Hits (And Misses…) Munich High End – 2023

Meanwhile, show gremlins bit hard, the Fuuga picking up something nasty and impossible to remove from its stylus tip early on Saturday afternoon, meaning that a replacement needed to be installed that evening, run overnight and then dialled in on Sunday morning – so another seriously early start!

Interestingly, although the Alexx V required constant adjustment and took days to achieve any sort of mechanical equilibrium, the WatchDOGs, once set required no adjustment whatsoever. The likely reason for this is the difference in the spikes fitted. The rounded tips on the Wilson spikes used on the Alexx do not penetrate the course carpet at the MOC: the slender tips of the Track spikes do. As the Wilson spikes slowly compress the carpet, the speaker shifts – with clearly audible results in terms of timing integrity, instrumental focus, bass weight and clarity. Every morning, the speakers sounded ‘off’ and needed to be brought back into alignment. The right speaker was particularly problematic, with a tendency for the rear left corner to ‘sink’, altering the critical azimuth and listening axis.

All of which suggests two things: firstly, Wilson could (should?) offer a sharper, carpet piecing spike with a slimmer profile – even if it’s only for shows; secondly, the difference in performance that was so obvious between the Alexx Vs in the CH room and the Wilson speakers elsewhere at the show reflects the difference between spending three days setting up one pair of speakers and one day setting up eight pairs. Throw in the complication of speakers settling when installed on the carpet and it’s no real surprise that so many of the Wilson speakers in Munich underperformed so badly.

One other thing is worth mentioning. Having sat through much of this set up saga, and done the same last year, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the process was the way it fastened on the speaker itself. Although the source, electronics and cables were all common, these two systems sounded completely different. This was no search for some imaginary ‘reference’ sound. Last year, the set up really maximised the performance attributes of the Rockport Lyras; this year the focus was on meeting the Wilsons on their own terms and making the best ‘Wilson’ sound possible – something that this set up really achieved. The sound, the presentation, the sheer energy and presence in the reproduction left nobody in any doubt that this was a Wilson speaker – irrespective of the driving system. And this system really drove these speakers. Experiencing the set up process underlined just how critical that process is, with any system operating at this level, when it comes to realising that system’s potential. It also underlines just how easy it is to get it wrong – and how damaging even tiny errors or oversights can be. Subtle shifts in speaker attitude, height and the lateral/fore-and-aft alignment of the modules (far smaller movements than envisaged by the standard Wilson set up) had profound musical impact. In fact, the one thing that really struck home was just how much care it took to get something approaching a pair of physically and mechanically identical speakers out of the kit of parts presented, something that should give any Wilson owner pause for thought – but also the potential for a serious lift in system performance.

The full system list:

Record Players