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Out-of-box experience
: With the speakers proudly ensconced in their sanctuary, it came time to hook up the amps. You’ll immediately notice that each Sasha has a single pair of rather small copper/brass gold-plated binding posts which can make for a rather messy appearance in the case of hefty lugs such as at the ends of my Wild Wood speaker cables. These wonderful cables support the varied speakers that cycle through my listening room—hence the biwiring—but the Sashas like the Magicos have a single pair of speaker terminals intended for full-range cables. Even in this case the posts seem rather dainty although visually attractive enough for the large lugs typically found on top-quality cabling.

Audio reviewing often entails a series of short-term relationships without one hopes too many $10,000 misunderstandings. If these speakers were to be mine forever, the standard Wilson binding posts would quickly be replaced with the new WBT 0705ag or similar. The same goes for the four posts on the tweeter and midrange enclosure on top. Here the existing posts are correctly sized for the lugs on the Wilson umbilical that goes down to the crossover and look considerably more presentable. However a covered recessed compartment that concealed the technical innards would be even nicer. In the past some Wilsons used to come with WBTs although no longer. My recent experience with swapping the already substantial mid-range WBTs with their line-leading NextGen model was frankly astonishing. Colleagues in the cabling industry assure me this is to be expected and that in the first half inch it can be all over sonically if the plating and metals underneath are sub par.

That the décor-hostile binding posts and wire terminations are not hidden under some kind of a cosmetic panel especially at this lofty price point is beyond me. Let the men design the electronics and crossovers, leave the look and feel to women. Many marriages could be saved if this simple recommendation were widely adopted. After all guess who calls the shots?

Listening for the fun of it: How do they sound right out of the box? Coherent in a word which to me means that the entire sonic fabric seems to be cut from the same cloth. Instead of various components of the audio spectra tending to wander off in different directions, the Sashas even from the beginning create the illusion that four drivers and one port are a single transducer in fact. This of course is a very desirable state of affairs and Wilson should be commended for this achievement. According to reports in the audio press, the Sashas do represent something of a departure from prior design and engineering practices at the company in that advanced software crossover modeling was used to a much greater extent than on earlier products.

From the start you’ll quickly appreciate that the Sashas are quite special and well worth the price of admission. However, regardless of what your friendly audio salesperson tells you, it will as usual be several weeks before the electrical and mechanical components are harmonizing at their best. In my case the speakers were playing background material at low levels around the clock. Along with a few hours a day of listening at normal volume, they were also massaged with a total of about 50 hours of the XLO Reference Recordings system burn-in track played at high levels.

During this lengthy conditioning process one’s attention is drawn from time to time to the dimensions of the bass cabinet especially when the music goes on excursions into Stygian depths which the Sashas can readily produce. While the overall sound was smoothly integrated from top to bottom with respect to timbre, there was a sense that the radiation patterns of various drivers (referred to as rad pat in the trade) were somewhat different. Eventually the spatial overlap of them lined up quite nicely and like the Cheshire Cat of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Sashas gradually disappeared leaving only a mysterious smile.

As the conditioning period wound down, it was time to give serious consideration to the boxes' final position in the room. On the advice of an acoustical design firm this was to be a location about 29% of the room's length from the front wall and 20% left to right from the side walls. After considerable experimentation the best soundstaging occurred with the speakers a little farther apart—8' tweeter to tweeter—and thus at 16% of room width. With the speakers closer together the images tended to overlap; farther apart they snapped into focus.

Wilson recommends toeing the speakers in so that one can just barely see the inside face of the bass cabinets from the listening chair. This amount of yaw seems just about right. Finally in an adventurous moment it occurred to me to take off the grilles which yielded an immediate improvement in just about everything, especially transients and midrange clarity. They’re still removed and will stay that way.

