Wilson Sophia II vs. Thiel CS3.7

Anyone compare the two directly?

Looking for detailed impressions on these two loudspeakers only if you feel you auditioned them in their absolute best light. Mis-matched systems and problems with synergy don't really reveal what a speaker can do, so be honest and voice your opinion only if you really know the strengths and weakness of each speaker.


Which one went deeper, tighter more impactful, tuneful?


Which one had more presence, texture, tonal accuracy, inner detail, transparency?


Which one extended farther, had less grain, sounded most natural?


Which one was more coherent, dynamic, resolving, transparent?

Which one had a wider soundstage, fuller images, shaper images, better depth, layering, separation of instruments?

Which one has the more accurate tone for acoustic instruments?

Again, looking purely for sonic differences, how do they honestly compare to each other?

Well can't help for many of the questions you asked but have listened to Wilson Maxx 2 and Watt/Puppy as well as the Sophia in a variety of settings. I have not heard the CS3.7s but own the CS6s.

I would choose Thiel over Wilson any day simply because Jim Thiel engineers his products to reproduce as accurately as possible the harmonic structure needed for correct timbre content via phase and time coherent designs. Wilson uses midrange drivers that are sized inappropriately for their frequency range and has to wire them out of phase relative to the tweeter and woofer to correct for cabinet and crossover anomalies. That makes no sense to me.

Those features alone are enough for me. The Sophia sounds nowhere as good as my CS6s and I can only imagine that the 3.7s will be even better.
Though they both might be considered traditional dynamic loudspeakers, the designers seem to have very different ideas and priorities. I haven't heard the 3.7's yet. I'm not sure if I've heard the II version of the Sophia's yet. Though I might be in the minority, in that I actually like both lines, but based on my previous experience with all of each designer's previous models, there's no doubt about it, I'd choose Thiels. You might feel differently.
I've heard both in different systems. (sophia not II) So thats the best i have to go on.
Bass- I thought the Wilsons went lower with a little more athority. But the Thiels didnt seem lacking. But I think the Wilson has better bass.

Treble- Alot more energy with the Wilsons but near as smooth and not more detailed. Just more noticable. A little on the hard side for me. i preferred the 3.7

Midrange- Both nice, both transperent. But the Thiels had a more fleshed out, and slightly warmer sound. I preferred the 3.7

Both are coherent, dynamic, and transparent. I would think electronics would play the main roll in how the speakers perform. Same thing with the imaging and soundstage. Both are very good.

Another very good speaker in the $10K range is the Vandersteen Quatro wood. Not as detailed as either of the others, but IMO better midrange and bass that can be adjusted to your room. Along with equal imaging and soundstage. Plus you can run the treble/mids on small amps.
Good luck with your purchase.
Thanks for the responses. I suppose my original post was too long and specific, any general comments are welcomed, especially given the fact that the Thiel CS3.7 is new and not many people may have had a chance to directly compare the two.

Unsound, I like both lines too, hence all the questions!

Tom, thanks! Your comments are spot on and have substenance. The Quatros are also on my mind, but having heard 5As with Antique sound labs, I admit I wasn't impressed.

Stevecham, interesting! However listening to Wilson's, I don't get the impression they're engineered improperly. Admittedly, the Thiels did surprise me more than the Wilsons, here's why:

In my brief auditions of Thiel and the Wilson, I've been struck by two different things from each speaker:

The Thiel was utterly coherent and seamless.

The Wilson sounded to me extremely precise and crisp.

I felt like the Wilson's could be capable bigger, more articulate sound. BUT, the Thiels top to bottom consistency and balance was more compelling and somehow more musical than the mechanical precision of the Wilsons.

To go into further detail, the Wilson's treble had the slightest amount of grain which becomes fatiguing after a few hours, the Thiel's had a less noticable treble (perhaps less pronounced or perhaps less grain or perhaps just better integrated with the midrange woofer). The bass was deep, impactful and envolping on the Wilson's, but the Thiel's had slightly better resolution and articulation. The midrange on the Wilson's was a little more transparent and energetic, while the Thiel's was more rounded and ever so slightly warm.

