Already enjoying critical acclaim for his Alexandria Series I floorstanding speakers, company boss Dave Wilson famously attended a symphony rehearsal at the Grosse Saal der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, a reputed concert hall in Vienna, in 2006 and came away certain that they needed some improvement.
Wilson Audio’s stated company mission is “to reproduce music in a way that preserves the numinous* and emotional impact of the live event”. The objective of achieving fidelity is not unique, of course, and the measurement of the success of that objective could not be more subjective. Nevertheless, the audio expert at the Utah-based company knew exactly what he was looking for after hearing that live performance.
The combination of direct sound from the instruments and reverberant sound from the playing location, Wilson was told, gives music that is performed live its fullness, vibrancy and unique characteristic of ‘attack and decay’. And that is what Dave Wilson determined to reproduced for his customers.
Wilson’s new challenge was to create emotion via unfeeling componentry. Armed with the knowledge of direct and reverberant sound gained in Vienna, it was clear they needed to do things a bit differently. So, rather than bring in drivers and heavily modify them as they’ve previously always done, with the Series II Alexandria X-2s, the company had custom drivers designed from the ground up to achieve the critical responses required.
Constructed with a mix of carbon fibre and paper pulp, the new midrange drivers start moving and stop again in an instant, to allow for those crucial audio reflections. The two new tweeters build on designs seen in the MAXX Series II and WATT/Puppy System 8, and are implemented in the Series I Alexandria with a new damping material that increases low-level resolution and lowers the output of the tweeter by 1.5dB.
While visible under a glass panel, the Series 2 crossovers are coated in epoxy resin, not only to reduce distortion but also, Wilson Audio folk admit, to hide the secret of their assembly away from prying competitor eyes. Fair enough.
Standing 185cm tall and looking a lot like a cross between the automated armor that Ra the Goa’uld System Lord wore over his head in Stargate SG-1 and a portable air conditioner, the resultant Alexandria X-2s stand sentinel-like in the room, weighing an astonishing 800-plus kilos for the pair.
The Series 2’s ability to ‘scale’ to the music being played has been lauded as one of their best features – where you might expect the massive speakers to make solo instruments sound big and echoey, instead they’re said to perform far more intimately when the situation demands, then ramp up fully and instantaneously to provide listeners with the big-impact audio required from the latest HD audio-encoded movie blockbusters.
The series II Alexandria X2s claim a frequency response 19.5 Hz to 22.5 kHz, which starts lower and ends higher than the average healthy young person’s range of hearing, usually cited as 20Hz to 20kHz. So unless you’re under 30 years old and preternaturally gifted in the ear department, you’re not going to be able to source any audio that the X2s can’t handle.
At $197,500, they’re a serious investment but, in keeping with the ethos at Wilson Audio, not exuberantly so.
*Numinous: supernatural, mysterious; filled with the sense of the presence of a divinity; appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense