Wilson MAXX musicallity and sound

I am missing the liquid and icy sound of high end audio with the following expensive combination . How can I improve achieve that dream sound:
Wilson MAXX 1, Accuphase A50 V power amp,Air tight ATM 211 single ended mono amp, air tight ATC 2 pre and Accuphase DP80L/DC81L cd/converter with Transparent referecne speaker cable and Accuphase DG38 room correction /equalizer. It is quite an expensive system but lacks that liquid sound of high end and bass extension. Please share your opinion how to improve it.Thanks
WIlson speakers are extremely sensitive to room set-up; especially considering the modular design used for time-alignment that the Maxx's incorporate. You might want to have your dealer come back out to re-position the speakers using the Wilson Audio Setup Procedure (WASP). You have some amazing equipment which should have plenty of potential for what you are searching for. Good luck.
Please post a picture of your room, also post measurements and placements of room treatments.
Maybe you should throw a little bit more money at the problem. J/k. :)

This is almost certainly an issue with your room. I would call a professional consultant or at the very least check out the room acoustics circle at audiocircle.com

I have heard the watt puppies and the max2's on a couple of different occasions through Mark Levinson, Rouge Audio and Krell electronics; all good to excellent electronics. I have never been impressed with the musicality of any of these systems. I have always come away thinking though that it must be the electronics (not a good system match IMO) and not the speakers. This is primarily because they are so highly rated by most reviewers.

I have not heard any of the Wilson products in my room with my electronics. I use all conrad johnson electronics in my current system which is very musical IMO. I can't help but feel cj would bring the same level of musicality to the Wilson products as well but I may be wrong; just my thoughts.

Good Luck as it must be frustrating spending so much money and not getting what you want out of your system.
I am missing the liquid and icy sound of high end audio with the following expensive combination . How can I improve achieve that dream sound?

Of course you are. This system is pretty much SOTA. It won't give you warm sloppy bass or icy sound. In short not boom boom tizz. The midrange will be quite forward compared to other speakers (not because it is - but because it is flat where most normally dip).

However, your amplification looks woefully underpowered for the speakers - they dip to nearly 2 Ohm - an extremely difficult load - so you may need something with high current capability like a Krell.

If the sound is claustrophobic (lacks air or spaciousness = is that what you mean by "liquid") then it may be a grill or a placement issue. The chunky way this speaker is built will inevitably mean that you get odd grill effects and some additional edge diffraction compared to other speakers - depending on your listening position/placement this may be more or less intrusive. (For example, the support structure for the midrange tweeter module may have an influence and you might try some foam padding there to see if it might be affecting the sound. Also check the manual to see if thois uis supposed to be used with grill on or grill off....I suspect the grill will make a juge difference.)
No matter how great the speaker and electronics, the speaker must be properly placed in the room. Given the weight and size, these babies are often just "plopped" into an approximately good position and left to disappoint the owner forever.

IMHO, you should beg and pay a Sumiko dealer to come out and do a Sumiko Master Set for you. Don't change any equipment until you do this. You can't judge a system until the speakers are properly set. In the few Wilson systems that I've heard, this is a chronic problem, with great speakers not reaching near their potential due to lackluster placement.

See my review of the Sumiko Master Set and Guidocorona's comments regarding the Master Set of his system for more in-depth discussion.


2 years ago I have a pair of watt puppy 6's, moved into a new house. Just wasn't happy with the sound. Called a Wilson dealer in Austin, TX. He spent about 8 !!! Hours dailing them in. It makes a major difference.

Since, I've upgraded to the WP 8's. Seriously you have great speakers. Amp matching is critical, I can't really comment on your electronics, I just am not familiar with them.

I can say, Wilson speaker positioning is critical and transformation when done perfectly.

Good luck!
In addition to speaker placement (so critical for Wilson speakers, need to get them right down to the last 1/2 inch), room treatment you can also explore vibration control.

You didn't mention how you are placing your equipment but in my experience proper vibration not only improves but is critical in any hi-end system. The changes can be night and day and seems to affect the extreme ends of the sound frequency - top and bottom end. Exactly the issues you are experiencing.
05-15-08: Flkin said:
"In addition to speaker placement (so critical for Wilson speakers, need to get them right down to the last 1/2 inch), ..."

Some of us believe that you need to get it down to 1/16", really, it's that critical. However, the reward is well worth the trouble.

Reading this could scare anyone away from high end audio...
05-15-08: Rgs92 said:
"Reading this could scare anyone away from high end audio..."

Yes indeed, as would the prospect of spending tens of thousands on speakers and having them perform marginally.

You can spend all the money you want on equipment, but if it's not set up correctly it'll likely disappoint.