Given the price, I'd rest easier spending my money on the Thiel, depite the massive price increas from $9,900 to $12,900 within a year of their debut. However, the Sophias IIs, being more transparent, could possible fly to heigher heights than the CS3.7s with top shelf components when closest reproduction of source material is the goal.

Again, these opinions are based on relatively brief auditions, and while I do plan on a more in depth listen sometime, I'd love to hear some additional thoughts...
Wilson's I can't help you with but Thiel I can. I have owned 3.6's for about 9 years. I have heard the 3.7 at a dealer several times, they are outstanding. Last time I heard them I had my checkbook ready to pull the trigger. But 2 things stopped me, first, the price....at 12K+ there are alot of options out there, and second for 12K I just couldn't justify the jump from 3.6. Were they better, yes probably, worth 12K better....not for me. At 12K the 3.7 is playing in a very competitive league.

I'm not so sure the jump for that kind of money is justified if you already have Thiel 3.6 or CS6 or 7.2. However, if you are interested in becoming a Thiel owner it could very well be the last speaker you buy!
I was shocked to see the price jump on the Thiel 3.7's. I think I understand the reasons for the Thiel's cabinets, but whatever the improvements are, do they justify the costs? As I said, I haven't heard them yet, but, they are still a passive radiator enclosure with less than full range bass extension, and though they may be more sensitive than some previous Thiels', they still have an impedance load that appears to require a pretty mighty amp. I've been a Thiel fan and user for 20 years, but, the price/value ratio doesn't appear to be where it once was. Then again the proof is in the listening.
Good point Unsound and as I mentioned I have heard them and they are very good but 12K for that performance is a little sporty.
Depending on your room size and amplification I would consider trying to find a dealer who still has a pr. of CS7.2s in stock and get them. Probably around the same price as the 3.7, and a better speaker.
At $10K I thought the 3.7 was the best I have heard in that price range. At almost $13K, I would still buy them over the Sophias. But it would be hard to pick the 3.7 over the Quatro Wood and save $3K.
I heard these speakers this morning--5/17--and had my socks knocked off. The definition, the clarity is incredible at all volume levels. Deep, tight bass. Crisp treble. A natural, not overly pronounced midrange. It was truly amazing how well all the parts and pieces came together to produce an all together effortless sound. (Well, there was about a 1000 watts of BAT amplification upstream to help out.) Still, a fabulous bit of engineering.

On the other hand, 12k is a lot of money for anything. There used to be a larger selection of Thiels, so you could pick your price range and get really exceptional sound which made the upgrade path not so steep. Looking at price for performance for the new models, I'm going with the 2.4 at less than half the cost. That's only my opinion and not a slight on a fabulous 3.7.
Tom's thnking along the same lines as I am, though I was thinking about the less beautiful non-wood Quatro's at almost half the price of the 3.7's and greater bass extension to boot.
Calbrs03's thinking even more along the same lines as I am. Used Thiel CS5i's can be had for less than $3K. Even with the very high shipping costs, one could send them to Thiel for a refurbish and sent back home and still have lots of money left over for some killer amps.
Still all of this is just conjecture, untill I actually get to hear the 3.7's. Perhaps they really are that good, and they really are worth the asking price? I think Thiel streamling thier line mightg be a good thing. I thought the previous extended line didn't really offer that much improvement from one level to the next. Case in point, the CS 6's didn't seem (to me at least) to be worth the cost increase over the 3.6's.
The bass is a little stronger with the Quatros, but does not blend as good into the rest of the freq. range. Also the wood model Quatro is more than just better looking. it is a much better speaker. I have had the chance to compare them and the wood model has a midrange that the sock cant touch. Not sure why, but the wood model is a much nicer speaker. And IMO worth the extra cost. I (in the end) would probably still be happier with the Thiels. Even though the cost to amplify and the initial cost would add up with the Thiels.
Even though the cost to amplify and the initial cost would add up with the Thiels.

