Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic
Dave Wilson’s first commercial loudspeaker venture was the Wilson Audio Modular Monitor. As the name suggests, this loudspeaker used a series of modular cabinets for bass, midrange, and treble , designed to be custom made for the well-heeled audiophile listener of the 1980s. The WAMM Master Chronosonic is the WAMM story brought up to date, and a mark of passing the baton from father to son: Daryl Wilson is now at the head of the Wilson Audio brand, and this loudspeaker is very much his own statement of intent.
A true cost-no-object design the almost infinitely adjustable, seven-driver, six cabinet, £670,000 loudspeaker, “challenges all your perceptions of what you thought possible from an audio system,” according to Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom, “even those of us used to really high-grade audio and exceptional loudspeakers will find themselves wondering precisely how the WAMM is extracting that much musical information from even the most humble CD recordings. This isn’t a subtle, nuanced difference. Music played through these loudspeakers just has that ‘right’ sound that is more like real music and less like there are electronics involved in the signal chain.”
YG Acoustics Sonja XV
The YG Acoustics range allows a significant amount of modularity to allow a loudspeaker to grow with the listener. The flagship Sonja is a perfect example of that modularity, as it can be configured in five different ways, and even includes an upgrade path for owners of its Anat predecessor. The top of the tree, however, is the mighty Sonja XV (short for ‘eXtreme Version’), a four-tower, six module per channel, £250,000 celebration of the company’s first 15 years.
Using heroic amounts of aircraft-grade aluminium right down to the milling (yes, milling) of the drive units, the Sonja XV is the best expression of YG founder Yoav Geva’s concepts in loudspeaker design. This 210kg per tower, loudspeaker might be the ultimate in non-resonant designs, but the sound resonated deeply with Hi-Fi+ Publisher Chris Martens, who felt the XV’s, “perfectly capture the attack, bloom, and decay of notes from individual instruments in a holistic way that lets you hear and feel how the entire ensemble interacts with the performance space.” He concluded by saying, “If your budget and listening space permit, the Sonja XV will serve you as a mighty musical force for good and one that will not easily be equalled, let alone surpassed.”
Magico S1 Mk II
We have auditioned a great many Magico designs – from the smallest to (almost) the largest – and they have never, ever ceased to command the greatest respect, from both a technical and a musical standing. In a very real way, however, the true measure of a loudspeaker manufacturer is not just in the production of its cost-no-object designs (although these do show what a company can do when the stakes are raised to extraordinary levels). It’s often those more attainable loudspeakers that show the designer’s true mettle.
The Magico S1 Mk II is the perfect example of a design concept that works throughout. The two-way, sealed aluminium enclosure floorstander has received ‘trickle down’ improvements that began with the epic M-Pro loudspeaker – including a beryllium/diamond tweeter and graphene mid-bass driver – as well as changes to the cabinet and its base that have filtered through the entire S-series. ”The loudspeaker is fundamentally honest and accurate sounding from its highest frequencies to its lowest,” said Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom, and concluded, “The Magico S1 Mk II is a product of superlatives... if you like loudspeakers that are neutral, you are a fan.”
Dynaudio Special Forty
Dynaudio has long held a commanding reputation for the quality of its drive units and has made many a good loudspeaker in its time, but the £2,500 Special Forty is something out of the ordinary for the brand. It manages to combine the kind of performance normally found in the company’s top-tier and strictly limited-edition models (in fact, Dynaudio consider this loudspeaker to be something of an homage to models like the Special One, Special Twenty-Five, and the Crafft), but in an affordable, domestically-friendly package that is going to be around for several years. Dynaudio’s new two-way standmount speaker is easy to drive, easy to install, and easy to love.
Using a variation on Dynaudio’s legendary 28mm Esotar soft-dome tweeter and a 170mm MSP (Magnesium Silicate Polymer) mid-bass unit – considered by the Dynaudio team to be the best the company has ever made, the loudspeaker uses a simple but phase-coherent first-order crossover and a thin-play birch laminate cabinet, finished in sumptuous translucent red or grey. The rear-ported loudspeaker delivered class-leading bass performance, exceptional soundstage properties, and tremendous dynamic range for such a loudspeaker. Hi-Fi+ Publisher Chris Martens felt that “On good recordings perceived soundstages frequently extended well beyond the side and back walls of my listening room, while dynamic shifts both large and small were consistently realistic in scale—even on big, fast-rising swells that might overwhelm many small monitors.” He also suggested that, “the Special Forty’s deftly revealed the myriad ways in which the ensemble’s instruments each interacted with the acoustics of the recording space, with reverberant details yielding an uncanny sense of place (and placement),” also noting that, “the Special Forty’s proved capable of delivering what many reviewers have termed a realistic sense of ‘palpable presence’ — where instruments and vocalists sound so real and believable.”
Magnepan has long achieved that elusive sweet spot in loudspeaker design; a loudspeaker that delivers true high-end performance, but generally without the kind of high-end price tag that makes the brand the preserve of audio’s elite. And in the Magnepan .7, the company’s latest compact floorstanding design, the cost:performance ratio makes it almost irresistable.
As with all planar-magnetic quasi-ribbon designs from the brand, the panel size dictates the amount of bass, and Magnepan speakers in general have specific requirements on room size, dimensions, and the choice of power amplifier, but if these aspects are addressed, the results can be awesome. And the .7 is the most room/amp-friendly Magnepan to date. Resident Hi-Fi+ expert Eric Neff felt that “The crisp and authoritative bass was nearly perfect in my smaller listening room. In addition, I was enjoying an almost holographic listening experience as the famous Magnepan dimensionality appeared right in front of me.” He also felt that, “small home owners need never look with wistfulness on their friends’ ‘Audiophile’ system again. This is not a compromise at any level. It is music.”
Monitor Audio Silver 300
English audiophiles are very used to the Monitor Audio brand, but that didn’t prepare Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom for the level of musical enjoyment he extracted from these well-built, extremely high value floorstanding loudspeakers from the brand. A rear ported design in the latest version of the ever-popular Silver series, the C-CAM gold-anodised dome tweeter and aluminium/magnesium midrange and bass units manage to deliver the perfect combination of light, yet rigid diaphragm material for an extremely fast, surprisingly dynamic, and accurate loudspeaker. Couple this with an extraordinarily rigid, well-made cabinet, and the whole package looks more expensive than its £1,250 price tag suggests.
It sounds more expensive, too. The combination of that speed of delivery, detail, and dynamic range, coupled with a fine sense of musicality, meant that Alan Sircom couldn’t help but enjoy himself. He felt that, “the point of high-end shouldn’t just be about the price tag or how heavy the loudspeaker is. It should be about the sound, and it’s in the sound quality department where the Silver 300 scores so highly.”