Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha DAW loudspeaker Page 2

I had hooked up the speakers earlier and been running them in. In this old house, built in 1872, my listening room was originally intended as one of two master bedrooms. The room is not huge: 13' wide by 17' long by 10' high. (I like the ceiling height you can get in an old wood Victorian.) In spite of what may well be a minefield of resonant nodes, this is the most satisfying space I have had for listening to music.

Were the imposing Sasha DAWs going to be too much loudspeaker for my room? Only proper setup and listening time would tell.

The afternoon McGrath arrived, we listened for a while with the Sasha DAWs where I had set them out of their crates. Peter pronounced that things weren't too bad, and he felt the speakers might end up quite close to their starting positions. The next morning, McGrath got to work with tape measures, a pad of paper, and his ears—no electronic measuring devices. Following the Wilson Audio setup procedure, Peter proceeded to listen, over and over again, for hours, to his favorite test track, Christy Moore's "So Do I," from This Is the Day (Sony 5032552), which features a deep male vocal and a plucked string bass. McGrath finds this recording helpful in detecting undesirable room resonant points.

With the speakers now set on large plastic furniture pads, we moved them in carefully measured half-inch increments from front to back and side to side; at each spot, McGrath would stop to listen and make notes. These included distance from the front wall and numerical grades—1 being worst, 5 being best—in five categories: Low, Low Mid, Upper Mid, Bloom, and Dynamics. McGrath is a tough grader: In only one position out of 13 did he assign three or more points in all five categories. The magic spot was 42.5" from the front wall. This was only a bit more than 4" farther from my listening chair than the speakers were initially, slightly farther apart, and more toed in than the speakers they replaced—and quite close to an equilateral triangle with respect to my chair. Grilles on or off? They were in place when McGrath first arrived, but he wanted me to take the grilles off. We also leveled the speakers once they were set—all the floors in my old house go in different directions. This improved the stereo sound- stage balance and detail.


Listen to this
The Wilson Sasha DAWs were well fed. Powering up the 450Wpc McIntosh MC462 stereo amplifier, McGrath and I began to explore a bit. The Sasha DAW's specified sensitivity of 91dB is higher than average—they can indeed play loud—and their nominal impedance is specified as 4 ohms. Counterintuitively, McGrath suggested that with some amps the speakers might sound better using an 8 ohm output tap. We compared, and this proved to be the case: Bass was deeper and tighter and the spatial performance better using the 8 ohm taps instead of the 4 ohm taps.

I ran this observation by Wilson designer Credille, who stated that "On tube amps with multiple taps, we have found that the 8 ohm tap generally works the best." John Atkinson took another look at his measurements of the McIntosh MC462 for me and decided that "The 8 ohm tap of the MC462 has the lowest output impedance, which will control the bass best—the opposite of what I would expect." All this adds up to: Each user will need to determine these things for themselves, case by case. Wilson's specified minimum amplifier power for the Sasha DAW is 25Wpc. I would suggest even more—you probably won't experience all the Sasha DAW has to offer with flea-circus amplification.

I don't know what unseen planchette guided my fingers to my original copy of Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band's Clear Spot (LP, Reprise MS 2115 0598): my favorite album from Don Van Vliet, not only for the material but because it is by far the best-sounding recording of Don's career. The incredible pow of the drums and the wailing harmonica on "Circumstances" . . . well, as Little Richard put it, they "made my big toe jump up in my boot." Deputy Editor Art Dudley motored by the next day for a listen and asked to hear "Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles." Art commented that this was the best he had ever heard that particular track sound, with its surprisingly soulful vocal from the Captain. Outstanding.


If you want to really vet the quality of vocal reproduction from a loudspeaker, reach for Joni Mitchell's masterpiece Blue (LP, Reprise/Rhino MS 2038). Listening to the superb recent vinyl remastering from Rhino Vinyl, my eyes welled and my ears perked up when I got to "Little Green." I have heard this tune innumerable times, but I never noticed how long Joni sustains the last word of the song, "sorrow": heartbreak made audible by the Sasha DAW. My reference Harbeth 30.2 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeakers, reviewed by Herb Reichert in the April 2018 issue, utilize a 1" soft-dome tweeter, as do the Sasha DAWs. However, the Harbeths provide less texture, detail, and diction than I heard from the Wilsons. This does not mean the latter were forward or strident: With the Sasha DAWs, there was no sense of that up-in-your-face-and- ears sound that I have sometimes experienced with large monitors in recording studios.

