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First Listen: Wilson Audio Alexia Series-2 takes my breath away

David Wilson, founder of Wilson Audio and his son Daryl Wilson (current Wilson Audio CEO) have not stood still since that magic moment 5 years ago when the original Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeaker was born. Since the release of the original Alexia, Wilson has delivered the small but lethal Sabrina, the Yvette who pushed her sister Sophia out of bed, a big brother Alexx who can kick it like no other, and finally the breath-taking WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker.

Teaser image of Alexia Series-2 from the Wilson Audio Facebook page

For the past 5 years, I have been blessed to have a pair of Alexia loudspeakers in my family room. I was caught off guard when I first discovered the teaser pictures of the Alexia Series-2 on the Wilson Audio Facebook page in May 2017…had the time for the update arrived so quickly? How could Wilson improve on a speaker that already was so close to perfect in my mind?  Didn’t I promise my wife that this would really be the last pair of speakers I needed? (Oops…. )

After having my dreams crushed when I heard Alexia‘s big brother Alexx last year, I needed to know more about the upcoming Alexia Series-2 loudspeaker.  I absolutely had to hear it. I needed to see it, touch it & experience it. Is this an incremental release (.1 for us software dudes) or is this something that will raise the bar and change our perspective on what is possible?

I was crossing off days on my calendar for the west coast debut of the Series-2  at Definitive Audio in Seattle.  I couldn’t wait any longer, and decided to make a last-minute visit to see David and Daryl Wilson in their hometown of Provo, Utah days before the official debut.  The Wilson family graciously gave me a factory tour, insights to the development of the Series-2, and something I will remember for the rest of my life… an opportunity to listen to the WAMM Master Chronosonic in David’s listening room.

WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker in Dave Wilson’s listening room

We will report more on the WAMM experience and the Wilson Factory tour later on Part-Time Audiophile, but let’s dig in on the Series-2 for now.

Daryl Wilson & Wilson Alexia Series-2 Loudspeaker

We had a chance to sit down with Daryl at the factory and understand the in’s and out’s of the Series-2.

Daryl Wilson with PTA Mohammed Samji @ Wilson Audio Factory

Daryl had big dreams for the Alexia. Early on, he made a long list of the things he wanted to improve on. Just coming off a successful delivery of the Alexx, he was on a roll.  With a long list in hand for the Series-2, Daryl and his team at Wilson Audio were able to deliver on improving 29 areas of the original Series-1 during the design on the Series-2.

Daryl explained that they had 3 main areas of focus in the development of the Series-2:

  1. Improved temporal & time accuracy (time alignment)
  2. Engagement
  3. Beauty ( no line or curve is overlooked )

We wandered into the back and looked at a final P2 production prototype.  Daryl is a visual guy and was oozing to give me the rundown on their latest masterpiece.

Daryl Wilson with a final Alexia Series-2 Prototype

Alexia Series-2 Woofer Cabinet:

Let’s begin at the bottom with changes to the woofer cabinet.  From the outside, for a Series-1 owner, it looks very similar, but looks are deceiving.  Daryl explained “We wanted more enclosure volume, but the footprint had to be the same”. At the beginning it sounded impossible, but some knowledge gained from the development of the WAMM allowed for a breakthrough.

In Series-1, there is a chamber in the back of the bass cabinet where they route the wires out.  The cables go through a dead space and they come out looking visually clean on the top of the Series-1 enclosure.

In the Series-2, leveraging hardware development for the WAMM, they were able to remove the need for this chamber in the back of the cabinet using a new gas tight-fitting for wire. The removal of this chamber resulted in an increase of 11% in enclosure volume. This allowed Daryl and the team the ability to tune the woofers differently and optimize air flow.

The next change was around the construction of the the woofer cabinet. Although the cabinet of the Series-1 and Series-2 are both made of Wilson X-Material, the construction on the Series-2 benefits from techniques, learned from the development of the Alexx loudspeaker. BTW, X-Material is HEAVY. I had a chance to hold a piece of it at the factory and it has some heft to it. The boys at the gym would be proud.  More on that later….

On the Series-1, the woofer cabinet had 5 sides (glued together) and a bottom that was screwed on with the crossover mounted to it.  From the development of the Alexx they learned a way to build a 6-sided enclosure (all glued) with a cut-out on the bottom for the cross-over to go in.  This results in a more rigid design that also allows for vibration to more easily drain out through the foot spikes more efficiently.

