Wilson Audio TuneTot Review: The Best Bookshelf Loudspeaker…..For A Price…
This is a review of the bookshelf loudspeaker Wilson Audio TuneTot. The US-American luxury manufacturer Wilson Audio (1) is famous worldwide for its uncompromisingly floor-standing speakers (5) for precision, dynamics (4), and sound (2), which thanks to the AS housing (3) are extremely heavy and unfortunately also quite expensive.
|Uncompromising structure, perfectly processed||NO CONS. The best in this price range for the bookshelf category.|
|Color and equipment individually configurable|
Its current flagships, the WAMM and Chronosonic XVX, are huge and only change hands if a higher six-figure sum is transferred. But there is also this 2-way compact loudspeaker called Wilson Audio TuneTot, which, despite its modest dimensions, follows the same requirements.
Is this possible? Can it sound like a real Wilson? Result after a very detailed test: He can. We have to thank as usual the Audio department of El Corte Inglés to allow us for the testing in their facilities.
Let’s leave out the issues of money and common sense. The former should be easy to use for loudspeakers like these and at this point, we replace common sense with emotion, passion, and enthusiasm. If you are looking for purely rational reasons to spend a five-digit sum on compact speakers, you are wrong here.
The Wilson Audio TuneTot Review: Is The High Price Justified?
To better understand the TuneTot, a brief excursion into the company’s history is helpful. David A. Wilson II (died May 2018 at the age of 73) founded “Wilson Audio Specialties” in 1973 together with his wife Sheryl Lee and put his hobby for high-quality loudspeakers on a professional basis.
But in addition to loudspeakers, Wilson was also very enthusiastic about the art of music recording, which is why he founded the Wilson Audiophile Definitive Recordings label in 1977, also supported by his wife Sheryl Lee.
A loudspeaker manufacturer with its own recording studio? That calls out for an in-house development for listening devices. This is how the Wilson Audio TinyTot, WATT for short, came about. Relatively small two-way speakers with a housing shape similar to a truncated pyramid.
In addition to avoiding standing waves inside the housing, the unusual shape of the Wilson Audio TinyTot primarily had the purpose of tilting the front with the woofer/midrange and tweeter and thus compensating for the technical time lag between the high and mid/low frequencies.
The sound from both chassis should reach the listener’s ears at the same time. The Wilson Audio TinyTot was the smallest Wilson speakers to date based on this principle and won the hearts of many other studio professionals with their balanced and precise sound.
Wilson later added a bass module (Puppy), on which the Wilson Audio TinyTot could be placed, thus converting them into a two-part floor standing loudspeakers. Under the name of Wilson / Puppy, many model generations were created with ever more optimized technology, with them Wilson caused a sensation in the high-end audio world. Until today!
Only the two-part loudspeakers are now called differently: The latest generation bears the name Sasha DAW, with the addition standing as a reminiscence for the deceased company founder. David’s son Daryl is now continuing the company’s history.
The “Time Domain Setup”, ie the alignment of the chassis to each other and to the listener, is still one of the basic principles of Wilson Audio’s loudspeaker philosophy.
The manufacturer practices this excessively with its top models, such as the gigantic WAMM or the hardly less spectacular and also six-figure expensive Chronosonic XVX.
The TuneTot Architecture
At the lower end of the Wilson product range in terms of price, the SabrinaX floor-standing loudspeakers introduced in 2020 and priced from $ 24,600, and the TuneTot compact loudspeakers discussed here are available at list prices from $ 12,000 per pair in the “WilsonGloss” Galaxy Gray, Carbon. , GT Silver or Quartz is available.
Also, a palette of 12 colors is available as an “upgrade color” at an additional cost, as well as other, particularly exclusive premium paint finishes. Custom colors from the RAL palette are also possible. Even the color of the front cover can be selected in six tones. Here is an overview:
The variety of colors is also due to the famous housing material of the Wilson speakers, which offers a particularly easy paintable surface.
The configuration options are not yet exhausted. For the installation of the TuneTot on a shelf or sideboard – or other non-resonance-optimized surfaces – the additional investment in the “IsoBase” is advisable. Even if this means an additional 2,000 dollars. More about the IsoBase below.
