Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker, Subsonic Subwoofer, and ActivXO Crossover
Despite the XVX’s size, this speaker rendered all types of music with the appropriate scale. Many big speakers sound big on everything, reducing the intimacy of smaller-scale works. But the XVX presented music with a realistic scale, from a solo acoustic guitar, to a violin and piano duet, to a string quartet or jazz piano trio, to a chamber orchestra, to a big band, to a 120-piece orchestra with choir. On really big music, the XVX is stunning in its sense of expansive size. The speakers completely disappear into a huge three-dimensional stage, with not just tremendous depth, but also with fine gradations of that depth. I could easily hear space between rows of instruments in the orchestra, like looking at a diorama rather than a photograph. Image precision was pinpoint, with clear delineation of the instrument’s outline, with well-defined space around that outline. Because this is a big speaker, it presents images higher than that of smaller speakers. The XVX beautifully portrayed the way air expands around an instrument, just as you hear in life. A good example is the brass on the Reference Recordings title From the Age of Swing; the XVX gets out of the way to fully reveal the instruments’ dynamic envelopes in both power and space.
There’s one other aspect of the XVX’s presentation that sets a new standard, in my experience; I could clearly hear every instrumental line no matter how complex or dense the music. The sound wasn’t composed of one big fabric of many colors, but rather of entirely separate objects in space, just the way we hear live music. Consequently, I could easily shift my attention from one instrument to another—I found myself more deeply appreciating great comping during a solo, for example. Herbie Hancock’s funky Rhodes playing behind Milt Jackson’s and Freddie Hubbard’s solos on the title track from the LP Sunflower sets the entire feel of the tune, and was never more clearly articulated.
Although a four-way, seven-driver speaker, with what must be a very complex crossover (including a crossover point within the two-way midrange), the XVX sounded completely coherent from top to bottom. There was no change in timbre, articulation, or dynamics as a function of frequency.
I could happily live with the XVX alone, but must admit that the pair of Subsonic subwoofers took the performance up a substantial notch, and not just in the bottom end. When I turned the woofers on and off with the flick of a switch on the ActivXO crossover, they were adding an extra measure of power and depth to instruments such as timpani and pipe organ. The pedal points on the Rutter Requiem (Reference Recordings) felt like they extended to the center of the earth, with subtle power and precise pitch as they pressurized the air in my room. The Subsonics added a new dimension of majestic sweep to this recording. The Subsonics also expanded the space and air of the Myerson Symphony Center by resolving very low-level, low-frequency components that cue the brain to the size of the hall. I also heard a greater midrange clarity on the voices with the Subsonics engaged, with more separation between the choir and the orchestra. Pipe organ spectaculars were just that—spectacular. The sense of limitless extension, limitless power, and limitless control, along with the precise sense of pitch with no port artifacts or bloat, was simply stunning. It’s really something you have to experience for yourself. I’ve never heard better bass from an audio system, or bass that extended this low and maintained its quality in the bottom two octaves.
If forced to sum up in one word the quality that makes the Chronosonic XVX stand apart from other speakers, that word would be “physicality.” The XVX projected a physical impression of instruments and voices in my listening room with startling realism. Physicality also describes this speaker’s hard-hitting and lifelike reproduction of music’s transients, not just in speed but also in weight and power. Physicality is the best word to convey the impression of a tangible soundstage populated by individual instruments, each of its own vibrant tone color. And then there’s the visceral physicality of the bottom few octaves that combine seemingly limitless extension and power with precise articulation.
Yet the word “physicality” merely describes the sound the XVX produces. Far more important is the rich musical expression contained within that sound. This speaker’s remarkable sonic attributes simply allowed me to hear more of the musical intent. Playing familiar recording after familiar recording, I was repeatedly amazed at the way I discovered new expression—how a drummer’s subtle but musically significant dynamic accents changed a piece’s rhythmic feel or how (for the first time) individual musical lines fit into a coherent whole, for just two examples. The XVX lets you instantly and deeply fall into that zone of complete musical immersion—free of distractions that remind you that you’re listening to an electro-mechanical recreation of music and not the music itself.
I’ve had the XVX system in my home for five months, yet every time I sit down and listen, I feel a profound sense of musical discovery. The Chronosonic XVX is an open window into a world of musical expression that has even this experienced listener feeling like the neophyte hearing a high-end system for the first time.
Specs & Pricing
Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker Four-way, seven-driver dynamic loudspeaker
Driver complement: One 12.5″ woofer, one 10.5″ woofer, two 7″ lower midranges, one 4″ upper midrange, one 1″ main tweeter, one 1″ rear-firing tweeter.
Loading: XLF port, front- or rear-firing (woofer); rear vented (two lower-midrange modules); bottom vented (upper-midrange module)
Frequency response: 20Hz–30kHz ±2dB
Sensitivity: 92dB, 1W/1m at 1kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms, 1.6 ohms minimum at 326Hz
Minimum amplifier power: 100Wpc
Dimensions: 16.5″ x 73.625″ x 33″
Weight: 685 lbs. net per speaker (1695 lbs. total shipping weight)
Price: $329,000 per pair, standard finishes; $30,000 additional for WilsonPearl finish
Subsonic Subwoofer Three-driver passive subwoofer
Driver complement: Three 12″ dual-spider woofers
Loading: Front ported
LF extension: 10Hz, –2dB
Sensitivity: 87dB at 1W
Dimensions: 18″ x 27.25″ x 65″
Weight: 612 lbs.
ActivXO Crossover Line-level electronic crossover
Inputs: Balanced and single-ended
Outputs: High-pass, balanced and single-ended, two stereo pairs; low-pass, balanced and single ended, two mono
Low-pass filter: 30Hz–150Hz, 6dB or 12dB per octave
High-pass filter: 30Hz–150Hz, 6dB or 12dB per octave
Phase: 0–180°, continuously variable
Dimensions: 18.8″ x 4.5″ x 11.5″
Weight: 16.75 lbs. net
By Robert Harley
My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.More articles from this editor
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