To Doug Schneider,
Knowing how you feel about Wilson Audio's products, I thought you might be interested to know that Stereophile has just posted their review of Wilson's latest $200,000 offering, which, of course is, according to Michael Fremer, the finest speaker ever produced. John Atkinson's measurements, on the other hand, tell an entirely different story. They are quite poor for such an expensive product (as are the measurements of every other Wilson product they have reviewed).
I know that measurements don't tell the whole story, but I would think that any good designer with $200,000 to spend could produce a flat response. Examining measurements from other reviews they've done show much better performance from costly designs, such as Magico's Q5, Vivid's G1, Revel's Salon2, and others, as well as more affordable floorstanding models in the $7000 to $8000 range from Adam Audio and Monitor Audio, and even PSB's and Monitor Audio's $1200 models. Even affordable bookshelf models such as PSB's $700 Imagine Mini, and of course KEF's LS50 (among others), measure much better than the big Wilsons. The LS50s are unbelievably flat.
I'm eagerly awaiting your review of the LS50.
Happy New Year,
I looked at the review on Stereophile’s website and I have to agree with you: the measurements look pretty bad. Things like the ragged midrange and treble stand out, as does the pronounced suckout in the 2-3kHz range, which is where I presume the crossover is. For that kind of money, I would want something quite a bit flatter, far better controlled in terms of dispersion, and without diffraction effects. John Atkinson mentioned the difficulties involved when it comes to measuring a speaker of the XLF’s size, which I agree with, but getting accurate measurements in the midrange and highs isn’t hard, so I’d have to assume that what he measured in those regions is about right.
John doesn’t talk much about the bass extension, but Hi-Fi News's measurements of the XLF (they reviewed it a couple of months ago) showed a low-frequency limit of about 50Hz, which, if true, is really poor for a speaker of the XLF's size and cost. Some people likely will dismiss the measurements completely, saying they’re either inaccurate or not telling of the whole story (particularly if they're fans of the brand), but those who know measurements also know that they are far more telling than some will care to admit; in particular, they can readily show up design flaws or subpar engineering.
In my opinion, for the price that the XLF sells for, the measurements shouldn’t only be better in the ways I described, they should be extraordinary to the point of being beyond reproach when they’re compared to other speakers of similar or lesser cost -- even if the speaker costs as little as $1500/pair, which is what the KEF LS50 sells for. I don't think that's too much to ask from a cost-no-object design if superior performance is really the goal. Then again, I have to wonder if the purpose behind some of these high-priced monstrosities isn't performance, but ego and status, sort of like the Beats brand is to many headphone shoppers.
That said, is what John measured contradictory to what Michael Fremer heard? As surprising as this sounds, perhaps not. What’s Fremer’s reference for accuracy and neutrality? From what I’ve gathered, he did review the Magico Q5, but he hasn’t reviewed the Revel Ultima Salon2 or any of Vivid’s Giya models. Vivid’s Giya G2, as most who read my review of it know, is what I consider a true reference-caliber design for sound. Its measurements are also extraordinary. As our readers will find out shortly, it is also one of our Products of the Year for 2012. Wes Phillips reviewed the Giya G1 for Stereophile a couple of years ago and said that it was the best speaker he’d ever heard. John Atkinson called the measurements he did of the G1 “superb.” Fremer’s previous reference appears to be Wilson’s MAXX Series 3. Have you seen the measurements John Atkinson did on it? Is that a reference-caliber design? I don’t doubt the XLF sounds better than that speaker! But if Michael Fremer had another reference besides Wilson, would his opinion remain the same? . . . Doug Schneider