Wilson Audio MAXX Series 3 Loudspeaker Reviewed

Wilson Audio MAXX Series 3 Loudspeaker Reviewed

Andrew Robinson, Home Theater Review's Managing Editor, checks out Wilson Audio's MAXX Series 3 loudspeakers and is completely dazzled, so much so that he declared them to be a near-perfect speaker.

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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.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews by the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore amplifier options in our Amplifier Review section.
• Look for a subwoofer to match with the MAXX Series 3’s in our Subwoofer Review section.

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.

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High Points
• While large, the MAXX Series 3’s fit and finish are first rate and no one does it better than Wilson Audio when it comes to custom paint finishes.
• I’m still amazed that despite being so large and so imposing, the MAXX Series 3s are capable of sounding like mini-monitors at times, for their accuracy, focus and breadth of soundstage is phenomenal in a properly set up and treated room. Not to mention they disappear completely from the sonic picture, unlike any large speaker I’ve encountered to date.
• The MAXX Series 3’s midrange is sublime and among the best I’ve ever heard from a dynamic driver (I still have a soft spot for electrostats) and while I’m not usually a fan of simple dome tweeters, the MAXX Series 3 is up to the task and compliments the new midrange drivers beautifully.
• In terms of bass the MAXX Series 3’s woofers are amazing, capable of plunging the depths without sacrificing control or musicality. They also seem capable of achieving such feats with tube as well as solid-state amps, which is something I can’t stay about other cost-no-object speakers.

Low Points
• There’s no getting around the fact that the MAXX Series 3s are large and because of this fact aren’t going to be appropriate for every room, even if you have the budget to financially accommodate them. Thankfully, for those of you with the means, Wilson Audio makes the Sasha W/Ps which are far more room and décor friendly, not to mention half as much as the MAXX Series 3. The Sasha W/Ps sound surprisingly comparable albeit on a slightly smaller scale.
• The MAXX Series 3s aren’t as revealing as some reference speakers out there, meaning you can drive them with virtually anything – but in order to get the absolute best out of them you must use the best, which will drive the cost of ownership up quite a bit. The VTL system I used during my demo was hardly cheap.
• Unlike many Wilson Audio speakers, the MAXX Series 3 is so new that existing MAXX or MAXX Series 2 owners cannot upgrade the components in their speakers to Series 3 status. Instead they have to trade up to Series 3 whereby they’re given credit for their MAXX Series 2 and then pay the difference in the retail price to then receive MAXX Series 3s. Sounds good except for those who purchased MAXX Series 2s prior to May 1, 2008, in which case those customers are simply out of luck. Frustrating, considering you may be such a customer who already shelled out $44,000 for MAXX Series 2 – a speaker that many claimed to be “perfect” already.

Competition and Comparison
While there are a number of large, cost-no-object loudspeakers out there, few can do what the MAXX Series 3s can. Still there are a few, beginning with Wisdom Audio’s new LS3 and LS4 loudspeakers. One could also consider MartinLogan’s CLX loudspeaker even though it’s an electrostatic design; both are large, open and hugely transparent loudspeakers, though the MAXX Series 3 will play deeper the CLXs are a third the price.

Conclusion
Let’s not beat around the bush: $68,000 isn’t what any rational human being would call affordable (sorry Michael Fremer). Still, for those fortunate audiophiles among us who can afford Wilson Audio speakers, specifically MAXX Series 3, you’re in for a real treat for they are among the best sounding loudspeakers I’ve ever heard. Are the MAXX Series 3 perfect? In a word – no. Are they close enough to perfect that one can simply get on with life and enjoy their music without getting the “itch” to jump back on the upgrade rollercoaster? You bet. If Wilson didn’t make the Alexandria speakers, you could safely put the MAXX3 speakers at the top of any “best speakers in the world” list and get no complaints from anybody.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews by the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore amplifier options in our Amplifier Review section.
• Look for a subwoofer to match with the MAXX Series 3’s in our Subwoofer Review section.

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