Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX loudspeaker

Brand-fan excitement ran high among consumers and reviewers alike when Wilson Audio Specialties announced that it would roll out a nonfunctioning prototype of the Chronosonic XVX at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF). The Chronosonic XVX was rumored to be a replacement for the $210,000/pair Alexandria XLF, offering performance similar to that of the $850,000 WAMM Master Chronosonic system (including two Master Subsonics and a controller) at a less breathtaking price. (You won't catch me writing "affordable" here.) The static unveiling at RMAF intensified anticipation.

XVX rumors, like most rumors, proved to be not quite accurate. When the XVX was introduced, the XLF remained in the Wilson lineup. (It was retired mid-2020.) Nor was the XVX intended as the company's second-tier loudspeaker, as some had speculated—or not precisely.

The WAMM was always positioned as a limited-edition product. The XVX, then—like the Alexandria XLF before it—was meant to be the statement product in Wilson's regular lineup, a no-compromise loudspeaker, a cost-no-object design.

Cost was something of an object, though: Daryl Wilson said in that static-unveiling video (footnote 1) that he'd hoped to bring the project in under $300,000/pair. By the time he and his design team were finished, that price had risen to $329,000. (To head off online price whiners at the pass, I'll note that the February 11, 2021 New York Times carried a story about a $76,000/pair, limited-edition Birkenstock sandal made from ripped-up Hermès Birkin bags. The shoes are expected to sell out, and they don't play Beethoven, Miles, or the Clash.)

Thus, while the XVX incorporates much of the WAMM's groundbreaking technology—including its precise time-alignment technology (in somewhat simplified form)—and more than a few new innovations, it costs roughly half what the WAMM costs. Yet it is priced well above the XLF, leaving a $130,000 hole in Wilson's impressive lineup. Wilson says this hole will not be filled.

From the ground up
Standing about 6' 4" inches tall in spiked heels and weighing 685lb, the XVX incorporates the same 10½" and 12½" hard-paper-pulp woofers developed for the WAMM and later "pilfered" for the Alexx. In the XVX, the woofer pair is housed in a massive enclosure nearly 3' deep and tall. The enclosure features the selectable (rear- or front-firing) "Cross-Load" port system introduced with the XLF. The woofer cabinet is constructed using Wilson's superhard, nonresonant "X" material.

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The speaker's upper section holds four speaker modules: upper and lower rear-vented midrange modules sandwich a sealed tweeter and a bottom-vented upper-midrange module. The tweeter is the same Convergent Synergy Mk5 doped-silk fabric dome used in the WAMM. A second Mk5 tweeter is mounted atop the upper-midrange enclosure. The upper midrange driver is a variant of the 4" paper-pulp cone driver, two of which are used in the WAMM's MTM (d'Appolito) array.

Brand-new here is the QuadraMag midrange driver, Dave Wilson's final driver project, developed in collaboration with his team over five years but not finished in time for inclusion in the WAMM Chronosonic. It features a 7" paper-pulp–composite cone driven by a motor featuring four Alnico magnet "slugs" that, relative to the original iteration's three, increase efficiency, speed, resolution, and "sweetness," Daryl Wilson says.

The heart of the speaker, though, is a version of the micrometer-based aluminum-and–stainless steel gantry system developed for the WAMM, which allows precise time alignment of the mid- and upper-frequency drivers relative to each other and the drivers below. In a conversation with Jason Victor Serinus, the late Dave Wilson described the goal of the system as achieving "synchronicity of the alignment of the leading edge of the transient."

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While flat–front-baffle speakers fixed at 90° from vertical can have an error of hundreds of microseconds, Wilson explained to young Jason, the WAMM's micrometer/gantry system allows for adjustments down to about 2µs. "It's nice if you have phase coherence, but it is not necessary," Wilson said in his chat with JVS. "What I'm interested in is the synchronicity of the leading edge of each note."

The topmost midrange driver and tweeter share one micrometer "sled," while the two lower drivers ride on the second. The 4" upper-midrange driver can be further adjusted, fore and aft and for rake angle, independent of the 7" midrange driver upon which its spikes rest. Wilson says the "resolution" of this system on the XVX is comparable to that on the WAMM. Other Wilson loudspeakers—including my reference Alexx—have similar adjustability, but by comparison to the XVX, it's relatively coarse.

