Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX loudspeaker Page 3
With careful trial and error using known recordings, fine-tuning of the speaker and listener position over a period of 12 hours continued to give significant gains in performance. In the end, I needed no absorbers or bass traps.
Early doubts about tonal balance—dim or bright—were almost entirely resolved by placement tuning. As the speaker settled in, I became accustomed to the mildly different room sound the MAXX generates. (By "different" I mean the particular energy signature heard in the reverberant sound generated by a D'Appolito driver configuration when compared with the more usual single mid-unit placed below a tweeter.) I began to appreciate the Wilson's major strengths—in my opinion, the MAXX's performance will probably be limited only by the installation and the matching system.
Concerning the available adjustment, the MAXX's inner integrity of tonal balance was so great that very small changes in user adjustment for the mid and treble sections proved to deliver near-magical shifts in speed, integration, and perspective. Such shifts—effected via those fusible protection resistors—are clearly possible without impairing the sound's primary structure. In the hands of a skilled installer, such tuning will allow the MAXX to advance to a higher level of performance in the user's listening room. For the record, the midrange protection resistor had been set in production at 5.7 ohms, while the high-frequency section was set at 4.2 ohms. I finally chose 5.3 ohms for the mid and 3.7 ohms for the treble; these small differences were truly worthwhile.
When used in my room and partnered by up-to-date amplification, the MAXX came damn close to the overall performance of the X-1/Grand SLAMM. In absolute terms there was a shade less attack, although some might say the MAXX sounded, thankfully, more polite—the SLAMM can sound outspoken on occasion. Some of the SLAMM's gut-wrenching low-frequency grip was absent, though debate could continue as to the degree of difference—the MAXX's low-frequency range was still close to the state of the art. But the Mk.1 SLAMM's sense of immediacy, of edge-of-the-seat excitement—sometimes even of a mildly restless nature—has been successfully moderated in the Mk.2. That more balanced sound was present in the MAXX as well.
Interestingly, much of this speaker's sound quality seems to work by controlled understatement. Its many accomplishments were less a matter of in-your-face obviousness than a sense of poise, overall balance, and inner grace. Time and time again, these brought substance and power to the sound reproduction.
Many big speakers sound sufficiently large only when played loud. But the MAXX—like another favorite of mine, Wilson's WITT 2—managed to sound generously proportioned even at moderate sound levels or at normal conversational levels; the bass lines still worked well. Increasing the volume simply increased the impact and bass extension. An inherent smoothness, also associated with this natural tonality, was clearly voiced throughout the frequency range. The MAXX could be played very, very loud indeed.
Using peak-level monitoring equipment, I confirmed a program clipping point at 970Wpc for the Krell FPB 650M amplifiers driving the MAXX. Even at that final point, however, there was no unpleasant hardening, brittleness, compression, or related distortion audible from the speaker. High powers were handled with consummate aural ease.
As I write, I'm listening to the opening of the live Pink Floyd album, Pulse (Columbia C2K 67065), and the MAXX is showing just what it can do. The sense of the live arena, the power and weight of both the PA stack and the arena ambience, is wholly appropriate. Stadium rock is full-blooded, even theatrical in dimension, and there's nothing mean about the scale of this soundstage. A sense of presence and air floats over, with, and beyond the image, conveying atmosphere and a feeling of actually being at the event—yet there's no false glaze or related artifice.
In this respect, the MAXX showed remarkable subtlety. Likewise, there was an impressive and satisfying transparency, achieved (one imagines) by an iron build quality and an inner balance that was close to perfect; this transparency was certainly not down to a short-term exaggeration of the high-frequency register, as is so often the case with other speakers. And that transparency ran deep—an aspect held not just in isolated spotlit areas, but over a very wide frequency range.