Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile
Das Forschungs- und Entwicklungsteam von Wilson Audio hat viel Zeit darin investiert, neue Erkenntnisse im Bereich der Vibrations- und Resonanzdämpfung zu erlangen und daraus effektivere Produkte zu entwickeln. Das jüngste Ergebnis sind die mit der Alexx V eingeführten Wilson Audio Acoustic Diode™. Diese hoch effizienten „Spikes" waren zunächst nur mit dem Kauf der Alexx V erhältlich.
Wilson-Nutzer können jetzt ihre bestehende Lautsprecher-Spike-Baugruppe auf das neue Acoustic Diode™ System aufrüsten. Audio Reference, der deutsche Vertrieb für Wilson Audio, nimmt ab sofort Bestellungen für Acoustic Diode™-Upgrade Kits entgegen.
Aktuell verfügbare Gewindegrößen: 1/2"-13 (alle aktuellen Wilson Audio Lautsprecher) und 3/8"-16 (die meisten älteren Wilson Audio Lautsprecher). Weitere Gewindegrößen-Optionen für eine Vielzahl von Lautsprechermarken sollen nom im dritten Quartal 2021 folgen.
Der Preis für das Acoustic Diode™-Upgrade Kit (8er-Set) beträgt 3.500 Euro.
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I must admit that I didn’t use to be a huge fan of Wilson speakers. I must also admit that saying this is an awkward way to begin a review of a Wilson speaker. But a positive review from a nay-sayer turned aficionado speaks volumes about that product’s performance and capabilities. So, let us, together, go on a journey of discovery and realization.
David Wilson is rightfully considered one of the fathers of the high-end audio industry. He built a speaker-manufacturing empire and one of the most recognizable brand names in the business. When the world lost David, his son Daryl stepped in to shoulder the weight of what Wilson Audio had become. Daryl took the wheel of the Wilson engine and, while always respecting where he and his company came from, chose to move forward with his own vision of what Wilson Audio should be and where it needed to go next. Part of that new vision is a maturation of the Wilson sonic signature, one that better represents Daryl, rather than David; yet, my intuition tells me that the path Daryl started on was initially paved by David’s WAMM Master Chronosonic.
Now, with the “from the mind of” Daryl Wilson’s Alexx, Alexia2, Sasha DAW, Chronosonic XVX, SabrinaX, and just-released Alexx-V, it is clear that Wilson Audio is, indisputably, a Daryl Wilson corporation. And without showing any disrespect to David Wilson’s accomplishments or skill as a speaker designer, my tastes definitely lean toward the flavor of Daryl’s designs.
I bring this up because I speak to seasoned audiophiles every day, who say that they “never liked Wilson speakers,” and subsequently have essentially written the brand off—going so far as skipping Wilson rooms at audio shows, not listening to them at stores, and even speaking poorly of the brand in audiophile circles.…Ummm, ok.
Let me take a moment out of your friendly neighborhood review for an audiophile public service announcement: To audiophiles everywhere, many of the products from more seasoned manufacturers, which previously had reputations of sounding a specific way, no longer do. Forget your preconceived notions based on a demo from a decade or more back, or what a friend once told you about a brand. In fact, try an olive or mango again. You may find you now like them, as well.
OK. I feel better. I hope you do, too. Now, let us talk about the Little Engine that Could.
Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound
Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile
Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile
Vergleicht man die Gesamtgröße des Alexx V mit dem Original, so ist der Alexx V nur rund 2,5 cm tiefer und höher, während die Breite gleich geblieben ist. Nichtsdestotrotz soll jede einzelne Komponente von Alexx V neu bewertet und deutlich verbessert worden sein. Außerdem kommt die Alexx V nun mit der neuesten Designsprache von Wilson Audio, die mit der WAMM Master Chronosonic eingeführt wurde. Das offene Gantry-Design soll nicht nur für mehr strukturelle Steifigkeit und Aufstellungsflexibilität, sondern auch für ein freieres, organischeres Aussehen und einen emotionalen, ausdrucksstarken Klang sorgen. Jeder Schallwandwinkel an jeder Modulposition wurde beim Upgrade der Alexx verfeinert. Die zeitliche Ausrichtungsgenauigkeit der Alexx V soll damit viel näher an die XVX rücken.
