06. November 2022 · Comments Off on Wilson Alexia V Lauch At KJ West One · Categories: Behind the Brands, Dealers View, Hifi News · Tags: , ,

Hifi Pig’s Eric van Spelde travels to KJ West One´s new auditorium in Central London to get a taste of Wilson´s latest loudspeakers.

For those who might be thinking they missed out on Alexia 3 and 4: no, the ´V´ does not indicate the fifth version of Wilson Audio´s ´mid-sized´ speaker system. This is, in fact, the third Alexia iteration after the Alexia (introduced in 2010) and Alexia 2 which was launched seven years down the road from that. Rather, the ´V´ stands for ´V-material´ – a stone-like, man-made composite of which the actual composition is religiously kept within the confines of the company´s headquarters in Provo (Utah, USA), just like the ‘X’ and ´S´ materials before. But we´re getting ahead of ourselves…

KJ West One is located bang in the middle of the City of London and is one of the older established HiFi dealers in the UK, its origins dating back to 1965. They´ve been in the same spot for many decades (yours truly vividly remembers their page-sized ads in Hifi News and Record Review in the Eighties chockful of Krell, Martin Logan, Apogee as well as any other pieces of highly rated ´dreamland´ exotica, mostly from the US, in a UK high-end market dominated by Linn/Naim at the time) which explains why a HiFi dealer could operate from what must be one of the most expensive areas anywhere and still provide generously sized facilities in this day and age.

On a typically grey and rainy day, the crème de la crème of the UK high-end audio scene assembled in a décor consisting of some of the most prized (not to mention pricey) audio items known to mankind; actually, we are greeted by a pair of Wilson Chronosonic XVX speakers in a limited edition colour combination – call it the best part of four hundred thousand grand – as soon as we enter the shop. They are owned by KJ West One, not on loan; we´re told these will go in the newly acoustically ´rebuilt´ listening room downstairs after the Alexia press launch event has run its course. Did we mention the shop offers everything bar an elevator?

Having a speaker set of this calibre in the shop offers one distinct advantage in addition to prestige and the opportunity to offer customers a more or less absolute reference for what is possible: it makes a pair for £80,000 seem positively reasonable. Enter the Alexia V which is sitting pretty in the auditorium in a particularly fetching shade of turquoise that the manufacturer, perhaps unsurprisingly, refers to as ´spearmint´. Fret not: when it comes down to putting down your own hard-earned for a pair of Alexias, any colour you can imagine (and probably a few you won´t) is possible.

Despite a healthy workload in the product development department and having launched several new designs, Wilson put the five years that have gone since the introduction of the Alexia 2 to good use, passing through several benefits from the new and updated products that appeared in the interim such as aforementioned Chronosonic XVX. The result consists of 30 different design elements that are new to Alexia. Next to the V-Material which is being used in the top of the woofer and midrange enclosures to reduce and control vibrations, the latest versions of S- and X-materials have been incorporated in strategic places – the former for improved midrange driver coupling to the enclosure for more open and accurate mids, and the latter being used throughout the speaker to aid damping in conjunction with revised internal bracing and panel thicknesses. The internal volume of the bass enclosures has been enlarged by 8.9 percent, but not so that you would notice it – for a speaker breathing rarefied air both in bass extension and dynamic capabilities in combination with a reasonably high efficiency of 90 dB/W/m, its footprint and height are still remarkably compact and pretty indistinguishable from earlier versions. The separate cabinets for the mid and high-frequency drivers (both of which are new) are aerodynamically improved, with the former having 6.4% more internal volume than before, and the time alignment method – Wilson are freaks when it comes to temporal coherence – of fine adjusting the position of both in relation to the bass cabinets in order to achieve equal path lengths to the ears of a listener sitting in the ´sweet spot´has been refined. According to long-standing Wilson sales director Peter Mc Grath, the adjustment allows one to get accurate time alignment to within a mere 11 microseconds…

The 17 cm QuadraMag midrange driver now uses Alnico magnets, while the Convergent Synergy Carbon tweeter of the larger Wilson models has now been incorporated in the design. Another big development at Wilson during the past handful of years is that the brand has taken the design and manufacture of capacitors in-house after they got a phone call from their longstanding suppliers Reliable Capacitors saying that they were going to be winding down operations. Daryl Wilson went there, bought the company, and set it up as a new internal division that subsequently was able to vastly improve the accuracy of the capacitors – which were considered world-class or thereabouts before – to the point that where hitherto a bunch of bypass capacitors were needed to get within 1% of the specified value, now an accuracy of 0.3% is being achieved with a single cap. Another example of the obsessive attention to detail spent on Wilson speakers is that every driver has its own, in-house developed cable specification, the number and diameter of strands and the configuration thereof being bespoke to every single driver in any application.