That, unfortunately, was the thought I had leaving the store. Still, those speakers (either 2.4 or 3.6) made it seem like a good idea to change everything, again.

Probably a better idea to buy used, and dig up a ss amp with the savings. Dealer said he could give me a "killer" deal--whatever that means-- on the 2.4 demos along with the 10 yr warrantee, when he takes delivery of the new demo pair. I obediently gave him my phone number.
Hce4, I can say I have had the Vandersteen 5A for
some time now, and have tried several amps. I will not say
the 5A is my last speaker, as we all know how our audio fevers can
rise and fall. However, earlier this month I bought the Vac
Phi 300.1 and the 5A has already reached new heights in my system. This may sound overused, but the 5A just sounds so
much like the components in front of it. With the Vac Ren
70, very lush, very detailed, not quite enough power for my
taste although a healthy 70 watts. With the Gamut D200,
great dimensionality for a non-tube amp and plenty of power.
I guess my point here is, do not give up on Vandersteens
just from hearing the 5A once. It is very dependent on
the amp. I know the VTL 750 is a great amp, but it was
not on the 5A IMO. I have seen 5A's for around 11K used,
and you can always seek out the Quattro which has been
mentioned. I have not heard the latest Wilson or Thiel
designs, and have not owned either for several years.
I also have nothing negative to say about the ASL amps
which you heard on the 5A's, as I have never heard them.
For me that is easy.

A close friend of mine, 3.7 owner, put his Thiels for sale next day after hearing the Sophias 2 in his system.

Sophias were more musical, more real sounding and less fatiguing. We were both surprised. This is one of those demos to eventually persuade me to get Sophias myself.

His system consists of:
EMM CDSE se / DCC2 se combo
ARC Ref 3
ARC Ref 210 monos
I've owned the Thiel 3.7 for 10 months. Before buying it I auditioned the original Sophia.

I've never heard the Sophia II, but the technical descriptions I've read of the changes seem pretty minor. They're still using the same Focal inverted dome tweeter, but with some new modifications to reduce its distortion somewhat.

I disliked the Sophia because of its whitish, grainy treble.

Also, the Thiel 3.7 is far more dynamic than any speaker I've heard. This dynamism has bowled over everyone who's visited me. It makes all music, soft and loud, more engaging and closer to the dynamics of a live concert.

Thiel claims the 3.7, unlike all prior Thiel models, has a benign impedance characteristic that is easy to drive.

I've never noticed any lack of bass power, even on classical "power" music like Mahler or the Verdi Requiem. The bass is exceptionally clear, tight and free of resonances, probably due to the cabinet design.

My review of the 3.7, including my other equipment, is here:
Interesting thread.

Some other speakers in this price range to check out:
Pioneer S-1EX, S-2X and PMC EB1i.
"Thiel claims the 3.7, unlike all prior Thiel models, has a benign impedance characteristic that is easy to drive."

I kind'a doubt Thiel would make such a claim. Thiel has been designing that type of "benign impedance charateristic" for decades in all their speakers. For example; Thiel's own advertised measurements for their own 20 year old Thiel CS 3.5 is 4 Ohms nominal, 4 Ohms minimum. Perhaps Thiel's current measurements are more accurate, and perhaps their current speakers are better at this task, but Thiel has been aiming to do this, and has done so quite well for some time now.
I think you're right that Thiel did not officially claim anything about the 3.7 being easier to drive (phase angle closer to zero) than previous models. I believe I got that idea from a non-quantitative statement by Thiel's customer service rep, Gary Dayton:

The published specs say the impedance magnitude dips to 2.8 ohms, but there's no spec regarding the phase angle.
Some of the most recent Thiels are indeed more sensitive than the older ones. The 3.7's seem to be a return to tighter impedance curves, but, I don't really believe that was ever much of a concern. Still the tighter the better. I suspect these moves are all an attempt to allow users to use less powerfull amps and perhaps open the fold to users that prefer tubes. While I have the most sincere respect for Jim Thiel, I can't help but wonder if he would be better off risking some sensitivity in order to keep a flat impedance load above 4 Ohms, like some of the older models.
I've never heard the Sophia II, but the technical descriptions I've read of the changes seem pretty minor. They're still using the same Focal inverted dome tweeter, but with some new modifications to reduce its distortion somewhat.

