Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX loudspeaker Page 2

Though the rear of both speakers ended up almost touching the corner Tube Traps, there was more placement flexibility than I expected. Using Christy Moore's song "So Do I" from the MQA version of his album This Is the Day (released on CD in 2001 as Columbia/Sony 503255.2), Peugh and Hall moved the XVXes, still on casters, until vocal clarity had been achieved. Minute movements produced surprising shifts in clarity. The speakers sounded better, with the rear-firing ports, which was also true with the Alexxes.

Next came the procedure for adjusting time alignment, which I won't go into here. I left it to Peugh to set the rear tweeter's attenuator level based on his XVX setup experience. Two other adjustments are possible. One involves swapping out a resistor to increase or decrease the tweeter level by 1dB (not needed); the other is said to correct for amplifier "time smear," but the darTZeel was not in Wilson's database, so I would have needed to ship one of the monoblocks to Provo for measurement. I chose not to.

No WAFfling
One evening shortly after Peugh and Hall had left, I invited my wife down for a listen. I played her the '70s-era Mobile Fidelity reissue of Little Feat's "Waiting for Columbus" (MFSL 2-013)—just the opener, "Join the Band," and "Fat Man in the Bathtub." When I first played this at the appropriate volume—concert-loud—it came as close to "live" as I've ever heard here, overwhelming and enveloping.

I was expecting her to say—or yell over the music—"Turn it down!" Instead, she just sat there, mouth agape. When the demo was over, she turned to me bug-eyed and said, "You have to buy these speakers!"

Now that's wife acceptance factor (WAF)!

This was the second time this has happened in 30-plus years; the first time was when she proclaimed that the Continuum Caliburn turntable was "better than sex." I found her reaction to the XVXs less threatening.

I have a skeptical, non-audiophile, music-loving friend who often sits bemused as he listens to the latest review product in my listening room. When I bought the XLFs, he said, "Those are too big." When I replaced them with the Alexxes, he matter-of-factly said, "Those sound nice."

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When I played him the Little Feat track through the XVXes, he just about lost it: "They are right there!" he excitedly exclaimed, pointing between the speakers. This is a cool customer who rarely shows emotions and who exults in throwing water on my fire. Not this time!

What exactly is it that has kept me for so long in the Wilson camp? It isn't that the company's speakers are without flaws. All speakers have flaws; you learn to ignore or listen around them.

For a few Wilson iterations, I had to listen around the inverted titanium-dome tweeter, which was fast but kind of edgy. The right associated gear helped smooth things over.

Those other Wilson speakers didn't have the smoothest frequency response. Coloration was low, but not the best. All of the Wilsons I've owned, though, have had a combination of strengths including an uncolored low end, visceral wallop, wide, effortless dynamics, and—especially—a grand, 3D spatial picture that delivers all the width, depth, and especially height that's included on a recording. All my previous Wilsons have largely disappeared and made my room evaporate, leaving an exciting, 3D space that—again, on excellent recordings—put me in the venue as no flat-baffle design has managed, though some of those did pretty well.

Would these moving coil speakers ever convince horn or electrostat lovers? Probably not; nor would horn or electrostat speakers ever convince me.

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The XLF's doped-silk dome tweeter produced a major sonic upgrade over the MAXX3's, with no lost speed or resolution. At approximately half the price, the physically smaller Alexx, equipped with the newly developed woofer pair, beat the low-end pants off the XLF (as did the Marten Coltrane 3). As I wrote in the Alexx review, I traded the XLF's grand soundstage (produced partly by the top/rear-firing tweeter) for the Alexx's intense 3D focus and weighty, fast, nonmechanical-sounding bass speed.

When I heard the WAMM Chronosonics at a friend's place, in one of the best rooms in which I've ever listened to recorded music, I said to myself (knowing how sick Dave Wilson was at the time), "He will leave this Earth having achieved his goal and proven his point."

Aided by the midrange driver Dave couldn't quite finish in time, son Daryl and his team have taken Dave's work further with the XVX.

Let the hyperbole begin
What if I told you I'm hearing familiar recordings as if for the first time, having to re-evaluate everything? Not just picayune things like those eighth-note handclaps in the background of "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds. Have you noticed those? I usually hear the tambourine as sprayed tinkles, but on the first play through the XVX, those "zills" were probably recorded with a single microphone, but his touch on the toms, the subtle volume shifts, and the skin sound delivered by these speakers was revelatory, turning a mere drum part into an event worth repeatedly savoring. The thought and intent behind each touch was unlocked and revealed.