The system by which the time alignment is achieved is an ingenious and remarkably rigid mechanical wonder, made easier to appreciate and adjust by a built-in, two-tiered, rechargeable-battery–powered lighting system and embedded bubble levels. Modules are aligned fore and aft via the two ultrafine-pitched, micrometer-controlled, "V-material"– damped sleds, and proper rake angles are achieved using Wilson's tried-and-true stepped block-and-spike system.

Wilson has been criticized for sticking to paper-pulp cones and soft-dome tweeters instead of utilizing more exotic materials like beryllium, titanium, ceramic, or diamond. "In the final analysis," Dave Wilson told Jason, "it's what you like."

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A few more details
A few years ago, Wilson purchased Reliable Capacitor (RelCap) and brought cap manufacturing in-house, giving the design team control over cap consistency and quality and the ability to make capacitors of any desired value. Anyone who's played the capacitor-substitution game has heard the big sonic differences capacitors can make. I started capacitor-rolling in 1980, guided by the groundbreaking Jung and Marsh Audio magazine articles published in February and March of that year. Capacitors are most critical in crossover networks, especially in multidriver speaker designs like Wilson's WAMMs and XVXs, but in 1980 they transformed my Hafler DH-101 preamplifier from a physical and sonic lightweight into something special.

The crossover networks (one for the woofers and a separate one for the higher frequency drivers) are potted to control vibration (and to prevent snooping?) and encased in stiff carbon fiber housings located in the lower-rear portion of the woofer cabinet.

Wilson hand-twists cables for each application with wire sourced from Transparent (except for the Magnum Opus cables used in the woofer section, which are bought premade). Wilson manufactures in-house connectors and binding posts as well as grille frames and side panels.

Setup
COVID-19 delayed delivery and setup. The review pair remained at the factory for months until Wilson's Bill Peugh and Tyler Hall felt it safe to travel and I felt it was safe to have masked visitors. During the considerable waiting period, I wondered if and how these large speakers would work in my room. Wilson's Peter McGrath, who has set up WATT Puppy 7's, MAXX2's and MAXX3's, XLFs, and Alexxes in my room (all of which I ended up purchasing), was 100% confident that they would work. However, the optional $37,500 (each) Subsonic Woofers with $4500 ActivXO crossover were not an option here. There's absolutely no room for them.

Wilson has a speaker placement technique it calls "WASP" (Wilson Audio Setup Procedure) based on listening to the room and determining the location where it (the room) least influences the sound. (Wilson calls it the "zone of neutrality.") Peugh made use of it as best he could, but in my room there's little flexibility in the placement of speakers this big. They ended up very close to where the XLFs, Alexxes, Marten Coltrane 3's, and the enormous Sonus Faber Aida IIs sounded best.


Footnote 1, just after the 12-minute mark at youtube.com/watch?v=A_jslqJ4TkE.
COMPANY INFO
Wilson Audio Specialties
2233 Mountain Vista Lane
Provo, UT 84606
(801) 377-2233
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Old Audiophile's picture

Michael, another good review and great piece of writing! Thank you! No way I can buy these toys but interesting reading, nonetheless.

In the same vein of "I've been married almost 33 years, and I have always found that things go well for me when I listen to my wife.", if you haven't already, I recommend you watch a few reruns of an old BBC production called "Rumpole of the Bailey", starring Leo McKern. Great actor who showed his talent for the witty as Clang, the native chief or shaman in the 1965 Beatles movie, "Help!". I'm confident you'll enjoy it and appreciate the humor.

w1000i's picture

This speaker need something double down to 1 ohm easily like Luxman amplifier

georgehifi's picture

I can think of far better amps to ignore those types of loads, than
"MF's darTZeel's"

EG: D'Agostino/Gryphon Antillion etc.

Cheers George

a.wayne's picture

Both amplifiers are not current kings IMO , the Luxman for sure would not be a step forward for MF ..

Regards

Ortofan's picture

... be a step forward for MF.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/luxman-b-1000f-monoblock-power-amplifier

a.wayne's picture

Nice had forgotten about those , have heard the other models and they were not my cup of tea , found them kinda on the soft smooth side ..

Regards

Ortofan's picture

"Even though the Falcons correctly positioned the acoustic objects in the soundstage, the presentation was so much smaller-scale than it had been on the big Wilsons that I had to chuckle."

PS Audio's Paul McGowan suggests that large-sized speakers are not necessary to achieve a large-scale soundstage, but it does require full frequency range reproduction, as might be realized by using relatively smaller speakers along with a subwoofer.

