What is your budget?
Without knowing that, it is difficult to give you a good informed answer, but, off the top of my head, I'd say try something from Sonus Faber or Avalon Acoustics. Both of them make some of the most non-fatiguing speaker that I know of, and yet are very high quality.
By the way, do you really want to upgrade as the title of your thread suggests, (i.e. do you wish to spend more money than the Sophia 2's cost?),
Do you just want to swap them out for something in the same ballpark?
PS It might also help to know where you live, so that we don't suggest something that is not available in your area/country.
Verity Audio Parsifal Encore or ovation. I have spent time in the dealers with the Wilson's, I think I know what you mean, they seemed a little forward in the upper mids, lower treble, (thought room set up and tastes can make them perfect). I have been stunded by my Parsifal's and will keep the speakers as I upgrade everything else along the way. A more refined, subtle presentation that does not grab you but quietly seduces you.
I would look at room treatments if you haven't already done so. I was having a similar problem with my Mini Utopias, too bright and aggressive on so- so recordings and some panels from Ready Acoustics helped quite a bit. But there seems to be a tendency with Focal, Wilson, and some of the other high end speakers to go for the last bit of detail. I spend most of my time with my Spendor SP-1/2e's, which give a more relaxed presentation. I have also read good things about S-F but no dealers near. I would check out the room before I did anything else. Mine is 13x 35 and I found I was getting good response at 32Hz, way down at 50 and 62 and back up at 100. [I use 2 REL Stadium Subs]. This made the sound more aggressive than it is after I put up the panels. Response is now flatter and sound fuller. Hope this is some help.
Do you experience this with both your analog and digital front end? I bet the Sophias sound excellent w/ good recordings (as mine do). If your goal is to set-up a system to make these inferior recordings sound "good", I fear you will end up with a highly colored system. I would experiment with speaker and listening chair positions, room treatments, and cables before giving up on the Wilson's.
I sold my Sophia's. I've owned many other box speakers such as Watt/Puppy 6's, Dyn C4's, B&W801N's, ML Odyssey's, Totem Winds and Forests, Dunlavy SC-V's etc... My instincts told me to think outside the box and give Magnepan a try. The 3.6R's have been the most glorious upgrade I have ever experienced. Problems I thought were due to other components over the years are now gone! Strings are natural, bass is addictively textured and full of dynamic shadings, treble is sweet, phenomenaly extended, pure and grain free with no fatigue. Micro and macro dynamics are utterly realistic. Mids are full, ripe and organic. Soundstaging and depth are the best I've heard as well. Once broken in, they far excede the requirements of any music loving audiophile. The funny thing is that all of the anecdotal misinformation passed around about Magnepans being bass shy, lacking in dynamic slam, having bright treble, being hard to drive, hard to place or lacking in focus or transparency is complete nonsense. My 3.6R's driven by my Krell 400xi have none of the limitations I had heard talked about in high end circles. Once you hear a properly set up pair you would have to be into cherishing audio artifacts rather than music to not fall in love with them.
Tell us more about your room, besides the dimensions. Do you have wood floors, tile, area rugs, mirrors or windows, Ceiling Height?
Does the room seem live or dead to you?
Were you happy with your previous speakers in this room?
I think we all need to decide if it's your room, your associated equipment or your speaker choice?
Sure, the room dimensions are approx. 20ftLx16ftWx7ftH. Subfloor is concrete with berber carpet/heavy padding over it. Drapes on left wall at first reflection point for L CH. Open right to bar 4ft from end next to front wall. Tall Plants behind speakers in corners, soft fabric couch along rear wall (listening wall). Large wood end table on left next to couch and in front of couch. Large wood cabinet behind and in between speakers at 36"H. Canvas artwork behind speakers and behind listening position. Speakers are 12ft apart tweet to tweet and 48" from front wall left/right outside edge, 46 1/2" inside edge L/R. Left speaker 3ft from left draped wall. Listening position is 11ft from mid panels. Subs are outboard L/R in line with mid panels and raised onto 2" thick wood platforms..both are spiked with Mapleshade heavyfeet. Ceiling is acoustic tile. Room sounds just slightly on dead side/neutral. Walls are dryvit/over wood studs. Dedicated 20amp lines wt wattgate recepticles. Previous speakers seemed to lack low level dynamic shadings and soundstaging was ok but not great. Depth was good but not great. Some speakers sounded bright (Winds). Others sounded too warm and rolled off (Krell Res2's). The Sophias lacked air and seemed a tad closed in sounding. Is that enough detail?
