What Wilson to Buy?

I owned a pair of WP5.1's for many years. While there were many things I liked about them, ultimately I felt their upper midrange was simply to hot. Over the years I've moved more toward classical music. Massed strings were edgy on too many recordings. While perhaps the Wilson was simply revealing flaws that were embedded in the recording, I decided I needed something that didn't emphasize the flaws quite so much. In short, strings sounded much better on my old ESL-63's.

Now that I've sold the Wilson's I miss their dynamics, bass slam, soundstage and resolution. While I don't expect the newer Wilson's to make strings sound as sweet as my Quads did years ago, I was hoping they've improved enough where they aren't as ruthless as the 5.1's. Most of the reviews I've been reading of their newer models would indicate that Wilson has moved in this direction.

The two models I've been considering, used of course, are the WP8 and the Sophia 2. I might be able to swing the Sophia 3, but beyond that is out of my price range. I'd appreciate comments from Wilson owners. Particularly those that at one point owned 5.1's. Has the move from clinical to more musical been material? Can you listen to massed strings on the newer models at higher SPL's without ear bleed? I'd rather have sweeter string tone than a stronger low end, would the Sophia be a better fit for me than the WP8?
Since the Sasha is a development of the WP8 I am going to extrapolate from my experience with a friends pair. I would say the Sophia's are likely to be much easier to drive and have a wider choice of amps they will work with. I used Quad speakers for 30 years and was a dealer from 74-94 so I am very familiar with the sound of the 57s and 63s. I think it boils down to the kind of sound you want. The virtues of the Wilson's are exactly the ones you stated. The defects of these virtues is that they will not be kind to less than perfect records. I have found that there are very few CDs with massed strings that I am comfortable with even with my own speakers, which are considerably "sweeter" than the Sasha. LPs sound more natural to me in most cases. If your first priority is accuracy and transparency then I would go with Wilson, they are some of the best speakers. I myself am willing to trade off a little of these virtues for a more relaxed, "sweeter" presentation. Think Bruno Walter instead of George Szell. This is completely a personal choice and depends on the virtues you care more about. If string tone is your prime concern I would listen to speakers that have a soft dome tweeter: I use Spendor S 100s myself and the Harbeth are similar. Sonus Faber would be another possibility. I would listen to something like these if possible to see if the combination of virtues they have would suit me better than the Wilson's; if they do not then I would look closely at the Sophia 2; with the 3 coming out there should be several on the market.
well, the Sophia 3 has the same tweet and mid as the Sasha---just a bit less bass with the single 10" driver. definitely seems the value prospect in the line to me---Maxx3 is in a totally different league i'm sure.
Had the pleasure of listening to the Canadian debut of the new Wilson Sophia III here in Vancouver.
Very impressive for a speaker of it's size.
Dynamic at all listening levels, great portrayal of the sound
stage, and vocals that were very honest.
The fact that a mere 20 watts of either solid state or tube will drive this new Wilson is a real bonus.
Get the Sophia III.
Egrady, I've owned WP 6, WP 8 and now Maxx 3. I've heaard the 5.1's. I think sticking with the Wilson line up is critical given your objectives.

WP 8's used are great deal. I haven't heard the Sophia 3's yet, but have heard the wp8-sahsa and maxx 2-3 in detail so I can imagegine the gains on the sophia 3's.

One consideration here is dealer setup. If you have a good-great dealer, this makes buying new important. My dealer in Austin, TX makes all the diff in the world on setup.

The WP 8 has much more ease and relaxation vs your 5.1, but keeping all the resolution, dynamics, slam. It's a pretty big deal.

Your amplification might also decide which to go with, the Sohpia likely being a little more easy to drive. In the end, you won't go wrong here, I do think going to a WP8 is a major upgrade for you...it was for me from the 6.

Best of luck !
A quick point of view. I've owned and loved 63's and have WP 7's. Both speakers sound different with tubes or ss. The 8's are "more" than the 7's of what you discribe looking for BUT the 7's with tubes are more "musical" than the 8's on ss (in general). I have used the 7's with a ML 23.5 and they sound fine. I use the 7's with Sonic Frontiers Power 2 and the result is fare more involving and for lack of a better word, "musical". This is a consistent opinion of the vast majority who have listened to my system. The tubes also give you the option of different power tubes ie 6550 vs KT88 or even the new supertube KT120. You can taylor the midrange sound to your preference. The WP's are not easy speakers to drive but good tube amps do make them come alive and avoid most of the clinical Wilson sound. The newer the Wilson, the less clinical the sound. The new Sasha's are a world away from earlier WP's. They would be the speaker that would most probably finally move me past missing what the 63's on tubes did best. Fortunately, I'm retired and no longer can afford to chase the fantasy or I'd be hard pressed to avoid the Sasha's. Only heard the Sophia's newest briefly but they even sounded wonderful on ss.

While there are many and vocal detractors to the old Wilson sound, most of us satisfied owners would qualify for a Wilson 12 Step group.

TRY TUBES before you decide.

Isn't that Focal Titanium tweeter the source of the edginess that I also found to be my old Watt Puppy 6's downfall?
(I actually loved the speakers except for that edgy, razzy, scratchy sound on strings and especially vocals.) I always wondered why Wilson never tried another tweeter type all these years and versions later. Really love that Wilson transparent bass...
I heard this scratchiness on WP8s at a show a year or 2 ago, so I know it's not just my system.
My 5.1's have been freshly updated (all new parts) and are currently hooked up to an all tube set-up consisting of an AMR CD-Player and the incredibly inexpensive Vista Audio i34. I gotta say, this combo on the 5.1's is killer, and showcases this speaker in a whole new light. Originally I was thinking about ditching them in favor of something else, now? Psh, forget it. :D

So all I can say is: Try tubes. Good ones. You may find that the Wilson's have had what you were looking for all along.
Somehow Wilson audio likes the focal tweeters. Someday, they should experiment some soft dome tweeters on their speakers.
I think in most cases, its those focal tweeters that is standing out in their speakers & calling attention to itself.
Yep, Nolitan, you echo my thoughts. I have noticed that the Duette had a soft-dome tweeter (never heard them, though).
I thought that was interesting. Focal moved on to Beryllium, and Kharma to diamond, but Wilson loves those Titaniums...
Wilsons do seem to change a lot with upstream gear. I hear the comments about tubes, but, actually, the best Watt Puppies I ever heard were with Mark Levinson 33Hs (and an ML pre and CDP) 10+ years ago. Smooth as silk, even with old, ordinary CDs. But that was only once.
Rgs92 and Nolitan, I have heard almost all of the Wilson's and i agree with
Nolitan; it's the damn Focal titanium tweet that is their downfall.

For some reason, DW seems to stick with this old design and while he has
done some good things in the midrange and bottom end of his speakers,
the top end is just LACKING!
What strikes me as strange is that there are numerous other drivers that i would think DW has access to that are miles ahead in all areas; even from Focal themselves.
When my husband and I were shopping for speakers, the Alex 2's were quickly eliminated as soon as i heard the high freq reproduction.
A pity as we liked the overall build quality and look.

Hopefully someday, DW can investigate other possible tweeters for use with his Wilsons.
There must be a good reason why over these years he sticks to the Focal Tweeters.
Must be something special to them.