In search of the next speaker

May 30, 2010
15,506
715
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Portugal
#1
Although I have changed very often of speakers, it was always under the shadow of three favorites - the Quad ESL63, the Soundlab A1 and the Wilson Watt/Puppy 7. Probably each of these speakers has summed a more of greatly enjoyable listening hours than the sum of all the remaining. I also could not part with the B&W Silver Signature SS25 ...

Although my Soundlab A1's are more than 20 years old, all that remains from the original is the beautiful oak frame - thanks to the friendly help and support or Roger West, bit for bit all else was replaced, and now they are current spec A1PX with the late backplates and torroyd improvements. Since the day Roger West introduced the new PX panlels, they become my official resident speakers. For questions of peace of mind I always keep two replacement panels in my garage - one is going to travel to SoundLab for repair soon. Not too bad after more thanten years of use.

Although I was happy with them, they are not perfect - particularly in aspect and amplifier compatibility. And about eight years ago I started a search for an alternative, and many speakers entered my listening room - JMLab Grande Utopia BE, Sonus Faber Stardivari and Aida's, Wilson MAXX3, X2 Series2 and Alexia, the Magico Mini 2's, and I started listening speakers, mainly in the rooms of my Wilson/Magico/Sonus Faber distributor and several local audiophiles with great systems with top speakers. Fortunately our distributor has a large room, that Peter McGraph has considered one of the best auditoriums in Europe, and stocks permanently most of the models of the brands he represents.

All my odyssey was always under the shadow of my previous speakers, mainly the SoundLabs that sound excellent and represent great value for money and the Quad ES63 - the speaker I should own if I was a reasonable audiophile. In order to change I needed something better than them, compatible with a wide range of equipment, and able to satisfy my my preferences. Two special requirements - being better than the old Quad ESL63 in voices and imaging, and having "la joie de vivre" of the Wilson 7's. And also, a more recent requirement - it should play excellent and musical with digital. I had found that although most of my travel experiences with digital were poor, but a few were exceptional with the type of music I really enjoy - ancient music, classical orchestral and chamber music.

For those who have not read my opinions on Soundlab's , I find them great sounding, with all the good things of a full range electrostatic, IMHO more natural sounding than Martin Logan's, but not strictly neutral and extremely fickly about amplifiers, sources and cables. In my very long room (31 feet) they have great bass, needing careful positioning and amplifier matching to avoid some exaggeration in the 35-55 band. And, independently of being able to play with moderate power, they are a low efficiency speaker - equivalent to a 86 dB/W box speaker at 4m - with an awkward impedance curve. They needed real power to play Shostakovitch finales, but they do it greatly. Their week point was the ability to rebuild the recording place - in this aspect Quad Esl63 or the Aida's were better. They could recreate power and a great space, but not for example, the precise dynamic locations in the room in the famous "La Folia" or sometimes the space behind the musicians.

Surely my preferences were the big choosing factor, and here I must say I never felt attracted by a Magico speaker demo or listening session. Great sound, but not my cup of tea. I must say I do not care about amplified or electronic music, or rock. For nostalgia of the music of my youth I prefer listening in a pair of JBL4311's ... Unfortunately, a few demos with the Wilson XLF's moved me strongly, specially with my own recordings, using different systems around them. One particular day, just participating in the set-up of the speakers with my recordings I witnessed the lifelike of the Wilson Audio XLF when it comes to the proper position relative to the room walls. Recordings gain the life like of human voice, the stage is again what we have been assisting in a recital. And it could do it with several recordings. The sweet spot became much larger - although there is a better zone in the expected seats, I could move like I move in my room with SoundLabs and the real size players were still there. A few notches better than anything I had witnessed. Another listening was of Shostakovitch 8th Symphony 3rd movement. I never imagined I could feel the whole power of the orchestra correctly distributed in size and tonality.

This was in the middle of my experiences, a few years after the XLF was introduced. None of the Wilson smaller relatives was able to perform in the same way, particularly as the XLF seems an universal speaker being able to play miniature or big, irrespective of being small or large music. I had some hope in the Alexx, it is a great speaker, but it does not have the flowing easiness and grandeur of the XLF.

So, recently I decided to move and I am now listening to a pair of Mercedes Mocha Black XLF's. Even just dropped in a place close to where previous Wilson's stayed without any optimization they keep their main traces - I can listen all around the place, including my work position 6 meters away from them. My recordings have now much more nuance and more great details, power peaks are around 8W!

