Rockport Sound vs. Wilson Sound - for Robert Harley (and others)

Music Lover -- Sun, 07/24/2011 - 22:53

Dear Robert,
I really enjoyed your Rockport review in the speaker issue.  I know you have experience with both Wilsons and Rockports.  From reading your review, both speakers seem to have similar sound - great bass, dynamics, transparency, and coherence.  So what are the sonic differences between them?  What would be the determining factors for someone choosing one over the other?
Thanks much!

zead -- Mon, 07/25/2011 - 09:52

 Music Lover,
    i'm not Robert but having  lived in NYC and also having made several trips to MA and PA  to - repeatedly -hear  some of these beauties. If i were to chime-in i'd say quite simply; the wilson sound has evolved to being one of the most refined in Hi-Fi... it reminds you of a beautiful Hi-Fi presentation with all it artifacts intact. When i experience a Rockport i get that complete picture also but i get more of an atmosphere of live instrumentation although i do know its a Hi-Fi presentation... I think that difference is most pronounced in the lower registers... its not just notes... the bass and drums are just more real.  Having said all of the above,  and having experienced in an up-close personal environ... i'd classify both Wison & Rockports as excellent investments.  
Another interesting point  in terms of these two brands when compared to something like Magico... they both have a more prominent midbass impact than magico, especially the Rockport.... i think that's Andy's forte.

Peter Ayer -- Mon, 07/25/2011 - 16:10

 I agree with Zead's assessment.  I have heard both Wilson and Rockport in the Boston area.  Wilson Sophia and Sasha at a dealership and also at a friend's house and the mid priced Rockports at Goodwin's High End.  The Wilsons have evolved to a more coherent and refined sound, but they still sound like very good HIGH FI.  Lots of information, very extended in both directions, but it still does not sound believable to me.  Rockport sounded balanced toward the lower frequencies and I found them a bit dark and warm.  I own a pair of Magicos and to my ears, they are the most coherent, balanced and detailed of the three, but they don't sound sterile or clinical.  They sound the most like the real thing, IMO.  I also find them the most neutral and transparent.
Music Lover asks a great question and one which may not get answered.  I find the reviews to be generally very positive in absolute terms, but they are not comparative, so it's difficult to get a sense of which component the reviewer prefers.  I guess one just has to go to listen for himself.

staxguy -- Mon, 07/16/2012 - 11:52

I'll second Peter's assment of Wilson Sophia and Sasha. I liked the sound of the X1's with ML 33's, however the Sasha and Sophia to me do not even sound hi fi - they instead sound like very well-evolved PA loudspeakers like those you will find in the ceilings of ferries - barking and un-naturally distorted from the get-go, however evolved and refined to a suitable degree, that you will not usually hear this without a direct comparison to more hi-fi (revealing) components.

I've listened to these models with McIntosh, NAIM, Ayre, and Classe amplification, and the characteristics are similar. Very toe tapping and involving sound, however quite wrong, from a sonic perspective - unnatural level of distortion presented to the listener that would not matter one iota if used for sound reinforcement or at a party, perhaps.

An enjoyable, but yet ungainly presentation. An apology to the Wilson fans, this is how I hear these. They are far better than boom-box speakers, with hollow plastic cabinets, however they seem to lack engineering, plain and simple.

I very much like Wilson's videos about his company.

Sam -- Mon, 07/16/2012 - 12:47

I agree with stax. Wilson's are big and loud but that's about all. If u r an experienced listener it won't take long for u to figure out and walk out of the audition. I tried them several times but no luck. Perhaps everyone likes different things. Don't buy before listening and making sure ull be happy with it. Sorry Wilson fans these speakers are highly overrated. Let ur ears be the judge. (a side note: it seems that the audio community really pushes American brands "made in America", which creates a little bit of a bias. It's great to support our economy and American companies but it makes one wonder how in terms of "sound quality" certain products are compared/reviewed/promoted. The best thing about USA products is excellent customer support. But for those where money is no object it might be worth looking at international brands as well if looking for the ultimate "sound quality" products. Just another view.

