Review: Wilson Audio Grand Slamm Speaker

Category: Speakers

Since this is a site largely based on trading second hand products, I thought it worthwhile to share one man's experience with a sensational speaker that is much, much older...and fortunately much, much depreciated in value when I traded in for it! The theme here is do not bypass much older products just because they are older technology!

First, let me preface that i am not making ANY claims about "best"...only my own conviction abouy how things sound to ME and MY EARS. Now off to the review!

The Grand Slamms are 16 years (The original owner bought them 1994, listened a bit...then put them in storage when he moved countries...the plastic film on the piano gloss laminate was still on after 16 years when they arrived! The finish is Mint! The feet had never even been attached.)

With an ear that prefers my Zanden DAC, CJ pre-amp, Gryphon Antileon and Sonus Faber STradivari sound, you can imagine i like warmth (but also a fair amount of technical capability.)

IMHO, relative to every speaker (save Alexandria) the Wilson Grand Slamm produces the reference sound for my ears.

- Musicality. I will state i have never considered buying any Watt Puppy or Maxx I or II...not my cup of tea. I liked Sasha but still preferred my STrads by a margin.

I never associated them with musicality only accuracy...i have preferred even colored musicality (whatever that means!)

HOW and WHY?
- Effortless, effortless, effortless. Wilson to my ear achieves musicality by creating indefatiguable, inexhaustable, inert obelisques that allow sound to pass through them as if the obelisques were not there. Nothing phases these's just sound passing through
- Specifically to date, no sound, no dynamic, no cymbal brush, no whisper, no crash, no reverb seems to pass through with any edits.
- there appears to be no compression of sound
- the Grand Slamm also is able to allow for instrumental separation...not just delineation of instruments into their own space...but also their own rhthym, subtle volume contrasts between notes...each musician is playing separately through the speakers, and the speakers do not confuse any one musician over the other...creating internal musical cues which i'd never even heard before
- Seamless integration across the one area stands out. which means music again just passes through without emphasis of one area or another
- soundstage...lifelike. it is surprising when someone sings live in front of you how "big" they seem when you close your eyes. The Grand Slamm really does approximate this stunningly well even on choral masses, and certainly on good studio recordings of small ensembles, trios, etc
- this i mean sound passing through as it seems to have been recorded (not that i would know but it certainly feels that way based on comparison to live instruments i do know from either having played them for 12 years, etc.)...again, sound is just passing thru

Set up
- Smokes!!!!!!!!!! This is by far, by far, by FAR the most critical thing about these!
- And we are not just talking about scientic "art is science" placement.
- The distributor's top man came with the GM of the Dealership and spent nearly 8 hours in my home
- They even soldered in different resistors (twice!) for the tweeter in order to emphasize/de-emphasize the treble to accommodate the treble dispersion capability of my room. it is that sensitive to set-up.
- But once they finished measuring angles, taking into consideration side wall reflections, the shape of my living room, etc, and then tweaking the it went from great, to big to Smokes!!!!!!!!!!

If you look at the incomplete list of speakers i have had the fortunate opportunity to get know to a greater or lesser extent over 25 years, some are old and some are new. All are very, very good.

To me, the Wilson X-1,Grand Slamm is the reference to my ears.

Finally, i come back to the main point of this Review. In support of what many of us are here for (second hand), i firmly reinforce the notion that much older products can still be references in today's world when done well. In truth, one has to acknowledge that manufacturers are running a business...and they need to get consumers to buy new products, upgrade, etc...and they must therefore market the "newer is better" motto.

In many cases, this is absolutely true...but i think many of us have seen the benefit of the fact that depreciation sometimes is greater than the degradation of quality!!! A product that has depreciated in half is certainly not half as good as a new speaker...and in my own personal experience in this case, this much older speaker is still the greatest speaker i have had the blessing to hear and now own.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

Associated gear
Oppo 83 Blu-Ray, Upgrade Audio Modded
Zanden DAC
Gryphon Antileon
Transparent Ref IC/SC
PAD Dominus/Ann Contego PC
Transp Ref Conditioner

Similar products
Wilson Alexandria
Rockport Merak/Sheritan
YG Acoustics Anat Prof
Hansen Prince
Martin Logan CLX
Sonus Faber Stradivari
Thiel 7
B&W 800/801/802
Wilson Maxx II, Watt 6,7,8, Sasha
Congrats, I bet tbese do sound fantastic! And I bet you did get a super price on em...
Thanks, Jfrech and Brf!