The woofer cabinet was further improved by stepping up the interior bracing and by adding Wilson X-Material into it. This was possible due to the additional volume available from removing the rear chamber.

Laser vibrometer to look for resonance in cabinet – allowing for a perfect bracing insider the woofer cabinet

On the back of the woofer cabinet, Daryl explained that the rear port is now centered (as opposed to off-center) on the Series-1. The port has an increased radius and has been softened. All supporting more efficient air flow, with even pressurization inside the woofer cabinet and into your listening room.

The rear of the woofer cabinet sports a clear door that covers the resistors. These resistors are located in the same position on the on the Series-1, which had an aluminum plate over it.  This new clear plate on the Series-2 adds nothing to the sound, but provides a distinctive look to the rear of the speaker. I was always envious of this design element on other Wilson products like the Alexandria XLF and its nice to see on the Series-2. It’s akin to looking in the rear window of a Ferrari and admiring a portion of the engine.  (My little brother owns a Ferrari, but I own Wilson’s. I think I’m winning…..)

Wilson Alexia Series-2 resistor cover plate

The front of the woofer cabinet baffle is also tilted back 3 degrees.  This may seem small, but visually is significant.  In person it makes the speaker appear to be much slimmer. Functionally it improves the time alignment of the woofer cabinet.  Once again another improvement that was discovered through the R&D of the WAMM and Alexx loudspeakers.

Alexia Woofer Cabinet tilted 3 degrees

Finally the Series-2 woofer cabinet rests on the larger and more efficient diodes (metal disc) that connect the spikes to the cabinet as well from the larger Alexx loudspeaker.

Alexia Series-2 Mid-range Enclosure

Similar to the woofer cabinet, leveraging WAMM hardware, they were able to gain significant enclosure volume to the mid-range enclosure.  Specifically an increase of 26% in total available volume in the mid-range cabinet! This increase also allowed for improved airflow with the cable chamber removed.

Daryl reminded me that my Series-1 has 2 air vents on each side of the mid-range cabinet. With the removal of the wire chamber, the Series-2 has moved to a single larger air vent that is in the middle. On the prototype speaker that Daryl showed me, he could place his hand in the front opening where the mid-range driver would be installed and reach all the way to the single port on the back. Once again improving air-flow for the mid-range. This would previously be obstructed on a Series-1 by the wire chamber.

One of the hardest aspects of building a cabinet like this is addressing the back-wave generated by the mid-range driver. The additional space and geometry of the mid-range cabinet opened up some opportunities to better handle the back-wave. What’s new are edges that are cut into the side panels that break up the back-wave further.

Wilson X-Material used in midrange enclosure with added edges to dissipate backwaves

Back to beauty for a moment, since these speakers are works of art sitting in your listening room. Daryl explained that when he is takes position in his listening chair and looking at his speakers, he wanted to minimize the space between the midrange enclosure and the woofer cabinet. On my Series-1, you can see a small space between the two cabinets.

In the Series-2, it’s a super tight fit, reducing the amount of light pollution between the two cabinets. These geometry changes also helped add to the increased volume of the mid-range cabinet in the Series-2.

The Alexia mid-range cabinet is adjustable to configure it for your listening room. These adjustments are done with aluminum hardware that sits between the mid-range cabinet and the woofer cabinet. This aluminum hardware is great for configuration but not great for resonance. To address this in the Series-2, there is the addition of the new Wilson W-Material developed for the parts of the WAMM that is inserted into slots on the top of the woofer cabinet.  It significantly reduces any resonance and is in the locations where the aluminum hardware connects the two cabinets.

W shaped area is where W-Material is inserted to reduce resonance

Alexia Series-2 Tweeter Enclosure

Topping off the Series-2, it is very fitting that it is now the home of the Mach 5 Tweeter that was 5 years in development from the WAMM loudspeaker.

The other significant change to the tweeter enclosure is more accurate adjustment.  There are now twice as many indents on the aluminum plate where you set the correct value for the tweet enclosure position.

On the Series-1, during setup you refer to the graphs that come in the manual for the correct value. But these were values were for listening distances in the granularity of 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 feet.

On the Series-2, it is more refined, and the values map to 6 inch increments – 8, 8.5, 9, 9,5, 10, 10.5 feet etc.

