Wilson Audio Specialties Alexandria XLF loudspeaker Page 2

We rolled the woofer cabinets into their approximate positions, then laid on the carpet the four wings and the six upper driver modules. McGrath arrived the next day, and within a few hours these positively enormous speakers, had been positioned, voiced, and spiked, and their ports set to fire to the rear.

Not surprisingly, the XLFs ended up within a few inches of where the MAXX 3s had stood—and, also as with the MAXX 3s, when I sat down just under 8' away, the upper woofers were where the tweeters would be in a speaker of more appropriate size for the space. The XLFs' midrange-tweeter-midrange (MTM) arrays towered well above, even farther up into the ozone than the MAXX 3s' MTMs.

So how did it sound?
The main challenge in using such tall speakers in so cramped a room is getting them to reproduce a convincing sense of space. Wilson's setup charts indicate that 9' is as close as you can sit and still get the focus and coherence they promise. The drivers can't be aimed any lower and it isn't possible for me to move listening chair farther away.

Playing even a primitive mono recording, such as The Who Sell Out (LP, Decca DL 4950), an original copy of which I found a few weeks ago for a buck at a garage sale, plainly revealed much of what was spatially astonishing about the XLFs, though I didn't at first play it to discover anything about the speakers—I just wanted to hear a totally different mix for this album that I'd been told was full of surprises. I wasn't disappointed. Pedal steel guitar on "Our Love Was"? Gettouttahere!

Floating at ear height between the XLFs, completely independent of the double stack of drivers producing the sound, appeared a preternaturally solid, well-focused, tonally and texturally coherent, large-scale, reach-out-and-touch-it image. The image never budged, not even when I shifted my head to left or right—it remained stable, focused, and assured. It also contained textural and tonal fireworks. The percussion was hard, appropriately metallic, and focused with pinpoint precision; the bass was elastic, incredibly deep and powerful, perfectly focused, and distorted—but that was the overloaded recording, not the speakers. As an accurate re-creation of tape saturation, it couldn't be beat.

This was the sort of good mono presentation that a stereo pair of well-designed speakers should generally offer in a properly treated room—but coming from these big driver stacks 8' away? The MAXX 3s do this well, too, though not quite as seamlessly or as solidly, or with such a variety of textures and tonal colors. I listened to many mono recordings, from both analog and digital sources, and they produced as convincing a demonstration as can be imagined of the ability of Wilson's Aspherical Group Delay to delicately focus an image—but the imaging and soundstaging of stereo recordings produced more impressive physicality.

Joseph Audio's compact, two-way Pulsar speaker, which I reviewed in the June 2012 issue, produced degrees of intense focus and image solidity that big speakers, including the Wilson MAXX 3s, generally can't achieve. Still, the Josephs could do this only at the cost of sheer physical and dynamic scale and low-frequency extension. In my relatively small room, the XLFs produced both the spatial solidity and intense focus of a small, well-designed two-way like the Joseph Pulsar, as well as the grand scale that only so large a system can manage. At the same time, the speakers seemed to totally disappear as the sources of sound—much as the old and much smaller Audio Physic Virgo IIs did. The Alexandria XLFs could effortlessly reproduce the sensation of being in an enormous space—or a very small and intimate one.

One of the first stereo recordings I played was Richard and Linda Thompson's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. I'd been comparing the original UK Island pressing, mastered at Sterling Sound by Lee Hulko in 1974, with the 1983 Masterdisk remastering on Carthage, and the new LP from Wax Cathedral, sourced from the master tape but cut from a 24-bit/96kHz file by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service. I'd played these records numerous times through the MAXX 3s, and all had sounded fine—after all, the original recording, made by John Wood at the very small Sound Techniques studio in London, was so intimate and direct—though of course the sounds of the different masterings differed.

First up was the Carthage. The first cut, "When I Get to the Border," took the recording to places I'd never heard it go in almost 40 years of listening to it. But the next one, the creepy "The Calvary Cross," with its massive tambourine shakes, monstrous power chords, depth-charge bass, and haunting background singers, had me exclaiming, to no one in particular, "Wow!"—followed by laughter and a string of expletives. The speed, precision, and clarity of that tambourine, the delineation of each of its metal spinnerets, the metallicness of the metal, the skin-ness of the skin, and the woodiness of what could be heard of the wood—not to mention the eerie way in which the instrument just hung there, focused in three-dimensional space against the blackest of backdrops, 100% free and clear of the speaker baffles—produced an intensity of verisimilitude that so far surpassed how I've previously heard this very familiar recording that . . . well, what else was there to do but laugh? I've heard the background singers (more like droners) on this track hundreds of times, always as undifferentiated space-fillers. Never before was each so cleanly delineated and easily separated from the foreground din, each voice's individual texture and timbre clearly yet subtly defined.

