Audio hardware amassed by individuals such as yours truly not only provides aural pleasure, but also is necessary in their work and naturally subject to occasional changes. Freshly acquired arrivals oftentimes replace their older equivalents and this story is about one such case, the Boenicke Audio W11 SE+ loudspeaker. Enjoy!
A regular audio consumer?
The Boenicke Audio W11 SE review emerged on these pages in July 2018, thus today’s material might strike you as a different way to skin the same cat. I can’t blame you, I wouldn’t see it as anything else if I were you. However, this writing isn’t a regular review but rather my attempt to explain the logic behind my recent Boenicke Audio W11 SE+ acquisition; what pushed me towards this particular product, how it happened and what I got in return. This story in fact had its origin in 2016 and, quite unexpectedly, only now does its key chapter unfold.
Although experience associated with high quality music appreciation is the common ground and driving force for all audio enthusiasts, I also strongly believe that the reality for regular aficionados, as opposed to industry people in contact with dozens of different products each year, isn’t the same. Many individuals take great pride in setups they were able to establish and procure, but my own doesn’t invoke this feeling. My job as reporter most likely permanently altered my view on audio hardware and related expenses. In recent years there were dozens of products I thoroughly enjoyed and many more are surely still to come, but those which left me with a firm desire to pursue them can be counted on two hands. In most such cases this sensation still wasn’t enough to financially commit, simply because I consider my audio rig as a handy workbench first and foremost. Its main purpose determines how I spend my money on it, which is where the disparity between many audio reporters and hobbyists oftentimes is.My primary criteria associated with audio acquisitions are vastly different now than they were, say, a decade ago. Back then sound quality was all that mattered to me. As long as my next target introduced a clear improvement over what I had and funds allowed to acquire it, driven mainly by impulse and early emotions, I didn’t think twice about what to do. I viewed sound quality increase as the never-ending ultimate goal, to which hardware upgrades led me one step at a time. This route was as convenient as it was straightforward, but as a reviewer, eventually, I had to re-assess this, introducing boundaries previously either not seriously considered, or not acknowledged at all; mandatory high compliance with gear already owned, room/storage space at my disposal, my obviously limited financial reach, and also, of course, usefulness in my work take top priority. All these factors not only tremendously shorten my list of viable options, but also push ultimate sound quality beyond the only goal to effectively render it as a bonus.
When I bought the Boenicke Audio W8 in 2015, I only partially understood what it truly was. Its compact frame, appealing visual appearance and, among other things, its imaging grandeur witnessed twice (in Warsaw and Munich shows) impressed me enough to jump on board. I have no regrets. The Swiss stunner proved to be capable of truly enjoyable musical acts and off-the-charts scaling with electronics at hand, but was also picky towards some hardware and positioning. As such, the W8 wasn’t the most easygoing journalistic tool to work with and I’m fully aware of all this now, but five years ago I wasn’t. Back then I thought that I had all the knowledge and means necessary to fully replicate the effect executed by Sven Boenicke himself at two shows in a row, but in reality I was nowhere near. Needless to say, the learning curve the W8 introduced early on was very steep, but eventually I was able to squeeze enough performance out of this model to leave even its maker very much surprised during his visit at my crib. Although it took years, thorough familiarity with the W8 was the utmost valuable upshot during the next Boenicke assignment.
I saw and auditioned the Boenicke Audio W11 for the first time in 2016 in Munich. One spring earlier I was barely able to finance my W8, thus it’s rather easy to imagine my facial expression upon hearing its beefier stablemate’s ask (somewhere in the ballpark of €25’000). In spite of its final announced price tag landing noticeably lower, the impressive Boenicke newcomer was still out of my league. At that time this webzine was already up and running and so was my new listening room, however my ongoing experience with the smaller W8 implied there was not enough space for its larger sibling. At least that was my educated guess.
Boenicke Audio changed its local representative here in Poland in early 2018. The new company – Nautilus – had its shop in Warsaw a mere 10-minute drive away from my HQ, which in effect turned logistics into a breeze. I still had my concerns about the volume of space necessary for Sven’s larger W11, but upon asking the man about minimal requirements for this particular product I was told that the 24m2 at my disposal should accommodate it just fine. The official communication channel with Boenicke’s Polish distributor was established, which shortly after resulted in the W11 SE loaner dressed in walnut delivered to my address. The resulting skirmish with my W8 was as unavoidable as it was mandatory.There’s no exaggeration in admitting that my standard Boenicke W8 was dwarfed by the far pricier W11 SE. The bigger, posher and sportier latter did pretty much everything substantially better, which was hardly any surprise given the price gap between the two. Their very much familiar and subjectively appealing core voicing aside, the loaner I also mapped as considerably more revealing, somewhat less demanding on amplification and in fact perfectly comfy in my room. During its stay here, the W11 SE exploited in two following reviews proved its usefulness beyond the W8’s reach, which eventually marked it as my potential upgrade candidate. Although expensive, this Boenicke specimen seemed to be an investment worth the effort.
