‘Honey, I Shrunk The Chronosonic XVX’ only ends with the size and modularity of the Big Boy, and the fact it’s limited to three basic and three upgrade finishes, instead of the plethora of Wilson Gloss options open to Chronosonic XVX owners. Oh, and the fact you can buy almost 15 pairs of SabrinaX for the price of a Chronosonic XVX. Of course, the comparison is silly at this point; the Big Boy will deliver the sort of dynamic range, frequency extension and headroom that only a tiny handful of loudspeakers could ever hope to replicate, it needs a giant room and a system commensurate with that grand level of loudspeakery. But, in many very real ways, the SabrinaX approach brings you more than just a glimpse of the Chronsonic XVX performance and brings it into real-world systems and listening rooms.
Set-up is crucial to the SabrinaX, although it sharing its predecessor’s ability to always sound pretty good is a double-edged sword; ‘pretty good’ is about a tenth of the way there. There is so much potential in the SabrinaX that it should prompt you to take the set-up to the limits. While many will rely on the WASP (Wilson Audio Set-up Procedure) to ‘vowel-in’ the SabrinaX in room, I think it might be time to consider that a part of the installation journey, and not the journey entire. Careful attention to front tilt and remarkably tiny adjustments within the WASP placement region in room can yield excellent results.
The same part-cautionary advice applies to partnering equipment. Sure, you can use it with a comparatively inexpensive amplifier or receiver, and you will get a good sound out of the system, but to get the most out of the SabrinaX, be a little bolder in your amp choices. You could conceivably build a system where every other component (even down to the equipment platforms) was considerably more ‘high-end’ (in price at least) to the SabrinaX and still have not hit its resolution and detail end stops. But yes, like the TuneTot, it can sing a siren’s song even with considerably less auspiciously rated audio components. My speakers had some dealer miles on the clock, so I can’t speak to the importance of running in, however. It’s great having others to do your work for you!
There was no work here. Listening to these loudspeakers is about as far from ‘work’ as it gets. It’s a solid gold brick of pleasure to listen to the SabrinaX in fact. They get under your skin and the skin of the music at the same time, and as a result you get a seemingly direct connection with the music that is all too often lost in a sea of detail and precision. Of course, the SabrinaX has that detail and precision in droves, too. But this is a loudspeaker that does the visceral, the emotional and the cerebral in equal measure, and you find yourself smiling as a result. You could point to almost any type of music, and it cuts to the quick of it; ‘Spitfire’ by Public Service Broadcasting [Inform - Educate - Entertain, Test Card] is basically a three-piece band riffing over samples taken from the WWII movie The First Of The Few (US title: Spitfire), with the sound of a Merlin engine front and centre and a more muted speeches from Leslie Howard and David Niven. Often, you get a choice of something incredibly detailed that allows you to hear into the mix and pick out more of what Howard is saying, or more upbeat designs that make you want to tap your feet to the guitar parts. The SabrinaX is one of those rare loudspeakers that brings both together; you get the growl of the Merlin engine, the clipped accent of Howard giving his most famous speech in the movie and the rhythmic intensity of musicians playing over these samples. It goes from being an interesting exercise in neo-kosmische electronica and post-prog sampling to a moving yet rocking tribute to both the movie and the men it portrays. OK, so I’m a British man of a certain age and even a poorly recorded sample of a Spitfire banking makes me want to salute something, but this really moves into higher gear on the SabrinaX.
As hinted at earlier, the music emerges through SabrinaX from a blacker background. That might sound pompous... right up until you hear it for yourself. Play ‘Bahia’ from Anouar Brahem’s Blue Maqams [ECM] and the opening oud solo and subsequent slow build come out of an incredibly black studio background, making them more vivid and ‘there’ in front of you, sitting in a three-dimensional space around the loudspeakers. As the music hypnotically weaves its way through everything from gypsy jazz through almost Indian ragas to Sufi ghazals underpinned by some very tight modern jazz drumming until finally does that thing unheard of in jazz... it speeds up. With the silent backgrounds of the SabrinaX, there’s no impediment between you and the music and your pulse quickens with the music. It’s exciting and impassioned.
Maybe the most noticeable aspect of the SabrinaX’s performance – and certainly the part you are most immediately drawn to – is the speed and energy of bass transients. My long-standing go-to torture test for ported loudspeakers is ‘Chameleon’ by Trentemøller [The Last Resort, Poker Flat]. At one point, the port will ‘choke up’ on these fast-delivered bass square-waves... it’s just a question of volume. The SabrinaX, however, pushed that question away by keeping the bass unbelievably fast and powerful. Eventually the room gave in before the loudspeaker. This makes it a loudspeaker that even the Pace, Rhythm and Timing crew would approve of!