Jfrech - great system!!! i noticed you use a clock with your DCS. What differences did it make? one of the weakest links in my audio chain is the transport. given where digital is going, i am hesistant to spend a lot on dedicated transport...but i would consider clock/re-clock to upgrade whatever signal is coming from the transport.

What would i expect to hear from using a clock as good as your must be? thanks for your advice!

Congrats!!!! That's a lot of speaker/sound!!!! Good job with your purchase!! Your review was an enjoyable read and you nailed it with:

"To me, the Wilson X-1,Grand Slamm is the reference to my ears."

Hi Samhar! Happy New Year (almost)!

Continue to read your posts/system updates with anticipation! Nice to hear from you.

Part of the trade-in was a Nordost QX4 which i am looking forward to plugging in when it arrives. i have had really, really positive experiences with this in the form of the Nordost Thor in my own system pre-X1s and also in auditioning the QX4 in-store once before. Given the resolution quality of your system and your evident experience in audio...i wonder if you've ever auditioned it? will post when it arrives.
Hi, thanks for the compliment. That dcs clock is a big deal for me. Things seem much better portrayed in space. Seems to make a bigger improvement on sacd, but its noticable everywhere. Just like on your wilsons, if you don't have the modules aligned right the music isn't as coherent as it can be...might be the best analogy.

I haven't heard your dac but have read good things, I suspect a better transport might make a big diff. I've heard the dcs separates, even keeping the same dac, the dcs transports as u step up in their line offer improvemnts.

This dcs clock "u clock" also has their usb asynch with a pc/mac and outputs it on spdif. This is killer good and may be a nice add to your zanden (does it have a clock input to?)

Hope this helps
Thanks, Jfrech! How does the clock work? go in between the transport and the Zanden DAC? i am not sure about the Zanden DAC and clock input...i think that it does have it.
Hi, this will need more insight. But for a dcs system there is one cable (bnc to bnc) that connects the u clock output to my dcs puccini clock input. Very simple.

I am guessing this is the same for you, but it should be confirmed before you buy...

If you have a transport tha accepts a clock input, then it will work to. The dCS u clock has 4 clock outputs...
A quick update having now had the speakers in situ for around 35 hours of listening.

1) They are sooo effortless, you can easily turn the volume up with no even though the music does not FEEL loud, it actually is. very dangerous to your hearing!!!!!!!!!

2) believe it or not, i find i still use the Velodyne DD18 sub on music! The key is i need to turn the low-pass crossover to 35 hz with a steep cutoff (48db). And i do NOT use the internal crossover!...but run the Velodyne in parallel.

What happens with the Velodyne is that it provides a very controlled tight rumble on deep bass tracks (a lot more than one would think if you listen to electronic, even orchesteral) that is very satisfying and fills the void (for bass freaks).

in fact, i find having put that back into my system, i do not feel the need to turn the volume up as much anymore. save my hearing!

3) muting and unmuting the Velodyne on the same tracks...i can confirm i get all of the detail on the bass drum kick from the Slamms.

4) Note, on the volume scale, i keep the Velodyne on 8...extremely low. Even going up one notch to 9 (out of 40+?) starts to overpower the Wilsons and i lose a touch of the bass drum kick detail in the rumble.

5) hence, i can see why Wilson developed their own subs...not just for video but even for certain audio.

hope that is helpful to those looking at full range speakers and subs.
Hi Vernneal,

Nice system! i never had the chance to hear the Thiel 2.3s but one of my favorites of the earlier line was the 2.2. I recall comparing it to a good whisky. Great punch, linearity and also body to the music. Looks like the 2.3 came out around 5 years later. i see you're contemplating 3.7 at some point in the future. have heard equally great things about those. enjoy!
Update: after just under 100 hours of listening, the speakers actually seem to be breaking in! Partly, this is because 2 drivers had their foam surrounds replaced...partly could it be that the original owner really did not spend that much time listening to them?

in any event, the lower mids/upper bass (where the new foam surrounds breaking in would be critical), is "warming up and filling out". The rich sound/reverb from the body of the cello is filling in addition to the playing of the strings on the cello.

