Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia V loudspeaker
In the very first copy of Stereophile I encountered, back when issues were digest size, one review infuriated me. The writer went on at inordinate length about the fine wines he’d consumed during the review period. On and on he went, gushing about the costly drinks, until I exclaimed (in a sentence laced with expletives), “What in the world does any of this have to do with audio?!”
Lifetimes later, I think I understand. Although to my recollection the connection was never made explicit, the writer was attempting to reinforce his credentials as a connoisseur in all matters.
An informed imbiber I am notI’m often content with baby sips from my husband’s glassbut I am a color, texture, and nuance junky. Give me a component that allows me to better savor the reediness of the oboe, the difference in weight and timbre produced by gut and metal strings, or the sonic distinctions among orchestras, and I’m in heaven. Brieflythen back to terra firma I fall, plodding through my daily routine until the next taste of the divine comes my way.
My thoughts turn to a short scene from a black-and-white film I saw decades ago that continues to haunt me: A door opens on a second-floor room to reveal a woman seated before a white plate on a simple table, knife and fork in her hands. Outside the door, men are lined up on a staircase that descends to ground level. Each time the door opens, she holds her knife and fork upright as she utters but one word: “Next!” A man enters, the door closes. After a moment of silence, the door reopens, another man enters, and the scene repeats (footnote 1).
In my view, this scene is not about sex; rather, it’s about insatiability, the desire to constantly fill oneself with whatever brings one pleasure. In my case, it’s color and texture. I can’t get enough of them. My near-constant pursuit of color and textureof new musical vistas and perspectivesis one of the things that keeps reviewing fresh for me. Rarely do I approach a component, whether a humungous amplifier or a thin umbilical cable, without asking myself, “What new revelations and pleasures await me here?”
S, V, X, and more
The Wilson Audio Alexia V floorstanding loudspeaker ($67,500/pair in standard finish), the third iteration of the Alexia model introduced in 2012, sits in the middle of the Wilson floorstander line, with the Alexx V, Chronosonic XVX, and the mighty, limited-edition WAMM Master Chronosonic above it. Below it in descending order sit the Sasha DAW, Yvette, and SabrinaX. The Alexia V incorporates 30 upgrades of various importance.
Among the more significantwhat Wilson CEO Daryl Wilson calls the “heavy hitters”are new drivers, strategic use of the new V-Material, improved capacitors, custom-made cables, improved connectors, a new spike system, new enclosures with different dimensions and characteristics, and a new, more accurate alignment mechanism. Other upgradesthe “light hitters”include pressure-release cutouts in the woofer blades and what Wilson describes as “a more organic design flow from the woofer up to the midrange,” made possible by the tighter build tolerances enabled by the company’s new CNC machine.
“Five years of materials research and grassroots development (footnote 2) has been incorporated into the new Alexia V,” Wilson explained during a Zoom chat; the Alexia 2 was introduced in 2017. “I don’t think it’s good for our industry to churn through a particular model in less than five years unless there are enough evolved elements to produce a substantial upgrade. Having a new tweeter is not enough by itself to justify the replacement of a product that costs $50,000 or $100,000 or more. We are always developing on the grassroots level. When music lovers invest their hard-earned money in a product, we want it to be around and current for as long as possible.”
Succeeding his late father, David A. Wilson, co-founder of Wilson Audio Specialties, Daryl is involved in every aspect of the company’s manufacturing. “There’s a long history of me sweeping parking lots and working for allowance,” he said at the start of our chat. “My parents never just handed me money; they handed me opportunity.”
After working in fabrication, inventory, production, and customer service, Daryl began his design apprenticeship when Dave invited him to listen in as he evaluated different crossover component values for the woofer in the WATT Puppy 7. In 20092010, Daryl took the lead on the design of the Surround Series 2 wall-mounted left- and right-channel speakers. But the first design that bears the full Daryl design DNA, as seen in its driver alignment and organic architecture, was the Alexx Series 1, which reached completion in early February of 2016. Today, Daryl works closely with Wilson engineers Vern Credille, Blake Schmutz, and Jarom Lance on virtually every component of every loudspeaker.
