An awful lot of reviewers have approximately the same photo of themselves with Dave Wilson, taken in that charmingly old-fashioned Provo living room, an XLF hulking nearby for scale and authenticity. I'm no exception. You wanted that photo because Dave Wilson, surely among the most significant designers to advance the High End cause, made you feel that you were the most important audio writer on the planet—that your understanding and enjoying his products mattered immensely to him, and not for pecuniary reasons. His generosity of spirit was genuine. Dave Wilson loved his life, his family, his work, music of many stripes, and the industry that revered him as a thought leader. A few years ago, my wife and I spent several days with the Wilsons, in Provo and at their ranch in southern Utah. My prized photo with Dave and Sheryl Lee isn’t the one from the living room but the one above, taken on a brilliant afternoon out in the desert, not far from the ruins of the set for Gunsmoke, which the Wilsons had picked as a novel destination for two East Coast city slickers. Note the pistol in Dave’s waistband—Sheryl Lee’s got one, too— just in case a rattlesnake showed up.
I was there, mostly, to research an article I was planning on the challenge of succession for a business like Wilson Audio Specialties. We sat on the family's breezy back porch and I tape-recorded Dave, Sheryl Lee, Daryl, and Debbie for several hours discussing the family business and the emergence as Daryl as the deserving heir apparent. The article never got written—not yet, at least—but I treasure all the memories from that trip. Marjie and I celebrated our 35thwedding anniversary while visiting the Wilsons, and the extensively annotated card Dave gave us to note the occasion is a prized piece of memorabilia. We felt that the Wilsons really cared about us as people; that, going forward, we were truly friends.
Still, I had concerns when, a couple of years later, I decided that after 20 years of owning Wilson loudspeakers, it was time to try something else. I felt the company needed to hear this from me, and I called Peter McGrath, who passed my decision on to Dave, Sheryl, and Daryl. The grudges held and conspiracy theories adopted elsewhere in this industry notwithstanding, I shouldn’t have worried. The Wilsons cordially came back with an offer to purchase the speakers—five Duette IIs (yes, an odd number—this was a surround system!) and a WATCH Dog for exactly what I’d paid for them. I recognized a clear message that we were still friends, and always would be.
The Internet has been unusually gracious to Dave Wilson since John Giolas announced the news of his death for the company. Most postings bear the hope that this wonderful man will “Rest in Peace”. I have never been more certain that a soul has been welcomed warmly by his creator and is resting as peacefully, and joyfully, as can be imagined.