Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX2 loudspeaker More Measurements
As I was flying to Minnesota to measure the Legacy Whisper loudspeaker, which Paul Bolin will review in a forthcoming issue, I took advantage of the trip to measure the Wilson MAXX 2s in his room.
When I had auditioned the MAXX 2s for Michael Fremer's review a year ago, I had found the speaker's low frequencies impressively extended and its overall balance smooth and grain-free. Though the upper midrange was slightly elevated, this could be heard as an improved presentation of recorded detail rather than as a tonal imbalance, and it is fair to say that the big Wilsons produced the best sound I have heard in Michael's room. Following the publication of his review in August 2005, Michael bought the review samples. Every time I visit him to pick up a review product for measurement or to give a listen to what he's currently writing about, I hopefully ask him if he currently has the MAXX 2s set up.
One aspect of the MAXX 2's performance that became very clear in my measurements, however, was that the exact listening axis is critical—the upper-frequency speaker array needs to be aimed very carefully at the listener's ears. Sit too high and the upper-midrange emphasis begins to dominate the perceived balance; as a result, the sound quality suffers.
Even with the speakers carefully set up in MF's room, the upper mids measured a little on the forward side, as can be seen in the MAXX 2s' spatially averaged response, taken in a grid centered on the position of Mikey's ears in his listening chair, 36" from the floor (fig.1, blue trace). You can also see the generous low-frequency balance in Mikey's room in this graph, as well as a slight lack of energy in the upper bass, due, I conjecture, to room effects.
The red trace in fig.1 shows the spatially averaged response of the MAXX 2s in Paul Bolin's listening room, again taken in a grid centered on the position of PB's ears in his listening chair. Though PB's basement room is about the same size as Mikey's and the speakers were set up in much the same positions (ie, close to the corners), PB's room opens behind the listening chair into a much larger space. As a result, the Wilsons don't get anything like the same support in the low bass, which results in a more neutral low-frequency balance but less absolute extension. The response is still flat to the 32Hz band, however; this, in combination with the speaker's very high power handling at low frequencies, will satisfy all but pipe-organ aficionados.
There is still a slight lack of energy apparent in the upper bass, but the most obvious difference between the speaker's balance in the two rooms is that the MAXX 2s produce an impressively flat midrange and treble at Paul's considerably greater listening distance. Both in-room responses start to roll out in the top two audio octaves due to the tweeter's narrowing dispersion in this region, but at MF's closer listening distance a slight boost makes itself known at the very top of the audioband, reflecting the HF unit's anechoic behavior.
I didn't get the chance to listen to much music on the MAXX 2s in PB's room: I had a lot of measurements to do that evening and a flight to catch early the next morning. But the conclusion I must draw from my experience of the MAXX 2s in these two rooms is that its owner really does need to sit at least 10' from these speakers if he is to get the most neutral balance of which they are capable.
But that is not going to stop me from looking forward to hearing them in Mikey's room when I pay my monthly visit. He buys 'em, I gets to listen to 'em—an ideal arrangement, from my point of view.—John Atkinson