Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX loudspeaker Page 2

Wilson Audio has at last devised a form of vestigial grille frame to support an acoustically satisfactory cloth. These grilles substitute for the previous open-cell reticulated foam structures and can be retrofitted to other Wilson speakers, such as the WITT and the WATT. However, I was not too impressed by the new grilles. More often than not during my auditioning, I removed the upper pair of grilles, thus improving focus and detail.

Buried in the plinth, below and integral to the bass enclosure, the crossover network is potted in a cured-resin block that provides thermal stability and an almost complete lack of coupled vibration. The crossover design was not accessible, though I'm told the inductors are air-core, with selected polypropylene capacitors. Electrical connection is via a single set of gold-plated WBT binding posts with the 4mm entry blanked off, and is thus suited to either bare wire or spade-terminated cables, preferably the latter.

Speakers in this performance category tend to be large and heavy, and the MAXX is no exception. Each enclosure weighs 400 lbs and is 63" tall, 17" wide, and 22" deep. However, the use of the separate head unit means that the effective acoustic width at higher frequencies is barely 8", which holds out much promise for fine stereo image formation.

Wilson claims a somewhat lower sensitivity, 92dB/W, than the X-1's 95dB. In amplifierspeak, that means a doubling of the necessary amplifier power to achieve the same effective loudness. While the X-1 offers a reasonable 8 ohm load, the new MAXX admits to a more demanding minimum of 3 ohms, which might prove too much for some tube amplifiers, even high-power ones, to bear.

Like other Wilson products, the MAXX is sold with a 5-year warranty.

Delivery and installation
The total shipping weight of a pair of MAXXes, delivered in four large crates, is 1100 lbs! You need to allow up to a day, and have strong hands and backs available, to get the speakers into position. The bass bins are the largest cabinet sections. Once unpacked, they're left fitted with temporary heavy-duty industrial casters, with which they can be wheeled into place. The three-driver head enclosures are packed separately and need fitting with the support interface spikes and the stepped plates of hardened steel. This combination results in a precise three-point contact between the enclosures.

Different lengths of plate and spike help align the optimum acoustic axis to the listener, regardless of distance and ear height. While this aspect is relatively uncritical for a speaker with a mid-treble section at approximately seated ear height, the primary axis of a speaker as tall as the MAXX is must be directed down toward the listener. The resulting geometry insists that, for the very best performance, a variable head alignment is essential. By controlling the effective center of rotation, a measure of time alignment is also maintained throughout the range of adjustment.

Once the upper enclosures are in place, and adjusted by ear and according to the guide provided, they are stabilized by three-point-contact nylon-tipped locking screws to the sides—a distinctive feature of both this and the Grand SLAMM. Two cable sets terminated with spade connectors come up through the bass enclosure to supply midrange and treble to the appropriate WBT binding posts. Adjacent to these terminals are the cover plates for the protection and voicing elements.

Initial placement involves experimentation with both speaker and listener positions, the aim being to find the optimum combination of extension, overall balance, and "tune-playing" consistency at low frequencies. There are two possibilities: In large areas, the speakers can be placed virtually in free space; their positions relative to the side walls are then of little importance. In smaller rooms, side-wall symmetry is more important, as is moderate lateral diffusion—bookcases and the like—in the vicinity of the speakers. Ultimately, the enclosures will be critically positioned with respect to the side walls to help achieve the widest, most focused stereo image and the most natural timbre.

When this fine-tuning has been completed, at least two people are needed to substitute the adjusted spiked feet for the wheels, taking great care not to move the speakers off the established reference positions. Micro-tuning of timbre via the protection resistors will put that final gloss on the MAXX's overall in-room balance.

I found the MAXX, as delivered, to be a tad rich and bass-heavy for a European room built of solid brick, though I suspect it would be near perfection for US rooms with typical drywall construction. Early in the review process, in fact, I began to feel that this speaker's available power in the bass was likely to be more suited to a room even larger than mine. Usually in my room, speakers are placed around 1m from the wall behind them. With the MAXXes, this resulted in overpowering bass and insufficient tune-playing performance. Further experimentation with mid and treble levels was pointless, as it was obvious that the MAXX's low-frequency interaction with the room had to be addressed first.

Wilson Audio Specialties
2233 Mountain Vista Lane
Provo, UT 84606
(801) 377-2233