Der 5,75"-Mitteltieftöner, der in der originalen Alexx, TuneTot® und SabrinaX verwendet wird, wurde in der Alexx V übernommen. Als zweiter Mitteltöner kommt ein 7"-Alnico(Aluminium, Nickel, Kobalt)-QuadraMag®-Treiber zum Einsatz, der ursprünglich für die Chronosonic XVX entwickelt wurde. Der QuadraMag-Treiber kombiniert vier getrennte Magnete, die in einer innovativen Quadratur-Geometrie angeordnet sind. Hinter den Mitteltönern wurden interne Wellendiffusoren direkt in das Material gefräst, um das Auflösungsvermögen der Treiber weiter zu unterstützen und die Einschwingzeit des Systems deutlich zu verkürzen.
Alexx V verfügt ferner über einen völlig neuen Convergent Synergy® Carbon (CSC)-Hochtöner, der auf einer modifizierten Version des vorherigen Convergent Synergy-Motors aufbaut und eine neu konzipierte, komplizierte und innovative Rückwandkammer umfasst. Dieses Kohlefaserdesign wird komplett im Haus mit mehreren 3D-Druckern hergestellt.
Die 10,5" und 12,5" Tieftöner wurden von Wilson Audio ursprünglich in Verbindung mit dem WAMM Master Chronosonic entwickelt. Durch die sorgfältige Optimierung des Alexx V-Gehäuses konnte das Innenvolumen im Vergleich zum ursprünglichen Alexx um 16% erhöht werden. Damit weist die Alexx V fast das gleiche Innenvolumen des Tieftöners auf, wie der Chronosonic XVX, was eine tiefer reichende Tieftonwiedergabe, eine schnellere Einschwingphase und eine insgesamt höhere Bassauflösung ermöglichen soll.
Weitere Änderungen im Vergleich zur ersten Alexx umfassen unter anderem die Verwendung der neuen AudioCapX®-WA-Kondensatoren, ein neues und verbessertes Spike-System, die neuen Polklemmen der Sasha DAW, ein verbessertes Kabelmanagement sowie eine Überarbeitung und Optimierung der Frequenzweiche.
Die Alexx V sind ab sofort im autorisierten Fachhandel erhältlich.
Preise (pro Paar):
Standardfarbe: 158.000 €
Upgrade-Farbe: 162.000 €
(inkl. 19% MwSt.)
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Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile
Every audiophile knows the futility of describing to the uninitiated the experience of hearing music through a high-end audio system. You can resort to all the usual jargon of dynamics, timbre, soundstaging, etc., but until that person experiences music through a great system for himself, he just won’t understand. Five minutes in the sweet spot, however, may forever etch on his consciousness just what his favorite music can sound like when reproduced with exquisite fidelity. Those five minutes might indelibly change his relationship to music; he can’t un-hear the newfound musical expression. But without this firsthand personal experience, there’s absolutely no way of even imagining how reproduced music can sound, never mind knowing and understanding it.
This phenomenon isn’t confined to neophytes. A seasoned audiophile can think that he’s reached the pinnacle, but he’s just as oblivious to the next level of realism as the neophyte who has never heard even a basic high-end system. Despite decades of experience, the sophisticated audiophile simply can’t know what musical expression has been lost. Of course, we can all hear a flawed system and imagine how the system would sound without the flaw, but that imagining utterly fails to fill in the missing musical expression.
We can’t conjure in our minds the missing artistic intent because music’s meaning is encoded in the physical sound. Change the physical sound and you change the music’s meaning. For just one of countless examples, if a loudspeaker has thick, slow, plodding bass reproduction, the music’s sense of rhythmic flow and drive will be diluted. The way that great musicians lock into the groove, get “in the pocket,” will be diminished. This aspect of the musical expression disappears just by the changes in the physical medium—the patterns of air-pressure variations striking your eardrum. Contrast this with expression through the printed word, which isn’t dependent on its physical characteristics to convey meaning. This review could be printed with gold ink on the world’s finest paper, or on the cheapest newsprint, and the meaning wouldn’t change. The printed word’s meaning isn’t dependent on the physical characteristics of the medium. But music’s meaning is physically encoded in electrical signals and resulting acoustic waveforms that are susceptible to infinitely variable degradation, alteration, and dilution.