Of course, there are also feet that match the sound and color for free installation in the room. Depending on the paintwork, they cost from $ 3,750 a pair.
And there is more. With so-called trim rings – these are metal rings milled from solid, which can be placed magnetically in front of the woofers/midrange drivers – the optics of the TuneTot can be fine-tuned.
The Trim Rings are particularly recommended for users who like to operate their loudspeakers without a front cover and want to upgrade their appearance.
In connection with the trim rings, the rear logo plate made of solid aluminum and the terminal can be matched in color. In contrast to the IsoBase, the rings have no effect on the sound. A pair of Trim Rings costs 650 dollars. Last but not least, the range of accessories includes precisely sewn fabric covers for the TuneTot.
For the test, I had what El Corte Inglés has in their store, which is not their flagship store either: Of the several devices available, one was a pair of TuneTot in carbon red (called Pur Sang Rouge) with IsoBases but without trim rings (the price of the test configuration around $ 14,100 ). This red color is an upgrade and it costs more.
The “carbon” paintwork (which has nothing to do with the typical carbon fiber braid so do not imagine a matte black look like a Lenovo Carbon) offers a wonderful visual depth with a subtle, but an easily recognizable metallic look on closer inspection. It belongs to the standard color palette (so it is not more expensive, while the red one that we have tested is more expensive) and looks ultra-classy. This alone shows why Wilson plays in the top division.
The construction in detail
At first glance, you might think that the TuneTot was just a Sabrina X cut off at the top, but that would be deceptive. The small two-way boxes have completely independently constructed housings, the asymmetrical walls of which are made up of Wilson’s X and S material.
Which of the various material mixtures developed by Wilson itself over decades is used is not decided at random or price, but based on the results of a laser vibrometry vibration analysis of the housing. A rather complex process that repeatedly requires new prototypes until the result is convincing.
In addition, an “internal reflection management system” is used inside the boxes, the purpose of which is derived from the name.
In addition to the spikes and numerous tools, the scope of delivery also includes the front covers mentioned above and color-coordinated when ordering.
The frame of the covers is not made of brittle wood but is also milled from Wilson’s typical X-material and carefully rounded. The coverings are attached with metal pins instead of magnets, as is often the case today. The fastening holes are located in the felt-clad areas of the front and are therefore hardly visible.
On the back, above the single-wire speaker terminals, there is an elongated tuning port instead of the usual round bass reflex opening. In order to avoid overemphasizing the bass in the case of installation close to the wall, the supplied accessories include suitable plugs. These were used in the test at times (up to the room acoustics measurement) with the desktop installation.
The chassis is one of the few things that Wilson does not make itself at its main plant in Utah. These are contributed by Scan-Speak according to Wilson’s specifications. It is a specialty of Scan-Speak to manufacture loudspeaker drivers according to customer specifications. As you can hear, Wilson is probably one of the most demanding customers of this Danish company
In concrete terms: the woofers/midrange drivers are only essentially a variant from the Revelator series from Scan-Speak. Their distinguishing features are membranes, which are provided with slits of different lengths in a slightly asymmetrical manner, which are then glued again. This reduces membrane resonances to a minimum.
The tweeters are also based on the Scan-Speak Revelator series but are extensively modified according to the product specifications in the Utah factory. The 26 mm silk dome is also framed by a star-shaped punched felt – also typical for Wilson – in order to suppress any reflections from the case and diffraction effects.
In certain environments or for reasons of taste, the level of the tweeters may need to be adjusted slightly. As with most Wilson loudspeakers, the TuneTot also offers a very consistent and audiophile option for this: Behind the thick aluminum plate on the back there is an 11.75-ohm resistor (so this is 2 X 23.5 ohm parallel).
If necessary, it can be exchanged for other resistance values to adjust the level. Wilson offers suitable and precise resistors in the accessories program.
Not much can be learned about the crossover. Wilson is very buttoned up. Unscrewing is also not possible because the components are potted.