In the mood for some Steely Dan, I turned to the album that won them their overdue Grammy in 2000, Two Against Nature (CD, Giant/Warner Bros. 9 24719-2). Donald Fagen and Walter Becker honed what they termed their "junkie grooves" to a fine edge over the years, and this album is chock-full of 'em. Listening to "Cousin Dupree" felt like driving a really high-powered go-kart: Through the Sasha DAWs there were pace, snap, drive, and speed, all propelling the energy of the track forward.

Turning to a more uptown kind of music, I streamed from Qobuz the fifth and final movement of the Shostakovich Symphony No.8 from the cycle-in-progress by conductor Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (24/96 WAV, Deutsche Grammophon 289 479 5201). As the concert bass drum and the rest of the orchestra repeat the same bone-crunching crescendo, the effect heard through the Sasha DAWs was beyond exciting—it was terrifying. I think this is what Dimitri wanted us to feel. (The subtitle on the album cover is "Under Stalin's Shadow.") The low-end performance of the Sasha DAWs was sui generis: Though I have owned other fine floorstanders and subwoofers, the low-end performance of the Sasha DAWs took things to another level.

Shostakovich is among the most varied of composers. When he mutes the strings, and a single woodwind softly takes the lead, the Sasha DAWs reveled in the most delicate of musical colors. The soundstage was fantastic, laid out in sparkling width, depth, and detail. Stereo soundstaging is high on my to-do list; if I want to listen to mono, I'll crank up one of my three Victrolas. With the Sasha DAWs properly dialed in, with the room "completing the acoustic circuit," I could answer my earlier question I started with: No, not too much loudspeaker. The electronics, the speakers, and the listening space were all pulling together now, putting their backs into it like a well-trained crew team.

The sweet spot?
I think it's likely that the increased size and solidity of the Wilson Audio Sasha DAW cabinets, along with revisions to the drivers and other elements, may have resulted in improvements, overall, compared with the prior Sasha models. (John Atkinson's measurements should shed further light on this.) There is tonal beauty, alongside an amazing dynamic range. The end result helps create the tactile sensation of actual music being performed by actual musicians, not virtual ones.


L–R Art Dudley, Sasha Matson, Toby, and Wilson Audio’s Peter McGrath in Sasha's listening room.

Are the Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha DAW loudspeakers worth their price of admission? It's a matter of priorities. Usually, when hi-fi buffs complain about high-end pricing, they compare audio gear to cars. But, as Dylan puts it: "I don't have no sports car, and don't even care to have one. I can walk anytime—around the block." To my way of thinking, a more apt analogy for the Sasha DAW would be to a really fine musical instrument, which musicians can and do find a way to have in their lives.

When I examine product lineups from high-end manufacturers, I tend to seek out the model where the cost and performance vectors intersect. In my view, within the current Wilson Audio Specialties lineup, the Sasha DAW occupies that spot. This loudspeaker is at the center of the design concepts that David Wilson first created for his company. In a less costly world, would I choose to keep the Sasha DAWs? In a needle drop. I have never heard music recreation in my own home like this before. The Sasha DAW has rocked my listening world. The Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha DAW loudspeaker is a beautifully balanced fusion of technology, craft, and art, and a fine living tribute to David A. Wilson.

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

Bogolu Haranath's picture

There it is ..... The classic BBC dip .......... There is a -5 db BBC dip from 1 kHz to 5 kHz :-) .........

JRT's picture

Adding the Puppy bass bin to the Wilson Audio Tiny Tot (WATT) was a very good idea.

Kii audio now has the BXT bass bin for the Kii3 (the combination is depicted below).

I would like to see active bass bins offered for the Dutch and Dutch 8C and for the KEF LS50.

AaronGarrett's picture

The Grimm LS1s dmf is the best bass I've heard, and a bin added to the LS1. DSP when properly done -- in this case via feedback -- is where it's at.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Vandersteen Quatro Wood CT speakers (recently reviewed by Stereophile) come with matching amplifiers, and have powered woofer sections ....... Total cost including matching amplifiers, $32,000 :-) .........

jeffhenning's picture

I understand the need for the BXT with the Kii3 system since they add a tremendous amount of headroom to it's low end and allow the cardioid bass system's radiation pattern to go a bit lower.

With the Dutch & Dutch and LS50's, subwoofers are much more beneficial.

I use a pair of Rythmik servo subs in stereo with LS50's to great effect. I'll be adding another pair of subs this coming year.

JRT's picture

Multi-woofer bass bin certainly provides much more swept volume. But it also spreads out the diaphragm surface source in the vertical while moving some of that source nearer the floor, which serves to ameliorate interference from reflection off of the floor, while also spreading excitation of the floor-ceiling room mode fundamental and harmonics.

