I just heard the Wilson Alexandria XLF's Wednesday

My local high end audio shop hosted its annual "Music Matters" open house where reps from their prime product lines demonstrate their latest wares. In the past I've been introduced to many products that were either just reaching the market or still in prototype stage (e.g., the Magnepan Mini's).

In one room we had Peter McGrath of Wilson, Dan D'Agostino with his new $50K/pair monoblock amps, a Meridian rep with a Sooloos front end, and John Atkinson of Stereophile, who had some great 24/96 music files he'd recorded himself.

Two demos were of music Atkinson had recorded with minimal miking--a small orchestra and pianist playing Rhapsody in Blue and a 9-person vocal group with organ accompaniment.

This setup produced the most realistic reproduction of music I've personally heard. I am a subscriber to the Seattle Symphony and attend live concerts there monthly. It's obvious to me that these live performances have--in addition to the music--a sense of room energy that's consistently lacking in audio reproduction. NOT THIS TIME! The Meridian/D'Agostino/Transparent (Opus)/Wilson signal chain produced a completely fleshed-out, live-feeling presentation. A sonic hologram if you will. The presentation was transparent and resonance-free, linear, extended, but most of all, live-sounding.

In fact, the very next demo I went to was of Audio Research pushing the new Wisdom Audio $95K flagship panels+sub system, and it sounded artificial by comparison. On its own I'm sure the Wisdom is an excellent speaker, but following the twice-as-expensive Alexandria XLF it was a complete letdown.

Anyone who has an opportunity to hear the Alexandria XLFs should give them a listen just to see what can be done. For me it completely re-defined what can be done with musical reproduction and makes me regret not setting out to become a millionaire when I was young so I could afford a pair (plus the D'Agostino amps) today.

BTW, in all previous Wilson demo's I've heard (Sophia 2 & 3, Maxx 2 & 3, Alexandria X-2, Watt/Puppy 7, Sasha W/P 8), they always sounded decidedly better--more musical, liquid, resolving, real-sounding--with tube electronics. Not so this time. The D'Agostinos are so neutral and so good at driving the speakers that all you think about is the music and the holographic presentation.
Thanks for taking the time to write this. I can't afford the XLF's either, but Wilson has a habit of tickling down what they learn from the top of the line to their other offerings.

Maybe a Maxx 3.5 is in the works :)

Lot's on nice comments on the D'Agostino amps...seem like you felt they same....The source is so critical...sounds like the really got that part right....What dac where they using?
What dac where they using?

The used the Meridian touchscreen Sooloos as the user interface and media library. I'm pretty sure they fed the Sooloos digital output to a Meridian Source 600 controller, and from there directly into the D'Agostino monoblock amps.
Johnnyb53, I agree about the Wilsons and tube gear. I also thought the Alexandria XLF sounded great with the D'Agostino amps. Maybe the new soft dome tweeter works better with SS amps than the old one.

I think the Wisdom speakers give up to much performance due to their on wall design. If you want to save space maybe they are the way to go.
Back in the 90's I visited Peter Mcgrath's audio shop outside of Miami. The room was exquisitely designed. He played a number of recordings, digital and vinyl through an early generation Watt Puppies and Wilson sub driven by a set of large Mark Levinson's. The sound was quite good. Mr. Mcgrath then played two recordings off of his own master recording tapes. The presentation went from great audio to I cannot believe the performers are not in front of me. It was enlightening to have first hand experience of source-influence. I offer this only to forgo the opinion of the speaker's performance as the single influence in the music prodution.
I've heard the Alexandreas at a friends house.... I'm not sure of which Alexandreas they are....what I hear that they bring to the party is a very realistic sence of dynamic sweep.
Heard the D'Agostino monos with Sashas and agree that it is the best solid state amp I have ever heard and indeed the very first one I liked with Wilson speakers and I've heard many. Doesn't take me out of the tube camp but makes me think maybe there is room for both a tube and ss amp in my system.
So i was (very kindly) invited to the introduction of the new XLF...superb room...D'Agostino Momentum monos...Kalista Ref CD player, ARC Ref 5SE preamp...Transp Opus MM2 Cabling throughout. On the face of it...a superb system and one to be reckoned with. Here's my view of the experience:

