Wilson X1/Grand Slamm: Still Improving after 20 years!

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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#1
Hi All,

A short opener which I will try to expand this weekend. Basically, a thread about 3 things:

1. My personal Observations : Regarding my X1s and how they reflect the voice of my system

2. My Personal Experiences : Sharing some subtle changes I have made to these 20 year old speakers which improved performance (imho of course ;) )

3. Questions for others : To those with more experience and know the X1s, X2 and XLF

______________________________________________
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
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#2
1. Personal Observations

The Wilson Voicing
- Scale. The first thing I remember about the Wilsons was immense effortless scale. The X1 taught me how much effortless matters (to me) in presentation
- Clarity. After loving Celestions, SF Guarneris and SF Strads (each of which I owned over a 15 year period), I heard even greater clarity, nuance at the macro and micro levels
- Adjustability. Perhaps the most problematic thing and the most beneficial thing about Wilsons is that they come with a series of adjustments...to suit your system, your room AND your tastes

The curse is that relative to other speaker with no such adjustments and thus have some greater chance at a more consistent presentation...the Wilsons can be all over the place in presentation. As witnessed not so much by the varied opinions...but by the fact I have seen a few posts where people 'hated' them...and then were 'floored' one day to hear them in a different system and sound glorious.

For me, with a Wilson, it is ALL about the setup. I have seen members here somehow not get professional setup. Further, we all know in life, 100 different people doing setups...and some will be at the bottom of that list, and others will be right up at the top and ever improving to boot.

I have been fortunate to be in the latter camp with my local distributor. Such an ear for nuance, subtlety, organic flow. A member of the engineering team that designed speakers for a major brand 25 years ago, he has always said to me: "I can setup a Wilson X1 to sound like just about however you want it to sound".

It is not just about moving the speakers, nor even moving the 3 upper modules, it is also about the resistors that need to be judiciously tailored...they will change the dispersion by 0.7dbs each time in my case, and let me tell you...it makes a HUGE difference.

Conclusion
I strongly feel that the reason the X2 and XLF physically resemble the original X1 and share most of its primary design...is because David Wilson created a fundamentally good design where some speakers of today are only just beginning to offer some of these:
- 3 upper modules D'Appolito
- 2 bass modules each encased separately (13" and 15" today)
- rear firing tweeter(s) for ambience/air
- tuning port to 24 hz
- inert cabinetry with custom mix of materials for hardness, damping, etc
- adjustability, adjustability, adjustability
- professional setup comes with every pair

Setup, Setup, Setup: A Case in Point
My own personal experience with Adjustability and Setup

- After lusting after these speakers for years, they finally dropped in my lap unexpectedly and I got a fantastic deal thanks to my dealer finding them in a warehouse in mint condition after 20 years of 'no use'. The spikes had not been put on, and the plastic film covering the piano gloss had never been removed.
- The day they finally arrived in the store...I heard them...and told the dealer not to bring them to the house because the treble was 'literally painful'.
- The distributor confidently suggested he would bring them to the house, and happily set them up and remove them if I did not like them. No questions asked.
- Sure enough, after 10+ hours of setup, I witnessed the change as they adjusted the speakers to my room and ears
- It turns out they were originally setup for a humungous room and the treble dispersion was up about 2db. They resoldered the resistors twice to get it just right in my room. And my first thought was "a match to my SF Strads, in upper/mids...and yet far better in all the ways that make the X1 famous".
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
140
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#3
2. Personal Experiences
Tweaks/Slight changes to the Speakers which have really helped these 20 year speakers sing even better (imho)

Treble & Cabinetry
- Treble:

- Over time, I listened to the X1s and over time, I agree sometimes on tough, dynamic passages, I could hear a hardening of the treble. Eventually, one of the tweeters conked out so I cannot say if the hardness was an inherent problem...or a problem tweeter

- Eventually, the replacements arrived and are of the latest generation of titanium inverted dome tweeters, which have the special work done by Wilson in the back, which started with the Alexandria 2 and Maxx3s.

