Wilson Audio XLF

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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Hi Everyone,

With Steve and Ron's most excellent tech/software upgrade to the WBF Platform last week, I was [finally!] able to search "XLF" in the WBF annals...and found we did not have a dedicated thread! So I thought given that there are a few owners here, and many Wilson owners who also have heard them, I would start one.

WILSON JOURNEY BEGINS 2008
My own history with Wilson began with an unexpected listen to the Wilson X1/Grand Slamm Series III powered by a pair of Krell Evo Ones, an ARC Ref 3 preamp and TA Reference cabling. An astounding performance that really opened my eyes to what the effortlessness of scale and dynamics can really do to recreate a performance. I never forgot that introduction when at the time I was enjoying the intimate sound of Sonus Faber Guarneris and a big Velodyne DD18 sub.

When I did a half-day shoot-out with the Guarneri and the Quad 2805 and 2905...I found myself so impressed with the Guarneris in comparison...I very nearly kept them (until I spied the SF Strads in the middle of the main showroom)...and that led to my next major upgrade. On the day I bought them later that week or so...I specifically remember saying to the owner of the store...the SF Strads are an amazing reference speaker...the only one I would upgrade to would be the X1/Grand Slamm.

...and one year later he called me with a 16-year old pair in near-mint condition that had showed up and at a price that allowed me literally to just swap speakers...that was 10 years ago and the evolution of minor, mini-tweaks and adjustments to fine tune this remarkable now-26 year old speaker are chronicled here:

https://whatsbestforum.com/threads/wilson-x1-grand-slamm-still-improving-after-20-years.15530/

ENTER WILSON XLF - 2012

Since then, I went on to listen to systems with the mighty Rockport Arrakis, the Genesis 1s, the 4-tower Tidal Sunrays, the YG Acoustics Anat Ref IIs, the Focal Grande Utopia EM, multiple X2 Series 1 and 2s...nearly all of these in the same demo rooms I had grown accustomed to over the years. And of all of these, the Arrakis stuck with me all those years...the ONLY other speaker that kept me thinking about it was the Wilson XLF. We first heard it in 2012 and revelled in its newfound alacrity, power, effortlessness, nuance (not just in the treble).

Not the equal of the Arrakis in unlimited scale, effortlessness...but so nuanced, its ability to portray organic detail from the sources and amps was spectacular and truly a level well above its original incarnation the X1...and finally, it was also so finely adjustable by a super-maven like Pedro of Absolute Sounds UK. Whenever I thought about getting the Arrakis, it always occurred to me whether I might (in some small, small way) miss the opportunity to enjoy the 20-year newer, more rigid, more capable, more powerful, more detailed, quieter, more nuanced version of the original X1/Grand SLAMM...roughly 7 generations later if you could include X1 Series 1, 2, 3 the Level V, the Alexandria 1, 2 and then XLF 7.

WILSON XLF - 2020

As the arrival of the new generation of Wilson flagships took off, the 8 year flagship came to end, and we had the opportunity to acquire an 'as new, full 5-year warranty' pair painted new to our choice but at a price that worked for us. We took it. (Turns out rumor has it that this pair might have been Transparent Audio Founder Karen Sumner's personal pair. Cool. She has presumably gone up to the XVX.)

In comparison with our 26-year-old X1/Grand Slamm, the XLF is truly more inert, more capable, more effortless, quieter and more refined. It is also far more powerful and propsulsive while also being more delicate. But it never strays from the original 'ethos' that was born in the X1: effortlessness, scale, dynamic capability...and supremely adjustable to finetune to room variances and of course personal taste. And always in the hands of a professional.

A few notes:
- Every internal surface of the XLF (that you can see) is covered in acoustic material so as you get near that part of the speaker (behind the adjustable modules for example), your ears almost feel like they are popping because the sound deadens.
- Every corner and edge is specifically mitered, rounded, smoothed and THEN generally covered with a thin elastomer material where it makes contact with another surface
- Every insertion peg is covered in an elastomer material before it goes into a screw hole
- The solidity of the unit is far greater than the X1 where I was constantly driving greater rigidity, mass damping to reduce vibration-induced 'noise'
- The weight of the XLF is some 20% or 100+lbs heavier than the original X1/Grand SLAMM
- It also has a 13" and 15" combination for bass (vs the X1s 12" and 15") and 2 x 7" midrange cones (vs 2 x 6" for X1)

Standout Listening Notes?
- Super quiet noise floor
- Far more resolute
- Greater detail, dynamic range and ability to parse out fine gradients in microdynamics and shading
- Overall, the picture produced by the XLF is far more resolute than earlier incarnations...the rigidity certainly feels like a big part of it, combined with tighter tolerances on manufacturing design and quality of parts