Of necessity, familiar phrases like holographic imaging and precision soundstaging are useful because they're familiar, but they can't quite convey the degree to which the Alexandrias achieved image solidity, three-dimensionality, well-defined spatiality, and layers of information, and did so effortlessly across the re-creation of an apparently limitless expanse of space before, behind, and to the sides of their actual physical locations. And the XLFs produced these results with me sitting less than 9' away. I'm sure the illusion of space would be even more impressive in a larger room.

After raving in the September 2009 issue about the MAXX 3's reproduction of harmonic, textural, and spatial qualities, and wanting to avoid superlatives here, I'm left with little wiggle room. I'll just say that the XLF's tonal, textural, and transient presentations were easily and demonstrably superior to the MAXX 3's already convincing and very satisfying performance in those areas, mostly because of a notable lessening of artifacts that were so subtle to begin with that I noticed them only when they weren't there.

Wilson's new Convergent Synergy silk-dome tweeter had an airy effortlessness in comparison with the MAXX 3's titanium dome. The Alexandria XLFs' presentation of well-recorded violin concertos left little to be desired in terms of orchestral weight, color, imagery, and size. The soloist appeared onstage well in front of the orchestra and believably focused: neither too well defined and "etchy" nor too diffuse. Well-recorded violins were reproduced with a pleasingly natural harmonic structure, airy sheen, and grit where appropriate. With the right recording played at the appropriate level (usually considerably lower than many of us listen at home!), I could almost convince myself I was in Row 20 of Avery Fisher Fall—even when the performance had been recorded elsewhere. The speakers produced that kind of physical scale and dynamic contrasts.

When I played a reissue of Bruch's Scottish Fantasia and Hindemith's Violin Concerto, with soloist David Oistrakh, the London Symphony, and conductors Jascha Horenstein and Paul Hindemith (45rpm "Blueback" LP, London CS 6667/ORG 107), the XLFs took the familiar sound of these performances into an unfamiliar realm of greater orchestral weight and focus, improved delineation of hall acoustics, and a violin image that had a solidity, transparency, tonal and textural complexity, and—especially—an ethereal delicacy that surpassed anything I'd ever heard at home.

The XLFs' bottom-end performance, even in a confined space with their rear panels only 17" from the front wall and their side panels even closer to the sidewalls, was far superior to the MAXX 3s' already impressive bass output, and noticeably lower in coloration, even though the Alexandria's extension was deeper and the sound more powerful. So well controlled was the bass that, whatever any excess bass that might have been caused by the room boundaries (and which will probably show up in John Atkinson's measurements) might look like, I never heard it as such. Male voices, even baritones, never sounded "chesty," and the lower end of the acoustic piano was never overstated. Kick drums were fast, clean, precisely drawn, and texturally convincing. Timpani were powerful and compact.

Bass performance—tonally, texturally, and especially dynamically—is one area in which Wilson speakers, at their various price points, outperform most of the competition. It's not easy to produce the extension, the dynamics, and especially the low coloration and low distortion that Wilson manages.

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

Mike Lomond's picture

Have you heard it Pauly.  Or are you another critic that, depite being in the "Hi Fi Industry for 30 years" ( Who with, what doing?), can judge a product without listening to it.

I have no idea what it sounds like.  It may sound awful or it could transport me to realms untravelled.

What gets me about the Stereophile comments section are the naysayers, the armchair critics, experts on products they've never seen, let alone heard.

"David Wilson, amateur!  That guy just throws a few drivers in a box and wants 200 grand.  I could do better than that".

Give me a fucking break.

Many posters here try to suck the joy out of all that's fun and positive about this marginal, slightly bizarre, yet wonderful hobby.

Thanks JA.  Enjoy the mag.





Paul Luscusk's picture

Mike among the companies I worked  for as a rep where Mc Intosh, Dynaco, Hafler, and Hafler Pro, Sherwood,Rockford  Fosgate Jim Fosgate,AR, NHT, ADS, NAD, PSB,  Ixos, and Esoteric Audio. I also worked as a Buyer for 8 years,and did  two of the LA Stereophile shows. SO you give me a break. I have heard many Wilson speakers(Not this one) and I'm not impresed by them. I have never judged a audio product without a listen.If you had read my post I was defending Micky's choice  to by the Wilsons. I just said they don't do anything for me as a audiophile.