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Clapton's heavily distorted guitar, which had a distinctive tone and texture on that record that I think influenced Jack White's sound, was wet, juicy, and harmonically complex compared to the cardboard expectation.

I could recount here an endless stream of sonic surprises on familiar tracks, where the speaker's sensuous, misty, ethereal midrange, nonmechanical transient clarity, suppleness, and delicacy produced warm-yet-detailed surprises.

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Whenever I hear Stevie Ray Vaughan's Couldn't Stand the Weather at shows, I walk out of the room, especially when the track is "Tin Pan Alley." It's not that it isn't a great recording—there's a reason everyone uses it as a demo—but how many times can you hear it before you've had enough?

Well, the job was comparing the Analogue Productions 33 1/3 (APB 38304) box-set version with the recent Mobile Fidelity "One-Step" 45rpm (UD1S 2-007).

Tommy Shannon's bass has never dug so deep, clean, and well-controlled as it did through these speakers. The attack, bloom, and decay were flawless. The bass didn't boom. In fact, these speakers produce the best low frequencies I've ever heard in this room. The whole presentation made me think I was in (or on) a Maxell poster. Chris Layton's tomtom hits produced the biggest surprise: well-defined, way back in space, perfectly sized, and timbrally right. I can hear them in my mind as I write this.

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Chick Corea died a few days ago, so out comes the German pressing of Crystal Silence (ECM 1024 ST), the percussive 1972 duet with Gary Burton. (If you have only the American Warner Brothers pressing, try to get the German.) I remember the last time I played this; it sounded tinkly back then. This time, the piano had more wood, a sounding board, a spatial context. The speakers' agile start-and-stop abilities were on full display. Burton's vibes, too, were "just right": metallic but, struck with a soft mallet, not too metallic or tinkly; the resonant aftershock of each note decayed pleasingly and quickly. On the ballad "Arise, Her Eyes," dynamic shifts large and small were expressed fully, helping to bring the track to life.

This recording and a few others put the image higher than I'd like with these tall speakers. Most recordings, though, analog or streamed, set up the stage directly in front of me, almost confrontationally precise so that I was looking neither up nor down.

The title track of Crystal Silence was also performed on Return to Forever (German ECM 1022 ST) with Corea on electric piano accompanied by Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Joe Farrell, and "Stan" Clarke. Recorded by Tony May at Phil Ramone's A&R studios, this track demonstrated this speaker's creamy, lush midrange, its crystalline top end, its intense three-dimensionality. Purim lurked to the left of the right speaker as I've never before heard her sound on this record.

We are talking about 14 linear inches of midrange-cone real estate—enough to swamp and glutenize the top or bloat the midbass, you would think. But that does not happen, so well "in the pocket" is both the smooth timbral balance and driver integration—far more accomplished than on any previous Wilson speaker I've owned.

Male vocals never get snagged by midbass bloat; consider the warmish Christy Moore track where his chesty vocal, surrounded by warm currents of reverb, floats free in 3D space—"right there!" as my normally taciturn friend exclaimed.

If you've never heard The Concert Sinatra (Reprise R9-1009; forget the Mo-Fi version), it's worth checking out. Sinatra's on a giant, Samuel Goldwyn soundstage. Nelson Riddle conducts a huge orchestra. It's a unique side of Sinatra, recorded live to 35mm tape. The sound is amazing, though through warm, sluggish speakers Frank can sound chesty and get lost on the cavernous stage. The record has never sounded this good in my room. Frank does not get lost on the stage. He sounds right there.

Conclusion
One of the biggest thrills I've had with these speakers so far was listening to The Berlin Philharmonic's Beethoven symphony cycle, recorded live on LP, conducted by Simon Rattle (BPHR160092). Yes, Klemperer's excellent-sounding 1962 recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra, reissued by the Electric Recording Company in 2018 with the four Overtures for Fidelio as a bonus (ERC 046), has more gravitas than Rattle's tidier takes have, and Bernstein's late '70s live recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic are among the best contemporary sets, but the BPO's playing is tops, and I keep returning to Rattle's Eroica.

