When I first found out that I would be reviewing the Sabrina speakers I wanted to get as much info as I could.
So I contacted Daryl Wilson who had a massive input into the build of the Sabrina. He was very obliging and sent me a few lengthy emails for me to digest. They went into detail of how the Wilson Audio Sabrina came about and to fruition. I am very grateful for his input which helped me understand more about the ethos behind Wilson Audio and why it makes them such a great company to deal with.Wilson Audio and Sabrina's design heritage can be best looked at or compared if you look at two different sources from the Wilson Audio History timeline.
The Wilson WATT/Puppy and the Alexandria XLF speakers, Now with the W/P Dave Wilson wanted to design a speaker which was relatively small but could outperform speakers of much larger and more exotic builds but in a compact form. This is the same thought for the Sabrina, but at the same time take what is at the pinnacle of Wilson Audio speakers and that is the XLF which is 3 decades of knowledge and trickle down its technology to the Sabrina. So Sabrina's design brief was to focus on pure simplicity and a compact and accessible form factor.Features
The Sabrina's come in two huge boxes as you would expect and they are extremely well packaged with the speakers encased in foam padding in each box. They weigh a ton, I mean seriously these speakers are heavy, exact weight per speaker is 42.64Kg each. So a two man job to move them but once on carpet or something like a trolley they can be moved about quite easily.
You also get a small tool kit packaged with the speakers and this is for maintenance and fitting speaker wire and also you get 8 spikes for the speakers so they can be made to stand isolated which also helps with setting up. You get a really nice leather bound guide included with the speakers and this tells you how to look after them and also helps in setting them up. The book helps you to find the best location in the room for the speakers, and it is also very useful guide to show you what room resonances are and how to minimize them, see pictures below.
The Speakers themselves have the 3 drive units, a 1" Convergent Synergy Tweeter, a 5.75" Mid-range driver made from pulp paper and an 8" Woofer also a paper type cone. These make them extremely light and fast moving,
The 8" woofer is taken from the Alexia and modeled in to fit the Sabrina. The front baffle and bottom panels are built from Wilson proprietary composite, X-Material.With the sloping front baffle of the Sabrina the drivers all sit in uniform and this makes for a tidy array that is designed perfectly so that each transient from each speaker arrives at your ear exactly at the same time. This gives a much better result in dynamics and transparency, these are tied in with a reference crossover that is matched for each speaker to levels which are +/- point two percent.The build and finish of the Wilson Audio Sabrina Speakers is the best I have seen on any speaker.
They are built so well and finished to a level which is just faultless, everything about the speakers shout out quality. Even the weight of the speakers makes you feel that you have something special but this also adds to what must be the quality of sound that you get as the cabinet is completely free from any resonances at all.
The material X used in making the Sabrina's and all the Wilson Audio range is I guess a key to their quality and success as it really is essential to have the most resonance free cabinet if you want to be sure that your speaker remains uncolored from any other sound interaction. Thisleaves the drivers to work freely and provide you with the sound intended, but also the crossover which is meticulously referenced per speaker makes a huge difference and when all of this is put together with the design you have a seriously good speaker.Performance and Sound Quality
For review purposes I am using the same equipment as I used in my review of the KEF Reference One Speakers. That is the Krell KAV-400Xi Integrated Amplifier and the Chord Electronics QuteHD DAC which I have connected to J River Media Center on my PC via USB connection. I also use a heavily modified Oppo BD Player as a transport to the Chord DAC for red book CD playback connected via RCA to BNC for the best playback possible.For this review I am going to be using some of the material that I used in the KEF Reference One review but also some different material to give some more variety to the mix, most of my music is now on HDD but I do still use CD playback but unfortunately not a turntable, but high resolution material that is on offer does give astonishing results as long as you have the right set up. I start off with one of my favorite artists from one of the biggest bands in the world and that is Roger Waters, I love his work and Pink Floyd's too, but Rogers Waters concerts are just brilliant and the recordings are some of the best to be listened to for reviewing in my opinion. As they just have everything, great vocals, orchestral parts and some superb drumming from Nick Mason with guitar solo's and synthesizer wizardry, it is all in there, so Roger Waters In
The Flesh Live is a fantastic recording. I am listening to this in high resolution at 24bit 88kHz and the dynamics through the Sabrina's are stunning, In the Flesh has beautiful separation between instruments, stunning vocals and the bass underpins nicely with excellent timing to a superb crescendo at the end of the track.
Another Brick in The Wall track is a classic Floyd number synonymous to the band with excellent drumming that the Sabrina's handle perfectly with that 8" driver attacking the low notes with force. The dynamics that you would normally expect from a much larger cabinetseems to be able to handle the deep notes just as easily as the bass with texture and softness of a riff that is playing with the guitars from Waters, the drivers just blend in perfectly.
