the shape of the surface. Uneven surfaces tend to scatter energy rather than reflect it coherently. In good design form always follows function. So whilst the Omnium carbon composite top is a beautiful structure, its complex form is critical to the performance of the loudspeaker. By removing as many flat, reflective surfaces and creating complex curved structures, sound waves striking the speaker enclosure scatter and their energy and therefore audible presence reduce. The Omnium owes much of its phenomenal capacity to present a spatial soundstage and transparent imaging to the curved carbon composite forms of the top and the A.C.T. 3Zero Monocoque. The loudspeaker stealthily disappears within the listening space, leaving an ethereal soundstage and lifelike presentation.

The stepped features seen in the Omnium's foot are a reference to its larger sibling the Eminence. Hewn in house by Wilson Benesch, we reduce an 80kg solid billet of aluminium by more than half to create a single 38kg Omnium loudspeaker foot. This formidable component governs the energy above by way of 14mm tie bolts that generate a metric ton of compressive pressure through the Omnium enclosure. This is the foundation, ground zero and arbiter of performance. Omnium stands boldly as the industry-leading design in this market sector from the pioneers and leaders in composite loudspeaker design. With a heritage of award-winning designs within the Wilson Benesch reference line, the Omnium offers it own unique take of reference-class high-end audio. The Omnium's luxurious automotive fit, finish and aesthetic are yet another bold statement in contemporary loudspeaker design and engineering from Wilson Benesch.

1x 25mm (1") WB Fibonacci Hybrid Tweeter
1x 170mm (7") WB Tactic 3.0 bass high, 1 x 170 (7") WB Tactic 3.0 midrange, 1x 170 (7") WB Tactic 3.0 bass low
3x 170 (7") WB Isobaric Drive System bass low
Sensitivity: 89dB
Impedance: 4.5Ω nominal
Frequency response: 28Hz – 30KHz ±2dB
Recommended power: 100 watts minimum
Dimensions: 180cm H x 63cm D x 28cm W
Weight: 140kg
Supplied in two halves: lower enclosure 110kg, upper enclosure 30kg
MSRP: £98'000/pr

Postscript: My usual MO with press releases is to rid them of self-congratulatory claims so down to the bare bones. However, the above contained so much information that I diverged for a change by applying none of my typical edits. Readers will apply their own spider sense. The important bit, I felt, was to retain built-in excitement over engineering advances in applied material science and process management. Many expensive and heavy loudspeakers just rehash existing materials and build processes. Wilson Benesch instead continue to innovate by aligning themselves with R&D conducted in far bigger industries than boutique hifi. That rightfully deserved some self-congratulatory prose I thought…