B&W Nautilus 802D, Wilson Sophia 2, or others?

I'm getting the upgrade itch again. My current speakers are Nautilus 802's and I am using a VAC PHI 110 setup with 8db negative feedback. The speaker impedance curve won't let me use the zero feedback setting. Overall the system sounds very good. Areas, I would like to improve would be bass impact or punch, a bit more clarity in the midrange. The room is approximately 15 by 14 with a vaulted ceiling going from 8 to 11ft. It is also open at the very top to a kitchen/dining room area so it acts like a bigger room. It does have a room peak in the 30-40hz range with a null around the 60hz range that I believe robs some impact. I love the looks of the Nautilus speaker and what I have does sound very good. From the reviews I have read the Diamond version improves in the areas I feel need improvement but still presents a difficult load requiring the amp to use negative feedback. The Wilson Sophia might present an easier load allowing Zero feedback with some sonic gain just from that change alone. I am a bit concerned that the Wilsons are ported to the rear since the front wall behind the speakers has seven foot wide french doors in the middle which might present a reflection problem. I have not listened to either speaker but metro Phx has dealers for both. Would somebody that is basically happy with the B&W speakers like the Wilson Sophias or should I just stick with the 802D's? Any other speaker recommendations that are compatible with the VAC amp? I don't like the looks of any speaker that looks like the basic box with drivers in it. Listening preferences are primarily jazz and vocals. I usually listen to music with peaks less than 90db but sometimes crank to peaks around 100db. I don't want it to crap out if I want to crank it. If anyone has upgraded from 802's to Diamond version, I would also appreciate your comments. Thanks
what you currently own is arguably as good as either. no offense to the vac, which is excellent too, live with 'em. to paraphrase groucho marx,you are so 'there' if you get any closer, you'll wind up in back of it.
Go listen to the Sophia's at Esoteric Audio http://www.esotericaudioaz.com/ since you are local and the Dealer ROCKS!

The imaging is way more precise and you will be amazed at how small physically the Sophia's look compared to your 802's. Don't worry about the rear porting you will not hear a difference. Plus with your excellent equipment you will really be able to appreciate what you can get out of the Wilsons!

If you like your peaks then you will enjoy the Wilsons because they do not stress at volume!
The VAC Phi 110/110 does not shine until it can be run in ultriode with zero negative feedback. Anything else, and you're missing the magic of the amp. The problem is the amp's high gain, and the solution is to lower the gain either from your source, or from your preamp.

There are easier to drive loudspeakers than the B&W and Sophia...Silverline Sonata III, Living Voice Avatar OBX, Reimer Teton or Wind River, and others.

The speaker/amp match is critical. You have a "new" classic in the VAC Phi 110/110.
Personally, I do not like the 802D at all with any amps I've auditioned them with. These may not be my cup of tea, but I know many others really like them. To each their own, that is why we have many options.

I have a couple recommendations, which are both from Dynaudio. The Confidence C2 and C4 are just amazing. The clarity and being able to listen for hours is what draws me to the Dyn's. They are also very good for both male and female vocals.

Another recommendation is the Aerial Acoustic Model 9, but it's boxey in appearence, which it sounds like you want to stay away from. Still, a very nice sounding and dynamic speaker.
Tvad mention some good ones but Sophia's (I read mind you) maybe best value Wilso ever offered.Silverlines good for triode tubes.I'd just ad to list Revel.Very close to price point and very popular among HT/Music buyers (have heard many say it is best combo speaker out there which might mean ou prefer it in music only system.Wouldn't worry about rear port with frenh doors onless slats are open.But with anyspeaker rear wall treatment can really improve system fro carpaet to difussion boxes at pretty high cost.