- Greater extension, more effortless delivery and yes a more nuanced and more natural ability to soar without hardening

Cabinetry: 1994 vs 2014
- Cabinetry has come a LONG way. Including the latest XLF. Even the Sasha II. Vibration is one of the most important things to manage with the X1...I have been and continued to be shocked by how much a little vibration control/damping goes a LONG way in allowing the X1 to sing even better.

Many people have decried the imaging of the X1 (too big), or the slight haze in the upper mids compared with other speakers, or the stridency of the speakers, or the fact that the speakers do not always disappear...certain notes 'pull to the speaker cabinet' revealing their location.

I have come to realize MUCH of this was the result of the cabinet not being perfectly inert.

Ultra 5s.
Suffice to say enough ink has been dedicated (including by me) on the Ultra 5s and how great they are with Wilson speakers. The upper bass clarity is tremendously improved...but so are the upper 3 modules mid and treble performance. Many have witnessed this with their own Wilsons, and now many have Ultra 5s.

Entreq Vibb Eaters.
I have 12 kg of special damping on top of the upper modules of each speaker and towards the back bracing it. Benefits:

- the image size now varies dramatically between CDs, and solo guitar soundstages have 'snapped together'...smaller but suddenly much more understandable.

- loads more detail in the upper mids and lower treble have come thru which simply were lost in the microvibrations of the cabinetry.

- signal density in the treble and mids is far greater and yet still balanced with the upper bass...I think because less energy is being lost thru vibration.

- haze of the speaker (a form of distortion which also made the sound strident) has now significantly disappeared.

Health Warning: I have tried mass damping the upper modules before, and it made things worse...particular heavy and hard metals or even Ultra 5s...no go. Maybe clearer, but the treble came forward, and out of balance with the rest of the speakers.

But the Entreq Vibb Eaters...reasonably dense mass damping but with some combination of sand, silicate, soft metals, whatever...changed all that. And for the better with no downsides. So fair warning that a lot of these experiments did not work.

Examples
Nirvana Unplugged
The most telling example is on Nirvana Unplugged...first track. I have heard this on a full-on full out 3 sets of monos, Rockport Arrakis, you-name-it, its-here system...and at full tilt, this track is effortless, easy to listen to a concert volume and perfectly (and I mean perfectly) natural.

My system is not there...but whereas before the max volume before 'break up' from stridency was about 38-40...it is now about 49-51.

Sherlock Holmes Soundtrack
Additionally, the speaker disappears far, far more. On Sherlock Holmes, the orchestra is now pushed about 15 feet back and AWAY from the speakers (more centered), which is how I have heard them in SOTA systems in much bigger rooms. Many of the notes which came from the X1s now come from the outer edge of the centerfield of the soundstage, no longer from the speakers themselves.

Conclusion

This is all just about damping the vibration of the X1. I am also now investigating a custom option for damping the upper modules and possibly the gigantic bass cabinet to still the cabinetry even more.

With such a fundamentally sound design, for me, its all about pushing that design as far as it will go, under the guidance of audio experts who know design, who know the speakers and who have the capability to design the right stuff. One of the manufacturers I am speaking with actually owns Alexandrias as his reference speakers, so a good place to start. More hopefully to come.
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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#4
3. Questions

Vibration

Has anyone experimented with their upper modules or bass cabinets before? On the newer ones, with thicker walls, even better construction, it may simply not be necessary.

All I can say is with my pants flapping in the bass and standing next to the Rockport Arrakis, I touch the bass cabinet and literally I could not not know by feeling it if the speaker was OFF or not. That silent, that inert, that still.

I have never felt any speaker do that.

I am looking into custom designs for a mass damping solution similar to Vibb Eaters but better suited to the upper module design...and also something seriously heavy/inert for the bass cabinet.

Any ideas? Let me know please. I once saw a photo of an X1 set up in Asia with the most enormous cross braced feet (a giant X underneath the speaker that must have been 3-4 feet across!!! Huge but I suppose meant to brace the X1 from the floor.

Wilson Active Crossover

I have been recommended to use the Wilson Active Crossover, and cut off the X1s from 35-38hz and below...and send that part of the signal to a high quality sub or pair of subs. Sure, its not a Thor solution, but I am told it will continue to open up the X1s.

Any one ever try it?