This line of thought was prompted less than 24 hours after the Wilson Audio Chronosonic XVX loudspeaker and a pair of Wilson’s Subsonic subwoofers were installed in my listening room. After the dust settled from two intensive days of installation and setup by three Wilson personnel, and I was alone with the system and my music library, I felt just like the neophyte hearing high-quality music reproduction for the first time. I’ve lived with many, many of the world’s greatest loudspeakers in my home, and heard countless others at shows, but I’ve never listened to a speaker quite like the Chronosonic XVX. It is the most realistic sounding, the most musically expressive, and the most intellectually and emotionally engaging loudspeaker I’ve heard.
I’m not saying that the XVX produces a sound that I happen to like. Or that if you favor multi-way dynamic loudspeakers you’ll love the XVX. Or that this new Wilson will appeal to some listeners more than others. Rather, I’m going to assert in this review that the XVX sets a new standard of realism in reproduced music—a realism that more fully conveys artistic intent regardless of your favored technologies or sonic priorities. I can’t imagine anyone, no matter what their preferred speaker brands or listening biases, not being captivated by the XVX’s lifelike presentation. After all, real is real. The XVX isn’t just a milestone for Wilson Audio; I believe that it is a landmark achievement in loudspeaker design.
If you’re familiar with big Wilson speakers, and even if you’ve lived with a speaker like Wilson’s XLF, it’s natural to look at the Chronosonic XVX and see just a bigger and more elaborate version of the speakers Wilson has been building for decades. It’s easy to project on the XVX your expectations based on Wilson’s 47-year track record. But whatever you imagine the XVX sounds like, you will not be prepared for how the XVX actually performs. Although the XVX is most assuredly a technical evolution of nearly fifty years of loudspeaker engineering at Wilson Audio, the XVX is a sui generis creation that deserves to be considered as its own entity.
Wilson Audio calls the Chronosonic XVX the flagship in the Wilson Audio line. But what about the $850,000-per-pair WAMM Master Chronosonic? David Wilson’s magnum opus is a limited-edition statement product that has nearly sold out its 70-pair run, leaving the XVX as Wilson’s top model. As we’ll see, the XVX has much in common with the WAMM MC, but the XVX is not “merely” (if that word is applicable in this context) a scaled-down version of the WAMM MC. Instead, this new speaker incorporates cabinet materials, drivers, crossover components, and technologies that are unique to the XVX. In fact, the XVX introduces more innovations than any other single product in Wilson’s long history. The two-year development project was led by Daryl Wilson, who became CEO of Wilson Audio in 2016 shortly before his father, David, passed away. Daryl has led the design effort of the most recent—and best, in my view—Wilson speakers including the Sabrina, Yvette, Alexx, and Sasha DAW.
The Chronosonic XVX carries a price tag of $329,000 per pair, positioning it in the upper echelon of the high end. The optional pearl finish’s $30,000 price tag is reportedly justified by the labor-intensive process needed to create that special paint. Although the XVX is clearly a full-range speaker, Wilson offers the Subsonic subwoofer to extend the system response down to 10Hz. Wilson installed two Subsonics in the review system, along with Wilson’s ActivXO electronic crossover. Between the pearl finish, two Subsonic subwoofers at $40,000 each, and the $4500 ActivXO, the total system price comes in at a breathtaking $443,500, making it the most expensive audio product I’ve reviewed. Unlike many speakers of this lofty price, the XVX is a full-production model, and one that can be auditioned at eleven U.S. dealers as of this writing (see the Wilson website for a list of dealers demonstrating the XVX).
The Chronosonic XVX is a four-way, seven-driver dynamic loudspeaker. This new flagship is a massive, and massively complex, piece of loudspeaker engineering. The Chronosonic moniker the XVX shares with the WAMM Master Chronosonic indicates that the XVX is built around the ability to time-align the drivers at any listening position with the same accuracy as that of the WAMM MC. Although time alignment has been a hallmark of Wilson products since the first iteration of the WAMM back in 1984, it is realized in the WAMM MC, and now the XVX, with unprecedented precision.
