Several blocks from Central Park, nestled in a basement-level suite between Lexington and Third Ave, lies one of New York City’s true audiophile assets. With an entrance directly off of the elevator, you step directly into the store—no hallways or vestibules here. The suite is open to the public for walk-in, but scheduled auditions are encouraged, considering the amount of equipment on display and the time and dedication that a proper sales audition requires.
When you step out of the elevator you are greeted by a lovely living-room-style demo atrium. To the right just beyond the atrium lie three demo suites and a storage hallway for speakers, occupied predominantly by many of Avalon Acoustics’ tasty treats. To the left and down the hall are another two demo suites, one currently used for storage and the other as a studio focused on some of Innovative Audio’s more complex home-theater and multi-zone installs. As I entered I was met by Chris Forman of Innovative Audio—master salesman, astute listener, genius set-up expert, man about town, and all-around nice guy. Like so many in this industry, Chris had a different career (as a high-level architect) until the “call of the audiophile” drew him to Innovative like a proverbial moth to flame. The reason for my visit was, specifically, that Innovative Audio is New York City’s Wilson Audio dealer, and I was there to familiarize myself with Wilson’s current offerings.
John Giolas of Wilson Audio had arranged this day of delights with Chris to feed my insatiable audiophile appetite with a Wilson tasting menu of some of the best products Daryl Wilson has designed. Wilson Audio lost its founder, mentor, father figure, and genius designer David Wilson to cancer in May 2018. Navigating the rapids of a transition of that magnitude has confirmed Wilson Audio’s long-term viability. David’s son, Daryl, took hold of the reins and has made the company his own, while respecting the legacy his father left him.
The original game plan (which I realized later on was completely unrealistic), was to get a full listening session in for the Sasha DAW., the Alexia 2, the Alexx, and the Chronosonic XVX. As the great Jar Jar Binks once said, “What was mee-sah thinking!” To be honest, I made it through the DAW. and Alexia 2 with plenty of energy to spare, but experiencing the XVX is tantamount to seeing the Grand Canyon (or NYC) for the first time; after that, you’re completely spent.
As I have said before about these visits, this will not be an in-depth review of any of these speakers. In fact, my colleague Robert Harley just took on that daunting task for the mighty XVX and survived, just barely. [My world-exclusive review of the Chronosonic XVX will appear in the September issue. —RH] These visits give me the opportunity to hear, and convey to you, how each model sounds on its own and in relation to the other. I have to thank Chris profusely for his patience and the hours and hours of his time.
We began with the Sasha DAW. (an homage David A Wilson) released in 2018, Wilson’s $37,900, current-generation that evolved from the WATT/Puppy. Both the Sasha DAW and Alexia 2 ($57,900, released in 2017) were powered by Spectral DMC-30sv preamp and DMA400sv monoblocks, and sourced by a Meridian 818v3 Reference DAC fed from a Roon Nucleus+, with Keces P8 linear power supply. Chris has set up the Sasha DAW before I arrived, but had to move the DAW out and the Alexia 2 in for the transition. This was wonderful as it gave me the rare opportunity to watch the Wilson Audio Setup Procedure (W.A.S.P.) in action. [WASP is explained in this video at https://youtu.be/UOI8py0DAC8]
Chris explained the Zone of Interaction, where the room and speakers worked against each other, and the Zone of Neutrality, where the room and speakers worked together. In this room, these zones had been identified. But in a new install, these zones are identified by the installers listening to their own voices as they speak and hearing the changes in tonality and scale while moving around—moving in tiny increments, over and over, while placing marking tape on the floor. If one viewed this set-up procedure out of context, men in white gowns with padded vans would surely come and take Chris away. The goal of this tedious method is what many audiophiles tend to overlook, that the room has a bigger effect on your system’s performance than any component, cable, or accessory.