Wilson Audio Yvette Loudspeaker

Minor Miracle

Equipment report
Wilson Audio Yvette
Wilson Audio Yvette Loudspeaker

My association with Wilson Audio products goes back several decades to the first Wilson Audio Tiny Tot (WATT). When I first heard this speaker, I was amazed by its resolution of fine detail, its openness and transparency, its wide and focused soundstaging, and its crystalline clarity. Its time-alignment and inert cabinet really helped reduce smearing. I owned both the WATT 1 and WATT 2 but never added the Puppy—marrying my early WATTs initially to Entec subwoofers and, eventually, to the woofer towers of the Infinity IRS Beta before the Puppy was introduced. I parted with my WATTs in favor of dipole speaker systems such as the Infinity Beta and the Quads (from the originals to the ESL-63s with full Crosby mods).

The WATT was originally designed by Dave Wilson as a location monitor for recordings, but I—like many other audiophiles—used it as a mini-monitor in my primary system. However, I was never able to integrate it seamlessly with subwoofers, and its somewhat analytical, “tell-it-like-it-is” presentation, which is so good for monitoring recordings, proved to be aurally fatiguing in extended listening sessions. While later WATT interations ameliorated many of my initial objections—and the Puppy was a much better match than the subs I had employed—I never returned to the WATT or its successors. However, Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio has showcased many of his brilliant recordings for me on various Wilson speakers at industry shows over the years, so I’ve have kept pace with the evolution of the company’s loudspeakers.

At the 2016 RMAF, I heard the Wilson Audio Yvette (which replaces the Wilson Sophia 3 rather than for the WATT/Puppy), and was very impressed. Here was a single-enclosure, full-range loudspeaker that offered a harmonic richness—an improvement over the sterility of the original WATT—without its losing any of the compelling sonic attributes that first drew me to the WATT. I was so taken by the Yvette’s remarkable performance, particularly on demanding solo piano recordings, that I gave it my “Best of Show” award when it was demo’d in a system with VTL electronics, Brinkmann/dCS front ends, and Nordost Odin 2 cables. I was anxious to hear what the Yvette could do in my own listening room with somewhat more modest electronics and cables.

The evolution of Wilson Audio and its loudspeakers has been well documented in these pages. For example, see Jacob Heilbrunn’s insightful review of the WAMM Master Chronosonic in Issue 276, or the company profile of Wilson Audio in The Absolute Sound’s Illustrated History of High-End Audio, Volume 1: Loudspeakers. Dave and Sheryl Lee Wilson, and now son Daryl, have built a company that has enjoyed enviable and well-deserved success. Assembling a top-flight group of professionals over the years who share the Wilsons’ vision has been a key factor in that success. On a recent trip to the Wilson headquarters in Provo, Utah, I was surprised to learn that top Wilson lieutenants Peter McGrath and John Giolas had owned high-end audio dealerships, and several others on staff also had worked in audio retail. I suspect this is one of the reasons the company places such an emphasis on first-rate dealer training and customer support.

From the outset, accuracy in the time-domain as well as extremely low enclosure resonance have been hallmarks of Wilson designs. The same holds true for the latest loudspeakers, for which Dave’s son Daryl served as lead designer and continued to improve performance in these areas. Moreover, Daryl’s Yvette and Alexx designs have benefited from being developed alongside Dave Wilson’s masterpiece, the WAMM Master Chronosonic, whose micro-adjustments of individual driver positioning mark the ultimate manifestation of time-domain accuracy in a multiway speaker system.

Dating back to the original WATT, Wilson enclosures have been extremely inert—to help minimize spurious vibrations that can smear the sound and reduce clarity. As mentioned above, the Yvette’s enclosure is designed for time-domain accuracy and extremely low resonance. In contrast to the WATT/Puppy, the Yvette employs a single enclosure built from proprietary Wilson-developed composites—its third generation X- material, as well as S-material developed specifically for enhanced midrange performance. A replacement for the Sophia 3, the Yvette is about the same size as the Sophia, though slightly shorter and a bit deeper, it weighs ten pounds more due to its more “ambitious bracing.” A laser vibrometer, which measures minute mechanical vibrations, helped the Yvette’s design team create a significantly less resonant cabinet. Another plus is that the Yvette’s resistor-tuning system is more accessible and uses improved hardware over that found in the Sophia 3. The actual volume for the woofer is larger in the Yvette due to angled bracing behind the midrange driver that adds internal space for the woofer. However, the Yvette has slightly (1dB) lower sensitivity than the Sophia 3 and a dip to 2.94 ohms versus the 3.1 ohms minimum for the Sophia 3.

The Yvette has certainly benefited from advances in Wilson’s far costlier and more massive loudspeakers. I heard the Wilson Alexx (designed by Daryl Wilson) at an off-site dealer location during the 2016 Munich Show and gave it my “Best Sound in Munich” award. The Yvette uses the same Mk III version of the Convergent Synergy Tweeter found in the Alexx and the Sasha Series 2. In contrast to the Sophia’s inverted titanium dome tweeter, the Yvette uses a sealed, one-inch silk dome optimized for time-domain performance and dispersion; it’s situated on its own baffle made of X-material. Each of the Yvette’s other drivers are also positioned on separate baffles and angled to optimize time alignment and dispersion. Its 10-inch rear-ported woofer is “a cousin” of the 10-inch woofer found in both the Alexx and the WAMM, and its rear-vented 7-inch midrange is the same midrange unit found in Wilson’s formidable Alexandria XLF. The Yvette uses a venting system similar to that of the XLF, Alexx, Alexia, and Sasha Series 2.

These marvelous drivers are housed in a single non-resonant enclosure built to the most exacting standards I’ve seen in the industry. During my factory visit, I was surprised by the minute measurements and frequent inspections taken throughout the manufacturing process of the Yvette. The slightest variation from the standard resulted in the enclosure being rejected. This degree of precision and attention to detail rivals that of a medical instruments company.

On the same visit, I had the pleasure of hearing the formidable WAMM at David Wilson’s house and was stunned by its overall sonic excellence. It showed me just how close we’ve come to bringing the concert hall into the living room, and underscored the importance of accuracy in the time domain. Transients from its multiple drivers arrive at the same time for amazing clarity, coherence, and realism. Although it lacks the WAMM’s precise and adjustable individual driver positioning to optimize time alignment, the Yvette’s fixed-position-driver approach can yield very good time-domain accuracy with careful speaker placement, which is key to the Yvette’s superlative performance.