Your room is way to narrow for Avalon. I feel your pain with the Wilson speaker. Over time I felt the same thing with my WP8.
Given you room size you have options. Maggies have new speakers coming out so I would wait. Rockport makes a nice speaker but controlling the bass is not easy.
Any other speaker you listen too in that price range will not be as aggressive as the Wilsons.
BTW I'm a very happy Modwright transporter customer. That darn thing has me listening to music again and I never have to get off my butt.
I would say give Verity a listen you would be very surprised.
Can you give some examples of the recordings that end up sounding harsh?
I've heard the Sophias several times with a wide variety of material for extended periods in Brooks Berdan's listening rooms at his shop(and trade shows) and the two words that I would never, ever, attribute with those speakers are aggressive or fatiguing. If anything, his systems have always been on the forgiving side of the spectrum.
But, you have a top-notch system, so as few others have suggested, it might be more a factor of room interactions - or more correctly, room reflections causing the problems.
I have heard Watt Puppy's with Jadis tube gear and it was amazing. My friend had WP as well with all ss and I did not like it nearly as much (though pretty darn good but VERY fickle)
I know my experience is with the WP not Sophia 2 but I hope this helps - also fwiw I am a tube guy...
It sounds like you have a lovely room, however my question was directed towards the OP! (LOL)
Sorry about the Confusion!
dave- i think you have room issues. if your couch is against the rear wall, that is a telling sign.
the trees, canvas art, and drapes aren't really treatment. i am going through the same process myself, and i've given up on better components until the room is solved. i ended up hiring Rives...
btw dave- with that low ceiling, that may create problems as well.
Keithr, I am very pleased with my room actually. I learned from Dunlavy that having your listening position against the back wall reduces standing waves and supports deep bass. The best rooms I've heard have had natural room treatments such as wood tables, soft furniture, plants, uneven/open walls, lower ceilings, drapes, artwork etc... Breaking up the frequencies and dispersing them reduces cancellation/amplification effects. Many treated rooms I've heard have sounded dull and lifeless. A balance is needed I guess:O)
I had a simliar experience but it was with the version 1 Sophia's; I had been using the W/P 7's for some time and traded them for the Sophia's, to downsize my system. The W/P's midrange was recessed and I always wished it to be more forward. (Let me take a moment to state that I believe both my W/P's and the Sophia's could have garnered better results with more freedom of movement in my room.)
When I switched to the Sophia's the midrange was more forward, which I liked, but they were more aggressive and fatiguing just as you experienced. I did not experiment much with placement of the Sophia's as I had another set of speakers I prefered so I sold the Sophia's.
Thanks for the responses so far.
To answer some of the questions:
The room is 14 x 25 x 7.5. It's actually a dedicated home theater. Listening position is the middle of the room (not ideal I know, but I have a riser with second row of seating behind me and I can’t move backwards). The room is soundproofed and carpet is a thick shag. I have Real Traps (corner mondo bass traps) in the front corners. I use two Real Trap panels for first reflections (just leaning against the side walls). The front wall is NOT treated as there is a 11’ wide screen (for home theater the speakers are tucked into the corners and EQ’d; for 2 channel I pull them out in front of the screen).
I’ve always thought the room was on the dead side of things (I used to have several ASC wall planks on the side walls but removed them seeking more ‘air). Previous speakers were Aerials (very rolled off high end and sounded muddy in this room).
There are pros and cons about the forwardness of the Sophias. They have nice presence and transients are great. But even with good recordings there can be certain higher frequencies that are painful. I listen at about 85db which is probably relevant to the conversation since at very low volumes it’s not an issue.
I’ve played with different speaker cables and interconnects. This has helped (also been playing with different preamps which has helped) but not solved the problem completely. I am certainly open to the possibility that it could be the room. Couches are leather and have fairly high backs – so the ones on the riser are probably somewhat deflecting sound. The rear wall has all the equipment racks and doesn’t have a lot of bare wall space. I’ve considered getting drapes for the screen.
