Review: Wilson Audio X-2 Alexandria Speaker

Category: Speakers


I am not a journalist or an engineer, just someone who is passionate about music and equipment. While writing this review I tried to be honest and objective about the X-2s. But as I reviewed my notes, no matter how I rephrased my observations, I couldn’t hide my undeniable belief as to how amazing these are.

For 30 years audio has been my passion and my love (after my wife). The goal was always the music, more specifically, the emotions derived from music. It is the unending search for that ultimate magic – the illusion of real music in my listening room. Well, the illusive goal is one giant step closer. After re-mortgaging my home (not kidding), a pair of Wilson Alexandria X-2s were recently installed. I have heard some incredible sound in my lifetime; however I was not prepared for the dramatic leap in sound quality offered by the X-2s.

As a personal aside, I won’t try to kid you (or myself) that this is a rational purchase. Heck, they cost more than my first house. But my wife (and audiophile partner) finds music to be a joy that we share equally. Although she doesn’t play with the hardware side, her ear is as good as or better than mine and we always listen together. As we approached our 50th birthdays, we looked introspectively as to what we wanted to do in life. Listening to music together and the search for that absolute sound has always been one of our most enduring passions. As empty nesters, our focus and priorities had shifted. Why not “go for the gold”? A quick trip to the mortgage company, a fast refinancing of the house and the X-2s were on order.

History and other speakers

I am extremely fortunate to have owned or had friends and acquaintances who have owned some exceptional speakers. Although I began with an inauspicious start – Bose 901 (ah, the mistakes of youth), after college I quickly moved to the “high end” -- Dalquist DQ-10, Acoustat, Thiel, Wilson, VonSchweikert VR-8, and Wilson. I also listened extensively to Kharma Exquisites and 3.2s, Dynaudio Evidence Master, Edilon and the Grand Utopia Be to name a few. Throw in HE shows and I believe that I have a moderately good grasp on sound quality.

My previous speakers, X-1 Series III were spectacular and certainly a contender for “state of the art.” I loved their ability to immerse the listener in the musical event, to pull you in emotionally, and to give a clear window to the musical performance. Were they perfect? Nope. There were other speakers that did specific elements slightly better. The Kharmas simply disappear into the music better than any speaker that I have heard. The X-1s didn’t have that seamless coherence of the best electrostatics. The highs (IMHO) were bested by the Grand Utopia Be. Finally, the deepest bass was always missing the ultimate power and depth. In all fairness, the bass issue probably had more to do with my room and amps than the speakers.


The construction is stunning. The X-2s are made primarily of Wilson’s “X" material, harder than steel, inert, and a bear to manufacture, taking 12 times longer to mill than MDF. Also used is "M" material – a composite laminate which although less dense than “X” material, provides the appropriate acoustic properties for the midrange enclosures. Apparently the “M” transmits significantly less noise when excited by the speakers, offering a deeper “quiet” and more realistic musical event. Nothing in the design and construction was left to chance – even the glue was optimized for the speakers in terms of expansion, thermal characteristics, and natural frequency response.

Both “X” and “M” materials are dramatically more expensive than MDF. What does one get for the extra cost and manufacturing trouble? ---Unbelievable resolution and spectacular transients.

There is obviously a fanatical attention to detail. Reportedly, the individual drivers are either custom made or modified and matched to .1 dB.

The Woofer is ported to the front reducing distortion up to 30% (compared to the X-1). The lack of rear porting also increases placement flexibility in various-sized rooms.

The X-2s are available in all of the “Wilson Gloss” finishes, which like the X-1, are applied and polished to mirror-like luster. The hot color seems to be Grigio Titanio. Mine, however, are basic black.

I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some hate the Wilson look, but to me, the speaker is elegant and seductive with additional curves that are missing from the X-1. These somehow make the speakers less imposing than their mass and size would indicate. With that said, however, they probably wouldn’t blend well with a formal living room. Such are the tradeoffs of life...

• 8 ohm impedance from literature – (although 4 ohms is indicated on the speaker)
• 20 watts minimum – (the 75 watt Tenors provided plenty of volume in my medium-sized room)
• no provision to bi-amp or bi-wire
• 19-22k frequency response
• 13” woofer
• 15” woofer
• Midrange 7” (2)
• Tweeter (1)
• Super Tweeter rear firing (1)
• 95dB sensitivity
• 72” high
• 700 lbs each
• 2,300 lbs. shipping weight

Set Up
If you are buying these babies, your dealer will be setting them up, so I won’t spend much time describing the details, just an overview. They arrive encased in about nine giant, well made wooden crates that together weigh about a gazillion pounds (actually the speakers weigh 700lbs and with crates over 2,000 lbs). This is definitely a three person job and maybe four. I know some of you are familiar with other Wilson installation procedures, so I can give some contrasts. Like the X-1s, the Woofer modules form the base, with the midrange and tweeter modules assembled on top of the woofers. The X-1s are time aligned. The tweeter and midrange units are adjusted horizontally, matching a scale along side “timing wings”. You measure the distance from the speaker to the listening area, look up the distance on a supplied graph, and read a corresponding value. This value is the setting on the timing wings, which time aligns the speaker to your listening distance. This is repeated for both midrange speakers and the tweeter. Somewhat of a pain, but not as bad as my description makes it sound.

