Amp/Preamp combo for Wilson Sophia 3's

I've been thinking about upgrading my electronics (amp/preamp) from my current Ayre KX-5eMP and VX-5e. Been thinking of the Ayre KXR/MXR combination, but my dealer says there are better combinations for the money. I recently heard Wilson MAXX 3's w/Boulder electronics (2000 series I think) and was very impressed, so that's an option. Any others?
Hi Tpsully,

If you are thinking Boulder 2000 series, you've got a load of options...which is great news. I believe Jfrech uses MXRs for his Maxx 3s. With my Wilson X1/Grand Slamms, i use CJ tubed pre into Gryphon pure Class A SS. (which is tonally slightly sweeter than what you heard with the Boulder...which is also pure Class A SS but generally a similar sound.) it is my personal favorite combination.

it depends on what you like...some prefer serious high current, high power driving these (d'Agostino Momentums, boulder, Classe monos, etc)...others like high power tubed (ARC Ref 150 or 250 monos).

Personally, i would be most intrigued to compare:
- D'Agostino Momentum stereo (slightly sweeter than monos)
- Gryphon or Boulder
- ARC Ref 250 monos
- CJ GAT/ART monos
Thanks for the suggestions. I want to use balanced connections (my equipment rack is about 18' from my amp) so the CJ stuff is out, but I will check out the other stuff.
Hi Tom,

If you are concerned about length, the output impedance of the CJ GAT is 100ohms and is designed to drive long runs (it actually is part solid state, part output tube buffer) i understand you get the lower output impedance of a SS with its ability to drive longer interconnect runs? Might be the same with the check if you are interested.

Meanwhile, if you are set on balanced...the ARC Ref5 or Ref5SE are both excellent and for the money (particular the 5 second hand) is excellent as well. Good luck! You've got great options...enjoy!

You never mentioned your budget.

I have heard the Sophia 3s with ARC Ref 5SE and Ref 150. The sound was terrific.

I agree with Lloydelee21's recommendations. Depends on your preferences and how much you want to spend!

I think you would be happier with a solid state amp. Buddy has an Allnic tubed 50w class A monoblocks driving his Wilson Sasha's and the sound is simply fantastic. I have found the Edge product to sound great and comparable to other previously suggested options. Not sure what your budget is but really like what I hear about the new Constellation peformance line, Solution (i think they are making an integrated. Have a fair bit of experience with the BAT (balanced audio tech) and their 52SE and 600SE are very nice and all balanced-not in the price of some of the above or previously suggested. I am really suprised the dealer had that comment on the Ayre gear because all I have heard or experienced has been very positive.I am running an Edge solid state sig 1.1 pre and recently purchased an Allnic L-3000 tubed pre and the mix of powerfull solid state amp and tube pre is great and may be a nice combo with your wilsons.
The Wilson speakers have always been tube-friendly and the Sophia is no exception. If you are considering Wilsons, always consider a good tube amp for them.

