Wilson Audio Introduces Sasha W/P: A “Reconceived,” Next-Gen Watt/Puppy

Rethinking An Audio Classic

As many readers know, the Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy speaker system is an enduring high-end audio icon (indeed, CES uses a silhouette front view of the Watt/Puppy as its symbol for high-end audio exhibits).  The original Watt (Wilson Audio Tiny Tot) was designed as a small, very high performance, 2-way “location monitor,” and was the first speaker Dave Wilson designed.  Later, recognizing a need to turn the Watt into a full-range system, Wilson developed the companion Puppy subwoofer system (so named because everyone knows a Puppy is a Tiny Tot’s best friend), and an audio classic was born.


In many respects, then, the Watt/Puppy is the loudspeaker that put Wilson Audio on the map. And with over fifteen thousand units sold, spanning eight generations of products, it is an undeniable high-end audio success story—the best selling speaker system in its price range of all time.


But, as of May 15, Wilson Audio announced that it has raised the bar by introducing a next-generation successor to the Watt/Puppy System 8—one that is sufficiently different from its forerunners to have earned an entirely new name: Sasha W/P. Wilson explains that the Sasha W/P represents a significant rethinking of the Watt/Puppy concept—one geared toward incorporating many of the technical advancements seen (and heard) in the much more costly Wilson Alexandria X-2 Series 2 and Maxx 3 speaker systems.


Advanced Design Features

The Sasha W/P is said to improve upon the performance of the Watt/Puppy System 8 by introducing a large number of design changes, as outlined below:

  • An all-new midrange/tweeter enclosure: the new enclosure incorporates a distinctive new shape and applies new construction materials. Sidewalls of the enclosure use Wilson’s X-material but are up to three times thicker than in the Watt/Puppy System 8. The Sasha W/P baffle introduces an all-new material said to surpass Wilson’s previous M4 material in terms of reducing “measurable and audible noise and coloration in the midrange.”
  • A revised bass module enclosure: the re-shaped enclosure is larger (i.e., has greater internal volume) and allows for deeper bass extension (-3 dB at 20Hz).
  • A new midrange driver: according the Wilson, the Sasha W/P uses “a simplified version of the remarkable new cellulose fiber/paper composite midrange driver developed for the Alexandria X-2 Series 2.”
  • A new tweeter: a Wilson press release on the Sasha W/P simply states, “Sasha employs the tweeter from MAXX Series 3.”
  • New woofers: relative to the woofers used in the current Puppy, the woofers in the Sasha feature magnet structures nearly twice as large, which are said to “retain the impact and dynamic shading of the original design, but increase the overall speed, agility, and linearity of the bass.”
  • Revised and relocated crossover networks: in previous Watt/Puppy systems crossovers were located inside the midrange/tweeter enclosure, but in the Sasha W/P the crossovers have “been relocated to an isolated, reinforced chamber in the rear of the woofer enclosure.” The Wilson press release adds, “to account for the different acoustical signature of the Wilson’s midrange driver and to exploit its ultra-high resolution, all crossovers have been modified and im­proved.”






















All This And A Price Reduction, Too?

Interestingly, though the Sasha W/P is significantly more sophisticated than the Watt/Puppy System 8 that it replaces, it will sell for $26,900/pair—slightly less than the price of the outgoing Watt/Puppy System 8. Wilson explains that the price reduction is made possible by leveraging the increased efficiencies of its new manufacturing facility.  


As this is written, Wilson has not yet updated its Web site to include a Sasha W/P product listing, but within a few days more detailed information should become available at: www.wilsonaudio.com.  


Cemil Gandur -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 05:44

Good to see that Magico has shaken things up a bit! A bit of competition wouldn't go amiss.

