There is change, and also continuity, at Wilson Audio Specialties, the company founded in 1974 by recordist and loudspeaker designer David A. Wilson. David’s son Daryl Wilson was appointed president and CEO in 2016. David Wilson passed away in 2018. And in 2019, Wilson Audio Specialties released the Sasha DAW loudspeaker ($37,900/pair), designed by a team led by Daryl Wilson and named in honor of his father.
The Sasha model has a history of its own. Designed as a replacement for the company’s successful WATT/Puppy two-box loudspeakersthese combined the Wilson Audio Tiny Tot compact monitor with a dedicated woofer enclosure called the Puppythe first Wilson Audio Sasha W/P Series 1 loudspeaker was introduced in 2009; Art Dudley reviewed it for our July 2010 issue. A follow-up model, the Sasha W/P Series 2, was issued in 2014. The Sasha series retains a direct connection to those earlier designs within the expanding lineup of loudspeakers offered by Wilson Audio Specialties.
I told my editors that I could get two sentences out of the name connection, so here they are: Even though I am legally Alexander Matson, I have always been called Sasha, the Russian diminutive form for my given name. And there’s a similar naming convention that runs through Wilson Audio’s line of floorstanding loudspeakers, from Alexandria, Alexx, and Alexia all the way to their smaller sibling Sasha.
The two-box Sasha DAW measures 44.75″ tall without spikes, 14.5″ wide, and 22.85″ deep. These dimensions are slightly larger than those of the first Sasha model. Each speaker weighs 236lb. (The Sasha W/P Series 1 weighed 197lb.) Thus the latest Sasha is just 24lb lighter than the current Alexia 2 model, though the latter is a bit more than 8″ taller.
Why the weight gain? The lower woofer module of the Sasha DAW increased in volume by more than 13% compared to its immediate predecessor, the Sasha W/P Series 2; the thickness of its panels also increased. The upper module, containing the midrange driver and tweeter, gained 10% in volume, and those panels also increased in thickness. The Sasha DAW cabinets are constructed from Wilson Audio’s proprietary composite mixes of resin and cellulose: X-Material for most of the panels, with their newer S-Material formulation used for the midrange baffle. Permanent bonding, not bolts, holds everything together. The exteriors of the cabinets, the many subtly beveled edges of which add to their sculpted look, hint at the complex voicing and tuning hidden within.
The binding posts mounted on the rear of the bottom enclosurein light of Wilson Audio’s lack of enthusiasm for biwiring/biamping, only a single pair is fittedhave been redesigned: Banana plugs are now accepted. While you’re back there, you can admire the speaker’s machined-aluminum “ultra-low-turbulence” reflex port: This hefty cabinet is not meant to be jammed up against a wall or into corners.
Also on the rear, next to the handsome Sasha DAW logo, is a window that offers a view of the resistors mounted within. These function as fuse-like protectors, as well as providing the ability to alter the balance between the upper and lower modules in inhospitable room setupsan adjustment that I’m told is rarely needed.
The specified frequency response of the three-way Sasha DAW is from 20Hz to 30kHz, ±3dB. In the speaker’s bottom enclosure, twin 8″ paper-cone woofers, fitted with ceramic magnets, are reflex loaded and wired in parallel; they both see the same signal. One can imagine how such less-than-enormous bass drivers, assuming ample excursion capabilities, could provide both bass depth and outstanding transient response.
The Sasha DAW’s crossover is newly designed with all second-order slopes. No circuit boards are used: The wiring is point-to-point. Wilson Audio now makes their crossover capacitors in-house, and the Sasha DAW is their first model to use them.
In the speaker’s upper enclosure is a 7″ midrange driver with a paper-and-cellulosecomposite cone: the same as that currently used in Wilson’s flagship model, the enormous WAMM Master Chronosonic. Wilson designer Vern Credille described it to me: “The midrange driver motor has a secondary magnet, which changes the Thiele-Small parameters and gives more control. The midrange design is an acoustic impeded vent, similar to a vented enclosure but with a highly resistive port such that some characteristics of a closed box can be exploited.”
The 1″ textile-dome tweeter employs a neodymium magnet and is loaded with its own sealed box. For the first Sasha W/P model, the choice was a titanium inverted-dome design, but over the years, Wilson Audio has auditioned various other materials as tweeter diaphragms, including Kevlar, diamond, beryllium, and carbon fiber. (As I understand it, some materials yield great results way up high but are less suited to the tweeter’s lower range, and thus have trouble mating well with the midrange driver. And as David Wilson observed, a good tweeter “has to be a team player.”) According to Wilson Audio, the Sasha DAW’s midrange driver crosses over to the tweeter at about 1kHz, the latter driver being flat on-axis out to 34kHz.
Daryl Wilson described the design priorities this way: “The two fundamental elements we always focus on at Wilson are dynamic contrast and harmonic expression. And there is one more element that I’ve added the more we dug into it: micro detail. We are getting more resolution than we did ten or twenty years ago.”
Long day’s journey into setup
You should have seen the mournful expression on the face of the Air Cargo guy as he handed me the packing slip: He wanted me to see the total weight of the shipment. I helped him trundle the three seriously well-constructed wooden crates up the driveway and into the garage. When the crates were opened, the woofer cabinets rolled out on double-wheeled casters. The Sasha DAW model incorporates a clever new design element: The formerly solid fairings on the top edges of the lower cabinet are now open and function as handles. This reduces pressure between the upper and lower modulesand helps a lot in the setup process. Once the Sashas were roughly in position in my listening room, I laid down the woofer modules and swapped out the casters for spikes, included along with tools and other parts in two nicely done boxes.
Initial setup concluded with placing the upper module on top of the lower and connecting the exposed spade-tipped signal leads. It is at this point that things get uniquely Wilsonian. “Time-Alignment” is the term used in the setup manual, although “Time-Calibration” would also seem appropriate. The idea: mating the upper enclosure’s rear spikes to specific positions on an adjustable “stairstep” support, said spikes and positions selected with the aid of a calibration chartitself based on the distance between the speakers and one’s preferred listening positionin order to synchronize the arrival times of upper frequencies. The Sasha DAW is now the lowest-priced model in the Wilson Audio hierarchy that offers this capability. Does this make a difference? You bet it does. If you change the positions or use differently sized spikes, you will hear it.
Once the Sasha DAWs arrived at my house and after some juggling of schedules, Peter McGrath, Wilson Audio Specialties’ sales manager, traveled to upstate New York, and I went to fetch him from Albany airport: Whether you’re a customer or a reviewer, installation comes standard with the purchase of any Wilson Audio speakers (although not always by McGrath himself).