Wilson Benesch

Equipped with a total of 18 Wilson Benesch drive units per pair, the Cardinal is capable of delivering wide bandwidth sound from 25Hz to 30kHz.

During the development of the Cardinal extensive research and development was undertaken in drive unit topology. The result was the Troika System; a new topology – previously unused by Wilson Benesch that placed the new Semisphere Tweeter at the heart of the upper and lower Tactic II midrange drive units.

In the Cardinal the Troika System should be recognised as a highly innovative and significant advance in the loudspeaker design. The Troika not only places three highly integrated Wilson Benesch drive units in close proximity, but it also directly interrelates with the cabinet and drive unit architecture to create mechanical filtering. The result is a highly optimised crossover, with all electrical components reduced or removed entirely to preserve the perfect signal from the amplifier.

The design of the Cardinal’s bass drive topology is no less innovative. Two Isobaric Drive Systems deliver powerful, highly dynamic bass through a total of 4 Tactic II Drive Units. The Isobaric Drive System is not a new Wilson Benesch design, having being used in the original Bishop loudspeaker. However in the Cardinal, Wilson Benesch have deployed the Tactic II drive units lined astern. Such is the power of the system, Wilson Benesch use a 35kg machined alloy sub baffle to house the Isobaric Drive System – an unyielding platform from which the Cardinal delivers its lightning-fast, highly-dynamic and powerful low frequency.

The Cardinal is a masterpiece of engineering; total harmony in all the parts, fitted together with such proportion and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished or altered but for the worse.



Following the same principles of the A.C.T. Monocoque, the carbon fibre top in the Cardinal and Endeavour have been designed firstly to damp internal cabinet born resonance and secondly to negate standing waves interacting with the loudspeaker surface. The overall effect is vastly improved signal-to-noise ratio. The Cardinal and Endeavour carbon fibre tops are perhaps the most complex carbon fibre forms ever created by Wilson Benesch. Starting life as a hand-formed clay sculpture, evolving in turn to a wax model, the model was then taken to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield where it was scanned by laser to create a 3D computer model. This process allowed a highly complex organic structure to be created, the like of which would be almost impossible to create digitally. The result is a beautifully sculptural form, which ultimately makes no compromises in terms of its function.


Following the same principle as the A.C.T. Monocoque, Wilson Benesch have optimised the design of the Cardinal and the Endeavour baffle, creating a curved profile to reduce flat surfaces on the loudspeaker. Much like a mirror, flat surfaces reflect sound waves directly back in the direction from which they came, with little of the energy of the original wave being dissipated. This type of wave reflection is called a standing wave. A curved surface on the other hand reflects a sound wave across a wide angle, diffusing the sound wave and in turn dissipating the energy of the original sound wave into many smaller waves. In a listening room, this means that any reflected sound is more difficult to discern and therefore does not detract from the listening experience.


The midrange frequency band is where the human ear is most sensitive and thus was a key area of R&D during the development of the Cardinal. The resulting Troika System is a unique drive unit topology that is central to the success of the Cardinal’s lucid and highly transparent soundstage. The topology sees the Semisphere Tweeter flanked by a lower midrange Tactic II driver above and an upper midrange Tactic II driver below. The Troika System technology has been used in subsequent Wilson Benesch designs, however, the Troika System is the most highly evolved example. Not only does the Cardinal have dedicated upper and lower midrange drive units, but these drive units are also acoustically tuned by a combination of cabinet air volume and individually specified drive unit design. Thus in the Cardinal, both midrange drive units are coupled directly to the amplifier with no crossover components in the signal pathway, while there is a Semisphere has just a single inductor on it. The midrange is therefore free of any phase anomalies or signal degeneration associated with complex crossover designs.


Designed and manufactured in house, the Semisphere has been developed to match the Tactic II Drive Unit, creating seamless integration across the mid-high frequency band. At the heart of the Semisphere is the Silk-Carbon Hybrid Dome. The hybrid dome tweeter, retains the natural sound of a soft dome tweeter, remaining free from sibilance. However the addition of carbon fibre through a proprietary technique, allows the Semisphere to remain flat through the frequency range to 30kHz. Built around the dome is a combination of highly engineered components, which have been precision machined in house at Wilson Benesch. At the front a curved front plate creates the ideal launch surface for high frequency sound. To the rear of this is a complex motor front and rear plate that hold a ring of six powerful rare earth magnets. The design allows optimal venting and allows the Semisphere to remain cool during extended use.