RonLev (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 10:57

Only Wilson would consider a $26K pricetag as a "price reduction".  For years he has consistently tested the market's tolerance for overpriced speakers (of course, after he breaks yet another price ceiling for each of the products in his line, his strategy allows other manufactures of similar ilk to do the same.)    In my book, Wilson is audio's B.T. Barnum, getting people to spend twice (maybe three times) as much as they intended to or needed to for good high-end audio.  Many others in the industry have delivered equal or more advanced technology with more conscientious pricing, such as Quad, Magneplanar, Linkwitz, KEF, B&W, Merlin, Vandersteen, Thiel, the list goes on and on.   Oh, well, there's a sucker born every minute--even during a recession.

tiredanswer (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 15:28

W/P gen 8 is about $28,000 - $30,000 depending on finish (Wilson dealers correct me if I'm wrong).  The new Sasha W/P is $26,900. Thus reducing the price 5 - 10% while improving every aspect of the previous version of the speaker.  Yes $26,900 is still very expensive and likely out of reach for most average folks.   But a price reduction regardless of you liking the manufacturer or not is still a reduction - and they didn't cut corners to do it.  They actually made a huge capital investment into their manufacturing plant and it paid off in better quality at a lower price.  I call that wonderful.  I hope to hear a pair of the Sasha's one of these days to see how they sound...

On the other hand folks spend easily as much for their boating hobbies, motorcycles, snowmobile adventures etc yet Speakers can provide enjoyment regadless of season thus can provide more frequent use for that reason.  Anyway it's always about an individuals priorities and bank account.   I can't afford a brand new pair of wilson speakers but would certainly consider buying a used pair on A'gon since they sell for 50% less than retail after a couple years.
Calling Wilson BT Barnum is rediculous.  They're not selling snake oil.  They have an honest and ethical business model.  Go visit their factory and take a look at the huge investment made in terms of people, equipment, manufacturing facilities, R&D time, rejected prototypes, unsold inventory (if wilson even has that), marketing, legal needs, accounting, shipping etc and all the other aspects of running a successful business.
Wilson has elevated the speaker industry as a whole by raising the bar earlier than any others and through continual improvement.  They do offer less expensive models; Sophia andDuette if your main contention is the cost of the Sasha W/P speakers. 
Ron have you owned any Wilson speakers?  I have owned various Maggies, KEF, B&W, and Vandys - I have had a great deal of exposure to Thiels.  I've not owned nor had exposure to Linkwitz and only passing experience with Merilin and Quads.  While Quad/Maggies have a different technology I don't know if it is more advanced than Wilsons.  The same can be said for the rest of those manufacturers. If you cut any of these speakers open and compare their cabinet structure to that of Wilson's designs you'll find that Wilson has gone far beyond any of these other manufacturers in that area which is one of the major factors in their cost. 
Well now I'm rambling... Others have certainly said it better than myself but I respect Wilson Audio as an innovator and trend setter.  They have compelled many to enter into the realm of high end and ultra exotic speaker manufacturing.  Competition benefits the consumers.  While some products are more expensive, that technology does often trickle down into lower priced models benefitting all who participate.

RonLev (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 16:35

I'm impressed by your wide-ranging experience (ownership?) of an encyclopedic range of quality audio equipment.  Perhaps you are smitten by the novelty bug, which unfortunately is an incurable disease, no matter what special interest you may have.  More to the point, there is nothing insulting about calling David Wilson a P.T. Barnum.  It should be noted that Barnum never lied to the public;  he simply took advantage of their ignorance.  (When he put up a sign saying "To the egress" it was not directing people to some exotic exhibit, it was simply pointing to the exit!)   As I noted in my simple economic analysis, above, high technology and high performance do not correlate with cost (beyond a certain threshold which is thousands of dollars less than what Wilson charges). 
It is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong) that Wilson does not manufacture his own drivers (which is where the real technology investment has to be made) but is simply building very expensive boxes and filling them with OEM or slightly modified drivers.   Of course, if you spend enough money you can build an absolutely gorgeous (and hopefully nonresonant) box.   But that is like an automotive enthusiast buying a car and investing 50% of the cost on a custom paint job.   Most car enthusiasts would rather put their investment in engineering an optimal engine, transmission, suspension, etc.  The analogy in the audio world would be to put your money on advanced driver technology, active amplification, room conditioning--elements in the audio chain that make much more cost-effective differences in performance.