I disliked the Sophia because of its whitish, grainy treble.

Same can be said about Wilson System 7 and 8. They look very similar on paper, but sound very different.

I peronally hated system 7 - I was very "hot" sounding to my ears, esp. in the treble - but I have to confess that the new system 8 is very listenable.

Prolly same can be said about the Sophia 2, since once properly broken in (they require 400h or so), they DO NOT sound "whitish" or bright at all.

And that comes from an ex-Avalon Eidolon Vision owner, which should tell you a lot.
Thanks for the responses everyone.

Elberoth2, your impressions are very helpful, given you have directly compared the two. Someone asked about imaging capabilities, I'd be interested to hear which one you found to be a better imager, and which one had a wider and deeper soundstage.

Regarding the hot or white treble of the Sophia, the tweeter was modified along with a stronger cabinet and some other features between version one and two, so the brightness may have been mitigated between the two versions somewhat. Do you think your Audio Research components put the Sophia 2's very revealing treble in better light?

Also, any comparisons with the Avalon?

Since I'm off topic, Tom, what specifically did you like about the new midrange in the Quatro Wood over the original? And other differences, bass, treble, timbre, tonality, dynamics, transparency, soundstaging?

I know what you mean! That's why I was so specific in my first post about asking for opinions only if you feel you really have auditioned each speaker properly and in their best light. I'll definitely have to visit my Vandy dealer again and give the Quatro Wood and 5a a listen again with different electronics.


Thanks for the link. Jim Thiel's catch phrase about the 3.7s "Be Amazed" is fairly appropriate. The 3.7 did surprise me, as I mentioned earlier, with a seamless sound that clearly is a result of technical advancements made to driver integration and implementation.

For the best deal, used is a great option for older models, but since the Sophia 2 and Thiel 3.7 are expensive even when used, buying from a dealer makes the most sense, you get a warranty and dealer assistance with set up, synergistic components, etc...

Keep those comments coming!
I am using Vandersteen 5A's whith Ayre electronics. If you visit their website, Richard says that Ayre is very popular with their customers. The Vandy Quatro wood IS a better speaker...it has a different midrange driver, and a different crossover. When last I heard the Wilsons, they made my ears bleed.

I have sophia 2, I couldn't find a good reason to upgrade it system 8. I have observed that speaker has a amazing potential and could be used wisely top equipment. Check my setup and Elberoth's system. You will see how heavily we invested on sophia 2 based systems. Just check, you will realize quickly.
Thiel? I have never heard one but 100% I am sure wilson has better second hand value when you sell or upgrade. This is same for Europe, Asia, and States.

I hope this helps.

Not sure how you can 100% guarantee resale value..But the $16K Sophias seem to be going just over $9K used and the $13K 3.7s are selling between $8-9K. So I would think resale would be a few bucks in favor of the Thiels.
I have to go with Stringreen on this one, My wife and I have heard 4 models of Wilsons at two different dealers and they became painful for us too.
We got to spend a few hours listening to the 3.7s at Thiel with Ayre/Krell gear and, although I have always really liked them, For the first time we came away wondering if we should sell the 7.2s and get a pr. It also confirmed to me that when you put Krell amps and Thiel speakers together, great things happen.

I have not heard the Sophia but I have done a direct A/B comparison of Thiel 3.7 and Wilson Audio Duettes.

I was originally looking to audition of a pair of Wilson Audio Sophias. But my closest dealer (two hours away) only had the duettes on the floor. He also said he had a pair of Thiel 3.7 that I might like. I was not looking at Thiel at the time but I made the trip anyway. The room was 17X20X9 with a Music Fidelity integrated amp. Following is a quick over view of my thoughts. If you find the post helpful I can give additions details, just ask.

