We were recently invited to tour Wisdom Audio’s headquarters in Carson City, Nevada. At Wisdom Audio they believe in high-quality sound and modern living working together.
Wisdom Audio was started in 1996 by Tom Bohlender. He originally focused on producing large floor standing planar magnetic speakers. Planar magnetics is a technology that’s used in speaker drivers but it’s not what you would typically find in a speaker.
What you might typically find is what is known as a dome tweeter. It’s typically a round variably sized small diaphragm that moves back and forth to produce high frequencies. Planar magnetic technology was around long before Wisdom Audio. Tom Bohlender decided that he was going to produce speakers with this technology. The speakers originally cost $600,000 and were about 12 feet tall.
Since then, Wisdom Audio has restructured to be extremely aesthetically pleasing. They disappear into the environment so that the speakers are not something that you are looking at, but something that you are listening to, something that you are feeling; as sound is supposed to be. Rather than using dome tweeters, planar magnetic drivers are built using a thin piece of Mylar film and laser-etched aluminum, which form voice coils. This diaphragm is held in place by magnets. Some Wisdom Audio speakers have hundreds of incredibly strong neodymium magnets. They’re laid down in opposing forces which means they must use a large hydraulic press to line up and put the speakers together
What happens when you’re using planar magnetic drivers is that you experience extreme audio dynamics. When you are watching a movie and it’s quiet and all of a sudden you hear a gunshot, that bang will come and go just as quickly as the gunshot in real life. The voice coil does not have to wait to move. As soon as a signal hits the driver can move. As soon as the signal stops…
The key parts of Wisdom Audio are that they’re lifestyle friendly, extremely high fidelity, high performing speakers with lifelike system dynamics. They are interior design and architect friendly. A lot of interior designers do not like to see a big old floor-standing speaker in the room. If you want performance when listening to music it’s hard to find speakers that can disappear into the space. That’s where Wisdom Audio shines.
They have a whole range of products. You can start with their most basic product. Their introductory product would be the P2 line. The P2 can be mounted in-wall (P2i) or on-wall (P2m). The sound that you get from these two point source magnetic drivers with woofers is way beyond what you would get from most speakers at a higher price tag.
When we were at Wisdom Audio, they demoed us the P2i speakers with a very small 10-inch sub. The two-channel listening quality was amazing. Some people thought that the speakers were much larger or that they might have been listening to theater-level speakers. When they removed the screen that was masking the speakers, people were astounded to find the smallest speakers in Wisdom Audio’s line producing such amazing sound.
Take that and scale it 10 times to something like their Wisdom Series LS4 or LS3 and stretch your imagination to what that might sound like, and you still won’t understand until you hear it with your own two ears. These have no woofers. They are a single planar magnetic driver that takes all the benefits of a planar magnetic driver and puts it into a seven-foot-tall speaker. It has the accuracy that you would experience from a planar magnetic driver and ranging from 20 kilohertz down to 80 hertz. That means that all you need is a subwoofer to produce 80 hertz and below.
Another technology that wisdom incorporates is line source technology. There’s a difference between line source and line array. Line array might be something that you find in a concert hall with those very tall, 30-foot, or 40-foot tall speakers. They use those so that the entire concert hall gets a similar sound.
Line source technology has benefits and it has a weakness but that weakness is also a strength in many environments, especially in a home environment. The weakness is that the height of your line source is the height of the sound. Meaning if you have a line source that is 48 inches high you have 48 inches of space that your ear can hear that musical energy or sound energy. This may create the need to angle speakers in an unfamiliar way when installing them in certain spaces.
What happens then is that when using line source technology, you also reduce the ability to hear the sound above and below the speaker. The benefit outweighs the downside by a longshot. Line source allows you to better predict the sound in your environment due to the minimizing of reflections on the floor and ceiling. In other words, with a line source, you don’t need to worry about what the roof or what the floor is going to do to your sound. All this while the width of the sound and the accuracy of off-axis listening is unmatched. What happens with that energy in a line source speaker is that the energy isn’t lost in that vertical plane and the perceived difference in volume at different distances from the speaker is dramatically reduced.
One thing that they demoed with the line source technology was that they put two 75 inch tall speakers and we were able to walk right up to them and then stand 20 feet back from them. It was very evident that the sound does not change very much, whereas when you take a typical point source speaker the differences are very evident.
Why do we use Wisdom Audio?
We use Wisdom Audio in our installations due to the factors that I mentioned above. Every part of technology is incredible. It allows our clients to have a better listening experience in all environments, from a two-channel listening experience to a media room experience, to a home theater experience.
Also, they are made in the U.S. In some cases, their factory is sourcing materials from down the street. For instance; for pieces like circuit boards or crossovers, which they might use in their speakers, they will make them in-house or source them from local companies. This allows them to avoid quality control issues and tariffs that they might have by sourcing abroad.
Let’s go over some of the main speaker technologies.
There are dynamic speakers, which would be the common type of loudspeaker that uses a magnetic field to move a cone-shaped diaphragm.
There are compression drivers. A compression driver is a small specialized diaphragm loudspeaker that generates the sound in something like a horn loudspeaker.
