If you live with a speaker for a while, as Wilson Benesch was gracious enough to allow me to do with its new Resolution towers, one of two things happens. Either the speaker’s flaws become increasingly apparent and start to grate on you, or you come to accept those flaws, learn to hear past them, relax, and enjoy the music. The commonality between these two scenarios is that in both cases the speaker’s sound becomes familiar.
There is a third possibility, but it’s a highly unusual one. There are speakers that, over the long run, neither grate nor demand acceptance of their drawbacks. They do pretty much everything well, including conveying—without interference or editorializing—the diversity of material and recordings embedded in our music libraries. This quality of capturing diversity is what prevents speakers in this category from becoming familiar. Instead, listening to them is constantly surprising. Such speakers are scarce, but the Resolution is one of them.
Nowhere is the Resolution’s element of surprise more apparent than in the bass. Naturally, as you’d expect in this price range, the speaker offers excellent extension and definition. Yet scads of speakers can make those same claims while failing to do what the Resolution does. The Resolution is nonpareil at unearthing cloaked bass lines—and revealing everything about them. Listening to bass, even on familiar recordings, through the Resolution is a constant journey of discovery.
There are several factors that contribute to this overall effect. Most significantly, I believe, is prodigious (yet well-controlled) output throughout the bottom octaves. This allows reticent bass lines, or those overwhelmed in the mix, to step out from the shadows. For instance, compare listening to “Spinning Wheel” [ORG LP, Blood Sweat and Tears] through the Resolution with the same tune heard through Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship 800 D3. This particular bass line happens to fall into an anemic zone of the B&W’s otherwise-exemplary low end. The effect is a bass line that, while not exactly inaudible, feels like it’s hiding behind a tree. But the Resolution has no such anemic zone, so this bass line takes its rightful place among the rest of the complex instrumentation. Excellent imaging assists by giving the bass the physical space its due.
The second factor contributing to the Resolution’s low-frequency prowess involves its fast, intricate response. In the low end, most speakers incur some blurring—or even miss notes—as their woofers struggle to defy inertia. The Resolution, however, possesses superior speed and transient precision. Thus, even when tackling the work of the most nimble-fingered bassists, there’s never any mystery; the speaker tells you exactly what’s going on.
As an example, consider “I’m an Old Cowhand” from the Analogue Productions LP of Sonny Rollins’ Way Out West. There’s a tricky bass run at the start of the piece. Most speakers, when faced with this challenging run, blur notes together. In contrast, the Resolution serves up every note distinctly, then goes further by telling you the specific character—timbre, touch, etc.—of each tone.
Finally, the Resolution’s bass is resolutely linear. You can hear this easily on “Jamaican Turnaround” from Michael Wolff’s indispensable CD, 2AM. I’ve played this cut through literally hundreds of speakers at audio shows, and the song’s walking bass line contains notes that invariably get reproduced either as too pronounced or too recessed. But the Resolution loudspeaker is the exception, where output is constant across the bass spectrum.
Zooming out from the bass region, it becomes clear that linearity is a hallmark of the Resolution overall. Thanks, no doubt, to the in-house-made, carefully matched drivers and an equally well-thought-out crossover, these speakers possess uncanny coherency. Back on 2AM, the Resolution spans the big Bösendorfer’s entire range—from core-of-the-earth lows to sparkling highs—without any imbalances or hint of changing drivers.
Rounding out the Wilson Benesch’s virtues are a deathly quiet noise floor and low overall distortion. These traits, too, add to the speaker’s sense of musical suspense, since dynamic bursts seem to come out of nowhere. Yet there is a remarkably delicate filigree to quieter passages. Through the Resolution, overtones and decays hang in the air like drifting clouds.