The Dutch and Dutch 8C has two 8 inch woofers on the rear baffle, and the design intent places those in close proximity to the wall behind the loudspeaker providing as much as +6dB increase in excursion limited SPL from the boundary coupling, essentially equivalent to doubling the swept volume of the woofers. So the D&D-8C does not need a bass bin for more SPL in high double digit frequencies, but could benefit from spreading the source vertically as mention above.

The KEF LS50 has only the one small 5.25 inch midwoofer to provide bass and midrange. While crossing to a subwoofer to provide much more capacity for volume-velocity at low frequencies certainly helps, I think performance would be further improved with the addition of a bass bin with a pair of 7 inch to 10 inch woofers (for DIY, I would suggest pairs of Dayton Audio RS225-8 wired in parallel, the bottom one not too close to floor to reduce excitation of the pressure node at that boundary) to bridge the gap between the little midwoofer and the subwoofer(s), preferably a multiple subwoofer low frequency subsystem augmented by one to several active interference sources such as PSI Audio AVAA C20 active bass traps.

Note that for a driver on an ideal infinite baffle operating at constant SPL (flat frequency response) at lower frequencies where the diaphragm is behaving pistonically and is small relative to wavelength, there is an inverse square relationship between SPL and swept volume, 4x the swept volume at 1/2 frequency (one octave), 100x the swept volume at 1/10 frequency (one decade).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You may like the new Revel Performa F328Be, $15,000/pair ......... They have 3, 8-inch woofers each ..... Less expensive than Wilson Sasha DAW or Kii Three with BXT or Joseph Pearl3 :-) ........

supamark's picture

Intentional or happy accident? Regardless, liked the review.

Ortofan's picture

... bring on the Dynaudio Confidence 60.

If the less expensive Confidence 30 speakers could induce JVS to enjoy the music of Diana Krall, then who can predict what feats of magic the model 60 might be able to conjure up.

Peter2520's picture

I agree. What Dynaudio has created with the new Confidence serie is unbelievable. I bought Confidence 60 in maj, and I´m going to a concert every day since.:-) The facilities with Dynaudio´s Jupiter is incredible. I have seen it myself. The new tweeter is far more open and precise then the Esotar 2.

jeffhenning's picture

I've never thought that Wilson's products are poorly built, just poorly conceived and of incredibly poor value.

When it comes to this latest offering, given that it's only around $30K, it's lack of performance to cost ratio is a few magnitudes of order lower than several other of it's more obscene offerings.

Again, I'm not stating that their speakers don't sound really good. It's just that their value for the dollar is incredibly poor (even more so when you can buy all of the drivers from Madisound). And this is regardless of what ever voodoo they claim to do with their cabinets.

I'm much more impressed by Rockport Technologies designs when it comes to cabinets and drivers.

A friend of mine owns a very rare Bentley (1 of 30). He loves that car, but admits that he might consider auctioning it if Bentley comes out with an electric version. He's 82 years old.

In the next months, my system will include the LS50's I've had for a couple years and then have each sitting atop two, stacked Rythmik L12 servo subs (already have a stereo pair with the LS50's on stands). A Benchmark AHB-2 drives the KEF's and 1,200 watts of UCD amps will power the subs.

Forgetting the raw power spec for the subs (with their much greater output ability & that they can go much deeper and do it cleaner than probably any Wilson), I'm fairly confident that this system, at a sane level and for way less that these Wilson speakers, would be judged as good if not just a hair better... or more.

The drivers that Wilson uses have around 4-5dB greater output for the mids and highs so they may be able to offer a bit higher SPL performance in that arena, but I rarely listen to music over 95dB average @1kHz. The subs I'm using will be pumping out a good bit for the right music, but then this system already laughs at low bass levels like that (over 100dB under 100Hz). Adding two more subs will only make the sub bass even better. And it's fully correlated and temporally aligned with the rest of the speakers (I use Dirac Live). You cannot achieve that with ported, passive speakers.

So, the tally:

• KEF LS50 pair - $1,100
• Rythmik L12 subs (4) - $2,200
• Benchmark AHB-2 - $3,000

Total: $6,300

That leaves a lot of money to figure out how to do the active crossover between the mains and subs. Of course, you do need to know how to do that. If you do not, throwing a ton of money at the problem with passive speakers rather than learning something about audio engineering will not necessarily produce a better result (if at all).

Given the difference in price, you could spend a few grand to have a person design your system and be way ahead. Take your pick of great stuff that costs way less. I offered my list as a point for comparison.