There is ribbon technology which is based on the same principle as dynamic speakers, however, the wire is not coiled around a cylinder extending from the diaphragm. The diaphragm itself is the signal conductor, taking the form of a rectangle held by two of its sides.
Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is used in smaller Martin Logan speakers. In contrast to a planar ribbon loudspeaker, the diaphragm of the AMT is of pleated-shape similar to a bellows.
Then there is electrostatic technology which is used in the big tall Martin Logan speakers. Electrostatic speakers vibrate air using a large, thin, conductive diaphragm panel suspended between two stationary conductive panels. These conductive panels are charged with electrical current from a wall outlet, creating an electrical field with a positive end and a negative end. These are also line source so they have a lot of the benefits that line source from Wisdom Audio has.
Then there is the planar magnetic technology. These units use a long, metal ribbon suspended between two magnetic panels. They work the same way as electrostatic speakers, except that the alternating positive and negative current moves the diaphragm in a magnetic field rather than an electric field.
A standard dome tweeter has a certain level of accuracy, but they have certain distortion characteristics. It can play frequencies from about 20 kilohertz down to about 2 kilohertz.
Our vocal range is about one kilohertz depending on how low or high your voice is and/or the harmonics in your voice. The sibilance is up a little bit higher in the five to eight-kilohertz range.
Our ears are astutely tuned to those frequencies. With standard speakers, our main vocal frequency is being produced by a mid-range woofer which is not ideal. It does not have the same accuracy.
When you get into the entry-level speakers from Wisdom Audio, which would be their Insight line and a couple of speakers in the Sage line, their planar magnetic drivers go down to 650 hertz. That leaves our most sensitive hearing in the most accurate range with the least amount of distortion, which you immediately pick up on. When you listen to the speakers and you listen to a voice coming through it, and you listen to a nice ballad, it sounds amazing because you don’t have to deal with the typical distortions that you’re used to hearing from speakers. When you move up to line source speakers, the crossover goes all the way down to 350 Hertz.
As mentioned previously, when you move up to their Wisdom Series speakers, the planar magnetic portion of the speaker is responsive all the way down to 80 hertz. That maintains nearly the entire audible range, which makes the accuracy simply indescribable.
So, what happens below 80 hertz? What do they want you to do? Wisdom Audio makes sub-woofers too. They do it differently because they want to keep with their modern living ideology. Their subwoofers can be small, which is the opposite of what we’ve been told our entire life.
You go to a concert or a club and there is a subwoofer in front of you that is your size. You go to typical theaters and there’s a big box in the corner. When it comes to sound, making a subwoofer means making a big box. The bigger the box, the louder the sound, the better the sound, and so on.
But how does Wisdom Audio create big sounding, accurate subwoofers without the big part? They use regenerative transmission line subwoofers. They’re able to increase the accuracy and produce louder bass because when their woofers go positive and push out the air, it comes out of the front and when it goes negative, it goes out of the back.
What you might see in some subwoofer designs is that there’ll be a port and that sound will come out of that port and that doesn’t always work properly because you’re getting an opposing wave at the same time. What Wisdom can do is that they’re able to make it so that the opposing wave goes through a transmission line. It’s kind of like a little maze inside of a subwoofer and so it goes through that maze and then comes out in the correct phase. Now you have nearly twice the power coming from the subwoofer because you’re able to harness the power of the positive and the negative.
Wisdom is doing this from some of the smallest subs that can live hidden in a wall or ceiling, only ported through a small grill, to some of the biggest. They too have subwoofers with dual 18-inch woofers within them and by using big boxes they can use the same technology to create a massive sound.
Let’s go back to the use cases for Wisdom Audio and why they’re better in every way. Wisdom Audio shines beyond other speaker brands when it comes to the actual performance.
What happens when you’re putting Wisdom Audio speakers into your home is that you’re not just getting two speakers. You’re not just getting a surround sound. When we quote a Wisdom Audio theater, the room is put into a model and the best possible location for the speakers is decided upon based on technology, science, math, and advanced modeling.
We then incorporate that into the design. Because there are differences in every single room, once the speakers are installed, Wisdom Audio has the technology in their product to then calibrate it to give our clients the most accurate and pleasant sound for their space.
When you buy speakers from competing companies, you might get great speakers and you might get great subwoofers. But that is like buying an air conditioning without ventilation. When you work with Wisdom Audio, it is a 360-degree effort to make sure that their speakers sound as perfect as possible.
From the specification of the design to the actual implementation, there is just no comparison.
Once the speakers are installed, Wisdom Audio has the tools specifically designed to calibrate their speakers. When you get into a complicated environment, a normal speaker might sound echoey and bother your ears or might not perform great. You don’t have that same experience with a Wisdom Audio speaker. Wisdom Audio has the technology to help adjust their speakers to the space that you choose.
That’s part of the way they work to disappear into your environment, while still giving you the highest quality sound that you can find anywhere.
When you move on to something like a dedicated private cinema that’s been perfectly designed, engineered, and built to sound and look amazing, you want those speakers to get out of the way. You want your eyes to be focused on the projection or the large screen in front of you and not on big boxy speakers. This is how Wisdom Audio fits into that design. Beyond that, they take extraordinary measures to make sure that their speakers not only look better than everybody else’s, but they sound better than everybody else’s in every environment.