Revel Studio 2 and Wilson Audio Sophia 3

Cam -- Sun, 10/17/2010 - 15:57

Hi Folks,
Has anyone heard both these speakers?  I've listened to both and they represent my short list for my next speaker purchase.  Problem is that I like them both but for different reasons and I'm trying to decide which would have more long term staying power in my listening room.
I find the Sophia 3's to be the more "exciting" of the two speakers, with fantastic deep and tight bass and a treble that is not harsh but definitely noticeable (and not at all forgiving of bright recordings).  I love bass, and I think it's the bass performance along with great imaging and an "orgainic, analogue" sound that I find appealing about the Sophias.  For example, on the jazz trio recording I played (Jaques Loussier's "The Bach Book"), the double bass was presented as the most predominant of the trio and sounded authoritative, natural and very real.
I find the Studio 2's to be the more "refined" of the two speakers, with an amazing detail to let you hear deep, deep into the recording without calling attention to bass or treble.  It's a less exciting sound but a more "cohisive" sound to my ears.  For example, on the same jazz trio recording, the piano was the most predominant of the trio and sounded much more detailed in terms of being able to hear all the sounds (at all frequencies) associted with each key on the piano (e.g. the hammer hitting the string, the harmonics produced by each string vibrating).
I'm looking for guidance on which of these different presentations might be more appealling over time and which might become fatiguing over time.  It's so difficult to say when you can only spend a 2-4 hours listening to each.
I'd be interested in members' opinions on this.

David Matz -- Mon, 10/18/2010 - 08:55

What were the rest of the electronics in each of the systems?  What were the room sizes?
What electronics are you going to be using?  What is your room size?

Cam -- Mon, 10/18/2010 - 09:09

15 feet by 18 feet room, with the speakers on the long wall.
Using a Simaudio Moon Evolution i-7 integrated amp (150 watts into 8 ohms, 300 watts into 4 ohms), Marantz 11s1 SACD player, Cardas Golden Reference Cables.

Cam -- Mon, 10/18/2010 - 09:12

FYI, I listened to both speakers with my integrated amp.  The Wilson dealer used a Musical Fidelity CDP and the Revel dealer used a Mark Levinson CDP.
I heard the Wilsons in a room similar in size to mine, with the Sophias about 10-12 feet apart on the long wall of the room and the listening position about 14 feet back, near the back wall of the room.  I heard the Revels in an alcove off of a basement show room, with the speakers about 6 feet apart and the listening position about 8-10 feet back (into the showroom, out of the alcove).

David Matz -- Mon, 10/18/2010 - 13:50

Some of the extra detail from the Revel/ Levinson system may be, in part, due to the Levinson CDP, and some of it is from Revel.  I have always found Levinson and Revel to spotlight the details you mention.  As a result, many (and myself included) dont' find these brands emotionally engaging.  Others may prefer the more intellectually brands, however, as both are fairly successful brands.  I haven't heard Sophia 3, but Sophia 2 was one of 2 or 3 best non-electrostatic speakers on the market in that price range. And it has been bettered by sophia 3.
Any chance you can haul your cd player, as well as your amp, to the dealer?  Listen for a while, several times if you can.  You are about to spend big bucks and enter a "long term relationship".  Does the detail fatigue you? Is your mind engaged? Does your heart lights up?  You will know.

Cam -- Tue, 10/19/2010 - 13:50

Thanks for your comments curiousmind.
I've had an in-home demo of the Revel Studio 2s and I'm going to book an in-home demo of the Wilson Sophia 3's too, so I can hear each on my own equipment in my own room.  The Revel Studio 2s sounded much better in my room than in the showroom of the dealer, particularly in terms of stronger bass impact, and I think a lot of that had to do with them being my room rather than in the show room.  I may also do another round or two of listening in at the dealers so I can hear them both back to back in the same day.
I don't find the detail in the Revels at all fatiguing.  It's not detail that comes from an exaggerated top end - it's more like hearing deeper into the recording and adds to the realism of the music.  To your point, though, not sure if it's more "cool" than emotionally engaging. 

