Worlds’ Best High End Loudspeaker Competition/Demo

Worlds’ Best High End Loudspeaker Competition/Demonstration?

Just got back from the Munich High End show, where I heard the most amazing demonstration. A comparison under identical conditions of the following loudspekers; Thiel CS 7.2, Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage, Audio Physic Kronos, Focal-JM Labs Grand Utopia Be, Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 and TAD-1 (never heard of this one either, go to for further information). This was a group demonstration in front of approximately 120 show attendees at a time, with an audience vote at the end of the final demonstration. I very much doubt anyone in the USA would dare do this type of demonstration at a HiFi show for fear of litigation! This is how it was done.

The demonstration was organized by Stereoplay, a German HiFi magazine. The room was approximately 8m x 30m x 3.5m (approximately 26 ft wide, 66 ft long, 11 ft high. The room had been specially acoustically treated with sound absorbers (sounded fine to me). Each set of speaker had been optimized for room placement before the demonstration (tape marks on the floor). Each set of speakers was auditioned in isolation; the other speakers were kept outside the demonstration room. All speakers were mounted on castors to facilitate moving in and out of the demonstration room (for practical purposes they were kept on the castors for the demonstration). Three pieces of music was played on each set of speakers; a SACD, LP and regular CD. I do not know the names of the pieces (I don’t speak German, so I couldn’t understand what was being said at the demonstration introduction). However, the SACD was Jazz, CD classical and the CD Latin. All recording were of demonstration caliber and full range recording. I believe sound levels had been previously set to enable each set of loudspeakers to play at exactly the same level. Equipment included a Viola Cadenza pre-amp, Pass XA160 power amp, Accuphase DP-85 CD/SACD player, Laufwerk TT (German, high end). All hooked together with some very impressive looking power cables, interconnects and speaker cable (read, very expensive looking). In summary, IMHO, the speakers were being demonstrated under the best conditions possible, albeit with approximately 120 people in a very large room. The overall demonstration took approximately 1 hour. Time between demonstrations was kept relatively short due to some fancy loudspeaker movement and team work.

How did they sound? Fantastic, every single loudspeaker! Mind you, at this price, so they should! I don’t have the ability to describe how each speaker sounded, remember this is a comparative demonstration.

And the winner is? Based on a show of hands after the final demonstration (the demonstration was done in the same order I listed the speakers), the Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 was a clear winner. I think they are the most expensive speakers demonstrated. I personally found the TAD-1s were also excellent.
Nice report. All credit to "Stereoplay" for taking the trouble to organize something like this, and good marks to those manufacturers/distributors who did not shy away from the shootout.

As you say, we are unlikely to see a similar competition here in the USA. The top magazines "Stereophile" and "TAS" lead by example - and they appear to want to avoid shootouts, whereas they are very common in magazines from other countries. I don't know why this should be.

Ok, I live in a very small community--- We're having that same demo next week.--jus,kidin.
I would have loved to have been there tho.
I did hear an impressive demo at the local Radio Shack. (No need to have been there tho)
No doubt you've read the "best speakers,you've ever heard",thread? Did you contrbute to that thread? Did this 'Wilson' supplant whatever your previous fav was??
Mine was the Jadis horns.
Thanks for the info -- I would love to be able to experience more direct comparisons. Mind you, I don't believe there is a "clear" winner in these competitions since people do have different ears. Plus, it's all about synergy and another speaker might have "won" with different front end gear and cabling. Finally, room size matters with speaker performance and this was set up in a very, very large space. Having said all that, I envy your experience. What a unique opportunity!
Oops! Should have said the room was 20m long, not 30m.

Forgot to mention, my show favorite was a B&W 5 channel SACD demonstration using 5 B&W Nautilus 801s and two B&W ASW 850 sub woofers, all 5 main speakers driven by Classe power amplifiers. The N801s were a special for the show finished in piano gloss black (not commercially available). The system looked and sound fabulous. But then again, I am biased; I own a pair of N801s.

Thanks for the info. It's truly a shame that no one here in the US has both the resources and the courage to do this kind of demo. I would have loved to hear this!
Thanks for the post. Like others, we would enjoy such shoot outs in the U.S., but the domestic magazines are unlikely to do so.

I am a big Wilson fan, so I am not surprised. I have some close friends who just sold their X1s to take posession of the X2s shortly. I know that they are quite different, but I have a pair of WAMMs that I would be hard-pressed to part with. Wilson's latest speakers (W/P7,MAXX series 2) are all supposed to benefit from similar new technology. However, I too would love to have had your experience and thank you again for the post.
who cares if you can't afford them? ;)
I also attended the session twice. The first time I was sitting not in an optimal position. The second time I was sitting in the sweet spot - every speaker was positioned by technicians of this producer! The Wilson technician was 5 hours in the listening room to find the ideal position! So the second time there are no excuses to what I heard. All speakers were around 2 - 3 meters away from the back wall. The Alexandria was positioned around 0,5 - 1 meter away from the back wall. In both hearing sessions there was no absolute winner found by the votings of the audience. This is very astonishing for me, especially if you take the prices of the speakers into account. I was disappointed about the Wilson - not only if one see the price. The most profound sound especially in the bass fundament showed the JMLab, but it lacked a little bit of dynamic and precision. For me the new TAD was the outstanding speaker of this comparism. This speaker is nearly perfect. I never before heard a speaker with such a brillant, dynamic and transparent sound. I only can recommend everyone to arrange a listening session with the TAD. I also think, that tweeter materials like Beryllium and Diamond are very important for an absolute high end performance. Examples like the diamond tweeter of the Avalon Eidolon, the Lumen White White light or the Beryllium tweeters of the JMLab and the TAD show the direction. Bravo, TAD!
I agree with Wulf comment on the TAD-1. Almost as good as the Wilson’s, but at 1/3 the price! I would like to have heard more of this loudspeaker.
here is a link for the demo..
Given the reported conclusion of this comparative demo, I surfed the web to see what these Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 look like and ..... come on, they look like the blockhaus bunkers which have been built on the French coasts by the German during the Second World War. Regardless of the money you have to pay for it, who would want to have THAT in their room, even in the garage? Why do we have to put up with at best uninventive, at worst downright ugly designs when it comes to speakers? Which car manufacturer would follow that sort of strategy? At least some have understood that music reproduction should be a holistic art audio yes, but visual too! Thank you Sonus Faber
The demo link is useless, since there are no comments about sound, difference, etc, just a few nice shots... Bah.
I also attended the demonstration twice, I was sitting in the sweet spot (first raw in the middle). The Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 was the best by far with fine timing precision. To my ears, they were the closest speakers to live show. Second was the Focal-JM Labs Grand Utopia Be. They did show very slight lacks of transparency, temporal coherence and dynamic tension, compere to the X2. Third were the TAD-1. Two factors stood out. First was the way the TAD-1 managed to combine most of the virtues of a small loudspeaker in a large full-scale design. Then there was that magnificent be drivers, which which really did deliver the goods, with a clean clarity that sets it well ahead of the pack. Fourt'h place were the Audio Physic Kronos, which were tight, clear, punchy and slight sharp to my ears. Fift'h place were the the Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage. The Stradivari’s bass was impressively crisp and gave the sound a beautifully full and rich warmth with a slight thickening and exaggerating of textures in the mid-bass region. The Thiel CS 7.2 was out of this Competition.
The power amp was Pass X350.

Tomer no way out, more the money better the sound, ouff, life is even tough !