Hits (And Misses…) Munich High End – 2023

This system was assembled and set-up under the eagle-eyes of Kevin Wolff of CH Precision and Stirling Trayle (Audio Systems Optimized), both of whom had flown in from the West Coast of the USA for the event. By running a step-by-step account (and timeline) of its installation and evolution, I’ll try to throw light on some of the hidden aspects of show performance – and why what you hear at shows is so seldom representative of what systems are really capable of. If you wanted to hear a Wilson sound in Munich, this was the place to do it. Once you understand what went into the set up, the reason for that should be obvious.

Day 1 (and before that):

The Munich show starts on a Thursday and for most companies that means set up starts on the Tuesday. However, those companies serious about sound (and some with multiple rooms or a particularly ambitious build out) pay a premium for access on Monday. In CH’s case, it actually starts with arrival late on Sunday, so that they are ready to start build and installation at 9:00 AM on Monday morning. But even that is just the completion of weeks of planning, packing, lists and logistics. It is important to appreciate that this stuff doesn’t just happen. The process started with the unloading, completion and installation of the part-built racks (part-built on the basis that anything that can be done in advance is a bonus), ready for the arrival of the equipment, speakers and acoustic treatment. Meanwhile, with the room still bare, the Nordost Odin 2 cables were all laid out and carefully straitened, to get the travel ‘kinks’ out and ease dressing them.

With the racks installed and levelled, it was time to unbox, place, individually mechanically ground, level and cable the main system. That means greasing, inserting and adjusting 52 grounding spikes! In this case, the dedicated spikes for the CH components were seated onto Silent Mount SM3 two-part titanium footers. The main system was carefully cabled with the Odin 2 wires, paying particular attention to the routing of power and signal cables. AC distribution was via the latest QB8 Mk. III power blocks. These were stood on Neodio B2 supports. The turntable compressors and motors were connected to a Chord PowerHAUS M6 distribution block, in an effort to prevent their electrical pollution reaching the AC ground.

Meanwhile, the frames, curtains and the heavy, absorbent layer that help treat the room were installed. With those in place, it was finally time to un-crate the speakers and build the Alexx V. First step in this process was to loosen, straighten and re-seat the gantries that support the mid and treble drivers. The fixings were then all tightened to uniform torque settings to prevents twisting or tension in the structure. Each driver was also checked for the correct torque settings on its mounting bolts, to eliminate the affects of transport. The driver modules were then installed, using the Wilson alignment tables to establish initial settings – settings that would be adjusted both once the speakers had found their final position and then further amended during the on-going set-up phase. With the speakers connected and playing, it was finally time to call it a night – before all the restaurants stopped serving!

Day 2:

With the speakers connected to the system, it was time to start set up in earnest. In fact, the whole second day was given over to positioning the speakers and sub-woofers. For initial set up, a D1.5 CD/SACD player was employed, owing to ease of use, available material and consistency. Working with one speaker only, the initial position and bass alignment was minutely adjusted and the Wilson Diodes installed. Now alignment started in earnest, with exacting adjustment of height and toe-in. At this point the speaker was set vertical, the positions of the mid and treble modules were recalculated and they were vertically and horizontally aligned using a self-levelling laser to ensure precise adjustment. Quick to describe, this was an extremely time-consuming process. However, once completed, the settings were carefully transferred to the other speaker (in this symmetrical room), before the position of that too was then pain-stakingly individually optimised.