Bi-Amping
A few people, DDK included, have espoused the virtues of biamping the X1s...basically bypassing the passive crossver network of the bass modules of the X1...given that the bass and upper treble/mid speaker terminals are shown separately on the X1 (and then connected with a metal plate)...it seems possible. I am assured it is.

Yes, loads of phase, etc issues. but curious to know more from those who have done it or heard it done.
From the few people who have heard it...glorious is the word, and I am told you have not heard your X1s/X2s unless you do this.

Anyone know more about this? Lots of work by experts only...but if you're concluded that this is your 'last speaker' perhaps worth a go?
 
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Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#7
I was always under the impression that you shouldn't biamp Wilson speakers. I don't think that I know anyone who has
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
140
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#8
I was always under the impression that you shouldn't biamp Wilson speakers. I don't think that I know anyone who has
Yes, if you speak with Wilson of course that is what they will say, and I suspect in 99% of cases, they may well be correct. That said, I have received some advice from dealers on this forum who have heard such speakers, and thought they were amazingly better.

I also have received this advice from a few people who have been dealers of Wilson in the past and equally felt it was worth doing, providing the person doing the work had great experience and knowledge of Wilson speakers.

I think if I was 100% sure I would be keeping my Wilsons 'forever', I might try this. Basically use Wilson Active Crossover and then deliver the bass signal through a matching Gryphon amp directly to the bass drivers (bypassing the passive crossover inside). Interestingly, there are 4 speaker binding posts on the back of the X1...they are connected via a metal plate.

In any event, I was primarily interested in opinions/experiences with this for the moment. If I get serious, I'll be sure to let people know.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
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#9
Hi All,

As above, I have described 3 tweaks/mods I made to my X1s which continue show great improvements after all these years (Latest Focal Tweeter, Entreq Vibb Eaters on top of Upper Modules, Ultra 5s. I have discovered another which tentatively I consider a success.

Transp Ref Jumper Cables


At the bottom of the X1s are 3 sets of binding posts: 1 for the amp, 1 which is connected internally via Transparent Audio cables to (I think?) the crossover, and 1 where the 2 binding posts are connected to each other via a 1/4" thick copper plate. It is this last one where I did some experimenting.

Just because I had Transp Ref Jumpers from my old SF Guarneris, I pulled them and decided to try them in 3 ways and settled on one:

1. Replace the copper plate with 1 Transp Ref Jumper.
Copper Plate Wins. The TA Ref Jumper smoothed things out and 'quieted'/'stilled' some images in the upper mids and treble which was nice, but I lost sharp dynamic attack and decay, as well as detail around the strike of piano notes. The piano sounds more real with the copper plate. But I could not forget how nicely images stilled and somehow individual notes seemed more distinguishable with the lack of shimmer.

2. KEEP Wilson copper plate, ADD 1 TA Ref Jumper
Better than just Wilson Copper Plate. The sharp dynamic attack, detail and decay all returned...but now the stillness of upper mid on complex, loud piano had more stillness to it, more the way I hear it in real life (i studied piano for 12 years...was surely not gifted, but i definitely heard the piano keyboard up close and personal 5-7 days a week for 12 years).

3. KEEP Wilson copper plate, ADD 2 TA Ref Jumpers
Because the Wilson binding posts take spades and bananas, (and my TA jumpers are spade to banana)...i decided to connect 2 TA Ref Jumpers to see if it was 'too much' or more improvement.
It turned out to be the latter.

In addition to the above improvements (which did improve in terms of quietness/black background) i got the following improvements:
- MICRO dynamics improved greatly, where suddenly teeny tiny nuances and inflections in violins, softer piano key strikes became fully infused with nuances, pauses, gradations of force...and they are now quite obvious where before there was simply a note or a note with some volume change
- the MIDBASS has now become MUCH more nimble...it is the best word i can think of. It is every bit as powerful as before, but suddenly the dexterity of the upper/mids which is expected in good speakers today is now much more matched by an equally mellifluous bass, with texture, nuance, and decay...decay in powerful bass is tough in my system due to the room. It can boom, stop/start...but gentle and nuanced decay not so much. Now it has made a very nice leap forward in this, and it adds a real musical element to all my bass which is a joy to listen to.

