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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought that I would put up for everyone's reading a review done by Marc Mickelson of www.soundstage.com on the Wilson X-2 Alexandria.


http://www.soundstage.com/revequip/wilson_x2/



This is the first of 3 parts. I found it to be interesting inasmuch as there is a description about the production of the cabinets. Recently, in a parallel thread http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=560841 there was a much heated discussion between Morbius and Alimental on cabinet issues when comparing the X-2 and the NHT speakers. This initial review IMO goes to the very heart of the meticulous and time consuming way in which the X-2 cabinets are born.


I too was fortunate enough to have gotten a tour of the Wilson factory and watched the production of these amazing speakers and then to have heard the same demo in Dave Wilson's house between the X-2 and X-1 speakers. It was an amazing and magical experience for me and one which I will never forget.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by oneobgyn
This initial review IMO goes to the very heart of the meticulous and time consuming way in which the X-2 cabinets are born.
OB,


That's a great link. It also points out how big an effect the radiation from the cabinet can be!


Ideally there should be no sound radiating from the surfaces of the cabinet. However, the cabinet

holds the drivers - and as the drivers are vibrating - that vibration is acting on the cabinet.


The cabinet then has to "dispose of" the vibrational energy that it picks up from the drivers.

Normally, the cabinet does that by radiating the energy as sound. However, this secondary

sound doesn't have the proper directional characteristics - as well as the fact that the frequencies

of the vibration are mechanically "filtered" by the cabinet. The cabinet has its own resonanant

frequencies which it will accentuate, as well as other frequencies that it will attenuate.


The acoustic radiation that comes off the cabinet, in essence, tells you more about the cabinet,

and not the music that one is supposed to hear. The cabinet radiation can have no other effect

than to degrade the sound from the drivers.


The goal should be to minimize this secondary radiation that degrades the sound. By making

a massive cabinet, as Wilson does; one minimizes the amount of acoustic energy that goes into

the cabinet in the first place. Additionally, the Wilson "M" and "X" materials are chosen for, and

engineered for their acoustic properties - so that they damp the secondary radiation.


Many speakers are made out of MDF - medium density fiberboard. MDF is a common material

used as a cheap substitute for solid wood - but it was never engineered for its acoustic

properties - only as a structural substitute for solid wood. It's a commodity product.


The fact that Wilson is selecting / developing materials with specific acoustic properties in mind

is a testimony to the advanced engineering in the Wilsons. It doesn't "look" high-tech or what is

often mistaken for high-tech because these advances are not made of integrated circuits.

However, electronics is not the sole hallmark of high-tech.


That's why Wilson Audio is IMO "light years ahead" of many other speaker manufacturers - they

are exploiting the full range of the field of knowledge called "Physics" - and not just one subfield.


Wilson Audio is definitely not a "one trick pony". That's why this physicist is impressed with the

approach taken by Dave Wilson and Wilson Audio.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randybes
RBH also had their Status speakers made out of a composite material but they were very expensive to manufacture so I think they are no longer available.
Randybes,


From a marketing prospective - it's probably a "good idea" to dump the high priced materials.

Many won't appreciate the advantages of these materials - so they wonder where's the "value" for

which they are paying.


That's another reason to say "hat's off" to Dave Wilson and company. It's obvious that his goals

are to produce the finest speakers on the planet - not just to fatten his bottom line. That may

condemn his company to only supplying a niche market - but the audiophiles in that niche are

so much better served. One would only hope that there were more people like Dave Wilson.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
When I toured the factory and saw the machine that was used to cut the raw material to make into the cabinets, I was amazed at how meticulous a process it was. From what I rmember they use a very special glue. Also the screws that are used to set the drivers are made of some special alloy that they have no effect on the sound
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by oneobgyn
When I toured the factory and saw the machine that was used to cut the raw material to make into the cabinets, I was amazed at how meticulous a process it was.
OB,


As I recall, the machining of the "M" and especially the "X" materials are very hard on the cutter

bits. They have to replace these bits at fairly frequent intervals because they just don't stand up

to the abuse they receive. That makes the process expensive. Imagine how expensive tables

and chairs would be if a woodworker needed to replace his tool bits after making a relatively

small number of tables and chairs.

Quote:
From what I rmember they use a very special glue. Also the screws that are used to set the drivers are made of some special alloy that they have no effect on the sound
Again this is also impressive. In my own field; there are "little things" that make all the

difference between success and mediocrity or outright failure.


It's analogous to the lesson that NASA and the USA learned on January 28, 1986 in the loss

of the Shuttle Challenger. All the high-tech electronics and computer processing in the world

won't save you from the fact that the compliance of a simple rubber O-ring decreases with

temperature. If you develop high-tech myopia instead of an even-handed robust approach -

one of those "little things" will turn around and really bite you.
 

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Hi


The X-2 is an incredibly well built speaker. I know few other speaker manufacturer having taken the extreme approach chosen by David Wilson in term of making the cabinet as inert as possible. Maybe Goldmund whose mechanical grounding calls for extreme measures in their speakers and amp. The Goldmund Epilogue is one of the few speakers whose weight approach the X-2 (and the price too!). I see a new turn in Wilson Audio. The X-2 started by being the Ultimate, the Maxx-2 an eminently accurate and neutral speaker, one of the best on the Market at any price. The remaining models on the line though do not seem to be there, yet... The competition is better at their price range.
 

