High End 2013

Hot on the heels of the Alexia, Wilson Audio has announced the heavily revised Duette 2 at the Munich show. Every aspect of the original speaker’s form and function has been reassessed and revised, and although the new model retains certain key aspects of the first-generation Duette (basic scale, bass driver and a choice of stand or bookshelf mounting) it is both physically and conceptually an entirely new design. Although only shown in a static presentation, the new model should start shipping as early as July.

Long an unsung hero of the Wilson range, the two-way stand-mounted Duette was as musically engaging as it was positionally versatile, capable of both free-space and bookshelf placement in horizontal or vertical orientation. But such flexibility involved a whole series of compromises, the most serious of which was the use of a vertical baffle that prevented the simple expedient of staggered driver placement for time alignment. Experience in the field suggested that even amongst those users who placed the Duette in a bookshelf, virtually none used a horizontal (or sideways) configuration. That in turn meant that the vertical baffle and magnetically located support cones could be dispensed with, replaced with a sloping front and rigid mounting through traditional spikes and ferrules -- now that the speaker wouldn’t be showing anybody its bottom!

The other major change is to remove the option for free-space mounting. This means that the speaker’s bottom end can be more accurately tailored for wall reinforcement, but that wall reinforcement is mandatory. Pull the Duette 2 out into the room by a meter and it suffers a 10dB suckout at 100Hz. At first, this might seem like a significant compromise in the speaker’s versatility, but Wilson reasons that if you have the space to mount Duette 2s out in the room, then you’ve got the space for a Sophia 3. As a pair of Duettes with their stands costs very nearly as much as -- and shares pretty much the same footprint as -- the three-way floorstanding design, you can see the company's point. So, rather than an entry-level model that sits below the Sophia 3, the Duette 2 is an alternative solution for the cash-rich/space-poor audiophile who doesn’t want to compromise on quality.

The speaker itself now employs Wilson’s S material to provide a stiffer baffle, while revised bracing, now in X material rather than MDF, has significantly reduced cabinet vibration. The tweeter also employs the rear-wave trap developed for the Alexandria XLF, resulting in a lower acoustic and mechanical system noise floor. The stand has also been revised, and in its final form (not shown in the pictures) it will fully shroud both the separate crossover enclosure and the umbilical between it and the speaker cabinet -- always the least elegant part of the original design.

Other aspects that remain the same are overall bandwidth, sensitivity and the single-wired inputs with parallel terminals to allow users to pad the tweeter output if the situation demands it. With its shapely new makeover and a more clearly defined mission statement, it seems like the Duette 2 is finally ready to step out of the shadows. Pricing is yet to be fixed, but, as noted above, expect the speaker and stand combination (it is, of course, also available without the stand) to be around the same price level as the existing Sophia 3.

As admirers of the original -- even though we regret the passing of the free-space option -- we're extremely intrigued to hear the new version of what was always a remarkably capable and engaging performer.

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