Wilsons Have It All
WAMM, WHOW, Grand SLAMM! It’s enough to make you wonder WATT in blazes is happening?
No, this isn’t a discourse on pop art paintings that resemble blown up comic book panels. It’s an introduction to the venerated loudspeakers from Wilson Audio. Company founder David Wilson used those terms for model designations.
The names are a bit misleading since Wilson speakers deliver far more than the blunt-force bass they imply. Dynamic power, always a Wilson hallmark, is just one of the reasons audiophiles revere the brand. Countless Wilson devotees will tell you, without hesitation, that these speakers have it all.
We heartily agree. Wilsons are forcefully dynamic yet highly detailed, fast and distortion-free, exceptionally transparent with true-to-life timbre, and as spatially correct as any loudspeaker has ever been.
Bound For Glory
Dave Wilson got hooked on hi-fi early on, but he’s quick to admit he was no audio Mozart. While Wolfgang was writing credible classical compositions at age 5, one of Dave’s first electronics projects, an attempt at building a Heathkit amplifier, literally went up in smoke. Fortunately, that didn’t deter him from pursuing the hobby that ultimately became his profession.
Nor was Dave’s first product a speaker. It was a turnable, a modified Acoustic Research unit with its suspension altered to accommodate an SME tonearm. Dave then went on to produce and engineer a series of esteemed high fidelity recordings.
By the 1980s, he was focusing on speakers, and his first commercial model, the WAMM (for Wilson Audio Modular Monitor) challenged the industry’s finest. It combined two subwoofer towers dedicated to bass below 55 Hz with a pair of modular, full-range arrays, each of which employed an electrostatic super tweeter flanked by twin midrange/tweeter modules.
An Auspicious Pairing
At that point, Dave was still making recordings. His desire for a portable location monitor that would provide transparency and neutrality equal to that of his WAMM led him to develop a small speaker. He whimsically named it for the preschool that his young children then attended — Tiny Tots.
As hi-fi history would have it, the Wilson Audio Tiny Tot, WATT for short, spawned subsequent generations of remarkable speakers. As an example, numerous developments turned Wilson’s little studio speaker into the heralded Sasha.
The first step in that painstaking, decades-long process was the creation of a separately-enclosed woofer that would rest beneath the WATT. For many discerning home listeners, the mating of the two modules was a musical miracle. It resulted in a room-friendly, compact monitor that rivaled the dynamics, frequency response and spatial presentation of imposing four-tower systems.
The new speaker was christened WATT/Puppy, and it was destined to become the best seller in its price class.
When Wilson began using cutting-edge material for WATT/Puppy cabinets, and flawlessly finishing them with automotive paint, the speaker assumed an opulent new look. Performance took a quantum leap forward when its two-cabinet format was re-imagined as an integrated system. At that point, the model was rechristened Sasha WP.
The current iteration of the Sasha, the WP Series 2, employs a version of the tweeter used in a far more expensive Wilson model, the Alexandria. Dave expressly modified that driver for a dual-cabinet system. The Sasha WP Series 2 also incorporates significant time alignment advancements. (To better understand the importance of speaker time alignment, a key aspect of Wilson designs, see the special section at the bottom of this webpage.)
As seductive as the dual-enclosure Sasha has proven, people who listen in smaller spaces might prefer a more compact speaker. For those music devotees, Wilson developed the single-cabinet Sabrina (38 inches high x 11 inches wide x 18-3/4 inches deep vs. Sasha’s 44-inch height, 14-inch width and 21-1/4 inch depth).
Stunned By Sabrina
The Sabrina‘s price is less than half that of the Sasha. Nevertheless, like its larger sibling, it was designed to provide dynamic contrast and harmonic expression akin to that of much larger systems. Those particular performance characteristics are the ethos of the Wilson brand.
“The sound was stunning in its impact,” Stereophile’s Robert Deutsch said of the Sabrina after auditioning it with a broad range of musical material, opera included. Sonically, it gave “no indication” of being one of the firm’s smaller models.
If your goal is even closer to sonic perfection, we suggest you audition the Alexia, now available in its second iteration and designated Series 2. (Lyric was honored to host one of three regional U.S. introductions that Wilson held for this speaker in the summer of 2017.)
The Alexia is endowed with a substantial portion of the DNA that makes Wilson’s upmarket Alexandria so awesome, but it costs less than a third as much. More compact, and better suited for smaller environments than the Alexandria, Alexia’s 15-1/4-inch wide by 22-7/8-inch deep footprint is barely larger than that of the Sasha. Nevertheless, Alexia 2 delivers a walloping chunk of Alexandria’s musicality.
The Alexia’s high frequency driver is a version of the Alexandria’s Convergent Synergy Tweeter; it was painstakingly modified for the smaller system. Alexia’s midrange is virtually identical to the one Alexandria employs.
Tweeter and midrange drivers alike permit rotational adjustment on the polar axis. That means accurate sound can be dispersed to listeners who are variously seated in differently-configured rooms.
Alexia features two different woofers, one 8-inch and one 10-inch. Both were designed expressly for it then optimized over an 18-month period.
In the years that followed its 2012 launch, the original Alexia surpassed Wilson’s sales forecasts. Nevertheless, as the firm’s technological capabilities grew, its engineers were eager to apply their newly-acquired knowledge to that speaker’s platform. They ultimately revised nearly every element of Alexia.
The result is the extraordinary Alexia Series 2, a speaker that possesses appreciably more musical authenticity. A key advancement is enhanced time-domain fidelity, which in turn improves transient accuracy, dynamic contrast, and the timbral correctness of both instruments and voices.
Those familiar with the original Alexia will find its successor model faster, more linear, and far more transparent, with superior spatial resolution. Midrange musicality and articulation approach perfection, and mid-bass tones are equally melodious. Transitions between the newer speaker’s midrange and tweeter are more coherent and, thanks to dynamic capability exceeding that of the original Alexia, the Series 2 model delivers even more exuberant middle-bass performance.
Stereophile’s editor, John Atkinson, reviewed the first Alexia in December 2013: “As impressed as I have been by Wilson’s flagship [Alexandria XLF]…I am actually more impressed by the Alexia, which, at [a fraction of] the XLF’s price, gets remarkably close to its bigger sibling in terms of musical satisfaction,” he enthused. “If I were to retire tomorrow, the Wilson Alexia would be the speaker I would buy to provide the musical accompaniment.”
Note that John reached that conclusion before the Wilson engineering team had begun work on the Series 2 Alexia, which audibly outperforms its predecessor in many ways.
In fact, the speakers that wear Wilson’s colors consistently outperform. You could compare the Utah firm to a blue-ribbon racing stable that, year after year, just keeps turning out champion thoroughbreds.