Tweaks?
- We utilized the Stillpoints Ultra 5s on the feet
- We also discovered that putting HRS Nimbus Couplers on the back of the crossver box...stacking 3 Stillpoints Ultra 5s on top and then placing 16kg (so total of 20kg or 45lbs) of Artesania damping plates. In this way, you keep all the original decay, delicacy of the speaker...but now also find that cymbals and certain high-intensity notes in the treble find far greater palpability and solidity of form...while bass also becomes tighter and more resolute

We drive them with the Robert Koda K15EX Super Ground Preamp combined with the Gryphon Audio Mephisto (175 Watts Pure Class A...doubling all the way down to 0.5ohms 5600watts peak) so a LOT of on tap power. And the XLF is genuinely enjoying the extraordinary power.

Look forward to hearing from fellow owners.
 
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Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
How about this LLoyd

 

XV-1

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May 24, 2010
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Big Congrats Lloyd!! I have been waiting for you to post about your new babies.

How do they play your favourite techno?

Photos please :cool:
 

gshelley

Member Sponsor
Jan 10, 2011
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Hey Lloyd, great post!
The crossover tweak is. Interesting. Pics of the setup would be great to see.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Congratulations, Lloyd!

Thank you for chronicling for us your speaker journey!

PS: I am glad you like the new search function. I do too. But please know it was all Steve and Julian. They have done a great job on the tech/software project! I had nothing to do with it.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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Big Congrats Lloyd!! I have been waiting for you to post about your new babies.

How do they play your favourite techno?

Photos please :cool:
Hey Lloyd, great post!
The crossover tweak is. Interesting. Pics of the setup would be great to see.
 

Attachments

  • XLF - Crossover Damping.jpg
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LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Hi XV-1,

On techno, the XLF is far more resolute and easily able to handle the complexity of multiple beats at once while keeping them all well time so you can appreciate all the different synopations going on, etc...well ahead of the original X1. The X1 always needed for me to have more damping, controls to keep the structure more inert/intact. The XLF does not. I still am trialing damping the crossover, but it is minor compared to what I felt I had to do with the X1s.

That said, the Torus Balanced Power Conditioner did a tremendous improvement on the upper bass transient cleanup. Unfortunately, tihe Torus is producing some kind of 'something' (current thinking is some kind of AC wave form imbalance?)...which the Gryphon does not like. So I have put the Gryphon straight to the wall. And emailed Torus to get some advice on an adjustment or setting that can remedy this.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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What kVA rating is the Torus, Lloyd? I used to run an Airlink 3kVA transformer, but it slightly blunted/rounded transients and bass grunt. My 8kVA Westwick feels like an open window.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Hi Spirit,

It is 16amps, 3800 KVA and apparently its peak is 10x or 50x or something crazy. Both Gryphon and Torus were fine with using them together.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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So, what has changed now? Same amp, same transformer.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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FWIW, even on 27W and 70W triodes I could gauge a greater sense of flow and unrestricted dynamics going from a 3kVA to a 8kVA transformer.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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So, what has changed now? Same amp, same transformer.
No one knows. Current thinking is that the Torus may always have had something funny in its setup or a problem which most equipment are not sensitive to...but the Gryphon always was and eventually stopped. So we are not combining them anymore...until Torus can step in with some guidance.
 

XV-1

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May 24, 2010
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Sydney
Hi XV-1,

On techno, the XLF is far more resolute and easily able to handle the complexity of multiple beats at once while keeping them all well time so you can appreciate all the different synopations going on, etc...well ahead of the original X1. The X1 always needed for me to have more damping, controls to keep the structure more inert/intact. The XLF does not. I still am trialing damping the crossover, but it is minor compared to what I felt I had to do with the X1s.

That said, the Torus Balanced Power Conditioner did a tremendous improvement on the upper bass transient cleanup. Unfortunately, tihe Torus is producing some kind of 'something' (current thinking is some kind of AC wave form imbalance?)...which the Gryphon does not like. So I have put the Gryphon straight to the wall. And emailed Torus to get some advice on an adjustment or setting that can remedy this.

Lloyd

So it was the Torus that blew up your Gryphon, not the cj GAT.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Lloyd

So it was the Torus that blew up your Gryphon, not the cj GAT.
Hard to say but yes, that could be the case. The audiotech did feel the CJ GAT 2 right channel had a tube that was issuing stray noise which may not have helped (Gryphon right channel is the one that went wrong) but CJ is all fine when he swapped in for new tube.
 
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gshelley

Member Sponsor
Jan 10, 2011
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thanks for posting the pic. That helps a lot.
will be interested to hear how this damping evolives.

have you tried different ”footers” under the speakers?