A sophisticated three-layer composite structure comprised of carbon fibre, high compression blast core and glass fibre. In terms of energy damping and therefore signal-to-noise ratio, the A.C.T. Monocoque exceeds with consummate ease the materials traditionally used in loudspeaker design. Wilson Benesch have optimised the A.C.T. Monocoque by creating a curved form. The geometric form of the cabinet negates standing waves by reducing the number of flat surfaces on the loudspeaker surface. Thus any sound waves interacting with the surface of the A.C.T. Monocoque are diffracted across a wide angle and thus diminished. As a result such distortions are impossible for the ear to detect, allowing the loudspeaker to disappear within the listening space; stealth like the loudspeaker creates a wide open and life like soundstage.


In the Isobaric Drive design, Wilson Benesch extend the philosophy of the Tactic a step further. By deploying two Tactic II drive unit, conventionally connected, with the motor coils wired in parallel, the composite dual driver has the following characteristics if compared with a single device: twice the moving mass, half the compliance, half the impedance for which it draws twice the input current and hence double the power. In layman’s terms, the Isobaric Drive works harmoniously in a push-pull formation, dividing the load of creating low frequency sound across two powerful drive units. By sharing the load of the work, the Isobaric Drive can produce extremely low bass, while remaining highly dynamic and perfectly integrated with the midrange drive units. In the Cardinal, Wilson Benesch have deployed a total of 4 Tactic II drive units across two independent Isobaric Drive systems, line astern.


The enclosure exerts a considerable influence over the sound of the complete system. A moving coil driver radiates energy by vibrating a diaphragm assembly whose reaction will simultaneously excite the loudspeaker chassis causing it to vibrate in sympathy. The chassis must therefore be ridged and highly damped to prevent it from moving and in turn stop the chassis from dissipating energy as unwanted acoustic output. Numerous examples of chassis damping are evident in the Cardinal. The A.C.T. Monocoque alone is the most highly damped enclosure ever manufactured. However, Wilson Benesch also employ steel bars to internally brace the cabinets in each Geometry Series loudspeaker. In the Cardinal three 14mm steel bars brace the chassis between the foot and the mid-plate, clamping the entire enclosure around the powerful Isobaric Drive. Much like a cathedral roof, the bars or struts tie panels to one another, bracing and stiffening the panel and in turn damping the cabinet.


There are no transient delays in nature – when a singer sings, or a drummer strikes you hear the sound almost instantly. But when a drive unit tries to replicate this sound from a recording, the transient response time, although minute, is easily detected by the ear and the brain. When designing a drive unit, it is critical to reduce the transient response time as much as possible. Any delay, informs the brain that what is being listened to is in fact a recording and not a real human voice or instrument. Wilson Benesch developed the original Tactic drive unit and subsequent Tactic II drive unit around this philosophy. We employed a light cone material, with phenomenally powerful NdFeB Rare Earth Magnets, with a highly evolved motor geometry to optimise flux. The result was a dynamic drive unit that could excurse through the in and out range of its movement during use very quickly and under a high degree of control. The original Tactic design was described as “lightning fast” in the first test reviews.


First introduced in the kinematic bearing design in the Wilson Benesch A.C.T. One Tonearm in 1991, the bearing was designed on the principles of kinematic coupling. The fundamental principle of kinematic coupling is to selectively eliminate each one or all of the six degrees of mechanical freedom that any physical body has. In the Cardinal, three 28mm steel threads, each tipped with a 12.5mm steel ball, meet with three 12.5mm steel balls, held captive inside the floor protector. This creates a triangulated structure, with a contact point of less than 1mm2. This provides high-integrity, stable location of the loudspeaker.


DRIVERS 1 x 25mm ( 1") Wilson Benesch Semisphere tweeter
2 x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II mid-range drive units
4 x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II Isobaric bass drive units
2 x 170mm ( 7") Wilson Benesch Tactic II ABR drive units
CONSTRUCTION Poly-alloy hybrid construction
High performance carbon composite A.C.T. monocoque
Lower mid range infinite baffle sealed enclosure
Upper mid range Tactic II ABR sealed enclosure
Isobaric drive chamber Tactic II ABR sealed enclosure.
4kg precision machined Isobaric drive sub baffle
PERFORMANCE 2-way electric, 4-way acoustic, floor standing loudspeaker
Impedance: 6Ω nominal / 3Ω minimal
Sensitivity: 90dB at 1 metre on-axis, 2.83V input
Frequency response: 25Hz - 30kHz +/- 2dB on-axis
Minimum amplification power recommendation: 100 W / channel
Crossover frequency: 500Hz / 5kHz
DIMENSIONS Height: 1735mm ( 68.3")
Width: 620mm ( 24.4")
Depth: 640mm ( 25.2")
Volume: 92L
Weight per channel: 140kg (308 lbs)
FINISHES Aerospace silk black baffle, spine and foot
High gloss satin weave carbon fibre cabinet
High gloss carbon fibre top
Bespoke side cheek options


Prestige Award 2013 Super AV Magazine