David Matz -- Tue, 10/19/2010 - 15:04

If you can have both speakers in your home, it is really great.  I think you are well on your way.
Also, do you own any bass traps? If you don't, the extra bass from the Revels may be in part from the standing waves in your medium sized room.  The bass traps are not as sexy looking as the Sophias and don't bring in high commissions for the dealers or ad dollars to the magazines, so they are rarely talked about those who influence the purchase decisions.  But they may be the best improvement you can make for the money.
Good Luck

Cam -- Wed, 10/20/2010 - 11:36

No bass traps. Actually, in my current set up, my listening position is in a bass null. When I listen, I have to push my couch a couple feet back until the bass re-appears.

Yes, lots of buzz about the new Wilsons. There always seems to be - there are some really die hard Wilson lovers out there! I can say that the Wilson Sophia 3s are a very good speaker. The bass is spectacular, the mid-range extremely clear and there's great extension in the top end. Imaging is among the best I've heard as well. If I had to pick a flaw I'd say that the tweeter is very slightly on the "hot" side compared to some of the speakers I've heard. The tweeter is not at all grainy - is is crystal clear - but compared to the Revel Studio 2s the high end has slightly more emphasis on the Sophia 3s. It's probably necessary, however to balance out the fantastic deep, extended, tight bass on the Sophia 3s. I imagine the Sophia 3s will remain unforgiving of poor recordings and will continue to sound great on good recordings.

cbetz -- Tue, 04/30/2013 - 16:41

What a great idea, but cost prohibitive for most! Either way, I always put my vote in for the Revel option, the deeper sound is more appealing to me at Information here

JA FANT -- Wed, 10/20/2010 - 05:22

The current buzz over Wilson Audio's newest speakers is crazy. I wish I had a dealer close to me so I could demo the new Sophia & Sasha models...