The spikes, however, are no secret. Hardly any other manufacturer has perfected this type of resonance decoupling for speakers as much as Wilson Audio. In many situations, spikes are not even the best sound solution, as we were able to experience ourselves in other tests.
But with Wilson loudspeakers, other coasters have mostly turned out to be the wrong way. Wilson speakers belong on the factory-supplied spikes. Point. For use without IsoBase, coasters that protect the floor are included in the scope of delivery.
On delivery, grub screws are countersunk as placeholders in the threaded sockets. These are intended to prevent dirt from penetrating the threads during transport because these are cut directly into the housing material and are not as hard and insensitive as threaded steel bushings.
In addition, the spikes should of course be screwed in smoothly and gently. This is also very important because the spikes have no holes or beveled edges on which you could use a tool as a lever, should things get a little more difficult.
In the supplied “Tool Kit” there is of course also a suitable Allen key to remove the protective grub screws. Only then can the actual spikes be used.
Two short spikes with permanently integrated nuts and a defined screw-in depth, as well as two significantly longer spikes with multiple interrupted threads are supplied with each box. Depending on whether the boxes are to be tilted forwards or backwards, the short spikes go into the front or rear sockets. The angle of inclination is set with the lengths. The interruptions in the thread with markings in between are helpful for this so that the alignment is precise to the millimeter and without tilting.
Incidentally, the spikes are not extremely pointed but slightly rounded. This reduces the risk of injury and still offers an extremely small surface area at the tip.
And then there are the optional, but in many cases highly recommended IsoBase platforms. They are not just a visually attractive addition and protection for sensitive surfaces against the spikes, but an acoustically very effective measure to decouple the speakers from tabletops or shelf boards. The IsoBase can also be used as a supplement if you decide to set it up freely and purchase the TuneTot feet.
The platforms are made of different Wilson materials and have a carrier plate that sits in a sandwich between the two main plates, plus a cushioning plastic plate on the top that looks like black glass. The box is placed with the spikes in slotted openings on the top so that it rests on the middle intermediate plate.
Setup and practice: First the work …
First, let’s consider the nature of the TuneTot. With an efficiency of 86 dB, the little Wilson is at the upper end of what is common in hi-fi.
It is therefore reasonably moderate with the power supplied and therefore also harmonizes quite well with smaller, low-watt amplifiers.
This is also underlined by the impedance response, which, with the exception of the usual bass-reflex resonances, is pleasantly linear – and always stable above 6 ohms.
To set up: Instead of the original Wilson feet, I placed the TuneTot for free-standing living room setup, including IsoBase, on my height-adjustable stands from Sonus Faber, which have been tried and tested for ages and which are also optimized with the Audio Physic VCF II Magnetic plus decoupling feet tested here. Visually, it’s not a match, of course, but absolutely adequate for the test. We cannot choose the devices when we do the review.
Wilson has developed a very sophisticated process over the decades for determining the best possible placement and orientation. Wilson customers usually enjoy having this procedure performed by a properly trained dealer.
For the Wilson Audio TuneTot, many of the steps that are necessary for the larger Wilson loudspeakers are omitted because they simply do not have their setting options for the setup.
Simply placing speakers in places where they look good or don’t get in the way is not enough as you already know.. This is even more true of the Wilson Audio TuneTot. The goal is always to achieve the best possible timing and precision at the listening position in the sweet spot. After extensive testing, the little Wilson speakers ended up in the listening room where almost all speakers sound optimal – plus/minus a few inches back and forth, here and there.
Correct angling and turning towards the listening position is very important. As far as the alignment to the listener is concerned, the same applies to the TuneTot as to my reference speakers: the inside of the speakers should just be visible at the right spot. The incline is also set according to this scheme. The goal here is to just barely see the top of the case.
In this configuration, the TuneTot – measured via Trinnov Amethyst – were heard against my reference loudspeaker on the one hand, but later also played on their own on the other. Several pairs of boxes standing next to each other are acoustically not ideal and, in practice, also not very likely.
Since the TuneTot are explicitly intended as loudspeakers for “shelf installation” and as listening devices for your desktop, I later tried them out much more extensively on the desktop, where I could experience them as if they were on a desk at home. Sometimes with full attention and a high level, or just for background sound. There is hardly a better way to get to know a speaker.
