what amp would maximize wilson sophias


I have wilson sophia speakers, cary 306-200 cd player, and krell 300il integrated amp.

my room is moderately large with high ceilings and wooden floors. I listen to mostly rock and electronica.

I had thought of upgrading the speakers but the wilson 7's are too much. I might get a subwoofer like martin logan but the consensus has been to upgrade the amp.

Money is an issue otherwise I would just buy the new Rowland 302. The krell currently in use are 200 watts per channel and I want more power so would prefer recommendations for 300 watts per channel and up.


I have the Sophias which I am driving with 50W Nagra VPA's. Combined with a CAT Ultimate preamp and Purist Venustas cabling, my listening room has never sounded better. I think lowish powered, (50-100W) "push-pull" tube amps will deliver the best compromise between purity/musicality and dynamics/slam. I'm not sure what your budget is but you might consider offerings from BAT, VAC and Art Audio for eg.

I use a Krell 300R in a second system and I know what it sounds like on the Sophias. Tubes will offer a completely different presentation.

However, since you are mainly into rock, you probably would be happier tilting the balance towards the slam side...in that case, consider the larger VTL's. imho...
If you have your heart set on keeping the Sophias, my suggstion would be to look for a smooth-sounding amplifier to go with them; they can be rather unforgiving of any edginess.

I've heard other Wilsons sound great with large VTL amps; Kleech's suggestion of a beefy push-pull tube amp makes a lot of sense.

In solid state, you might consider older Jeff Rowland gear, Accuphase, or GamuT (disclaimer - I peddle the latter).

If I may venture an observation... if you find 200 watts to be insufficient with the Wilsons, then 300 watts isn't going to be a very significant improvement. Four hundred watts is only a 3 dB increase in dynamic headroom, and now you're edging into the territory of frightfully expensive amplification, assuming you go for high quality amps (and the Wilsons probably won't let you get away with anything less).

You might want to consider a speaker of higher sensitivity and perhaps even higher impedance. The Sophia has a sensitivity of 86 dB with a 2.83 volt input (according to Soundstage's measurements), and into its nominal 3-ohm load 2.83 volts translates into 2.7 watts - so in other words, the Sophia is a rather difficult and power-hungry little beast (I specialize in speakers that are even worse!).

One other thing - low-efficiency speakers generally suffer more from dynamic compression than do high-efficiency models, so with a more efficient loudspeaker you wouldn't have to turn it up quite as high to get the same level of excitement because you'd have greater dynamic contrast.

For example, if you switched to the Classic Audio Reproductions T-3 and drove 'em with a 50-watt tube amp, you'd get more headroom than driving the Sophias with 1,000 watts.

Best of luck to you whatever you decide on!

Good!!! Glad to hear that you're considering upgrading your amp, which was decidedly not maximized... Rowland would be a great choice for SS - try older used rowland gear, or look at the Classe Omega Stereo amp which has great power, amazing soundtaging and minimal fatigue factor for a SS amp. It sounds like budget is an issue, so I can't recommend Boulder in good conscience...

That having been said, you said "maximize" so I HAVE to say that tubes would make all the difference and could be chosen for a high-power, low maintenance system. You could go VTL (very high power) and wouldn't go wrong though I didn't feel even these amps were optimal in combination with this speaker system (I heard MB450s with the Sophias) - better yet, you could do the VAC 220 beam power amps (I have seen two recently advertised and paused over each ad myself just to have a spare high-powered tube amp) which have better soundstaging IMO and can be had for about $7K. Also, you could look at the plethora of medium power tube amps - many of which would suit the Sophia's own broad strengthys and build a wonderfully musical system. You really, really owe it to yourself to see what a truly world class tube amp could do for your sophias!

hope that helps somehow. Best of luck again,
One good choice that's reasonable (well, you know) is BAT's integrated amp. Get one of the tube input stages, and you have quite a front to go with your Cary. This is less than your request for 300 watts, but the quality of the power and the preamp stage is amazing.

While I'm more familar with the WP, after reading what Duke wrote it appears the Sophia may be a similar challange to the power amp. Don't get to caught up in watts, current is the real issue. I use a ML 335 and it doubles it power at 4 ohms and doubles it again at 2 ohms. So, while it's only rated at 250 watts it really delivers the juice when the impedance drops, which is when you need it with Wilsons.

While I know there are many tube lovers around here I can tell you with my WP 5.1's the ML 335 mopped the floor with my old ARC VT 100mk2. The ARC unit just didn't have the power to control the WP's. My point is unless you go with a massive tube amp you won't get where you want to go. Kleech may like the purity of the Nagra, but he is giving up dynamics to get it. While this is a personal choice, I suggest a tube pre and a transistor power amp. Some of the older Roland stuff would be an excellent choice. I'm real happy with my 335. But get one that doubles it's output as the impedance drops from 8 to 4 to 2. You have lots of choices on pre amps, I also use the CAT Ultimate.

Get you power amp first and then find the pre amp that has synergy with it, your room and your taste.

I too have just acquired a pair of Sophia's. I have been running them with Pass X-250 connected directly to a Wadia 861SE via all Valhalla cabling. The sound is extremely dynamic, superb low frequency extension but a bit dry and analytical to my tastes.

I considered adding a tube pre (CAT or BAT balanced), changing cables (Transparent Reference XL) or changing amps.

The decision I made was to acquire a single BAT VK-75SE and if it's a step in the right direction, I'll add a second, and run them as 150SE's. The first amp is due to be delivered on Tues.

I also will be auditioning a friend's Shunyata Andromeda s/c to compare to the Valhalla's.

I'll let you know my findings.
I have auditioned the Sophia's with ARC tube mono's, tube pre (don't remember the model) and CD3 player and they were fantastic. Great bottom and smooth top end. The best I have ever heard the Sophia's sound. I have not listened them with other tube amps but have listened with ML gear. They were a bit dry with the ML.
I'm with Rcupka (nice choice).

Get a BAT VK75SE, and turn it into monoblocks later on if you need too. Have heard it on 6s and didn't feel the need for more power.

I also have heard the Sophias on VTL 450s, another superb choice.
I've now had the BAT VK-75SE for about a week and can say it's an excellent match to my Sophia's. I was seriously considering selling the Sophia's when they were used with my Pass X-250 (the sound was irritating....listener fatigue in 10 minutes).

The BAT throws up a wider,deeper stage, much better microdynamics, incredible decay of notes and most importantly is musical (good bye transistor-itis). The Pass did provide more SLAM and better control of the bottom end.

I will now audition some different speaker cable (Shunyata Andromeda, recommended by Wilson and BAT) to compare to my Valhalla and may eventually wind up with a second 75SE and run them as mono's. Has anyone out there done this and can they comment on the improvements that can be expected?