- Supreme 'density of signal'...greater by a 'meaningful margin' than Audio Exotics room in Hong Kong (Tidal Sunrays with 2 Tidal tower subs, 3 sets of Tidal Impact monos, Tidal Presencio, Stahl-Tek Vekian, Argento Master Ref cabling, Tripoint grounding/AC).
- This is where i think newer electronics have come a long way (and good speakers thought not necessarily 'the newest ones'...older SOTA is still amazing)...in being able to take the signal and through substantially lower noise floors, more exacting detail retreival...really are able to deliver a very strong, focused, concrete music signal. Older electronics...mainly digital...tend to deliver a 'weaker music signal'...almost like a flashlight where the batteries are getting low.
- On this system...it was like brand new lightbulb and batteries and flashlight. Very impressive.

- Better bass than i recall with X2 Series 2...but that's not a definitive statement because too many variables. What I CAN say for sure, is that this XLF will NOT replace any well setup X2 Series with a good sub. That is not close.

sound on tracks i know extremely well was 'a bit shouty'...which surprised me. I am going to give the system the benefit of the doubt and say there were probably more than a few new components...most likely the Ref 5 SE, as well as of course the speakers, and possibly the Momentums and speaker cables.
- By 'shouty' i mean that even on Amos Lee...on whom Norah Jones does background vocals so you get the idea...his voice felt a little like he was singing/shouting. And that was not the only track where i felt this touch of slightly raw overpowering force.
- Based on what i understand about the new tweeter, and what i already know about the X2, X2 Series 2 and likely the XLF mids, i might point at the Momentum monos which i have heard are 'slightly harder' than the stereo version. I am familiar with the Kalista, Ref 5 (non SE), Transp cables and the X-1, X2 series, so that is my guess.

i appreciate the opportunity to hear it, having heard the Audio Exotics Room last year with similar/same music. Feel free to ask/PM for any other observations.
Thanks Lloydelee21 for your observations. You'll have to visit Audio Exotics showrooom again as it keeps evolving. New Analog Domain amps, Stahl-Tek Vekian Opus upgrade, New Tidal Impact amps for sub, Tripoint THOR grounding cables + all kind of new room treatment.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the Stahl-Tek Opus...i heard the AE room with Stahl-Tek, and tried to 'dissect' what i think the Stahl-Tek was doing...i have a sense.

But my reference (for tonality and musical cohesive presentation) is Zanden, and it is very difficult to make that precise a comparison in a vacuum. I DO know i prefer Zanden to DCS Scarlatti, Wadia...even though the latest digital is more detailed with lower noise floor...i still prefer the musical cohesiveness of the Zanden and its pure tonality.

Lets put it this way...of all the digital i have ever heard (incl Metronome Kalista Ref with C2A, DCS SCarlatti, wAdia s7, Esoteric X01SE, Emm CDSA, ARC CD5, 7, 8, Krell 505, Weiss Medea)...Zanden is my favorite...but the only one i might consider upgrading to is STahl-Tek Opus.

Any thoughts on how you might compare Stahl-Tek Opus is GREATLY appreciated!!!
Lloydelee21, Most likely under your conditions the Zanden will excel in musicality, cohesiveness, and tonality. When you start changing other variables; roomn treatment, power management, grounding, mechanical isolation the results completely changes your perspective of each component. System synergy is the key to making one particular front end excel in one particular system. Noise clouds up the senses and destroys musicality. If you like you can contact me outside of this thread and I'll save you 20 years of trial and error.

Totally agree...change one thing and be prepared for lots of follow-on implications on the rest of the system.

How can i contact you outside of this thread?
I completely agree with the assessment of the D'Agostinos monos. I auditioned them driving a pair of Wilson Sasha at CES '11 and they're probably the most musical setup at the show. Meeting Dan was definitely the highlight for me that weekend. If I can ever afford the upgrade from my current system (801Nautilus + Krell 650mc), it would be the Sasha + Dan's new amps.
HI Sacman,

Just saw your system...pretty amazing! I actually think your system is pretty amazing and am not 100% convinced having heard the Sasha numerous times and the D'Agostino monos that it is as much of an upgrade over what you have.

Will the D'Agostino's present a more refined treble and mid? definitely. Will the Sashas present a smoother upper treble (where it also distinguishes itself from WP7 and before, and somewhat WP8)...yes.

Do i think it is an upgrade i would go for if i had your system?...i actually would be quite happy with your system. And if i did upgrade, would probably feel the need to go a few levels higher than Sasha/650mc.