So for the next months I will have to assemble a system for the Wilson Audio XLF's. Surely a garage sales of all unused hifi will go along with it, I have to get funds to help paying for them!
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
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#2
very happy for you for your new XLF's. I hope they fulfill all your expectations.....and live up to your previous experiences.

it's a great speaker!
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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#3
Mike, you beat me to it! Congrats, Micro! I am really happy for you...we have spoken online and offline about many of the various great speakers in the world (usually you giving me advice about them), and i know we both hold such great respect for the mighty XLFs. Very pleased to see you now own them. Look forward to reading all about them.
 

Al M.

VIP/Donor
Sep 10, 2013
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Greater Boston
#5
Congratulations, Micro!
 

ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
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Boston, MA
#7
A coup d'etat! Congrats!
 

MadFloyd

Member Sponsor
May 31, 2010
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Mass
#8
Wow, I didn't see this coming! Congratulations! Please share some photos - they are beautiful speakers.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Beverly Hills, CA
#9
Congratulations, Micro!

Another member on a new Wilson Audio odyssey!
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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London
#11
Congrats.

The local distributor that you mentioned, what amps does he use on them?
 
May 30, 2010
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#13
Congrats.

The local distributor that you mentioned, what amps does he use on them?
The D'Agostino's monos, Audio Research and the Constellation Audio Hercules II mono's and Altair II. This last system was really exceptional.
 
May 30, 2010
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#14
Thanks for the kind words. However I must start by the macro adjustments - and clear up my listening room before sharing any detailed picture of the room. It looks like an audio asylum!
 

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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
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#16
having re-read your original email, Micro, i have to say you said far more than ONE interesting thing. The SECOND was that you "will have to assemble a system for the Wilson Audio XLF's"...which means we get to watch the unfolding of a SYSTEM development...and this from a guy who already has owned some of the world's most enviable components and currently owns the Vivaldi Stack, the Metronome, TA Opus cables...and the list goes on.

The THIRD thing was that "a garage sale of all unused hifi will go along with it." Let the sales begin!
 

rbbert

Active Member
Dec 12, 2010
3,416
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Reno, NV
#17
Interesting; so you and marty have ended up with virtually the same new speakers at virtually the same time, on either side of the Atlantic :)
 
May 30, 2010
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#18
having re-read your original email, Micro, i have to say you said far more than ONE interesting thing. The SECOND was that you "will have to assemble a system for the Wilson Audio XLF's"...which means we get to watch the unfolding of a SYSTEM development...and this from a guy who already has owned some of the world's most enviable components and currently owns the Vivaldi Stack, the Metronome, TA Opus cables...and the list goes on.

The THIRD thing was that "a garage sale of all unused hifi will go along with it." Let the sales begin!
Now the main obstacle is that the XLF's sound so good and better from anything else I have owned that as soon as I sit time flows and the set-up is forgotten. :( It will be very hard to listen critically for the first times.

Currently listening to a "measurement" temporary system - conrad-johnson GAT + premier 350 + DCS Vivaldi, all connected with Crystal Dreamline.

I have just been listening to Beethoven Sextet in E flat for two horns and string quartet, at the sound level I would have in a small church sitting around 20 feet from the musicians and the peak power was around 3W !
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
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#19
Now the main obstacle is that the XLF's sound so good and better from anything else I have owned that as soon as I sit time flows and the set-up is forgotten. :( It will be very hard to listen critically for the first times.

Currently listening to a "measurement" temporary system - conrad-johnson GAT + premier 350 + DCS Vivaldi, all connected with Crystal Dreamline.

I have just been listening to Beethoven Sextet in E flat for two horns and string quartet, at the sound level I would have in a small church sitting around 20 feet from the musicians and the peak power was around 3W !
Amazing! I have to say, CJ and the big Wilsons have a long, long history together going all the way back to the CJ sound room where they had one of the very first pairs of Wilson X1s. I think CJ made their own loudspeaker and were extremely impressed with the first WATT, and then became very interested when the X1 came out. As I recall, it was CJ, Wilson X1 and TA cables.
 
May 30, 2010
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#20
Congrats micro , i know you ve also owned the maxx 3 , how would you compare bass output/extension /integration of these compared to the maxx 3 ??
The XlF has probably more grandeur effortlessness because of the larger woofers /more membranesurface
I have owned the Maxx3 long ago, at that time I owned the Audio Research CD8, so it is not easy to answer your question.

One real advantage of the XLF is the seamless integration of bass (and all else, I must say) you do not feel any transition. And the feeling that some instruments in the Bethoven Sextet move slightly in space while being played is really great.
 

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