Wilson Audio Sasha W/P loudspeaker
I was also impressed that the people of Wilson seemed willing to say, more or less, "Yes, we know there's something special about our second-cheapest floorstander, and yes, we're working to bring that quality to the rest of our line." Trickled-up technology is a rare and wonderful thing.
So, too, is it unusual for a manufacturer to both improve a product and lower its price at one stroke. Yet that's what appears to have happened in the second half of 2009, when Wilson phased out their popular WATT/Puppy loudspeakerthen in its eighth iterationand replaced it with the Sasha W/P, which sells for $26,900/pair: fully $2150 less than its predecessor.
Thus, when Wilson Audio asked me to listen to their new midpriced machine, saying no was no option.
The origins of the Sasha W/P date back to 1985, when David Wilson, then more experienced as a recordist than as a manufacturer, devised what he intended as a portable monitor loudspeaker of unusually low coloration. The result was the Wilson Audio Tiny Tot, or WATT, then remarkable not only for its performanceits clarity and tonal neutrality earned generous praise from the critics of the daybut for breaking the minimonitor price barrier. At the time, a four-figure price for a pair of standmounted speakers with very limited bass response was considered stiff, to say the least. Nevertheless, and despite its pro-audio origins (and consequent lack of cosmetic sophistication), the WATT found an appreciative audience among domestic audio enthusiasts.
That success didn't so much change David Wilson as redirect his focus, from making records in many settings to making loudspeakers in just one: a not-unappealing shift in emphasis for a man with a young family. Wilson set about refining the WATT, slowly reworking his crossover network and availing himself of new technologies in drivers and enclosure materialsthe latter often of his own inventionall while never straying far from his original concept. And before long, Wilson had addressed his speakers' basslessness: first with the Beard, a rigid baffle extension that limited dipole cancellation and enhanced bass dispersion, and ultimately with the Puppy, a woofer enclosure that doubled as a stand for the WATT. From the latter day forward, although consumers could still buy just a pair of WATTs, most Wilson customers opted for a complete WATT/Puppy systemand their numbers grew surprisingly quickly.
After having developed that full-range system through eight distinct incarnations, David Wilson and his team decided that the ninth level of refinement would require them to stop thinking of the WATT and Puppy as separate commercial entities. Accordingly, they retired those names, even if the product now known as the Sasha is officially named the Sasha W/P (just as the Napoleon who was born in 1811 was officially Napoleon II).
The Sasha W/P, though outwardly similar to the WATT/Puppy Series 8, is very slightly larger overall. Its upper and lower enclosures, both of which are reflex-loaded through precisely machined rear-firing ports, have greater volume than their predecessors, benefits of which are said to be increased bass extension and freedom from upper-bass congestion. And while the cabinet continues to be made from proprietary phenolic-based laminates developed at Wilson Audio, the front baffle of the Sasha W/P is made of an even newer and different such material that better suits the resonant characteristics of the higher-frequency drivers.
The enclosures also look somewhat different from their forebears. Crisp new lines, rather like the midbody creases one sees in contemporary auto design, are added to both enclosures, near where they join one another: The resulting converging lines lend visual interest to the "sculpture" as a whole, and actually keep the eye from being troubled when the angle of the small enclosure is changed, relative to the larger one, as often must be done in setup. And the shapes of the two enclosures now blend together much better when viewed from the backa not-insignificant consideration in an expensive product that's meant to stand clear of everything else in a presumably well-appointed room.
Footnote 1: See "Listening," February 2010, pp.4143.