Speaker position maybe your biggest problem. Can you get a Wilson dealer in to help you "voice" (position) your speakers? Additionally, maybe Lamm, VTL, ARC or CAT might get you closer to what you want than your Accuphase and Air Tight combination.
I don't agree about speaker placement and room acoustics. I had many problems with the sound and highs from my system running Krell, MF, Marantz. I tried all sorts of things with the room along with speaker placement and power conditioners. I finally bought a McIntosh MC402 and it cleared up 90% of the issues in one fell swoop. I'm not saying the McIntosh is everything - but the synergy between my DAC and speakers basically got me listening to the music again instead of analyzing the sound constantly while listening. People sometimes say it's about the relationship between the components - a hard thing for me to take since "a great piece should be a great piece" - but that's the way the ball bounced. IME.
Fpooyandeh- have you tried a source other than the Accuphase DP80L/DC81L, and as Flkin points out,do you have any vibration control under you components?

Dcstep- Read your Sumiko Master Set review, but I don't see how you can get good imaging with that huge cabinet between your speakers and a reflective table directly in front of your left speaker.
Kana813, it's about the balancing the sonic energy. Notice that there are big openings on each side and they're pretty close to the wall behind them and one wall is straight and the other juts out right behind the right speaker. All of those would be avoid be avoided in more "traditional" placement methods.

Did you read Guidocorona's more limited discussion of the Master Set in his space?

Dave- Yes, I saw Guidocorona's comments, and I'm sure you're both happy, but I'd love to see before and after a Sumiko Master Set room measurements taken from the listening position.
I wonder how we'd measure the intermodulation distortion at the listening position, do you have any ideas? This is about way more than frequency response.

"I wonder how we'd measure the intermodulation distortion at the listening position, do you have any ideas? This is about way more than frequency response."

Dave- Forget ID measurements, just try to borrow a TacT RCS unit which will measure frequency, pulse response and allow you to EQ the system. They also have a feature call
XTC(see: http://www.ambiophonics.org/Ambiophiles.htm), which should work wonders on a set up like yours.
Like Dave says in his descriptions of the Sumiko Master Set procedure, getting the focus right in bass, mid, treble and everything in between is very difficult but achievable. If you want to DIY, you can use mono recordings to assist in getting balance and focus correct. In my particular setup, when my Wilsons were in the incorrect position, the bass would shift around 1 foot to the left of center even with mono recordings. Or the bass would sound like it was a coming from a different speaker and not contiguous with the rest of the music. I guess this is the result of an unlevel frequency response caused by the cancellation or doubling effect of sound "nodes" occurring in the room.

However once I hit that sweet spot, suddenly, the image became dead center, the bass, mid, treble and all in between grouped together in the center and played as one (remember it's a mono recording, I use one of Ella Fitzgerald's earlier works). Forget testing with stereo recordings, there are just too many variables and unknowns.

Don't forget that your sitting location is important too. You have to choose your favourite sitting location and then optimise the speaker setup for that one location. I find that speaker setup is dependent on the sitting location and even hifi components. I had my sofa too close to the back wall by 4 inches and just couldn't get the speaker focus right. When I moved the sofa forward, the focus eventually snapped into place.

If this sounds all too complicated, just call someone and pay for a proper setup. For me, it's part of the hobby and learning process.
Based on what I see all your equipment is excellent,but there has been significant improvements in digital recently. Two years ago I purchased an MSB Tech Platinum CD Player II and I am on my second upgrades and I can tell with each one there was a significant improvement in sound to do with range,clarity and depth of the music. Stereophile has rated the MSB DAC the second best in the world. The best one was for over $30,000 and the MSB sells for around $6,000 ,it probably as good as it gets. MSB Tech is a neat little company in California and all they really care about is are DAC's they do have other stuff to go along with it but their main focus is the Dac. Upgrades are always available when they make the next significant improvement.Plus they have the new ilink which will tolally Plow you away it make any cd player obsolete. I now sit for hours listening to music that I haven't listen to in years.
From what I here Accuphase has fallen way behind in technology in this area.
How and why would I forget IM Distortion???? It's way more important than EQ in making the system "listenable". You're shooting at the wrong target when you put all your focus on EQ.

I wonder how we'd measure the intermodulation distortion at the listening position, do you have any ideas? This is about way more than frequency response.

