Would you Upgrade?


Hi everyone, i'd like to get everyone's opinion on upgrading my set of loudspeakers.

I would be going from a pair of B&W 802D (the first of the diamond models, around 2010) to a pair of Focal Sopra 3's.

Is there much of an upgrade making this change?

I heard the Sopra's at an upscale dealer with a close to perfect setup: speakers about 15 feet from the front wall and about 10 feet from the side walls. Electronics were all Esoteric, including their $44,000 Grandiosa M1 monoblocks, preamp, cd player, power regenerator and $3,800 Cardas clear stereo speaker cables.

I'm not sure if these speakers would sound much different from my current 802D and my humble Classe CAM 100 monoblocks.

Also, how many years do speakers last before they degrade (speaker, crossovers, etc...)

thanks to everyone in advance.
onehorsepony
It really depends on what you are trying to achieve

The focal is a better design then your older loudspeakers however it comes down to what is the cost to swap and would making a change elsewhere give you a better return


When you heard the sopras  on a completely maxed out sound system that is probably why they sounded so good so you may want to look at your budget and you may consider upgrading your sources or preamp or both and then see if you can’t spark some new life out of your old speakers while laying the ground work for an even better speaker swap in the future

We have over 30 years of professional experience and a vast selection of hardware to play with to best advise our clients

We consult with people all over the world so please seek us out


We would recomend you also listen to the new paradigm persona series they are pretty remarkable and are even more transparent then the focals with unbelievable imaging

We are willing to bet if you heard the focal with your own gear you would like them better but would not be as bowled over as when you heard them on such an alaborate and expensive rig.

Dave and troy
Audio intellect nj


IMO, if you are buying an expensive piece of equipment from a local dealer, you should be able to get a home demo.  It is the only way for you to know.  Whether the speaker is "better" or not will depend to a very large degree on how it interfaces with your room.  I have had some great speakers in my room and they just didn't work acoustically and I had to get rid of them. Of course, the level of demo equipment matters and the dealer should be able to tell you whether your Classe amps would be a good match.  But the home demo is the only way, IMO. 
+1 @chayro 
When I made a choice of speakers, I tried out a number of options in home: Dynaudio, Martin Logan, Fritz Speakers, Focal, and finally Salk (which I kept). These speakers were fabulous, but not all worked in my space. Thank goodness I limited my choice to those I could try at home, because the room is a huge factor and the dealer experiences, while fun, did not tell me much compared to my room.

Where'd I get these to try? Well, a couple came from The Music Room, an excellent and reliable dealer of used and new gear, which tests and verifies all used gear AND allows a 14 day trial. I strongly recommend the values and trial option with them. Crutchfield is another company that enabled me to try Martin Logan ML 60 XTi speakers-- 100lbs each, shipped -- for 60 days and $10 each for shipping. I am not joking. They have a variety of very well-regarded brands, offer free shipping, and have great open box or scratch and dent options. They have both mid-market and higher end gear, so don't judge them too quickly as a mid-fi company. They have some great stuff and are great to work with. 
I agree, that a home demo would be the best approach. Unfortunately, the dealer is about 100 miles from my home, and the speakers weigh about 150 lbs a piece. They would have to be delivered and returned. Also, they only have their floor models.

As far as my equipment being a good match, the dealer on one hand says that my equipment (CAM-200) would sound similar. Then on the other hand, he is telling me that i could start upgrading my electronics afterwards.
@onehorsepony, trying the speakers at home is not a bad idea. We use to bring the speakers to the person's home, set them up and picked them up a few days later.
Personally, I think you are going sideways. Put the money into a cookie jar and save a bit longer to make a bigger jump. Your amplifiers are not bad at all and will drive just about anything. Improving your speakers will make a more noticeable improvement in sound quality. Also it is always important to know what loudspeaker you are driving before you buy an amp as this is the most significant synergistic decision in the entire system next being cartridge for tonearm. 
Also, how many years do speakers last before they degrade (speaker, crossovers, etc...)

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Round drivers 15+ years. With BR surrounds 25-50 years.

Ribbons, forever

Planar, until they delaminate, maybe forever.

Crossover from B&W. Everyone I've seen uses long lasting polys, not the best sounding (but good) last forever. They use good inductors, resistors and coils, again, not the best but good. 25 + years.

50 year old speakers are everywhere.. I have one pair 75 years old. They will last another 75.  As long as the paper and fabric surrounds last.

Regards
Overall, I thought after 11 years with the same speakers it be nice to change things up a bit.

Trouble is, about 15 years ago I changed things up by purchasing a pair of Thiel 3.7’s and they never worked out for me.

If I were to ask myself what I don’t like about my current 802D’s I would say issues with the soundstage and imaging. Vocals tend to wander from center to left to right within the same recording. Soundstage does not seem spacious and as open as I’d like.
Soundstage is entirely dependent upon the recording! Most recordings are flawed. The better the system the more obvious the flaws!
Tekton Double Impacts ($3K including shipping) are a good recommendation! Why spend more?
From a tonal perspective, I don't think there is any question that the Classe and Focals will work together.  They also have enough power to drive the Focals without issue.  