Development of the new QuadraMag midrange driver was started by Dave, but he passed before it was finished. Daryl praises the old driver, first introduced in the discontinued Alexandria series, as very fast and articulate. By using four alnico (aluminum-nickel-cobalt) magnet slugs, he and Credille endowed the new driver with enough sensitivity to blend naturally with the Alexia V’s tweeter and woofers. In Daryl’s opinion, the new midrange moves the speaker closer to the sound of live, unamplified music (footnote 3).
The Convergent Synergy Carbon (CSC) tweeter is “something we’ve been refining for a long time,” Daryl said. “The rear wave chamberthe way we capture and address the back pressure from the tweeter diaphragmhas been developed over the last decade. Previously, we had an inverted titanium dome tweeter that had very linear off-axis dispersion. But the Alexia V’s CSC tweeter, which was first incorporated into the Alexx V, has a new rear wave chamber that can only be manufactured by special, in-house 3D printers that work with carbon fiber.
“The end result of optimizing our internal lattice work and everything else is a tweeter that has more microdetail and expression,” he claims. “This has come about because the new way we capture and manage the rear wave doesn’t allow it to interfere with the backside of the diaphragm.
“Experimenting and refining the tweeter was a lot of fun. Carbon fiber wasn’t our first choice; there were myriad materials we could print with. But the printer manufacturer is an audiophile, who thought the whole thing was really cool. … He’d give me a sample, I’d listen and evaluate, and we’d experiment further and share ideas. If you look inside the tweeter, there’s a lot that goes on between the inner and outer walls of the rear chamber. We were able to manufacture and print in ways that optimize this space.”
Then there is the V-Material, from which the latest Alexia and Alexx models derive their names. Daryl describes it as an extremely damped, modified version of the third-generation X-Material, a high-density phenolic-resin composite that, along with S-Material, comprises the cabinet (footnote 4).
In an email, Daryl wrote that S-Material continues to be the optimal midrange coupling material at Wilson Audio. X-Material is used for the enclosures, woofer baffles, tweeter baffles, internal bracing, and for damping the external gantry. V-Material, which utilizes different damping/fill materials from those in the X and S versions, resides in three places in Alexia V:
1. At the top of the midrange module, on which the independent tweeter moves back and forth. Acting as a vibration sink, it serves to reduce vibration-induced distortion caused by unintended movement of the acoustic center point of the tweeter.
2. Nested between the upper woofer and midrange.
3. Incorporated into the housing of the spikes.
It’s fair to conclude that the company wouldn’t have used V to identify its two latest speaker model upgrades if they didn’t consider it a major advance in resonance control.
When questioned about the use of aluminum and other cabinet materials touted by rival speaker designers, Daryl replied, “We’ve been using a laser vibrometer system for a long time to evaluate and catalog our experiments with well over 50 slabs of identically sized cabinet material. We do use metal in the substructure of our gantry, but we dampen it with the X-Material that’s coupled to it, and we also employ strategically inlaid diffraction pad material and more.”
Footnote 1: So far, no one I know has been able to identify the title of this movie.
Footnote 2: To Daryl Wilson, grassroots development means focusing on and refining one element of the speaker at a time and then perfecting the synergy of parts.
Footnote 3: The QuadraMag driver was first introduced in the Wilson XVX.
Footnote 4: An outdated YouTube video describes the original X-Material, first introduced in 1992 in the X-1 Grand SLAMM, as a “very monotonic … rigid as steel … highly damped cellulose and phenolic composite.” S-Material, which first appeared in the midrange baffle of the Sasha Series 1, is a combination of natural fibers in a phenolic-resin laminate.
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Wilson Audio Specialties
2233 Mountain Vista Ln.
Provo, UT 84606
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