tiredanswer (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 17:31

I've been involved in hifi since I was a boy and thus have owned a few speakers/components over the years.  After the novelty of any new toy wears off I have taken my time with the component to evaluate its performance against others.  I'm sure you've had many experiences in your life as well.  I probably was a bit emotional in picking apart the inflation adjustment and other claims.   But I would like to address some of the statments you made and make what I understand to be corrections.  Take with large grain of salt and call me in the morning!
PT Barnum took advantage of peoples ignorance - David Wilson isn't.  Wilson provides measurements, background into their design philosophy, R&D and technology and so forth.  They allow consumers to listen and compare their products against others.  Of course they wish you to buy their products and therefore will promote those qualities they feel best represent their products. I don't think what they do compares to what Barnum did. 
Yes Wilson purchases drivers from OEM manufacturers.   I'm sure they are built to Wilson's specs and then modified in house if needed.  That does not mean they have not made considerable investments in technology. To say they are just building expensive, non resonant boxes and stuffing them with drivers ignores the thousands spent designing crossover filters, enclosure shapes, volumes, material density testing, manufacturing technology, analysing speaker physics/acoustics, wiring, and ultimately listening to those designs.  Those things take time, money and man power.  Sure Dave started in his garage with more humble tools but they have since invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their facility and probably millions (I've been there yes but I really can only make educated estimates on how much they have invested in equipment and facilities)

I don't think your paint job analogy really holds water. ""Of course, if you spend enough money you can build an absolutely gorgeous (and hopefully nonresonant) box.   But that is like an automotive enthusiast buying a car and investing 50% of the cost on a custom paint job.  ""   
No. It isn't. Building a superior speaker enclosure is like the chassis of the automobile - NOT just the paint job.  You could put the best motor in an average automobile chassis and only get average performance.  What Wilson does is take what they deem the best drivers and then put them in the best enclosure they know how to build in order to extract the most performance.  It's not just a paint job.
I didn't want to start a pissing match between you and I (though I think I have).  I simply wanted to point out that pricing of Wilson's products are commensurate with the R&D/capital/time/technology investment made on their part.  This must also include the investment made by their dealer network who buys the speakers, pays for showrooms and ultimately will arrive at the customer's home to set up the Wilson speaker.

Weiserb (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 19:13

Wilson WP's may be expensive but they do sound good. Are they the best value for the money ? maybe not. The free market determines the true value, and Wilson is a thriving successful company.

PKW (not verified) -- Fri, 05/22/2009 - 11:59

It seems I am not the only one who thinks most audio prices have at least one digit too many left of the decimal point.  Economies of scale happen when you invent a great technology and it can be produced at a price that average people might buy to revolutionize their music-reproduction experience.  Wilson is the most successful practitioner of the "the price is the product" marketing strategy (but many try to compete).

Samhar (not verified) -- Sat, 05/23/2009 - 11:14

 Ron I think your intent is good but as a previous  owner of Vandersteen 3A Sigs/ 2wq (pair) and a current owner of Wilson Sophia 1's I can say the Vandies aren't  in the same league with Wilsons. I recently helped a friend set up his 5A's so I'm familiar with them also and they aren't even close to the Wilsons IMO. From my stand point the Vandies are over priced and the Wilsons arecorectly priced.

RonLev (not verified) -- Sat, 05/23/2009 - 20:52

Actually, the Vandersteen 5s are the ones to compare to the Sophias, not the 3s, but that is a minor point.  The point I am making is that Wilson (and others of his ilk) have forced the audio market so far upscale that what was originally the bottom of their line is now more expensive than the top-of-the-line speakers of a generation ago.  The Watt, remember, stood for "Wison Audio Tiny Tot" when it was introduced in the late 1980s.  Wilson really wanted his customers desiring state-of-the-art equipment to puchase his WAMM ("Wilson Audio Modular Monitor") as his real top-of-the line product which even then sold for $120,000!!!
I'm not arguing that Wilson products don't sound good, sometimes great, but that performance should be priced at a level that a majority of the audio- and music-loving public could afford--with a considerable, but certainly feasible, sacrifice--just like the previous generation was able to do.    What Wilson (and others) are saying to the present generation is that good audio performance is strictly a luxury and not meant for "just" reproducing music, but is intended to be a statement about your lifestyle and disposable income.   Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher and Peter Walker would be spinning in their graves at such a thought!

