Wilsons Have It All

Wilson SophiaDoes Wilson Make The World’s Best Speakers? Many Think So.

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 loudspeaker designer, David Wilson, who has used those terms as model designations.

Don’t let the names mislead you. Wilson speakers deliver far more than the blunt-force bass that they imply. Dynamic power, always a Wilson hallmark, is just one reason audiophiles revere the brand. Countless devotees will tell you, without hesitation, that Wilson speakers have it all.

We concur. 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.

WilsonLogoNor 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 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 speakers that have dwarfed their progenitor. Over time, a variety of developments both large and small have turned Wilson’s little studio speaker into the heralded home unit that’s now the firm’s best selling model, the Sasha.

Wilson SashaThe 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, which resulted in a superior breed of speaker, was miraculous. It produced 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.

Seductive Sasha

When Wilson began using cutting-edge material forWATT/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 Wilson’s top-of-the-line model, the Alexandria. Dave expressly modified that driver for a dual-cabinet system. 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, those who listen in smaller spaces might prefer a speaker even more compact. It was for those music devotees that Dave 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).

The Sabrina ‘s price is less than half that of the Sasha. Nevertheless, like its larger sibling, it was designed to provide the dynamic contrast and harmonic expression of much larger systems. Those particular performance characteristics are, in fact, the ethos of the Wilson brand.

Wilson Sabrina

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 2017-vintage Alexia Series 2. (Lyric was honored to host one of three regional U.S. introductions that Wilson held for this speaker.)

Alexia’s Attributes

The Alexia Series 2 is endowed with a substantial portion of the DNA that makes the Wilson Alexandria so awesome, but it costs less than a third as much. More compact, and better suited for smaller environments, 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 that 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 sound can be dispersed correctly 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.

Wilson Alexia Series 2Further Advancements

In the years that followed its 2012 launch, the original Alexia continued to surpass Wilson’s sales forecasts. Despite that, as the firm’s technological capabilities grew, its engineers were eager to apply their newly-acquired knowledge to the Alexia platform. They ultimately revised nearly every element of the older 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 articulation and musicality approach perfection, and mid-bass tones are equally tuneful. 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.

Thoroughbreds

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 Alexia Series 2 was so much as a gleam in the collective eye of Wilson engineers, and that the new Alexia iteration is steps ahead of its predecessor.

You could compare Wilson Audio to a blue-ribbon racing stable that turns out champion thoroughbreds year after year. The speakers that wear Wilson’s colors consistently outperform.

The Importance Of Time Alignment

In dual- and multi-driver loudspeaker systems, music in a specified portion of the frequency spectrum is fed to a dedicated driver, but the sounds from all a system’s drivers don’t always reach listeners’ ears at exactly the same time. The sound, in terms of time, has become misaligned.

Dave Wilson has long pointed out that even tiny degrees of time misalignment are readily discernible and lead to sonic losses in several critical areas: focus, speed, transparency and timbral accuracy. As a result, the music doesn’t sound as natural as it should.

Odd as it may seem, surprisingly few speaker designers attempt precise time alignment. And most who do, Dave notes, only align their speakers’ drivers for a single listening distance and seating height.

Not so with Wilsons, which give listeners time alignment flexibility. That flexibility is the reason the largest Wilson speakers feature adjustable modules. The three-module Alexia, for example, has both a tweeter and a midrange that can be adjusted for time-alignment accuracy in various spaces as well as for listeners in varied seating positions.

Time alignment is also the reason the Sabrina’s cabinet slants. The angle of its baffle, the surface on which the drivers are mounted, prevents the time misalignment that would occur if it were vertical.