Inner Ear Magazine - Discover High End
Latest Audio News Inner Ear editorialists sound off Inner Ear Magazine product reviews Inner Ear Magazine's Archives Inner Ear Magazine's audio deals Inner Ear Magazine contact info Inner Ear Magazine - Discover High End
WLM Divas - Made In Austria
The WLM divas provide out-of-this-world sound whether your taste in amps is tube or solid state

Specialty high-end manufacturer WLM is located near the Swiss and German borders in Austria’s Alpine region. If you are a regular reader, you may recall two recent reviews, one of the company’s top-of-the-line model, the Gran Violas (reviewed in Vol. 16, No. 4) and the Auras (reviewed in Vol. 17, No. 1). Both of these models were designed for bi or tri-amping and had optional active external crossovers and modules to enhance the all-round sound.
The Divas are the company’s latest addition and, unlike its other models, represent a straight-forward design but with a bit of a twist. WLM chose a dual concentric design, featuring a 10-inch woofer with a super tweeter centered behind a small grill. But more on this later.

These speakers are tall, relatively slim and bear a resemblance to the British Living Voice speakers--both accommodate a tuning port on the black coloured extension under the finished enclosures. The one visible driver is located at the upper portion of the enclosure and there is nothing different in this design from so many other loudspeaker enclosures—except, perhaps the finish. Our samples came in the Zebrano finish, but maple and cherry wood veneers are also available. On the enclosures’ rear, a pair of WBT terminals allow single wiring only—some manufacturers, including Focal JMLab swear by this approach. Also on the rear, a small dial allows adjustment of the tweeter +/-3dB. The manufacturer refers to using the control to tune room acoustics, but I suspect that it will be used to please one’s taste. (I liked it best with the control up a couple of dBs). The WLMs look great and they’ll fit into almost any room décor.

The Sound
As the Divas arrival coincided with that of the new Bryston 28B SST monoblocks (reviewed in this issue), I connected them for my first auditioning session. The Wyetech Labs Opal preamplifier (reviewed in Vol. 10, No. 2) and the Simaudio Andromeda CD player (also reviewed in this issue) completed this system. Bryston’s James Tanner was on hand to help connect amps and speakers and we fired up the system. After but a few bars of music, Tanner and I agreed that the Diva/Bryston combination created a bit of audio magic. Though I expected great imaging, I did not expect such astounding realism. The musicians were lined up horizontally on the sound stage and it was crystal clear how they were arranged. In addition to the awesome horizontal reach way outside the loudspeakers’ edges, depth, height, spatial elements and focus were evident.

As for the Divas’ sonic signature, I’d say that it is different from most other loudspeakers in this price range. The Divas left me with the impression that I wasn’t listening to loudspeakers with obvious markers, but rather to a curious organic source. Of course, it is my job to find and document shortcomings and while I found a few “curious” ones, they did not appear with well-produced listening material. However, a lot of mass produced recordings revealed a slightly pinched lower midrange around 300Hz. Frequencies below 300Hz to a fundamental 30Hz note were full-bodied and resolute, clearly demonstrating the speakers’ ability to recreate harmonics surrounding fundamental tones.

Reasoning that the speakers’ efficiency rating is very high, I connected the Divas to the 18 watts/channel Weytech Labs Topaz amp (reviewed in the last issue), connected it with the Simaudio P-8 preamplifier and the Andromeda CD player (both reviewed in this issue). As expected, the Wyetech Labs single-ended amp was a great match with the Divas. However, what I had expected to be the better system combination really wasn’t as the overall sound was almost identical to the system using the Bryston monoblocks. The midrange and bass areas did sound a touch richer and the very top frequencies had a little more “sparkle” than with the Brystons, but the tonal discrepancies were negligible. Imaging was as good, solid, focused, evidencing plenty of air around instruments and vocals.

For another listening test, I connected the Cary SLI 80 integrated amplifier (reviewed in this issue). Running the amplifier in the triode and ultra linear modes quickly convinced me that this was a match made in the proverbial audio heaven. Both modes sounded good, but I preferred the ultra linear mode as it introduced more (not better) resolution, which is my preference. Others, however, preferred the Diva/Cary combination in the triode mode. I believe that this was the “nicest” sound, not the most accurate, but certainly the most musically pleasing. This test leads me to assume that push-pull tube amps such as the Cary offer remarkable synergy when combined with the WLM Divas. Those of you with such amps can expect the Divas to produce 120dB of undistorted music. Dynamics and micro dynamics were best with the Bryston, closely followed by the Topaz, but lush, musical potency was best with the Cary Audio amplifier.

All system combinations were wired up with Nordost Valhalla cables and later, with JPS Labs Aluminata cables (reviewed in this issue). While I liked the Valhallas best with the Topaz and Cary Audio amps, I preferred the JPS Labs with the Bryston monoblocks in the system.

Synopsis & Commentary

It is very rare to find a loudspeaker that doesn’t speak its own language. Confused? Well, think of a loudspeaker as a person with his/her specific individuality, speaking with his/her unique voice and language. All loudspeakers are unique in voice and dialect, often revealing maker and origin; this is often called a signature sound. The various tonal differences of loudspeakers are probably the reason why the market supports so many loudspeaker manufacturers. Many manufacturers decided a long time ago to provide the kind of sound you may like and at a price you may find attractive. There are other manufacturers that design and build loudspeakers that simply are good—and with the Divas, the WLM folks presented such a design.

If you like a speaker that sounds a bit forward, or subdued, or “honky” or “boomy” or other very distinguishing characteristics, the Divas are not for you. They are for folks who appreciate the unadulterated sound and timbre of a Stradivarius violin or an Amati bass; or the signature sound of a certain model Gibson guitar; or the sound of a Steinway piano. The Divas own “signature sound” is best described as organic—natural, not artificial or man-made. These loudspeakers do not get in the way of the music they are asked to reproduce. They will sound good with tube and solid-state amps (you can choose what you like) as long as they are of good quality. When wired up with compatible cables (the two brands I used qualify), you can expect to hear a well-balanced sonic performance, smooth over the entire frequency spread and ever so musical. The bass is surprisingly quick, the mids are sweet and the highs are delicate, but the best thing about these loudspeakers is their ability to create superb multidimensional image. It’s out of the box, out of the room, heck, it’s out of this world. Try a pair, you may like them as much as I did.

WLM Divas Wiener Lautsprecher Manufacktur
$5,900 CDN
$5,500 US
Dimensions Weight
110 cm (h) 26.5 cm (w) 30 cm (d)
26 Kg each

While dual concentric designs have been used by many, Tannoy made the most of it. WLM’s design is similar, except that it (again) hides the tweeter behind a cloth, and it is difficult to even begin to guess what brand or who’s design is working behind that sonically transparent cover.

Whatever it is, it works very well and has a unique, very smooth sonic attribute, even when it is stressed to its upper limit—about 30kHz. Each speaker has a single down-firing port with extension tubes to allow appropriate tuning to the listening room’s acoustic.

Spikes at the bottom of the enclosures elevate the loudspeakers to the height needed for bass frequencies to function properly. The enclosures are made of 22mm thick MDF and are well braced with solid hardwood to increase structural stability and reduce unwanted resonance.

The concentric driver assembly consists of a medium/low chassis on which the company’s super tweeter is mounted. The 10 inch woofer boasts, again, a doped paper cone made by the US company Eminence Technology. The forthright and uncomplicated hook-up arrangement will appeal to all who shy away from potentially complicated components.

These loudspeakers have an efficiency rating of 97dB and a range from 27Hz to 30kHz.
News | Reviews | Commentary | Marketplace | Contact Us | Home