I've heard many people complain about Wilsons being too bright or the like over the years but I don't find that to be the case if you use a decent tube amp. They really do go well together.
The shortcoming of the Ayre with the Wilson combi is that the stage will not be very deep and wide. There is some wide and depth, but not first class. Wilson can give depth, but there are other brands with better crossovers. They can build a bigger and wider stage. With Pass Labs and Wilson the stage will become deeper and wider. I compared these two brands with eachother. The Ayre is very good in the high freq. But the Pass Labs will let you hear more layers of a recording. Also the mid freq are a lot more involving. I sold my X100.5 to a person with the Watt puppy7. It was one of the best combi's I ever heard with Wilson. Most of the time the endresults were average. This is maybe more possitive said than it was!!
I have had the pleasure of hearing an ARC SP-17 and Bryston 3B power amp to excellent results. Would love to see, I mean, hear an ARC reference pre-amp and a Bryston 3B SST/4B SST...
Bryston is not an amp which can give a deep and wide stage. Depth and wide are the most essential parts which need to be there in the world of highend. Wenn they are not there you play at a 2-dimensional level. I call 2-dimensional audio standard audio. Because a cheap amp of 100 dollar also can produce a 2-dimensional image. Wenn you have speakers like Wilson you would be a fool to choose for a 2-dimensional amp. Compare a Pass amp with a Bryston amp and you will hear how big the difference is in stage. It is that simple!
I agree, and I'm a Bryston user. It does sound a bit bare bones. I do like the detail it presents though.
I had many discussions with Pass Labs as well about there limitations. Pass Labs is very good in giving a deep and wide stage. But it still lacks the sharp and small individual focus of instruments and voices like they sound in real. But also how big they need ot be projected. So you need the right cables to creatre this. I sold my Nautilus 800S to a person with a Bryston 7B. This was a very good combo. An 800S cannot give a deep stage so in these situations an amp which can give a deep stage make no sence. You Always need to know what the properties are of the speaker you own. Only then you can look for the amps and sources which can give all these properties/ talents.
I see. Very well then. Just to let you know, my current speakers are JBL S4700s. They are rated at 6 Ohms, and are rather sensitive at 94db. Now I can use a smaller amp, but I have found they do better with high power due to the control of the 15 inch woofers. They are rated at 300 Wpc, which is what I am pushing them with with the Bryston amp. Actually since they're 6 Ohm, more like 400 Wpc. Even so, they sound a bit restrained believe it or not. Ideally, I would like to double the power to really wake these up. But power, especially high end power, costs a good amount of money. So, another 350-400 Wpc amp into 8 Ohms would be ok, I suppose. One that is more effortless than the Bryston. So let me know if Pass Labs will do the trick. I am also looking at Accuphase and McIntosh. This has nothing to do with Wilson speakers, but I believe they like power as well!
Your speakers use crossovers which are not capable of giving depth. You need a sharp focus and power ( watts and lots of ampères) to control your speakers. That isn why a Bryston is a good match with your speakers.
Why are they not capable of giving depth? How do you know this? Ok,so a good match? Thanks. Would you recommend a Class A amp or Class A/B amp?
This has nothing to do with a match. Wenn you have speakers like JBL they often use simple crossovers. I heard a lot JBl speakers in my life. Most of them already have difficulties to get the image full loose from the speaker. Depth is a lot more difficult to achieve. I love to compare. I Always want to know what a speaker can. How the image is build and if they can give depth. Even wenn you connect a Pass Labs to most JBL speakers there will be no depth. Maximum a little. I am talking about most, beause they have also some very expensive ones. Maybe they use better crossovers in these speakers. I do not know. For JBL I would go for class AB. You need power and ampères!!
Bo1972 -

at this juncture, I have not had any opportunity to compare the Pass gear w/ Wilson speakers. I would like to spend some audition time w/ these guys.

What gear is in your system?
These use the best crossovers that JBL makes. Ok, thank you, I figured Class AB would be the better match.

Now back to
Wilson with Boulder is well controlled. But there is no emotion in the overwhole sound. I auditoned this many times at shows. I would not even want this sound for free. At the end audio is about music. Wenn a system cannot play the sound instruments should have, you never will enjoy this system for a longer period. You need to be thriled al the time you listen to your beloved music. It is not only sound what makes listening to music special. To create an intimate sound like in real you will go to an addictive level of hearing your music. Because you will get closer to the music. There will be a lot more emotion.
Bo1972, the JBLs are capable of very good depth. The problem is not the crossover but how the amplifier drives the speaker. Higher efficiency speakers also have a lot of back EMF, which can mess with amplifiers that employ a lot of negative feedback and also have a low output impedance. The speaker does not need a lot of power; but the power that it does get has to have some finesse.
bo1972, if boulder is so lacking, what SS amps are suitable for your listening standards? (i found the pass XA series lacking control, though they did sound pretty good).
I would choose for the X series and not for the XA series. I will do personal a next upgrade to the X600.5 as well. I prefer drive and speed as well. The difference between Boulder and Pass labs is more than only the sound. The Pass Labs gives a different focus on the different instruments. You hear more easy the difference in the sound of all these instruments. With the boulder it is extremly well controlled, but you miss the different coulor of instruments. Sound realism is a very important part in the world of highend.
then we'll disagree. i've owned both xa's and boulder, and prefer the boulder considerably. i understand why you like the pass. i just don't think you've heard the boulder in optimal conditions; the pass can cover sins, the boulder does not, if that makes sense...the boulder also needs to be warm to sound best, whereas the XA series comes to life quickly.
Boulder is a brand which you find at many shows these days. But also in different settings. And yess you Always listen to all parts togheter including the acoustic room. I loved the control, but these sets never had a lot of emotion which I need to be touched. I owned the 30.5, 60.5 and 100.5 of the XA series. But in the setting I play now I prefer the X series.

To Dave and the rest of the contributors to this thread, my advise is to ignore Bo1972's comments.

Unfortunately, I have stumbled on quite a few threads that went dawn the drain because of this dubious individual. (See the two threads below for some illustrative examples.)

Any bad experience with wilson audio sasha w/p?

Why are subwoofers so polarizing?