RonLev (not verified) -- Sun, 05/24/2009 - 20:38

Just to prove I'm not some "Sensible Sound" fanatic, I should terminate this line of comments by saying that, if you want to see an example of real audio engineering at this price level, look at something like the KEF Reference.   At $20K it is $6K less than the so-called "bargain" Sasha and it is designed with the full intent to be top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art for audiophiles and musicophiles who really understand the meaning of those words and who are respected when they spend that kind of money.  No, I'm not a shill for Kent Engineering and Foundry, but when I see technology truly in the service of audio (and well spent by the designer) I must give credit where it is due. 
Over and out.

oldguy (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 11:09

Folks better have a listen to the Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversaries if they are playing in that particular playground.  The anniversaries have been favorably compared, and rightly I might add, to the Maxx 2s.

Pal (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 11:27

Finally we are seeing sensible (slight)  price adjustments form these guys, prople like Wilson and Shunyata Research among others strive on emotional sales and push the high dollar items.
In reality they are indeed VEY high profit margin products for themselves and teir dealers. while there si nothing wrong with making a profit, making large percentages during an economic recession speaks of greed and business practices.
While granted this being a luxury Item it still need to appeal not only to the ears but to the wallet of the intelligent consumer.
Proof is in the pudding, in reality the Wilson speakers are soem of the most replicated designs by DIY enthusiasts and their friends simply because they deem ridiculous to pay for a PAIR of speakers as much as a brand new decent car would cost.
You can probably replicate te drivers, teh corssover and an aproximation of the box shape and dimensions for a very small fraction of the cost and that is buying ful retail for all the parts and materials still worth the effort, considering that manufafturer pays for wholesale prices on al materials and drivers and components qhich on itself is probably a 60% less than once sould pay for in the market, you see how margings and profits stagger very quicly . .
This will probably be an excellent product as roughly 1/2 of the value of what is being charged.
In the case of the other Company I mentioned it kind of shares concepts with much of cable manufacturers especially Shunyata adds a lto of glamour to their fit'n finish to justify their extreme pricing like $2,000 + for a power cord??? how much can it improve the sound of a very nice Belden cable how about a nice ElEctraGlide or KImber or JM Labs or XLO or . ..  is the improvement worth $2K? that is something to be evaluated.
Sometimes you geta  lot more results with A LOT!!!! less $ by improving componets power supply, changing cpacitors, relays, regulators etc. or even im[proving teh speed of the transistors or FET or JFETS or .. .  you get the picture .  . still a lot less than $2K than swapping a power cord.
That is my 2 cents and a little bit of sanity in an insame world.
Best of lucks;

adps (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 11:50

Any info on how this impacts people who bought the 8s in the last year? That model was pretty short-lived, I auditioned but did not buy, though if I had, I'd be pretty miffed at the company bringing out something 'better' and cheaper so soon. IF there are mods for the 8s, that would be interesting to know.

tiredanswer (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 15:44

You make some very bold claims regarding Wilson's profits.   What kind of % profit does Wilson have?  Their dealers? Do you know the cost of running a business like Wilson?  IS it just slapping some Scanspeak/peerless/vifa drivers in a box and whipping together some xover?  What does it cost Wilson to participate in every Hi-Fi show?  What about paying their employees?  What about giving their employee bonuses like a brand new pair of Sophias?  the list goes on and on as some have put it...
I agree Wilson wants the purchaser to be emotional.  They probably want their speakers to stir a great deal of emotions in their customers - so much so that they buy a pair. Would you buy a pair of speakers that didn't cause an emotional reaction to the music they reproduced? 
It's true you can get a very good car for $26,900 - nicely loaded Toyota Camry, VW Passat, Mazda 6.  However the performance of the Sasha W/P is likely, if compared to cars, along the the lines of a Nissan GT-R, Audi R8 or perhaps a Lexus LS400.
This has been said by others but bears repeating.  "You can probably replicate te drivers, teh corssover and an aproximation of the box shape and dimensions for a very small fraction of the cost and that is buying ful retail for all the parts and materials still worth the effort, considering that manufafturer pays for wholesale prices on al materials and drivers and components qhich on itself is probably a 60% less than once sould pay for in the market, you see how margings and profits stagger very quicly""  If you could build a product equal to the performance of the Wilson Sasha W/P why don't you go into business and compete with them?  Here's why: BECAUSE Raw materials cost is only portion of running a successful business. There is so much more to that needs to be done.

