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How about the La Scala? Does she segue neatly into the existing line? Yes and no. Yes since a number of details prove the genetic connection. No because this is mostly a "plunk down, play tune, done" speaker. Additional electronics or subwoofers in this price class seem counterproductive, never mind sonically redundant (at least with the floorstander - I can't speak for the La Scala monitor). Be that as it may, the very first word I flashed on during my La Scala audition was sufficient. Plop down and leash up for instant satisfaction.

The La Scala is a 2-way speaker whose monitor incarnation encloses 22.2 liters while the tester gets 46.5. Hence the F3 for the latter is lower - WLM claims 30Hz vs. 40Hz for the monitor. Visaton supplies the WLM-specified transducers for the La Scalas. Their other models' mid/woofers stem from Eminence, a giant in the guitar/bass and pro-audio transducer field. Needless to say, the La Scala mid/woofers employ doped paper and hard suspensions too to keep the WLM faith even though the 16cm mid/woofer is suspended with lower compliance but nowhere near as stiff as the Eminence with its pleated cloth surround.

It's the tweeter which will raise eyebrows. Do we have to predate WWII to remember this sight? Some will call WLM courageous but the Austrians view this as being purely practical: more surface area means higher sensitivity. To boot, this combo of hard suspension, small voice coil and paper diaphragm makes for "natural" sounding resonance modes. Also, the membrane won't break up at wavelengths shorted than its diameter (a common issue with aluminum domes gone ringing). Lastly, this paper diaphragm is low in mass to sport excellent impulse response. To which I merely add that small domes don't weigh more, never mind ribbons. Here I'd recommend toe-in to avoid beaming.

The turn-over frequency is a low 1.200Hz at a shallow 6dB/octave with a minimalist filter to avoid losing efficiency. That filter is attached directly to the single-wire terminal plate where one also finds a small +/-3dB treble contour knob to season HF balance to room and taste. Brilliant. I find this provision eminently practical and to be embraced. That said, I must smirk. We all remember treble tone controls on amplifiers. Massive expletives followed, then stern dismissals in the name of minimalism. But now we're facing a speaker with a bloody cone tweeter and treble pot. It's a fashion thing. What was passé becomes hot again if one just waits long enough. Even though here it's not exactly the same as it was before.

To a certain extent, this adjustability extends to the bass on this vented alignment whose 10cm Ø port is floor-firing. I tend to prefer front-firing ports as the La Scala monitor has. Those don't hit the corners just to hide themselves. But, downwards ports aren't bad either. The energy distributes evenly and allows fine tuning since adjustable spike lengths regulate floor distance. Two centimeters here most certainly have an effect. That's a true advantage. After all, how does one counter excess bass with a conventional front or rear port? Stuff a sock down its throat? That'll go too lean. Nylons? In the golden olden days, amplifiers had bass controls. Today, one simply flips this speaker upside down, twirls the spikes 5mm in the desired direction and listens again. No sooner said than done, the inherent smarts of it all hit me deeply. Not everyone will see the light but I do hope that at least a few of our readers will get it.

European Cherry veneer is the only La Scala finish option to control production costs and thus, lock in the target retail. The baffle remains matte black. The cabinet runs 23mm MDF with twin window pane braces. Cosmetically, the La Scala is what'd happen if I asked my 5-year old niece to build a speaker. That's no condemnation. I like it. It's simply exceedingly conservative. Put differently, quite a number of folks dig vintage Volvos because they look like cars. And so the La Scala looks like a box loudspeaker. Consequently, grills are a mere option. Good riddance, dust catchers. The knuckle test does a solid. Ditto for tapping the mid/woofer. It goes low. Nice. And no loose suspension. Time to listen...

Ignorance rules. It has some listeners dismiss Under Byens' debut album Kyst as a more complex form of lounge rock. Granted, the sound is unique, taking three years for the follow-up Det Er Mig Der Holder Træerne Sammen to reach a broader audience; and lead singer Henriette Sennenvaldt barely skirts the line into soft porn, claiming road traffic as inspiration for her music. Sexy, somewhat
eccentric, without guitars but piano, cello, a singing saw and percussion and deeply pulsating bass, all the audible frequencies are accounted for and the voice is the final cherry.

When I called the La Scala sufficient earlier, I referred to its non-critical easeful placement. As long as you remember toe-in, there's nothing to foul up elsewhere. Should you enjoy longer inter-speaker than listener distances, the center image won't collapse. As mentioned, tonal balance is variable. No sooner thought than done, I opted for a spare dB of treble energy a few bars into Kyst. The La Scalas telegraph immediately that bass is a major asset which additionally sounds very integrated and balanced. The low bass recalls the Spendor S 8e and it's well possible that the WLM speaker digs even deeper.

My Spendor encounter already surprised me how a 2-way could plumb such depths. Yet this Austrian squarely offers still more in quality. It could be because of the Spendor's rear port or WLM's greater cone surface and stiffer suspension. Regardless, for 90% of all possible occasions, the La Scala is endowed with sufficient low bass that both pleasure and audiophile damping seekers will be satisfied - in that sequence. The La Scala clearly plays more
damped, articulated and elastic than the Spendor but never runs the risk of swapping definition for restraint. Music is built upon a proper foundation of scale, sound pressure and loads o' fun. It was apparent that my Zu Druid couldn't keep up in output but I A/B'd nonetheless. While the WLM probably leads the LF race by a mere 10Hz, it transforms it into a different kind of loudspeaker, one that erects its house from the cellar up whereas the Druid begins in the living room. In short, in this price class, the La Scala has little competition. Its bass performance is simply superlative.

