Wilson Sophia

I have been looking at stepping up from my B&W 704s and heard the 802Ds, the Naut 802s and the Wilson Sophias. I was all set to spend the 4500 on a pair of used 802s but then I heard the Wilsons. All I can say is that the Wilsons absolutely spoke to me. My problem is that this is a huge investment for me and I think that I must be crazy to even be thinking about this purchase. Even more so, because I live in an apartment building and cannot "crank up" my system to massive volume levels.

My question is-am I going to be able to truly appreciate these speakers with my McIntosh MA 6500 integrated and my Lector CD player? There is not going to be any money in my budget to even consider other changes for a long time. Wilson's were set up with mid level Naim gear.

Are there any risks with buying the units off the floor if I can get a deal?

As always thanks for your input.

I think that the way a speaker scales from soft to loud is MUCH more important than just how loud it plays. Most of the expensive speakers that I don't like fail the test, not because they can't play loud, but because they sound thin or lifeless or change character when they are playing softly. As I improved my system, I tended to listen at lower and lower volumes -- I do not need to listen at unnaturally high volume to resolve detail or feel the impact of the music.

I do not ever think it is a "waste" to buy really good speakers for a small room or for a system that will not be played loudly. I would listen to all contenders at the level I would normally listen to them and pick that which can deliver the goods at low volumes. I think too many buyers focus their attention at the wrong end of the dynamic spectrum.
I think the answer to your first question is probably yes, at least as far as the integrated goes, as I've heard a Mac-Sophia combination and it works pretty well. The Sophia is more forgiving than other Wilson speakers of the electronics it is fed, it can actually sound good with a good receiver powering it. As far as the Lector goes, I can't address that, but hopefully someone reading your post has tried that combination. You might want to bring the player over to the dealer's to hear it in his place, if you can't get the dealer to bring the speakers to you for a home audition (which he may very well do if it's a good dealer and you indicate that if you like it you'll buy it on the spot). I agree with Larryi that it's not a waste to get good speakers, and my bet is that the Wilsons will sound good even nearfield; you should go back to your dealer to see if they pass the low listening level he describes.

As far as buying demos goes, as long as it's an authorized dealer and they haven't blown the drivers, that's a good way to go; I've bought demo speakers in the past from a dealer I trust with no problems.
Thanks for your response, Larryi. I did find it rather amazing that the Wilson's sounded substantially more detailed at the lower volume levels. That is obviously quite important in my current listening environment.
Thanks for your input, Rcprince. The great thing about this process has been that my wife is totally on board with whatever I decide...She is an interior decorator with great taste and she initially thought the Wilsons looked like Trash Cans and that she would not be able to live with them...After our demo on Sat, now she is a big fan too!

Really appreciate your input on buying the demos too.

One other thing you should consider is if you buy the Wilsons' now,you will have them and later may be able to afford better electronics to add .At least for now you'll be able to enjoy the speaker you really like.Maybe not at its full potential but at least you'll get a glimpse of it capablities...Bottom line go for it and have fun!!!!
I have heard both speakers at different dealers and it is funny how you would probably buy the B&Ws at one dealer and the Wilsons at the other. When I heard the Wilsons the dealer was using a Meridian as a trnasport into the Accuphase class A 50 wpc stereo power amp that had a DAC in it. It sounded fantastic and the B&Ws with the same set-up sounded like garbage. The other dealer used the Plinius SA-102 amp with the B&Ws and it sounded fantastic but we all know how component matching is critical.

Have fun and Happy Listening.
I highly recommend the Sophia. If not, you will not be satified especially you have already heard them and like them. I have the Sophia and could not be happier.
though i agree with your wife's impression of the wilson, the mac is well designed and sounds great on pretty much any conventional loudspeaker,even the wilson
I owned the Sophias for two years and they're absolutely wonderful. They work very well with smooth sounding SS integrateds such as your Mac; I initially heard them with a Musical Fidelity integrated. They will provide a solid foundation from which to move up the electonics food chain. I'd suggest tubes would be in your future. I can also attest to their more than capable performance at lower volume listening. Some of the people at Wilson are also fans of Nordost cabling which you own.