Lee (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 13:00

Greetings to all of my fellow audiophiles.
As the average mid-fi product manages to remove more amusical artifacts from mid to lower priced products, our numbers dwindle. You have to admit, an iPod heard through decent earbuds (and loaded with hi-rez files) sounds much better than a Pioneer receiver hooked up to Bose 901s!
We are a much smaller proportion of the market now. I am not sure of the exact percentage but I remember reading an article in the mid-seventies that quoted a shockingly low percentage (5% of the market at that time?). Gee whiz people, what do you think that percentage is now?
Fewer options... higher prices.
When the HQD system was released it cost much more (in adjusted dollars) than most high-end systems today, and some of the audiphile products available at that time were being sold at three retailers within ten miles of my home. Dahlquist sold more than 15,000 units of the DQ-10, and it was considered to be as good as its target: the original Quad.
I could express my thoughts on these issues for many hours. Generally... I think music is being re-produced much better now.
Lee Himelfarb

touch (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 13:02

In my extensive experience (read: thousands of wasted hours) with high-end audio more expensive equipment is usually the best single guide to sound quality, although many times price distortion and market ignorance exists.  The key is to look at second-hand equipment prices to judge how equipment value stands the test of time away from dealer pricing, etc.  I have purchased $15,000 speaker cables (Kondo), $6000 interconnects (Kharma, Stealth), and $3000 power cords (Valhalla, Synergistic Research, etc.).  I found that a pair of inexpensive copper speaker cables outperformed the expensive speaker cables (most other cables were pretty correlated with price), while interconnect quality was pretty correlated to pricing, and the same true for power cords.  Of course there are good values out there, but people found out and prices soon adjust to reflect performance.   In my opinion almost all Wilson Audio speakers sounds terrible, even price aside, except for their flagship Alexandria, which is one of the best speakers in the world.  Go figure!

mr_bill (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 14:32

Hi Touch,
Which inexpensive speaker cables did you find to perfrom as well as the high high priced cable you listed?

touch (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 23:12

 didn't want to sound like i was marketing anybody's speaker cables, since I don't know if these cables will perform the same way in a different system, but I found that Paul Speltz's simple unshielded copper speaker cables outperformed all my other expensive cables in terms of transparency, dynamics, warmth.  i still have a pair of Kondo interconnects which perform in their price range, and used to have a Kondo amplifier which was expensive for its performance (maybe 75% of its price), but still a good buy for someone who can afford it.

djp (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 13:07

It is always amusing to read comments from those who like to denigrate high end components such as Wilson speakers.
If they could actually design and build a better speaker for half the price or less they should be in the business and would be posting huge sales numbers.
The fact that Wilson Audio has sold over 1500 WATT/Puppy systems over the last 25 years or so pretty much says it all.
One can say that any product is not the flavour of choice for yourself, but to suggest that a product is vastly overpriced when it is obviously
one of the most successful high end products ever made is ludicrous.  Every product is overpriced for someone - to those who appreciate
the quality of design, construction, sound quailty and service provided by Wilson Audio and their dealers, the experience is worth the cost.

Terry (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 13:23

I can understand what people are saying about the price, but a few things about that irk me. If you think you can do it same or better for far less money..... then do it. Also one thing a consumer never considers is thr R&D time it takes to develope a new speaker, and all the goodies to make it sound better. Sure i can go buy a Honda for far less than I could a Ferrari, but the Honda has no character behind it. It does not deliver the same emotion when I step on the gas or reach some god foresaken speed. People who complain about the price either can't afford them and wish they could, or have nothing better to do with their time. I for one could never afford a speaker of this calibre, but i will not sit there and say "well for $20,000 less i can get a set of Vienna's, or B&W" they put themself in a different league for a different reason and i am sure sound is not it.

