Wilson Audio Alexx speakers review
I was very honoured to be asked along to the very first set of sittings in the UK of Wilson Audio’s new Alexx loudspeakers.
Alexx is the fourth all-new loudspeaker from Wilson Audio in as many years. Those of you familiar with the Wilson Audio brand may take it as read that the Alexx replaces the venerable MAXX, in that it is Wilson’s latest entry into the large speaker segment just below the £200,000 Alexandria – the fact of the matter is, the comparison with the MAXX begins and ends there.
Instead, the Alexx is an altogether more complex and sophisticated loudspeaker. Alexx incorporates Wilson’s latest thinking on loudspeaker design in the areas of time-domain geometry, driver configuration, and driver development.
Being the latest beneficiary of Wilson’s ongoing analysis of low-resonance cabinet strategies via laser vibrometer, the Alexx draws from both recent designs such as the Alexia and the Sabrina, as well as the WAMM — Dave Wilson’s up and coming Magnum Opus — with which it was developed concurrently.
Wilson Audio Alexx review
The half-dozen of us in the listening session were treated to the almost magical output from the Alexx speakers. The results, as you can imagine, were very impressive given that the rest of the system being used was of an equally high level.
Peter McGrath started off the session with a little background to the Wilson Audio family, which the company is, quite literally.
Now, Peter McGrath is just not some bloke who has been flown in by Wilson to ply their wares. Peter is one of the finest recording engineers in the world, with many years of experience and recordings to his name.
Based in Provo, Utah, David Wilson has lead his company with his never-ending passion for creating the highest level of stereo loudspeaker possible. The company is still owned and managed by David 40 years since he and his wife, Shirley, founded it.
Darryl, David and Shirley’s son, has also come on-board to the family business, cutting his teeth on the Sabrina loudspeakers. Now he proudly presents his latest masterpiece, the Alexx.
Wilson Audio still perform all the research and develop everything in-house. Saying that, they also manufacture everything in house, except the drivers which are still designed by Wilson but built by another party. The attention to detail is incredible and the ‘no corners cut’ mentality can be seen going all the way through to the cabinet material and even the glues being used.
The enclosures are made from exceptionally strong, hard, vibration-resistant composites that Wilson calls ‘X-material’, ‘S-material’ and the new ‘W-material’. The X-material for one was originally developed for military use but now Wilson Audio out-buys the government 3:1 for it.
The reasoning behind using this super-special composite is that it has monotonic resonance. The material is also stiff, so the housing holds the drivers in their optimum position. With minimal resonance and a stiff hand the drivers perform their function perfectly.
Owing to this material’s unusual qualities, forming it in to the sleek enclosures takes extraordinary measures too. Specialised cutting tools need to be used as well as those aforementioned glues. The glue itself commands around $890 of the build cost of the Alexx.
The custom screws used within the build are non-magnetic, or austenitic, so as not to add any interference.
Let’s get in to what’s new about the Wilson Audio Alexx loudspeakers.
Wilson Audio Alexx specification
Alexx stands just over 62-inches high, weighs more than 200kg (440 pounds) per speaker, has a sensitivity of 91 dB@ 1 watt (2.83V at 1 meter @1kHz) and has a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, 1.5 ohms minimal @ 2850 Hz.
These speakers have a frequency response of +/- 3 dB 20 Hz – 31 kHz and can deliver with a minimum amplification of 50 Watts per channel.
MTM driver geometry
The MTM (Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange) geometry generally refers to a driver arrangement where two midrange drivers flank a tweeter vertically. According to Wilson, this arrangement has several advantages, among which is greater dynamic range in the midrange portion of the spectrum.
Wilson has employed various versions of MTM driver geometries starting with the X-1 Grand SLAMM. However, Wilson’s MTM configurations have always been arguably more sophisticated and complex than competing designs.
For instance, rather than mounting the three drivers that make up the MTM in a flat baffle, Wilson has employed a modular approach. This has several benefits, one being the ability to optimise the enclosure properties for each driver.
I’d dare say though, that the most important benefit, in terms of Wilson’s unique technology, is that the separate modules in the MTM can be made to be adjustable — both in terms of the relative position of each driver module one-to-another in the time domain, as well as having the ability to optimise each driver’s dispersion characteristics within the array.
Drawing on technology developed in conjunction with the upcoming WAMM, the Alexx’s midrange is divided between two different drivers, each covering a portion of the mid-band area. The 7-inch used in the Alexx is the celebrated Wilson mid, first introduced in the Alexandria XLF. The 5.75-inch is the midrange driver most recently found in the Sabrina.
The frequencies covered by the two drivers are therefore expanded upward, the two together covering a broader portion of the vital midrange. Further, each of the two drivers is optimised for the portion of the mid-band best suited to their unique strengths.