I don't think you mean IMD. IMD comes from an amplifier driving a bass signal (amps) and a midrange signals (milliamps) at the same time. The huge demands from the bass signals will cause new frequencies to be intermodulated around a vocalists voice or other midrange instruments (called sidebands). These intermodulations are totally unrelated to the voice of the vocalist and are very intrusive. For example, a kick drum at 80 Hz played at the same time as 500 Hz, 1000 Hz and 2 and 4 Khz harmonics from a vocalist creates all kinds of additional frequencies....920 Hz, 1080 Hz, 2080 Hz, 1920 HZ, 4080 HZ and 3920 Hz and many more multiples of the 80 Hz. such as 1160 Hz and 840 Hz and so on and so forth. This results in a loss of clarity and makes it harder to hear detail - it can also be fatiguing. Think of it as a blurry lens...or camera shake on a photo...the amplifiers huge efforts at big power hungry kick drum bass is "shaking" or "blurring" the midrange vocalist.

However, this is not what I think you mean. I suspect you are referring to Comb Filtering. This is where one reflected wave interferes with another. For example: bass frequencies are omnidirectional up to about 600 Hz so these frequencies radiate backwards from your speakers, bounce off the wall behind them and selectively reinforce or destroy all of what you hear in the lower midrange.

There are only three known solutions to properly hear the lower midrange primary signal;

1) Place speakers at least 6 feet from the wall behind them and sit close to the speakers (this reduces the effect dramatically and it is exactly how near-fields are used in studios to get an accurate mix)
2) Soffit mount the speakers (eliminates the issue altogether)
3) Headphones

Above about 600 Hz this is a non issue as the rear wall behind the speakers no longer has any effect as sound only raidates forward from typical box speakers at these frequencies. So this issue is most noticeable on male vocals. If you find female vocalists very tightly placed in the soundstage and beautifully transparent and crystal clear but male vocalists do not sound quite as clear, transparent ot tihtly focussed in the same way => then "comb filtering" or rear wall quarter wave cancellation is typically the problem....move your speaker well out into the room if you observe this!
I agree with Gerrym5

There is a guy on AVS with the exact same speakers and he has a set of LAMM's and swears it the best he has ever had. Yes, subjective, but apparently several members have also hear the system and are complimentary.

As for Accuphase, well power amps isn't what I think of when I hear Accuphase. transport/DA, etc maybe. Falls into the same camp as Esoteric, though I think Esoteric makes a superior digital product.
"IMD is is the result of two or more signals of different frequencies being mixed together (as in a stereo speaker set up where the signals are not always equal in frequency), forming additional signals at frequencies that are not, in general, at harmonic frequencies (integer multiples) of either." (Wikipedia)

"A comb filter adds a delayed version of a signal to itself, causing constructive and destructive interference. The frequency response of a comb filter consists of a series of regularly-spaced spikes, giving the appearance of a comb." (Wikipedia)

I think that both exist in our speaker systems. Prior to experiencing the Sumiko Master Set I dealt with these issues by moving my speakers six-plus feet out into my room. This sacrificed bass performance and still could leave female voices "shouty" or "hooty" and trumpets hardedged and harsh, rather than brilliant.

The Master Set minimizes these negative effects, rendering the system much more transparent and detailed, while removing stress and harshness. It's like a major upgrade in equipment when you experience it.


I'm not putting all my focus on EQ. First, I want to know
what the frequency and pulse response look like, and use that info along with listening to position the speakers before applying any room correction.

With your rear ported speakers a foot out from the wall behind them, I doubt you're getting flat bass response.
I think that both exist in our speaker systems.

Absolutely. Most systems generate suprisingly high levels of IMD - basically it is a result of non-linearities in the system performance. An amp will not perform exactly in the same way when delivering 1 Amp of current as it does when delivering 1 milliamp. A speaker driver will not behave exactly the same way at the center of its travel when compared to sticking out one quarter of an inch and at its maximum Xmax of excursion (linear operating range where non-linearities are less than a terrible 10%). Therefore when amp and speaker cone are oscillating from one extreme to another (as it plays your favorite big band or rock tune) it causes intermodulation on the delicate voice of the vocalist - "the camera shake affects the photo" analogy.

IMD is rarely caused by speaker placement or the room. Most of what the room does (reflections) is an entirely linear effect and will not create any new frequencies. Only if things get loud enough to rattle and vibrate surfaces can a room or objects in the room create completely new frequencies not on the recording. This is when the vibrating surfaces add their own sounds. Typically these things will not go away with changing speaker placement or listening position...whereas an extra screw in the drywall or blutak tightening the catch on a cabinet door may help.
Kana813 said:

"I doubt you're getting flat bass response."

Duh, who is?? However, very precise placement has mitigated the most obtrusive nodes and balanced the bass vs. the midrange. Moving the speakers fractions of inches can excite nodes

That's way less important than the phase/comb/IMD effects that so gravely impact our musical enjoyment. When you take care of these issues, gone is the harshness, fog and veiling caused by these distortion components.

