Few names hold as much esteem in the loudspeaker world as Wilson Audio. Wilson has a long history of creating some of the finest loudspeakers in the world and their newest model: the Sasha W/P is the subject of this review. The Sasha W/P replaces the vastly popular and longstanding WATT/Puppy, which over the years had been through eight different incarnations. Rather than make a ninth version of the WATT/Puppy, Wilson redesigned the speaker and cabinet so much, they chose to rename it the Sasha W/P, with the W/P honoring the prior models. Retail price for the Sasha W/P is $27,900 a pair, which puts them into a small niche market reserved for die-hard audiophiles and home theater extremists with the funds to not only buy the speakers but the system to match.
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The WATT/Puppy that the Sasha W/P replaces was essentially a two-way speaker on top of a large bass cabinet. The larger Wilson speakers housed the crossover in the bass cabinet, which proved to have sonic benefits; thus the Sasha W/P now has this design trait as well. The seven-inch midrange and one inch inverted dome tweeter are the identical drivers from the larger Wilson MAXX 3s and are only slightly different than the drivers used in Wilson's top of the line Alexandria loudspeaker. The bass cabinet is now larger than the previous WATT/Puppy's, allowing for deeper bass response and to also provide room for the new eight inch woofers' all new magnet and motor assemblies. Like the WATT/Puppy before them, the upper cabinet that houses the tweeter and midrange driver is adjustable to properly time align the speaker for listening height and distance, ensuring the most accurate midrange and high frequency response possible. The result is a loudspeaker that measures 44 inches tall by 14 inches wide and 21.25 inches deep and weighs a substantial 197 pounds apiece. Even the Sasha W/P's shape is unique and designed to cut down on standing waves. As always Wilson's finish is second to none and the Sasha W/P can be had in virtually any color (at an extra cost) though the standard finishes include Diamond Black, Dark Titanium Metallic, Desert Silver Metallic and Argento Silver Metallic. My review units were finished in Diamond Black and looked absolutely stunning.
This technological trickle down from Wilson's costlier designs leads to a Sasha W/P that is 91 dB efficient into four Ohms. The Sasha W/P does drop down to a low impedance of 1.8 Ohms at 92Hz so they will require a solid amplifier capable of handling low resistance loads. Frequency response is 20-22kHz, plus or minus three dB.
Wilson has a system called WASP for Wilson Audio Setup Procedure that is designed to quickly find the best place in your room for your speakers. The technique is pretty simple and highly effective. You start out with your back against the front wall of your room and speaking in a moderately loud voice at a constant volume you slowly walk off the wall and note the changes in the sound of your voice as it transitions from the bass heavy accentuation from the front wall to finally the reflective echo off the opposite wall and mark the area between the two extremes. You then repeat this from the sidewalls and mark off the similar zone. This is the best place to begin positioning your speakers, and was exactly where I have historically found speakers to work best in my room so I started there. Ultimately the Sasha W/Ps ended up two and a half feet off the wall and six feet apart and toed in to directly face my primary listening position.
From the specifications you can easily see this is a heavy and complex speaker system, one that arrived in four large wooden crates and a cardboard box - just in case there was any doubt. The two largest crates housed the bass cabinets of the Sasha W/Ps. Using a cordless screwdriver I removed the screws that held the top on the crate. Inside the crate the bass cabinets were packed beyond belief, covered in high-density foam on all sides. The speakers were wrapped in heavy plastic bags and a special peel-off plastic covering to protect the paint finish. Fortunately for me the cabinets came with casters on them, which allowed me to wheel them out from their crates once tipped upright. I wheeled them into my room after removing my other speakers, and checked the manual as Wilson does specify right and left for both the cabinets.
The next crate I opened housed both top modules for the Sasha W/Ps. The large and heavy pyramidal housings came equally well packed and included in the crate was a large box of accessories - mainly their spikes. The top modules have several different spike options as well as brass discs to protect your floor and all the necessary tools to complete the installation of the speakers. I was also surprised to see Craftsman branded tools in my kit and not some cheap Chinese ones. They used to be Klein tools in the past but how am I supposed to complain?
I went to the Sasha W/P manual after measuring the listening distance and my ear height to see what spike I needed for the rear of the top module and secured that number into the threaded hole in the rear of the top cabinet. Two smaller spikes were also placed on the front of the upper cabinet and the front spikes were slid into two tracks atop the bass cabinets to the front detents and the rear spike sits in it's own dedicated depression. Once the tops were positioned, I attached the two sets of speaker leads to the appropriate binding posts on the rear of the head unit and connected the terminals on the rear of the bass cabinets to my speaker cable. The binding posts are all identical and extremely solidly built and are some of the finest I have seen.
I spent a fair amount of time burning in the Sasha W/Ps before marking the best placement for them. Then, with the help of a friend, I removed the top cabinets and set them aside and then laid the bass cabinets on their sides to remove the casters and place the spikes. We then flipped the bass cabinets up and put them back in place. With the help of a level we made sure the cabinets were level in both planes before securing the spikes and reinstalling the top cabinets. The hardest part of the process was getting all the spikes into the brass discs before doing the final leveling.
For this review I ran these speakers in my reference system, which consists of a Krell Evolution 403 amplifier for the three front speakers, which along with the new Sasha W/Ps included Wilson Audio's new Center 2 loudspeaker ($8,500), Classe SSP800 AV preamp, Audio Research REF 5 and 40th Anniversary Reference tube preamp, EMM Labs TSD1/DAC2 transport and DAC, Oppo BD-95 Blu-ray player, Scientific Atlanta HD8300 HD DVR, Sony PS3 and AppleTV. All wiring, be it speaker cables or interconnects, were Transparent Reference XL. It should be said that Wilson burns in all of their drivers prior to matching and installing them in the speakers, but to be safe I gave them a good hundred hours more run time before critiquing them.
A friend of mine dropped by shortly after the Sasha W/Ps finished burning in. This friend had never seen (or heard) my system so I thought it best to give him a demo, beginning with my favorite film, Fight Club (Twentieth Century Fox) on Blu-ray. This film is totally twisted and has tons of powerful scenes and sound effects for the Sasha W/Ps to sink their teeth into. While the sounds of flesh from the punches were lifelike, the space presented by the background music was insanely huge and totally drew me into the film more so than I have ever experienced. Within moments of the film's beginning I quickly realized that the Sasha W/Ps were capable of creating one of the largest, most detailed soundstages I've ever heard. The dynamics of the film were amazing and voices perfected to an extreme level. Transitions across the front three loudspeakers were as good as I could imagine, allowing the subtlest of details to come across cleanly. The crinkling of paper was as clear as the screeching of the plane crash. Having never heard my system before, my good friend left in awe and wonder - and to be completely honest, so was I.
Read more about the performance of the Sasha W/P loudspeaker on Page 2.