Wilson Audio Duette Series 2 loudspeaker

Wilson Audio Duette 2

In broad terms, the Duette Series 2 features a 25mm soft dome tweeter and a 200mm bass driver (made to Wilson’s own specifications). The tweeter sits in its own sealed enclosure, while the bass driver has a large rear port. Most of the cabinet is made out of Wilson’s own composite materials, specifically the company’s cellulose/phenolic resin ‘X’ material for the bulk of the cabinet and its ‘S’ material (natural fibres, also in phenolic) for the tweeter baffle. That off-hand description almost masks the careful selection based on laser vibrometry mapping techniques of the cabinet resonant structure and how best to use the different level of rigidity and damping. This also necessitated changes to the cabinet shape, and changes the way the speaker is bolted to the stand (there is also a bookshelf-specific crossover).

As with the original Duette, the crossover is external, but in the standmounted version, it’s built into the stand. In both cases, the ‘Novel’ crossover allows some fine tuning, with a series of resistors that allow a ±1dB adjustment to the tweeter. This should not be considered an alternative for good installation and room treatment, as the excellent accompanying manual is clear to state. 

Installation in Wilson Audio speakers is what often makes or breaks the sound quality. However, with a boundary design, the famed Wilson Audio Set-up Procedure (WASP) requires a bit of a rethink. The goals remain the same, but the distance from the rear wall is virtually a given in this case, and the WASP ‘vowelling in’ is more about lateral movement than longitudinal. Nevertheless, this is not a loudspeaker designed to be placed without care or consideration and the distance from the side walls and toe-in are crucial, as is running in; this is a speaker that improves over time.

The photographer Garry Winogrand famously observed, “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It’s about how that thing looks photographed.” That applies here. You want to hear how music sounds through the Duette Series 2. Of course, that relates back to how the music was recorded and the preservation of the natural ambience and the rest of the audiophile ideal. But it also relates to a peculiar thing the really best audio does to you and your music, namely that it makes you explore it over and over again. It’s not about sound quality. It’s about how it sounds. 

That’s a distinction that may seem nuanced, but spending time with speakers of the Duette Series 2’s quality, you begin to realise there’s too much of a focus on the sound quality as a disparate collection of musical sub-systems (timbre, tone, detail, etc) and not enough on the sound of the music as a contiguous whole. In a way, this is where cheaper audio often scores over the high-end, but it takes something really special to do both. And that’s what we have here.

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