The X-2s however, align in both the vertical and horizontal realms. The individual X-2 units not only adjust horizontally on an indented track, but each module pivots vertically, giving the system far more precision and flexibility in matching the speaker to your listening position. The entire process is far more elegant than the X-1.
Each modular connects to the appropriate crossover terminal with uniquely designed cables. I cleaned the terminals with alcohol and applied Walker’s SST contact enhancer to every connection. The system goes together like giant interlocking Lego blocks. Altogether, delivery and installation took about five hours.

The speaker comes with wheels and spikes. Once spiked, you ain’t going to move these babies around by yourself. Although an elegant and nifty screw jack comes standard to lift the speaker for changing the wheel and spikes, you need at least one other strong helper. The thought of 700 lbs. of X-2 tipping over is unthinkable.

For all music sessions, we take grille covers off. The grille covers are a significant step up from the old Wilson foam covers. They attach securely and look great.

System and Room
The X-2s reside in a dedicated listening room in the basement. The room is 22' long, 17' wide, and 8' high, double sheetrock on 2x6 studs 12” on center. Room treatments include Echo busters, Bass Traps, and Argent Room Lens. A bookcase across the back wall acts as a rear diffuser.
The system is currently:
• Wilson X-2 Alexandria
• Walker Proscenium Gold Turntable
• Clearaudio reference cartridge
• Walker reference phono pre amp
• VTL 7.5 pre amp
• VTL S-400 amp
• Omega Mikro Power Cables active cryo’d (pre amps)
• Elrod Statement power cord for s-400
• Omega Mikro Ebony interconnects cryo’d
• Transparent XL MM Balanced interconnects (to amp)
• Transparent Opus speaker cables
• Furman Balanced power feeding Walker Velicitor for pre amps
• Dedicated 20 lines with Jena cryo’d outlets.
• All connections treated with Walker SST enhancer
• Walker resonance control discs everywhere

After 150 hours break in, the speakers were positioned 5’ from the back wall, 3’ from side walls, and 9.5’ apart (measured from the tweeter centers)—toed-in so that you can just see the inside panels of the speakers when sitting in the sweet spot. The listen seat is 11’ from either speaker – pretty close to the classic equilateral listening triangle.

Previously I had the Tenor 75 OTLs. With the X-2s, the comparison with the VTLs is interesting. The Tenors have that magical midrange with an emotional “rightness.” The tradeoff is lack of bass slam and control with a very slight softening at the top. The VTL S-400 gives 90% of the Tenor magic with solid state bass and a top end that goes on forever. The very slight darkness is replaced with a bright (but by no means hard), fast alive sound that is a revelation. I can only imagine what the VTL Siegfrieds bring to the table.

Don’t be fooled by the physical similarity between the X-1 and X-2. This is not an evolutionary design – it is about as revolutionary as you can get:
• New proprietary drivers from top to bottom.
• New crossovers potted in cases milled from solid billets of X material.
• New combinations of M and X material in the three top modules.
• New cabinet geometries independently engineered for each module.
• A new front firing port with proprietary geometries, which reduces port turbulence to inaudibility.
Some have suggested that the X-2s look is too close to the X-1s, implying that they are an X-1 upgrade. Anyone who listens for 30 seconds knows that they are hearing something special. After owning the X-1s for several years, I did not believe that it could be bettered – in every respect. The-X-2 was more transparent, extended, and resolving, and yet smoother and less strident.
Believe me; I was not prepared for what I heard. The sound-stage was 3-D beyond belief; the music was reproduced as if the performers were in the room. The terms natural, dynamic, coherent, speed, emotion, and transparency don’t begin to convey what these bring to the sonic palette. My wife and I sat transfixed, listening for over six hours – in awe.