The XVX architecture consists of a lower woofer module that houses the reflex-loaded 12.5″ and 10.5″ woofers (the same drivers developed for the WAMM MC), and four separate enclosures for the five upper drivers (two lower midrange, one upper midrange, one forward-firing tweeter, one rear-firing tweeter) that can be independently articulated. The upward/rearward-firing tweeter is mounted in the upper-most midrange module. An open-air “gantry” that is bolted to the woofer enclosure forms the infrastructure for the midrange and tweeter modules, as well as for the intricate mechanism for time-aligning the drivers.
The XVX’s technical and mechanical complexity is partially revealed by standing behind the speaker. In addition to the individual driver modules, you can see the wiring system used to connect them, the terminal block for that wiring, the interchangeable resistors that can fine-tune the tonal balance and that also protect the drivers, as well as the massive carbon-fiber-encased crossover network. It’s quite a sight.
The XVX has a large physical presence, standing 6′ 4″ and weighing in at 685 pounds (per speaker side). Yet despite its size and weight, the XVX is astonishingly svelte and elegant. As you stand next to the speaker and allow your eyes to explore its many contours, you gain an appreciation for the myriad design touches, some of them miniscule, that contribute to its overall organic appearance. The result is a large speaker that doesn’t have the boxy appearance of previous Wilson designs. Everywhere you look are radiused edges, subtle contours, gradations of depth, and flowing curves that together create a harmony of visual design. That’s important when you consider the strong statement the XVX will make in a living room.
Each speaker is supplied with seven grilles (available in a variety of colors), one for each enclosure plus a pair of large grilles that cover the gantry’s open sides. The gantry grilles, machined from Wilson’s X-Material, are held in place magnetically. You can elect to leave them off, exposing the gantry’s machined aluminum frame as well as the time-alignment mechanism. In a nice touch, the aluminum surface is machined with a fine ribbed finish, further enhancing the elegant presentation. You can specify a natural aluminum finish (silver) or black-anodized.
The XVX’s build-quality and paint finish are absolutely spectacular. Wilson’s paint quality has long been the standard of the industry, but the XVX seems to have taken the finish to another level. For the past 15 years I’ve made a hobby of car detailing, and have some experience looking at and evaluating fine painted surfaces. I can say that the XVX’s paint is a step up from even the finest luxury-automobile finishes. To create a painted surface of the XVX’s size, with that level of flawless mirror finish, is a remarkable achievement, and reflects the large investment Wilson has made in developing its in-house paint facilities and techniques over the decades. The closer you look at the XVX the more there is to see and appreciate.
I’ve broken out the details of the XVX’s remarkable design and construction in the sidebar, and also included sidebars on the Subsonic subwoofers, ActivXO crossover, and the set-up process for such an elaborate system.
Whenever I’ve experienced a new standard in loudspeaker performance throughout the years, it’s usually been a case of the new speaker achieving an incremental improvement in a few or several areas of sonic performance that outweigh that new speaker’s shortcomings in other areas. For me, judging a loudspeaker that aspires to the state of the art involves weighing tradeoffs and then perhaps concluding that, on balance, the new speaker is the best I’ve heard.
This wasn’t the case with the Chronosonic XVX; it is markedly superior to any other speaker I’ve heard in many, many specific areas and, most importantly, in musical realism and expression. That musical expression is the synergistic combination of its myriad sonic attributes that infuse reproduced music with a sense of life and realism. These attributes include dynamic contrast, transient resolution and coherence, transient weight, bass power and articulation, midrange beauty, soundstaging, timbral resolution, and clarity of instrumental line.
I customarily begin this part of the review by describing the product’s most salient virtue. But the XVX has so many outstanding performance qualities that choosing just one to begin with is difficult. Nonetheless, I’ll start with the XVX’s reproduction of transients and dynamic contrasts, and the sense of realism and life this transient fidelity brings to music reproduction.