I'd have no qualms about buying a demo from a reputable dealer...in fact this is the best way to go considering their list price.

If you're into the Wilson sound as they "spoke" to you, you'd better reply as anything else would be a stopgap measure and cost you more in the long run. Good luck!
Heard a bit of Muddy Waters (SACD)at a dealer on Sophias driven by Spectral. I could not recognize Muddy's voice since it sounded thin and distant. Speakers did much better on an SACD of Renée Fleming. So based on this very brief audition I would tell you be careful if you like Muddy and go right ahead if you like them high pitched sopranos!

Sophias and Mcintosh.
I'd be happy with that.
The loudness button might come in handy.
My only response to your questions ... I loved my 804N and 803N speakers, but at low volume I was forever disappointed. Those speakers came to life when driven with some watts ... I don't mean knock-down-the-walls watts ... and at volume they were incredible. At low to lower volumes, as when I wanted to read without having the music compete, the B&W's simply didn't satisfy me, nor did they reveal how wonderful they were.

As someone else pointed out, the transition to big music from small music was incredible, as the B&W N's would create a bigger sound without breaking apart ... not in a "loud" way, though they would get "loud," but rather in a "bigger" way. Great music from smallish speakers.

So, I'd counter that being able to use "volume" is essential, especially if a particular speaker actually sounds amazing at higher volumes. Such speakers don't always satisfy at lower volumes.
I absolutely attest to Arkprof.
My W/P sound great in low to mid volume, but when the family is out, and I dial up my B&W sig 800, the W/P just has no match!! I advice is to know your listening habit, and buy what fits you.
No matter how great your speaker choice might be, if buying them burns up all your cash and puts you in a place where you can't buy anything else for a long time to come, then I think you should find another speaker that doesn't break the bank. There are a lot of great speakers out there that can be had for alot less than the Sophias that will still satisfy the soul and keep more in the pocket for other things.
Before you go ahead and spend over 10K on the Sophia, try listening to speakers for in line with your original price range that has excellent low level retrieval. I would recommend Merlins, Hyperion 938s, or VS VR4jrs. Both the Merlins and Hyperions are supreme for getting low level information. Merlins are slim and very attractive. The 938s larger/heavier but better bass extension and slam. I can only recommend the VR4jrs with DK VS1 integrated, as this combo is the best VR4jrs I've heard. I have heard the W/P in so many incarnations including it's latest, and the Hyperions have them beat to my ears. I don't know about the Sophias, but most think the W/P are better.
I think the Sophias are better than the W/P, including version 7. At least- I like them better.
Thanks everyone for your input thus far! We will make a decision shortly and will keep you posted...
So many opinions. The WP7s have resistors that will blow before any drivers can be blown. I assume the Sophia are the same. Don't worry about buying a demo. It is all speaker amp combination in the end. The VR4jr is a must audition & the VR4 Sr is also, if you want Wilson Type sound on the less expensive end. $4000 & $8000 a pair respectively if I remember right. I own WP7s & love them. The VR4 Jrs are great & very enjoyable for a lot less money. The Sophia is very close to the WP7 in many areas but misses the bass & the adjustability of the WP7.

Anyone mentioning the Sophia being better than the WP7 hasn't listened to them correctly setup.

IMHO Wilsons do sound better than B&W. That is what I owned (801Ns) before. B&W must play loud. They do sound great at very very loud volumes (no strain etc,). The WP7s also sound great, & don't need to play as loud as the B&W to get the same detail. B&W are shy detail unless played loud. WP7s have detail at all volumes. They also have better bass detail & speed.