lloydelee21 -- Wed, 07/27/2011 - 13:33

I'll share my two cents, having heard Magico V3, nearly all the Wilsons (Sasha, Sophia, Watt 6-8, Alexandria 1, 2, Max 2, Grand Slamm 1, 3), and the Rockport Sherita/Meraks (which are older).  I find them all fantastic...and would recommend to anyone they consider system matching before making a final much depends on the system.  All of the above can be great speakers when in the right system. That said, i found the V3 blazingly all the best just poured forth at every spectrum level (except low end) in a way that made me think electrostatics.  I think i missed the fullness of a bigger speaker (probably a bigger Magico).  All the smaller Wilsons i respected but never loved...mainly i think they were technically astute but not magical in the way that i found the Magico's speed.  The bigger boys are different (for me).  I have never turned back and looked over my shoulder after finding a pair of X-1/Grand Slamms.  Speed, dynamics, ability to reflect whatever your electronics any volume, speed, pace.  I find the Alexandrias to be the same and more.   As to Rockport, i was truly impressed...solidity, speed, and a touch of naturalness (cannot say for sure if the speaker was voiced, or it was electronics but suspect former).  In any event, i enjoyed the music that poured forth, and the speaker seemed unshakeable with any level of complexity (70-piece orchestra), or volume.  Nothing i have heard has made me want to upgrade from the X-1/Grand Slamms, but as with all things i supposed it might be a matter of time!  ;)  What brand would i guess for me if i did upgrade?  Either Rockport's or Wilson's new flagship...though i have heard from 3 people who did comparisions (direct) and word is Arrakis is the winner. 

Music Lover -- Wed, 07/27/2011 - 12:14

Thanks for the comments.  What I find interesting is that people are raving about the Rockport bass, while the Wilson brand has been synonimous with "bass"  for a long, long time.

Peter Ayer -- Wed, 07/27/2011 - 15:02

One has bass quality, the other has bass quantity, IMO.

lloydelee21 -- Wed, 07/27/2011 - 16:16

Hi Peter,

If you are referring to Sasha/Watts v comparably priced Rockports, i agree 100%. For the money, i would take the Merak Sheritans (much older) to the current generation Watt 8s or Sashas. I imagine that is what people were telling me in comparing the Rockport Arrakis to the Alexandria 2. Both good...Arrakis better. I prefer the Meraks to the comparably priced Wilsons on all counts, including bass.

On X1's, i think bass is totally different and far superior, and this includes the Maxx I & II which i felt was solid but not quality and not effortless the way it is with X1 and is to a lesser degree with Merak Sheritans. That said, the comp for the X1 is the Hyperion which i've never heard but understand to be sensational. And again, have heard from 3 people the Arrakis is superior to the X2 Series 2.

lloydelee21 -- Wed, 07/27/2011 - 13:34

Hi Music Lover,
Yes, Wilson bass (the big brothers...X1 and X2) is tremendous.  So is was the Rockport I heard...unflappable at every volume, instantly there and gone again, and solid. 
In fact, the voicing is not too different between the two makes, in my limited experience.  If i were forced to describe a difference, the Wilson (X1 and X2) are tonally invisible...and truly dictated by the source.  Cool...warm...up to you and your electronics.  The Rockport's felt a touch like there was an instrinsic naturalness to their tonality that may have been put there by the designer.  Though the Merak/Sheritans were way more neutral than Sonus Fabers, i would say that the natural touch seems placed there by Andy Payor in much the same way Franco Serblin placed a touch of soul in his Homage series speakers which always appeared no matter what electronics or source you put behind the SF Homage speakers (Guarneri, Amati, Strad).  i am not as familiar with the Rockports by far, but that was my impression. 

trponhunter -- Mon, 07/16/2012 - 16:08

 Since Rockports distribution and build volume is so low, most people will never have an opportuity to listen to them. It's a story that happen over and over again once exposed to them. Just read Jeff Fritz's article in Ultra Audio about what happened to him when he was exposed. He sold his big Wilsons quickly upon his return from Maine  and never looked back. Same with me, I was utterly amazed when I was first exposed (truth be told - I am now a Rockport dealer, but even us dealers still listen and most only sell the products they believe in and are  passionate about). 

SundayNiagara -- Tue, 07/17/2012 - 18:28

Do you have the Rockport's hooked up with ARC REF gear?  I've been trying to get together with Steve K and go there for a listen.

trponhunter -- Wed, 07/18/2012 - 05:44

Yes - we have hooked them up with the ref150 amp, as well as amps from McIntosh and Classe as well. We have used the ref 5se pre amp, as well as the Audio Reserch DSPRE and the wyred 4 sound Dac2. The speakers sound great with all the amps - just different. Really no "magic" synergy with any group of electronics, as the speakers are just simply - neutral and highly resolved.

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