Thiel 3.7:
I do not know where to begin. This speaker did it for me in every way. The mids were extremely detailed! The highs were much more detailed then the Duettes. The bass was balanced, it was never boomy or lacking. The sound stage was HUGE and still pinpointed each musician. They were also the only speaker the has disappeared for me. I though other speakers sounded natural in the past but after listening to the 3.7 it has given me a new perspective on what I was missing. I also could not here a crossover in any way. They also looked great IMO.

The good
details, details....
sound stage was huge
bass was tight and clean
seemed to play "as a whole" (one driver)

The bad
might be fatiguing on extended listening? they were not bright but did have a lot of information. I listened to this speaker for about two hours at 75-80 dB with out fatigue.

Wilson Audio Duette:
I listened to these right after the Thiel 3.7 (same room, electronics, CDs, songs, dB...) Though the dealer towed these in a little more than the thiels. I really wanted to hear the Sophia but they were not on the floor...

Well I am sure these are good speakers and great for book shelves, but after the Thiel 3.7s they were a big let down. The sound stage was big (though a little smaller than the 3.7). The highs were not very detailed in comparison to the 3.7s. The bass seemed to have a lump around 100hz (could have been the room) and became very distracting. The midrange was very good. It seemed natural and unforced. But the 3.7 were more detailed in the mids too.I think I would have really like this speaker if I had not heard the 3.7s right before it. After the fact they left much to be desired.

The good:
great midrange.
wide sound stage.
"fun" to listen too.

The bad:
Bass was a little lumpy (room?)
highs lacked detail.
easy to drive

All in all IMO (flame suit on) the Thiels make the Wilsons sound like "Mid Fi". Meaning to me, over done bass and laking detail. The Duette lacked detail in the upper mids and highs by comparison (not tonal balance but actual detail). They had a lumpy bass that drew attention to itself (the bass had good tone though). The 3.7's bass was just as deep if not deeper and was more balanced.

But again you should use your own ears. You may not like the same things I do. I listen to Hard Rock mostly any values tonal balance and dynamics very highly.

I have a pair of (admitted old) Thiel CS2.3s and Krell KAV 250cd/2 and KAV 300i integrated amp.

I also have a bad room set up where the speakers are less than 2 ft from side wall and less than a foot from back wall.

My sound seems very bright in the highs and fatiguing. Its congested on symphony tracks like those from Gladiator soundtrack, but wonderful on vocals like Diana Krall and Norah Jones, not to mention rock music. Would you say its the room, or just my old set-up?

Reason I'm asking: will be moving soon by end of year, so was considering as a first step, the 3.7s or the Sophias or W/P 7. Next step would probably be an Ayre CDP or even separates, but integrated amps to be changed last.

Sorry to digress, but I thought I just wandered into the perfect thread and just had to ask!
I have done a direct A/B comparison of Thiel 3.7 and Wilson Audio Duettes.

I would be amazed if the outcome was different. Duette is a small two way bookshelf speaker, and the thiels are a big 4-way floorstanders. Such a comparisons are really meaningless.

Universaly speaking, again, wilson Audio has better resale chance than Thiels. I live in Europe and I know that wilson Audio has a wider distributor network and more popularity than Thiels.
I dont think its unfair to compare monitors with floor standing speakers in the same price range. its a given that bass responce will almost always go to the bigger speaker, but things like timbre, tone, soundstage, imaging, can be compared. And not unfairly.
Also the Thiels (and this doesnt really matter) are not a four/way design.
You have no better idea about which speaker sells more or resells better than I do. yet you state these things like they are facts.
Also I find it strange that you come into a thread about sonic comparisons between two speakers and you have never heard one of them. or even any model at all by that company???
Then let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Duette is overpriced for what it is.

It is a small 2-way bookshelf speaker, designed to operate AGAINST the rear wall. If you move them into the room, the whole bass disappears.

The 3.7 competitor is Sophia 2, which uses different speaker technology and sounds very different to the Duette. If you draw your conclusions on how the Sophia 2 may sound after hearing the Duette - then you are completely wrong and you do not know what you are missing.
I know the Duette was not the best choice but it was what was there. There are a number of hi-fi shops around but none are really "high" end.