Just wanted to bring some people in line here & give you a chance to save some money if it is a big issue.
A used pair of Von Schweikert VR4 GenIII HSE for $3800 is an excellent alternative, and will surpass the VR4Jr in all areas. I'm not sure how they would compare to the VR4Sr, but I'll bet they'd be darn close...and at less than half the cost.
I listened again today to a pair of the latest WPs, and I must say they do sound great. I've listened to the Sophias at the same shop, and I like them as well.

The last several posts brought up the issue of cost, especially as related to other system components. Now I would be the first to argue that you should spend your money on speakers, where the electrical signal is transduced back to an acoustic signal. And you could always add higher quality components as you can afford them.

But the distinction between the ability to pay for something and afford it seems lost. In my mind, afford relates to the other areas in your life. Will the purchase of expensive speakers have little or no impact on other financial planning, particularly planning for retirement? I read these posts about having incredibly expensive systems and I wonder if you're all very wealthy. I certainly could pay $12K or even $25K for a pair of speakers, but I doubt that I can afford to do so. In retrospect I probably couldn't afford the Ferraris I bought either. I sure did enjoy them, but not nearly as much as I'm enjoying retirement, and getting my kicks with a Porsche Boxster S.

"Anyone mentioning the Sophia being better than the WP7 hasn't listened to them correctly setup."

Speak for yourself! They are a different sounding pair of speakers. No doubt the WP7 are the more dynamic speakers - They are like thunder in a box. I like the way the Sophias do midrange better though. They sound more organic through the midrange.
Medium time lurker here - you flushed me out describing the sophias as "trashcans" - thanks - I love to laugh out loud!

I have heard a pair of ex demos, but there was something wrong with the system - even in this situation they sounded good.

I can empathise with an earlier post about stretching your budget. However "quality is remembered long after price is forgotten" does spring to mind - as and when you can afford them - go for it - you don't often read about people downgrading do you? Just don't give yourself a heart attack doing it!
Thanks dmurfet...I laughed too when she called them trash cans. It was quite a shock to see the way she changed her POV once she heard them!

Regarding the comments from everyone about stretching my budget...This is just such an addictive hobby. A year ago I was using a surround sound receiver and a dvd player as my source for cds. I would never have even thought about spending 10K+ on a system let alone a pair of speakers!

Clearly I have come along way in a year...Buying the Sophias is not going to break me but it is a choice and something else is going to be cut if this is the route we are going to go. I have listened to just about everything that is out there and really have decided it is the Sophias or nothing. Everything else just seems to be spending a lot of money for not much more in terms of performance over the 704s. So it is either now, or wait and buy the Sophias later.

Again, many thanks to everyone for their input. Will keep everyone up to date with whatever we decide to do.

All the best,
This thread confirms what I have always believed about Audiogon threads posed around questions like "should I buy this or...", which is that a significant percentage of the posters are seeking validation of decisions already made. In two years, I have yet to see one Audiogon member change their buying decision despite receiving valid alternatives presented in the answers. Fascinating.

No offense to you Jhorton19, many threads have the same intent and the same outcome. It's just that yours really crystallized it for me.

Enjoy the Sophias...and the journey.
One of the reviewers in an audio magazine, I believe John Marks, had great advice on this subject. He said to buy the speaker that you fall in love with, even if you have to sacrifice in other areas for now, because that will determine the basic quality of the sound.

I would do the same. Buy the speakers you love. Then buy other parts that complement it. In particular, the speaker-amp interaction is so critical and hard to predict, so I cannot imaginge not selecting an amp for a specific speaker.
Funny, my gf also declared that the WP7's look like "trash cans", but that the Sophias look "less trash-canny". These women must have all been watching the same TV design show or something.

Anyways, I have never heard the Sophias, but wholeheartedly agree that you should buy the speakers you fall in love with. Have fun with the addiction.

Tried B&W 802D and Sophia at medium volumn. Been a B&W speaker owner, I suddenly understand why some people say B&W have some house sound. it just sounds a little bit too emotional comparing to the Sophia. Sophia sounds very natural, relax and no color been added to the music. Actually the sophia is most colorless speaker I tried. JM lab Utopia is too warm with the YBA passion. All the music tested sounded like X'mas songs.

