Letters • August 2017

Alexx and Alexandria XLF

August 27, 2017

Marc,

The Wilson Alexx makes me very curious to see what will replace the Alexandria XLF. Might be a difficult product to make given the high performance of the Alexx.

Larry Phillips

Last December, John Giolas, Wilson's marketing director, said that a replacement for the Alexandria XLF wasn't in the works but that it was likely the WAMM MC will sometime in the future "inform an all-new speaker." That's still the case. The Alexx will certainly make that a longer project to complete, given its wide-ranging performance. - Marc Mickelson

Subwoofer tips

August 11, 2017

Roy,

I’ve been seriously considering adding a subwoofer (or two) to my Wilson Sasha W/P speaker system. Your article, “Diamond Dogs,” has pushed me into depression, as I cannot afford that level of kit. Would I improve my sound by adding two JL Audio fathom 12 subwoofers with one CR-1 crossover unit compared to no subwoofer? I also need to factor in an extra set of expensive Transparent Audio Reference interconnects. I will use my Sashas full-range as per your experience in "Diamond Dogs." Another less costly option would be one subwoofer without any external crossover. Maybe an SVS Ultra 16, JL Audio or another brand?

I am concerned that my present sound will be worsened by the above options as maybe only the Wilson WATCH Dogs will sound better.

Iqbal Rawat

I’m glad you enjoyed the "Diamond Dogs" piece -- even if it did leave you slightly depressed. At the risk of deepening the gloom, there’s a second piece to appear that discusses the Alexx/Thor’s Hammer combination. I appreciate that in cost terms that’s even less attainable, but what it does do is set out to answer some of your questions. In other words, although it is based around the Alexx and the Thor’s Hammers, a large part (and the main purpose) of the article is to discuss the benefits of bandwidth and your priorities in trying to achieve it, so please keep an eye open for it.

The short answer to your question is that extra bandwidth is a good thing, as long as you don’t compromise the quality. In fact, most of the strategy you outline is exactly what I would suggest. Your plan to run the Sashas full-range is definitely the way to go, so the question then becomes, which subs to use and how to use them? I don’t know which amplifier you are using in the main system, but I’m assuming it’s a high-power, class-AB design. If not, that might alter the logic a little, but the guiding principles will still be the same.

I think the two guiding principles are that quality is crucial and that the electronics (especially the amplifier) is a central part of that equation. A separate crossover and identical amplifiers top and bottom are the ideal, but like most ideals in audio, such hardware is also expensive. I would start by concentrating on a single unit and buying the best you can afford (you can always add a second one later). I’d look for a subwoofer that is music-oriented (rather than for A/V) and if possible I’d look for one that uses a conventional linear amplifier rather than a class-D module. Given that integration and continuity are crucial, the shift in spectral balance that all too often occurs with class-D amplification compared to conventional class-AB designs generally undermines any supposed benefits when it comes to power delivery. Having said that, the vast majority of remotely affordable sub solutions will rely on class-D modules, so don’t let that be a deal-breaker.

My first choice (in ascending order of price) would be the Eclipse-TD 725 SW Mk 2. This compact sub looks expensive at first glance (around $6000 in the US), but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. Specifically designed to match the musical speed and articulation of the crossoverless, single-driver Eclipse satellite speakers, it is a classic twin-driver, force-canceling design that produces fast, clean bass of remarkable quality. It uses an internal electronics package based around a class-D module, but it does offer specific modes for music and movies. I’ve heard it used with considerable success with Quad electrostatics as well as various box designs, and it represents the most affordable, truly musical subwoofer option I’ve used at home. There is also a similar smaller and more affordable model, the SW 520, although I have no direct experience with it.

If I were able to stretch the budget (or wait a little longer), I’d opt for the Wilson Benesch Torus. This ticks all of the boxes, with an external electronics package, a linear-power-supply amplifier and superb performance -- but all that comes at a price: around $12,500 in the US, which is pricey, but still much more affordable than even a single WATCH Dog/controller/amplifier package.

Finally, if I really wanted to skimp on budget, I’d look at the KEF R400b. This uses the same force-canceling topology as the Eclipse, but dispenses with the DSP control (and all the associated latency issues) of KEF's Reference model. At around $1700 a piece, a pair of these could work wonders -- if carefully set up. And there’s the rub: when it comes to subs, setup is everything and it will take time, care and ideally experience to get the best results. Tiny shifts in position and especially height off the floor can have profound musical effects. The first thing I would do when installing any of these models is ensure that I had spikes or feet fitted that allowed really fine adjustment of height and attitude, along with the ability to make really small, incremental lateral or fore-and-aft movements -- not always easy on carpeted floors. With enough care and attention to detail, I’m sure that any of these options would add really worthwhile musical benefits to your system.

My top tips? When it comes to setting up a sub, remember that level and roll-off balance each other -- so if you increase one, be prepared to reduce the other. And when making adjustments, make them as small as possible. Most people start with the sub set way too loud and then reduce it over time. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t actually notice a properly integrated sub until you turn it off.

It’s not difficult to achieve a quick-and-dirty setup with a sub, but really getting the benefits it can bring to the performance is an exacting and time-consuming exercise. But as I suggested in the "Diamond Dogs" piece, it promises massive musical rewards. -Roy Gregory

In praise of Gene Clark

August 4, 2017

Marc,

There's one I will watch for! I've been a big fan of this under-appreciated artist since the early '70s. His great album with Doug Dillard (The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark) helped cement the direction of my musical tastes as disco was rearing its ugly head. I have probably five of his solos, both Dillard and Clark collaborations, and a couple where he joined with ex-Byrds, besides the Byrd LPs. The only one I haven't run across is his first with the Gosdin Brothers (1967). I'm glad to see him get any new light thrown at him.

Lon Anderson

Reader list

August 1, 2017

Marc,

Please add me to your reader list.

Rick Campbell

You've been added. To join TAB's reader e-mail list and find out about new articles first, send e-mail to rl@theaudiobeat.com. -Marc Mickelson

 

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