You described the demo room, but not your room that I can see.  What does your room look like?  Where will they be placed?  Can you put in treatments if need be?  The Sopra 3s are amazing speakers but aren't going to work in every space.  

It is very possible that upgrading your equipment will make a difference longer term but you should make sure these are the right speakers for your space first.  

Onehorsepony,

“Trouble is, about 15 years ago I changed things up by purchasing a pair of Thiel 3.7’s and they never worked out for me.

If I were to ask myself what I don’t like about my current 802D’s I would say issues with the soundstage and imaging. Vocals tend to wander from center to left to right within the same recording. Soundstage does not seem spacious and as open as I’d like.”

what is it you did not like about the Thiel 3.7? It is the bench mark for a wide soundstage and imaging for me. I had a demo of the 3.7 and 802D2 a long time go switching the two in and out of the same system. My issue with the Thiels for me are the center focus of vocals seemed foggy and the bass was lean for my tastes (like the Sophia 3 better even though it was a “worse” speaker in absolute terms). My issue with the B&W’s is the upper mids wore my ears out quick and the driver integration was bad imo. Both very good though. Just knit picking. 

 I have owned both Thiel and B&Ws. 
I can’t help with the focal but I ask about the Thiels because the focals I have heard are closer to the Thiels than the B&Ws
The Sopra lack low bass based on measurements and I would 100% need subs. I am kicking around the idea of used Sopra 2s for me. I would give the Wilson Yvette a try if you don’t use subs. I see used ones from time to time.
As someone with a Classe SSP-800 and JM Lab Mezzo Utopia's for the last 12 years with no desire to upgrade, I can unequivocally say that Classe and Focal(JM Labs) work together.

However my amps are Jeff Rowland Model 12 MonoBlocks.
I bought but ultimately didn't like my 802's. Went to Vandersteen
I would go for a vintage speaker of american make made before 1979 for a huge upgrade to the newer type speakers you are talking about changed from one new type to another slightly changes the sound but going to a vintage speaker will open up the gates.
don't listen to the paradigm persona series that beryllium mid-range and tweeter are so bright and hard sounding it's not even funny you have to get very warm electronics to go with those speakers. I like the monitor audio new gold 300 generation 5 or the platinum 200 generation 2 that AMT tweeter is so much more natural and three-dimensional sounding than any dome tweeter could ever be.and if you read the white paper on their driver technology they're way ahead of many speaker companies especially paradigm.
And just so you know why audio Troy is pushing paradigm persona is because their dealers.
Vintage speakers from the '70s are you kidding me that technology is so old it's not even funny the newer speakers are much better than anything from the '70s.
Vocals tend to wander from center to left to right within the same recording.
Maybe cut down on the merlot a bit while listening? Seriously though, I’d recommend going to give the Joseph Audio Perspective 2 a listen if you can find a dealer. JA speakers are masters of imaging/soundstage and disappearing as a sound source, and they’re small enough that an in-home demo should be possible. I’ve heard JA speakers next to B&Ws on a couple occasions and both times the JAs sounded significantly better and made the B&Ws sound congested by comparison. FWIW.

@mijostyn    It's quite natural you will recommend others to get home demos.  Only you can judge speakers without listening to them.
@onehorse pony.
Notice how you asked an opinion on two speakers and an audio dealers advice was to upgrade your electronics?
The 802D's and the Sopra 3's are both great speakers. Listen to Sopras with gear thats on your level also. Let your ears decide, not people who stand to profit.
You have to know what makes sound good.  If you don't understand what component in your system makes the sound they way it is, you basically are just trading one type of sound for another.  Brightness comes more from your components than the speaker.  IMO the speaker just passes along what it is feed. Sure some designs are more open, some are faster sounding, some have deeper bass.  You need to decide what you like and bring along the music to demo the speakers.  I use piano as a go to.  If the piano sounds bad the rest to me never falls into place.  Then I go from there.

Listen with your ears and if you like them better, then buy them.

Happy Listening.

  
The listening room is so important in system synergy that buying without a home demo is like throwing darts blindfolded, not impossible for the experts but potluck for the rest of us. Focal speakers I've home demoed had huge mid bass peaks with no bass below 80 hz in room. maybe the way they port their speakers doesn't jive with my room idk, but I love their mid and upper fq reproduction.
I always want to hear how well a speaker upscales.  Then I need to hear how it sounds with my own gear.  One place that needs to be looked at is your room and your set up.  Those are two areas that can be inexpensive to tighten up as long as you are able to (family can mess that up at times).  

I have liked and owned JMLab Micro's (their original company that was started in '77 (Thiel and Vandersteen were also 77 and 78).  What an era, but I digress.  I too have found their bass lacking in some of their models in the range you are probably looking at.  

Dealers can sit here and tell you to listen to something they sell instead of what you are asking and that's fine. They are partly correct.  You should get out and listen to as many speakers as you can in your price range. Then go another step up in price and see how much different they sound.  Try to bring your source with you if you can and have them use similar components.  Your ears will tell you IF it's time to upgrade and what direction to go.  