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Every audiophile who comes over to my place marvels at how solid and inert the cabinets are...and that's on my baby Wilsons :) They typically had no idea how well they are made, and understand why Wilsons may cost more.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by oneobgyn
the amazing thing about the cutter is that it is all computer driven
OB,


Actually that technology is available to even a small operation - albeit one that can afford

the $100K buy-in price [ 0.74 Wilson X-2 equivalents :) ].


For example, luthier James Olson, who makes guitars for the likes of James Taylor;

http://www.olsonguitars.com/taylor.html


has a computer controlled cutting machine as part of his rather small shop:

http://www.olsonguitars.com/shop_fadal.html


[Click on the pictures for a closer look.]


As stated for about $100K [ 8 James Olson guitar equivalents], he acquired a used CNC.

As shown, he can lay out the design of the peghead for a guitar using CAD software running

on his little Dell PC - which can then write a program to control the Fadal cutter.


That level of technology is available in a small business housed in a building only a few times

larger than your garage:

http://www.olsonguitars.com/artisan/shop_door.jpg
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morbius
Randybes,


From a marketing prospective - it's probably a "good idea" to dump the high priced materials.

Many won't appreciate the advantages of these materials - so they wonder where's the "value" for

which they are paying.


That's another reason to say "hat's off" to Dave Wilson and company. It's obvious that his goals

are to produce the finest speakers on the planet - not just to fatten his bottom line. That may

condemn his company to only supplying a niche market - but the audiophiles in that niche are

so much better served. One would only hope that there were more people like Dave Wilson.
But if you've seen Wilson's ads lately, they've been doing a good job of highlighting the extra expenses and engineering that go into their products. They're very good, and in my mind, very effective ads. They're not you're typical "show a 3/4 view of the speaker, put a reviewer's best words in quotes for the headline, and rant in the body" kind of ad like most of what you see.


I don't know who's doing Wilson's ads right now, but they're doing a VERY good job. Unfortunately, I don't have a dealer within 200 miles of me, so I can't go see if the message is being clearly reinforced within the dealer network.
 

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You can DIY CNCs for a while now, and it's well within the means of hobbyists today. Nelson Pass had his own home-built CNC for milling out cases before he started Pass Labs. Lots of speaker manufacturers use CNCs to cut their cabinets. A friend of mine built his own CNC to make robot parts.


--Andre
 

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I visited Triad speakers in Portland and they also have that technology. They also make pretty darn dead cabinets albeit with a dfferent method than Wilson.
 

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I haven't visited the Genesis plant, but they certainly have cabinets that are around the same weight class as the Wilson (2500lbs for the Genesis 1.1).
 

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Martin Logan's E2 Statement System weighs in at 1800lbs as well. I am sure that there are others out there in the same weight class - not that they would have the same amount of research as the Wilson, but these weights are not that uncommon in mega speakers.
 

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Mr Poindexter


Touche... I compared the weight of the Genesis V to the WP7 and they are about the same.. They compare also size-wise... I do not remember the "wings" of the Gen 1.1 being inert though. Not at all. The sound did not seem to suffer. I wonder how the Gen 1.1 would compare to the Wilson X-2? I must say that the low bass (
 

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All of the large speaker manufacturers use a CNC machine to cut out the parts (either they own it or subcontract it out). It takes the human (mistake) equation out of the cutting and results in higher yields (and better consistency between parts).

Quote:
Many speakers are made out of MDF - medium density fiberboard. MDF is a common material used as a cheap substitute for solid wood - but it was never engineered for its acoustic properties - only as a structural substitute for solid wood. It's a commodity product.
MDF is not structural at all (it's actually quite weak). Speaker builders (especially DIY'ers) like it due to it's high mass. The high mass results in a resonance frequency that is outside the range of the speaker's operation (assuming proper bracing, etc.). I'm sure the M & X materials are even better at accomplishing this. In the extreme DIY realm there are people who sandwich the MDF with lead sheets and other acoustic dampeners... it would be interesting to see how that measures vs the advanced M&X material.


Is anyone else out there familiar with phenolic resin composites? They are extremely dense (heavy) plastics, stronger than steel and quite expensive. Their characteristics can vary depending on the composite material used with the phenolic. I have a few pieces that I made into woodworking table tops and they are extremely difficult to cut. The looks and properties seem very close to Wilson's mysterious materials. The raw sheets of material for 1 set of X-2s (assuming it is a resin composite) would cost thousands of dollars...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Quote:
The raw sheets of material for 1 set of X-2s (assuming it is a resin composite) would cost thousands of dollars...
The raw sheets of M and X cost even more
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg_R
MDF is not structural at all (it's actually quite weak). Speaker builders (especially DIY'ers) like it due to it's high mass.
MDF also has some degree of self-damping, which is important once the cabinet starts vibrating, and it takes to machining very nicely (though it's hard on the bits), which means you can not only cut it precisely, but you can make all sorts of interesting shapes with it. You can mass produce precision cuts in MDF with CNCs on the order of one hundredth of an inch, or a quarter of a millimeter.


--Andre
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg_R
Is anyone else out there familiar with phenolic resin composites? ...
Greg,


Yes - I am. Carbon Phenolics are used as heat shields for re-entry vehicles.
 
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