Has JA1 tried using the Falcon LS3/5a speakers with a subwoofer?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhWj-puaxx8

a.wayne's picture

Adding Subs or more bass will increase dynamic impact in the bass , for balance you do need more dynamic output from your mid/Twt so starting small there will see no real improvement in dynamic output and balance, just more bass and constant fiddling with subwoofer gain as you become aware of the lack of balance from Recording to recording ..

Regards

David Harper's picture

any wife who doesn't point out how ugly, expensive and ridiculous these speakers are is definitely a keeper.

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes they are expensive, but no they are not ridiculous nor are they ugly. Next time you're in NJ assuming you're not an anti-vaxxer, come over and listen. Then report back. Even before the review ran, once the XVXes showed up in associated equipment I got emails from readers who own XVXes telling me I need to buy them and from people who don't own them who've heard them telling me to buy them. I've never gotten such a reaction but I fully understand. The performance is ridiculous. Ridiculously credible. I almost typed "incredible" but didn't want to give you an opening.

Anton's picture

"A second Mk5 tweeter is mounted atop the upper-midrange enclosure."

On their site, Wilson calls it a 'rear firing tweeter.'

How do they time align that baby?

There are several speakers with aspirations at the highest of high end, Wilson, MBL, others, who seem to feel their products need an 'ambience tweeter.'

Like in Portlandia, "Want your speakers to sound better? But a bird on them!"

Have any of the manufacturers even discussed the non-time aligned ambience drivers?

Most importantly, where is the "Add a rear firing tweeter" after market product niche?

I use the Aperion ribbon behind my main speakers. So, maybe it already exists but doesn't get mentioned.

This topic might be coming up more now that so many high enders are doing it!

The Magic M9 does not, but the Wilsons, including the Chronosonic Master does! Their brochure: "The rear-firing module is optimized for ceiling heights normally found in domestic environments and increases spatial retrieval and overall resolution."

Not time aligned, yet "adding spatial retrieval and adding resoultion?"

MBL's Radialstrahler mbl 101 X-treme has a tweeter stuck on top, too.

JA1, MF, or JA2, are you noticing a trend?

PAR's picture

Rear and/or upward firing tweeters are no new trend but have been around for decades. The first I remember ( and it probably wasn't the very first) was the Linn Isobarik with additional midrange and tweeter firing at the ceiling (circa. 1975). The late Albert von Schweikert applied for a patent on his rear firing tweeter ambience recovery system in the early 1980s. There have been many speakers using similar concepts since.

bpeugh11's picture

Anton, what is a non time aligned ambience driver? The upward/rear firing driver in the XVX is time aligned to the drivers nearest them. What is also important is the adjustable output such that they can be set for the proximity of the ceiling. That setting determines the efficacy of the rear firing drivers.

Anton's picture

I find it intriguing that such high end manufacturers do this.

I like it and play with it myself at home.

It's a little touch of Bose in the night!

volvic's picture

I have no doubt they are amazing in any large listening area, I've heard the other Wilsons and they've always amazed me. Love the part where Mr. Fremer's wife thought he should get them. Wondering if my wife will be as forgiving if I purchase a 1200G?

JRT's picture

Thank you for the effort that you are putting into these measurements and the associated comments.

You have mentioned EPDR here and in some earlier articles, but are not including a curve showing EPDR in your measurements pages. It would be better if you would include an EPDR curve with the curves for electrical impedance and associated phase, all three curves with respect to frequency on the same graphic.

This suggestion is intended for improvements, and is not a negative criticism of the useful and interesting measurements and associated comments that you are already providing.

dc_bruce's picture

One can't help but be impressed by MF's and JA's comments. They should forestall any carping about "audio jewelry" or that these are only for those with "silly money."

Obviously, this speaker is like the proverbial yacht: if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it. I'm wondering whether, in a house with a typical suspended wood floor, some reinforcement might be necessary to support this much weight. I gather MF's listening room is in his basement, I assume with a poured concrete floor which eliminates this concern. (although I would not volunteer to be part of the crew that has to remove them).

The degree of precision in the available adjustment of the midranges and tweeters suggests that proper setup of these speakers will take quite some time to get "perfect" -- that it's not just a matter of positioning.

Although these are reasonably beyond my financial reach (I do have to ask the price), I appreciate this review, which gives us a glimpse of what is possible with nearly unlimited resources. Well done, all!

MikeP's picture

Your wife will love the new Ayon Audio Black Crane speakers...

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