The W11 SE was returned to the local store with no questions asked or any funny ideas, just to keep early affections leading to impulse shopping at bay. Instead, a self-imposed break was in order, just to have a clear picture of what this Swiss speaker meant to me over time; was it going to be a fond memory bound to fade away just as most review cases do, or was it to develop into a constant itch that doesn’t let go until it’s eventually scratched. The decision to replace my W8 with its costlier kin was finally made after about two months or so on the back-burner, however this time around it involved mainly cold calculations with pretty much everything else involving emotion kept at the door. Due to room/storage space limitated and not subject to any changes anytime soon, I’m able to comfortably accommodate only one full-sized loudspeaker product, which is why any such step has to be well-considered. Potential mistakes on this count are not only costly, but also troublesome work-wise. Figuratively speaking, as much as I’ve enjoyed my introductory date with the W11 SE, I truly had to sleep on the idea of marriage with it for years to come and remaining faithful on top of that.Once I declared my readiness to pursue the W11 SE model, Sven advised me to shift my focus towards its costlier SE+ version. Over the years I’ve learned to trust the man’s suggestions. There’s not a single reason he led me to think otherwise. In any case, it took me several months to gather the extra coin required, and a similar time frame for the Swiss to actually assemble the product and burn it in at his workshop in Basel. In late 2019 the firm shipping date was supposed to be set in stone. Upon contacting me again, he informed me about an optional and supposedly very potent option not yet accessible to his regular customers. I initially thought about one of the usual Boenicke suspects; some sort of brand new capacitor, a more effective resonator, or a bigger quantum purifier. All these shots missed the target, which was revealed as an integrated LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers. In spite of it being already announced as a standalone plug-and-play product by team LessLoss, this passive accessory wasn’t yet officially available back then, which turned Sven into its secretive early adopter.
The cooperation between LessLoss and Boenicke Audio is no news and both CEOs were already vocal about it i.e. here, but in case of the latest integrated Firewall for Loudspeakers I was politely asked to remain silent for the time being. As a good sport I happily obliged without asking too many questions. Two naked modules internally incorporated into each Swiss box I figured out on my own, but the option to have them installed inside my upcoming W11 SE+ left me intrigued if not somewhat puzzled. Upon asking about what I should do, the Swiss didn’t say yay or nay. Instead he labeled the latest Firewalls’ impact on his loudspeakers as spooky. In fact, that’s the exact and only word he used to describe the sensation and I already had a pretty good understanding of what he had in mind. I was game, trust must as they say, but my final tab included Lithuanian signal conditioners also preemptively, so I had to swallow any subsequent second thoughts later on before giving the green light. But most importantly, at this stage I still didn’t consider writing today’s story, let alone having it in my schedule.
Prior to its arrival I viewed the W11 SE+ as a predictable step up over the SE loaner, but also a product simply too alike to pen anything fresh and entertaining. Several internal components aside, it was still the same mid-tiered Boenicke speaker I had experienced here before, but the events that followed after fully accommodating it at my HQ left me quite smitten and caught off guard. I truly didn’t see most of the W11 SE+’s latest action coming. Although this experience incentivized me to file it as an idea to work on somewhere in the future, due to one external factor it morphed into today’s writing far sooner than I initially thought it would.
The last piece of the puzzle arrived in form of Srajan’s own take on LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers, which only several days later resulted in his Blue Moon award with the title “A truly effective ‘go faster’ bolt-on for all passive speakers.” This badge spelled a product worth your own investigation and perhaps also coin, whereas for me it was a highly appreciated sign that I wasn’t delusional about what the W11 SE+ was doing at my place. At this point no extra sparks were needed, I already had enough to raise a proper fire and finally start dancing around it, so let’s do it.It’s fair to admit that in time I got used to Boenicke Audio’s general voicing as much as its sleek visual style, but purely subjective aspects behind my recent purchase end here. Boenicke W11 SE interested me primarily as a tool of far greater revelatory prowess and less boom in my listening environment than the W8 I had. These two key reasons translated to hearing connected components more pronouncedly than before, but also less room and more loudspeakers themselves, which was effective in shortening the time needed for me to get a firm aural fix on anything in the pipeline. The W11 SE+ brought its predicted usefulness to my journo table without fail, which was comforting. But it also did a lot more on top of that such that it only partially resembles the W11 SE I had the pleasure of living with for several weeks in the past. In fact, the newcomer’s own voice was actually more unknown than pleasantly familiar. That unmistakable Swiss aroma was still in the air alright, but now heavily augmented to be more complex, fragrant and substantially more enjoyable than initially expected.
