Analog Corner #277: David A. Wilson, Wally Malewicz, Siegfried Linkwitz

As I begin writing this column, I'm on an airplane on my way back from the funeral of David A. Wilson, founder of Wilson Audio Specialties. Two days before I left for Provo, Utah, came the news that my friend and analog mentor, Wally Malewicz, had died the previous day in Minneapolis, after suffering a massive heart attack. Immutable Music's Seiji Yoshioka, designer of the Transfiguration phono cartridges, passed away February 17, after a lengthy hospital stay. (I hadn't written anything about this before because his family, which plans to keep the brand alive, wasn't then ready to make an announcement.)

And a few weeks ago, while in California to speak to the San Francisco Audiophile Society, I was asked to interview Siegfried Linkwitz, co-inventor of the innovative Linkwitz-Riley crossover network, and designer of the Linkwitz Lab magicLX521 open-baffle DIY loudspeaker, among other products. Linkwitz was receiving hospice care at his home, where I interviewed him (footnote 1) and subsequently passed away.

It's been a tough few weeks. While Dave Wilson's funeral was filled with sadness, there was also much laughter, and there were fond remembrances of a life well lived, eloquently delivered by family and friends at the church and graveside services (footnote 2). At the church service, Dave's daughter, Debbie, cried and laughed through stories of her father's fastidiousness and his obsession with clean car windshields. High-performance audio systems and automobiles were two of Dave's lifelong obsessions, but both took a backseat to his wife and business partner, Sheryl Lee, and their family. Dave's son Daryl, who became Wilson Audio's CEO a few years ago when Dave and Sheryl moved to the board of directors, shared his own remembrances, mixing mirth and faith.


David A. Wilson

At graveside, a childhood friend of Dave's recounted spending time with him in the classical aisles of record stores, where a teenaged Dave examined the grooves of RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence LPs for visible evidence of dynamic range. Dave's college roommate remembered the first time he entered the dorm room he and Dave would share and seeing a turntable suspended from the ceiling by elastic bands from Wham-O slingshots.

Later, at a luncheon, Sheryl Lee introduced me to the gentleman who introduced her to Dave decades ago. He, too, had stories to share, many of them audio related.

Later that afternoon, back at the Wilsons' home, family, friends, Wilson employees, and journalists—as well as more than a few customers whose lives Dave had touched, some of whom had flown or driven great distances to be there—were played a series of recordings presented by Peter McGrath, Wilson Audio's longtime director of sales. McGrath, a well-regarded recording engineer whose résumé includes a decade's worth of superb-sounding sessions released by Harmonia Mundi, played a mix of his commercial and more recent unreleased recordings.

Of course the speakers were Wilson's WAMM Master Chronosonics, driven by a VTL TL6.5 preamplifier and Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum M400 monoblocks. VTL's Bea Lam and Luke Manley were among the many industry attendees, as were longtime friend Dan D'Agostino and his wife, Petra, and Transparent Audio's Karen Sumner. We listened to CDs, SACDs, and high-resolution files. Dave had also been a big fan of vinyl, and had in his system a Basis Debut turntable and tonearm—which reminded me of that company's founder, A.J. Conti, who died in 2016 at the age of 59.

During McGrath's final visit with Wilson, only a few weeks before, he'd played for him a recording of Schubert's String Quartet 14, "Death and the Maiden," that Wilson had found particularly moving. At the conclusion of the second movement, Andante con moto, Wilson had pounded his fists on the listening chair's armrests. "Darn! I'm so glad I built those things!" What a life Dave Wilson built for himself, his family, and his more than 40 employees, around his love of music, great sound, and messing around with audio gear.


Wally Malewicz

My friend Wally Malewicz mentored me and many others in the science of setting up turntables. Many makers of turntables and tonearms also consulted him—always, as far as I know, off the record. Wally, who held a degree in mechanical engineering, grew up in Poland in the shadow of WWII. I don't think my own turntable-setup DVD would have succeeded or been as authoritative without his help, for which he asked nothing but a well-deserved credit.

Wally occasionally forgot to send his turntable-setup tools to customers who'd paid for them, and most of whom I heard from. (Included with my DVD is a coupon, no longer valid, that was good for a 10% discount on Wally Tools.) He wasn't dishonest—it was just that money wasn't a motivation for him. He eventually confided to me that he had a serious health problem, and he did eventually make good on most, but not all, orders.

Wally had been negotiating with an unnamed company to return to production some of his tools. Hopefully, his estate will make that happen. If the WallyTractor cartridge-alignment protractor and the rest are again manufactured, I'll do my best to ensure that anyone with proof of purchase gets what they paid for.

I last saw Wally Malewicz in May, at High End 2018, in Munich, where we stayed at the same hotel. He'd had health problems a few years before, but when we ran into each other at the front desk, he looked fitter than I'd seen him in some time. Instead of the usual handshake, he pulled me close and gave me a hug and a manly kiss on the cheek. Pushing me back to arm's length, he said, "I see you are keeping trim and fit. That is good. Are you still exercising regularly?"

"Yes," I said, "still doing Pilates."

"Good. At our ages that is very important!"

Later that day, I saw him preparing to give a seminar in turntable setup at Clearaudio's sprawling exhibit. Wally knew a great deal more than I do about this subject, but never could match my presentational skills, and he knew it. We made a good team.

That was the last time I saw Wally. After HE2018 he visited Clearaudio's factory to consult with the company's Peter and Robert Suchy, then went home to Minnesota, and died a few days later. You can imagine the Suchys' shock when they heard he was gone. You can imagine mine.

