Sophia 1 with McIntosh/Lamm tubes? Please advise

My system is now B&W 804S, McIntosh MC275 amp and Lamm LL2 preamp, and Rel Storm III sub. The Lamm was the latest addition about 1.5 years ago and I REALLY like it.

I'm thinking of a next upgrade, either the speakers or amp. If I were to upgrade amp today I would probably go with Lamm ML1 or M1.1 hybrid. However, I'm leaning towards upgrading speakers first. Right track? BTW, the following upgrade would be a couple years away.

My budget for speakers is $5-6k, maybe $7k if I can let the sub go. Thinking of buying used. I've been reading about Wilson Sophia 1, Merlin VSM, and DeVore Nines (Silverbacks likely beyond my budget). Do you think these would match well with tubes? The Sophias are 89 dB (vs my B&W at 91 dB), but said to play very well at moderate levels. I'm certainly open to other suggestions.

I really enjoy the sense of 3D spaciousness during playback, the "musicians in the room" holographic presentation. Absolute true tonal balance is less important to me, to the extent is not grossly off, of course. Musicality and high definition are important, and also bass extension and definition.

The room is 33x15x8 ft, speakers on a short side, spaced about 7.5 ft between them, and 5 ft from front wall. Listening position on an equilateral triangle.

Music tastes: all over the place, but mostly rock, blues and jazz. The dynamic range/impact the Sophias are said to have are appealing too.
Hi Lewinskih01,

Nice system! Enjoy! the 804s plus the REL must be a amazing combination...i have heard both just not together, but its not hard to imagine.

you will be hard pressed with $6K to 'kill' that setup. that is good news and bad news...good that you have a great setup...perhaps not so good if you are 'itching' to put $6K to work for an upgrade! ;)

If you are thinking 2 years from now and up to $6K, and if you are more focused on holographic, musicality and high definition (and less so on true tonal balance) might try Sonus Faber Ellipsa second hand...wait 2 years and you just might be able to stretch to a SF Amati. The Amati i do think would be a serious change you would enjoy considering.

Furthermore, many owners of SF love them with tubes and in particular Mcintosh tubes. You have a big room and the bigger SFs will fill them. I do like the Sophias a lot and for the money think they are very very good. i think both can be very well driven by your electronics (which i think are worth keeping given your considerations above).
Mac tubes and Sophia are a great marriage. Had that exact setup for a few years. Lamms would be a different (also very synergistic) combo with Sophia's. Both will be very holographic and dimensional as well as dynamic. Go with Sophia's for a huge step up in what u seek.
Ive heard Mac with Wilsons several times and always thought,yuck..but thats me as I prefer quicker more detailed gear.IMO there are much much better amps that mate with Wilsons.

Thanks for the kind words! I do indeed enjoy my system.

I don't really have an itch to spend $6k. What's happening is I live overseas and someone is being relocated back from the US so I have a chance to bring home some heavy stuff, like speakers or amp.

I've always loved the aesthetics of Sonus Faber speakers. Never heard them, though. I looked at the Amati Hommage...amazing!! But they are $12k on A'gon! I wish I could, but can't. Even the Elipsa is listed at $11k. Am I missing something?

Thanks for the input!
Hi Lewsinski01...i thought i saw Ellipsa for about 9500 earlier on AGon...and thought if your plan is to buy in 2 years...that price should come down to your price range within that timeframe.

Additionally, if you were to take your 804s and trade them in with your cash, that might also help.
BAT works super good with Sophia 1 imo. 75SEs are cheap (relatively)
Missioncoonery: I looked at your past responses to get a better perspective of where you are coming from. I see you like tubes - saw a "Jadis user since '95" somewhere. Maybe it's the McIntosh you don't like. Which amps do you like with the Sophia 1?

I also saw you do like the Wilson Sasha and the Sophia 3. How good do you think the Sophia 1 is compared to others in the same price range? I saw you talk about Avalons. I really like what I see on reviews, but I'm concerned with their low sensitivity.

Anyway, thanks your your input. challenging but constructive replies help me make a better decision.