Various test candidates from the last few months were used as electronics. Below that, the small Waversa Wslim LITE worked surprisingly well and the Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 with room measurement even better. Both devices in the $ 2,000 segment, which you would not normally combine with loudspeakers that cost around 12,000 dollars, but the latter combination, in particular, worked surprisingly well.
On the studio desk, desktop, or on the sideboard/shelf, the installation requirements are similar to those mentioned above. Especially when it comes to the angle and inclination setting. It may be difficult here with the optimal wall clearances. My workplace is no exception. The right speaker is very close to a back wall, the left one in front of a window sill.
In fact, this list turned out to be extremely critical. With the open ports on the back of the TuneTot, this was not possible. Completely overemphasized, booming bass and an overall very spongy sound.
The supplied sealing plugs for the ports improved the situation dramatically, so that with the small Waversa a really enchanting sound panorama unfolded, rarely seen before on my desktop.
Wilson Audio TuneTot In The Listening Room
In the listening room: During the (rather long) warm-up phase, it became clear that the TuneTot are real Wilson speakers. Like their bigger siblings, they are characterized by enormous undistorted maximum levels combined with fantastic fine resolution and coherence. But it is also clear that they are not bass monsters. That was not to be expected purely in principle.
Wilson specifies the lower limit frequency as a realistic 65 Hz (at the -3 dB point, measured in the room). Like many compact loudspeakers, the Wilson Audio TuneTot is also tuned with a slight bass boost to simulate more volume. However, this “sounding” is rather subtle. Overall, the speakers appear very neutral and balanced. An artificially inflated soundscape is not to be feared with them.
Bass fetishists should consider purchasing the next larger SabrinaX (floor-standing speaker), or an additional subwoofer. Two-way purists, on the other hand, will love the unadorned yet very powerful and complete playing style of the Wilson Audio TuneTot.
The accurate and extremely high-resolution acoustic stage between the loudspeakers is particularly striking. This is what distinguishes top speakers whose housing has been acoustically optimized with great effort. And that’s where the Wilson makers are known to be masterful. Less box sound, more music. That’s the motto.
Without this direct comparison, hardly anyone would have anything to complain about the brilliant brilliance of the TuneTot. It is pleasing to see how relaxed the TuneTot also master level orgies in the high-frequency range. There were times when Wilson loudspeakers were decried as tough and ruthless on this point. With the complexly modified tweeters used today, this is no longer an issue.
The mids are similarly airy, breathing freely and at the same time jumping, the timbre of which hits exactly the right point in order to attest to their grandiose naturalness. Whereby “timbre” is one of those unavoidable descriptions for an acoustic characteristic that cannot be measured completely objectively.
The description can best be compared with the color temperature in image processing in photography. With a RAW converter, the professional can determine exactly (and here also objectively measurable) whether the image should have a warmer, cooler, or a color that corresponds exactly to the ambient light. This is called white balance. To stick with this comparison, the TuneTot always succeeds in achieving a white balance that is close to natural light and does not dictate any flavourful or artistically desired tint.
In contrast to many common studio monitors, the TuneTot does not appear sober and soulless. With careful, precisely determined placement and a top front end, the speakers “resonate” wonderfully with the listener. This means that positive feedback that is difficult to convey and that gives you goosebumps.
Admittedly, it may sound crazy to even imagine such high-class transducers as “desktop speakers”. An area of application where a HomePod or an Amazon Echo might do its job. But hey, look at it like this. Why should not one spend this precious life with the best possible music sound?
As a desktop worker for many years, I discovered this area a long time ago as a second hi-fi playground next to my listening room setup. After all, there have long been many good ways to set up a great near-field stereo triangle at the monitor workstation.
Not-too-large two-way systems, placed on decent pedestals, such as the IsoAcoustics Aperta Stands, powered by a high-class DAC / amplifier solution in a compact format (or active speakers), can turn this important living space into a place for the highest sound enjoyment.
Since the TuneTot together with the IsoBase is explicitly made for installation on shelf boards or table surfaces, it was obvious for me to try this out. … and it is really a good experience.