As for budget, I’m willing to go ‘up’ from the Sophias (for example I would entertain the new Sashas, but probably not higher than that).
Thanks again for your thoughts.
Enjoying them for the most part, but they can sound aggressive and make mediocre recordings sound like crap and be somewhat fatiguing.
IMO,thats why alot of folks shy away from Wilson.Tons of speakers out there..Only you can decide what works for you,happy listening
Sounds like you've got a pretty nice room.
Why not try the cheap and easy test to see if the 1st reflection from the screen between the speakers has any affect on the forward/aggressiveness?
Hang some heavy comforters in front of the screen, then give it a listen.
The front wall reflection can often be worse than the sidewalls.
Nah, buy new speakers. That's the end game isn't it?
Isn't this thread really about justification for buying new speakers?
"Isn't this thread really about justification for buying new speakers?"
Changing speakers is not something I would do casually.
In this economy it sucks to have to sell gear. It either takes forever or you lose a fair bit. Selling speakers is the worst since they're heavy beasts, require freight etc.
What I am seeking is something that will satisfy me (and yes, I'm picky). I'm close with the Sophias, and if I had to keep them I would (and that may be what I end up doing). While I've tried to tune them to taste, I haven't been totally successful. So I can't help but wonder if I'm trying to fit a square ped into a round hole, which ultimately leads to considering other speakers. Since there's nothing that leaps to mind (other than the Sashas), I thought I would seek suggestions.
Again, I do appreciate that it could be my room.
Have you looked at Deadalus Audio Ulysses? All the user reports describe them as detailed, yet natural and non-fatiguing.
Madfloyd you may want to look outside the Wilson line. I'm afraid that is the Wilson sound. As you move up the line you get more of it. Some people love and some people don't.
I would look in this order.
Verity audio will give you the bass impact and the best midrange going. Super easy to drive.
Magico they get better the more time you spend with them. Takes a bit to get use to them. Not the same bass impact as the wilson.
Rockport with the right room they are very good. side firing woofer makes them though to place.
Vandersteen Maybe the complete opposite to Wilson.
I find that the Wilson sound is anything but bright. If anything, the sound has changed from the WP6 days to a more rolled off highs. But... tweeter ear relationship is critical and the Sophia's don't handle that relationship well as they are not that adjustable. My Maxx IIs have the ability to adjust the head tilt & hence tweeter directionality. I can hear the difference between 2 positions of adjustment instantly (I think there are 14 positions) with ease. Based on your room size and current used Maxx II pricing they are a steel for an upgrade.
I have heard many a different speaker and many have sounded bright and hard at times. But they all benefit from proper tweeter / ear position. Unfortunately not all speakers can do such adjustment but many do compensate with adjustable tweeter outputs.
Now, I use tube amplification which might have something to do with my preference for the Wilson sound (but I doubt 100%, as I have used very high end SS amps with great results) and I find most Be. tweeters to be bright (or hissy) sounding (as a few others have agreed). You will need to let your ears be the judge.
I had tried some Focals and decided that the Be tweeter is not for me (didn't sound natural to my ears).
Dave- i agree that diffusion is necessary for a good room, but what you list won't do the trick.
i would also agree that dead rooms are too be avoided, and have commented on "absorption"-based rooms in the past. i think a good mix is in order (and what my room is doing)
but a lot of stuff you list is reflective by nature...not diffusive. i was also looking into the drapes route, but the thick "stage" type drapes aren't very aesthetically pleasing that are used to absorp sound. i am going to use fabric blinds backed in vinyl groovers for a more diffuse style (i have a wall of windows to contend with on the left side)
a lot of the room is its size/proportions---i'm unlucky and have a more squarish room which requires more work. if your room is more the "golden ratio"---then more power to you! i am jealous....and if 10 years down the road have a large house, will search for one with dedicated listening room in almost perfect ratio.
to the OP- i'm not sure i agree that treating the front wall is the right thing to do. from all i've read, unless you have dipoles---it really isn't that necessary.
i've owned the Sophia 1s btw, and never have found them fatiguing in th eleast---unlike the WP 6s.
I have found them more Aggressive then Fatiguing. But we all hear different and we all have different rooms. When I had my Maxx 2 they were to aggressive for me no matter what amps I used. But it all comes down to personal taste at this price point.
