The way we experience music has changed a lot with the advent of streaming services beaming low-res files to phones and mobile devices. But even though music streaming has improved of late with services going lossless, a swathe of audiophiles are nevertheless going back to basics. Vynil and CD sales are going through the roof, played through high-end amps and a decent pair of speakers.
Getting the Best Audio Experience with a Hi-Fi System
If you consider yourself an audiophile who wants to hear and feel every nuance, every sigh and every emotion, you know that choosing components in a hi-fi system is all about balance. You’ll want a source that can extract all the detail, an amp that steps up that signal so it can be played through speakers, and in the end – a guarantee of enjoyment.
The whole setup needs to be more than the sum of its parts. Parts are sold in a tier system, and pairing is crucial. Even a basic all-in-one unit from a decent brand matched with a pair of bespoke bookshelf speakers can reveal more scope and sensation than something that’s lacking in consideration when pairing.
With that said, budget always plays its part. Dividing your resources equally among sources, amplification and speakers will yield the best results. But when money is no issue, everyone wants the best. This is often the case with speakers which are the favourite hi-fi component for many audiophiles.
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While things like sources, amplification, signal and mains cables and room treatments do matter a lot, at the end of the day, shopping for speakers is a lot more fun. Speakers come in an array of cool designs and by some powerful names in the industry. In fact, certain speaker manufacturers are held in high regard since they consistently deliver good products so buyers always tend to flock to them. One of the manufacturers that seem to be the first choice of many when buying speakers is Wilson Audio.
Overview of the Most Popular Wilson Speakers
Outrageous designs, extraordinary workmanship, well-spaced and layered clarity, a realistic soundstage, little or no colouration, and broad dynamic range in all listening situations is the hallmark of even the cheapest Wilson speakers on the market (cheap here is five figures).
Let’s start with the Tune Tot, a design harking back to one of the company’s first-ever speakers, the Wilson Audio Tiny Tot or WATT, which company founder David A. Wilson created for his passion of recording and playback. The speaker soon proved to be the basis for following masterpieces and paired with a couple of woofers to produce clear and linear bass, in what would become the Puppy.
Interesting name for interesting speakers, that defied their quirky looks and caught the ears of audiophiles in the 1980s off-guard. The sheer presence of the WATT is replicated in the TuneTot, which irrelevant of its size bears all the hallmarks of every Wilson speaker higher up the range. The speaker delivers nuanced dynamics, the definition in the soundstage and unrivalled transparency among any other bookshelf speaker to date. It can also easily handle any setting, with minimal placement needs.
Even better sound, silky-smooth outer finishes in the company’s proprietary X-material, and drivers nicked directly from previous flagship models (the Alexandria XLF and the Chronosonic WAMM) are what you’ll find in the company’s more approachable floorstander – the Sabrina X. These are three-way speakers, featuring a 25mm tweeter dome form the WAMM, a 146mm rear vented paper pulp mid-range driver initially developed for the Chronosonic XVX (Wilson’s current flagship) and a 203mm paper pulp dome woofer bringing in the bass. This too is carved directly from a speaker at twice the cost -the Sasha DAW. What you get is a platform for superb musicality coupled with astonishing technical prowess in a sub-metre package. This will set you back as would a new small hatchback, but the kicks are far bigger.
If you have the space and the bank account to back everything up, then consider the near top-of-the-line Alexia Series 2. There’s a tad more detail. a wider soundstage and clarity in presentation, better timing and separation, finer nuancing, and improved clarity. Audible bliss is backed by the same doped silk tweeter in the Tune Tot, a 178mm rigid paper vented midrange driver, and a pair of (8 and 10) inch woofers handling the bass. All of this is placed in a sculpted masterpiece of exotic materials with the ultimate goal of delivering aural pleasure.
And if you’re looking for something that’s really top-of-the-line, there’s the Wilson Audio’s WAMM Master Chronosonic which comes at a modest $850000 US a pair. No, that’s not a typo. Besides the unrivalled design, exotic materials, insane clarity and immense soundstage, you might need to do a little interior decorating to get them through the door.
Pair it with something like the Dan D’agostino Progression Integrated amp with enough muscle to push through the lower impedance, or even better a pre and power amp combo for better separation. Source a similarly priced music source, get your cables in sync and sit down to get your mind blown. Mind placement though and a room big enough.
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Some Considerations When Choosing the Right Speakers
Some speakers will be better suited to particular music genres, while others excel in all areas and everything you throw at them. And as aforementioned, pairing is key, so you’ll want sources like CD players, turntables or streamers, and amplification that balances out. Underpowered amps will struggle with more demanding speakers, and those with too much punch need to be kept away from speakers that just can’t handle the heat.
Room size and placement let you choose between the smaller bookshelf and stand mount speakers, or when space is not an issue, larger floorstanders. Rooms may be too small for floorstanding speakers and an open plan can drone out the sound coming from a bookshelf pair. This leads to different designs in terms of driver count, and how speakers handle the highs, mids and lows. Floorstanders with more than a single bass driver will fill up a room of any size easily, though loudness and clarity are two disparate notions, to audiophiles anyway.
To have a better grip on frequencies, a bi-wired speaker will offer better precision, especially in smaller standmounts with a two-driver setup. Here the highs will be handled by a tweeter and separated from the mids and lows, so vocals and higher-pitched notes sound fuller.
Lastly, aesthetics is a difficult topic as we’re ultimately talking about sound quality. Designs and materials used can be out of this world, but not match the setting. If this bothers you, then go the conservative route.