You mentioned you live in a apartment. Do you have a big living room as I am not sure if the sophia appretiate small room?

My wife and I both think the Sophia is better than the B&W 802D with the same list price and the best speaker we heard. Then I can't help asking myself that is this all I get for a $10K speaker. Sophia is good but in my mind I feel I should get better sound for $10k.

The sophia is the best I heard in that price range, but I am also disppointed to see diminished return in the sophia and have no big rush to buy it.
It is interesting that my wife's first reaction also was that the Sophias and WPs look like trash cans, and I must admit that they do somewhat resemble the cans we see on the street. But she was impressed by the sound of WP-7s.

What I was aiming at in a clumsy way in a previous post was that the enjoyment of an expensive component needs to be balanced against the joy of reaching financial independance a year or so earlier. So often on other web sites I read of folks approaching their 60s who bemoan that they have insufficient savings. Too many on this site talk only about the ability to pay for some component, seemingly with no concern about longer term consequences.

Yxlei - If you define "little bit too emotional" as grainy midrange and harsh and fatiguing highs then yes, you've nailed the B&W house sound
none of the wilson models are a means to an end for a balanced presentation. even a vandersteen 2ce or shahinian arc (each are far less money-and there are dozens more) are much more natural from top to bottom and are designed to mate well with a wise variety of tube or solid sate gear.
I have just acquired a pair of ex-demo Sophia in black finish. It really is a great speaker that could convey the soul of music with ease. Its midrange is neutral enough to rival the best mini monitors, including the BBC LS3/5a and Westlake BBSM5F.

I wish to point out that, however, the Sophia do need careful placement because there is a peakiness in the mid base region. As reported by Martin Colloms in his review of the Sophia in the May 2002 issue of Hi-Fi News, this woofer tuning could lead to problems in some rooms.

As regards its looks, my wife has no issue with my Sophia. I do fancy Goten 1969's pair in Ferrari Fly Yellow (see his threads in Virtual System).
Davidkcl - Congratulations! Also - Most any speaker that plays down below 50hz will have peaky-bass problems without careful room placement.
sophias will run fine on the Mc. they will only get better as your system grows. i started with a BAT integrated on mine and it sounded great. then i moved up to BAT separates, and its a whole nother league...
I bought a pair of floor model Sophias tonight...Was able to save a bit of money and they are in pretty good shape.

Tried a bunch of other speakers over the past week and nothing compares to me...

Hopefully they will be delivered in time for the weekend.

Thanks again for everyone's input. I really appreciate it. Will post again after a few days of listening.

Congrats and enjoy! Keep us posted.
Enjoy. Use the money you saved to buy music. Now it is time for the fun. What did you compare beside the B&W?
I would recommend considering the Green Mountain Audio Continuum 3. I have been in this "hobby" for 20+ years. I have never owned any Wilson speakers, but have heard them on several occassions. I think the Sofia's are quite good. The Continuum 3 are quite special. Wide bandwidth, good dynamics and a very direct window to the music. They do have a unique appearance that may or may not work for you. There is a review on 6moons.
congrats on the wilsons. you made a good move.

think of building a system the way you would if you were to build a kit car. its cheaper to buy all in one (ie circcuit city), but you wouldn't buy every part from the local auto zone. you'd wait until the machinist of your choice could build you the part (w/ commensurate performance / features) you want for YOUR car.

save your cash and wait until something shows up for sale that you know will work, and jump on it. give it a couple years and you'll have world class sound w/o diving into debt for a hobby. you sound like i did 5 yrs ago. i wish i'd have been as smart to step up & get the speakers i wanted first. but i eventually got it right

i'd put the amp next, cd 3rd, and cables / power last. but get an amp that sounds right w/ your wilsons, and everything else is incremental.

lots o luck
Hi Dgad:

I listened to a bunch of different speakers...Main listening focused on the Wilsons and these others
Von Schweikert 4 Jrs and Srs.
Dali Helicon
B&W 803 D
B&W 802 Nautilus
B&W 802 D
Sonus Faber

To me, none of these speakers were close to the Sophias

You hear that?