Cam -- Sat, 10/30/2010 - 12:43

Just had an in-home demo with both the Wilson Sophia 3s and the Revel Studio 2s.  Both demos were on my existing equipment:  Marantz 11S1 SACD player, Simaudio Moon Evolution i-7 integrated amplifier and Cardas Golden Reference cable throughout.  My room is about 15' X 18'.  For both auditions, the speakers were set up about 8-9 feet apart on the long wall of the room (Sophias were closer to 9' apart, Studios closer to 8' apart).  The front baffle of both speakers was about 3' away from the front wall of the room and the listening position was about 12 feet back (with a bay window behind the seating position, adding about 3' of space behind the listening position).
First off, both speakers sounded noticably different than they did in the dealers' spaces - even given that I used my own amp for listening at the dealers.  For this reason, I highly recommend an in-home audition to anyone considering new speakers of this calibre (and price point).  Both dealers (Audio Excellence and Star Electronics in Toronto, Canada) were more than willing to provide this service to me with no strings attached.
Before the in-home audition, I went through two days of intensive back to back listening sessions.  The first day I started with the Sophia 3s and the next day I started with the Studio 2s. Its funny how you automatically compare what you hear second to what you hear first.  On the day I heard the Sophia 3s first, I really liked them and upon hearing the Studio 2s afterwards, I found that the Studio 2s were rather dull in comparison and didn't image as well.  I attributed the difference in imaging to the two very different set ups of the speakers, with the Sophia 3s being much further apart than the Studio 2s in the respective dealer set ups (Sophias 12' apart; Studios 6' apart).  The other bid difference I came away with was that the Sophia 3s had a more "exciting" sound, which I believed to be due to Dave Wilson's focus on dynamics. 
A couple weeks later, I spent another day listening to both, beginning with the Studio 2s this time.  When I played my first track through the Studio 2s (Old Love on the Eric Clapton Unplugged CD), the sound was like settling into my favourite easy chair - so comfortable and effortless.  I know that sounds cliche but that's how it felt.  I had a great listening session with them and was excited about them all over again.  My only wish was for a little more bass impact, although through a previous in-home listening session with this speaker I knew this was probably due to the fact that I was hearing them in a big, open showroom.  When I went to hear the Sophia 3s, I thought they lacked some of the refinement of the Revels (Robert Harley referred to the Revel Salon 2s' reproduction of timbre as "spooky" - this was my experience with the Studio 2s as well).  I also thought that the Sophia 3s were a little rough on the ears on treble-heavy recordings (surprisingly, they were OK playing Supertramp but the live Eric Clapton CD was almost too bright to listen to).  All told, I didn't enjoy them as much as the first time.  Again, the big thing I thought they had going for them was better dynamics (particularly macro-dynamics) than the Revels.  For example, the drum solo on my Jacques Loussier Play Bach CD sounded more life-like in the degree of impact of each drum strike. 
With a few questions in my mind about if/how some of the pros/cons of these speakers might be impacted by my system and my room as a whole , I managed to get the opportunity to hear both speakers in my home on the same day.  I mentioned earlier that I'd already had the Studio 2s in my home for an audition (and I really liked them but my wife asked me to audition others that may have an appearance that would go better with our living room decor).  The problem I found was that, unless I compared the speakers on the same day, I had a lot of trouble remembering what I'd heard in the past.  Luckily, my Revel dealer was eager to accommodate coming over right after my Wilson dealer left to help me make a direct comparison between the two speakers.
So, what changed in each speakers' sound?  Well, I guess I'm lucky enough to have a good sounding room because both speakers' performed better in my room than they did at the dealers' rooms.  The Sophia 3s were more neutral and balanced across the frequency spectrum than in the dealer's space, with no hint of the "hotness" in the lower treble that I heard in the dealer's listening room.  I have to say, for a speaker that can play as low (down to 24 Hz!) as the Sophia 3 can, it's bass is incredibly tight and not at all boomy or bloated.  At higher volumes, though, I could overload my 15' X 18' room with bass - so I wouldn't recommend this speaker if you have a small room and want to crank up the music a lot.  All told, I thought the Sophia 3 was very clear and natural sounding with excellent imaging and very lifelike reproduction of music.  I could have easily lived with this speaker for years and been extremely happy.  With it's more squat profile and beautiful finish options, my wife would have been happy with it too.
When I heard the Studio 2s in my room afterwards, I had the same sensation as my last listening session at the dealer's place.  Once again I sank into the sound like a favourite easy chair.  The sound seemed to draw out more of an emotional reaction in me than the Sophia 3s.  The big difference in sound from the dealer's place was bass depth and impact.  In my room, the Studio 2s played as deep and tight as the Sophia 3s.  I think what drew me into the Studio 2s more so than the Sophia 3s was the added detail and richness of timbre they presented.  There seemed to be more detail, richness and "weight" to the Revel 2s' presentation than the Sophia 3s.  This was not just in the bass - I experienced this sensation across the entire frequency spectrum.  They also presented a slightly bigger soundstage, particularly in depth, than the Sophia 3s.  The Sophia 3s tended to push some instruments forward into the room whereas the Studio 2s' soundstage tended to start at the plain of the speakers and extend way back past the wall.
In the end, it's difficult for me to comment on which of the two presentations was more "true", "realistic" or "neutral" in my room.  Were the Sophia 3s glossing over some of the detail and microdynamics of the music or were the Studio 2s adding/emphasizing details in the music?  I can't say.  What I can say is the additional detail and richness I heard made the Studio 2s more engaging to me than the Sophia 3s, so I ultimately purchased the Studio 2s. 
I would highly recommend either of these speakers to anyone.  Like me, though, after lots of considered listening time with familiar material, I'm also sure that you'll gravitate to the sound of one over the other.  I would highly recommend that you hear both in your home (or at least do lots of back to back listening at your local dealer) to help you make that decision.
Happy listening!

jeffreybehr -- Sat, 10/30/2010 - 16:37

Cam, what a fine summary; TYVM.  I know it takes hours to write such least it takes me that long. 

