FRANÇAIS ∣ ENGLISH
by François Lemay
to Michael Wright
Montréal, February 28, 2022
1974 was yesterday. As an avid audiophile who read everything, walked the hifi stores and never missed an audio show, I remember that year I discovered your electrostatic speakers at Audio Club. An unforgettable shock. Cells bathed in a gas, never seen electrode spacing, 12kV polarization, virtual source point, power, finesse and dynamics, what a brilliant and original conception! But I was only 25 years old and a dedicated listening room, a powerful amplifier and an astronomical budget were only dreams.
I could finally taste your genius thanks to my first high performance preamplifier, the famous SPS MK3 followed by the SPS and the SPA. As far as dynamic loudspeakers are concerned, the Dalquist DQ-10 “Phase array” were the closest thing I could afford, but still so little. Comparing a dynamic to an electrostatic is a risky project. Let me skip the details of my long audiophile journey that saw your Dayton Wright brand regretfully disappear from the radar around 1985.
Six years ago, my dream speaker became a reality. I had a beautiful dedicated listening room and world-class amps from a company I founded in 1999: Tenor Audio. My friend Jocelyn Jeanson then let me listen to a pair of XG-10s that he had patiently restored to their original condition. Cells cleaned and re-tensioned, new Mylar envelope and SF6 gas charge, power supply and connectic revised.
Jocelyn had already helped me improve several of the best electrostatic panels I’d ever tried to love, but the XG-10 gave me the same shock when I listened to it 50 years later. After 15 years of restoring and reconfiguring Acoustat panels for fun, Jocelyn decided to focus on the far superior Dayton Wrights. My newly restored XG-10 pair was working wonders. After countless rigorous comparative listening sessions with multi-voice, full-range, source line, and electrostatic references, I concluded that the ideal would be a marriage of the magic of a full-range with the energy and speed of a large panel. I have no scientific pretensions, but I had the intuition that if all the cells were at the same distance from the ear, we could transform your famous virtual concave source point into a real convex source point. However, we would have to sacrifice the wide dispersion that you had originally designed for an Imax cinema. Too bad, it’s a personal project optimized for a single listening position, mine.
So we dared to extract the cells from the magnificent rosewood boxes. Fortunately, they have a long life and most of them still work perfectly after 45 years. We listened for a long time to arrangements of up to 12 cells with more than 45 combinations of crossover and tweeter. Three years and more than 3000 hours of voluntary re-engineering (you know what I mean!), we finally found the magic recipe with 9 cells in 3 groups. Only the center one is not filtered and the others are attenuated in level and frequency by a high voltage resistive network.
So there is no capacitor or inductor in the signal. Of course, the SF6 gas which is no longer ecologically allowed is absent, but the still unrivalled Hammond transformer remains at the post. The bias circuit, the real engine of the loudspeaker, has been completely redesigned by Michel Vanden Broeck, the designer of Tenor Audio. Several tricks and modern parts that are 100 times more efficient allow you to discover the true potential of your cells. What I would give for you to hear your XG-10 with this new circuit!
So far, only a few experienced audiophiles who are familiar with my reference system have been exposed to it. Judging by their tears, emotion and disbelief, they couldn’t believe their ears. Disappearing speakers, incredible depth, liveliness, spatialization, tonal balance and more allowed them to discover new voices and instruments in recordings they thought they knew inside out, but most of all, they felt completely absorbed in the almost real music scene.
We had managed to acquire enough good cells and Hammond transformers to produce 5 pairs without any special attention to finishing. Listening with your eyes closed is our standard. But word spread and I was begged to make more. The search for more well-preserved XG-10s began and one day the most extraordinary encounter occurred. In Toronto, a certain Andrew (your old friend) nostalgically sold me his pair and confided his great admiration for you. He even showed me a collection of your amazing cartoons, one more talent I didn’t know you had.
But when I confide in him that I would do some bashing to find some coins, he smiles and invites me to follow him. At 97 Newkirk Rd, I think I’m dreaming when I see the name Dayton Wright on the door. The charming lady who welcomes me also thinks she is dreaming when I show her a picture of my compound. After 35 years, someone is obsessed enough to push the development. If you could have seen her incredulous eyes light up... It is of course Betty Wright (Gordon), the one who shared your life and contributed to another of your brilliant inventions: the famous Stabilant that she still makes at 97 Newkirk with her son Scott. And if you could have heard my exclamations when she opened the door to the big manufacturing space that has been abandoned and dusty for 35 years. Had you secretly or unknowingly kept it all intact in case one day a guy like me decided to walk in your footprints again?
No matter. We were able to acquire enough good cells to make a dozen pairs, transformers and other essential parts. Betty also gave me permission to use your name, Dayton Wright, for this project. I intend to honor that. In the old documents, I hoped, without success, to discover the formula for the resistive compound for the cells. On the other hand, searching with Betty in what I would call the abandoned Dayton Wright papers, I found research projects and papers but also your MIT lab notebook, your badge from the 1974 Montreal audio show, a 400-page novel corrected on liquid paper. A scuba helmet and muscle stimulation system and some prototypes complete the finds.
As you yourself have detailed the ups and downs of your adventure on the Dayton wright.com website, I will add some documents. Between your first electrostatic panel created at the age of 15 and the thousands of loudspeakers and preamplifiers you have sold in more than 18 countries, between your project to model the human brain as a hologram and your theory of periodicity, there is enough to inspire some researchers.
To bear your name, the ten pairs had to have a spectacular design and finish. I entrusted the task to Patrice Guillemin and to complete our work of controlling all the sources of resonance, an anti-vibration base was specially developed by Jean-Francois Michaud of Modulum audio.
In a few weeks, I will unveil the results of our efforts to Betty at the Montreal Audio Show. When the veil will fall, she will see the fruit of our work, but especially she will hear a music so celestial that she will believe that you became a musician. For my part, I wouldn’t be surprised if in 50 years, some audiophiles will admire their Dayton Wright Hommage whose cells have been singing beautifully for 100 years.
On behalf of all audiophiles and musicians,