The XVX delivered a physically startling sense of suddenness on transient attacks. Compared with the real thing, reproduced music typically suffers from a diminution of the initial transient, in both speed and impact. Horn speakers and electrostatics can have lifelike leading-edge transient reproduction, but horns are to my ears often tonally colored, and electrostats lack weight and impact behind the transient. The XVX has the speed of a horn speaker or an electrostatic, but without the respective shortcomings of those two technologies. The XVX managed to combine tremendous transient speed with a hard-hitting physical power and force that is nothing short of thrilling. The drum kit as reproduced through the XVX was absolutely revelatory, with a visceral verve and lifelike suddenness. The way that each drum strike pops out of the music, the way a live kit sounds, is one of the defining aspects of the XVX’s sense of realism. This quality brought a new level of rhythmic expression to familiar music.
Although some speakers sound fast, the XVX stands alone in its ability to convey great weight and energy along with speed. There’s a sense of massive power to transients, particularly those that have low-frequency energy, such as low-tuned toms, congas, and kettle drums. I had the impression that all the energy in the transient is delivered instantaneously rather than smeared over time, and with equal speed and decay across a very wide frequency band. There was no sense of the low-frequency component lagging behind the rest of the spectrum, either on attacks or decays. The track “Armando’s Rhumba” from Chick Corea’s Spanish Heart Band album Antidote [Tidal MQA] features an extended percussion break with low-tuned congas, timbales, and other Latin percussion instruments. I could hear and feel the low-frequency resonance of the congas’ wooden body (with superb pitch definition, I should add) coupled with the sharp attack of hands on the skins. The exuberantly played timbales during this break were reproduced with the startling force of the stick hitting the head, and accompanied by the unmistakable sound of the metal drum resonating. The XVX sounded as though it had virtually unlimited dynamic range; peaks were reproduced in their full expression, with no compression. Concomitantly, decays were equally fast, without smearing or overhang. The XVX seemed to have a very fast settling time, swinging from loud peaks to deep silence instantaneously. It was like hearing music without a compressor in the signal path.
It’s impossible to overstate the effect of this transient fidelity on the sense of realism, and of conveying the life, vitality, and energy in the music. This speed, weight behind the transients, and lack of overhang were amplified by the XVX’s ability to extend this performance into the bottom octaves. It wasn’t just fast and powerful through the mids and treble, but also down to the very lowest frequencies, and without any bloat or bass artifacts that called attention to themselves. The resulting sense of physicality was unlike anything I’ve heard from any other loudspeaker. To say that the XVX is hard-hitting is an understatement. It is whole-body thrilling, from orchestral climaxes to propulsive grooves. The XVX reveals the absolutely perfect lockstep between the kick drum and bass guitar on Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues [Tidal MQA], for example. This music demands this level of dynamic agility and bass precision to fully convey the musicans’ intent.
But the XVX wasn’t only about bombast. At the other end of the dynamic scale, the XVX was equally adept at portraying very fine transient information such as gentle shakers toward the back of the mix. Low-level information was rendered with tremendous clarity, making instruments sound like distinct objects in space rather than undifferentiated sounds buried within the musical fabric. I greatly enjoyed the way the XVX revealed a wealth of subtle nuances in the most delicate cymbal work. I’ve appreciated drummer Billy Higgins’ work on many records (he was the house drummer for Blue Note for many years, and appeared on more than 500 albums), but the XVX’s transient fidelity and low-level resolution revealed the full extent of his artistry. I heard newfound expression through the XVX, such as the way Higgins maintains a shimmering rhythmic pulse on the riveted ride cymbal, snare accents that surprise and delight, subtle modulations of the volume of kickdrum beats, and rhythmic interplay with a soloist. Listen to the track “Second Balcony Jump” from Dexter Gordon’s album Go [Music Matters LP reissue] and marvel at how adeptly he shifts from the oddly syncopated head to a full-on swing when Dexter launches into his soaring solo. (Incidentally, there’s a funny story in Sophisticated Giant, Maxine’s Gordon’s biography of her late husband, about how this piece was named.) This kind of connection with a musician’s expression is the raison d’être of high-end audio, and the XVX delivers like no other speaker I’ve heard. It wasn’t just Higgins’ drumming that I came to appreciate more; I had the same experience with many other drummers. The XVX’s lifelike rendering of the drum kit, from its transient impact to subtleties of dynamics, brought to the fore the playing of my favorite drummers, including Peter Erskine, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, and Leon Chancler.