John's new Sophia's came and he's jammin' =)

I bet that system sounds great!

Good move. I like to see people go for it.
Is it working out with the neighbors?

Maybe time to trade the MA6500 for the MA2275.....
The Krell Resolution is close if not better than the Sophia. My opinion is that it is better but the Sophia is first class as well.
So the speakers are here, they are hooked up and they sound fantastic...Even though they are hooked up with some lesser wire (my Nordost Blue Heaven have to be re-terminated)and they are not properly voiced yet they sound awesome. Speakers are just so effortless and unlike my B&Ws they sound good at any volume. SRV's Tin Pan Alley has never sounded so good...

While they look big in my room, sitting 8ft from these speakers is not a problem.

Could not be happier with the speakers or my set up.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts. Will update once the dealer comes to voice the speakers and my wire returns from Nordost.

John - Congrats! I'm jealous. I can't wait until I have the right room and the $$$ for a pair of sophias.
congrats John!!!
I've been drooling over the sophias for about a month by now.. man I missed out all the funs while I was away on vacation ;-) (see my babblings on the sophia vs. 802D thread)

I had pretty much the same revelation of yours :-)
I'll be a fellow owner in about 3 months- waiting to take advantage of my dealer's yearly "one year no-interest fininacing" deal..

I'm stretching my budget like crazy too.. I'm a graduate student with minimum wage stipend...T_T...good side is though.. I don't need to worry about my retirement yet!

Happy listening!
Thanks, Jungsan...They are incredible...Absolute magic with my McIntosh...The search is over-for now.
This thread strikes a warm and fuzzy chord with me because I recall stretching my budget on dream speakers during my nine years (don't ask!) of postgraduate training. "Back in the day" I sacrificed a nicer car/apartment for Apogee Duetta II's and never regretted it for a moment. I would not go into debt to fund equipment, however. I can tell you that now that I'm more "comfortable", the upgrades (eg. I recently went from Sophias to WP 7's) don't bring about the same magnitude of joy and excitement as they did before.

Savour those speakers as much and as long as you can. When ennui sets in, judicious upgrades to the rest of your system will be all that better appreciated.
Dealer came over to my apartment last night...Tweaked my speakers a few inches here and there...Positioning tightened up the bass nicely and widened the soundstage a bit. There is no question that these speakers are substantially less directional than my old B&Ws.

Also, for those of you who have rather small living quarters, these speakers can work quite well. Obviously I would love to have more room to let these things breath but the dealer was pretty blown away with the sound we were able to achieve.

Room is about 12Wx20LX9H. I have some openings in this room so I am a bit limited with placement. Speakers are on the long wall-about 7 feet apart, 1 1/2ft from the wall and 8 feet or so to my listening position which is a pretty deep couch against the far wall. Speakers are about 7 ft from the side walls and they are toed in a bit.

Can't wait to get my Nordost cables back...Will post an update once I get them hooked up.

Is there anyone who compared the Sofia with the 802D that liked the 802D's better? Looking for an objective viewpoint.

Is it fair to say that most people on the forums like the Sofia better?

Is one more suited for rock music than the other?

Hi Dave:

Frankly, I was hoping to like the 802Ds more than the Sophias but it just was not close.

I listen to a pretty wide variety of Music but list Wilco, Mark Knopfler, The Who, Pearl Jam and John Hiatt amongst my favorites. I tested both the Sophias and the 802Ds with all of the above plus some Jazz and with the following electronics-Mark Levinson, McIntosh, and Naim solid state amps.

Again, just my opinion but the Sophias sound much better to my ear.

Have fun with the search!