Wilson Audio Alexia tweeter enclosure adjustments for time alignment

Craftsmanship

Wilson has a history of videos they release that showcase the love that goes into their manufacturing process. For owners like myself, there is a real pride of ownership from the level of craftsmanship that goes into building each speaker. I have to say that my level of appreciation for this went higher as I walked the factory, and had the honor of meeting so many of these talented individuals. It’s really great to see that the same team of artisans build everything from the entry-level Sabrina to the Magnum Opus WAMM. To me that shows the same care goes into each of these products across all price points.

When we were discussing manufacture Daryl shared:

“… it is key for the hand craftsmanship process to keep the tolerances high through-out the build process.  Each one of them have pride of ownership of their stewardship. They know that the next craftsman who touches it should be happy with their work. And when a craftsman touches something that was worked on before they literally can say, I know Jed or Jay worked on this.  They pass on their portion with pride”

One of the first pairs of Alexia Series-2 being painted

As we wrapped up, I asked Daryl what he was most proud of with the Series-2:

“The sonic results. When it’s all said and done, I listen with my eyes closed.”

The day was done, 500 pictures taken, and I loaded up the car in Provo and started my way back to the airport.  Although I learned A LOT about the Series-2, I didn’t get to hear it that day in Provo. All 3 pairs of Series-2 that were complete were in transit to locations across the US for their debut.

I would have to wait 72 more hours to hear the Alexia Series-2 in Seattle later that week at Definitive Audio.

Wilson Alexia Series-2 West Coast Debut @ Definitive Audio

West Coast debut of Alexia Series-2 at Definitive Audio in Seattle

On Thursday June 22nd, Definitive Audio in Seattle hosted the West Coast debut of the Series-2.   Bill Peugh (Wilson Audio Director of Development) was in full force with Bill McKiegan (President Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems ), and as they said, we were in for a double bill evening…

In the room, the audio system consisted of:

Dan D’Agostino Progression Pre-amp

Small intermission…..  The new Dan D’Agostino Progression Pre-amp looked fabulous.  We have been long time fans of the bigger brother the Dan D’Agostino Momentum Pre-amp.  Although less expensive, the new Progression pre-amp was sporting some impressive specs & features. Quick version:

  • 2 box unit similar to the Momentum. (Power supply on the bottom. & audio circuitry on top)
  • Optional DAC you card that slides into the back. Adds USB, optical, coax inputs ( 24 bit / 384 PCM / 4x DSD support and all software update able) 
  • Now includes some single ended inputs (converted to balanced internally)
  • Bluetooth Remote 
  • Now has VU meters – showing  the incoming signal (amps have the output)
    • When adjusting volume, the meters shows volume
    • When adjusting balance , the meters  show balance
  • Power supply has an extra output for future products – phono pre-amp, headphone pre-amp
  • Volume control carries from the design on the Momentum (only has a resistor in-line for each volume – you will hear the relay click as you switch volume and the right resistors are put in-line)
  • Ships in July – $22k USD

Alexia Series-2 Listening

I was anxious. After a long day earlier in the week in Provo, I was more than curious just how much of a big a leap could be possible with the significant number of changes from the Series-1 to Series-2.

Before I dig in to what I heard, I thought I’d share an experience that happened to me about a year ago, which puts what I heard from the Series-2 into perspective.   In March 2016, I went to the world-wide debut of the Alexx at Definitive Audio in Seattle. My full write-up is available here from this debut.  I remember it vividly.  I was outside the listening room, catching up with our favorite Peter McGrath from Wilson.  After exchanging some insights on the Alexx, Peter said to me:

“Mohammed, you love your Alexia’s.  Don’t go into that room, you don’t want to hear the Alexx“.

Let’s re-call my Alexx experience from last year:

Some of the best Wilson demonstrations (at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, amongst other shows) are typically a Wilson Audio speaker paired with a subwoofer. Sasha 2 / Alexia speakers + Watchdog Subwoofer or Alexandria XLF speaker + Thor’s Hammer subwoofer. These combinations are potent, dynamic, fast, and exciting.

But at Music Matters 11, it was just … Alexx.

Alexx needed no assistance to bring forward the best in the orchestral recordings of Peter McGrath. This particular listening room at Definitive Audio is very dampened, but it was no match for the dynamics of Alexx. The back wall disappeared, and in its place appeared a beautiful pipe organ in a large cathedral. True deep bass from each organ peddle note. Next the sounds of a gigantic bass drum filled the room. For those who attended Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013, and attended the Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF room, it was a similar experience to what I heard at Music Matters 11 with Alexx with a much smaller system.