As for the comment:

"It is a small 2-way bookshelf speaker, designed to operate AGAINST the rear wall. If you move them into the room, the whole bass disappears. "

This was not the problem. The bass coming out of the "small" bookshelf shook the room. It was big and went deep. They were crossed over for far boundary placement.

I have read a number of times that the Duette brings at least 90% of the Sophia's sound. My dealer tells me the Duette is very close in most aspects. He says the Sophia brings more dynamics to the table but tone, sound stage, etc, are very close. I am still going to make the trip to hear a pair of Sophias before I buy the 3.7s. But I have my doubts about the Sophias being able to keep pace with the 3.7s. I have been shopping for awhile (auditioned B&W, Focal, Tannoy, Paradgim, Marten logan, etc) and the 3.7s are on a whole other level than the rest of the speakers I have heard.

Anyone that has done a direct A/B comparison of the Duette and Sophia care to comment? Again I have not heard the Sophia and the Duette was my first Wilson audition.
When did the MSRP (US) of the Sophia2 go up to $16K?

A great Speaker, but getting a bit pricey now...
Anyone saying the current generation of Wilson's are bright has not heard them set up correctly. Brightness is a factor of setup and partnering equipment. Listen to Wilsons w. tube equipment and the tweeter axis properly positioned for the listening position & listener height and you will not experience brightness. I have owned Thiels many years ago and they were bright. I have not heard the new generation but they are great speakers.

I would add never listen to a speaker in one system/setup to know if it is bad or not. It is easy to make good equipment sound bad. Listening in different stores or finding someone to let you audition their system will allow you to get a realistic impression.

My opinion is quite different where some are saying the Sophia's are no where near the older Thiel models and some are saying the 3.7 is not worth the extra compared to the 3.6's. Just keep in mind Thiels are Thiels and Wilsons are Wilsons. I owned the 3.6 for over 5 years, then jumped to the Apogee Diva's and a slew of models after that.
I have always been a Jim Thiels fan for a long time, I like his background, design theory and that balance in performance.

I on the other hand, heard the top Thiel models and loved it all. I ended up buying a brand new Wilson Sophia mk2 and will never ever have 2nd doubts with that choice. Good luck!
Just to update the thread. I went with Wilson Sophia 2s for many of the reasons listed above, but mainly because I felt the Sophias respond more audibly to equipment changes. This translates for me as a more transparent speaker, one that can be adapted and tailored sonically as I see fit over the years. The Sophias are also easier to drive which opens up more doors as far as amplification goes.

In addition, with the right backup equipment, I felt the Sophias had a more beautiful singing voice, but not in a euphoric sense. The Sophias have a more lifelike "you are there" voice than the Thiels I thought. They are also extremely coherent and well balanced, especially in the important lower midrange/midbass. The speakers had the ability to disappear better than the Thiels and create an amazingly spacial and stable soundstage. Finally, this speaker has all the resolution one could ask for, but also gave weight and body and texture to the music which I found to be a very rare quality in most loudspeakers.

The Thiels are almost as amazing, but I had a chance to pick up the Sophias from an authorized dealer at the same pricepoint as the Thiels, so budget was no longer a factor, only my personal preference between the two...
IMHO the first speaker for an audiophile is the Vandy signature 2CE MK2 then the Thiel 2.4 then the Thiel 3.7 or the Wilson Sophia 2s, then finally graduating to the Magico v3s! Believe me or not from the Vandy 2CE sig mk2 to the Magico3 is only about a 15% increase in speaker evolution. All these speakers are great!
Big Thiel fan here. If you want absolute timbral accuracy, the the CS 2.4, CS 2.7 or CS 3.7 is right on the money.

Vandy is a nice place to start. Wilson Sophia / Sasha is excellent at a substantial cost (remember associated gear to accompany).
Magico and Verity Audio loudspeakers are still on my must demo list.