In my quest for audio nirvana I have owned and extensively auditioned many of the world’s finest loud speakers – each one involves intensely personal decisions and trade offs. Aside from the monetary issues, nothing (IMHO) is even close to the X-2s. My previous speakers, X-1 Series III were spectacular and certainly a contender for SOTA. Yet as good as they were, there were still some specific qualities of other speakers that that I believe exceeded the X-1s. What if in addition to the strengths of the X-1s you added the soaring highs of the Utopia Be, the absolute coherence of the best electrostatics, and the soundstaging with the complete ability to “disappear” into the music of the Kharmas? What you would get is a speaker that only begins to approach the X-2.

Maybe it is the new port design, but the bass is significantly better than the X-1. Bass notes bloom in all directions into the room. They explode from silence but with amazing control. Whether it is Ray Brown Soular Energy, Neil Diamond (America), Eagles (Hotel California) or The Firebird Suite, the speakers captured everything from the subtlety of the snap of the strings, to the power of the drums, to the natural resonance and decay in the room. The weight and size of the bass blooms inversely to pitch while always retaining that correct tonality in character. There seem to be boundless low end reserves. The bass drums of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite shook the room with no hint of compression or limits. The solidarity and low end focus appealed to me equally on jazz, classical, and rock.

The X-2’s bass is tight and fast delivered with speed and impact. They are not bass heavy or oppressive; they do not exaggerate nor highlight; -- they just deliver with a visceral impact. No bloat here.

In a physically large room you might get even more bass output, but I never felt that I needed more.

Tonal balance
I would describe the overall tonal balance as neutral. No part of the total spectrum is favored over another. They are neither lean nor lush. If forced to describe a weakness, I would say that there is an ever so slight lack of mid bass presence. To be honest this could be due to the adjustment from the loss of the Tenor amps which excelled from the mid bass through the midrange. Or it could be room placement. From the midrange to top end, the response and balance is smooth and very musical. No instrument or voice is spotlighted or favored over others. Instruments that are supposed to sound sweet or instruments that should have bite – do. They are remarkably free of treble gain and edge, with completely natural warmth.

Low level detail
Many speakers require volume in order to fully bloom. This is not necessarily a criticism as I find this to occur with live music also. Not with the X-2s. The detail and resolution is superb at all volume levels. The resolving ability of the system is simply amazing, especially with complex recording, recorded in natural space. I personally love the detail and ability to hear into the recording without playing them at rock volume levels.

The X-2s seem to respond instantly to the changes in music, a response that I generally have found in small monitors, not these giants. There is a perception of delicacy and lightning speed that occurs during the initial attack. This micro detail combined with an almost eerily natural sound decay has added a new realism to the listening experience.

The Alexandrias are ruthlessly revealing. You hear more of, and deeper into the music than with any other speaker. You will hear things that you never heard before. As with other aspects, a dichotomy exits. This resolution exists without the strident or cool effects of brightness, hardness, or spotlighting. In fact, poorer recordings sound better than they ever have. Listening to some 30 year old non-audiophile records (The Monkees!?) sounded unbelievable. I don’t understand this. Ultra resolving products act as microscopes on the recording. The better the recording the better the sound, the sucky recordings are laid bare in all their suckiness. Some such as older ARC equipment seemed to make everything sweet and melodic. It was pretty, but not correct (IMHO). Trumpets are supposed to have “bite;” strings can sound bump right up to the edge of stridency. A speaker should not put a polite glaze on the musical event. The X-2s walk the line between beauty and resolution. I don’t know how Wilson pulled off the ability to make poor recording sound great while still having spectacular resolution.

Imaging and soundstage
Soundstaging is to me, personally, one of the most important and prized musical qualities. Having a dedicated listening room in the basement with no windows allows my wife and I to turn the lights off and listen in almost total darkness, lit only by the faint glow of tubes. If you haven’t tried it, I urge you to turn the lights off and listen. When you see speakers, your brain logically deduces that the performer cannot possibly be in the room because the sound is coming from a speaker. Remove the visual stimulus, and the only input your brain has is the music – everything changes. Relax, have a glass of win, and try it sometime.

Back to the topic at hand; I absolutely love superior imaging and soundstaging. I want to see the performers in space. I want the voices to float in front of me. I want the walls to disappear and sound to exist in three dimensions.

The X-2s have soundstaging – in spades. The speakers create realistic life-sized images that while spectacularly clear, are part of the integrated musical experience. You are drawn in, and I find myself moving my head around in the dark as if I was looking at a stage and focusing on different elements of the performance. It’s that real. It doesn’t matter what type of music from small jazz, to vocal, orchestral, or rock. If it was recorded well, it is laid out in front of you in all its musical glory with focus and solidity.