So why am I talking so much about that memorable night with the Alexx and Peter McGrath recordings? It’s because that experience, sets a stage for what I experienced in June 2017 with the Series-2 as I sat back and listened to the Series-2.  Let’s be clear, the Series-2 isn’t an Alexx. But it’s not supposed to be. Instead, the Series-2 should be thought of as a slighter smaller scale Alexx in a much smaller footprint, at about 1/2 the price.

The Alexia is no longer a big Sasha with DNA from the Alexandria XLF.  The Alexia Series-2 is now a little brother to Alexx and is almost the same age. Maybe a little smaller, possibly a little more efficient, and the kid you need to watch out for, since he is going to run you over…. and your going to love it.

The difference in performance in the Series-2 will almost make you feel like the Series-1 is broken if you listen to them side by side.  Overall the presentation feels larger, more lush and the dynamics are the best I’m seen to date in a footprint of the Alexia. The Series-2 measures more linear and you can hear it. One next to the other, you will notice a slight dip in the mid-range of the Series-1, that is nowhere to be found on the Series-2.

We listened to “Hymns to What Is Left” by Greg Brown. Greg’s voice goes deep and his guitar was there with me. You could hear the sound of his distinctive singing smoothly bridge across the drivers. If you listen to the top of the bass, in most systems you would hear a chestiness / boominess to his interpretations. Not today. His voice was deep, tonally perfect.

The best part of the evening were the collections of orchestral music recorded by our favorite Peter McGrath. Records that would destroy most systems with their dynamics came to life in the back room of Definitive audio.

On Peter’s recording of Danse Macabre you get the to enjoy a Halloween night classic . The bow of the violin causes the hair on your arms to lift, as you leaned in to hear the devil rise up and call out to the dead souls to dance with him. The tonality of the violin and immense dynamics places you in about row 5 of the concert hall.

A truly remarkable recording from Peter. 60 minutes of discussion with Bill and Bill went by with a blink of the eye. 

The Alexx left a real mark on me last year, and I even considered it for my room, but after just my short time with the Series-2, that thought is a distant memory.  Over at Part-Time Audiophile we are hoping to have a pair to review for long-term listening in my room in coming months. Stay tuned. The best way to get a sense of the differences between Series-1 and Series-2 will be crystal clear in my room after 100’s of hours with the Series-1 in that space. 

Thank-you to the Wilson Family for their hospitality at the Factory and Definitive for putting on another fabulous event.

Keep in eye out for coverage in the coming weeks on our experience with the WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker in David Wilson’s listening room.

Get your Occasional now

2 Comments on First Listen: Wilson Audio Alexia Series-2 takes my breath away

  1. peter jasz // July 10, 2017 at 5:09 PM //

    [Please note, everything in brackets is an editorial insertion in favor of the removal of stupid, pointless, undeserved and and entirely self-aggrandizing snark, in favor of highlighting the actually interesting questions buried underneath, and starting off with the following adjustment to the beginning of the note, with:

    “Dearest Mr. Samji:

    If you would be so kind as to share some of the following, I would be most grateful to learn:”]

    1. How are the drive units mounted to the baffle-board; wood-screws, bolts,other ?

    2. What of the crossover implementation, and parts quality thereof ?

    3. Other than “Material X” are any other materials called upon (rigid, non-resonant material including) such as aluminum, plywood, exotic woods and/or metal alloys for example) or is it entirely “Material X” ?

    4. What about the loudspeakers base’s (feet/Footers) ? Metal plate –or material “X”?

    [And including a customary pleasantry and sign off, sadly overlooked in the original:

    “I know you have many things to distract you; so I thank you again for your time and attention.

    Your very best regards,”]

    peter jasz

    • Mohammed Samji // July 17, 2017 at 4:50 PM //

      My understanding on the materials:
      – All six sides of each cabinet are made from Wilson X Material
      – The interior bracing of the woofer cabinet is a combination of Wilson X material and other Wilson materials (the addition of X-Material to bracing is new in Series-2)
      – The midrange baffle is made from Wilson S-material (Wilson claims it sounds better on the mid-range)
      – Wilson W Material has been added to in areas to reduce resonance where the cabinet modules touch each other (new on the Series-2)

      The feet are the same as the Wilson Alexx and consist of a large metal disc (diode) and a large spike.

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