John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Jul 14, 2002 0 comments
Of the small number of times I have been totally swept away by listening to recorded music, a significant proportion have involved loudspeakers from Wilson Audio Specialties. It was my experience of their X-1/Grand SLAMM in the listening rooms of reviewer Martin Colloms, then-retailer Peter McGrath, designer Dan D'Agostino of Krell, and manufacturer Madrigal Audio Labs, that led me to name it my "Editor's Choice" for 1995 and join my vote with those of the Stereophile scribes to make it the magazine's "Loudspeaker of the Year." I wrote in my December 2001 "As We See It" about how a cross-country road trip had begun with a listen to the Cantus CD on the Wilson WAMMs in their designer's Utah listening room. And, as I wrote in my April column, auditioning Peter McGrath's 24-bit Nagra-D master tapes on Wilson MAXXes in the Halcro room was, for me, the highlight of the 2002 CES.
John Atkinson Posted: Oct 04, 2011 Published: Jun 01, 1991 3 comments
666wil32.jpg"No pain; no gain." Thus goes the June 1991 offering from the Cliché-of-the-Month Club—(800) MOT-JUST—a saying that seems particularly appropriate for audiophiles with aspirations. High-performance loudspeakers fall into two categories. First are those exasperating thoroughbreds requiring endless Tender Loving Care and fussy attention to system detail to work at all. Take the Avalon Eclipse or the Infinity IRS Beta, for example: when everything is just fine, you put on record after record, trying to get through as much music as possible before the system goes off song again. On the other hand, speakers like the Vandersteens, Magnepans, B&W 801 Matrix, and KEF R107/2 appear to sound excellent even as you unpack them, before you've even put them in what you think might be the optimum positions in your listening room.

The question is: Are such unfussy designs really high-end? I mean, if they were truly high-performance speakers, shouldn't the owner have to suffer even just a little to reach musical nirvana? "A little pain; some sonic gain!" goes that other familiar saying.

You all know where you stand on this vitally important question. Me, I prefer to sit and construct the following graphical analogy. Draw a vertical axis and mark it "Absolute Performance." (The units are "gb," footnote 1) Now draw a horizontal axis and label it "Setup." (The units are "dU" for "deci-Ungers," footnote 2) Okay, sketch out an inverted V-shape. This curve, something like an engine's torque vs RPM curve, represents the manner in which a system's or component's performance changes according to how it is set up.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 17, 2013 4 comments
Over dinner one evening at the 2013 CES, I was being grilled by other magazine editors about my measurements of the Wilson Audio Specialties Alexandria XLF speaker that Michael Fremer reviewed in the January issue. In vain did I point to the XLF's superb in-room response; in vain did I emphasize that no one measurement fully describes a speaker's sound; in vain did I point out that the best way to integrate all the measurements was to listen to the thing. What I should have done was bid my peers to visit the dCS suite on one of the Mirage's penthouse floors where Wilson's Alexia loudspeaker ($48,500/pair), which incorporates much of the XLF's technology, was being demmed with Dan D'Agostino Momentum monoblocks and dCS's new Vivaldi digital system, wired up with Transparent Audio cables.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
My best sound at the 2011 SSI? No doubt about it, it was the late Leonard Shure performing Beethoven's Op.109 Piano Sonata courtesy of the immense VTL Siegfried tubed monoblocks driving even more immense Wilson Alexandria X2 loudspeaker via Transparent Audio cables in Coup de Foudre's large room on the Hilton Bonaventure's mezzanine floor. This was the last room I visited at SSI and provided a fitting climax to what had been a great Show.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2010 8 comments
I know, center-channel speakers are the bailiwick of our sister magazine Home Theater. But as Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath told me when he explained the speaker's technology to me in the Utah company's suite at the Mirage, two Polarises work magically as a stereo pair. (Unfortunately, the speaker was only being shown, not demonstrated.)
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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 15, 2006 0 comments
With David and Sheryl Lee Wilson in Europe for the Milan and London Shows, son Daryl demonstrated for me how the Utah company’s newly redesigned Watch Dog subwoofer doubles as designer seating. The sub is now a more manageable passive design, one third smaller than the original, and is stackable. The Passive Dog can be controlled either by a home theater system’s bass management or, in a music system, by the outboard Watch Controller. This has both balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, and features versatile high- and low-pass filters.
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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 19, 2006 4 comments
Like all Wilson Audio Specialties' speakers, the Series 8 redesign of the venerable WATT/Puppy combination is available in flawless, clear-coat automotive finishes. I do wonder, however, how many of the Utah company's customers choose more conservative finishes than those on display at CEDIA. Arrival of a pair of WATT/Puppy 8s in reviewer Wes Phillips' listening room is imminent. What color will they be?
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 06, 2009 1 comments
Okay, so the system in the big room from Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre was very expensive, and the room's acoustics I knew from the 2008 Show were excellent, but the sound was both my best at show and the best I heard in that room. Not only did Peter McGrath's high-resolution recordings, played back from his Sound Devices recorder feeding the very promising Playback Designs' D/A processor, reproduce with extraordinary dynamics and a superbly transparent window into the soundstage, my own recordings sounded the best I have experienced, with the audiophile attributes supporting/reinforcing rather than getting in the way of the music. And that was from CD!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2014 0 comments
I can’t believe it was five years ago that I first heard the Wilson Sasha W/P speaker at a CES. Funnily enough, it was in the same suite at the Mirage so when I first entered this year I didn’t notice anything new. But then I realized that the speaker on the right in my photo was the same size as the Sasha—okay, it’s ½” taller than the original Sasha, shown on the left—but now resembles the larger Alexia that I reviewed in December, though the tweeter is now mounted in the same enclosure as the midrange unit. The Mk.2 Sasha costs $29,900/pair compared with the Mk.1's $27,900/pair.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jun 07, 1997 Published: Jun 07, 1995 0 comments
Compuserve's CEAUDIO forum has been buzzing in recent weeks about audio cables. The subject even spilled over into an April meeting of the New York chapter of the Audio Engineering Society (see Wes Phillips's report in this month's "Industry Update"). Nearly two decades after Polk, Fulton, and Monster Cable raised our collective consciousness about the differences cable choice can make in an audio system, the debate still rages between audiophiles and some members of the engineering community. "High-priced tone controls" is how some engineers dismiss the subject of cables, while admitting that they can sound different. Other engineers adopt the "Hard Objectivist" line that if there are differences to be heard between cables, differences in the lumped electrical parameters of resistance (R), inductance (L), and capacitance (C) are all that are required to explain such differences.

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