BTW I thought the Sophia II was Wilson's better speaker and in most rooms there best speaker.
Please define aggressive as compared to fatiguing. Just curious what you hear. And for sure there is no speaker w. perfect highs.
Based on what you are looking for the Silverline Bolero speakers may be just perfect for you. They sound exactly like what you described in this thread.
for plenty of great alternative suggestions with no mention of Wilson Sophia. I like the last suggestion - Active PMC great detail but not fatiguing.
Well, I agree your room is certainly Dead!
A dedicated room is a great thing to have, so you should take advantage of it. I'm kind of surprised that your speakers are sounding aggressive in that room with all that "deadness" around you.
A couple of other points:
How old are your Speakers? Are they fully broken it yet?
You certainly need to dedicate one seating position for yourself, with the proper seat height at the midrange-tweeter axis. I assume you're sitting in the front row, correct?
I would recline the other chairs behind you when not in use, but I can't believe that would be your problem, nor do I think your screen is the problem, because your room is dead enough, any deader and I would think that we need to get "CSI" down there.
I also don't understand why you have to move the speakers back and forth for movies and audio only. It took me 3 weeks to setup my speakers, with laser pointers calibrated by NASA>.
You need to find the best listening position for the speakers and then you should try to work the screen around the speakers and not the other way around. Sometimes too much toe-in can sound a bit aggressive, even if you're off by a 1/4 inch for each speaker, then that could translate to a huge difference. Tape on the floor is not accurate enough in my opinion. I'm telling you..., even if I look at my speakers the wrong way, they sound different.
Another point that I agree with is that you should strongly consider demoing a Tubed Amplifier.
If none of this works, then I think you may need;
"NEW SPEAKERS.... NEW SPEAKERS....NEW SPEAKERS!!
before you go off on another pair of speakers, and I'm not a big fan of Wilson from what I've heard of them in local showrooms, I'd say try this one thing...
CAll the cable co and ask for a pair of Nirvana SX Ltd, and a pair of Nirvana SL ICs. Put the SX onto the ??? source, and the SL onto the preamp to amp.
Things should then be mo betta.
That move will cost $50 or so to find out... and that beats $10K or so, easy.
Wilson's have a bit more life in them than the Revels, but I've found both less than musically satisfying without tubes throughout... but that's just me
you could try all SX Ltd throughout too, even in speaker cables. The ambient retreval is fascinating. I'd bet they'll fix your woes... and save ya some dough in the process!
it is inexcusable to have speakers costing over 10 grand (or for that matter ONE grand) that sound this disappointing. the sophias are good transducers, no question, but raising this many issues in (what sounds like) a decent room with very good components upstream just doesn't add up. i'll bet a pair of eggleston andra's (or similar speakers like sonus fabers or von schweikerts) would sound very natural and unforced, while giving up very little in resolution. and you can get a used pair for a song...
it may be worth a call or email to wilson. you may find a simple solution such as changing the spike configuration. i know with the wp, spikes and spacers are tools that can produce some very dramatic changes. wilson support has been very responsive and helpful in my experience, particularly jerron.
some interesting perceptions in this thread. personally, i see the sophia as a speaker that is extremely versatile and pleasant. to my ears, laid back and easy to listen to. i attended a gathering with dave and daryl wilson a couple of months ago and they set up sophia2's with a small krell integrated and a krell dvd standard. the cables were middle to low in the mit line, the room was not treated and over all bad. they sounded amazing. i wanted to go home and sell all my big dollar stuff and get an integrated/sophia pair.
people hate on wilson for many reasons unrelated to the sound...
try putting some walker HDLs on the watt binding posts. will reduce the aggressiveness of the highs. might be a quick & cheap solution
If you change to a more forgiving speaker like a Verity, or a Sonus Faber, you will be giving up on the excellent Wilson clarity and dynamics.
Your issues are most certainly room and setup related. It sounds like you have done some treatments, which is a good start, but the next step is to take a more objective approach to acoustics. That low ceiling isn't working for you.
If it were me, I would look into hiring an acoustic consultant who can take full measurements of the room acoustics issues, and work with you to address the acoustic shortcomings.
If you change speakers, you will just have a different set of problems.
Speakers differ fundamentally in their presentations based on their drivers, crossovers and design.
