Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha V loudspeaker

Wilson Audio's new Sasha V loudspeaker (that's "V" as in victory, not "five") extends the line that began in 2009 with the debut of the Sasha 1 model. The installation manual includes a page titled "Sasha Evolution," with elegant line drawings of the various versions of the Sasha loudspeaker—now four—which were preceded by the two-box WATT/Puppy combo, which dates from 1989. The Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha V ($48,900/pair) replaces the prior Sasha model, the Sasha DAW, in the Wilson lineup.

The hefty, floorstanding Sasha V maintains a close family resemblance. The new Sasha's width and height are almost identical, logging 14½" and 45 1/16", respectively. The cabinets gain an inch in depth and now measure 23 15/16". The cabinets' subtle beveling is slightly different; probably only recent Sasha owners would notice. Extra thickness in the cabinets adds 9lb for a total of 245lb per speaker. The cabinet's sculptural elements are enhanced by a range of available automotive-grade paint finishes; the review pair is handsomely kitted out in Satin Oak Green with Slate Gray grilles.

The changes made by Wilson designer/CEO Daryl Wilson and his team are mainly on the inside. New to the Sasha line is a 7" rear-vented paper-pulp composite midrange driver that Wilson designates with the term QuadraMag, first deployed in the costlier Chronosonic XVX model and used in several models since. Also used in other V-series speakers but new to Sasha is the 1" doped-silk Convergent Synergy Carbon tweeter, which employs a printed carbon rear-wave chamber. Twin, 8" paper-pulp–composite woofers, the same as those utilized in the Sasha DAW, complete the driver complement.

The V in "Sasha V" and in the other Wilson "V" speakers—the XVX, Alexx V, and Alexia V—indicates Wilson's proprietary V-material, which is employed alongside older proprietary cabinet materials designated X and S. Other upgrades include the Acoustic Diode footers (previously offered as an option), and new AudioCapX-WA copper capacitors in the crossovers (below); Wilson now manufacturers capacitors in-house, so they can make exactly the capacitor needed in each speaker, including the Sasha V's.

In a Facetime conversation, I asked Daryl Wilson if the Sasha V contained "trickle-down" technology. He responded, "I've heard that phrase a lot. That's not the way we innovate and develop. We don't wait to just put something only in our largest loudspeaker. Whatever we are working on will be distilled and used no matter where it fits and then used again. Our new copper capacitors were ready now, so we used them in the Sasha V. We didn't hold them back."

Published specifications for the new Sasha V reflect a mix of constancy and change. A few items stand out. There is a modest increase in the upward frequency extension, to 32kHz, surely due to the new tweeter. Specified low-end extension remains the same as for the Sasha DAW, at 20Hz. Specified nominal impedance is 4 ohms, with a minimum of 2.36 ohms, at 82Hz; this is very similar behavior to that of the Sasha DAW model. The capacity of partnering amplifiers for Wilson loudspeakers has always been something to pay attention to. Helpfully, Wilson includes a full impedance curve in the installation manual. The specifications state a reduction in the rated sensitivity to 88dB/W/m (equivalent to 91dB/2.83V/m for a 4 ohm–rated speaker) for the Sasha V, from a rating of 91dB for the Sasha DAW. I asked Daryl Wilson what might account for this. "Overall frequency response, if you were to average it, is the same," he replied. "Because the measurement was frequency-specific, at 1kHz, that one measurement was a bit higher on the Sasha DAW than for the Sasha V."

Beginning in 1993 with their Grand SLAMM Series, Daryl's dad, company founder David Wilson, started using custom-made resin-based composite materials of varied density and resonant properties in Wilson speaker enclosures. Wilson's proprietary materials are extremely dense and heavy, and they can be machined. In the Sasha V, Wilson's "X-material" is used most, employed in the cabinet walls, which are now 25% thicker than they were in the previous model. The "S-material," with its own set of properties, is used in the baffles surrounding the drivers. The newer "V-material" is said to further deaden vibrations between the upper and lower modules, like some sort of magic acoustical mayonnaise.

I have read various descriptions of the composition of Wilson's cabinet materials. "Epoxy, loaded with crushed granite, carbon, and pulp" is one. In a previous review, I described a Wilson speaker as made out of "composite mixes of resin and cellulose." It would be easier to get info out of Jack Smith and the Justice Department than to get the cocktail recipes for these proprietary materials from Wilson Audio. After I offered Daryl limited immunity, he was willing to state on the record, "It's a high-density phenolic resin. It's a soup that's exactly the density, and with the fill material necessary, to get the performance characteristics that we need."

Setting the table
With Wilson loudspeakers, you have to put your back into your hi-fi—though every buyer of new or certified-used Wilson speakers can expect assistance from a dealer. However, I did the preliminary setup myself with a little help. Having been through it before, I was prepared; the shipping company agreed to roll the three heavy wood crates—two for the woofers, a third containing both upper cabinets—up the driveway and into the garage; that was the end of their involvement. The woofer cabinets arrive with casters installed so they can be rolled out of the crate and into position. That was step 1. Step 2 was hiring my son and one of his homies, for beer money, to carry the uncrated cabinets up to the second floor where my listening room is located. These were big guys, but they were sweating by the time their job was done.