The XVX’s dynamic agility paid dividends not just on percussive sounds, but on virtually all instruments. The entrance of a brass or woodwind instrument or section, for example, had a similar kind of physical immediacy. The way the XVX portrayed the initial attack, followed by the sense of expanding air around the instrument, was sensational. The XVX presents a powerful sense of presence and immediacy; a vocal entrance momentarily startles the brain’s primitive response into thinking another human has suddenly appeared in the room. I heard this quality, uniquely before hearing the XVX, during a 90-minute audition of the WAMM MC at its introduction several years ago.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around the XVX’s tonal balance. On one hand, it is extremely flat, smooth, and neutral in character, all the way down to the bottom octave. When playing music without much energy in the mid-to-upper bass, the XVX’s bottom-end is world class in pitch definition and clarity, but doesn’t sound qualitatively different from other reference-class loudspeakers. But when asked to reproduce instruments with a lot of energy in the lower registers, the XVX takes on an entirely different character. Suddenly, it’s as though there’s another level of weight, richness of tone color, solidity, and visceral power. The XVX, unlike any other speaker I’ve heard, fully reproduces the solidity, density, and weight of low-frequency-rich instruments such as an orchestra’s doublebass section, or brass instruments when playing in their lower registers. This is the classic “power range” of the orchestra, and heard through the XVX it is thrilling. Listen, for example, to the Dallas Winds brass section on the spectacular Keith Johnson recording John Williams at the Movies on Reference Recordings (176/24 downloaded from Reference). The big brass-section tuttis will lift you out of your seat with their force. Not only that, but the timbre of the instruments is fully fleshed out, without the common affliction of low-frequency-rich instruments sounding thinned in tone color and robbed of their weight.
I began the previous paragraph by saying that the XVX’s tonal balance was an enigma. The puzzlement is this: The XVX has a huge bottom end with seemingly limitless weight, extension, dynamics, and sheer ability to move air. Yet, at the same time, it’s fast, light, agile, and completely free from any thickness, bloat, or boom. The tonal balance is lean and light on music without much low-frequency energy, yet extremely dense, rich, and full when the music calls for it. The XVX’s preternatural ability to seemingly change its tonal balance based on the music’s energy distribution is unique in my experience. I was amazed by how much bass energy the XVX could put into the room without a trace of boom, as well as its ability to maintain an unflappable sense of precision and control at the lowest frequencies, even when reproduced at high listening levels. This is a combination that I’ve not heard in any other speaker, and one that takes reproduced music to the next level of realism. This sense of tight control was revealed in the XVX’s superb definition of the pitch and articulation of each note. I heard detail in bass lines that I’d never heard before, each note clearly distinct in timbre, pitch, and dynamics. This combination of clarity, massive weight, and unlimited dynamics, with those qualities maintained down to the very bottom octave, was viscerally thrilling. This was true of the XVX without the Subsonic subwoofers, but the pair of subs extended this remarkable performance to the infrasonic range—the subs are flat to an astonishing 10Hz.
I should add a caveat here; my only experience with the XVX is in my listening room—I haven’t heard it at a show, the factory, or in a dealer’s showroom. My listening room is atypical, designed from scratch with good dimensional ratios for smooth distribution of room-resonant modes. It was built with the ASC IsoWall technique whose primary virtue is the room’s ability to be driven hard by low-frequency energy and not overload or cause the building structure to store and later release energy (“wall shudder’). I don’t know how the XVX will behave in a conventional room, but can say that the XVX’s bass and dynamic performance in this room were uniquely spectacular.