I would look at 'big tweaks' in your system: first your preamp, then smaller stuff...Monster power conditioner, or cabling. I imagine the Sashas and D'Agostinos were being run with great preamp (ARC Ref 5?) Transp Opus cabling which is absurdly expensive but absurdly good as well. I imagine if you went with SOTA preamp, your sound would change dramatically...for a lot less... You really have an incredible system imho.
Hi Lloydelee21,

I've been an audiophile since I was making minimum wage at $4.75/hr years ago. I went through so many set up and every upgrade was very exciting as the improvement was somewhat aligned with the cost. However, as I went for more expensive gears I think I approached the point of diminishing return. Having the opportunity to attend CES every now and then, I am aways amazed how much more expensive these gears have become. For example, the a pair of YG speakers that costs 100K+ were really good but I'm pretty sure they don't sound 2000% better than my 801N bought used at $5.5K. Another example is the $20K Transparent Opus cables. At the end of the day, I realized that it's the music and time to enjoy listening are the most important things. Having said that, I do think the Sasha were amazing when matched with Dan's new amps. They left the most memorable sound in my head after spending 3+ days going through all the systems at CES in 2011. My recent revamp of the interconnects with the old lines of Transparent Musiclink/Musicwave super seemed to bring out the hidden improvement from my system. On the horizon, I probably will upgrade my PS Perfectwave DAC to MKII.
The D'Agostino Momentum mono's are the closest thing to perfect amplification that I've heard. It's easy to forget you're listening to electronics, without euphonic colorations on one hand or clinical sterility on the other. I've heard them with the Sashas and the Alexandria XLF. Before the D'Agostinos I always liked Wilsons with tubes (e.g., Audio Research Signatures and VTL Siegfried). The D'Agostinos did it for me even better than those.
Hi Johnnyb53. Agree D'Agostinos are some of the best solid state i have heard in many, many years....utterly refined and (as with all D'Agostino designs) utterly powerful.

I have spoken with people who compared the XLFs on ML latest Ref, D'Agostino monos and the Gryphon Mephisto and it seems those who were there preferred Mephisto significantly. My sense is that the Gryphon is more delicately nuanced while being a match or more than a match in sheer power. At this level, it is all about preferences, and probably subtle but meaningful room setup, etc. Just passing along the feedback i got yesterday from someone who had done the audition.
Unlike other Krell products, I'm pretty sure the D'Agostino monos will be collectors' items soon. In addition to the quality, look and engineering innovation, it's worth to consider the historical value being the very first, god forbid if not the last, products after so many years by one of the most legendary audio designers.


06-04-12: Lloydelee21
I have spoken with people who compared the XLFs on ML latest Ref, D'Agostino monos and the Gryphon Mephisto and it seems those who were there preferred Mephisto significantly. My sense is that the Gryphon is more delicately nuanced while being a match or more than a match in sheer power.

I don't doubt that either. I've heard several amps with Wilsons, including VTL, ARC, and Ayre, as well as D'Agostino. But I certainly haven't heard every amp, and I've never heard the Gryphon Mephisto. The Mephisto monoblocks are also more than double the price of the D'Agostinos. They must be really something. Class A with zero global feedback? Hell yeah!

Still, for $50K the D'Agostinos ain't too shabby. :)
Wilson speakers also sound great with the large Pass Labs class A amps.
Hi Johnnyb53...no kidding! Not shabby at all!!! ;)

Peterayer - yes, i have heard that too. I run my old Wilsons with Class A, and love it.
In regards to Siddh's very astute observations listening to high-definition recordings by P.McGrath, i also have had similar exposure to Peter's tapes made on a Nagra-D reel-to-reel of local classical music concerts. needless to say, it sounded like the musicians were trapped inside the speakers struggling to get out... the Wilson
speakers in this case were X-1 Grand Slamms. I am sure the XLF's are very very good having heard the Alexandria X-2.1's which left me thinking about what i had heard for days afterwards (being immersed in sound coming from everywhere). but with the right sources you can expect a lot of systems to open up and reach new heights of sonority. Just how these recording compare to "HD-tracks" i do not know...