To get back to the car analogy Sasha alluded to, the Wilsons are a Bentley, but it's one that will spell the end of the company as their rich clients die off, DSP becomes ubiquitous to improve loudspeakers and gear lust becomes much less of a thing (equipment as status symbols) amongst more tech savvy youth. They care about performance with ROI as a metric (when they care about performance at all).

Even my Bentley-owning friend likes driving his wife's fun, little, Toyota convertible around town. He also loves that the service bills are 1/10 his Bentley's.

Wilson is Bentley, but without the governance of VW and devoid its forward thinking. Personally, I'd love a C8 Vette with a 200kWhr battery and a supercapacitor as a supplement. That could actually be a thing soon.

By the way, why finding the proper place for these speakers in the room is problematic is because of their innate design flaw: a rear firing port. Not that a forward firing port would be a panacea, but it would help slightly with this design. Wilson's decided to bolster the low end by using the proximity effect of the front/side walls with the port firing towards them, but that also means that the summation in the low end with the relatively in-phase woofers and the inherently out-of-phase rear port (for much of its output) becomes very problematic. It also means that the bass is probably only really smooth at at the ideal listening position. Ported speakers, by design & for efficiency, sacrifice temporal fidelity for low frequency response.

Unfortunately, to gain a perceived flat frequency response and lower distortion around the port resonance, Wilson ceded all other aspects of low end quality with a port design and most especially with a rear port.

If these woofers transitioned a bit higher to the port, it might be less problematic with it being rear firing. That would, then, not offer as much "in-room" bass. No free lunch.

Personally, I'd rather have more powered subs playing with better fidelity in all realms.

Wilson makes no trade-offs when it comes to build quality, but makes a bunch of them when it comes to in-room performance, ease of installation and bang for the buck.

While I'm here, a question: does each one of these things weigh 236lbs or is that the pair? So, another set of Wilson speakers that takes a team of people to install or even get in the house? I guess the upside is that you don't need to knock a giant whole in your mansion for a forklift or crane installation.

georgehifi's picture

"The 8 ohm tap of the MC462 has the lowest output impedance"

Can someone JA? please explain this to me how is it possible, the only thing I can think is that there is much more feedback on the 8ohm than the 4ohm, then what's the use of the 4ohm if not for better bass damping factor (control)?? Won't even mention the 2ohm tap!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheers George

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Higher output impedance = lower feedback = lower damping factor = more tube like sound :-) .......

JRT's picture

A comparison of these Wilson Sasha DAW to his Joseph Audio Pearl 3 might have been both fun and informative. Regardless some superficial external similarity, these are very different loudspeakers due to design choices in drivers and crossovers.

Anton's picture

"To my way of thinking, a more apt analogy for the Sasha DAW would be to a really fine musical instrument, which musicians can and do find a way to have in their lives."

"I have never heard music recreation in my own home like this before. The Sasha DAW has rocked my listening world."

I have to be your enabler on this. They will make your life better.

To paraphrase The Fabulous Fury Freak Brothers: "The Wilsons will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no Wilsons."

Think of them as that fine musical instrument you mentioned.

Sasha Matson's picture

Greetings Anton,
Thanks for your proactive advice here. Other have asked me if I was keeping the 'Sasha DAW's? When they first arrived, I told Wilson Audio I would not discuss any possible purchase until after I filed my review- that just seems the ethical & professional way to go. I did that, and then I indeed did have that discussion. They are here to stay, and they continue to amaze me!
Best Wishes,
Sasha M.

Anton's picture

It was obvious you were meant for each other!

Hearty congratulations!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Anton ..... Daryl Wilson is waiting for your call ........ He is gonna hand deliver your Sasha DAW and Peter McGrath is gonna set them up in your listening room :-) .........

dravera's picture

Curious if you hooked the Sasha DAW up to the MC275 and the result? My Sasha DAW (in Blue) are arriving next week! I have a pair of MC275's running in mono currently on the Sabrinas. We have very similar systems as I also use a c2300 preamp!

Sasha Matson's picture

Sorry I missed your question until now. I am confident you will have heard great sound with the MC275 / Wilson combo-- right? I did try that, but that description was cut from my review for word count reasons. It sounded great! As John Atkinson and Vern Credille of Wilson both pointed out- the 8 ohm tap off the Macs is a better way to go than using the 4 ohm. Life is full of little mysteries!

steve59's picture

Those are some rough looking measurements, regardless Wilson demos are always excellent and every product is worth what the market will bear.