Shadorne, I don't know how to measure it or demonstrate it, but I believe there is IMD caused by the interaction of the two speakers with each other, not the room.

As a musician I often hear beat tones and difference tones when playing with others. These same kinds of things are going on between the two speakers. I've also experience the power multiplication when a group (say five trumpeters) gets totally in sync, totally in tune and playing with equal resonance. It's hard to explain, but when you experience it it's unforgettable. Anyway, getting the speakers ideally placed within their acoustic space and relative to each other is very important, no matter what we call it.


Once again it would be interesting to see the frequency response of your Sumiko Master Set placement measured at your listening position.

With your rear ported speakers a foot off the back wall, I'm
sure moving your speakers fractions of inches will excite room nodes. The manual for your speakers(http://www.sumikoaudio.net/va/manuals/BeethovenManual.pdf) makes this very clear.

Using the TacT system, I have flat bass response down to 20hz using no boost. Speakers are placed to optimize imaging. I have digital EQ and XTC available, so I don't have to suffer with poor recordings.
Yeah, but you suffer with IMD, comb filtering and other artifacts that are much worse than any EQ issues.

You seem to have no idea what I'm talking about. To that it avoids exciting bass nodes it has a little to do with EQ, but it's mostly about removing distortion.


You have no idea how the TacT system works.

You have no idea if my biamp'd system is suffering from IMD, comb filtering or any other artifacts, you've never hear it.

Glad you happy with your sytem, but I'm always amazed that people who claim big improves in their systems, refuse to take any measurement to verify what they're hearing.

You haven't proposed a measurement that would verify improvements in IMD or comb effect. I'd love to measure it, but I've never read of anyone doing it. If there's a way and some resources that you could point me to, then maybe I could measure it with the help of the Colorado Audio Society.

I've read much about TacT and I'll leave it at that, given the issues being aired over at the Asylum.

Unless you've addressed IMD or comb filtering in your set up, then you almost certainly have it.

How does bi-amping impact IMD and/or comb filtering. Seems like adding devices to the signal path would increase the chance of IMD, in particular, rather than decrease it.

BTW Kana813 I looked at your system and see that you did, either on purpose or intuitively, address comb filtering and to some degree IMD by moving your main speakers way out into the room. Then you offset the bass loss with subwoofers. I assume that you attenuated the bass nodes electronically.

I agree that your method can work reasonably; however, I suspect that further refinement of the main speaker placement using Master Set would further improve your setup. Integrating the subs is often problematic, but something that can be addressed with some work.

BTW, please let know what happen when you take the next steps.
Hi Dave, you said, "You haven't proposed a measurement that would verify improvements in IMD or comb effect. I'd love to measure it, but I've never read of anyone doing it. If there's a way and some resources that you could point me to, then maybe I could measure it with the help of the Colorado Audio Society."

You can use the free program at the Home Theater shack here

It does all of that and more. when you get some measurements you can post them in the post "in room response" in the speaker section.

Thanks for the link Bob, but that link is to an "In Room EQ Analyser". I couldn't find anything about measuring IMD, comb effect or anything similar. Where is that part?

Hi Dave, go to the link for Home Theater Shack halfway down (under downloads) and search there. Also Downloads is where you can download the program for Room EQ Wizard which is the program to test for freq response, waterfalls RT60, IMD etc. you need the RadioShack meter.
I heard the Wilson MAXX speakers with the Evolution Krell gear. And WAS NOT IMPRESSED. Look into Vandersteen 5A's. You will be glad you did. You can thank me later. Roger
I agree with the suggestion of a Vandersteen 5A which is real nice and has extra power with the powered woofer. Even better is the Evolution Acoustic MM2 or MM3.

Fpooyandeh, can you tell us a little bit about the room and speaker positioning? I know you have a "room correction" equalizer, but it cannot correct the loudspeaker's radiation pattern, and that might be part of the problem.

Bass varies enormously from one room to another, so while it's unusual for the Maxx to come up short in this department it's possible. Perhaps a change of speaker or listening position would be beneficial.

I would think the Accuphase would be well suited to driving the Wilsons within its power limits, but the Airtight might be a questionable match.

The component that has the greatest effect on your overall sound is the loudspeaker system. I hate to say it, but if you are looking to make a major change in how your system sounds that might end up being the component to replace.

If you are willing to consider a complete system change, the best sounding system I have heard was by Sonicweld. It's not cheap, but it includes everything except the source component(s). www.sonicweld.com. Don't let the appearance put you off - this system is about ultrahigh sound quality, not eye candy.

Best of luck to you,