On tonal integration, the La Scala is well balanced without hot spots, at least when you don't screw up deliberately. Leash up an overly warm tube amp, back off the treble control by 3dB and extend the spikes to a full 6cm and sure, you'll be at hello with ponderous girth.
Sidebar I: How WLM La Scalas are made - continue
Apply rhyme and reason however and everything is in its proper place even at (very) high SPLs where nothing shifts. Teamed up with the SAC il piccolo monos, it was downright spooky how much energy could be released into my room without prompting any distress signals of compression or distortion. Neighborly respect and an aversion to replace my window panes finally put an end to walking the wild side but the La Scala earned its party animal T-shirt in a big fat way!

Even-handedness returned on vocals. Frau Sennenvandt's song sports a light head voice which has to get across. Is a speaker or component slightly off, this voice shifts into ghost town and an elf this lady is not. The La Scala nails it with proper substance and a whisper on top. Said whisper had me dial in the extra dB by the way. To invoke the Spendor again (on memory to be sure but I'm quite certain), the WLM is great on voices but that particular intimacy and micro detail of the Brit she can't quite muster. Granted, that special charm the Spendor S 8e had with voices eluded the Zu Druid as well, a US widebander with a fascinating reach-out-and touch factor that won't default into hyper present. The La Scala isn't quite as up close and personal. She's mostly in the middle - realistic, neither in macro focus nor zoomed out in wide angle. Just right.

The foundation is densely packed but not opaque as though one followed the maxim of "let's see how much meat we can hang off this frame before overdoing it". She very deftly follows the demarcation -- of transparency to timing and intelligibility of subsequent tones, of spatiality and separation of discrete events -- to avoid undue fullness just on the other side of said line. This is flesh 'n' blood stuff and specific audiophile virtues require conscious dissection. This is also true for the tweeter which avoids ultimate resolution but integrates perfectly and without loss of gloss. Hi-hats possess structured shimmer without presenting the molecules on a silver platter. Overall, the music appears wide open and well rendered and the tweeter contour makes it so even for recordings which otherwise suffer opacity.

Entrance into WLM's La Scala world occurs by way of dynamics. The immediacy whereby attacks are dished out is simply fabulous. Fiends of rhythmically impulsive fare will cash out with a vengeance. To test this joie de play, I reached for "Black Girls" by Violent Femmes. Yousa! That's how it should sound: massive, agile, with impact and rebound. The La Scala is in top shape with drums and percussion. That bass is of the highest caliber I've already mentioned. Never mind acoustic or e-bass, this speaker has both the requisite speed and authority without defaulting into an either/or tradeoff between SPLs and speed. The La Scala is an unusually lively and compelling loudspeaker which simply grips and involves the audience.

There's the sheer scale of the virtual stage transported into the living room without forwardness. Fully anchored in the nether regions, the La Scala erects a broad sonic landscape of great depth. I acknowledge that image focus could be sharper but it's nothing I actively missed. I really enjoyed how the stage wasn't a floating cloud but had both its legs firmly planted on the ground. Fed from a valve amp, the sonic panorama didn't shrink. I tried two Mastersound and one Lua integrated. In each case, the stage rolled out significantly in the depth domain but not laterally. The peculiar tube talent for layering was patently obvious. Ditto for the famous air that surrounded both voices and instruments.

For fanciers, it's certainly not a bad idea to run the La Scala with tubes. Is that a surprise with a known valve fiend like Herr Frick who certainly ran a few glass bottles during voicing sessions? Surely not. To close the circle, recall my sufficient comment. While I consider the Lua 4040 C a solid amp, it's no watershed spectacular. Joined to the WLM La Scala however, this amp cut a rather rakish profile, suggesting that the La Scala isn't just easy on placement. I was simply incapable of producing bad sound no matter what combination I tried.

In its price class, WLM's La Scala offers a bloody fortune - except for audiophile tricks for their own sake. She's friendly to preceding ancillaries and easy to set up. Additionally, the frequency extremes are adjustable which is very practical. I once dubbed the Zu Druid "a really good music machine" - and the same holds true for the La Scala. It's not that both sound identical but the live vibe, emotional believability, dynamics, SPL stability and simple joy of play which the WLMs bring to the party come from a similar place and one I find highly compelling.

  • The WLM La Scala offers tremendous bass which goes very low and is simultaneously flexible, damped and defined - a terrifically dark, class-leading foundation.
  • The midrange is believable and realistic, fleshed out and embodied without overshadowing hues of timbres.
  • Highs are open and detailed, with level adjust of 3dB in both directions to accommodate rooms, listeners or even recordings. Those looking for ultimate resolution here will miss out some.
  • The WLM La Scala is lively, rhythmic and dynamically imperturbable particularly in the macro domain. Lovers of drums, percussion and slap bass will respond with shit-eating grins.
  • The La Scala is output invariant without compression or tonal shifts to make her an ideal party speaker.
  • The La Scala stages grandly, with free-floating action that's properly grounded. Image focus is good but better is possible - not that I missed it.
  • Model: WLM La Scala tower
  • Concept: passive 2-way bass reflex
  • Efficiency: 93dB/W/m
  • Nominal impedance: 8 Ohm
  • Weight & dimensions: 103 x 25,6 x 27,3 cm (HxWxD) / 24kg each
  • Other: Treble contour +/-3dB, optional grill (180 euros/pr), bass compensation possible via Diva Control or Passive Control
  • WLM website
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