Wilson Audio has unveiled the SabrinaX, a new version of its Sabrina speaker and essentially a scaled-down take on its flagship floor-standing speaker, the Chronosonic XVX. While Sabrina used Wilson Audio’s superhero-sounding X-Material only sparingly, the SabrinaX’s outer cabinet is constructed entirely from X-Material.
This should help further minimise vibrations, making for a cleaner sound with better timing and pace, especially when combined with the speaker’s new bracing system.
As in the flagship Chronosonic XVX, there’s a low turbulence vent to replace the older unit’s aluminium one.
It features the same Convergent Synergy Mk5 tweeter as that flagship speaker, and the same 20cm bass driver as the Sasha DAW bass module.
New port shapes aim to further reduce noise, it has the same binding posts as the XVX, and the same spike/diode assembly.
And like all Wilson Audio speakers, it’s handmade in the firm’s factory in Provo, Utah, right down to the capacitors in the crossover.
The speakers come with an automotive-class paint finish, with three standard colour options – carbon, galaxy grey and quartz – and three upgrade WilsonGloss colours, crimson, ivory and diamond black.
Description and Design
The Wilson Audio Sabrina is much smaller, but compared to “normal” floorstanding speakers it’s not that small.
What helps make it look relatively small is the fact that its cabinet is slimmer at the top (about 6.5″ by 6″) and slopes back. But the Sabrina is exceptionally heavy for its size: each speaker weighs 93.8 lbs.
Because Wilson Audio has always believed that form should follow function, their speakers have never been the most aesthetically refined.
Some have been described as looking like giant robots. Judgments of appearance are subjective, but I find the Wilson Audio Sabrina very attractive: I think it has the most pleasing proportions of any Wilson speaker I’ve seen.
It’s available in three standard and two upgrade colors, the latter at a $1000/pair premium. (The review samples were in Titan Red, one of the upgrade colors.)
On the face of it, the Sabrina is a fairly straightforward three-way loudspeaker, with no exotic materials used in the drivers, and no powered subwoofer.
As always, the success of a design depends on the implementation, and the attention paid to details—and from everything I’ve seen and know about Wilson Audio Sabrina, attention to detail is perhaps their greatest strength.
The contribution of each component is carefully evaluated, its effect on sound quality being the criterion.
The enclosures of Wilson’s more expensive speakers are made of Wilson’s proprietary X-Material, a phenolic composite.
As a cost-saving measure, only the Sabrina’s baffle and bottom panel are made of X; the rest of the cabinet is constructed of high-density fiberboard.
Although HDF doesn’t match the extreme nonresonant properties of X-Material, it is, by definition, more dense and hard than the commonly used medium-density fiberboard (MDF).
The cabinet is assembled by hand, glued with proprietary adhesives, hand sanded, gel coated, painted with multiple layers of automotive-grade paint, then polished and buffed to the same high standard as all Wilson speakers.
There are two rear-firing ports: the lower serves the woofer (which has its dedicated internal chamber), and the upper serves the midrange.
The tweeter has its own rear-wave chamber, to isolate it from the other drivers’ outputs. The baffle is covered with dense felt, with a cutout for each driver.
Setting up the Wilson Audio Sabrina
Wilson’s larger, heavier, more expensive speakers are shipped in wooden crates; the Sabrina comes in just under UPS’s maximum shipping weight, so Wilson doesn’t have to use a more expensive shipping company and is thus able to pass on this saving to the consumer.
The speaker is covered with a layer of protective film that must be removed—a tricky process that involves pulling the film gently downward and outward, large sections at a time.
The user is warned that if the film is removed at any temperature other than “room temperature,” or if the film is torn too aggressively, or without sufficient care near the edges, the paint can be damaged.
Also, the protective film should not be left on for an extended period of time, and should not be exposed to a heat source or direct sunlight.
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Sabrina’s strengths was its ability to faithfully reproduce dynamic variations. Piano recordings demonstrated this particularly well.
Sonata, pianist Robert Silverman’s recording of solo works by Liszt (CD, Stereophile STPH008-2), engineered by John Atkinson and Robert Harley, has a wide dynamic range: The sound of Silverman’s piano goes from whisper quiet to blow-the-house-down loud, with everything in between.
Just for the fun of it—don’t try this at home—I first played the recording at what would be for me a normal volume for this sort of music, and then at a volume two clicks higher on the CAT preamp’s volume control—an increase of about 3dB.
The peak volume, measured with the iPhone 6 AudioTools Analog SPL meter app (C weighting, high microphone level, low-pass filter disabled) was 95.7dB.
This SPL measurement is not calibrated to professional standards, but it gives at least some measured indication of the level.
To my ears, it was very loud: Other than to demonstrate a speaker’s dynamic capability, I wouldn’t want to listen at this level.
The Wilson Audio Sabrina—for this test, driven by the Theta Prometheus—took it all in stride, with no audible distortion.
Reproduction of dynamic contrasts is one of the strengths of horn-based speakers such as my Avantgarde Uno Nanos; the Sabrinas came closer to the Avantgardes in this respect than any other speaker I’ve reviewed.
And the bass? Well, that Wilson pipe-organ recording has lots of it, including several pedal low Cs (32Hz).
I expected a speaker of the Sabrina’s size, with just a single 8″ woofer, to merely hint at these notes, or present them only as harmonics.
But no, there they were: clean, and at levels that, while not quite room-shaking, were certainly more than enough to provide a solid musical foundation.
The Avantgarde Uno Nano, which has a powered subwoofer section with twin 10″ drivers, and the GoldenEar Technology Triton One, with its powered DSP-controlled subwoofers and passive radiators, go even lower, but the Sabrina was not far behind.
The bass was tuneful, and transients, such as those in recordings of bass drums or timpani, had appropriately quick onset and very little overhang.
Wilson identifies its woofer as having been first used in the Alexia and modified for use in the Sabrina.
Whatever those modifications were, the effect is that the driver now provides greater extension and power-handling capability while retaining the quickness of a normal 8″ driver. Quite a feat.
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