“I love the way you love me, I love the way you comb your hair…”
Keb Mo, a wonderful blues singer whose career I have followed closely, sings into my small listening room. His voice is materialising out of thin air and the presentation is so natural. The guitar is spooky real. The sound I am hearing is putting a big smile on my face. Life is truly good.
How did we get here? About a year-and-a-half ago, Wilson Audio sent their TuneTot monitors to me to listen to in a home office. I had a giant L-shaped Ikea desk and was advised to put the monitors in the far corners and slightly toe them in. The TuneTots, you see, were designed to have a boundary surface either below them such as my desk, or behind them such as a bookshelf or fireplace mantel. Consisting of a cabinet of X Material, a silk dome tweeter and a 5.5 inch midrange driver, these not-so-little speakers really produced a surprising amount of bass. The imaging, always a strong suit for Wilson, was superb as well. However, I started hearing rumours that some stands were in the works. A couple of months ago, the TuneTot stands showed up in a beautiful Ivory white finish to match exactly the same pearl-like finish on the TuneTots. They retail for £2,698 a pair.
The stands are typical sublime build quality we have seen on prior Wilson Audio products. The top and bottom plates are thick CNC-machined aluminium with slight curves on the sides of the bottom plate. The bottom plate is secure on my floor with beefy spikes. The top plate is screwed into the isolation bases on the TuneTots and the TuneTots are angled by adjustable spikes front and back that fit into slots on the top plate. Now the key thing here is controlling vibration as Daryl Wilson explained to me recently. The posts, which are beautifully made with ever-so-slight curves on all four sides, are made of X Material, Wilson Audio’s densest material. This high density phenolic material is designed by Wilson and used in many of their products. The entire look of the TuneTots on the stands is quite elegant as the wider base of the TuneTots and narrower top cabinet have an organic look with the stands that is compact but solid. The curves on the stand post echo the raised edge on the side of the TuneTot cabinet. The TuneTots have matching Steel Blue driver rings and Steel Blue isolation base tops.
Recently I was able to convert a room used for storage into a small, digital-only and more humble system adjacent to my home office. A sort of respite for building PowerPoint slides and spreadsheets in a more relaxed environment. It’s really just a small 16 foot by 12 foot room with one chair and a Salamander Synergy equipment rack (bought slightly used from my friend Jimmy) and it uses a variety of electronics: Audio Research VT-100 amp with KT-120 tubes, Mytek Brooklyn DAC (also serving as preamp), Sony SCD-777ES SACD player, and a Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF line conditioner. I was curious if these monitors would perform that ‘disappearing act’ that some monitors are capable of…to get the best results I mimicked as best I could the WASP setup procedure that Wilson uses to dial-in the placment. Then I called setup God Bill Peugh for even more pointers. With some precise experimentation and note taking, I landed on a very precise and symmetrical placement with the TuneTots roughly around three feet from the side walls and four feet from the back walls. Like with my Alexia 2s, when the placement is right, everything just takes a huge leap forward. In a way, the Wilson speakers are like a precision microscope. It takes time and learning but get it right and magic happens. Move a speaker even a quarter inch in the wrong direction and you hear it.
But the TuneTot stands remove that boundary surface that the monitors were initially designed for. How would this affect bass and overall performance?
As it turns out, not much. In fact, Daryl Wilson believes lower bass goes from approximately 55hz to 63hz. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – the already clear midrange and highs get even purer on the stands. And the stands indeed create a sublime disappearing act. As I type this, Rob Loverde’s superb mastering of the MFSL SACD of Keb Mo’s eponymous debut album plays on and the speakers can simply not be located if you close your eyes. There is a vivid centred image and instrument placement is completely natural.