The Finkteam WM-4: listening to the washing machine!
Finkteam was struggling to find a name for its first loudspeaker. “It looks like a washing machine” said one designer, pointing at the wide base and the 15” drive unit. That was it – the WM-4 was born. This is at once a proof-of-concept and the best loudspeaker Fink and his team (hence the name) can come up with at this time.
The design is a three-way, two-cabinet model, with the bass cab containing a custom 380mm bass driver with a corrugated GRP-impregnated paper cone, a massive magnet, and a cotton (instead of rubber) surround. This is joined by the top-box, which features an AMT ribbon tweeter flanked in vertical D’Appolito style by twin custom made FMWD (flat membrane, wide dispersion) drive units not dissimilar to Balanced Mode Radiator designs. This makes for a relatively straight-forward fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley crossover, but also uses a cabinet with compliant spacers between bass and mid/top sections, to make sure cabinet vibration does not cross from one cabinet to the next.
This is not a review. This listening test was performed after walking through the Fink plant and hearing the loudspeakers in their natural habitat of the Fink listening room. They are, however, available to the general public. The price is still to be finalised (it’s somewhere in the mid-to-high five-figure mark) and for that money, you not only get the loudspeakers, you get Karl-Heinz Fink turning up at your door personally to fine-tune the installation. But a loudspeaker of this size and magnitude is going to be hard to audition at first.
The Washing Machine is incredibly detailed and analytical. This is the kind of loudspeaker that will tell you when a piece of music is not entirely right, whether that means the wrong type of format, some error in the coding or decoding, or simply you bought the wrong mix. Where many speakers are of sufficiently high-distortion or of limited bandwidth and dynamic range to mask these limitations, if you want to hear just why MP3 is so vexatious, try the WM-4s.
This makes the Finkteam loudspeakers appear like they are a bit ruthless, and that’s not the case. There is a subtle difference between ‘ruthless’ and ‘revealing’, and the WM-4 is revealing enough to highlight that difference. Put on a recording that isn’t undermined by signal or data compression and you get insight into the music and the recording. At that point, ‘revealing’ is a great thing. It gives insight into the music that you will struggle to find elsewhere (or at least, elsewhere at anything like this price). The sound has great texture, very good soundstaging and solidity of images within that soundstage, and excellent vocal and tonal articulation. You hear singers breathing – not as if you were researching the chest cavity performance of vocalists – but in an organic manner. It’s extremely addictive.
Perhaps most of all, however, this is a very big loudspeaker that ‘times’, when it really shouldn’t. There’s no way a loudspeaker with a whopping great big bass unit and a port you could put your fist through should be able to keep a precise beat and a sense of temporal order in the way the WM-4 can. This is not the last you’ll hear of The Washing Machine