Doc S (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 14:34

     I see that the politics of envy and jealousy have made it to High End.
I ran a Custome Guitar Shop in the 70's. There was an endless parade of BOZO's coming in the store who
wished to explain to me tha their $200.00 P.O.S. was"the best sounding guitar they'd ever heard" and they'd
"put it up against a (Martin/Gibson/Taylor) any time..." Their apparently fragile ego's required them to be
"in the know" and smarter than everybody else...
    The Painful Truth was, simply - they lacked the drive/commitment/wherewithal/skill to aquire themselves
a worthwhile instrument. So, they badmouthed those that could.
    An old story, fer shure.
Doc S

RonLev (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 14:34

Let's put aside P.T. Barnum and get back to Economics. (That's part of my training, and it's nice to put it to a use that people can identify with.)    Let's take an example from the "old" days when audio was rationally priced.  The ultimate speaker from the early 1970s was the Infinity Servo Static, released in 1973.  It was universally praised for its performance and technology (but, perhaps, not for its reliability!)   It went for about $4,800.  Certainly pricey when you consider that most of the top-of-the-line (a term that was unfortunately replaced by "high-end", which implies that there is no longer any "top!") speakers ran for $800-1500 (for the Klipschorn) in those days.    If you adjust for inflation (36 years @3.5% annual inflation) you get a price of $15,447.  That, in fact, is what a "rational man" (as we economists would say) would pay for a top-of-the-line speaker today.    As one respondent above, mentioned, the Levinson HQD was really the start of the economic arms race (it was released in 1979 at around $20,000, if I recall) and the infection has continued unabated ever since. 
Of course, more recently, real estate has supplanted high-end audio for irrational pricing, and we all know what happend to that sector!  Unfortunately, high-end audio is not  a commodity, so pricing is determined not by market forces but by ego, ignorance and those who get pleasure out of conspicuous consumption. 

tiredanswer (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 16:27

quote RonLev 
"Let's put aside P.T. Barnum and get back to Economics. (That's part of my training, and it's nice to put it to a use that people can identify with.) ..."
Your inflation calculation is way off.
$4800 in 1973 has the same buying power as $23,500 in 2009.  Just google "inflation calculator" and check the top ten results - I took a rough average of those inflation calculators results. 
Here is the official United States Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator - http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl

So considering inflation (and doing it correctly) a top performing speaker should cost around $23,500 today compared to 1973.  I would say that many speakers have gone beyond what was top performing in 1973 and thusly cost more to produce.  Perhaps that is the reason the Sasha W/P system costs $26,900 - about 13% more money than what you claim a top performing speaker should cost.  Do you think or should I say do you KNOW if the Sasha W/P provides 13% better performance than the Infinity Servo Static? Or does the Servo Static best the Sasha W/P?  

RonLev (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 16:43

I was conservative wity my 3.5% inflation adjustment, since the 1970s/early 1980s was a horrendous period for inflation (topping 20% in 1981).   However, don't forget the cardinal rule of economics:  Compare apples to apples.   I chose the most expensive speaker on the market as "top-of-the-line" for 1973.   That does not compare with the Sasha W/P:  it compares with Wilson's Alexandra, which I believe retails today (series 2) for $148,000.   (!!!)

