Audio Research, Wilson, Crystal, and HRS system

Tubed power amplifiers,
Tubed preamplifiers,
Disc players,
AC power cords,
Loudspeaker cables,
Equipment racks and stands
Audio Research Reference 10,
Audio Research Reference 150SE,
Audio Research Reference CD9,
Crystal Cable Crystal/Connect Absolute Dream interconnect cable,
Crystal Cable Crystal/Power Absolute Dream power cord,
Crystal Cable Crystal/Speaker Absolute Dream loudspeaker cable,
Wilson Audio Sasha Series 2
Audio Research, Wilson, Crystal, and HRS system

‘High-end’ is a term with specific mean­ings but also less specific implications. In audio terms, it’s not just about performance but a particular style of performance. Historically speaking, it exhibits distinct leftist leanings (left of the Atlantic that is), no surprise given that the term – indeed, the whole concept – was first coined in The Absolute Sound magazine by the late, great Harry Pearson. Ask most audiophiles to draw a quick sketch of a typical high-end system and you’d probably end up with something that looked remarkably like the system featured here. Again, that’s no real surprise, given that in UK terms at least, you don’t get much more ‘high-end’ than Audio Research, Wilson Audio, and of course Absolute Sounds, the distributor named for the US magazine but responsible for introducing US high-end products and thinking to the UK market.

What is more, this system contains current versions of two early high-end icons. Wilson Audio’s Watt/Puppy speaker system quickly became (and remains) a high-end benchmark, one of very few imported speakers to enjoy any real success or longevity in the UK market, while it was Audio Research’s pre-amps and especially the two-box SP10 that were the first products to introduce the UK market to a world of performance (and price) that stretched out beyond the flat horizons of Linn and Naim. The size and nature of UK rooms also played its part in creating a firm preference for compact speaker systems (at least in high-end terms) and single chassis stereo power amps. In fact, what you have before you might well be described as not just the current incarnation of several classic high-end products, but the modern embodiment of the archetypical UK high-end solution.

Over thirty-years young, Wilson’s Watt/Puppy evolved out of a near-field location monitor, first gaining a range of accessories to try and extend its bass before finally gaining an optional conjoined sub to turn it into a credible domestic speaker system. Now in its tenth iteration, it’s a neater and far more elegant product, having cast off its studio roots. These days the subs are no longer optional although it remains a four-box set up; that evolution reflected in the adoption of the Sasha name, bringing it in line with the rest of a family that stretches all the way from Sabrina to Alexandria. The latest Sasha 2 employed here boasts further developments of the baffle and head-unit to better integrate the established 178mm midrange driver with the new silk dome tweeter, adapted from the unit developed for the flagship Alexandria. The baffle itself is now constructed from Wilson’s proprietary phenolic material and angles the two drivers individually. Beneath the back of the head unit is a machined ten step, sliding ‘staircase’ that engages with the single rear spike and allows the baffle to be precisely angled and set relative to the bass units to allow for the listener’s height and distance from the speaker. The bass unit retains its two 200mm pulp-coned drivers a side, along with the interchangeable casters and spikes that are such an effective (and necessary – the Sasha 2s weigh over 90kg each) aid to set up. It would be easy to point to the introduction of that soft dome tweeter and stepped baffle as the big news here, but despite the fact that this is the first W/P version to eschew the inverted and latterly titanium dome used in all previous models, that would rather miss the point. The Sasha 2 is simply the latest step in a long but steady evolution – and evolution by its very nature involves subtle change. The Sasha 2 might offer more outwardly obvious clues than previous steps in the progression, but make no mistake: this is still very much a Wilson, and very much a Watt/Puppy.

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