The digital editions of this recording are multimiked mixes, but the 10-LP vinyl edition was cut from a 24/96 digital master recorded using just a pair of microphones in M-S configuration. It's a sonic spectacular, incredibly natural, 3D, with that "you are there" quality.

It sounded really fine when I got the set a few years ago and played it on the Alexxes, but through the XVXs it was like putting on 3D glasses and watching on an IMAX screen—only far more convincing. Wilson's time-correction system does far more than produce greater stage dimensionality. Its greatest value is correctly delivering the transient response, which was Dave Wilson's goal all along. Doing that removes edginess, hardness, and other artifacts that might sound like (but are not) amplitude-related and helps produce transportive orchestral transparency as I've never before heard here. It's one of the reasons I can sit hour after hour listening as loudly or softly as I please, as I've done most nights over the past few months.

Every genre was served well by Daryl Wilson's XVX speakers. He seems to have paid meticulous attention to every aspect of design including appearance. They will not be to everyone's tastes, but to me these are the best-looking big Wilsons ever.

Other than a few records where the image was higher than I'd like, I found little to criticize. The Chronosonic XVX does everything spectacularly well: micro and macro dynamics, bass slam, timbral verisimilitude (especially in the midrange), transparency, three-dimensionality. These qualities combine seamlessly, much as the young Mr. Wilson managed on a smaller scale with the Sasha DAWs.

I've been married almost 33 years, and I have always found that things go well for me when I listen to my wife.

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.

Cassettivity's picture

Is this invite open to all Daves???? ;)

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...

laxr5rs's picture

If I owned Wilson Audio, and my engineers came to me with an anechoic response for that speaker like that, I'd say, "what the hell are we doing? Fix it." If I was a music producer and engineered music with that boost at 50hz, and that cut at 200hz, I'd be thrown off the project. I believe it has a kick ass image. I like that. Wilson audio can come back when they figure out how to even out the response - as measured, in a well known anechoic chamber. Transparency. What a concept.

BluesDog's picture

The sheer nurturance and will to commit to turntables is not for sissies. I originally posted the below in the Loudspeakers Forum.

The Road To Olympus

I begrudge no one their largesse or experience. Whether that experience is derived from the hard work of reviewers or the frequent ability of others to change and buy new STUFF. It gives others at various tiers standards to strive for as we all continually try to learn more and be better. I recently helped a close friend audition an array of speakers and like to think I provided meaningful contributions. I thought “a ship would come in” for me later but no such luck. Doing the next best thing produced surprising results. Better speaker wire, new speaker positioning, quieting of my room’s resonance all significantly totaled a smile producing result. A new Marantz CD6006 CD player didn’t hurt either as this player punches far above it’s weight class. If fortunes change, I know exactly what I would do and why. Until then, as Kurt Vonnegut would say “And so it goes.”

At some point in your 50’s (just yesterday, right?) you come to terms with who you are, why you ended up as you did, and are good with the outcome. Sometimes your career chooses you, as helping the disabled thrive was not my most lucrative talent but it just needed doing. The road to Olympus might start with “if I had $5-10,000 what would I do for a single component or pieces and why would I do it?” A good example of this is the vision quest of TZ50. From there people might ratchet that up to the carefully considered (and outstanding) choices of stalwarts such as Kal Rubinson, Jason Victor Serinus, John Atkinson, Thomas J Norton and a pantheon of others across a number of publications.

Well past the summit of Olympus lies a cosmic entity that puts all comic book powerhouses to shame. Thy name is Mikey Fremer. No mortal mind can contemplate a creature in the multiverse that can approach, never mind surpass him. Aside from singlehandedly saving the turntable, he is his own standard when people say someone has “gone all Mikey Fremer.”

Mikey has outdone himself as a standard I doubt anyone will ever approach: It has almost nothing to do with wealth. For most of the rest of us we might get a “these sound very nice” and a once a decade pity approval of the wife to get something new.
I never thought I would hear stories of a woman born of woman say not one but 2 things: That 1) experiencing a component was “better then sex” and 2) “you have to get these speakers.” Thanks, Mikey. No small feat making Olympus look bad by ALSO having a goddess for a wife. That’s being just plain greedy.

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