Scott Gallup (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 14:47

OK, I've been an audiophile since I started out with a pr Klipsch Cornwalls and Carver electronics in 1980. Big bucks for a college kid at the time.
I loved the livliness the Cornwalls had over the Maggies and KLHs of the day. The DQ10s threw quite a nice soundstage. Never could stand the Bose 901s (sounded like they looked: 9 5.25" car stereo speakers in a too-small enclosure). Why the Cornwalls? They played LOUD and, college kid I was, LOUD was important.
I eventually moved up the Klipsch line to La Scalas (better imaging, better dynamics/livliness; bass sucked) and, what I thought at the time my Holy Grail, $7,500 Klipschorns.
And there I sat for a number of years, until I wandered back into the dealer I bought my Cornwalls from and heard the $3,000 Gallo Nucleaus Ref 3.1s. I tried 'em out at home for a week. Did I buy 'em? Nope. They could give the Klipschorns a run for the money in bass (using a separate amp to drive the "extra" voicecoil in the Nucleus Refs) and vocals were smoother, treble more extended and delicate BUT, ultimately they didn't have that DYNAMIC sound.
I remember taking the Refs back to the dealer. I offered up my take on the speakers, describing IMO the strengths and weaknesses. He looked at me carefully, then said I really should hear something in the other room. They were $12,000 Wilson Sophias (series 1). Yikes, expensive. But I listened. OUCH they were fantastic (OUCH because I could tell within 3 minutes they were, GULP, worth it). Unbelievable you can get that depth and quality of bass out of something so small. I walked away shaking my head that day. Went back home and rocked out to he Klipschorns.
But I couldn't get the sound of he Sophias out of my head. Yes, I eventually bought a pair when the dealer mentioned he could get me an orphaned pair of series 1s from Wilson (the series 2 had since come out) for $6500. A bargain? Well, they were less than the $7500 Khorns....
The big day arrived when I'd get to hear them in the same room, MY room, MY electronics. I was all set for a week-long shootout between the hi-tech Wilsons and the old-school Klipsch. (The dealer gave me a week to return the Wilsons if I didn't like 'em.)
Seriously, and I'm absolutely not kidding, the shootout lasted 5 minutes. The Sophias were so much better than the Khorns in (almost) EVERY way. I was shocked it wasn't even close.
OK, you can say I was finally dragged into the 21st century and what I heard was just a 2005 speaker beating the crap out of a 1947-era design. Maybe you're right. But I started listening to a lot more music with the Sophias than I ever did with the Klipschs.
But that's not the end of the story with the Sophias. Eventually, I read a few glowing reviews of the Legacy Audio Whispers (You know, those 6-ft tall rosewood behemoths with 4 15" woofers etc.). Yeah, they're north of $15,000 but man, they should be able to play louder than the Sophias and, hopefully, have even better dynamic "livliness."
Yep, I bought a used pair off Audiogon. Drove 1,600 miles roundtrip to audition/haul 'em back in a pickup. Lugged 'em upstairs to the dedicated listening room. Hooked 'em up and, hmmmm, yeah, they sounded DIFFERENT from the Wilsons, but better? WAY more impressive to look at. Liked the sound of the ribbon tweeter all right.... The Whispers threw a bigger soundstage although the bass had a different quality about it. It was still tight, but didn't have quite the authority of the Sophias. This shootout was NOT over in 5 minutes.
After a good week of going back and forth I found myself listening, mostly, to the Whispers. A few months later I called up the Wilson dealer and told him a wanted to have them get rid of the Wislons for me. The salesman put me in touch with the owner, Charlie, who questioned me about what I was hearing. Charlie said he'd ake the Wilson back of course, but could he come out to my place first? Sure...
Charlie gets here and takes one look at the Sophias and asks if this is where they were always positioned. Yep, I says. I put down making tape on the floor so I could put them back where they're supposed to be when I wasn't listening to the Whispers.
Charlie listened to teh Whispers, then to the Sophias. He grumbled "they aren't se up right." He said, "I'll take the Wilsons back if you like, but could I set them them up properly before I do?"
Half an hour later Charlie had them very carefully and precisely set up, properly toed-in and proper geometric location (equidistant offset from a centerline perpindicular from my head position in my chair to the wall behind the speakers) for my listening chair. He invited me to listen again.
OMG! It turns out I had NEVER really heard them before. Yes, proper setup makes a HUGE difference. Seems the guy who set them up for the dealer (and who was no longer with the company) hadn't gotten the geometry/toe-in/spike tilt set up right. NOW the Sophias embarassed the Whispers and I had that sinking feeling I had wasted a trip to Wisconsin to get the Whispers.
Yes, I ended up keeping the Sophias and the dealer offered to sell the Whispers for me. LESSON LEARNED. When you listen to Wilson speakers they must ABSOLUTELY be set up properly to sound their best. I have since listened to the Duettes, the W/P 8s and the MAXX 1s, 2s, and, 3 weeks ago, the 3s. Setup is critical for the Wilsons to really shine. When they are set up properly you will not only hear solid, stable stereo imaging that extends beyond the physical speakers horizontally, you will hear INTO the sound field deep into your room AND, go figure, you will hear HEIGHT as well. If you close your eyes you cannot reliably point your finger to the speaker location--they truly disappear.
You can listen to the live recording of Martina McBride's "Over the Rainbow" and hear her placement *above* you and to the right as if you are standing in the mosh pit looking up at her on stage. Her voice floats a good 20" above the tweeter plane of the Wilsons.
Can these other speakers mentioned here do that?