Trying to change a speakers' fundamental presentation with cabling is a mistake, IMO.
It's better to buy speakers from the outset that have a sonic presentation that suits the listeners preferences.
It would be better to get exactly what you want from the beginning but it is not easy and often the better the speaker the more trouble you have to go through. In his review of the Sofia 2 in HIFICRITIC Martin Colloms said "We were initially misled during the listening tests because the Sophia 2 constantly revealed the sound of every other component we used it with. Before we had learned to trust it , we had thought these' other' sounds were the responsibility of these speakers; as we learned to balance the system, it was clear that the speaker sat above these issues- a rare occurrence,especially at this relative moderate price level. --- It is the mark of a great speaker that it helps one assess the components elsewhere in the system, Sophia 2 can do this, which can make system building exacting but very rewarding. When we thought it was a bit bright, it turned out that this was due to a relative high cable impedance. Soft bass was due to 'soft' sounding cables and electronics. Midrange coloration was almost always the fault of a component other than the speaker, and the same was true of focus and transparency issues.Nothing could be taken for granted, but once all was in order , the overall sound quality seemed to fall in place."
This is the Sept/Oct 2008 issue, you might want to order it as it gives considerable info on the speaker. I have gone through similar efforts with my Apogee Duetta Sigs. , they will sound hideous if not set up optimally. In my opinion you have a pair of speakers that is very revealing and you are hearing room and equipment interactions. If you want the level of sound possible from these speakers it will be a long process but changing speakers means starting over. Less revealing speakers are easier but you give up something. I have struggled with this myself as I mentioned in my first post but if I had speakers of this quality I would exhaust every avenue before changing. I would consider having the room analyzed if there is someone competent to do this or perhaps one of the computer programs. But advice about rooms is often inconsistent and sometimes contradictory. I was told by the factory that my Apogees should have a bare back wall, I was just talking to the authorized repair station for the current manufacture of replacement parts and he told me the opposite. DON"T GIVE UP. Stan
If you have a Transparent dealer near you ask for a loaner kit. Ultra or above for that nice of a setup.
If you have a Transparent dealer near you ask for a loaner kit. Ultra or above for that nice of a setup.
My local Wilson dealer always does a great job of setting up their Wilsons to sound their best. I have heard the Sofia 2, Watt/Puppy 7, Maxx 2 and 3, and Alexandria X-2 at their salons, always with some of the better (if not outright top line) Transparent cables throughout. I have *never* heard any of the Wilsons have any overbrightness, forwardness, edginess, or lumpiness that some critics accuse them of. Also, the demos that amazed me the most at the time and continued to haunt my memories were high powered tube amps, in one case VTL and the other Audio Research.
And of course they know how to treat a room as well. But anyway, their Wilsons *always* sing, regardless of the model or type of music played through them, and the Transparent Cables are a big part of their success.
i will jump back in here and highly recommend mit cables with wilson too.
Yea the best I have heard them was with Audio Research REF3, REF210 and what ever the latest AR cd player was at the time. All cabled with Transparent Opus.
HIFICRITIC used Transparent XL Ref and Yter as loudspeaker cables and Cardas Golden Reference and VDH The First Ultimate ICs. The speakers were +/-3dB 26 to 23kHz. That is with the grills removed, which was essential for best performance.
Also used MSB Platinum 200, C-J 350SA, AR Ref. 3 amps and XTC preamp.
it is inexcusable to have speakers costing over 10 grand (or for that matter ONE grand) that sound this disappointing. the sophias are good transducers, no question, but raising this many issues in (what sounds like) a decent room with very good components upstream just doesn't add up. French_fries (Threads | Answers)
I've never owned gear on a level with some of yours, but I agree with this part of Frenchfries post 100%. Your results don't add up, and you should keep trying with the Sophia 2's. You owe it to yourself, the time effort and dollars spent in your system, and the technology that goes into those speakers to continue to tweak your system until the Sophias sing as you expect. It could be as simple as a change in cables or a bit more complex. Keep trying.