We’ve all had the experience of walking down a street and upon hearing music, knowing instantly that it’s live. The XVX has that similar quality of presence and immediacy through the midrange. The mids are simply sensational in lifelike presence and vividness. This vividness isn’t the result of sounding forward or analytical, but rather from the sheer sense of realism, that impression of the instrument right there, in front of you. The XVX has a gorgeous and lifelike rendering of timbre that combines warmth and richness with very high resolution—often mutually exclusive qualities. There’s an organic, relaxed beauty to the sound, yet at the same time the midband is extraordinarily revealing of very fine textural, spatial, and dynamic cues. The result is an almost spooky sense of presence that makes it easy to forget that you’re listening to a reproduction. In addition, the XVX portrays instrumental timbre with a weight and density without sounding dark or closed in. The common affliction in reproduced music of thinning tone color and upper harmonics overlaid with a whitish patina was completely absent in the XVX. The sound of the violin (Hillary Hahn’s Retrospective on DG, direct-to-disc) was particularly revealing of the XVX’s unique combination of harmonic warmth with resolution of very fine detail. Her instrument was rich, full-bodied, and densely textured in the fundamentals and lower-order harmonics along with a sweetness in the upper harmonics that simply made the reproduction sound closer to the real thing. The sound was ravishingly beautiful in timbre and in the full measure of her expression. The trumpet is another example; the XVX conveys a tremendous amount of high-frequency detail and power yet without a hard, whitish edge. Consequently, I could listen to music at very high levels, when appropriate, without my ears closing down on peaks, and without listening fatigue. The XVX is a speaker you can listen to for very long sessions at high levels and not feel tired.
This realism may be the result of the XVX’s resolution of the very fine microstructure in instrumental timbre. For example, woodwind instruments don’t produce a purely steady-state tone on held notes, but rather a rapid series of micro-transients created by the reed moving back and forth. It could be that the XVX’s transient fidelity extends into this micro-realm, correctly reproducing the temporal microstructure that provides the brain with cues that trigger the impression of timbral realism.
The sense of ease through the midrange carried over to the treble, which was utterly without metallic hardness, grain, or excessive brightness. The silk dome tweeter never called attention to itself, instead blending seamlessly into the sound. The top end was natural and relaxed; the treble never sounded like a separate component riding on top of the music. Vocal sibilance was noticeably smoother and more natural, blending perfectly into the sound of the voice rather than sounding like an artifact riding on top of it. Cymbals seemed to float in air, their decays richly textured and resolved way down into deep silence. The treble openness contributed to the XVX’s sense of live air and space in a hall, no doubt aided by the upward-firing tweeter.
Despite the XVX’s size, this speaker rendered all types of music with the appropriate scale. Many big speakers sound big on everything, reducing the intimacy of smaller-scale works. But the XVX presented music with a realistic scale, from a solo acoustic guitar, to a violin and piano duet, to a string quartet or jazz piano trio, to a chamber orchestra, to a big band, to a 120-piece orchestra with choir. On really big music, the XVX is stunning in its sense of expansive size. The speakers completely disappear into a huge three-dimensional stage, with not just tremendous depth, but also with fine gradations of that depth. I could easily hear space between rows of instruments in the orchestra, like looking at a diorama rather than a photograph. Image precision was pinpoint, with clear delineation of the instrument’s outline, with well-defined space around that outline. Because this is a big speaker, it presents images higher than that of smaller speakers. The XVX beautifully portrayed the way air expands around an instrument, just as you hear in life. A good example is the brass on the Reference Recordings title From the Age of Swing; the XVX gets out of the way to fully reveal the instruments’ dynamic envelopes in both power and space.
There’s one other aspect of the XVX’s presentation that sets a new standard, in my experience; I could clearly hear every instrumental line no matter how complex or dense the music. The sound wasn’t composed of one big fabric of many colors, but rather of entirely separate objects in space, just the way we hear live music. Consequently, I could easily shift my attention from one instrument to another—I found myself more deeply appreciating great comping during a solo, for example. Herbie Hancock’s funky Rhodes playing behind Milt Jackson’s and Freddie Hubbard’s solos on the title track from the LP Sunflower sets the entire feel of the tune, and was never more clearly articulated.
Although a four-way, seven-driver speaker, with what must be a very complex crossover (including a crossover point within the two-way midrange), the XVX sounded completely coherent from top to bottom. There was no change in timbre, articulation, or dynamics as a function of frequency.