I used to enjoy the bass for its beat, power, rhythm and yes detail...but not so much for the cues, nuances, inflections...now i can.

I honestly cannot say if it is anathema to Wilson or not, but i can say (perhaps because they are TA Ref jumpers and the speaker is wired with TA cabling?)...it works quite clearly to these ears/taste.

All for now...but more to come...
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#10
Hi Lloyd

I honestly don't remember 3 sets of binding posts on the X1. What purpose do the other 2 binding posts serve
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
140
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#11
Hi Lloyd

I honestly don't remember 3 sets of binding posts on the X1. What purpose do the other 2 binding posts serve
Hi Steve,

1. I do not know exactly. One set is labelled "Array Out"...I think it might be for crossover. The other is labeled "Jumper"...this is the one where the binding posts are actually connected to each other via the thick copper plate.

2. I am told this generation was bi-ampable by those who understand the configuration. Technically, bi-wireable...as in 2 stereo amps, each amp driving either treble/mid or bass...but still using the passive crossovers.

When I learn more, I will update.
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
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#12
I have now managed to drag out a series of 'test CDs' comprised of Glenn Gould - Bach variations, Rachel Podger - Channel Classics, Vivaldi, deep house music from Fabric, Digable Planets (hip hop), Norah Jones...and next up Pink Floyd (Remastered WYWT and MoFi Wall). So far, on all counts, adding 2 TA Ref jumper cables to each speaker's 'jumper panel' on the back of the speaker is a clear improvement in detail...that is not in question. It is also a clear improvement in bass nimble/nuance. it allows the whole musical passage to be as nimble below as it is above and lifts the music rhythmically in a great way.

I hear lots of rhythms in the deep house stuff which I did not realize was there...if you ever want to test an equipment purely for detail, I personally find orchestral difficult relative to deep house. Because deep house details are definite...a bell here, a plink there, a subtle syncopated rhythm way off in the background...orchestral details are more about decay of a string/tone, separation of massed strings...for me tougher to be definitive about it. With deep house, its either there or it aint. You can either understand clearly what they're saying thru those electronic sound effects machines, or its unintelligible.

As for upper/mids, I also find with the TA Ref in the system, I do get a 'hint' of that richer TA sound...neither good nor bad, but different. I do NOT find any missing attack on piano in the upper registers which is an excellent sign. In fact again have [slightly] more detail...but that detail now has the slightest hint of TA character to it relative to just having the stock Wilson copper jumper plate alone. (Again, I keep the Wilson bar in and ADD the 2 TA Ref jumper cables).

In some cases I prefer TA Ref's influence on uppers...in other cases, I am neutral. I would say this character is notable as maybe a "3% change"...so not 'nothing' but subtle. And with no negatives, I am fine with it.

Overall, a very strong improvement. And since I owned the TA Ref jumpers already and they were in the drawer since I sold my Guarneris years ago...almost a 'free upgrade'.

Its nice to see such a well-conceived design continue to show improvements all these years later. Martin Colloms did tell me this would happen when I first asked him about buying them. He said he was sure he had not heard their limits as a speaker...mainly referring to electronics...but I am still finding improvements 20 years later with these 'slight updates'.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
140
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#13
Hi Lloyd

I honestly don't remember 3 sets of binding posts on the X1. What purpose do the other 2 binding posts serve
I have heard from a former owner of X1s (now owns XLF) who used to biamp his X1s using 2 sets of Lamm 2s. apparently the top set of binding posts with the cable running to it from inside the speaker relates to the crossover.

He said he removed the jumper plate on the 2nd set of binding posts and ran them straight to his amp (basically driving the bass). And he used the main binding posts to drive to the 2nd amp (basically driving the upper/mids).

Wilson does not recommend any bi-amping and warned against it. That said, there seem to be at least 3 owners who have done this...they told me it cannot be done on X2 or XLF.

I would not try this without a true audiotech who really knew my Wilson speakers...I have spoken with one who is prepared to help. Not a rush...but certainly intrigued. I am not sure the financial investment is worth it...since I am told having identical amps is ideal. Still less expensive than getting a second hand X2 by far, but still...