Yes, there's nothing like the best recorded source with the fewest generations of copies and mixdowns between the event and the playback medium. The first time I heard a Sheffield D2D was on a portable Zenith record player. In 1975 the stereo shop I worked at hosted a Marantz clinic for measuring and plotting amps and receivers for frequency response, power output, and distortion. The engineer was Reice Hamel, who had recorded several great live albums including Time Jones Live at Caesar's Palace and Buddy Rich's Keep the Customer Satisfied. After the shop closed he took the store staff out to his mobile van for a demo of his traveling gear. Mostly he had a bank of 8" full range JBL speakers powered by little Crown D-75 amps. The source was a 4-track stereo Aiwa reel-to-reel--not a Tandberg, Tascam, or Revox. The sound was a direct mix off the multi-track master and it simply blew us away.

So I know all about that. I've been going to the Wilson demo at this open house every year since 2006. They always play a mix of recordings, sometimes including vinyl, but almost always John Atkinson is there with a 24/96 or even 24/192 recording or two that he's done with minimal miking. So I heard these Alexandria XLFs with a variety of material including 1st-gen copies of meticulously recorded material, and all played over state-of-the-art electronics and cables.

Taking all that into consideration, that XLF rig is the best reproduced sound I have ever heard, period. True, I haven't heard Focal Grand Utopias, top line Magico, or YG. But of everything I've heard, and allowing for a wide variety of source material quality, the XLF is a stunning speaker by any measure.
HI Johnnyb53

Have you heard IRS V, ML Statements or the big Genesis speakers? There is another forum where this debate has just kicked off...and many have said they preferred these line source or super-big panel speakers to the mighty Wilsons. Just curious if you've heard them and what you thought. thanks.
Hi Lloydelee,

No, the only big line source of note I've listened to were some Magnepan 20.1s augmented by a pair of JL F212s. it was an excellent sounded system, especially for a combined list price of $25K, but they were still not XLFs. I would love to hear some of those. The dealer two doors from the Maggie dealer has MLs, but I don't think they have Statements set up for auditioning.

I've never seen/heard current Genesis speakers; ironically they're made in my home town.
Thanks, Johnny...if you ever hear them, pls post!
I'll poke my head in my local ML dealer, Magnolia, and see if they have any Statements set up.

A couple months ago I went there and heard some SF Cremona Ms, and they sounded wonderful. But the most amazing thing was that they were sourced and powered by Marantz SA8004 and PM8004, respectively. Those are unbelievable components for the money.
or at least the Absolute Sound has practically become a Wilson Audio Brochure regarding these latest renditions of "as good as we know how to make" XLF speakers.
i don't recall having ever seen such a lengthy discussion of a product before.
when i heard the the Alexandria-1's i was extremely impressed by what was obviously a very very good loudspeaker, if slightly forward sounding (the resolution was so sharp and in focus that it was really hard to judge this as a fault). plus looking at them straight-on they looked fairly slim and had nice simple lines. needless to say that now Wilson is not going to rest until their reference product has met every challenge (and every challenger). i even saw a mention in the article of re-producing the WAMM system at some time in the future-
something i have thought about again and again after hearing an early edition of the WAMM's and walking out of the store in a daze. was it "live or memorex"
was no longer a dumb slogan about cassette tape but a through-the-looking-glass experience that made me a little crazy when i considered what it would cost to own a system like that. i can only imagine what the last iteration of the WAMM's might have sounded like in the right environment with a killer turntable and cdp (and a nice Studer Reel to Reel). what on earth kind of drivers would Wilson consider now for a WAMM tower? certainly quite a bit better than the ones in the merely-good XLF speaker....! for sure, right?
nothing like a healthy new shot of audiophile-adrenaline to keep the dream alive.
TAS XLF review articulates what I sensed when I heard them; I was listening to greatness. I'm sure the $200K would get good results from Focal, Sonus Faber, or Magico as well as Wilson. I've only heard the Wilsons and they're certainly the best I've ever heard.
one thing i thought was a little tricky about the article, and that was the inclusion of TWO THOR subwoofers as a part of the audition. the speakers already have a 13 and a 15 inch driver and a larger cabinet to get clean bass (even cleaner/better than the alexandria ver.2). he only "mentions" the added effect of the sub's briefly, but doesn't elaborate on what the XLF's aren't quite able to do without them...
i understand the comments related specifically to the speakers themselves, but if you need to get the whole 10th row at a Led Zeppelin Concert effect you might not want to skip on the whole enchilada. this also might help to realize the effect of sitting in the Notre Dame while someone plays the organ.
speaking of which i got to hear a few organ concerts in churches and one of the most impressive ones had an electronic model playing through a VERY good set of speakers. i was surprised but it really did sound fantastic- a few notches above even a great stereo system. maybe THAT was what he was talking about.
As a personal opinion, I agree with Oneobgyn who has posted elsewhere...i would take the Series 2 plus well set up subs over the XLF.

