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MULTIMEDIA

Wilson Audio Alexia - High Performance Loudspeakers (Part 1)

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Like a half-scale model of the mighty Alexandria XLF, the Alexia may be Wilson’s best all-rounder. Ever.

Unless people acquire the ‘best’ models in a product range, they will always be aware of ‘something better’ in the catalogue. It will gnaw at them. Porsche Cayman owners cower in the presence of 911 drivers, and one would not want to wear off-the-peg Ralph Lauren Polo next to a dandy in made-to-measure Ralph Lauren Purple. So what befalls those who cannot afford the Wilson Alexandria XLF?

Dave Wilson does not allow such doubts to occur, because every speaker he makes fills a specific need based on size versus performance, while pricing has always separated adjacent models widely enough to preclude an internecine clash. Awkwardly, though, the WATT/Puppy, upon metamorphosing into the Sasha W/P, found itself some distance in size and price from the next model, the MAXX Series 3.

This chasm did not concern Wilson, because the speakers are so different. He likens the Sasha to a highly-tuned Italian GT, while the MAXX is ‘more like a muscle car’, ie, they will fill larger rooms and they possess qualities better suited to high-end home cinemas.

Housing a 1in dome tweeter, 7in mid and 8in and 10in woofers in three chassis allows upper-section to tilt

Housing a 1in dome tweeter, 7in mid and 8in and 10in woofers in three chassis allows upper-section to tilt

A clever recipe

And yet… there was enough demand from both customers and retailers to justify a new model for those who wanted something closer in performance to the current flagship – the universally-acclaimed Alexandria XLF (HFN, Nov ’12) but one that swallows no more real estate than a Sasha. Faced with this grass roots demand, the company came up with a clever recipe that would appeal to Sasha owners lusting for more, but who couldn’t accommodate the beefier MAXX.

Its design concept recalls the kind of gear audiophiles might fantasize about in the same manner as 12-year-olds picturing their dream car: ‘What would happen if we merged the time-domain accuracy of the Alexandria XLF with a form factor similar to the Sasha?’ It tells you immediately that the speaker must not be a room-filling behemoth with the presence of a Stonehenge pillar.

Instead, with a footprint close to the Sasha’s it hosts only a slight increase in height: 10in, to be precise, due mainly to the necessarily larger woofer enclosure. And while the Sasha/MAXX gap is adamantly not being filled due to price, its cost falls almost mid-way between theirs.

Sasha’s it hosts only a slight increase in height: 10in, to be precise, due mainly to the necessarily larger woofer enclosure

Sasha’s it hosts only a slight increase in height: 10in, to be precise, due mainly to the necessarily larger woofer enclosure

Firmly adjustable

To provide a goodly portion of the XLF’s adaptability, precision and coherence, the smaller Alexia had to offer adjustability of the midrange and tweeter positioning with to-the-millimeter accuracy, according to room specifics and the location of the owner’s ‘hot seat’. That meant a ‘head’ section with two movable segments but it had to fit in a volume akin to that of the original WATT.

As a smaller speaker would lack the overkill of an XLF enclosure’s mass and dimensions, Dave, son Daryl and acoustic and electrical engineer Vern Credille focused initially on avoiding the introduction of resonances and upper assembly instability crucial because the integrity of the upper structure would determine whether or not the new speaker could, in Wildon’s words, ‘substantially expand on the dynamic performance, resolution and bandwidth of our existing compact loudspeakers’.

What you see here, then, is a genuinely manageable floor stander with the complex time-domain adjustment of the much larger XLF. Trail-and-error research lasting more than a year was undertaken to transform the two-module architecture of the Sasha into something equally svelte, yet with full adjustability of the tweeter and midrange in their own ‘mini’ cabinets, and boasting the rigidity demanded of a speaker fine-tuned with torturous exactitude.

A freshly-conceived structure was required because the design team ‘decided early on that the “ladder approach” was incompatible with the desired Sasha-like form factor’. The Alexia’s configuration places the tweeter modules’ support system and adjustment hardware within the assembly of the midrange module. To provide the necessary freedom of movement for adjustability, the upper sections each employ a captive spike (there are three spike lengths) that rest on a 10-step alignment block, as per the MAXX. The entire two-module assembly moves fore-to-aft, along eight positions, while the tweeter is separately adjustable relative to the midrange and, therefore, to the woofer enclosure.

Wilson devised a milled aluminum cross-member above the tweeter module to form a rigid link between the sides of the midrange module

Wilson devised a milled aluminum cross-member above the tweeter module to form a rigid link between the sides of the midrange module

Wilson devised a milled aluminum cross-member above the tweeter module to form a rigid link between the sides of the midrange module. This ensures that the rigidity of the hosting module is not compromised, while aiding in the precise siting of the tweeter module. Other adjustments allow the modules to be rotated for optimum on-axis performance. Fitted to the bottom enclosure are drivers designed specifically for the Alexia. They include 8in and 10in pulp/paper cone woofers to suit a layout descended from the offset-diameter, two-woofer X-1 Grand SLAMM. The goal was to extract comparable ass speed, dynamics and ‘authority’. The Alexia is the first Wilson compact speaker to offer this, but it required and enclosure in X-Material composite with a volume 18% larger than the Sasha’s.

For the midrange, Wilson chose the same cellulose fiber/carbon 7in unit used in the XLF. The mid sits in a baffle made of S-material, first developed for the Sasha, combined with X-material for the rest of the cabinet. Above it is the new ‘Convergent Synergy’ tweeter, a silk dome unit related to the driver that first appeared in the XLF, modified to suit the Alexia’s single-midrange driver layout (as opposed to the XLF’s two-midrange complement).

Other details include a rear port for the woofer, rear venting for the mid and a sealed housing for the tweeter. As with all Wilson speakers, the Alexias come with adjustable, proprietary spikes beneath and robust speaker terminals that favor spade connectors. They are available in a range of custom colors. And, yes, everybody loved the ‘Lamborghini’ orange finish seen here and at their Rocky Mountain Audio Fest debut.

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