Gpgr4blu: thanks for the feedback/confirmation!
I've been enjoying this hobby for over 20 years and the best advice I can give you is to take advice/opinions with a very big grain of salt. I have owned many speakers, including Sophia 2s, 3s, and now Sasha's. The Sasha's are by far the best speaker I've ever owned. I like forums because they can offer food for thought...meaning someone may mention a product that I never thought of. When I was searching to replace my Sophia 3S, I received and listened to many recommendations, but in the end my ears choose Sasha's. Decide on how much you want to spend and then try to listen to as many combinations as you can. You are listening to a system, more than individual components. The trick is to find a dealer that's capable of putting together a synergistic combination within your budget. Last I'll leave you with this, just because I love Sasha's, doesn't mean you or anyone else will love them...there are no absolutes in audio, only preferences! Let your ears choose!
I agree with Ricred1. I too have owned a number of Wilson speakers including Sophias, Watt Puppy 7s and Sashas. Sashas are, to my ears, among the best speakers out there----at any price----. But they are a tough load in portions of the low end. Wilson critics disagree on the merits of the speakers of course.
IMHO Sophias are one of the best values in audio in their used price category. I remember listening to them with a Naim Nait at 15 wpc after I read an article by Robert Harley in which he said the combo worked. He was right. The Sophias can be driven by virtually anything. Listen for yourself if possible.
People recommending Sashas clearly havent read the OPs budget recs.
I'm not recommending Sasha's, I was pointing out that I owned many Wilson speakers and my best advise was to listen to as many products within his price range and let his ears decide. Listening is the only way to know if a combination works. I should have explained a little more, because of his comments concerning the low sensitivity of Avalons. Many suggest Sasha's are very hard do drive, but my 125 watt amps drive them without strain...point being don't discount Avalons or any speaker until you hear them with your own electronics.
I also believe in listening as the best way to decide what's best. I really do. In fact, while I lived in the US this is how I went about choosing equipment.

However, now I live in South America, where auditioning these is impossible. Yet in a couple of months I will have the chance to bring something in a container. I know this is far from ideal, but that's what I have to work with. At the end of the day if I don't lke the combo I can resell it here at a financial gain.

Sophia 1s and MC275 seem like an option, to some ears - not to Missioncoonery's tastes, though.

Let me ask differently: if you had a Lamm LL2, a McIntosh MC275, and B&W 804S and $6k to spend, what would you upgrade first?
B & W 804S.
I went out for an audition yesterday. Somebody suggested Martin Logan Summits and I found a dealer who had them and I arranged for an audition. They were set up in an accoustically treated room, with a [way] better source than mine, my CDs, and an Audio Research integrated amp (about 50 Wpc they said, with 4xKT120 vs my 4xKT88). Nordost Valhalla cabling (way better than mine). And I didn't care for them. I was expecting higher resolution and better soundstaging than what I have, but didn't happen. Also, bass was loose.

The same dealer carries Sonus Faber and Wilson, but they don't have Cremonas or Sophia 1. I spent about an hour with the owner discussing what I have and seek, and what I heard with the Summits. He suggests Wilson. I know I need to listen to them.

How far from the front wall do Sophias tend to end up? I'm wondering about their backfiring ports. Right now my setup is on a short wall and 5 feet away from the front wall, but was considering moving to a long wall and distance to front wall becomes an issue.

You may wish to email Wilson...they are very good about responding in my experience. I think you might be alright with the Sophias being closer to wall, but so much depends on the rest of your dimensions, damping, etc. I have big Wilsons now and they were expertly setup by one of Wilson's favorite technical guys (in the world)...and he placed them within 3 feet of wall.

As for Summits...they really need a ton of power to get them going. They are capable of stunning resolution and soundstaging. Myles Astor (reviewer) uses 275 watt CJ ART monos, for example. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and he has a very experienced ear. My two cents.

Good luck. Given your room issues, you may find panels slightly more challenging to setup anyway. AGain, good luck. Enjoy!
For what it is worth, I went from Martin Logan Aerius to Wilson Sophia 2. I had the Aerius for 16 years or so, and I was very familiar with them. As soon as I hooked up the Wilson's I jotted down some notes while the Aerius was still fresh in my mind. I am also running tube amplification, Music Reference Rm-9 MKII amp, about 125 WPC, and a large room 18' by 36' with openings. So far I have not been wanting for power, but then again, I have not tried another amp. My system consists of:
VPI Classic 3 Dynavector XX-2 MKII, Avid Pulsus phono stage, Acurus RL-11 Preamp, Music Reference RM-9 MKII amp (Genalex Gold Lion KT77 and Russian 6922) and Sophia II speakers.

"I like them better already than the Martin logans, so much more articulate. And they crank! Bass is way low, like a sub, but very balanced on all frequencies. Big surprise is they image better than the logans, 3 dimensional instead of 2. Plus the midrange is way better. I only played a couple of albums so far. But Yes, different class of speaker. Much more detail in the mids with great bass extension. I really like the 3 dimensional image. The Martins were not as 3 dimensional in the imaging. No box coloration, I am very happy about that. Box is completely inert."
Nice write up, Captain W!