I stand by my original statement of nearly 3 years ago...the Grand Slamm matches my Sonus Faber Strads for musicality, warmth and delivers greater detail, much greater microdynamics...and significantly greater scale, macrodynamics. i did not think this musicality/warmth that i enjoyed so much with the Strads was possible to hear in these speakers, but having had the benefit of truly expert set-up by Pedro and Arif (Absolute Sounds and KJ West One), it is. Enjoy everyone!!!!!
Hi my maxx 3's when new opened up a lot after the 1st 100 hours. then gradually over the next few months. It takes awhile...but they seem to ease and things begin to flow better and better. subtle on the next steps from here i bet for you...
Hi Jfrech,

Many thanks for that! Good to know. i'll keep listening! Thanks again.

Hi all,

Roughly 150 hours...i can say the Wilson X1s definitively and unequivocally (to these ears) best my former Sonus Faber Strads in every aspect. Including midrange magic where i simply did not think this was possible.

I am enjoying my music and forgetting the system entirely. and i am rediscovering my music which has in many cases been transformed in unexpected ways. Unique patterns of music, backup vocals, soft cymbals in the back, and enormous micro-dynamic changes in the way Clapton or Nirvana played their guitars on their MTV Unplugged albums...both of which are excellent btw. I think Nirvana's Teen Spirit album is good and i own it...but i think their MTV Unplugged album is sensational.

i guess its a good sign when i spend more of the post talking about music than the system! Enjoy everyone!
Hi all,

I have stopped counting how many hours of burn-in...the Wilsons are sensational and allowing me to make minor adjustments throughout my system...and hear them immediately. I have tweaked a couple of power cables and ugpraded my tubes in my Zanden DAC PSU to Mullards from the 1950s...thanks to Brent Jessie!...the old ones were getting old and buzzy anyway. Wow! So resolving but ultimately a touch of midrange sweetness in my system! I would never have thought i would be saying that about a pair of big Wilsons...but true.

i suppose it is not the Wilsons so much as the electronics (Zanden/CJ) which are coming thru an exceptional transducer (Wilsons). As Martin Colloms kindly advised me when i emailed him about these speakers, even with the older X-1s. you will continue to explore the depths of these older speakers' capabilities with the improvements in today's modern electronic sources...the music they produce continues to improve with the better electronics...they are that good.
Excellent stuff Lloyd

Great to hear you thoroughly enjoying the X-1's.

I hope to one day be able to play Nirvana's - come as you are LOUD :-)
Hi Shane.

I suspect that day may be sooner rather than later!!! ;) Play the track 'Polly wants a cracker'...just wait for the kick drum!
One year to the day since I posted here congradulating you on your new speakers and now your writing a very positive review of your time with the Grand Slamm speakers!!! I think one needs to live with speakers to learn what they can do, I know with my WP 8 the more I listen the more I learn what is possible from them, I think they have the same characteristics on a smaller scale as your Wilsons and respond well to gear and room upgrades. I dream of a dedicated room but at this point no can do! Happy Holidays!
Hi Samhar,

Wow! You're right...i did not even realize this until you mentioned it! Happy holidays to you and yours! Enjoy your fantastic system...which i enjoy watching and reading about!
Hi All,

Just a quick update...I have since worked with my local distributor/dealers on the X1s. Amazing improvements on such an older speaker...far more electrostatic-like articulation...far greater EASE and effortlessness of presentation, along with much greater detail being picked up (to be fair, also due to isolation and grounding of the electronics as well). Here are the changes to the speakers:

- Stillpoints Ultra 5s underneath
- Entreq Vibb Eaters (25 lbs of strategically placed mass damping on top of the upper modules in front and back)
- Tweeters broke, so have latest gen Focal Titanium tweeter replacement with the 'Wilson damped chamber' inside that came with the Alexandria Series 2 and Maxx 3 tweeters

I am now thinking of a custom mass damping solution largely based on the Entreq Vibb Eaters on top for the X1s. The improvements they have wrought are that good.

The most impressive changes from damping against vibration (from underneath and on top) are really, really eliminating a small blur, haze and unsure imaging from what appears to have been not an entirely inert cabinetry...notes do not 'pull to the speakers' as much which means they disappear better along with more sure-footed, solid of course micro, micro details have come out now that I do not hear in other SOTA systems at local dealers (not entirely fair...they're constantly moving equipment around for auditions but these systems are nevertheless superb equipment: Naim Statement, Metronome Kalista Ref, Focal Grande EM-type superb...