At Dave Wilson's funeral, I kept thinking of Siegfried Linkwitz. Like Wilson, who earned a master's degree in molecular biology and had had a career in pharmaceuticals before starting his loudspeaker business, Linkwitz had a "straight job" outside of audio, working for Hewlett-Packard. Audio was his passion. He made many significant innovations in addition to the Linkwitz-Riley crossover, including complete designs for the innovative open-baffle magicLX521 and other speaker models—which I got to hear in his living room. While for one reason or another Linkwitz never managed to build a successful speaker business, as we talked I got the impression that he'd tried. (He never clearly stated or affirmed it.) He wasn't bitter. He laughed about it.


Siegfried Linkwitz

Today Linkwitz's designs, including the magicLX521, are offered as DIY projects through Linkwitz Lab. Though he remains protective of his designs, Linkwitz is more an idealist inventor than a businessman. All of his designs and materials are copyright-protected for the personal noncommercial use of the buyer (footnote 3).

One thing Linkwitz said stuck with me. I'd asked him about measurements, and the often considerable difference between what's seen in measurements and what's actually heard in listening. "What is important to the eye is not necessarily important to the ear," he said. "Why should it be? Nature makes sure each does its job and does its job perfectly. You get cues from the eye, but some things that look gross in the frequency response, the ear says, 'I don't care'" (footnote 4).

That from a guy who's more a scientist than an artist. Never forget those words when you look at measurements, in Stereophile or elsewhere. Measurements are useful tools, but don't let them hold you hostage. I remember replacing my Dynaco PAS-3X tubed preamp with Dynaco's solid-state PAT-4. My system's sound quality dramatically dropped. I called Dynaco to complain and was told, "Your ears have to adjust to the lower measured distortion, and then you'll better appreciate the improvement." I never did. I remember being fed the same line when CDs were introduced.

Footnote 1: Read more about Siegfried Linkwitz here.

Footnote 2: See Jason Victor Serinus's and Art Dudley's appreciations of David Wilson here.

Footnote 3: Linkwitz's business model is based on a unique view of the relationship of manufacturer and buyer. Read about the interesting conditions and terms under which his plans and parts can be purchased here.

Footnote 4: My talk with Siegfried Linkwitz can be found here.

Jack L's picture


Me too. I "never did", never do & never will "adjusted to the lower distortion of solid state amps since day one.

Incidentally I got donated a Dynaco PAS-2 some 10 years back, which I thoroughly upgraded including replacing the entire basic HV power supply with a hi-teck stabilized HV supply. It sounded much much better than its original factory version. Transparent & fast !

That said, it is now only a show item as it was replaced some years back by my design/built all-triode phonostage+linestage using PASSIVE RIAA EQ. Needless to say, my home brew unit beats the crap out of my upgraded
Dynaco, sonically !

Like it or not, our ears love the higher measured distortion of tube amps vs any solid state amps, IMO.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Mark A's picture

Big names come, and eventually they leave us. It makes me wonder what are the relatively unknown names out there today, who will become household names in the audio world in 10, 20 years?

Michael Fremer's picture

P.S. Audio’s Darren Meyer and of course Darryl Wilson… to name two's picture

Shortly after I began my audio career co- operating the first high end shop in Sonoma County, CA. ( Catania Sound), Siegfried would come in on Thurs. late nights. I was often busy, but we would always find time to chat, and usually laugh heartily at some audio mis- design. After about 1.5 years , it was 8:45 , he was in the shop.
He came up to the counter and said, “ Craig , I need to tell you something.” I said, Ok Siegfried.” He continued, “ I go into other stereo stores, and I am horrified by the conversations I hear between salespeople & clients” My knees began to shake , then “ But Craig , I have heard you speak more than anyone else, and I have never heard you say anything that was not true” Thus began a very close 35 year relationship. He & Eike became “ my second patents.” We interacted on so many planes after that. I was one of his listening team. He became enamored w/ my killer Bourgeois Blues Band , came to gigs, visited us in the studio , recorded us, mentored me on the priority of addressing audio fundamentals above all. This helped me . I took four high - end shops from survive to thrive over 31 years , he stuck w/ me in those difficult efforts, We continued to be close all the 17 years he fought prostate cancer. After I retired in 2017, and during his long slide down, I visited he & Eike frequently during that time. We would listen, laugh, eat, talk. He stopped listening to music in his last few weeks, but about two weeks or less from his death, he requested to hear Brahms Requiem, and instructed Eike how to operate his fantastic system. They listened together for 2 hours, then it stopped. My phone rang, it was Eike, asking me to come down (60 miles) and get it going. By then, he was in a big bed in front of lx-521. When I arrived , he was just conscious enough to know why I was there. I quickly woke the system up, music emerged. I turned it down, bent over closely to him, he opened his eyes halfway. I quietly spoke in his ear, “ Siegfried, I just fixed your stereo.” He made his best attempt at a smile, looked at me fully sharing the cosmic irony of my statement.. That was our last genuine interaction. I owe him so much, Now I do my best to make sure Eike is ok.

DanRiley's picture

Petty peeves first: it’s Linkwitz-RIley, not Linkwitz-Reilly…but honestly I don’t think dad would care.

I last saw Siegfried in 2007, but I drew very heavily on his recollections when I wrote Russ’s obit. He was always very generous with his time, and I deeply regret not getting back to him after dad’s passing. His speakers really do deserve serious consideration, they are pretty mind blowing.

Jim Austin's picture

Mr. Riley, thanks for the correction. I have changed the spelling in this article. And thanks for your post.

Best Wishes,

Jim Austin, Editor