Toward the rear of the woofer cabinets on each side are twin "woofer blades"; they look like handles but also serve an acoustic function: helping to dissipate vibrational energy between the upper and lower cabinets, a design change from earlier models. Made out of solid "X-material," they are strong enough for lifting these 200lb woofer modules.

Giving thanks for the casters (and strong, young people), I rolled the lower cabinets into the positions previously occupied by the Sasha DAWs, like a drink cart rolling down the aisle on a jet. The upper cabinets are not light, but I was able to place them on top of the woofer cabinets and connect them. Wilson does not design its speakers for biwiring; the lower cabinets feature one ± pair of nice, solid speaker taps, which connect internally to the woofers; from there the crossovers split the signals to the midrange and tweeters farther up.

The protective film covering the cabinets for shipping needs to be removed. Looks like thick Saran Wrap to me, and it is a pain to peel off.

With the Sasha Vs placed and connected, the next step was optimizing the "propagation delay adjustment," which Wilson also calls "time-alignment." The two-cabinet Sasha V is the first floorstander in the Wilson lineup that is designed to allow these parameters to be modified. In plain English, hardware allows for altering the relationship between the upper cabinet containing the midrange driver and tweeter, and the lower cabinet containing the twin woofers, to optimize the relative arrival times at the designated listening position. The design and setup is aimed at optimizing the "sweet spot" for a single listener.

This is achieved by adjusting, with the use of calibrated spikes, the rake angle and front-to-back distance of the upper cabinet in relation to the lower. The setup is based mainly on two parameters: the distance of the listening position from the cabinets, and the height of the listener's ears above the floor. With that information and the table, you can find the optimal settings for the rake-angle and front-to-back position of the upper cabinets. A thorough and well-written installation guide provides precise directions and tables. I figured it out, so you can, too—but if any of this sounds intimidating, remember that this is all your dealer's responsibility, not yours.

What the exact goal of this setup is and how well it is achieved is a complex topic that other colleagues have addressed. Jim Austin's review of the Wilson Alexx V includes a thorough explication. In particular I note Jim's comment that "it's better to be close to perfect time-alignment than it is to be far away."

Changing horses midstream
The Sasha Vs had time to properly burn in prior to the arrival of Chris Forman of Innovative Audio in Manhattan, who was tapped by Wilson for the task of final installation. Chris was trained by Wilson Audio Specialties in their protocols and carries out many installations of Wilson loudspeakers in this region. Out came the tape measure and blue masking tape for the floor, to mark exact measurements. I had previously taped the positions of the Sasha DAWs; they still occupied the spots Wilson's Peter McGrath had chosen for them several years earlier.

There are no right angles in my listening room, in my 1872 Queen Anne Victorian, and the old wood framing on the second floor bounces like a trampoline when you walk across it. Room nodes? Fuhgeddaboudit. It would take a physics dissertation to figure it out—it's like being inside a very large string instrument. On the upside, when things work out, it's the best-sounding room for hi-fi I have lived with.

In discussing all this, Chris Forman said something that bears repeating: "There may be more than one sweet spot." It's best to relax and remain open to alternatives. There is more than one way to skin an audio cat.

COMPANY INFO
Wilson Audio Specialties
2233 Mountain Vista Ln.
Provo
UT 84606
(801) 377-2233
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COMMENTS
teched58's picture

The way I read Fig.4, the anechoic FR plot, it seems like the Sasha V is -3db on the low end at ~40 Hz.

So this would seem to indicate one needs a subwoofer. Unless I missed it, I don't see any comments in the review from Sasha in re his impressions about the low bass (except for some comments about placement relative to the walls).

funambulistic's picture

The way I am reading the graph, with '0' as the baseline, it appears to be ~+2dB @40Hz, -2dB @30Hz and -5dB @20Hz. Of course, I am all about adding a sub, but it does not look like the Sasha V "needs" it...

georgehifi's picture

To me too, for that kind of money you'd think it would go lower.
BTW nearly all speakers lift a couple dB in the bass before they roll off as in fig 4, but these, fall off a cliff below 50hz, around 10dB down at 25hz, forget Saint Saens Symp No3 Organ

Cheers George

Sasha Matson's picture

Yeah - you missed it - my comment on some Stravinsky: "After the initial outburst come some real deep drums, reproduced by the Sasha Vs with astounding, physical heft."

And note John Atkinson's comment: "the Sasha Vs low-frequency alignment appears to be optimized for definition."
- I love this aspect. I hate phony bumped up bloated bass.
-S.M.

teched58's picture

Thanks for the perspective, Sasha. But you are providing an anecdotal, subjective answer to a quantitative question.