Dogstrack is long number which plays for over 15 minutes, with excellent dynamics from the drums and electric guitars and a great solo from the acoustic guitar. The Sabrina's present a beautiful tone to the music with powerful vocals and a clarity to the mid-range which shows off how good these drivers are in the speakers and how well they gel together.Set the Controls for the Heart of The Sunhas some deep bass which the Sabrina's handle superbly the best I have heard this track sound in my room with huge transients starting and stopping with an immediacy that is just staggeringly good, also I love the way the Sabrina's are able to throw the image so wide in your room creating a massive sound stage which goes far beyond the rooms dimensions, they do this so well and convincingly that you get a feeling of immersion into the sound, probably the best I have had to date in my room. The Convergent Synergy Tweeter is so good that it just manages to place sounds all around the listening area, this is how well these speakers play when set up correctly, they just give so much back to you and I know that there is more to be given if better amplification is used, but I am surprised how well my Krell KAV-400Xi drives them, it plays loud, to levels which I would not normally listen to but it will go there if you want to.
Next up is a track from an Album by Youn Sun Nah called So I amand she is a Korean Jazz singer which has played at a lot of festivals and is becoming quite renowned for her exceptional talents. I thoroughly enjoyed her album and have picked a good track which really does show me how well a speaker can handle vocals as well as instrumental sections from the track News from The Gutter,again the Wilson's demonstrates excellent timing and transparency with such a massive sound stage and the Convergent Synergy Tweeter is an amazing attribution to the speakers talents which is many as it throws sounds around the sound stage but at the same time crystal clear vocals from Youn Sun Nah, it really is a stunning album and I strongly recommend it.
This album was played in 16bit 44Khz.
Next up is a an album that I chose to listen to when I did the KEF Reference One Review, and that is the album Potion's from Lyn Stanleyit is in DSD128 format, so a very high resolution version and played via my J River Media Center to my Chord QuteHD DAC and then on to my Krell and to the Wilson Audio Sabrina's.
The opening track Cry me a River has stunning vocal clarity from Lyn Stanley and excellent timing from the Wilson's and the imaging is spot on. Her voice seems to linger on, not a bad thing as it is just that the notes seem to be held longer and more refined on the treble, again I think this is down to the excellent tweeter in the Sabrina and the higher resolution recording bringing out all the detail. The Saxophone is so well defined its as if it is playing in the room, quite uncanny really and all this together with Lyn's hypnotic voice just makes the music so melodic and sweet.
The Wilson Audio Sabrina's are one of the most musical sounding speakers I have heard, it is certainly a step up from the KEF in resolution and transparency. I'm Walking track has a great bass guitar intro which continues on into the track and the Sabrina's bass reproduction is just so good. It has texture and a quality that is certainly above what I have heard from this track before, it is almost tactile you can feel it in a way that makes you want to love the music, it may sound a bit funny but that is how I hear and feel the music that the Sabrina's make, a trumpet solo also comes in and again it is reproduced at a level with astonishing clarity that the speakers just dig out every bit of detail there is on the track, it sounds simply sublime.
OK, final album and this is a red book CD by Janis Ian called Breaking Silence.I first heard this at the Guildford Audio HiFi Show this year and it was being played through some Wilson Audio Alexia Speakers with D'Agostino electronics.It was so good everybody loved the show and the music and this is one album I had to get when I left to play at home, well what a good chance now and to hear how it sounds on the Wilson Audio Sabrina's.Tattoo is a track that has some good bass and great vocals with excellent dynamics and I could clearly hear similar voicing to the Alexia speakers that the Sabrina's has inherited or it is the Wilson Audio house sound, Which is superb dynamics excellent transparency and harmonic detail, with no distortion in its speakers at all at any given level, well not that I had noticed anyway.
What About the Love is a track that we also liked at the show and had superb dynamics and Sabrina's showed similar traits to its older sister in this department and the detail and vocal clarity is just sublime, with a beautiful mid-range, all the drivers work seamlessly together to create such a fine performance.Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Well I have spent some time with these speakers which have not been switched off since I got them in the door and they have just performed effortlessly and to a level that I can honestly say justifies its price tag which to some may seem a bit on high side but this is the smallest of the Wilson Audio range and it gives you an entry into what is a legendary brand of speakers. It also gives you the opportunity to drive them with a smaller but good Integrated Amplifier like I have been doing so with my Krell KAV-400Xi and it has done a mighty fine job at driving them to very high levels, but you also have the fact that these speakers can sound even better if better electronics are used to drive them, so you have the potential of even higher levels of performance from the Sabrina's.Wilson Audio have created a near perfect speaker for us mere mortals and it is called the Sabrina, I never thought I would fall in love again but I have and Sabrina is her name ;-)
I would like to thank Absolute Sounds for making this review possible, so a BIG thanks to them!!
Priced at 14,500 at time of review.