The considerably more fit, open, energetic, resolute and insightful W11 SE had its priorities sorted differently than the more romantic, distant, calmer, rounder, darker and somewhat shy W8. That’s why the W11 SE+ naturally was supposed to behave at least as sporty and direct as the former, if not more. It did all this with no hiccups, which was the common ground between the two W11 cases and so were their soundstage acts of gargantuan proportions, which is inherent to all Boenicke loudspeakers. But the major twist came in form of the SE+’s greatly elevated moisture, organic textural substance and background blackness. Not only did it have a far upper hand on sheer musical tissue, but it was also no less high-res and muscular in comparison to the SE version I remembered so well. To simplify, the W11 SE+ landed somewhere in-between the W8 and W11 SE on density and jumped over both on quality, but the height of this leap was the opposite of subtle. The key question to ask now would be about measures which allowed all this.
The ongoing LessLoss track record at these pages is immaculate for a number of reasons; four different cables, two accessories and one D/A machine. Including Sven’s IC3 CG and S3 models based on the upscaled LessLoss C-MARC tech, that’s seven hits in total and no misses, but the more of them I had under my belt, the more obvious their similar sonic backbone became. This behavioral pattern, regardless of product’s type, not only takes a lot of know-how to implement, which is intriguing all by itself, but it also informs us about the Lithuanian company’s holistic approach to audio and its ultimate goal in form of background silence. As the direct effect of noise rejection executed via various clever means, silence is the proverbial soil for everything else to flourish upon. Team LessLoss made it scalable, additive and free from any audible tonal makeovers, thus universally beneficial, whereas the Firewall for Loudspeakers is their latest and the most advanced such development to date.
Although the newest Firewall’s main ingredient looks innocent enough to not take it seriously, it’s the result of more than two decades of work. I already had a good taste of what this tech did in-between my setup’s power cables and key components. A single LessLoss Firewall 64X for power was found profoundly effective just before my DAC fed from an in-wall outlet directly. To explain what that actually means, please picture a hauntingly black musical backdrop free from any hints of grain. All virtual sound sources finely outlined, pleasantly round, internally loaded with pigment and very much alive. Upstairs with A+ notes on decay, differentiation and weight. Even the tiniest nuances visible. Bass slams as tight, wild and sensible as your music allows, plus expanded immediacy, wider dynamic contrasts and upped clarity as cherries on top. Now remove one of these potent noise killers from your setup and its performance instantly plunges to become more matte, tense, edgy, chiseled, coarser, grainier, artificial and considerably less pleasant. Put the thing back in and music blossoms, ditch it and the sensation’s gone again, poof, just like so. That’s exactly what one tiny accessory capable of profound silencing acts does, and it’s spooky indeed.Figuratively speaking, an effective silencing therapy in audio is quite comparable to a specialist restoration job on a valuable vintage collector car. Preservation, detailing, polishing and a fresh coat of paint as found on the original are allowed, any alterations aren’t. Such a costly ride has to remain exactly the same, otherwise its value plummets. But squeaky clean, fresh and kept in pristine overall shape, it’ll be worth much more. In today’s context this type of service translates to upgrades at no sonic penalty and also labels LessLoss as the go-to workshop with lots of street cred. Sven knew just the address. If he wanted his four wheels pimped up, i.e. coloured and tonally wobbly, he’d have to avoid the Lithuanian garage and go elsewhere, but now you know why he didn’t.
To map the exact input of LessLoss modules inside my W11 SE+, I’d have to desolder these parts and have a listen, then install them again, hit play once more and so on so forth, which is what I obviously didn’t do. In addition, the W11 SE that etched in my head two years ago was free from tuning devices exclusive for Sven’s final SE+ tier. Without directly comparing the two versions and without hearing the W11 SE+ un’firewall’ed, one could assume that I had no base to form any viable commentary on the subject of which upgrade contributed more and specifically how. It might seem that this publication in effect took a sharp turn towards far-fetched guesswork more than anything else, but it didn’t. Sven’s self-explanatory take on Firewalls in his boxes, Srajan’s recent LessLoss review and the omnipresent silent footprint recognized in today’s speaker’s voice by yours truly, are neither a coincidence nor a conspiracy. If served as potently as team Lithuania’s latest signal conditioners allow it, noise rejection is a child’s play to recognize, whereas individuals familiar with it in fact understand and experience associated benefits in the same way.It’s fair to now mention that the LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers in its universally applicable plug-and-play form arrived at my place several weeks ago. Needless to say, it proved very useful in mapping its internal counterparts’ contribution to my W11 SE+’s performance. Although it’s a story for another time, I can tell you as early as now that the former’s input on two loudspeaker models other than Boenickes, was as substantial as it was familiar. That says a lot about this tech.