For pure fun listen to The Boxer (Bridge Over Troubled Water 45rpm Classic) or Santana’s Black Magic Woman. Both are enveloping – images that are deep and wide with a variety of different musical images – all appearing, disappearing, and residing next to each other. The effect is vivid, 3-D and is as if there was surround sound in the room. Try Jazz at the Pawnshop, and you will be transported to a nightclub on New Year’s in 1976 – it’s that real. Depending on the recording, sounds at times did not appear to be emanating from the speakers – a very startling result. You are drawn into the musical event that does not change appreciably with tonal range or volume.

Because I do not have a particularly large listening room I listen in the nearfield. You get a dramatic sense of recorded space wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling; the sound is open and spacious. Every instrument occupies its own unique space, yet part of a cohesive musical event; the soundstaging to these ears is perfect.

Dynamic punch
There is a total freedom from congestion and dynamic compression with the X-2s at any volume levels. For those who remember the old Maxell ads where the listener is plastered against his listening chair, this will give you some of the idea of what the dynamic impact of the speaker is. I listen to loud classic rock and have not come close to approaching the dynamic limits of the speaker. There is absolutely no sense of distortion.

From the delicate nuances to a thundering climax, all, including the gradients, are reproduced with effortless precision. No matter what I threw at them – Zeppelin, Santana, Talking Heads, Deep Purple – even at foundation shattering levels, the X-2s just shrugged off the challenge. They have a bottomless pit of dynamic reserve, seemingly able to play anything at any volume without congestion, compression, or hardness.

To my ears, with the exception of Electrostatics, nothing touched Kharmas when it came to seamlessness. From top to bottom (the Kharmas) just completely disappear into the room leaving only sound. I have extensively heard the 3.2s along with the Exquisites and the Midi-Grand. Drum roll …. It is close. Without having them side by side I can’t honestly tell you which are better. It’s close. If my musical memory is correct, the Kharmas might be ever so slightly better. But we are talking about subtleties here. Just the fact that they are in the same class as the Kharmas is grand praise.

For my listening preference, a properly recorded voice has induced more goosebumps that any other type of music. With the X-2s, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Orbison, Weavers, Alison Krause and others appear with a realness as if they are in the listening room. The effect is astounding.
Listening to Jennifer Warnes (Famous Blue Raincoat) or Cat Stevens (Tea for the Tillerman – UHQR) sent chills up my spine. Sure I’ve had emotional impact from voices before, but never was the voice so realistic, substantial, and powerful without any edginess.

By now you probably get the idea that these speakers are special indeed. With the X-2’s blend of dynamic imaging, soundstage, and resolution they are (IMHO) the best speakers in the world.

I cannot find a sonic flaw in these speakers. I am not a scientist – just a crazy audiophile who has heard many of the best high end speakers during the past 30 years.

While no speaker is perfect, the X-2s come closer than anything that I have ever heard. As I stated at the beginning, this is truly a revolutionary product.

They are by a large margin the best speakers that I have heard!

Associated gear
• Wilson X-2 Alexandria
• Walker Proscenium Gold Turntable
• Clearaudio reference cartridge
• Walker reference phono pre amp
• VTL 7.5 pre amp
• VTL S-400 amp
• Omega Mikro Power Cables active cryo’d (pre amps)
• Elrod Statement power cord for s-400
• Omega Mikro Ebony interconnects cryo’d
• Transparent XL MM Balanced interconnects (to amp)
• Transparent Opus speaker cables
• Furman Balanced power feeding Walker Velicitor for pre amps
• Dedicated 20 lines with Jena cryo’d outlets.
• All connections treated with Walker SST enhancer
• Walker resonance control discs everywhere

Similar products
Wilson X-1, VonSchweikert VR-8, Kharma Exquisites and 3.2s, Dynaudio Evidence Master, Edilon and the Grand Utopia Be to name a few
If you think the Watch Dog is heavy the XS weighs in at 750 lbs.

It took 6 men to get it into my house and upstairs into my room.

The X-2 are 720 lbs each.
Hi,Will you consider the X-2 Series 2 upgrade?? Just interested as a fellow Wilson owner.Regards Bigpond
My X-2 Series ll upgrade is on order. It is field upgradeable and involves new mid range drivers as well as a new forward firing tweeter. Also involves replacement of crossover modules. The only thing which cannot be upgraded is the glass door on the back of the new Series ll speaker. Price of the upgrade is yet TBD and will ship after November when the new speaker itself begins shipping
I hope the Maxx II upgrade is field upgradeable as well. To ship them from Aruba will kill me. I know they didn't announce it but I bet a year later it will come.
Darren: Don't tease me like that... I was about to do the Maxx II upgrade on my Maxx 1's.....

Oneobgyn: Congrats!!!