If current 802 delivers enough bass than 803D goes as low as you model of 802 for price of old 802's or 1/3rd off 802D's.But though they do suck current like all the 800 series.Kalman Rubinson uses his with Bel Canto Ref1000's and their is reason why.You need at least 200-300 and like Maggies but not to QUITE same extent they do like more current and headroom.If I bought B&W again (Always a possibility since I get good brak on them.I have a $7K German horn w/MC woofer at easy 8 ohm/94db though I worked for 6 years sellling B&W Matrix and the speaker you own now) I swap out to get SS power instead of tubes I use now.Think some speakers really benefit from tubes B&W,Wilsons,Revel need it less than others.Maybe what you want is new amp or a speaker that really get's benefit from/shows off tubes?That would be different in my mind than either B&W or Wilson (though as you mentoned less od load probem with latter).Good luck.
The only caveat with the Revels is that they're part of the Harmon Specialty Group and who knows whether it'll be around in a year after KKR has its way with the parent company.
I considered and auditioned both, 802D and Sophia II, in the end purchased PMC IB2.

You can get a far better speaker than the Sophia or B&W and still get an easy to drive speaker.

Find a Usher dealer it may take a drive to do so, but the BE 10 which sells for $14,400.00 is in an entirely different league of construction and sound quality.

The Usher employs a pure beryillium midrange and tweeter and are in fact the only company in the world to make a pure beryillium midrange driver in an affordable speaker!

The woofer is an Eton 11 same woofer used in Avalon, Kharma, Marten and many others.

Cabinet is 2inch thich birch over mdf with internal dampling materials and lead.

This is a $30k-$40k product. I do not ship out of territory so please contact Usheraudiousa.com and see if you can find a pair.

The Sophia is a very fine speaker and I would take it over the B&W but the Usher is built and sounds like a much more expensive speaker.

We are at HE 2007 on room down from Wilson who was showing the WP 8 and many people commented that we were getting as good a sound in our room.

The only issue with Usher is not enough dealers yet and the advertising doesn't really address how good they really are.
I have never heard the 802D's but owned a pair of Sophias and tried a lot of amps with them, including solid-state, tube, OTL, and SET. IMO the things that any Wilson speaker does best (I now have WP7's) is bass, dynamics, and detail, along with a pretty good soundstage. The Sophias are relatively easy to drive but very responsive to amplification. So with your VAC amp, a very nice piece, you will get a big soundstage with 3-D images and good dynamics. However, tube amps are not the last word in bass or speed and detail. Again, this is just my opinion based on my experience, I think the Sophias work better with solid-state in terms of bass control, dynamics, and detail. You will be missing the ultimate in these areas with the VAC, which shines in other areas. Yes, you will probably get a bigger soundstage and images with the VAC, but will miss some of what the Sophias were designed for. If it were my decision I would consider some of the other, more efficient speakers mentioned in the above posts.

05-19-07: Rlawry
... tube amps are not the last word in bass or speed and detail.
Having owned a VAC Phi 110/110 which drove Von Schweikert VR4 Gen III HSE loudspeakers, it was my experience that the Phi 110/110 amplifier suffered none of these drawbacks.
I have heard both speakers at the same dealer, in the same system, same day; the Sophia 2's were/are the better speakers to me, it would be an easy choice between these two for me. I have also owned the 802D's.

some buddys of mine who run london based music and video labels told me that auditions of the world's finest loudspeakers for rhe reference(s) at abbey road where unanimous. considering all the great products out there, thats still pretty amazing.
Brian, what areas of the 802D performance did you find lacking or not to your preference? Also, what amp were you using at that time?
The amps I used with the 802D's were, Classe (Delta) CA2200, Musical Fidelity kW500 (integrated), McIntosh MA2275 (integrated) and McIntosh MC402.

The bottom end is boomy, they were not very "open" sounding and lacked the fun factor I have experienced before, and currently.

I can say a lot of this after the fact, although there were times I questioned $12k in contrast to performance. IMO, the Sophia 2 would be a speaker that you would enjoy every time you heard them. Others have posted some other speaker options and while I have no opinion about them because I have no experience with them, I doubt you will regret the purchase of the Wilson's due to performance and if you decide to sell down the road, they should have good resale interest. Someone also mentioned that you may be surprised at how much smaller the Sophia's appear than the B&W's in your room, I concur with this; also to my surprise, I much prefer the look over the 802's.