On hearing the Alexx in a listening room I can conform that the engineers at Wilson have blended the two drivers masterfully. The mids are both authoritative and articulate.
Developing Alexx simultaneously with the WAMM has resulted in other shared technologies.
The all-new 10.5-inch and 12.5-inch woofers incorporated into the Alexx were first developed for the WAMM project.
These are then matched using technology evolved from the proprietary 8- and 10-inch models found in the Alexia.
Alexx’s ultra-low resonance woofer enclosure, which now features an angled baffle for even better time-domain integration, certainly raise the bar for bottom octave speed and musicality.
The bass range was demonstrated using some pipe organ music which went down to 16hz. At this frequency this is not so much something that you can hear but instead feel. Hearing the pipe organ being played through the Alexx was as if the instrument was actually present in the room with us.
Wilson Audio Alexx – XLF (Cross-load Flow) port system
Alexx joins the Alexandria XLF with its ability to move the port to either the front or rear of the bass enclosure. While this does not change the anechoic behavior of Alexx in the deep bass, it does enable it to more seamlessly interface with a larger number of rooms. Typically, in bass-lossy rooms, the port will be located on the rear; within bass-heavy rooms, the port moves to the front of the enclosure.
Wilson Audio Alexx review conclusion
The speakers are simply stunning. I feel that I must add in at this point that it wasn’t all hi-res this, and FLAC that – most of the demo was played using Red Book CD at 16bit 44.1, and then a few LPs. To my mind, this just goes to show what is possible from well recorded source material in the first place.
With the Alexx, there’s an unexpected comfort to listening at volume. The whole presentation of the music, no matter what it is, is so effortless, and the sound is never harsh. The detail was there that made the sound not only realistic and beautiful but, perhaps more importantly, extremely tuneful.
Just as you would expect from a similarly priced supercar, the attention to detail given by the Wilson Audio team whilst making these hand-finished speakers is astounding.
Every aspect seems to have been carefully thought out – the hand finished point to point crossovers which are then isolated from the outside world in an impermeable block, for instance.
These are phenomenal four way speakers with all the elements cohesive and sympathetic to one another – the two bass woofers working in partnership at the low end, the lower mid-range, and upper mid-range drivers adding clarity and tone along with a one-inch silk dome adding the cherry to the top end.
Listening to Gary Peacock, the American Jazz double-bassist, played through the Wilson Alexx Speakers perfectly reproduced an almost palpable performance. Each string could be ‘seen’ when it was being plucked, with it hitting the fretboard with a mellow, woody resonance. This is virtual reality for the ears.
The unity of the drivers is so good that they work seamlessly without any hint of where any of the crossovers start or finish, such is the integration of the speakers.
The speakers weigh in at almost 600kg all-in, so placement, ‘to an eighth of an inch’ is critical. These took 5 hours to get set up just right, which did mean them being slightly off centre due to a projector and television screen amongst other real-world paraphernalia, but the sound was jaw-droppingly amazing.
The set up for the UK launch today was pretty special too – we estimated that there was a good £250,00 worth of audio rigged up here.
- Preamplifier: Dan D’Agostino Momentum Preamplifier
- Phono stage: Audio Research Reference Phono 2SE
- Power amplifiers: Dan D’Agostino Momentum M400 monoblock (x2)
- DAC: dCS Vivaldi
- Turntable: Vertere Record Player RG-1 with Koetsu Jade cartridge
- Transparent Opus interconnects and speaker cables
As you can see, none of that is particularly shoddy 😉
Mr McGrath did point out that Wilson Audio are ‘amplifier agnostic’, as in that they favour no particular brand being hooked up to them. The list of high end amplifier manufacturers who use Wilson Audio to develop their products is as long as your arm, so I will take his word on that.
The Wilson Audio Alexx have an incredibly realistic soundstage. When music is playing, those monolithic speakers fade away leaving only the image of the artists performing.
One of the guests to the demonstration remarked that the volume was too loud but, to me, it was on-point to that of enjoying a live concert. Symphony orchestras are not quiet and, as Peter pointed out, this was like sitting in the first three rows, rather at the top and back of the venue.
All the instruments were perfectly placed and every triangle ting and reedy bassoon was gloriously precise. Regarding the volume, even though it was loud it was clear – to the point that you could still hold a perfectly polite conversation without having to raise your voice.
It was not all classical and pipe organs, as well as treats such as ‘Oh Sleep, Why Dost Thou Leave Me?’ from Handel by Renée Fleming (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Harry Bicket), there was also a track from the Marilyn Crispell album ‘Vignettes’ on ECM Records, ‘Electrified’ by Boris Blank of Yello fame and ‘The Robots’ by Kraftwerk.
Would I buy these speakers if I had £105,000 to spend? If that was my budget, then I’d like to hear any other speakers in that price bracket come close to what I have heard from the Alexx.