The view beyond the SE+ realm
As a high-res stout specimen fit to portray landscapes larger than life, Boenicke Audio SE+ lived up to my journalistic expectations without a single drop of sweat. On this count neither was I surprised nor could I ask for more given my listening room’s size, whereas the hot seat’s location in there was the clincher again. Even though Sven at first considered the W8 positioned my way as radical even by his standards, a big smile after his own inspection communicated that his mind changed accordingly. The bolder, wilder, far less boomy W11 SE+ pushes the envelope in this trippy direction even more so.
The Boenicke Audio W11 SE+ allows me to sit nearly in-between both narrow boxes barely toed in, have each about a meter and then some away from the sweet spot and, if music and nearby hardware provide, still enjoy pinpoint accurate fully developed and complete picture in front. During its fairly short stay, the newcomer already introduced itself as a major mind fuck to several enthusiasts not quite accommodated to imaging stunts and vanishing acts this effective. There’s no magic behind these effects though, they’re bound to happen as long as two wooden Boenicke enablers have enough space around them.Loudspeakers rarely execute spatial potency and intimacy equally well. It’s either a cozy jazz bar and its visitors within arm’s reach, or Glastonbury’s fully open area with audience kept at a distance. The former’s quite privy vibe merged with the latter’s acres of space seems unreal to execute if not impossible, which is what the Cube Audio Nenuphar did at my place a while ago. This inherently expressive full-range purist breed not only handles more than well voices up-close and personal, but it actually thrives on such challenges. The mid realm is where many widebanders in fact excel and their point source topology ups the ante on accuracy and insight on top of that. But the Nenuphar went the extra mile via off-the-charts low end extension to serve even the most complex bass slams as effortlessly and snappy as they could. The local transducer simply did things its kind isn’t known for unless augmented in one way or another and having said that, the W11 SE+ did something similar.
If cleverness of its makers turned the Cube Audio Nenuphar into a versatile beast capable of things it honestly shouldn’t, then Sven followed suit by applying the latest LessLoss tech to my W11 SE+. If downstairs vigor and heft were the purist 10-incher’s two key twists, then extra in-your-face expressiveness and fleshiness were today’s. As loaded with torque and spatially mighty as it is, my recent purchase simply wasn’t expected to present gentle female lips nearly touching a mic in fashion fully exposed, explicit and borderline pornographic. I didn’t think its voice could be this well-moisturized, finely outlined, dense, fetching, charming, sensual and personal, but it is. If, say, two years ago I was asked about the reason of changes this severe, I’d point my finger at a costly key component, but one inconspicuous Lithuanian accessory managed to turn things quite upside down today and that’s brilliant.
Although the W11 SE+’s extra vividness might seem as something I shouldn’t gush over this much, it struck me as pronounced enough to change the product’s performance and the way I experienced it. If this newfound quality arrived with any strings attached as it usually does, I wouldn’t be this enthusiastic. Then I’d say that I gained something but at a cost of losing something in return. Audio is a game of compromises after all. But again, that wasn’t the case this time around, not at all. The clearly organically boosted W11 SE+ neither had its propulsion, energy, directness, openness, astuteness or open-throatedness truncated, nor did it become more diluted, slow, foggy, warm or withdrawn. Nothing of the sort happened. If there was any catch somewhere, I haven’t found it yet.
The Boenicke Audio W11 SE+ isn’t universal and has its limitations just as every other such product. It clearly says nay to i.e. SET amps, which Cube Audio’s flock welcomes most cheerfully, and hello to class AB/D powerhouses the other team won’t cope with equally well, which is perfectly fine. Different assignments require different measures to score high notes on hardware compliance and informative meaningful results. In order to cover the whole amplifier range I’d have to expand my toolbox further, which is far easier said than done and not important to anyone else but me.
The W11 SE+ emerged as the no-brainer step up over the previously owned W8, which indicated my primary milestone achieved just as it was originally planned. But when the former introduced itself as no less useful, on performance considerably better and far more enjoyable than its SE version, I got way more than I expected and asked for. This discovery was as thrilling as the path which led me to it, which is why, now, I sincerely encourage all Boenicke owners to have their boxes Firewalled pronto. If integrated internally, the final tab would include two-way shipping costs to Sven’s workshop plus €1’800 on top of that, whereas a bit lower coin spent directly at LessLoss.com is the external plug-and-play route. But most importantly, all evidence collected labels this specific step in my book as exceptionally effective, irreplaceable by anything else I’m aware of, and quite frankly critical. ‘Till next time!
Retail prices of reviewed components in EU (incl. 22% VAT):
- Boenicke Audio W11 SE+: €20’035
- Standalone LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers: $1’656 (a set of four)
Manufacturer: Boenicke Audio, LessLoss