I could happily live with the XVX alone, but must admit that the pair of Subsonic subwoofers took the performance up a substantial notch, and not just in the bottom end. When I turned the woofers on and off with the flick of a switch on the ActivXO crossover, they were adding an extra measure of power and depth to instruments such as timpani and pipe organ. The pedal points on the Rutter Requiem (Reference Recordings) felt like they extended to the center of the earth, with subtle power and precise pitch as they pressurized the air in my room. The Subsonics added a new dimension of majestic sweep to this recording. The Subsonics also expanded the space and air of the Myerson Symphony Center by resolving very low-level, low-frequency components that cue the brain to the size of the hall. I also heard a greater midrange clarity on the voices with the Subsonics engaged, with more separation between the choir and the orchestra. Pipe organ spectaculars were just that—spectacular. The sense of limitless extension, limitless power, and limitless control, along with the precise sense of pitch with no port artifacts or bloat, was simply stunning. It’s really something you have to experience for yourself. I’ve never heard better bass from an audio system, or bass that extended this low and maintained its quality in the bottom two octaves.
If forced to sum up in one word the quality that makes the Chronosonic XVX stand apart from other speakers, that word would be “physicality.” The XVX projected a physical impression of instruments and voices in my listening room with startling realism. Physicality also describes this speaker’s hard-hitting and lifelike reproduction of music’s transients, not just in speed but also in weight and power. Physicality is the best word to convey the impression of a tangible soundstage populated by individual instruments, each of its own vibrant tone color. And then there’s the visceral physicality of the bottom few octaves that combine seemingly limitless extension and power with precise articulation.
Yet the word “physicality” merely describes the sound the XVX produces. Far more important is the rich musical expression contained within that sound. This speaker’s remarkable sonic attributes simply allowed me to hear more of the musical intent. Playing familiar recording after familiar recording, I was repeatedly amazed at the way I discovered new expression—how a drummer’s subtle but musically significant dynamic accents changed a piece’s rhythmic feel or how (for the first time) individual musical lines fit into a coherent whole, for just two examples. The XVX lets you instantly and deeply fall into that zone of complete musical immersion—free of distractions that remind you that you’re listening to an electro-mechanical recreation of music and not the music itself.
I’ve had the XVX system in my home for five months, yet every time I sit down and listen, I feel a profound sense of musical discovery. The Chronosonic XVX is an open window into a world of musical expression that has even this experienced listener feeling like the neophyte hearing a high-end system for the first time.
Specs & Pricing
Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker Four-way, seven-driver dynamic loudspeaker
Driver complement: One 12.5″ woofer, one 10.5″ woofer, two 7″ lower midranges, one 4″ upper midrange, one 1″ main tweeter, one 1″ rear-firing tweeter.
Loading: XLF port, front- or rear-firing (woofer); rear vented (two lower-midrange modules); bottom vented (upper-midrange module)
Frequency response: 20Hz–30kHz ±2dB
Sensitivity: 92dB, 1W/1m at 1kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms, 1.6 ohms minimum at 326Hz
Minimum amplifier power: 100Wpc
Dimensions: 16.5″ x 73.625″ x 33″
Weight: 685 lbs. net per speaker (1695 lbs. total shipping weight)
Price: $329,000 per pair, standard finishes; $30,000 additional for WilsonPearl finish
Subsonic Subwoofer Three-driver passive subwoofer
Driver complement: Three 12″ dual-spider woofers
Loading: Front ported
LF extension: 10Hz, –2dB
Sensitivity: 87dB at 1W
Dimensions: 18″ x 27.25″ x 65″
Weight: 612 lbs.
ActivXO Crossover Line-level electronic crossover
Inputs: Balanced and single-ended
Outputs: High-pass, balanced and single-ended, two stereo pairs; low-pass, balanced and single ended, two mono
Low-pass filter: 30Hz–150Hz, 6dB or 12dB per octave
High-pass filter: 30Hz–150Hz, 6dB or 12dB per octave
Phase: 0–180°, continuously variable
Dimensions: 18.8″ x 4.5″ x 11.5″
Weight: 16.75 lbs. net
The post Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker, Subsonic Subwoofer, and ActivXO Crossover appeared first on The Absolute Sound.
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