Obviously the decision has to be yours, but as I stated before, the decsion between these two is very easy for me, even with the Sophia 2's being $2k more; furthermore, even though I have not heard them, I am inclined to say I'd chose the first generation Sophia's over the 802D's also.

why you all comparing sophia 2 to 802D? Even focal 1037 be is much better speaker than 802D. Sophia 2 is too good for comparison. I would compare sophia 2 to Focal Alto Uto. Be.Mind You! Not Less!
I'm switching from the 802Ds to W/P8s. I liked the 802Ds, but they really didn't localize the stereo image as precisely as I wanted, even after serious room modifications that balanced out the lower end quite a bit. Their low frequency boom definitely tends to overpower male vocals in rock and roll music even in my big room, but for a lot of other more mellow music they were phenomenal, including female vocals, instrumentals, classical, etc. Ultimately, the lack of point-on localization of insturments and voices, the lack of air between instruments, the far back receding mid-range sound field (may friend called this the laid back british sound... They did sound very dimensional because of this though), and the kevlar and rohacel sound wore away at me.

The best thing to do is go listen to them yourself and make your decision after careful scrutiny. Don't buy too quickly, as you might find one works better with a larger variety of music you enjoy after long term demoing, or that one slowly erodes at you. Don't get me wrong though. I do like the 802Ds, especially for the price. I've never listened to the Sophia 2s, so I can't give a decent comparison to you on my perceptions concerning how they contrast. I've only listened to the W/P7s and W/P8s.

Hopefully, my experience with them will give you some hallmarks to listen for when you compare the both of them.

Good Luck!

- Jeff
I noticed in Stereophile that a local dealer is having a Vandersteen presentation on June 2 which sounds like an interesting event to attend. Two different comments about boomy bass on the 802D make me wonder if the Rohacell drivers are at fault. I don't have boomy bass with the 802's. On another note, seeing the room response measurements for the W/P8's in Wes Philips room in the current Stereophile makes the measurements I have made for my own room look great when I considered them to be a bit lumpy. Perhaps Jaybo is right, and I should just be happy.
Perhaps Jaybo is right, and I should just be happy.
Nothing wrong with that, it will save you a lot of money! That said, in my situation, the W/P 7's are so far superior to what I had with the 802D's it is hard, for me, to put to words.

FWIW, I have also owned the N803's and the Signature 805's.

Ever considered Eggleston Andra II? Outstanding speakers. You can often find them used for $9 - $10K.

Far more musical than B&W802D, IMO, and they will give the WP7 or WP8 strong competition.
I have owned both the 802's and the 803's. I really loved the look of the 802's and was considering buying the 802 d series untill I heard them side by side with the wilsons. In my humble opinion the Sophias and the Watt puppies are a much better sonding speaker. If I wanted to spend $13 to $15,000 I would buy used Watt Puppy 7's over new Sophias
Sophia and 802D side by side? Dang... must've been a nice comparo.

Rockport Technologies Mira, once you hear it, your entire perspective on "high-end" audio may change.
Two different comments about boomy bass on the 802D make me wonder if the Rohacell drivers are at fault.

Considering the drivers are used on all the models in differnt sizes that's not the issue. The 804S and 803D I've owned have no boomy bass issues. It's more of an 802D specific "issue".
It is interesting how different perceptions can be. I have heard the Sophia 2 and the Watt Puppy 7 on several occasions, the last driven by EAR tube gear. I also have heard the 802D driven by McIntosh SS monos. Different rooms, different gear, and different sounds. To me, I was quite surprised at how boomy the bass on the Sophia 2 was playing Holly Cole. The dealer blamed the recording. I blamed the space and the gear (with a different amp this was mostly but not fully cured). The room was quite small and the wall boundaries were too near also. Not a good way to sell Sophias. On the Puppy 7 or on the B&W 802D, there was no boom. This Sophia experience, from a Wilson dealer, was enough to put me off them even though I suspect they would work much better in my room. I'll never know. I found the Puppy 7's to be much better and would really prefer those over any new Sophia --but again, the rooms were not identical. All this is to say that you just have to hear for yourself, and ideally in your space. Speakers sound different to different people with different gear and different spaces. For the record, I thought the 802D was closer sounding to the Eggleston Andra 2 which is a great speaker, and offered better music to my ears than the Sophia, and perhaps even the Watt Puppy 7 (though the latter were certainly impressive too but the Wilson sound is a little hard on my ears, that's all I can say, it's a personal thing). I think B&W don't have the same image or cache as the Wilsons (company too big, sold at chainstores etc) but I believe the economy of scale they operate under with their huge market means they offer great value for money (think who's paying for all those wilson adverts and the lexus-level of service). I think the reviews of the 802D generally in the audio press called it right, it's a really good speaker, superb on classical and acoustic. It was not boomy on rock for me (I actuallly found it bright), but it sure does have real bass that will require placement to be addressed. And I am not a bass fan! As others have noted, your own gear is pretty good and you should never underestimate the potential of tweaks, set-up and positioning. A system has many variables at work and the room is primary.