Here is a photo...you'll see the 3 sets of binding posts on the back at the bottom...
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/speakerlust/wilsonx1a.jpg
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
140
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#14
Hi Everyone,

So a Question for X2 owners:

- Does the X2 have a 'jumper plate' like the old X1 which basically connects to the bass drivers?

On the back of my X1 are 3 sets of binding posts: 1 which connects to a cable inside the speaker (to the upper crossover), 1 which basically has a 1/4" thick copper plate connecting the 2 binding posts to each other...bass jumper. And of course 1 set to connect to the amp.

I am using Transparent Ref jumpers IN ADDITION to the copper plate, and am going to be trying some later versions of Transp Ref jumpers because the improvement has been great. As I am told, using the same cable as my TA Ref XL cables (and inside the speaker which is also Transparent) is important...but other greater current handling allows for greater damping and control. I read that Tannoy found and measured this in their own speakers...resulting in the same 2 improvements on their speakers that I discovered on mine:

- much improved bass articulation and fleet-of-foot presentation
- surprisingly improved mid depth, etc.

So in the event I were to upgrade to X2s second hand someday...I'd like to think that somewhere inside the X2, I could still use these jumper cables on top of the copper plate.

Anyone who owns X2s know? Thanks.

BTW, I know a Focal dealer who has discovered that by replacing all the Focal jumpers on the Grande Utopia EM (6 to be exact) with Transparent Ref XL jumpers, the improvement has been tremendous.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
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#16
Hi LL21,
marvelous system - look forward to seeing some pics
Thanks...its been a long pursuit...8 years hunting down each component second hand at the right price...and not quite finished (is it ever? ;) ) I'm terrible at pics.

In any event, as the name of this thread implies...it is still improving as we go...

...if anyone knows if there is a jumper plate on the X2 (like on my X1) please let me know...even if it is inside/hidden on the X2.

I have emailed Wilson and hope to have an answer...would be curious to find out. On my X1, it really makes a big improvement to add Transp Ref jumper cables to the jumper plate which connects to the bass drivers. Again, I know a Focal dealer who uses TA RefXL jumpers on the 6 jumping plates/posts of the Grande Utopia EM and loves the improvement. stay tuned...
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
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#17
Updates on my X1 and continuing efforts to drive it forward thru [relatively] cost-effective 'mods':

1. I am going to try a better quality jumper cable for the Wilson X1 jumper plate than the one I currently use (TA Ref 10 yr old) in addition to the thick copper plate which Wilson uses. It will be a shoot-out actually...TA Ref (my 10-yr old pair) vs:

- TA Ref XL (MMM2)
- TA RefMM (MM2)
- TA Opus (MM2)

I think Opus may be overkill but one never knows...nevertheless I figured it was worth at least trying them all to see what, if any, difference the jumper cable can really make.

I DO know the dealer uses the Ref XL in ALL of the interlinks of the Focal Grand Utopia EM (they are a Focal dealer) and thinks the change is awesome...so I am equally hopeful given my experience with my TA Ref pair which I kept from when I owned the SF Guarneris.

FOR X2 OWNERS: BTW, the X2 does NOT have a jumper plate...according to Jerron Marchant of Wilson who very kindly (and very quickly!) responded the other day, the X1 jumper plate has been replaced in the X2 with soldered wiring internally.

2. Entreq Mini-Wraps - around all 5 pairs of TA cables that interlink the various Wilson modules
- These are small 3x3 wraps that go around the entry/exit points of signal cables to shield from emi/rfi.
- I have used them to excellent effect around signal cables in my system...and also used their larger AC wraps around my power cords

FOR X2 OWNERS: This [might] be worth considering since the TA cables interlinking the modules are exposed. I will post my findings.

...stay tuned...
 

XV-1

Well-Known Member
May 24, 2010
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Sydney
#18
Hey Lloyd

This thread is useless without photos!
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,929
140
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#19
Hey Lloyd

This thread is useless without photos!
...and I am useless at photos!!! ;) Over the next few weeks, I will try to take some photos so people can see what I am doing. Thanks.
 

jfrech

VIP/Donor
Sep 3, 2012
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#20
Finally !! Thank u :D
 

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