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Behind the Business: Wisdom Audio

The manufacturer's VP of sales, Jon Herron, explains how his company is bringing its planar speaker design to the market.

“One of our challenges is simply connecting with those integrators who understand the importance of high-quality audio as part of their differentiated design service.”–JON HERRON, VP of Sales, Wisdom AudioTom Bohlender founded Wisdom Audio in 1996 to create large-scale planar magnetic hybrid systems for customers that were seeking best-in-class performance. In 2005 the company embarked on a restructuring that included new product development, staff additions, and a revised sales and distribution strategy. The companys current staff has more than 85 combined years of experience in high-performance planar magnetic design and manufacturing, which has yielded a new generation of transducers that have been used in the companys Sage series. The Sage series has been designed for people who desire the performance of large, esoteric loudspeakers systems, but who are unwilling to have those speakers become the visual focus of the room. Its loudspeakers are offered in four sizes, ranging from about 20 inches to almost 100 inches tall. All of them are available as in-walls with full back boxes, or as on-walls to complement a flat TV installation, or as freestanding speakers. In addition, the company manufactures two center-channel speakers optimized for horizontal orientation, both of which are also available in all three formats. Wisdom also has several subwoofers in development, including an in-wall design that will be available in June. In total the company has nearly 30 products, including a system controller and dedicated amplifiers for the high-operating pressure woofers. The companys vice president of sales, Jon Herron, recently answered our questions about his view of the market and the current focus of Wisdom Audio.

Lets talk technology. What are the advantages and limitations of planar loudspeakers for the residential installation market?
Planar magnetic devices (PMDs) combine the strongest virtues of both conventional dynamic speakers and exotic electrostatics, yielding performance that outpaces both. Dynamics, detail, and durability are all extraordinary, and the planar magnetic driver itself is only about a quarter-inch thick. With the exceptionally strong magnetic fields supplied by the neodymium magnets we use, and suitable absorption of the back wave, it is possible to create a planar magnetic loudspeaker that offers genuine, no-holds-barred performance, even in the limited space available in a standard stud bay.

Where are PMDs best used and in what applications are they perhaps less effective?
PMDs excel at midrange and treble frequencies, and in our speakers are responsible for most of what you hear. However, achieving deep bass in the limited space available in standard 2×4 stud space requires a different approach. Our system includes high operating pressure woofers mounted in aluminum back boxes that have been developed specifically to address the deep bass/tiny box problem. The result is bass that extends to the bottom octave, even from our smallest in-wall design.

What else should a residential integrator understand about PMDs when designing a system around them?
All our Sage series speakers are bi-amplified, and every system (whether 2.0 or 7.3 or anywhere in between) must include our SC-1 system controller. The SC-1 is a fully balanced, 7.3-channel in/14.3-channel out active crossover, and also incorporates the most powerful version of Audyssey MultEQ XT digital room correction. In our view, it is nave to create state-of-the-art loudspeakers and then to ignore the often-devastating effects imposed on the speakers by the room itself. The goal here is simple: to create a system that reliably delivers the best possible experience to the customer, in every installation. (Even those where your speaker placement options may be less than optimal, as is often the case with in-wall and on-wall installations.)

As a relative newcomer to the market what are Wisdoms biggest business challenges?
We know from CEDIA and CES that exposure to our products and gaining an understanding of the systems installation and performance benefits is critical to gaining dealer participation. One of our challenges is simply connecting with those integrators who understand the importance of high-quality audio as part of their differentiated design service. Educating integrators on the benefits of selling genuinely compelling audio is not only our challenge, but also one for the entire industry. We are experienced and pleased to play a leading role in providing this solution.

How would you describe the profile of your target dealer?
Wisdom products will be sold through a limited distribution network of approximately 125 dealers. Our Sage series is one of the most advanced architectural speakers available. Consequently, our target dealers are those who want to offer the finest product solutions in each category. Dealers who appreciate the benefits of an ultimate architectural speaker solution will be natural partners for our products and distribution concepts.

How is Wisdoms technical approach different from other PMD options on the market?
Our Sage series is a solution-driven architectural speaker system that employs a range of technologies that yield unique results. It begins with our proprietary, in-house designed and manufactured, planar magnetic drivers that offer superior clarity, lack of dynamic compression, and unprecedented operating range. All of our systems are constructed of aluminum and employ full back boxes to maintain consistent results. An external electronic crossover in our SC-1 is superior to passive networks; the resulting bi-amplification achieves impressive bass response from a slim and shallow enclosure. Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction is incorporated into our SC-1 to ensure optimal performance from our system regardless of their installed location. Lastly, each of our models is available in versions that are designed to be used in-wall, on-wall or freestanding in the room. These different varieties of speakers may be mixed and matched to best address the needs of any given installation, with consistently outstanding results.