An Evening with David Livesay of Wisdom Audio

A friend has owned three pairs of Wisdom Adrenaline speakers in the last ten years, each representing an update of the earlier model, each set up and delivered by Tom Bohlender at the time of purchase. Recently David Livesay was kind enough to visit my friend and adjust the "brain" used with the speakers. I was present at this session and would like to make some observations that hopefully are relevant to the Wisdoms but also more generally room acoustics and the use of equalization to tailor frequency response to a particular room. The room in which the speakers are located is rectangular with an 8' ceiling, perhaps 20' wide and 20' long but opening into a kitchen at one end with a wall closing about half the opening on one side only. The speakers are at the opposite end about 5' out from the back wall and 3' out from the side wall on one side and a little more on the other which contains two openings, one at each side of the corner which can be shut with doors. David brought an Audio Control RTA with him and a number of my observations have to do with what was seen on the RTA.

First, the bass from the speaker adjacent to the two doors (even with the doors shut)exhibited a pronounced suck-out at several frequencies, particularly 40-50 hz which the other side did not exhibit as strongly. [Given the 8' ceiling, it was predictable that there would be a suck-out at 40-50 hz, but the openings on either side of the corner nearest the speaker significantly exacerbated this problem]. Itwas extremely helpful that David adjusted/measured each channel separately, particularly in the bass.

Second, the Wisdom "brain combines a crossover with a parametric equalizer and notch filter that allows the user to set the exact frequency, the amount of boost or notch and the width of the band effected separately for highs and lows and separately for each channel, as well as the slope of the crossover near the cross over point and the crossover frequency. These settings are accomplished through internal dip switches and require a manual of the effects of various dip switch positions. Altogether a very neat arrangement which allows the user a significant amount of flexibility. Fine tuning, balancing of channels and setting the level of the planars vs. the woofers is accomplished through knobs on the front.

Third, final adjustment was by ear. The RTA only provided ballpark settings, the ear the final settings.

The end result was much improved sound with better image density and focus and a more natural frequency balance.

Lessons learned: (1) most rooms exhibit frequency anomalies below 200 hz (peaks and dips); (2) in most instances it is better to reduce the peaks, rather than try to equalize out the dips; although some judicious boost may help; (3) changes to one frequency band will normally effect adjacent frequencies, sometimes in an unpredictable manner; thus experimentation is needed; (4) optimizing the position of the speaker in the room for flatest response should always be the initial step; (5) rooms with 8' ceilings will have a dip in the 40-50 hz region, sometimes as much as 15-18 db.

The Wisdoms sounded much better after adjustment than before. The process has led me to begin rethinking the whole area of room/speaker interaction and the use of outboard devices. David commented that Wisdom had used an Accuphase parametric equalizer at the CES on their new speaker which does not come with the "brain" and that the Accuphase was easy to use and sounded very good.

My thanks to David for an interesting evening./
I appreciate that! Enjoy!
Thanks, Fred!

It seems there are several approaches to address the system / room interface issues:

1. Using an equalizer such as the Accuphase you mentioned or the Rives. This has the disadvantage of usually having some negative side-effects on the quality of the sound.

2. Chosing a system that works well in the room: speaker size, speaker design, and corresponding compatible amp / sources. This has the disadvantage of being hard to predict, requiring lots of trial and error, and perhaps limits the listener to a system sound that they may not prefer - all else being equal.

3. Treating the room with reflectors and absorbers. This has the disadvantage of being aesthetically unappealing as well as being very difficult to do well.

4. Designing and building (or choosing) a room that works well for music. This has the disadvantage of being expensive and often requiring a dedicated space.

Many people (especially here on Audiogon :-) like iterating through systems using approach #2. Perhaps the most reasonable approach is:

#5. Using all four approaches in moderation: using equalization as required for only the most severe problems; choosing a system that has a decent chance of sounding good in the space; adding a minimal amount of reflecting and absorbing material to optimize the room; and starting off with a room that has a good chance of being a good environment for playing music.

Thanks again. It is really cool that the Wisdoms have SO MUCH flexibility so that they can be tailored both for the room and the owner's personal tastes. Cool.

I am in agreement with your summary, but would like to point out that few rooms exist that do not have problems below 250 hz. The choice is typically to choose a speaker that does not have sufficient bass response to excite any nodes or alternately to equalize. Treatment with absorption and diffusion becomes less practical below 200 hz. I do think that any additional electronics inserted in the chain, such as an equalizer, has the potential to do great harm. In my particular case, I do use some room treatment and am planning to use subwoofers crossed in at 40 hz. As my preamp has two outs the out driving the main speakers will not go through either an equalizer or cross over. I am having Bob Crump custom install four ateflon caps at the input of my amp driving the Campaniles to roll off out put below 100 hz. In my experience, the Teflons used in a passive circuit do the least harm to the signal.

This is merely one possible answer and I will have more to say when the new subs arrive.