I wonder if the folks at Wisdom Audio ever stop to think about the fact that they make my job more difficult. After all, they merely have to handcraft some of the finest sounding speakers I’ve ever heard in lovely Carson City, Nevada. I, on the other hand, have to convey said fact in words without sounding like a hyperbolous slobbering sycophant. But so be it. Wisdom’s new flagship LS4 is worth a bit of slobber.
Wisdom Audio’s 84-inches-tall LS4, which can either be mounted entirely on the wall or stand on the floor up against the wall, consists of four two-way planar magnetic transducer modules each incorporating discrete low frequency and high frequency radiating areas.
On sight alone it’s an impressive beast of a speaker: seven feet of gleam and polish and custom wood finish. Yet because the LS4 mounts to the wall and rests gingerly on a delicate-looking trapezoidal foot on the floor (which also serves to hide speaker wire connections), it sports the sort of effortless grace and elegance you simply wouldn’t expect from a speaker this size.
That word “effortless” doesn’t just apply to the LS4’s aesthetics, though. It’s a description that positively dominates the notes from the day I recently spent at Wisdom’s headquarters putting the speaker through its paces. This says two things, really: one, I need to carry a thesaurus when I travel; and two, there really isn’t a better gut-reaction description of the LS4’s sound. Except, perhaps, that in terms of audio performance, Wisdom’s new crowning jewel exhibits all of the characteristics I love most about large electrostatic speakers and none of the things that I don’t.
Imagine the startling clarity of a truly welldesigned electrostat–the wonderful imaging, the depth of the soundstage, the way the sound penetrates the room. Now crank that up to 11, and subtract the fussy placement issues, the flashlight dispersion, and the tiny sweet spot. The LS4’s long, large planar magnetic line-source drivers create an almost impossibly wide sonic image that practically permeates the room from front to back, seeming more to weave sounds out of the air itself than push audio through it.
A perfect example of this is Bon Iver’s “The Wolves (Act I & 2),” a haunting, atmospheric track that positively thrives on the incredibly spaciousness of the LS4. Sitting on the floor in what turned out to be my favorite spot in the room–a mere four feet in front of a pair of LS4s spaced a little over 10 feet apart, just to give you an indication of how ridiculously wide these things image–I lost myself not only in the way the multitude of textures created by who-knowshow- many overdubs literally filled the front of the room, but also in the way those individual textures maintained their unique integrity. I’ve listened to the song on many a fine speaker, but never have I gotten so rapt in exploring its nuances.
At the end of the song, there’s a chaotic percussion breakdown, which, through any fine loudspeaker, echoes off the walls in a gorgeous outof- phase cloud of sound. The LS4, though, takes that to a wholly different level. The brain simply refuses to come to terms with the fact that that percussion isn’t pouring out of a different set of an altogether different pair speakers at the side of the room. It’s downright discombobulating, but in a good way.
Again, though, I find myself in a bit of a love/hate relationship with the LS4, because there’s no way to talk tout this speaker’s merits without resorting to the sort of overblown language that I loathe in audio reviews. But I’ve listened to Lyle Lovett’s “Since the Last Time” hundreds of times, yet I’ve never noticed the playful little dialogue exchange between “Sweet Pea” Atkinson and Francine Reed about a minute into the song. Again, my mind rebelled. I snatched out my Future Sonics in-ear monitors and gave the song another listen, and sure enough, the exchange is there if you really strain to hear it. But with the LS4, the dialogue simply emanates in real three-dimensional space with the utmost clarity and distinctiveness. It’s downright spooky. And that’s just from two LS4s. Imagine 10 of them in one room.
Owing to the speaker’s design, and the nature of line sources, you can stack the speakers (or combine an LS4 with its little brother the LS3, or just use two LS3s) to create a veritable monolithic wall of sound for larger theaters with too many tiers to be covered by the LS4’s seven feet of perfectly even vertical dispersion. This is not a cheap solution, to be sure–especially when considering that each LS4 requires two channels of amplification, and you’ll need at least one SC-1 System Controller (two if you plan on expanding past 7.3 channels of sound) for calibration and equalization–but my goodness, I’m positively salivating at the thought of such a system.
Hey, I warned you there was going to be slobber.
Wisdom Audio’s LS4 is, without question, the sort of speaker that audiophiles dream of. It’s beautifully dynamic and detailed even at low volumes, and sounds just as sweet at ear-splitting levels
I can’t afford them.
■ Frequency response: 80Hz – 20kHz ± 2dB relative to the target curve
■ Impedance, tweeter: 4.25 ohms
■ Impedance, midrange/bass: 4.25 ohms
■ Sensitivity: 100 dB / 2.83 V / 1m
■ Dimensions: 84 x 32 x 12 inches (hwd)