Turning to jazz, Ray Brown’s amazingly recorded bass on his album Soular Energy had a tremendous sense of body, presence, and power, along with superb transient attack that beautifully conveyed his swinging style. In addition, the Alexx’s bottom end was simply unflappable, with no change in character with listening level. Try the MQA version of Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues for a sense of how effortlessly the speaker reproduces very low frequencies at very high levels while maintaining its composure. This new combination of two woofers of unequal size (10.5" and 12.5") appears to be a good approach. Remember, these are the identical woofers developed specifically for the cost-no-object WAMM.
Although the Alexx’s generous bottom end is very much in the Wilson tradition, the midband and treble are a departure. In a word, the Alexx is a much more intimate loudspeaker than classic Wilsons, favoring midrange warmth, textural richness, harmonic beauty, and tone-color density. The Alexx’s midrange is subtle, refined, somewhat laid-back, gentle, and almost self-effacing. It’s also very smooth, with low coloration. Consequently, the Alexx doesn’t call attention to itself as a loudspeaker. I must admit that it took some time for me to warm up to this sound, particularly having just come off the very different Wilson Benesch Eminence. That speaker had a much lighter-weight bottom end, and a significantly more forward and illuminated midrange. But the longer I listened to the Alexx, the more I came to appreciate the way it is musically vivid without being sonically vivid. It presents a rich panorama of expression, but in a way that made me “lean in” toward the music. The result was a relaxation that fostered an intimacy that just doesn’t occur with speakers that are overly forward in their pursuit of resolution. Many loudspeakers that are more extroverted through the midrange sound exciting and detailed, but their forwardness is a barrier to total relaxation and musical immersion. The Alexx isn’t a speaker that dazzles during a brief listen, but one that only fully reveals itself over time. It just offers a more subtle, refined, and sophisticated presentation than any previous Wilson.
Two other sonic qualities contributed to the Alexx’s remarkable midrange performance. The first is a complete lack of glare, grain, and hardness. This is a very smooth and liquid-sounding speaker through the mids. If you’ve ever experienced your ears tightening up from a piercing midrange—or from timbres that emphasize the upper harmonics at the expense of fundamental richness—you’ll appreciate how the Alexx conveys musical expression by fostering a receptivity and openness to the music through its gentler presentation.
The Alexx doesn’t hype the leading edges of transients, which can leave the impression that it is a bit dark or muted in the upper mids. It simply doesn’t have an artificial edge on transients—a shortcoming of many speakers, and the leading culprit in creating listening fatigue and a sense of relief when the music is turned down or off. For example, the rapid-fire flamenco guitar work on Paco de Lucia’s Live in America was fully articulated, but without the piercing transients that emphasize string attacks rather than the bodies of the guitars. Similarly, the zapateo (percussive footwork) on this album conveyed the transient attacks, but those transients were full-bodied rather than sounding threadbare and skeletal. This smoothness encourages long listening sessions and, when called for, high playback levels.
From this description one might think that the Alexx pays for this ease and intimacy with a lack of presence. But that’s not the case. The Alexx has a very strong sense of presence and immediacy, but not from thrusting instruments forward in the soundstage. Rather, the presence springs from tremendous coherence, alacrity, and focus, along with smoothness of timbre. In addition, the Alexx has the most transparent and lowest coloration midrange of any Wilson I’ve heard (except the WAMM). It all adds up to a palpability and directness of expression that, combined with the speaker’s relaxed ease, is immensely communicative. The instrumental break in the tune “Harpo’s Blues” from Phoebe Snow’s self-titled debut album (Analogue Productions 45rpm) is a good example. The instrumentation, arrangement, and performances couldn’t be more delicate; yet there’s an uncanny feeling of hearing the instruments themselves and not an artificial reproduction. The sound is very relaxed and gentle, yet the perception of real instruments is palpable. This quality is heightened by the utter silence of the background, which allows the Alexx to reveal the most delicate of cues. It’s quite a trick to combine a relaxed sound with vivid transparency, but that’s what the Alexx delivers.
Soundstaging was also superb, with the Alexx throwing a good sense of size and scale on orchestral music, but also shifting gears and presenting smaller ensembles with the appropriate scale. The speaker has the ability to portray the size and dimensions of a large recording venue, such as the gorgeous acoustic on the stunning Vivaldi in Venice LP [Chasing the Dragon]. Yet switch to a small trio such as Norah Jones’ Day Breaks, and the Alexx suddenly sounds like a much smaller speaker, with mini-monitor-like focus. The Alexx was also able to portray very fine gradations of left/right placement, with no sense of blurring or confusion. This tight image focus was particularly apparent on tom-tom fills, each tom presented across the soundstage with precise location.
The Alexx is a milestone loudspeaker for Wilson Audio in many ways. Absent any context, it is simply a superb transducer. But when viewed as a reflection of Daryl Wilson’s design talents and musical aesthetic, the Alexx also makes a bold statement about the direction and future of this iconic brand.
It would have been safer and easier to simply make minor changes to existing products, and to pursue the sonic qualities that have endeared so many to Wilson Audio’s products over the past 45 years. But the Alexx doesn’t take the safe route, and in the process breaks new ground for Wilson Audio in midrange smoothness, liquidity, low coloration, transparency, and the feeling of musical communication and intimacy those qualities engender. Moreover, the Alexx is the best Wilson yet in the bass, combining greater speed and transient fidelity with tremendous power, weight, and extension.
The torch has been passed.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Four-way, five-driver dynamic loudspeaker
Driver complement: 12.5" woofer, 10.5" woofer, 7" lower midrange, 5.75" upper midrange, 1" silk dome tweeter
Loading: XLF port, adjustable rear or front
Frequency response: 20Hz–31kHz ±3dB
Sensitivity: 91dB 1W/1m
Impedance: 4 ohms (1.5 ohms minimum at 2850Hz)
Minimum amplifier power: 50W
Dimensions: 15.75" x 62.25" x 26.75"
Weight: 452 lbs. each, net
WILSON AUDIO SPECIALTIES
2233 Mountain Vista Lane
Provo, UT 84606
Analog source: Basis Audio A.J. Conti Transcendence turntable with SuperArm 12.5 tonearm; Air Tight Opus cartridge; Moon 810LP phonostage
Digital source: Aurender W20 server, Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 DAC; Berkeley Alpha USB USB-to-AES/EBU converter; Shunyata Research Sigma USB cable; AudioQuest Wild Digital AES/EBU cable, T+A SDV 3100HV DAC and PDT 3100HV CD/SACD transport
Amplification: Constellation Altair 2 preamplifier; Constellation Hercules 2 monoblock power amplifiers
AC Power: Shunyata Research Triton V3, Typhon QR, Sigma power cords; Shunyata AC outlets, five dedicated 20A lines wired with 10AWG
Support: Critical Mass Systems Olympus equipment racks and Olympus amplifier stands; CenterStage2 isolation
Cables: Shunyata Research Sigma interconnects and loudspeaker cables; AudioQuest WEL Signature interconnects and Dragon Zero loudspeaker cables
Acoustics: Acoustic Geometry Pro Room Pack 12
Room: Acoustic Sciences Corporation Iso-Wall System
LP Cleaning: Klaudio KD-CLN-LP200, Levin Design record brush