Feel very fortunate indeed...and for all those who 'tweak' because it is more affordable (and fun)...I say if you've got fundamentally good equipment...carefully done work can really, really improve what you might already have!!
Hey sounds like some big changes ! Those are great speakers...assuming the tweeters helped a bit to ...better resolution but a more natural portrayal? Just a guess...
Hey Jfrech,

Thanks! Yes, you got it...more natural treble. I know the Wilson has its limitations in treble and is not standard setting...but set up well, it is excellent. And I admit it has been absolutely fascinating to take components I really like...and isolate each one mechanically and also in terms of grounding. The chance to do a custom job for the X1s now is good fun.

Gotta find a pair of 2nd hand Opus SCs!!
Hi All,

As above, I have described 3 tweaks/mods I made to my X1s which continue show great improvements after all these years (Latest Focal Tweeter, Entreq Vibb Eaters on top of Upper Modules, Ultra 5s. I have discovered another which tentatively I consider a success.

Transp Ref Jumper Cables

At the bottom of the X1s are 3 sets of binding posts: 1 for the amp, 1 which is connected internally via Transparent Audio cables to (I think?) the crossover, and 1 where the 2 binding posts are connected to each other via a 1/4" thick copper plate. It is this last one where I did some experimenting.

Just because I had Transp Ref Jumpers from my old SF Guarneris, I pulled them and decided to try them in 3 ways and settled on one:

1. Replace the copper plate with 1 Transp Ref Jumper.
Copper Plate Wins. The TA Ref Jumper smoothed things out and 'quieted'/'stilled' some images in the upper mids and treble which was nice, but I lost sharp dynamic attack and decay, as well as detail around the strike of piano notes. The piano sounds more real with the copper plate. But I could not forget how nicely images stilled and somehow individual notes seemed more distinguishable with the lack of shimmer.

2. KEEP Wilson copper plate, ADD 1 TA Ref Jumper
Better than just Wilson Copper Plate. The sharp dynamic attack, detail and decay all returned...but now the stillness of upper mid on complex, loud piano had more stillness to it, more the way I hear it in real life (i studied piano for 12 years...was surely not gifted, but i definitely heard the piano keyboard up close and personal 5-7 days a week for 12 years).

3. KEEP Wilson copper plate, ADD 2 TA Ref Jumpers
Because the Wilson binding posts take spades and bananas, (and my TA jumpers are spade to banana)...i decided to connect 2 TA Ref Jumpers to see if it was 'too much' or more improvement.
It turned out to be the latter.

In addition to the above improvements (which did improve in terms of quietness/black background) i got the following improvements:
- MICRO dynamics improved greatly, where suddenly teeny tiny nuances and inflections in violins, softer piano key strikes became fully infused with nuances, pauses, gradations of force...and they are now quite obvious where before there was simply a note or a note with some volume change
- the MIDBASS has now become MUCH more is the best word i can think of. It is every bit as powerful as before, but suddenly the dexterity of the upper/mids which is expected in good speakers today is now much more matched by an equally mellifluous bass, with texture, nuance, and decay...decay in powerful bass is tough in my system due to the room. It can boom, stop/start...but gentle and nuanced decay not so much. Now it has made a very nice leap forward in this, and it adds a real musical element to all my bass which is a joy to listen to.

I used to enjoy the bass for its beat, power, rhythm and yes detail...but not so much for the cues, nuances, i can.

I honestly cannot say if it is anathema to Wilson or not, but i can say (perhaps because they are TA Ref jumpers and the speaker is wired with TA cabling?) works quite clearly to these ears/taste.

All for now...but more to come...
Good review. Think about it, the laws of physics have not changed, only our way of interpreting them, that is with 'new' speaker designs. Yes, material science has improved but not to the point it overcomes great designs. Ask Paul K. His products still thrill, and its been eighty years. Now if I could get my hands on a original K horn, in Brazilian rosewood, I would be in heaven.
Thanks! I did not know about those speakers. You learn something every day. Sounds like quite the innovation well over 60 years ago! And still so,etching to hear today, by the sounds of it. Guess my speakers are practically new by comparison!