From the day it was introduced in 2012, there was something special about Wilson Audio’s Alexia. It had a significantly different high-frequency presentation than the company had favored for decades. It was small enough to be nimble and have its drivers speak with one voice, but still big enough to convey heft and solidity. And, it had an intangible factor: It made you forget you were listening to speakers, and focus on listening to music.
For me, it became the sweet spot in a product lineup that that already was strong from top to bottom. The Alexia was so good, in fact, that I wondered how it could possibly be improved. Yet, that was exactly the plan, Wilson account manager Bill Peugh disclosed to me in June at the LA Audio Show.
Constellation’s vice president of sales, Irv Gross, started off with a track from Dean Martin’s Dream With Dean, which has turned into a show-circuit staple this year. The immediacy of Martin’s voice on this 1964 recording was remarkable. The interplay of his small backing combo, meanwhile, could be easily followed. Especially noticeable were Barney Kessel’s warm, mellow guitar accents, which often barely bubble up to the surface on some other rigs.
Next, Gross cued up Boz Scaggs’ slow-burn ballad “Thanks to You” from the underappreciated Dig. Just as with Martin, the Alexia 2 revealed stunning texture on Scaggs’ bluesy voice. And when the dynamics shifted momentarily halfway through, with horns swelling ahead of a guitar solo, the new speaker responded with ease.
Peugh had told me the enhancements were “mainly a bunch of little things … that add up to a big improvement.” Those tweaks included a new tweeter — still made of silk rather than titanium, but this one an iteration shared with the $685,000 USD WAMM Master Chronosonic — as well as improved time alignment of all four drivers (the high-frequency unit, as well as two woofers and a midrange).
I believe Wilson achieved some of the gains through its continued R&D on reducing resonances. Indeed, the Alexia 2’s cabinet is slightly larger than the original, has stronger bracing and uses a new “W” material to dampen vibrations under the spike system that isolates the speaker’s modules.
Because of the bigger enclosure and other fundamental differences, owners of the first-generation Alexia can’t upgrade their existing speakers. Thanks to Wilson’s fairly generous trade-in policy, however, they can – for an upcharge – swap Alexia 1s for Alexia 2s.
Speakers, let’s not forget, are at the mercy of the quality of the signal being fed to them. At RMAF, the Constellation gear seemed to be a mutually beneficial match. I’ve heard these electronics in a variety of settings, and always came away impressed with their high resolution, speed and exceptional balance across the frequency range.
Constellation components featured in Denver included its Virgo III preamp ($32,000 USD) with DC filter ($6,000 USD), Centaur II monoblocks (500 watts/channel, $80,000 USD a pair), Cygnus media player/DAC with Roon ($38,000 USD) and Perseus phono stage ($32,000 USD) with DC filter ($6,000 USD).
The analog source was a Continuum Audio Labs Obsidian turntable ($35,000 USD) with a Viper tonearm ($10,000 USD) and an Ortofon A-95 cartridge ($7,000 USD). Wire and power conditioning was from Transparent Audio’s XL series, with speaker cable, interconnects and power cords totaling $51,251 USD. The rack was by Artesania Audio.
Upgrading an uncommonly distinguished speaker is no easy task. Wilson has done its homework here and not just made a few cosmetic changes for the sales department to hype. The Alexia 2 represents a significant step forward. Even though I know how Wilson did it, I’m still stunned that the company was able to push the envelope as far as it did. You will be, too, I suspect, after an audition.