BillK's picture

I ask this simply because I'd never heard anything I liked from earlier Wilsons, including generation of W/Ps and the Maxx 2s, and even some newer models like the Sophia 3, but to me the Sasha and Alexia have been truly special sonically, finally not suffering from the "cones in a box" disease of most dynamic designs.

billyjul's picture


it is not difficult to do excelolent speaker for good DIYER

they no mistake 

if you use corectly a driver, you can't go wrong, on internet there a quantity of utilitise to simulate parametters, listenig for learn how make a speaker

but construct a driver is far difficult, it is a crutial point, a good speaker bigin whith good drivers, and goods drivers choice to have a good intégration

whith a good reflexion you can make not a good, but a very good speaker in 2voice, a three voice is more complicate

i think, 


"David Wilson, amateur!  That guy just throws a few drivers in a box and wants 200 grand.  I could do better than that"

yes, i agree his speaker have problem, the integration of the drivers, in the cabinet and the design of this are the problem i think

an exemple, the focal berylium tweeter have to be flush mounted on the cabinet, is you don't do this , the response curve is awfull, not flat, flush mounted it is excellent, and the sound is realy better


whtih air motion transformer you can do to directive driver, i think one of the best design is the adam adio x-ART but the model whith the most powerfull magnet, for the high-end speaker

and they have an high medium whitch is a very interesting driver, he goes lower than most other, and they are no to long and vertical directive

they make reference direct radiation drivers for 800hz to 20000hz 


sommovigo's picture

As I said at the beginning of this section, there are practical limitations when measuring so large a loudspeaker. While I am confident that my measurements regime fully characterizes the performance of a small speaker (such as KEF's LS50, which I reviewed last month), with a speaker as large as Wilson's Alexandria XLF, the measurements offer suggestions rather than certainties.

I'm not sure I understand what the implication is here - because it would seem that, by this statement, you could be confident in the response of the speaker above a certain frequency (let's say somewhere above the high pass moving from the bass drivers to the mid/tweet module) - and that those measurements, per the assumptions you derive from your methods ordinarily, would be more of the "certainty" variety and less of the "suggestion" variety.

Would you say that you are cnfident in the response of the speaker above ca: 150Hz?

Michael Fremer's picture

I tend to stay away from the comment section following reviews, mine and those of other reviewers, and this thread is a good reason why. 

The arrogance, stupidity and ignorance is simply appalling and depressing.

I have had many of the world's greatest speakers in my room and I've heard others in other settings: homes, stores and shows around the world.

There are MANY different sounds that are valid and designed for different tastes. The inability of some here to understand that, not to mention understanding how to interpret measurements, is just plain pathetic.

Were I to be led around by measurements, all of which are CRUDE compared to the ear/brain, I'd be listening to CDs... 

This hobby combines science, art and human perception. 

Some of the comments here are sub-human, I'm afraid...

MVBC's picture

Beyond the finished product measurements, drivers parameters can help figure out the style of sound, especially in bass.

For instance, the difference of sound between 18" pro bass drivers JBL 2241 and 2242 can be traced to certain parameters such as BL and moving mass:

JBL 2241  BL 19,  mm 145g, 98dB/w/m versus JBL 2242 BL 24, mm 158g, 99 dB/w/m

Despite a slightly heavier moving mass, but thanks to a more powerful motor, bass from 2242 are much tighter offering better transient response and allowing more freedom in upper frequency cut off while bass through 2241 are more of the rolling type.

Similarly one can compare the same parameters in JBL pro offering versus the Focal drivers used in the Wilson family design:

In 15"

Audiom 15 BL 18, mm 137g, 92 dB/w/m versus JBL 2226 BL 19, mm 98g, 97 dB/w/m

In 12"

Audiom 13 BL 18, mm 108g, 90 dB/w/m versus JBL 2206 BL 18, mm 65g, 95 dB/w/m

Clearly, with a low BL and heavy moving mass, the Focal drivers exhibit quite a low output for such large drivers - a serious problem when trying to recreate live dynamics-, and won't physically deliver faster transients than their JBL pro counterparts, that is clean, lean bass. Other factors such as cone rigidity might help compensate but from the start, I would expect the Focal sound to be plump. Conversely, the 2226 won't go as deep as the Audiom 15, yet its bass will be tighter, punchier. My recent audition of the Focal Grand Utopia confirmed that feeling versus the quickness and tone of the JBL. And here we keep the comparison to bass/upper bass, as cone midranges versus compression would add another level of challenge for the expensive speaker as it did with the Utopia.