The Wilson Audio TuneTot has a lot of power. As well as the IsoBase can compensate for any residual resonance of the housing, it does not protect the floor space – in this case, the tabletop – from direct sound from the drivers and from the tuning ports.
And as far as the work surface is concerned: First of all, of course, nothing should rattle. A bunch of keys or the like on the tabletop could become an unwanted accompanying instrument.
A useful calming measure is to attach heavy, vibration-absorbing acoustic mats to the underside of the tabletop. This helps. Nevertheless: if you give the Wilson Audio TuneTot its spurs, they can stimulate the tabletop to vibrate in the lowest frequencies.
A very positive feature of the Wilson Audio TuneTot: They have a fairly homogeneous, wide radiation. That means, if the head is moved back and forth, back and forth, the whole tonal balance does not change. The timbres keep their naturalness. This is particularly important in the near field.
Nevertheless, it also applies here that an exact alignment, as described above, is one of the basic requirements for a perfect location and exact timing. Strong movements in front of the speakers reduce the precision but do not immediately collapse the sound image.
Measured with the Lyngdorf TDAI-1120, the TuneTot produced a sound panorama that I had never seen on my desktop before. In general: A proper calibration with a system of at least the quality of the aforementioned Lyngdorf is extremely advisable for this type of application.
Without the calibration, I couldn’t achieve a result even remotely as balanced with any possible setup and alignment variant. With this correction, and thanks to the generous performance of the small, desktop-compatible Lyngdorf, the Wilson Audio TuneTot played more thrilling than anything I’ve ever heard at this table. And there were quite a few speakers on it – also from higher price ranges.
The TuneTot has an almost headphone-like precision, paired with constantly present sovereignty (even at low volumes) that otherwise only larger floor-standing speakers can convey.
The lowest registers can be supplemented with a subwoofer if necessary, which makes precise measurement all the more important. All in all: a wonderful experience, which did not come about without work (especially measurement).
Conclusion: The Best Bookshelf Loudspeaker If You Can Pay The Price
The Wilson Audio TuneTot is a real hands-on speaker. Indeed, their setup and positioning are quite uncomplicated compared to their bigger siblings, but they too reveal their typical Wilson qualities only under the best possible working conditions. But then they turn out to be “worth every penny”.
Many ingenious details, such as the alignment that can be optimized with specially manufactured spikes, the optional IsoBase and Trim Rings, as well as the perfectly lacquered housing, leave no doubt about its luxury character.
In particular, if you opt for one of what I believe to be a particularly elegant matt finish, these speakers are absolute eye-catchers that enhance any tasteful interior, both visually and tonally.
But those who can afford these elegant compact speakers from the cult brand Wilson Audio probably have little to do with compromises in life.
|recommended room size:||up to a maximum of 25 square meters|
|Efficiency:||86 dB (1 W/1 M)|
|Dimensions (H x W x D):||37,7 x 21,8 x 25,9 cm|
|Woofer size||5.75 inches (14.61 cm)|
|Tweeter size||1 inch (2.54 cm)|
|Woofer materials||Rear Vented, Doped Paper Pulp|
|Tweeter materials||Sealed, Doped Silk Fabric|
|Sensitivity||86 dB @ 1W @ 1m @ 1k|
|Nominal Impedance||8 ohms / minimum 6.61 ohms @ 172 Hz|
|Minimum Amplifier Power||25 Watts per channel|
|Frequency Response||65 Hz —23 kHz +/- 3 dB Room Average Response [RAR]|
|Height||14.83 inches (37.67 cm) w/o spikes|
|Width||8.61 inches (21.87 cm)|
|Depth||10.19 inches (25.88 cm)|
|System Weight Per Channel||29 lbs (13.15 kg)|
|Total System Shipping Weight (As appears in the shipping document)||70 lbs (31.75 kg)|
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I am Chris, a musician. I work as an audio engineer in mastering and arranging bridges in existing songs and the arrangement and orchestration of chorus. In Firing Squad I test gear provided by local distributors during a couple of days and write a review. I also write about AV topics, amplifiers, speakers and headphones.
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