For the supporting cast being used in this demonstration, Wilson Audio, their UK distributors Absolute Sound, and KJ West One settled on the visually arresting Vertere SG-1 turntable with a Lyra Atlas cartridge, a rack full of dCs digital front-end equipment, with Tidal through Audirvana software running on a MacBook providing the music streams. And last but not least, a big DarTZeel preamp feeding a pair of fairly huge NHB-468 monoblock power amps from the same manufacturer. The latter shouldn´t be regarded as a must for adequately driving the speakers though, according to Mc Grath, a good 50 Watt stereo amp would do the job fine, although he recommended strongly against using single-ended triode amps. Shunyata Everest and Denali power conditioners provided clean mains for the front-end components and power amps respectively and the cabling was Transparent throughout. The speaker cables had one and a half feet long carbon fibre enclosures on them which looked uncannily like miniatures of the 1930s Auto Union streamliner racing cars…

Our introduction to the day’s events was made by Ricardo Franassovici, the owner of Absolute Sounds, the UK distributor of Wislon. The actual listening session consisted of two parts – first, KJ West One sales manager Jason Ford used the analogue front-end to present a few audiophile and not-so-audiophile records, among which test pressings of a ´90s re-release of a Free album dating from 1970 and Hugh Masakela’s perennial show favourite Stimela (The Coal Train) on 45 rpm. After that, it was Peter Mc Grath´s turn, who proceeded to work the digital front-end playing streams from mainly his own recordings of classical music (Mc Grath has a half-century-long stint of being a highly regarded recording engineer and ownership of a high-end HiFi store in his home state Florida on his CV). The latter provided the reviewer with a problem, as while this choice of music certainly presented the system to the best of its considerable abilities, it also meant that a useful point of reference was missing. We would dearly have wanted to hear the system perform with something very familiar and decidedly non-audiophile like, say, Motörheads´s The Ace Of Spades (ok, let´s not drive the point rather too far, we´d settle for any piece off Nirvana´s Nevermind instead) or Da Funk from Daft Punk´s debut album Homework. Thus, we can only report on what we heard during the session without being able to make a comparison.

First and foremost, scale, weight, and dynamics were off the chart – in a sensibly sized room we could hardly imagine anyone craving anymore. The Alexias are most definitely ´full range´ too; a 16-foot organ pipe played at realistic volume levels will stop short of temporarily rearranging one’s internal organs, but only just. Detail resolution reached forensic levels without this being achieved by anything as brash as slightly accentuating the presence region of the frequency band or prioritizing the individual parts over the music as a whole; stereo imaging width, depth, and height were convincingly portrayed; moreover, temporal and spatial coherence maintained throughout. Clarity and intelligibility were uniformly exceptional over the entire frequency range down to the very deepest notes. If that all sounds like your typical audiophile box-ticking exercise, fortunately, the chosen music sometimes let the speakers’ definite ability to involve and communicate shine through – for instance with the instantly recognisable voice of Frank Sinatra or Masakela´s storytelling near the beginning of Stimela.

If you wanted to hear what a live orchestra or multi-piece band could sound like in your home (provided the source material and room acoustics are up to it) this demonstration provided a huge slice of what audio nirvana would be like. These speakers are able to provide the audiophile goods, and then some. What we didn´t get the measure of, however, is the ability of the Alexias to get down and dirty with more ´earthy´, grooving, or head-banging material; how deep they are going to dig into your skull when communicating Ian Curtis´ tales of despair and broken communication or take your brain into another dimension with The Prodigy. It´s a minor qualification, but an important one all the same.

Personally, I had a great day out and thoroughly enjoyed the new Wilson Alexia V, though I’s have loved the opportunity to play some of the tunes I’m more familiar with.

 

 

 

 

 

Eric van Spelde

GIK Acoustics Turbo Trap Pro
Audio Video Show Warsaw 2022 - The HiFi Pig Reports

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