There are a ton of great options and since we all hear differently, you need to figure out what is truly missing with what you own and what do you NOT want in a speaker. That is a different way to looking at things, but I've found that we dont' always know what sounds right until we hear it, but we do know what compromises we won't be able to live with.
As a Focal first generation BE owner, I’d have to say it’s something of a sideways move. The Focal Beryllium tweeter is arguably more exciting & dynamic perhaps with a lower distortion midrange but not really enough of either to especially warrant a change. The D3 does give you significant improvements in the tweeter & midrange so that needs to be considered at least as strongly. The Esoteric electronics certainly have a different character to your Classe, muddling up the quantifiable differences you heard by a fair amount.

2 & 1/2 suggestions for you to consider. The D3 B&W’s will give you clear improvements. Everything you like about your tweeter is obviously enhanced (done in the D2 series) & the continuum material dramatically decreases break up distortion in the midrange. Here’s an interesting approach that allows you to completely remove that distortion (as opposed to reducing it) B&W (& reviewers dependent on their advertising) fail to mention. The butyl rubber surround on the 805D3 does that & arguably makes far better use of the newest continuum midrange material. As for the elaborate B&W bass, you’re used to - that can be maintained or improved by the use of one or preferably a pair of their subwoofers. Nothing’s not appreciably & noticeably improved by going this route. At first, the idea may sound counterintuitive but hearing is believing.

The second suggestion is the one midrange driver that is appreciably better then either of the above are ceramic ones. I don’t have a particular speaker in mind but auditioning some with tweeters of the quality you’re used to will definitely tell the tale.

I’m presuming you want a dynamic speaker & not stats. Auditioning some higher-end Martin Logans could easily give you some interesting reference points to hear a very different sound (quite superior in some but not all aspects) that may modify your thinking - or at least meanigfully clarify it.
MY 1st hi-end speaker was a B&W 801 matrix (series-3) on sound-anchor stands. I also heard the 802's and they sounded fantastic on Bruckner #9- not an easy task. You have 802-diamonds which are even better as long as they're properly anchored to the floor.  There are still better loudspeakers out there but- be careful in your search in order that "better" will be affordable and easy to drive. Upgrading to a night-and-day speaker will force you to look hard at all of your gear and can you afford the change. If not then plan on being patient and spreading your upgrades over a period of time. It's hard (for me) to go from something that's already very good to an OMG! component unless I can learn to be patient afterwards and wait for some great deals on "lightly-used" premium components to come available. 
I've owned a pair of Focal Sopra No2's since they first hit our shores and they just might be the last pair of speakers I own (for my man cave).  I have them being driven by a McIntosh MC452 power amp, which some of my friends describe as sounding like a "tube amp".  This particular amp (with my ears) pairs well with the Focals.  I've heard these speakers driven by a Naim & NAD integrated and thought they sounded "thin",

When my Sopra's arrived I carefully broke them in, starting out at low volume levels, each day turning up the volume a little, until I had over 200 hours on them.  They sounded great!  But at about the six month time frame they really seemed to "settle down" and become more enjoyable.

I enjoy just about all types of music except for modern country and hip hop and find the Focals sound awesome whether I'm enjoying a Beethoven symphony or a Foo Fighters album.
I appreciate everyone's input, but if we could just focus on my original post.

In my selection, I also need a speaker that will make poor recordings and older recordings sound musical.

I had found that my Thiel 3.7's made anything but good records sound intolerable. I personally, don't think this is a sign of a good speaker. Yes, it is a very revealing speaker, but my 802d's make older and poor recordings sound, well poor, but yet they are listenable.

I go to audition speakers, Focal, B&W, and the first thing the salesperson does is remove my cd and proceed to play some perfectly recorded upright bass jazz piece which sounds amazing.

I'm running into this issue of listening to the speaker vs listening to the music.

Your thought
In my selection, I also need a speaker that will make poor recordings and older recordings sound musical.
Well gee whiz, that would’ve been useful info to have shared earlier don’t ya think?  Were we supposed to just somehow know this was one of your major goals through ESP or something?  Jeez.  Just go buy some Harbeths and be done with it. 

Onehorsepony,

understanding your issues with the 3.7 I think you will end up with the same issue with focals. I have not heard the Sopra but 1037/1038be a number of times. They are just as revealing if not more so than Thiel and tend to be on the lean side more than the warm side. Both the 3.7 and the focals have bass but only when called for. 
Again I would try to give the Wilson’s current line a try. It is a good mix of detail and “warmth”. The paper drivers and soft dome tweeter take the edge off. The slight bass lift keeps poor recording pumping along too. 
If you can swing the price I think the Yvette would make you happy. The Sabrina might not be big enough (bass power) coming from the 802D. 

Not sure you will like warm speakers (harbeth etc). You are way up on the bright side of things now so a neutral speaker with strong bass will probably do the trick.