The Ferrari of high-end speakers

All-American high-end audio manufacturer Wilson Audio makes the Ferrari of speakers.

Alexandria X-2 Wilson Audio

Ezra Dyer's Ferrari F430 road test in the July 1 "Automobiles" section of the Sunday New York Times had me drooling. The lucky bastard didn't just get to tool around in the dream machine, there was something about the way he gushed about the 479 horsepower V-8's "high-pitched, hard edged wail that's unlike anything else you'll hear from a car with license plates," and later on rhapsodized about the car's ability to deliver a "supersonic whip crack from the exhaust that prompts you to look in the mirror to see if the car behind you is engulfed in a contrail of flame." No wonder the waiting list for the $185,000 car is a year long, but hey, you can buy a Corvette down the block at your local Chevy dealer that's just as quick. Oh, and the 'Vette goes for a faction of the price. Better still, you won't have to wait a year to get one.

So performance isn't the only factor at play, exclusivity and the lure of the exotic are the big draws. It doesn't hurt that Ferrari is the stuff of racing legend, and they haven't tarnished the brand name with something as tawdry as a Ferrari SUV.

High-end audio's greatest names are just as pure, but they're known only to aficionados. Take Wilson Audio, its Alexandria X-2 speaker looks something like a cubist Darth Vader. It's almost as pricey as the Ferrari F430--the mega speaker goes for $135,000 a pair, and guess what--X-2 buyers have to sometimes endure a nine month waiting list. The Provo, Utah company's speaker stands 72 inches tall and weighs 750 pounds. The statuesque beauty's twelve-stage automotive paint job starts with a super durable gel coat, originally developed for speedboats. The X-2 is available in fifteen colors, including Ferrari Red, or if you really want something special the Wilson team will create custom "Sample Match" options. Wilson sold over 400 pairs of the now discontinued X-1.

Academy award winning Sound Mixer, Shawn Murphy (Mystic River, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, Jurassic Park) has his pick of the world's best speakers, but sticks with Wilsons on the job. Warner Brothers, Pixar, Disney and CBS/Sony are all loyal customers, but the bulk of the sales are to audiophiles. The newest and smallest Wilson, the Duette, is hardly petite, but it's the most real world friendly speaker ever built by the company (it's just 18.5 inches tall). Its vault-like cabinet and 210 pound shipping weight (for the stereo pair) say a lot about Wilson's build quality standards for its most affordable model, and prices start around $10,950 a pair. Yeah, that's a lot of money, but buying a Wilson speaker is a long-term investment, you're not going to replace it in a year or two or ten. Oh, and assuming you really love music or movies you're going to get a huge kick out of the Duettes every time you listen to them. It's not quite at the Ferrari level; the baby Wilson is more like the Porsche Boxster of speakers. Try to hear a pair, and don't forget to bring along some 'Zeppelin, Nirvana, or Miles Davis CDs.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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