For true, lifelike sound you need true, full-range, floorstanding loudspeakers and no one does it better than the folks over at Wilson Audio and their lauded MAXX loudspeaker, now in its third incarnation. The MAXX was originally released in 1998 and the MAXX Series 2 was a largely universally loved design by both enthusiasts and journalists alike, so improving upon what many considered to be perfection wasn't going to be easy.
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For starters, Wilson Audio re-designed the MAXX cabinet, splitting the upper module into two pieces: tweeter and midrange. Along with splitting the once singular module into two, Wilson Audio incorporated new midrange drivers based on those designed for the Alexandria Series 2 loudspeakers. The MAXX Series 3 also has all-new crossovers throughout to better integrate the new drivers. For all the updates and new technology, prospective MAXX Series 3 owners can expect to shell out $68,000 a pair, which is up $23,100 from Series 2's $44,900 asking price. Ouch.
But as much as things change they also remain the same, for the MAXX Series 3 retains enough of its shape and size, not to mention its tailored good looks that have been a MAXX staple since its inception. Yes, there have been some design changes that have made the MAXX Series 3 a bit more sculpted but it's still a MAXX. The MAXX Series 3 loudspeaker is very large, measuring in at 68 inches tall by 16 and a quarter inches wide and 24 and a quarter inches deep, but that's nothing compared to its 840 pound total system weight. The MAXX Series 3 features one 13-inch woofer that sits below the 10.5-inch woofer housed in its own rear-ported cabinet. The MAXX Series 3 has two, seven-inch midrange drivers housed in their own rear ported cabinets accompanied by a single, one-inch inverted dome tweeter in a sealed cabinet that rests between the midrange drivers in what Wilson Audio calls their Aspherical Propagation Delay configuration. The MAXX Series 3 has a reported frequency response of 20Hz to 22.5kHZ with a sensitivity of 91dB at one Watt into a four-Ohm load, which dips down to just under three Ohms at 24Hz. One of the more beautiful things about the MAXX Series 3, or any Wilson Audio product for that matter, is they tend to be amplifier agnostic, meaning you can power them with everything from single ended tube amps to mega-Watt solid state products, all with excellent results.
Due to their size, weight, cost and hand-built nature, MAXX Series 3s aren't exactly floating around for reviewers to readily get their hands on, so I booked an appointment with Brooks Berdan LTD, one of Wilson Audio's top dealers, in Monrovia, California in order to audition and review the speakers. Right off the bat I was blown away by just how effortless and nimble they sound, for nothing so visually dominating has ever aurally disappeared the way the MAXX Series 3 can and does - at least for me. From the lowest octaves on up through the highest of highs the MAXX Series 3 performance is seamless. The sound and sound pressure levels the MAXX Series 3 is capable of generating are awe inspiring yet it always feels musical but more importantly natural - no 12 foot double basses or lead singers here (sorry Magnepan). Dynamically the MAXX Series 3s are in a league of their own bested only by Wilson Audio's own Alexandria X-2s, which happened to be in the next room, though the two had a lot more in common, sonically, than I originally thought. Everything from vocals to symphonies and even driving rock music was rendered faithfully and with aplomb. Seriously there was nothing, no genre of music that I could throw at the MAXX Series 3 and not have it sound utterly amazing.
Read about the high points and the low points of the MAXX Series 3's on Page 2.