Unlike all too many high-end speakers, the Sashas are not tweaky, cranky or possessed of many virtues except for a long list of irritating defects. Such products and their reviews remind me of those non-sequiturs offered by consumer-price index analysts who uncritically report that inflation was down considerably except for food and energy costs which rose sharply. The Sashas are about enjoying music, of building that direct connection with the performers in ways that only the most balanced and evolved speakers can deliver.

For those considering solid-state amps, the listening notes from the Odyssey Kismet monoblock review will give you the story from the perspective of the electronics. Ed’s comments following mine today convey the essence of the tube experience (it’s totally tubular). While comparing the essential sonic character of a speaker versus the amps as if they were completely independent is a bit of an artifice of course but consideration of our combined listening experiences with both technologies will give you some angles from which to evaluate how it could all sound in your own living room. 

Tonal balance: As others have noted, the Sashas are overall slightly warm to the touch. This is not a cloying or obscuring warmth and one might prefer to think of it as an absence of coldness or dryness. There’s a vibrancy and uplifting feeling to the best concert halls which while not necessarily warm per se creates a palpable sense of expectation and enjoyment. Warmth in this loose sense suggests life and liveliness rather than a heartless electromechanical facsimile thereof. And the Sashas exhibit something similar. A slight warmth in my view is much easier to take especially long term than coldness which often ends up being edgy, tiring and overly expressive of details taken somewhat out of context.

Such inherent warmth does not however imply timidity. Even enthusiasts of killer bass need look no further. The Sashas deliver impact, pulsation, growl and rumble with great ease. But that’s just one aspect of the term bass which more broadly really expresses how the lower three octaves give foundation to the entire rest of the musical experience. One thing to keep in mind is that the powerful woofers can quickly overpower even small or medium-sized rooms. This results in channeling the infamous and odious Wallboard Orchestra which literally comes out of the woodwork.

Even if you live in a concrete cube, the Sashas will energize and resonate structural elements in your house you probably don’t want to know about. Low frequencies go through concrete quite well compared to the highs and the resulting release of energy back into the room is a problem. It’s probably not surprising that my recommendation would be to avoid combining the Sashas with subwoofers. There’s no need for them in most applications and it could be very difficult to get things sorted out.

One other thing to consider: If you are interested in the experience of superb musical playback in the home, discard the concept of purity and start learning how to apply equalization in moderate appropriate doses. Knocking some of the low and midbass down by a few dB paradoxically results in stronger and more realistic bass. Much of the rest of the spectrum clears up as well because, after all, the range of frequencies reproduced by a sound system is a continuum. Everything interacts with everything else and seems to do so from the bottom up. High frequencies are pretty much just the fizz or ripples on top of the massive broad lower frequency waves underneath.

Addressing surplus bass using external mechanical sound treatments is often difficult although such measures can help. But the lack of directionality inherent in acoustical bass waves makes control quite difficult. Instead fix it in the mix before it can enter the speakers or room. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the simple low-resolution EQ controls available for free in most software-based digital media players. Judiciously used their effect on the music may be a whole lot better than nothing and the results can actually be excellent and certainly instructive.

Think for a moment how dramatically differentiated the higher octaves are. Even though the number of Hertz so to speak is quite limited in the bass octaves, the Sashas are capable of bringing out all kinds of finely graded nuances which are beyond the capability of most speakers. My opinion is that the Kismets with their low-end oomph and current may be a highly positive influence in making this happen. The Sashas are still going strongly as they pass well below the audible range. The woofers are making very large excursions close to 10Hz which also corroborates the Kismet’s specifications in this extreme of the spectrum.

With respect to the midrange and in the absence of deficiencies, what’s left is hard to describe other than that integration with the bass is seamless. Listening to the Sashas with all kinds of music as a musical line dives into the depths, one expects to hear a discontinuity or other shift in timbre during the handoff between drivers but this hasn’t happened yet.

With respect to the treble, the tweeters pretty much aren’t there meaning that the very high frequencies never call attention to themselves but instead are integrated in proper proportion with the rest of the music. The ease and unobtrusiveness of the high end may well be enabled by everything down below being in order.