Arun (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 15:48

I had heard so much about the Wilsons that I auditioned their top of the line Alexandria and Maxx2 extensively. While they are great no doubt, there are other speakers that I found to be so much better in terms of resolution, transparency, soundstage etc. Until I get to hear the Von Schweikert VR-9 and VR-11, I'd have to say the Pioneer TAD Reference One is perhaps the best speaker I have ever heard, and which is roughly half the price of the Alexandrias. On the lower end of the price spectrum, I found the Von Schweikert Unifield 3s to be better than the Watt Puppy in terms of transparency and warmth in a small to mid sized room. The Wilsons left me quite cold at times. To each his own I suppose but if I'm in the high end audio market, I'd check out the Von Schweikert Unifield 3, the VSA VR-5 Anniversary and above, Revel Salons, Pioneer S1-EX etc before the Wilsons.

oddio (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 17:33

I'm not sure if I read this right........something sounds better than a pioneer receiver and bose 901s? An Ipod? Where did this topic take a wrong turn? On a more serious note, I have heard the series 8s at shows and they were always the best sound at show. I've always felt they needed updated cosmetics and the Sashas fill the bill. They are to me fair value in todays market place. I don't think anyone has the necessary tooling to replicate them or their performance at a lower cost. At this price level no manufacturers are using off the shelf drivers. Every small manufacturer I've seen has speakers that to me look homemade regardless of sound quality. It takes a well established company to produce a speaker with the fit and finish necessary at these levels of expense.

TRT (not verified) -- Thu, 05/21/2009 - 18:33

Personally, I have found The Sophia's to be the best sounding speakers in the Wilson lineup....but that's just me.  Wilson has nothing that matches the sonic capabilities of the Aerial Acoustics speaker line...but that's just me, too.  The Emotiva floorstanding speakers are more neutral sounding and have a larger sweet spot...and they are the companies first iteration!  Wilson speakers are designed for bragging rights amongst the well healed.  They serve the exact same purpose as the 100K dollar baby-grand piano in the living room of a home where no one can play. 

Lee (not verified) -- Fri, 05/22/2009 - 06:00

Greetings again,
I think all of you have valid points. It is also nice to see that we are still getting a boost out of talking about high-end.
But... if it was 1976... I would bet you that more than 5,000 people would have viewed an article written about the replacement for the JBL100 and published in Stereo Review. Our numbers are shrinking, but the hobby/market will never go away (take a look the counter towards the top of the page).
The economic system in the US delivers goods and services more effectively than any other country. We have more options at all identified levels, and those item's prices are generally less than in any other country. Our high-end costs less here, even for items made in other countries (primarily because of their crazy tax structures).
If any of the participants in this disscussion have really had (or currently have) experience in manufacturing high-end equipment, please e-mail me directly: lhimelfarb [at] hotmail [dot] com

EDGAR (not verified) -- Sat, 05/23/2009 - 00:42


Dr T (not verified) -- Tue, 06/16/2009 - 09:21

Hi folks,
surely superb speakers, but you could get quite close by a fraction of the price (of WATT). A swedish brand using Norweigan SEAS midrange/woofer (same as Wilson have used in earlier models...), and external crossover. Really worth trying out at <1000USD/pair! Works great with my Linn Lp12 + Krell + my own handwired pure silvercables (like Kimber but <10% of the price of KCAG). That leavs me with a huge budget for beer and new Lp:s :-)

Waltlaw (not verified) -- Mon, 07/20/2009 - 00:56

Interesting speakers. I'm particularly intrigued by the eight layers of real piano.

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