Wilson Audio's Duette is the company's biggest departure yet, outside of the WATCH wall-mounts, from their primarily floor-standing format. While hardly cheap - Dave Wilson has stated emphatically, many times, that he cannot make budget speakers because of the materials he insists on using - the Duette is the company's new entry-level speaker. As for size, well, who can kvetch about a serious two-way speaker in an enclosure that measures 18-and-two-fifths inches x nine-and-one-tenth inches x 13-and-seven-tenths inches (HWD)? This is a seriously small speaker by whacko high-end audiophile standards, which brings us to the next crucial element of the design, the trait that may offer its greatest appeal to non-audiophiles and house-proud wives.
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Wilson felt that merely down-sizing and "down-costing" weren't enough to make this a speaker for a broader clientele. It had to be more room-friendly than any of the existing models. So, with deft tweaking of the crossover, with due attention to the wiring, the rear port, the voicing, Wilson has produced a model that actually excels in many ways when used against boundaries. In this respect, the Duette is almost insouciant regarding positioning.
Another thing: this is the first Wilson speaker ever that wasn't beaten to death with the ugly stick. It's actually pretty, rather then merely another exercise in form following function. The sculpted front panel that minimizes diffraction, the "cathedral" grille, the breathtaking automotive-grade gloss finishes - you'd be forgiven for thinking Wilson hired an Italian designer to handle the aesthetics.
Back to the painless positioning, though. With the Duette, you can stand it on a rack straight out of a budget furnishings catalogue - zero rigidity, anathema to audiophiles - and with no attention paid to toe-in, relative height or any other concerns. And still the Duettes will sing with a full-blooded, massive soundstage, enough impact to humiliate systems twice their size. That's the Duette party trick: you simply do not expect near-Sophia sound from a speaker with a footprint not much larger than an LP sleeve that stands only 18 inches tall.
To achieve this, the Duette demands a decent amp, despite specs that suggest it will run with something small, like a multi-channel receiver. Why is this so? Simple: the Duette is so open and detailed and uncolored that it is cruelly revealing of an amplifier's weaknesses beyond mere power limitation. The Duette is a monitor in the truest sense.