Wilson Audio Yvette Loudspeaker

Minor Miracle

Equipment report
Wilson Audio Yvette
Wilson Audio Yvette Loudspeaker

The Sound
The first thing that struck me about the Yvette, particularly compared with the original WATT, was its harmonic richness. Gone was the sterility that had led to aural fatigue with my WATTs. Fortunately, this richness does not come at the expense of fine detail retrieval, nor does it blur the leading edge of transients.

What initially drew me to the Yvette was its ability to reproduce the full power and range of a concert grand piano on demanding recordings, one of the most difficult tests for any loudspeaker. The absence of time-domain and enclosure smearing helps the Yvette replicate the piano accurately, coherently, cleanly, and with realistic timbre. The bottom end is reproduced with power and authority and provides a solid foundation to the music, and the singing tone of the piano on good recordings is remarkably well preserved. Additionally, one can hear bass details that are often obscured by other loudspeakers, including many that cost significantly more.

I enjoyed listening to a wide range of piano recordings, from Horowitz playing Mozart sonatas [Deutsche Grammophon] to the brilliant reissue of Reference Recordings’ Nojima Plays Liszt. In each case, the piano was reproduced with natural timbre, lifelike clarity, and clean transient attacks. Particularly on the Liszt recording, the Yvette reminded me that the piano is most correctly classified as a percussion instrument, as one can clearly hear the hammers striking the strings, as well as other fine details such as fingernails hitting the ivories and the movements of the pedals, which one can most certainly hear in a live performance. Even when the most powerful chords were struck on fortissimos, the Yvette hung together sonically without distortion, dynamic compression, or stridency. The speaker also told me a lot about the recording venue, as well as the brand of piano used. In short, the Yvette reproduced the piano with more lifelike realism than any loudspeaker I have had in my house.

Proper time-alignment of its drivers and freedom from enclosure smearing made listening to other percussion instruments on the Yvette a real treat as well. Snare drums had snap, timpani had explosive impact, and cymbals shimmered without sizzling. It made listening to all kinds of music—from rock to jazz to power orchestral—more engaging and thrilling.

Like its larger Wilson brethren, the Yvette has terrific dynamic impact without overhang, and its drivers appear to start and stop “on a dime.” It also sounds much bigger than it looks. I did not expect such overall excellence from a speaker with such a relatively small footprint. In practice, I found myself turning the volume down a bit, because the Yvette has such wide and startling dynamic swings. Surprisingly, it maintained its composure on dynamic peaks without sounding stressed or strident whether I was listening to Janis Joplin on Cheap Thrills [Mobile Fidelity], Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring [Reference Recordings], or Harry James and his big band on Still Harry After All These Years [Sheffield Labs].

Another pleasant surprise was the Yvette’s bass performance. Given its relatively compact size, it was more extended than I thought it would be (rated as –3dB at 20Hz), and with a good amplifier, like the BAT VK-76SE monoblocks, or the Hegel HD80 integrated, the bass was articulate, well controlled, and lifelike, as exhibited by Scott LaFaro’s bass fiddle on the brilliant MoFi reissue of the Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard. With the Yvette, this live recording put me in the club, sans the cigarette smoke.

Here’s a speaker that is quite coherent with seamless transitions between drivers. On both male and female vocals, it’s difficult to tell where one driver stops and the other starts. Its coherency and clarity also help the Yvette achieve a high degree of transparency. Like some of the finest mini-monitors, the Yvette virtually disappears, and instruments are very well focused across a broad soundstage.

Much like my beloved Quads, the Yvette is great for long-term listening. Indeed, with its abundance of sonic strengths, it almost compels one to listen far longer than anticipated. While I spent most of my time with classical and jazz recordings, the Yvette can also really rock. Recordings of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin had terrific rhythmic drive and felt quite at home with the Yvette. It acquits itself quite well with any music you’re likely to throw at it.

Because time-domain accuracy is one of the Yvette’s greatest strengths, you will not enjoy this level of performance without precise setup, and perhaps some listening position flexibility. Fortunately, Peter McGrath set the Yvette up for me using his wonderful original recordings. It is quite a meticulous process, with seemingly small differences in placement yielding dramatically different results. I did have to move my usual listening seat about a foot closer to achieve the best sound. Each Wilson dealer goes through a rigorous training program so he can set up speakers using the same approach as Peter did for me.

The Yvette’s superlative capabilities are difficult to fault, but it falls slightly short of the best in a few areas. Like almost every loudspeaker in my experience, it lacks the pellucid midrange performance of the Zellaton or the original Quad, although it is very open and engaging. The Yvette certainly outdistances the Quad in dynamic range and punch. While the Yvette doesn’t have the awesome bass extension or impact of the WAMM Master Chronosonic, it has a definite family resemblance. Most will be stunned by its concussive impact, and bass extension and articulation. Admittedly, I could have used even more extension and air on the organ’s pedal tones on Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 [Reference Recordings], but what the Yvette rendered was quite satisfying.

The Yvette represents some of Wilson Audio’s best work to date. Its time-domain accuracy really helps the multiple drivers sound surprisingly coherent, clear, and natural. It features even better resolution, clarity, and transparency than its predecessors of similar size, and it packs a surprisingly powerful dynamic punch for such a relatively small-footprint loudspeaker. If your room and listening position allow you to get the full benefit of the Yvette’s time-domain accuracy, it’s a lot like hearing the amazing WAMM but on a somewhat smaller scale, thus making the Yvette a great value.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Three-way, rear-ported floorstanding loudspeaker
Driver complement: One 1" tweeter, one 7" midrange, one 10" woofer
Frequency response: 20Hz–25kHz +/-3dB
Sensitivity: 86dB
Impedance: 4 ohms
Maximum SPL: 115dB
Dimensions: 13.25" x 41" x 20 1/16"
Weight: 175 lbs.
Price: $25,500 (in standard colors)

2233 Mountain Vista Lane
Provo, UT 84606
(801) 377-2233

United Home Audio UHA-Phase 12 tape deck; Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L.101 turntable with Tri-planer U-II and Kiseki Purple Heart cartridge; Audio Alchemy PPA-1 phono preamplifier with PS-5 power supply; ModWright-Oppo BDP-105 digital player; Mytek Brooklyn DAC; MFA Venusian (Frankland modified) and BAT VK-33SE preamplifiers; Hegel HD80 integrated amplifier; BAT VK76SE and PrimaLuna DiaLogue HP monoblock amplifiers; Magnepan 3.7i and Quad ESL-57 (PK modified) loudspeakers; Silver Circle Audio TCHAIK6 power conditioner; Shunyata Research Alpha Digital power cable; Nordost Tyr2 cables and power cords; AudioQuest Niagara interconnects and Metro speaker cables; Critical Mass Systems amplifier stands, etc.

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