I've owned Sophia 2's and 3's. Although I haven't heard the 1's,I submit the 3's are more dynamic and bigger sounding than the 2's; however the 2's maybe the best value based on price vs performance.
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I owned a pair of Sophia 1's and have heard 2's and 3's at dealers and shows. I have always considered the Sophia as the most coherent of the Wilson speakers, at least until I heard the Sashas at the Newport Beach Audio Show. Each Sophia model has gains in immediacy, transparency, and soundstage size, as well as coherence. That being said, I am not sure how to put a value on each version's improvements. There certainly is a family resemblence in all 3 models so if you like what the Sophia does, you cannot go wrong by purchasing any of them. It seems on the used market there is about a $4K increase in prices, i.e. a used 1 goes for about $5K, a 2 about $9K, and 3 around $13K. Another nice thing about the Sophia is that it is a relatively easy load and can be driven by decently powered tube amps; in fact, I thought my Sophia 1's sounded best when driven by big tube amps like Audio Research and Conrad-Johnson jobs.
i own the sophia 1s and think that i like their basic sound and for the first time think i have a speaker that is right for my room. i also dream about better wilsons perhaps the 2's or 3's if my ship comes in. I have concentrated on tweaking my gear by doing some tube rolling and chryoed my hovland 2 phono cable, any improvements you make upstream will be heard. i think the 1s will go down in price less then 2s or 3s when the next generation comes out. but if you get the 1s sell them and get some 2s you will have more shipping expenses.
I would check out a used pair of Revel Studio 2 also. I feel they are margianlly better speakers than the Sophia 3 and they sell for $8000 on here (save 3k and get better gear...)
By better it is, more coherent with better highs, with more natural timbre (IMO). Sound stage also seemed deeper and more stable.
As a former Sophia 1 owner, I would say 3- because the 3 is basically a mini-Sasha. It has the same tweet and midrange, just gives up a bit of low end and the two box structure (which can be minimized by speaker location). For 11k this is a good deal imo and 40% less than a used pair of Sashas. They also are much easier to drive which is a boon to amplification choices.
The Sophia 3 and Sasha's share the same tweeter, but the midrange is a simplified version, not the same. As I posted before, the sensitivity of the Sasha's allows you to play at lower levels and still fill the room. After owning both, I submit the bass is far from the only difference between the two...but only the individual can determine if the difference is worth 10K.
The problem with the clones is that they never sound like the real speaker.
The midwoofer on both Sophia 3 and Sasha is basicly the same. AFAIK the main (only ?) difference is the shorter voicecoil on the Sasha driver, which gives it more sensivity.
It is difficoult to say that one is a simplified version of the other - they are just a bit different.
I own the Sophia 2's with ARC LS27 & a Ref 150 , the sound is very good but I believe the Sophia 3's are an obvious step up from the 2's and a major step up from the ones . But , the Sophia 3 does not have the silk dome tweeter of the new Alexia or the existing XLF which I prefer to the other versions and I suspect , actually hope , that a Mk 4 version will come out with some flow on improvements from the Alexia . I have also found that the system can be quite cable dependent , I tried a pair of the new High Fidelity CT-1 interconnects between my sources and pre-amp ( both phono stage and cd player ) , and couldn't believe the difference it made to the sound of the Sophias. I think it boils down to either the 2's or 3's dependent the asking price/condition and also what colour you like , no use buying a colour you are lukewarm about just because the price is right , as you probably ( like me ) will be looking at them every day for a few years . I would be tempted to trade my 2's on a mk 4 in a year or so if a newer version becomes available .