Wilson Audio: From David to Daryl

On November 11, 2016, Veterans' Day, Wilson Audio Specialties announced that Daryl C. Wilson, 38, son of David Wilson and Sheryl Lee Wilson, has just succeeded his father as CEO and President of one of the world's leading high-end loudspeaker companies. Daryl, along with COO Korbin Vaughn, will now actively manage all aspects of Wilson Audio.

Neither Dave nor Sheryl is about to fade away into retirement, however. Dave will continue to work with Wilson's design and engineering team, serve as ambassador for his new magnum opus, the WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker (successor to his original, paradigm-shifting WAMM), and become Chair of Wilson's Executive Board. Sheryl Lee, in turn, will serve as Board Vice Chair. Together they will function as consultants to Daryl and Korbin, and help set overall goals for the company. Dave will also continue to consult with the R&D team.

In an exclusive phone interview with father and son, Stereophile learned that Dave and Sheryl Lee gave all four of their children opportunities to work in the company. While every one of them gave it a shot, most moved on to do their own things.

"Sheryl Lee and I didn't even think about succession until a son or daughter would show genuine interest and accomplishment in working toward that goal," Dave explained. "Even before he turned 4, Daryl had a passion for coming out to listen to music with me. He was the first of our children to show a commitment to developing the skills necessary to take over design and leadership."

Daryl started working in Wilson's manufacturing and customer service areas around 2002. Within two years, he had progressed to serving as a technician, helping Dave evaluate the "sound of everything, from solder and capacitors to drivers, enclosures, and enclosure materials."

Together, father and son worked on the original Alexandria and Watt/Puppy 7. All told, Daryl has contributed to the design of 31 of the 57 products Wilson has released. Starting in 2007, he was granted free reign and creative control over the Center 2, Surround 2, Center 3, Duette 2, Mezzo Convergent Synergy, Polaris Convergent Synergy, Alida, Sabrina, Center 3 Convergent Synergy, Alexx, and Yvette.

"With both the Alexandria and Watt/Puppy 7, my dad wisely had me sit and listen," said Daryl. "I'd see how he'd change a series capacitor by plus or minus 5%, and we'd wire the two in ways that enabled us to go back and forth between them and hear the differences in sound. It was around the MAXX 2 in 2004 when he taught me how to set up experiments and to develop testing protocols. My first ones weren't very good; there were holes in them that didn't yield results relevant to pushing the project forward. But he was patient with me. It was a great opportunity for him to explain how to refine the process of creating, setting up and running testing protocols, and documenting them in a useful manner.

"My mom, in turn, taught me organization. You can take something that has 1000 pieces and can be organized in 20 different ways, and discover which way will be most efficient to yield the information most important to making a productive decision."

Daryl estimates that he spent 7 years total in Wilson Audio's fabrication shop, shaping enclosures from raw materials. He also spent a total of 5 years adding parts to those enclosures, and helping fabricate crossovers. The only skill sets he did not develop were in painting, polishing, and gel-coat prep and spray.

The Way Forward
As a way of explaining the timing of the succession, Dave acknowledged that "the WAMM Master Chronosonic really requires a lot of cubic time. It's a tremendous stress relief to not have to deal with the administrative aspects of the biz, with which Daryl is brilliant. He has this organizational mind that is just amazing to watch. I know that he did not inherit that from me."

"My dad released the WAMM when he was 37, and I'm 38 right now," said Daryl. "I've seen give the same respect to a CEO as to a server in a restaurant, unless, of course, he's being disrespected. It's that kind of patience that he gave me. I'm so glad he stuck in there and continued to teach me.

"I think about all the trials he experienced as the founder, and how much he accomplished. He had the energy and stamina, and was fighting some pretty intense battles, some of which forced us to lose our home. I've seen my parents stressed and broke, as well as at the highest level of joy and happiness. They've just been the greatest example.

"Now, I want to relieve some of the burden from my dad. I have the energy and stamina, and I know how to regulate my bandwidth. I know what I can or can't do, and how to develop talents in the teammates I surround myself with.

"The trials of the founder are very different than the trials of the successor. Our dealer network is already built. My biggest priority is maintaining authenticity of our culture, which means that the quality that people have come to expect and demand from Wilson will remain. We're working that much harder to refine our loudspeakers so people get more of what we can deliver. I don't think product development is going to lag; I only see things getting better."

sunnyhtms@gmail.com's picture

I am so happy the company remains in the family. What I remember most was Sheryl Lee's attention to all of us and our families. I remember her calling when my daughter Nisha had back surgery, her graduation and recently when she got married. Dave and Sheryl are beyond amazing. They are caring and loving people. Debbie worked hard in social media and was always there to answer questions. They have shown us support and been warm in good times and bad times. It's what's makes Wilson Audio what it is. A big successful family with great smiling faces and work ethic. THANK YOU

georgehifi's picture

Ditto to that.

Too many "classic" hi-end companies have been sold to non audiophiles or ones fixated on money and then the product goes down hill.

Cheers George

Salvador Rodenas's picture

Is nice to see how a family brand as Wilson Audio is, will keep being so. I wish them the best is this everchainging world, it's very good for our hobby (I'm 46) to think that, at least this audio brand, is in the best hands in the future, Dave's son hands. By the way, I'd like to know how can I ask stereophile staff if this magazine in currenly available in Spain's magazine stands (I quit buying it in 2011, after fiveteen years) and aks Ed. JA if he could "reprint" the Sony CDP-R1/DAS-R1 some day. thank you.