The subs make a tremendous difference...and pretty much all the owners of X1s/X2s i have spoken to use either: JL Gothams, Velodynes or the Wilson Thor.
i agree about working around the bigger cabinet or the port issue by adding a subwoofer. Except Wilson should be willing to offer the new tweeter to owners of either model of alexandrias. Even if the crossover frequency to the midrange drivers might have to be changed it shouldn't be that difficult to do.
i'm going to bet that the tendancy to extra subs on the XLF's or X-2's have as much to do with amplification as to additional drivers, how do you get punch at the point of attack?....and the fact that the X-2 and XLF are a ported speakers.

extra subs, big wattage, and sealed boxes = ease and control in the deep bass and that higher degree of foundation.

not that the bass 'naked' is not darn good, but there is another gear to shift to 'beyond'.
I think that in addition to the higher power in the subs the ability to adjust with the built in eq is the biggest advantage. Also most of the better subs have a measurement mic and software as well.

I would think that for $200,000 they could include high powered self amplified bass section with eq and mic/measurement suite. There are $2,000 subs with these features.

That said having more bass sources (as in more subs) spread out across the room can also help smooth out bass response.
Perhaps the issue of making a 3 or 4 piece reference system to separate the extreme-low frequencies into another enclosure and just doing "mid-bass" on-up with the main system will almost HAVE TO BE the only practical solution to this problem (i.e. completely effortless Bass). In the WAMM system each frequency band was addressed with
a very specialized speaker- including even an electrostatic driver. each driver could be adjusted in all directions. the configuration i saw had mono block amps
for the front towers and a stereo amp bridged to mono for the two subwoofer cabinets in the rear. even this set-up was revised several times before
Wilson stopped making it, and only a rare few know what exactly those refinements were. but if the company was at least willing to include a wire harness and a crossover control box it might be at the very least a useful experimental model to explore not only "the best we know how to make" but literally "closest to what i heard in the concert hall".
coming back down to Planet Earth for a moment, something is bothering me about Wilson's insistence that if you use MDF and compromise in various areas that don't have a direct effect on the sound, that it would undermine their philosophy (even though it would be MUCH less expensive).
i personally don't care how long the drill bits last making a cabinet- can
you dampen vibrations using a combination of materials that don't cost a fortune to obtain and don't cost as much to assemble? that's just as worthy an approach as any other and $200 grand does not automatically buy you the best SOUNDING loudspeaker. $200 GRAND... to listen to pre-recorded music.
philosophically speaking, i would feel even better "spending the difference" directly supporting musicians that can make great music.
i remember seeing Art Blakey (ATJM) a few months before he died. towards the end of their set, Art asked the audience that if they enjoyed the concert to PLEASE go out and buy some Jazz records, because the sales of straight-ahead recordings were so minuscule and players were struggling to feed their families. imagine an icon of jazz history shamelessly pleading to an audience for financial support.
Hey, i am sorry, but when i get wound up, i can't stop for a while... I love great sounding systems, but i need to look hard at the numbers too.
I have started to see these 4-tower guys come to the fore again:
- EA MM7
- Gryphon Pendragon
- Genesis 1.2/Dragon
- Tidal Sunray/Dual Tower Sub

I wonder if XLF/Dual Thor should be considered a 4-speaker set in the same way? I suspect so given that they have a dedicated Wilson Crossover presumably designed with this exact configuration in mind.

I think Jacob Heilbrunn owns it...have emailed him. Anyone have thoughts on this?
Johnnyb -

Thanks! for sharing. While I have not heard the newest Wilson XLF loudspeakers, I have auditioned Wilson Sasha & Sophia loudspeakers.

Associated gear during my demo time was ARC CD5 cd player, ARC Ref5 pre-amp and Bryston 3B ST power amp. Cables/cords were Transparent OPUS line and a Transparent powerline conditioner.
The room was very heavily damped plus Bass Traps in all 4 corners. The room was perfectly square as well.