I think your characterizations of these 2 speakers are very thoughtful; probably they'll be helpful to anyone considering them.

Tin-eared audiofool and Classical-music lover for about 50 years, terrible competitive pistol shootist, and amateur fotografer.

Cam -- Sat, 10/30/2010 - 20:02

Thanks Jeffrey - hope it helps someone.
Man, it was a long process just to narrow my search down to just these two speakers and then a tough decision between the two of them.  I went through ProAc Response, Usher Dancer, B&W 802D, Vandersteen Quattro, Tannoy DC10T and PMC FB1i and EB1i before narrowing down my search.  It was a lot of fun, though!  Now, what to do with my new found spare time??
I hope others who have questions about these two speakers feel free to ask my opinion, having spent a lot of time with both the Sophia 3s and Studio 2s.

Mike D -- Thu, 11/11/2010 - 15:34

Hi Cam,
I'm new to this forum and your speaker shopping experience prompted me to join.  I am just beginning to shop myself in the same price range and the Studio2s are right at the top of my short list.  I haven't done any listening yet, just online research, but I would be interested in any thoughts you might have on PMC speakers.  I'm considering the PB1i as a slightly less expensive alternative to the Revels.  Any comments on the EB1i, positive or negative, would be appreciated.  Your taste in sound must be similar to mine, your description of the Studio vs. Sophia makes me more interested than ever in the Revel, plus I also have my system cabled from start to finish with Cardas Golden Ref and my front end is a pcx modded Marantz SA11S2.  My current speakers are Paradigm Signature S8s, power is a Bryston 14B SST2.   So did you like the PMCs or think they were overpriced for the performance offered?

Cam -- Thu, 11/11/2010 - 17:58

Hi Mike,
I actually really liked the PMCs.  Actually, when I first heard the PB1i's I was blown away by the sound that was coming from a relatively small floorstanding speaker.  I found the sound of the PB1i's to be quite similar to the Studio 2s in terms of the "neutral" way they presented the music (I put "neutral" in parenthases because it's a pretty subjective observation on my part).  Actually, probably for that very reason, the salesperson told me that they might take a while to get used to because they don't have an "exciting" sound.  One thing that did really wow me was their bass extension - I discovered low frequency sounds on my CD's that I never knew existed before!  Some say their transmission line technology leads to some compramizes in bass definition but I didn't hear it - it was great, defined, deep bass.  The main difference I heard between the PB1i's and the Studio 2s was the size of the soundstage and the very high frequency extension - the PB1i's soundstage was not quite as wide or deep as the Studio 2's, nor did the PB1i's have quite the same high frequency extension as the Studio 2s.  Also, I didn't think the PB1i's had quite the same level of top to bottom coherence and driver integration that the Studio 2's had - but I didn't find any speaker that trumped the Studio 2's in the regard so don't take that as a shortcoming of the PB1i's.  the PB1i's mid-range sounded clear and natural - I didn't hear the mid-range emphasis that some reviewers have talked about.  Overall, for the price, I thought the PB1i's were a spectacular value!  They were probably my third choice next to the Studio 2s and Sophia 3s, if I had to pick.
I heard the EB1i's at the same store as the PB1i's but on a different day.  For the jump in price and size of speaker, I expected a noticeable improvement with the EB1i's but I really didn't notice any improvement over the PB1i's.  Actually, I preferred the PB1is.  I suspect, however, that the EB1i's weren't burned in when I heard them (they just arrived at the store the day before) so I probably didn't get to hear them at their best.  Also, the salesperson had the EB1i's pulled 5-6 feet out into the room whereas the PB1i's were maybe 2 feet from the front wall (I've read that PMC's like to be relatively close to the front wall for bass reinforcement).
As an aside, my Revel dealer actually owns a couple recording studios and said that PMC would be at the top of his list as recording studio monitors!
In the end, I got a spectacular deal on the Studio 2s that made my decision a no-brainer.  However, even if I had to pay retail for the Studio 2s I probably still would have bought them over the PMCs.  Conversely, the Sophia 3s were going to be much more expensive than the Studio 2s, but that wasn't why I didn't go with them either.  I based my decision on the sound I liked the best - my rationale being that I intend to have these speakers for many years and I didn't want to end up with the "I wish I'd spent a little more to get what I really wanted" syndrome :)
Given that I thought the PMCs were so close in their presentation of the music to the Studio 2s, I think it'd be worth you checking them out to see if you like them as well or better than the Studio 2s.  You might just...  Bottom line, though, I'd go for what you like the best and if you need to spend an extra few grand to do so and are buying for the long haul- go for it. 
Also, push for an in-home audition if at all possible - the Studio 2s and Sophia 3s sounded so much better on my system and I'm sure they'll sound great on yours too :)