Does "optimized for definition" mean "NOT optimized for FR"?

You seem to be conflating amplitude of the bass with frequency. "Definition" says nothing about how the speaker does with the production of bass below 40 Hz.

Are you saying that the Sasha V can produce bass at lower frequencies than the FR plot indicates?

It seems like you're saying you don't need a subwoofer with this speaker. But you haven't explained why.

Sasha Matson's picture

JA goes on to say:
"...with the low tuning of the port, boundary reinforcement will give extension to 20Hz in a typical room."
- My 'Upstairs System" room is not large; plenty bass for me there.
In a larger more open plan room, yes a sub could be used?
-SM.

teched58's picture

...you've answered the question.

Hand-waving doesn't address the issue. "Plenty of bass" is non-responsive to the question of the FR falling off below ~40 Hz.

What, specifically does "extension to 20 Hz" mean? At what amplitude relative to the baseline FR?

Sasha Matson's picture

- JA does. You need to ask him these type of questions.
John knows my room -and in fact will be with me again next week to measure some new floorstanders from TAD. Same room, same system - but I fully expect a different set of measured figures than for the Sasha Vs.

teched58's picture

...thanks for the response, Sasha.

georgehifi's picture

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georgehifi's picture

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teched58's picture

My comment is accurate in re the figure I am referencing. You are referring to Figure 3.

funambulistic's picture

I was referring to Fig. 4, but the 10Hz start point threw me off (counting ain't my strong suite).

RobertSlavin's picture

This is the sort of measured performance that would be good if the speaker cost $1000. The problem is that it costs $50,000. And, yes, measurements do indicate a good deal with speakers.

drduvall's picture

I bought a pair of these speakers almost 3 months ago and couldn't be more pleased. My only concern after auditioning them would be if they had sufficient bass (as compared to the Alexia V's). My plan B was to add a pair of Loki's. After installation my concerns vanished. For my type of music, mostly jazz, the bass is more than adequate. I have played full spectrum sine wave sweeps and detected no dips or brightness. Your results may vary. If I could find $1000 speakers with this level of performance, I'd put the cheapies in every room of the house!

Indydan's picture

Where is Captain Picard doing a facepalm when we need him?

canonken's picture

My local dealer put on an event with these, and we beat them up pretty hard in the large open space in the showroom. A lack of bass was not a concern. Not a fanboy and no skin in the game, but these played very loud and there was a lot of low frequency energy. No sub in the system.

georgehifi's picture

"these played very loud and there was a lot of low frequency energy. No sub in the system."

You miss subs when you turn them off, the scale and grandeur of the soundstage diminish also. I notice also you don't need to play quite as loud when subs are in the system. (my subs are used from 30hz down on GoldenEar Triton-2's )

Cheers George

DougM's picture

I was at that performance by the Who, without earplugs, and it was perfectly tolerable, and far from the loudest Bill Graham produced show I attended. That distinction goes to Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps at the Cow Palace, always a horrible sounding room, and a show which Neil, in his own words, intended to be "the loudest fucking thing anyone ever heard". The ONLY place there that was tolerable, even with earplugs, was out in the lobby. We were in a set of seats placed behind the stage, with sound from a smaller PA system feeding those seats, and we had to hold our ears closed for the entire show. It was very painful and not fun. I'm sure my tinnitus is from ALL the Bill Graham shows I attended without earplugs at Fillmore West, Winterland, and Berkeley Community, but I have no doubt that that show at the Cow Palace was one of the major contributors. Deep Purple at Winterland, in their tour after the Machine Head album was released, was louder than that show from the Who, (as were other shows I attended at Winterland), and was still tolerable and enjoyable without earplugs. After Rust Never Sleeps, the most unbearable experience I had was Jo Jo Gunne at Winterland, with the guitar player playing slide on a Dan Armstrong Lucite guitar, and dragging the slide up and down the neck without muting unwanted sounds like slide masters Duane Allman, Joe Walsh, and Johnny Winter were adept at, and was extremely painful, hearing those screeches at 110db or louder. That was my second most painful volume experience after the deliberate Neil Young fiasco. Winterland was a very good sounding room, and Bill's sound people were generally very accomplished at providing great sound, in spite of the high volume levels.

DougM's picture

Berkeley Community was a smaller room than Winterland, and was less reflective, and may have had even better sound than Winterland. I saw many great shows there. And, Oakland's arena, what we called the "indoor Coliseum", next to the baseball stadium, and where the Warriors play, is where I saw Zeppelin the first time, just before the third album was released, and we heard Gallows Pole, Since I've Been Loving You, That's the Way, and the rest of the songs from the third album live at that show for the first time. It was very loud, but the sound was flawless, and was the best I've ever heard Zep live, with all videos sounding very flawed and sloppy compared to that show. Shoreline, because of it's sheer size, was far too loud in the seats. The best sound there is at the front of the lawn, where it's not too loud and the sound quality is perfect.

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