I'm gonna go into a potential hornets nest of ridicule for what I'm about to say, but know that I am sincere. Over the years I have used Transparent Ref Xl and below as well as MIT Oracle V1.1 and V1.2 and below cables, as well as many many others such as Harm Tech, Synergistic, Kimber, Siltech, Cardas ...the mind boggles ove the amount of cash wasted on wires! Recently, I found myself in between speakers (going from bi-wire to single ended) therefore switching cabling again. I had an old pair of Monster Cable M2.2s speaker cables laying around, so I figured what the heck...at least I'll have music until I demo more stuff and make a decision on audiophile grade replacements. Well, they turned out to be remarkable and unique in a way that reinvigorated my passion for music (not the gear) again! They are extended, clean and pure, detailed yet warm, soundstage like crazy, are wildly dynamic and to top it off, they throw a full fleshed out midrange like no other (except for ransparent). I also learned that they use the same basic technology as Transparent..an in-line filter network that reduces the noise floor and capacitance allowing the amp to deliver the signal more easily and with less roll off. In any case, proof is in the pudding so to say. Bottom line is that I used them on my Sophia 1's and my new maggie 3.6R's with sunning results. I then picked up several cables for demo from the cable company, my local dealer and various online suppliers (signal cable ect..). They all sounded different but when I put the M2.2s's back in, I felt renewed and refreshed...in love with the sound, like back in my childhood home with my Sansui Model 8 and Bozak B313's and a Revox reel to reel. Everything was in balance and the tonality was as realistic and natural as I've ever heard. Strings were smooth but not glossed over, highs were clear and delicate with a sweetness and purity beyond reproach. For under $500...well that's a side benefit. Lastly, I challenged my MIT Oracle V1.2 IC's with some Monster Proline balanced SP1000M5 cables from sweetwater.com. These are cables for professional sudios and cost $49/5ft run with gold neutrik connections. They almost match my $6500 IC's and in some ways offer a tad more warmth and a roundedness that is addictive. I kept an open mind and open ears and I have experienced a paradigm shift as a result. Both products are easily available and returnable from either online stores or local oulets. $600 could be all that's standing between you questioning your speakers and falling in love with them again. Of course, more IC's might raise the cost significantly to, oh, let's say a staggeringly high $800 maybe?
I should chime back in say that the times I heard the Sophias in Brooks Berdan's setups, it was always with tube amplifiers. And they never sounded aggressive or forward.
I don't think the Sophias are the greatest thing since sliced bread, just that properly setup with the right matching equipment, they sounded smooth, detailed, and very, very, easy on the ears.
i have been reading speaker reviews for the last 15-20 years or so, and i am always struck by the models that sound good right away with little or no set-up issues, VERSUS those that take forever to place/break in/modify the room acoustics/change the wires-the cdp-switch to tubes, etc. guess what? go back to the eggl.andra review and read how nice it sounded right off the bat. this also was the case with the sonus faber extremas. i personally compared the andras to the wilson X-1's (same room), and they sounded much more natural. at the stereophile show in miami, the watt-puppy 5.1's sounded horrible, WITH tube amps AND vinyl, while the sf extrema's, in a similar untreated room, sounded spectacular. while these are my own subjective impressions, when people are spending 5 min. or less listening to the W/P's, and staying for 20 min. or more just so they can move to the center seats to better audition the sf's, i must not be completely crazy. in still another room, the sf electra amators, driven by carver gear, were placed practically on the floor facing my pants' legs, and THEY sounded really good; even playboy magazine praised them in an article.
i am looking at the system above and it is composed of sota components. the sophias should by all rights be fine tuned by peter mcgrath himself (of wilson audio) FOR YOU so they finally sound the way they should, or your money back. after all, he does it for mikey fremer... speaking of which, i am SHOCKED to read in the sept.stereophile that vanderstein quattros ($11k) had a more transparent midrange than his highly lauded MAXX-2'S ($45K).
oh, one more sore point. the dealer i go to has a "disappointing" listening room even by their own admission.
i went to hear the maxx-2's twice with different front-ends, and the tweeeter was too hot. BUT, when they rolled out the alexandrias (the originals) the room was no longer an issue. everything sounded "fine" (okay, extraordinary), with just the very slightest edge reminding you that they were still wilson speakers. which bugs me even more- for $125k, you get speakers that approach the ideal, and can handle virtually unlimited volume without the bass turning mushy or the upper mids getting screechy- IN a "lousy" room. SO i "think" i know what's going on here, but i'll let others chime in with their own impressions.