Best of luck
As others have noted, your own gear is pretty good and you should never underestimate the potential of tweaks, set-up and positioning. A system has many variables at work and the room is primary.

Best of luck
Oscar44 (Answers)

Thanks, that is the path I've decided to take first. I decided to upgrade the a/c power supply. I already had a Nordost Thor and a couple of Brahma cords mixed with several other brands and stock cords. I now have every component connected with a Brahma cord except the CD transport which has a captive cord. I'm starting on the third week with the coherent loom and I like what I'm hearing so far. The bass is better defined and controlled without losing all the tube sound. The whole system sounds more linear as the volume is increased/decreased. I already have substantial room treatment. At some point, I will have an audition with the Sophias but for the moment the upgrade itch has been quelled.
Wonder if folks looked at price,figured out total outlay and considered the 803D's.When I sold B&W's when they had Mtrix thought most bang for buck was 802 Matrix III.But with the Nautilus series it was the 803N.80's (like older 803's) just to small a stage and constrained.Now 803D offers a superb tweeter and with second 7" driver go as low as older 802N's/Wilson makes a fine product but as was mentioned somebody (us) are paying for fit/finish and service.I thought as good as they are they were too much for the asking.But B&W and a few other like Revel have either a broad line (B&W) OR a company like Revels parent Harmon) that can bring a product o market that few smaller companies can afford.If bit bass shy a REL or Velodyne DD turned way low for truly SUB work could make it the equal or better than the Wilsons.Don't get me wrong I like the Sophia's and if a used pair came up at right price I would dive.But the 900 lbs.Gorilla (B&W) sells not just based on prior sales but they deliver at fair price point.Savvy marketing can only bring you so far and a t these price points fewer people walk in and say what's best I can get at "X".There are exceptions to rule like when folks buy McIntosh for looks or because they remember the name when the rich kid down the hall had Mac or marantz their into they check around and still they sell.
I sold my 802Ds and finally got my Wilson W/P8s a few weeks ago. All I can say is... WOW! All the problems I had with the 802D are gone. No more recessed male vocals veiled behind the tubby, cavernous sound of other elements in the soundstage. It is a huge improvement in the sound of my system. I can finally hear many of the male vocals clearly that I couldn't quite hear before. They are no longer obscured behind other elements of the music. Extremely revealing speaker in comparison.

The mid-range is absolutely pristine, though I do miss the sightly more transparent clarity of the diamond tweeter in the very high frequencies, it is certainly not a substitute for the gloriously clear mid-range i'm experiencing now....

I look forward to buying the surround speakers and center channel speaker once I save up the funds.
I would put my money on the wilsons any time, I have had the B&W's for a long time and after I heard the JM labs, T+A and Wilsons I will buy the wilsons forget about any other.

Wilson is the most nutural speaker I have heard and I have gone through at least 15 brands. I still do not won the wilson as I am saving up for the Max 2, for my 2 channel setup.
Hello Rhljazz,

Have you tried listening to the Escalante Design Fremonts? They go for around $20K a pair, are 93dB efficient, can handle 1000 watts all day, and present an extremely amplifier friendly load. All that wouldn't mean a thing if they did not sound superb, which they do. They are stand mounted 'mega monitors' that come with their own stands (included in the price), and go down to 18Hz. What stands out about them the most, though, is the midrange. They sound extremely clear, with the most natural timbre reproduction I have yet heard in 30 years of audio.
Do B&W's still have suckout problems I use to hear when they played?

