Wilson Audio Sophia 2 Loudspeaker Reviewed

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Wilson Audio is one of the few manufacturers in the ultra high-end space that truly needs no introduction. For the past twenty or so years the WATT Puppy (now the Sasha WP) has literally defined the high-end audiophile loudspeaker. The WATT Puppy was an expensive speaker, making it all but unobtainable by mere mortals, which only added to its mystique. As the price of the WATT Puppy grew from around $10,000 to close to triple that today - there was a gap in the Wilson product line and a sector of the marketplace that many manufacturers had shifted their focus to in order to get around having to compete with the WATT Puppy: the sub-$20,000 arena, more specifically speakers priced right at or below $15,000 a pair. Wilson Audiodidn't have a floor standing speaker in this specific price range prior to the introduction of the Sophia.

When the original Sophia launched it was a huge success in the press and with audiophiles alike. Wilson had finally done it; they built a little WATT Puppy for those of us who couldn't afford the "real" thing. Personally, I loved the original Sophia. For the better part of three years it was my favorite speaker and arguably the best speaker Wilson Audio made pound for pound. It was priced right, easy to integrate into seemingly any system, beautiful and compact and sounded smoother and more refined then the WATT Puppy. I simply loved it. Well, the original Sophia has been with us for a while and Wilson Audio felt it was time for an upgrade, introducing the Sophia Series 2.

Additional Resources
Check out a review of Wilson's massive Thor's Hammer subwoofer from HomeTheaterReview.com.
Follow AudiophileReview.com for a top-level audiophile blog about reference level loudspeakers.

On the outside the Sophia 2s look just like the original Sophias; however their internal enclosures have been redesigned with stronger, more inert materials for better dampening and rigidity. The driver compliment remains the same, a single one-inch tweeter mated to a single seven-inch midrange driver resting at a slight angle above the large 10-inch bass driver. The one inch inverted dome tweeter is new for the Sophia 2 and uses several technologies, mainly its Anti-diffraction system, borrowed from MAXX Series 2. The crossovers in the Sophia 2 have also been reworked and employ what Wilson Audio calls their Anti-Jitter technology, which reduces the interaction between the drivers and lowers the speaker's overall noise floor. The combination of these changes, according to Wilson Audio, makes the Sophia 2 a much more dynamic, holographic and smoother sounding speaker than the original.

On paper the Sophia 2 has a reported frequency response of 21Hz to 22.5kHz. The Sophia 2 is fairly efficient at 86dB into a nominal four Ohm load, which means it can be powered on as little as 25 Watts per channel. Wilson Audio's founder Dave Wilson believes that you should build a system around the speakers which is why his speakers have always been two things: easy to drive and voiced to sound as good with high end gear as they can with mid-fi or entry level gear. In fact when the Sophia was first introduced to the press Dave Wilson demoed them on a stack of Parasound Halo separates with an iPod as the source. To put that into perspective the price of the Halo components and an iPod was less than $3,000, yet it was mated to a pair $14,000 speakers at the time. Speaking of price, the Sophia 2s, like many revised Wilson Audio speakers, get a price bump to $16,700 a pair. That's a five thousand dollar increase over the original Sophia's $11,700 asking price.

But what does the Sophia 2 sound like? The Sophia 2 sounds just like the original Sophia except everything the original Sophia did right the Sophia 2 does just a little bit better. Five thousand dollars better? That's for you to decide, but there is no question the design is better today than with the first version. The tweeter on the Sophia 2 does seem to be the largest improvement, possessing more air, transparency and speed. It's not quite as laid back as the original Sophia, adding a bit more focus and sharpness to the Sophia 2's overall sonic presentation. The midrange feels and sounds largely untouched which is a good thing, while the bass sounds firmer and a bit more agile. Overall the Sophia 2 doesn't sound like an all new speaker, but it definitely sounds like it's been upgraded.

Read about the high points and the low points of the Sophia 2 on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for Wilson Audio Sophia 2 Loudspeaker

Criteria Rating

Performance

5

Value

4

Overall

4.5

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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High Points
� The Sophia 2's fit and finish is first rate and coming from Wilson Audio I would expect nothing less; arguably one of the finest looking speakers out there today and possibly the best looking speaker Wilson Audio makes.
� The updated tweeter on the Sophia 2 is a nice addition adding a bit more detail, edge and focus to the sound without coming off as bright or overly sharp, which is what I thought Wilson Audio did with the WATT Puppy version 8.
� The Sophia midrange is unchanged in this update and borderline perfect to my ears. If you like vocalists and small ensemble music the Sophia 2 is the perfect speaker for you.
� The Sophia 2's bass performance is also updated and seems to have come away with a firmer grasp on things. Because of this the Sophia 2 seems to play lower with more definition and detail than before.
� The Sophia 2, like the original Sophia, can be driven by entry level and mid-fi gear with excellent results, making it a solid loudspeaker investment that can grow and evolve with your tastes and system changes.�
� Wives and designers argue that the Sophia's footprint is even better than that of the legendary WATT Puppy. The fact is: Sophia fit easily into many decors and many rooms in ways that speakers at this price point simply do not do. If you can afford Wilson Sophias, you actually can own them without making your formal living room look like a recording studio.

Low Points
� There isn't a lot of change between the original Sophia and Sophia 2s physically, which may be an issue for some given the hefty change in price you're going to shell out for the Sophia 2s.�
� 86 dB is solid efficiency but not as high as many of other Wilson designs. Today's digital amps and more value priced audio can power Sophia but a big Krell or Mark Levinson would be even better. Make no mistake about that. The good news is that there is room to grow.

Conclusion
The original Wilson Audio Sophia were pretty expensive at $11,700 a pair but it was much more manageable and obtainable then its big brother the WATT Puppy in the ballpark of $25,000. The original Sophia was an overnight hit and became my personal favorite and a reference speaker virtually overnight.

The new and improved Sophia, dubbed Sophia 2 is in fact improved. On the outside the Sophia 2 looks and feels the same and on the inside, minus a new tweeter and some crossover tweaks, it's largely the same as the original as well. This wouldn't be a bad thing if the retail price went from $11,700 to say $12,500 or maybe even $13,000 a pair. But the new Sophia 2's now retail for $16,700 a pair which puts them square in the sights of some other fine loudspeakers like the Revel Studio2s and the Bowers and Wilkins 800 Series. This is the big leagues and the Sophia 2 has to rely on its slim footprint and beaming good looks to compete with some of these players. They are up to the challenge but the price increase puts them in a new value category.

The Wilson Sophia 2s are a special loudspeaker that absolutely sounds fantastic. You get an awful lot of the WATT Puppy sound for about half of the price. If you are auditioning speakers in the $15,000 to $20,000 price range, the Sophia 2s must be on your short list. They are sonically, logistically and aesthetically just that good.

Additional Resources
Check out a review of Wilson's massive Thor's Hammer subwoofer from HomeTheaterReview.com.
Follow AudiophileReview.com for a top-level audiophile blog about reference level loudspeakers.


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