So the Wilsons or Focal are of course beautifully crafted, well designed speakers destined to plush interiors and lovers of a certain kind of sound, just as Cadillacs can deliver a certain style of ride. Fine. Yet at $200,000 there is plenty of space for DIY audiophiles to challenge them at more reasonable costs, especially when using active networking designs. Notwithstanding the choice of pro monitoring speakers that are much more affordable than these luxury items. Therefore, some DYI can proudly defend the quality of their bespoke work; however, others could tone down their arguments of authority, checkbook arrogance and quick tongue.

BillK's picture

I have no doubt that a good DIYer could build a speaker with better frequency response, but I'd still like to see the plots and hear what a reviewer had to say about the sound (I've heard any number of components with impeccable response graphs but that sounded simply horrible.)

That of course ignores what price you'd have to sell it for to afford a full-blown factory with staff to produce it in the US, but let's just start with that.

There are any number of "hot rodders" who can build a Porsche-beater for less than the price of a new 911, but they too tend to be one-offs rather than something you can walk into a showroom and purchase.

MVBC's picture

Check the price differential between some Watt/Puppy and a 4348 JBL pro studio monitor and compare the sound... Your answer is there. At the price of this professional gear, even DIY are almost getting not economical.

billyjul's picture

plat frequency response for a driver used in a speaker is just the beginning, but with active crossover witch contain an equalizer, you can correct the response of a speaker, to make better, butt, good driver hame flat frequency response there are other parameters, you have to look, when you make a speaker, parameters, that most audiophile , don't know and a speaker tha measure good on overall parameter can't be a bad speaker, it is not the case for this wilson audio and the jbl mansionned is better than this for much lower price, beaucause jbl know what to do and have developed all the excellent driver to achieve their desgn

NMMark1962's picture

WOW, what a load of TROLL CRAP here.....some people here need to get a life and if you hate Wilson so, then get the hell out of here....you will NOT convince one person with the anti-Wilson spew.....I agree with others....build us your own XLF and prove that Wilson is building garbage or perpetrating a fraud....

When your fabulous speaker is built, let me know so I can buy your wonderful effort and save myself tens of thousands....

To some of you.....quit feeding the idiotic trolls who shit all over these and other forums....i guess that these trolls were run out of the asylums for audio elsewhere...

By the way, for you Wilson haters....I am planing an ultra high end system for late this year...the XLF's are on the list...for the turd here who claims to be able to build an XLF for way less, let me know and I will add it to MY list....hehehehehe...and I bet it will sound oh so sexy.....




ABCDEFG's picture

Perhaps it would be enlightening for some here to consider the genuine economics of this situation.

Mr. Fremer did not pay $200,000 for his XLFs, whatever their cost of construction or subjective worth. In fact, it is very likely that he received a discount considerably greater than Wilson’s 40-45% retail margin.

Considering the dealer cost, it is likely that Mr. Fremer paid less than $100,000 for his pair.

Add a payment plan directly financed by Wilson Audio and a future resale value greater than the accommodation price and the picture of Mr. Fremer’s purchase snaps into focus with remarkable clarity.

Michael Fremer's picture

Is your obtuseness. Guess what? I can buy just about any loudspeaker known to man at an accommodation price. In fact, were I like some reviewers I could get a "long term loan" for just about any speaker known to man and just have them here for as long as I like.

However your libelous comment that there was a "payment plan directly financed by Wilson Audio" is where I tell you with no due respect to go f...k yourself.

The money came from Bank of America, not Dave Wilson or Wilson Audio.

SNI's picture

I would not pay too much attention to the speakers frequency response.
It is a very large speaker, and FR is always measured on the tweeter axis.
Low frequency measurements in smaller rooms are also questionable.
What I do find interesting is the speakers time domain behavior.
This is not very good, and I cannot imagine, that this will not ad a lot of collouration to the sound of this speaker.
It simply emits sound long time after the input signal has stopped.
In my experience this will mask the sound in a way, so that a lot of low level signal is lost.
Also the impedance of this speaker would make me worry.
Anyways I do not think this is a speaker for life, I´d believe that one would get fed up with this "Sound Of Its Own" as time goes by.

If one would like to see a clean time domain behavior, then look at the newly tested Dali Rubicon, that´s how things should behave
, if you want transparancy.


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