Each successive iteration of the Sasha improves on the group delay system, which is tuned in situ, both in terms of slight changes to the crossover network, but more importantly changes to the pitch of the front baffle of the top-box. This has gone from a relatively simple adjustment to a very precise micrometer, allowing the most precise set-up in room it’s possible to get at the price. This really is a trickle-down from higher-end models; what began at the MAXX level and beyond appeared in the last generation of Alexia, and now makes it to Sasha. It can’t go any lower than Sasha of course, because the Sasha is the first in the range that includes that kind of top-box adjustment.
There’s a misplaced feeling of voodoo about this tuning, in so far as saying it presupposes a fixed head position for the listener. Nod your head forward and the time-alignment is out of alignment. While this has some very raw credibility, it misses the point of all that careful installation made with electrostatic loudspeakers that also uses alignment that notionally presupposes pin-point head position. In fact, the time-alignment works for an optimal space for the listener relative to the room, and time-alignment takes that into account. Yes, it still focuses the best part of the sound into a very precise sweet-spot and those not sitting in that sweet spot don’t get anything like the same benefit, but it’s not the kind of sweet-spot that requires a head-clamp. Rather it is more like ‘a zone of sweetness’ that is focused on the listening position. Move a small amount and you’ll still be in that zone. A deft installer with time enough to fine tune could extend that zone out wide enough to accommodate two listeners sitting close to one another, a deeper zone in front and behind the best position, or focus that sweet spot in so tight that you might want to think about a neck brace.
One of the strangest parts to this review is writing up the sound quality, in that the words just sprinted onto the page. This is usually a sign of a very good or very bad speaker indeed. In this case it is a positive sign. There’s an aspect of good audio that is often forgotten in the path toward getting ‘better’ sound; it’s also got to be enjoyable. There are a number of loudspeakers that you listen to and find yourself full of respect for the sound, but musically unmoved. They aren’t ‘sterile’ or ‘harsh’ sounding... just ‘not for you’. And often you hear consensus among those who heard that speaker; great speaker, does everything right, but don’t like the sound. The absolute opposite applies to the Wilson Sasha DAW
There’s a bit of a buzz going around the audio world about the Sasha DAWs. It’s one of those ‘have you heard them?’ moments, not dissimilar to the buzz about the mighty WAMM Chronosonics, but with wider accessibility. It’s between those who haven’t heard them and wonder what all the hype is about, while those who have heard them are weighing up which formerly vital organ they have to sell to get a pair. Even people far farther up the loudspeaker food chain have been known to re-evaluate their position, wondering how they can get that performance from their typically larger and more expensive existing loudspeakers, and often concluding that the Sasha DAW is a feasible upgrade to more expensive loudspeakers. This isn’t just the usual hyperbole and self-aggrandisement from reviewers (we can be guilty of being a touch ‘carney barker’ about high-end at times), but the genuine ‘why I got into this business’ moments of interest that don’t come round too often. And that is precisely what the Sasha DAW offers.
This isn’t jaw-dropping, unless the music calls for a spot of jaw-dropping. If you want jaw-dropping, put on von Karajan’s 1969 recording of ‘Wellington’s Victory’ [DG]. It’s like the 1812’s louder brother with more cannons. Be prepared to sit back a bit or turn the music down. The Sasha DAW will do jaw-dropping like you are guzzling down radium milkshakes.
Like all good Wilsons, the Sasha DAWs go crazy loud and crazy clean too. I played Ernest Ranglin’s ‘Surfin’’ from his 1996 album Below the Bassline [Island], played at close to club levels. You need a powerful amplifier to keep up (Constellation helps), but your ears surrender long before these speakers begin to hit problems. In fact, in normal rooms, your eyes give in from the pressure before the drivers!
But, where it’s simple to dismiss loudspeakers that go after impressiveness, this is only the first stage in understanding what the Sasha DAW does. Move over to some more textured and subtle music – such as Jackie McLean’s ‘Bluesnik’ (from the album of the same name, Blue Note, XRCD) – and the level of texture and layering is excellent, but even this hardly scratches the surface. Yes, as you go deeper you get the outstanding levels of detail, articulation, and solidity of instruments in a rich and large soundstage. But these are just world class aspects of a world class performance... there’s much more.
There is a level of musical communication here that comes along so rarely it stops you in your tracks. The big WAMM Master Chronosonic has it, and so does the Sasha DAW, albeit writ smaller. It’s the uncanny ability to listen to the intent of a musician as well as their performance, that marks the Sasha DAW out as outside the audio norms.
It didn’t matter what genre of music you played, or no matter how tortured the sound in an attempt to slip up the Sasha DAW; it was so musically assured, so sure-footed in its performance, it was an exercise in futility. ‘Me and the Devil’ from the Cowboy Junkies 1986 Whites Off Earth Now album [Latent] was telling. Well recorded but ‘earthy’ in performance, this can easily fall one of three or four ways: too flat sounding, too exaggerated, too loud, or undynamic. All of which depends on how good your speakers are at dynamic shading, staging, and sheer headroom. Compromise is the only way for most speakers, and compromise ruins the album. With the Sasha DAW here was no need for compromise, just music; raw and fun and enjoyable.