First We Take Manhattan

Wilson Audio Chronosonic XVX at Innovative Audio

First We Take Manhattan

In June of 2015, I visited Utah for several days as a guest of Wilson Audio Specialties to learn everything I could about the loudspeakers I admire greatly—and came away admiring the people responsible for making them at least as much. Many hours were spent in the company of David, Sheryl, and Daryl Wilson, including a lengthy stretch at a picnic table on the breezy back porch of the older Wilsons’ beautiful home in Provo, where they freely answered questions about the company’s past, present, and future. A potentially uncomfortable subject they addressed forthrightly was succession. Would Wilson Audio maintain its status when the founder was no longer in the picture? Five years ago, with Dave Wilson hale and hearty, no one could say for sure. The new Chronosonic XVX loudspeaker may be the most tangible evidence yet that the transition to Daryl’s leadership—he became CEO of the company in November of 2016, a year and a half before his father succumbed to cancer at the age of 73—has been seamlessly accomplished.

Since last fall, Wilson has been introducing the Chronosonic at select dealers and in mid-January, I got my chance for an extended audition at Innovative Audio in mid-town Manhattan. The loudspeakers were installed in a suitable space (29' by 15', with a ceiling over 9') and demonstrated with top-drawer associated equipment, including D’Agostino electronics, Berkeley digital components, an Air Force turntable, and Transparent cabling. For close to three hours, Wilson’s Peter McGrath, whose intelligent advocacy always advances one’s understanding of a product or technology, played his own concert recordings as well as commercial ones. The usual Wilson virtues were apparent—awe-inspiring acoustic power and scaling, life-like spatial specificity, richly rendered vocal and instrumental color. Robert Harley has a pair of these wonders for review and his comprehensive report will be coming your way shortly.

Peter McGrath provided insights into the genesis of the Chronosonic XVX. As most audiophiles are aware, the final iteration of the Wilson Audio Modular Monitor—the WAMM Master Chronosonic—with production limited to 70 pairs, was Dave Wilson’s magnum opus. Daryl was approached by Wilson dealers, distributors, and customers looking for a more practicable production model that could offer the essence of Dave’s final thoughts on loudspeaker design. “What Daryl set about doing,” McGrath explained, “was taking everything that he’d learned from his dad, and from the WAMM, and trying to get it into a package that would reflect many of the things that his father sought to achieve at a more accessible price and size.” The result was a speaker that is 10" shorter—the WAMM was just too tall for deployment in many domestic environments, especially in the Far East—265 pounds lighter, and, at $329,000 per pair, more than half-a-million bucks less expensive.

The XVX lacks the WAMM’s rear-firing midrange and the omission of a midrange driver in front is what’s responsible for saving that 10" in height. There are numerous other differences that I’m certain RH will detail in his upcoming review. But the most meaningful difference from the WAMM may be the new seven-inch QuadMag midrange unit, a design that incorporates Alnico magnets in a novel geometry.

McGrath told a story of seeing the parts for the Chronosonic XVX laid out on a table at the Provo factory at an early stage in the speaker’s development. “The midrange driver wasn’t there. Daryl said ‘Well, it’s not finished yet—we’re working on it.’ He asked Verne [Credille], our chief engineer, to go get the driver and let me take a look at it. So Verne carries in this thing, cradled in his hand, which is the new midrange driver. I don’t know how many of you have met Verne: He’s this ultra-dry, total engineering type, utterly unemotional in most respects. I look at his face and it’s awash in tears. ‘This is the last thing that Dave and I worked on.’” At noon on a Friday, at Innovation Audio in NYC, Peter McGrath is now crying as well. “Dave didn’t have time to finish it. That’s why it wasn’t included in the WAMM.”

The case can be made that the Chronosonic XVX is actually a strategically conceived replacement for the XLF, which will be phased out of production. After all, if you have the space and financial wherewithal to consider the XLF, the XVX is also a consideration. But in the hearts of those at Wilson Audio Specialties and their legions of consumer devotees, the new speaker will serve as a sort-of-obtainable, indefinitely available connection to the man who had such a profound influence on the high end.