RMAF 2019 Show Report Part 2
11th Floor Continued
We continue exploring the 11th floor on Thursday, the Press Day of the show. The halls were lightly traveled as you would expect, but not all the rooms were ready to rock 'n roll. Another one that was, was located across the hall from the excellent Parasound & Tekton Design room that we visited at the end of Part 1.
Stepping into the Wilson Audio room (11115) was like walking from Fanfare for the Common Man to Beethoven's 9th, or 2001, A Space Odyssey, depending on whether you wanted to go back in time, or forward.
The outer room of the suite featured a pair of Sasha DAW (for David A. Wilson, the man who built this company) supplemented with a pair of subwoofers, each channel driven by a tall VTL stereo amplifier with one channel driving the Sasha full range and the other channel powering the respective subwoofer. The signal to the subwoofer had been altered upstream by Wilson Audio's new stereo crossover unit with a steep 18dB bracket at 35Hz — essentially acting as a low-pass filter for the channels driving the subwoofers. The sound was extraordinarily good here, better than I've heard the Sasha before — probably due to the addition of the subs which often impart greater resolution to the midrange of the main speakers.
I also loved the blue finish, which was very similar in hue to the Tekton speakers across the hall, but a huge step above the Tekton finish in quality as well as price. Peter McGrath, recording engineer great and frequent representative in Wilson rooms who is usually responsible for setting them up, said this was a new satin finish. It almost looked like it had a metalflake finish; but again, it was probably just the spotlighting. I suggested they call it Blue Jean Blue, as it has that casual, inviting feeling like the uniform of my generation — both cool in hue and warm in emotional response at the same time.
I heard this speaker both from the sweet spot and as I casually walked about the room as Miles Davis was being streamed over Qobuz. It was clearly one of the Best Rooms at the show and could have sounded as good in a much larger room. The Sasha DAW is priced in the $40,000 plus range, depending on the finish selected, so combined with the premium VTL tube preamp, the dCS Vivaldi 1 CD player and Shunyata cable, this was an expensive room. The equipment rack was an interesting combination of tubular metal, carbon fiber and plyboo wood shelves.
Peter was eager to shuffle me into the side room of the suite where a WAMM Master Chronosonic speaker was on display along with its separate tower of subwoofers. Priced in the neighborhood of $800,000 plus, it featured an extraordinary upgraded finish that added an additional $30,000 to the price. I've seen videos of such special finishes applied to very high end automobiles and the work involved is both tedious and exacting.
Whether it is desirable or necessary is beside the point as the speaker would be both impressive and imposing in the standard finishes. In this league, where price is seldom a concern, people often simply want the very "best", however that may be defined. Whereas with the Sasha, micro adjustments to the angles of the drivers must be painstakingly made, with the WAMM, they are simply dialed in. As the ultimate statement of David Wilson, this speaker has a secure pedestal in the athenaeum of High End audio.
One of the concerns of many privately held companies is the succession from one generation to another. In the case of Wilson Audio Specialties, this is not a problem given that David's son, Daryl, has been involved in most, if not all phases of the business for decades. From what I've seen from meeting Daryl and witnessing his first ground up product, the Chronosonic XVX, the mentoring has been successful and the transition has gone smoothly. Coming from a three-generation business myself, it was a pleasure and reaffirming to meet Daryl's mother, Sheryl, at their room. The XVX was shown along with its own separate tower of subwoofers.
Priced at $329,000 without the separate subwoofer towers, it is still a product for the very rich, though accessible to many more by virtue of both price and its somewhat smaller size. It also has a more open architecture giving it a feel, almost, of an open baffle speaker. Grills can be fitted to the sides, if you wish, though the aluminum superstructure can easily compliment many of the available colors.
While both the WAMM and XVX were shown in the small room as single speakers, it was a wise business decision to make the Sasha available for listening, as it will appeal to more people attending the show who might actually purchase a pair. At this level of manufacturing from a company this well-established, it is safe to assume there is a family resemblance both up and down the line. Those who are contemplating actually buying the top models can afford to seek out a dealer or visit the factory. It wouldn't surprise me at this level of wealth, if people wouldn't make the purchase unseen and unheard, such is the excellence. It was certainly a treat just to see them.