Mike D -- Thu, 11/11/2010 - 21:29

Thanks very much for your insightful comments, very helpful!  I will definitely go listen to both the PB1i and Studio2s, but unfortunately I won't have the advantage of an in home audition, I live near Ottawa and there are no Wilson, Revel or PMC dealers in the city!  I will have to go to Montreal (Kingston for PMC) and I seriously doubt any dealers there will let me haul a pair back to Ottawa for a listen :-)  Given the weight and size of the Wilsons and Revels I doubt I would want to anyway.
A careful listen to the PMCs and Revels along with my familiarity with my own Signature S8s should tell me what I need to know.  My current room is only 12 x 16 so the smaller soundstage, smaller size and lower price of the PMCs might just give them an advantage, but we'll see (or hear!)  Thanks again for sharing  your experience.  I would really like to know what you paid for your Revels, if you don't mind sending me an e-mail.

Cam -- Fri, 11/12/2010 - 06:47

Glad to help Mike!
Yeah, it's a challenge with dealers in Canada.  Even in Toronto I had to wait for Usher to sign up a dealer here so I could hear the Dancers (I would have had to drive to Guelph otherwise!).
You should get a good sense of the characteristics of each speaker at the dealer.  A couple things to consider:
1)  Spend at least 2-3 hours listening to each speaker on familiar music - it took me a while to get a handle on the characteristics of the speaker and figure out what I liked about it.  The dealer should be fine with this, given you can't audition at home and are from out of town.
2)  Try to audition the speaker on similar equipment to your own - I found the dealers were accommodating to try to find something similar to what I have at home but to be sure I hauled my Simaudio i-7 integrated around with me from store to store.  See what the dealers have for the audition and then maybe bring you CD player or amp with you if they don't have something similar.  Also, make sure the dealer has some decent quality cable hooked up and broken in for you - that was an issue for me with my Wilson dealer (cheap cable).
3)  I know you've got a lot of driving to do, and going to Montreal and Kingston on the same day is crazy, but consider listening to both speakers on the same weekend.  I found it nealy impossible to remember the sound from each speaker from week to week (other than I liked one or the other) and listening to them back to back on the same day helped a lot.
4)  It may not be possible but see if the dealer has a listening room in which you can hear the speakers.  It will likely be a bit smaller than your 12X16 room but it will give you a better sense of how the speaker sounds in a room rather than a show room.  For example, I never realized how much bass extension I'd get from the Studio 2s when I heard them in the showroom but that changed when I heard them at home.  Oh, and see if the dealer can remove some of the clutter that they keep in their audtion room.  My Wilson dealer had about 3-4 other pair of speakers kicking around in the room and I'm sure it was alterning the sound (perhaps adding to the treble "hotness" I was hearing).  My Revel dealer had a pair of huge Usher Dancers off to the side that really screwed with the soundstage until we moved them - big difference!
Good luck!

Cam -- Fri, 11/12/2010 - 06:48

Forgot to mention you'll need to book an appointment with each dealer ahead of time.

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