I found Ultra 5s work well on XLF. I didn’t like them under my X2’s. In that case they took away some of the dynamic punch. Interestingly not so with the XLF’s and it adds clarity to the music with an improved soundstage.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Hi Gshelley,

Interesting! I really liked what the Ultra 5s did with the X1s and everyone genuinely liked what they did with the XLFs as well. Agree with your observations. I have not used anything other than the stock Wilson spikes historically on both speakers. I have read great things about Center Stage and Iso Acoustics.
 

sbnx

Well-Known Member
Mar 28, 2017
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Congrats Lloyd. Heck of a combination. How about a few pics of the system? From the above it looks like you picked a Titanium Grey for the color.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,849
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As a quick update, I have been continuing to get to know the XLFs. And most recently decided finally to put back the Entreq silver wraps around the lead cables in the back which connect the various boxes. A similar effect of clarity around the treble and mids.

I went back and forth where the original X1's reaction to them was more pronounced than the XLFs...and where I wanted to ensure by adding them there were no negatives. Back and forth with violin solos...the Entreq wraps provide a density and clarity of violin notes which when listening to a virtuoso playing solo really gives those extreme soaring notes an extra bit of depth and body. Almost like signal density even if that is not what is actually happening.
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,889
1,190
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United States
As a quick update, I have been continuing to get to know the XLFs. And most recently decided finally to put back the Entreq silver wraps around the lead cables in the back which connect the various boxes. A similar effect of clarity around the treble and mids.

I went back and forth where the original X1's reaction to them was more pronounced than the XLFs...and where I wanted to ensure by adding them there were no negatives. Back and forth with violin solos...the Entreq wraps provide a density and clarity of violin notes which when listening to a virtuoso playing solo really gives those extreme soaring notes an extra bit of depth and body. Almost like signal density even if that is not what is actually happening.

Lloyd,
My romance with the Alexandria X-2, S-2 is coming to an end as I get ready for what will likely be my last loudspeaker. I'm eagerly awaiting the Alexx 2 which should be out imminently. It is said by some that the Alexx is a better speaker in some ways than the XLF although I suspect that the latter is still is quite impressive and will remain so for years to come. Since it's fair to assume that Daryl isn't going to make an Alexx 2 unless its considerably better than the Alexx, I'm eagerly awaiting its introduction, and even more importantly, a chance to hear them at a show sometime in the not too distant future. One wonders if the Alexx 2 will deliver sound that is yet a step closer to the XVX, which would be nice. My assumption is that it will have 1 new midrange driver (from the XVX), the new Wilson feet, hopefully a slightly deeper cabinet that is a cross between the Alexx (~27") and the XVX (33"), and of course, a steeper price (duh). If you've heard any rumblings about the Alexx 2, please share!
Marty
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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Hi Marty,

Many thanks for the update. That sounds like an exciting move! I have not heard anything about an upcoming Alexx 2. I am due to see the Wilson Distributor in several weeks when things look a little bit more under control Covid-wise, and I will ask him. He has to finetune the XLFs and will be here for a while.

FWIW, as an owner of Wilsons for 11 years and a big fan for much longer, I have found the subsequent major moves to be in a positive direction, and understand particularly that Darryl's direction is one of great nuance, refinement, and natural delivery (while maintaining the original Wilson's hallmarks of great dynamics and remarkable adjustability to the room, system and owner's personal priorities).

I think this applies to the Alexx...and am told it applies to the new DAW as well. And certainly by all accounts, this is certainly a big part of what the XVX represents which is great news for everyone both existing Wilson fans and also newcomers to the sound who may have sought that greater nuance/refinement/intimate tonality.

For me, the XLF was my own personal choice for a variety of reasons (after owning the 26-year old X1s for over 10 years):

- The XVX is a massive price premium to a 2nd hand, demo or factory re-certified XLF
- The Alexx is a refinement in certain respects of the XLF. As a general rule over the years, I have always taken the bigger but older Wilsons for their extra element of effortlessness and scale (vs Maxx and Alexx)...while recognizing fully that others feel differently.
- While I have absolutely always loved tonal nuance, refinement and natural placement of instruments (who doesn't?)...I also have found for me there is a point at which other priorities take over for me...scale, deep propulsive bass and an effortlessness that I find tends to reside in larger speakers.
- Hence why my next major move is almost certainly investigating dual tower subs (a la REL 6-pack), or a pair of dual Funk 18.2s (4 x 18" cones) where distortion is perhaps 4-5x LESS than the already impressive DD18+ all the way down to 10hz (not that I expect to have much down there in our collection other than action flicks)...its that it is a reflection of how accurately the subs can play at 20hz or 15hz where the sense of venue, space are increasingly important pursuits for us now.
- I have been reading about experiences like Jeff Dorgay and the REL 6-pack with great interest.

I will update if I hear about Alexx2...and meanwhile, please let us know what you hear as well!
 
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