Except for the equipment that he is selling, i.e. Monitor Audio speakers, Pass Labs and Onkyo, he criticizes most brands of speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers. His main argument is that they are unable to give a 3-dimentional soundstage and holographic stereo image. However, one should realize that Bo1972 compares the sound in his room (where he uses Audyssey Pro room correction software) to the sound he hears at audio shows, in other dealers' room, or in his clients homes. As an example to illustrate this, here is what he writes in the thread "Why are subwoofers so polarizing?":

What I do is I send clients to shops were they sell Velodyne. It is not my responsibility how they do there demo. This is a very easy way to convince. I never heard a demo of a Velodyne at a show that I was thrilled. …

As most of you know one can draw very little meaningful information (if at all) regarding the merits of any individual components based on such comparisons. Moreover such comparisons are even more flowed when they are used to judge the 3-dimentional sound stage and/or the holographic stereo image of two systems. The reason is that, beside taking care of the bass response, most room correction softwares make sure that the response of the two speakers is as similar as possible. Since this is critical for obtaining a good stereo image and sound stage, any system where any room correction software was used will have a much better 3-dimensional sound stage and a more holographic stereo image than a system where room correction software were not used. (Of course, just because a system has a very good stereo image and/or sound stage does not mean that it also has an accurate timber, and /or it is able to reproduce realistically dynamic variations - qualities that IMO are at least as important).

I apologize for the off-topic comment but I feel it is important that everybody is aware of these facts.
Yeah, I was suspect with the way he promotes and pushes Pass Labs and Onkyo. Thank you for this important information. I do feel that your favorite stuff (Accuphase) is better than Pass Labs in build and sound quality. However, Pass Labs is more affordable, and it might be something I end up with due to the high price of Accuphase here in the US.
I do not say you should buy it, I never use these words. I am not talking about buying. You only should listen to it. I cannot decide what another person has to buy. There are more good brands and stuff. Just take your time and listen to it. Nothing more, nothing less. Don't get me wrong!!
I own and really like the sound of BAT gear with most speakers I hear with it. That said, the best I have heard any model of Wilson speaker sound has been when paired with either BAT or Doshi electronics.
Bo1972, I did not say that you are telling people to buy the brands you
advertise here. What I am saying is that you are misinforming people, i.e. lie
them, by telling only half of the story.

I too live in the Netherlands and I am fully aware of how incompetent most
hi-end dealers in The Netherlands are. Consequently, I am certainly not
blaming you for stealing their clients. In fact, since I also use a room
correction software and therefore I am aware of the advantages brought to
the table by such softwares, I believe that your clients get indeed better
sound for significant less money. However, since it seems that you did not
directly compared most of the brands you are thrashing here on audiogon,
i.e. you heard Wilson, B&W, Ayre, JBL, Velodyne components not in your
current system but in other systems/rooms at different times, I find you
attitude not only very unprofessional but rude and ill intended.
Why is it rude? It is as it is? I am not bashing any brand. I tell just about there properties. The truth can be hard maybe. I hate lies, for it is Always about the truth. Nothing more, nothing less. I met many people in this business which paid a lot of money for stuff which is average or ecen poor. This is something what need to be changed in this world.
I auditioned many times Wilson speakers. Often very dissapointing. We had these discussions here at Audiogon many times. They are not easy speakers. They need the right stuff and attention. I only heard 2 good settings. One was with Krell Reference and they other one was with my old XA-100.5. I would still go for the X series with Wilson. Because they will have more control. And you still get a musical mid freq. I love the looks of Wilson and how they are build. But the acoustic problems they often give in a normal house situation can become a pain in the ass. The people which I met at there home had all the same problems. Acoustic problems with the low freq. I would go fo amps with a lot of power, ampères and speed. But with a very musical mid freq. I think poweramp SS with tube preamp also will work great with Wilson. You can create a bigger and wider stage. What I said earlier; they have depth and wide, but there are ones which use better crossovers who make a bigger stage. But you can increase the stage still with other amps and pre amps.

Hi Bo ,
An interesting thread and I agree that earlier versions of some Wilson speakers could tend towards being a bit ruthless , if that is the correct terminology . However , recent products , especially the Sophia 2's & 3's , seem to have ushered in a new chapter with easier driving and lower difficulty in component matching , I suspect the Alexias would be the same . I remember a few years ago hearing some WATT/Puppies , I think they were version 6 or 7 & I agree the sound was not to my liking , but was it the speakers themselves , the associated components or the dealer set up ? Who knows ? Build quality is par excellence , as is after sales product support & when making a decision with a long term purchase , all things need to be taken into consideration .
I have heard the puppies 7 two times good. So it is possible. But it ain't easy. I also heard the 8 version. Here it also had a lot of acoustic problems. They adapted the type of music caused by the issues. You Always need to have the freedom to drive all music you love.