If you are referring to a lack of audibility of some vocals (male vocals) in the mid-range to mid-bass, then yes. That is why I ultimately sold mine (among other less bothersome reasons as well)....
I bought N.E.A.R's and had them modified and they are awesome.I audititioned the B&W's before I got in touch of Bill K. who just happened to have a few sets left and had worked on his pairs .

I could spen 1000's for better sound ,but why?

I hope that I find a good front end to accompany them now.

The Mid range suckout turned me off on B&W's other wise they are great speakers.
I don't have familiarity w. the 802Ds but did own the 801s. I upgraded to WP7s. In a nutshell I never looked back. Some prefer the diamond tweeter. The 7s didn't lack in bass, but the Sophia's might. The B&Ws, even the Ds will still have the kevlar midrange with all the negatives and positives. The agility for me is just missing. IME the B&Ws need to be played very loud to come alive.

Seeing your amp I would guess a Wilson speaker would be a nice match in terms of power.
Just to add I am considering Wilsons when I get the money and have been inquring of what might be the amplification to be used.

With the advent of nerw Class D amps I wnder if they are up to the chore or if their are Class A amps like Plinius that might do better.

What turns me off to Cl.D amps are they are relatively inexpensive to manufacture so I cannot justify paying more than 1K for one.

I guess the most expensive part is the cosmetics and if they use ultra expensive components to justify the price.

Check out the Bel Canto reference 1000s. I heard them with the Jospeh Audio rm33si at HE2007. They sounded really really nice considering the very low price. I'm considering those for my rear speakers in my surround setup (Wilson W/P8s in the front, Watch Center, and Sophia 2s in the back). I'll likely get another Ayre MX-R for the front to match with the other two I have driving the W/P8s...
i considered at length the wilson sophia 2 vs b&w 802D. i auditioned both in the same room with same gear [arc ref amp and my pass x350.5, arc ls26, transparent cables + ICs + PCs. i spent 4 hrs x 2 sessions including a/b

the 802D's have excellent highs and mid range, good and deep bass. they project slightly forward. good overall nuance. lots of grunt. they can throw a great left hook anywhere in the spectrum. and they love to be played at moderately loud and loud volumes. they do not present well at low listening levels.

the sophia 2's have more finesse overall. they have a tighter and faster bass BUT the do not have a full range bass. they lack the very bottom, which was ultimately frustrating becdause they do everything else equal or better than the 802D. i chose the sophia 2 over the 802D, but with the knowledge of living with an LF speaker. in the end, i went to the w/p 8 because i listen to a wide range of classical music, which includes those giant late romantic and contemporary compositions with a row of standing basses and other assorted denizens of the deep (orchestrally).

however, if i listened to almost exclusively small ensemble works with little in the way of required huge heft down below, the sophia 2's are a superb speaker all around, especially in terms of nuance, finesse, and overall presentation (crossover coherency). my guess is, in most jazz combo's and small jazz orchestras, ie those without big band tendencies, the single standing bass , piano, and bari-sax are only very slightly shortchanged in lower frequency ambiance -- not actual notes-- whereas the benefits of the sohpia 2 in the upper end are greater than the excellent 802D. also, the sophia doesnt require as big an amp... and tubes are not a problem. with the 802D, you need a min of 300 wpc (advised to me directly from B&W england) to get everything fully engaged... and more is better. the b&w may also favor a s/s amp to get the bottom end moving with command (vs the more sensitive sophia 2) . you would need a lot of tube power to keep the 802D running to their potential.

in terms of shear volume, it it can go the distance with a bruckner symphony at full tilt, it can give you the 100 db peaks .

wishing you enlightening auditions with the speakers when you get to that point. cheers.

I love how you explain your decision making process. It is fabulous and definitely helps others. And, I agree with you from experience. My love affair ended w. the B&W once I had kids. They need to be played loud and that was no longer possible.