December 7, 2012

One of the Best Wilson Audio Systems...

This is, in my opinion, one of the best sounding mid-size Wilson Audio (Sophia, Watt/Puppy, Sasha) based systems that I ever had the pleasure to listen to.

This system caressed vocals like no other Wilson systems I have experienced. Voices were creamy, sultry, seductive - these are adjectives more commonly applied to a tube based system, but in this case they are appropriate for this pair of Sophia 2, from a marque which is more famous for its impactful and dynamic sound. On our Saturday afternoon visit, the owner Kenneth told us that vocal was his favorite genre and the system definitely reflected the owner's tasteful selection of music.

I have great respect and admiration for Wilson Audio loudspeakers, every one of them could produce so much sound, in terms of extension and details. However, they require capable partners to properly work with and control them, otherwise they might become like a pair of bucking bronchos wrecking havoc to the sound. To get them to reward you with their best, the owner must be more than competent. In this regard, Kenneth had done a fine job, as reflected in his amplifier selection (Pass Labs XA160 monoblocks) and his work on the room's acoustic treatments. The end result was like cruising in a big performance car, smooth, comfortable and with a lot of power on tap.

Let's take a look at the system:
There were 2 digital frontends in this system, the first was an Esoteric SA60 CD/SACD player...

The second was a CAS, with a MacBook (not shown) feeding red book and high res bitstreams to a M2Tech DAC

 The M2Tech power supply, sitting on top of a Isotek power conditioner. High quality powercords from JPS, Shunyata and Siltech were used

ModWright LS36.5 tube linestage

Pass Labs XA160 monoblocks

 Wilson Audio Sophia Series II
Auralex acoustic treatments on the side wall and the ceiling

One extraordinary feature of this system was the addition of a pair of subwoofers to the main speakers. These are sealed subs from Rythmik audio, model F12. According to Max Loh of Maxx Audio, the local distributor of Rythmik, the use of 2 smaller size subs, instead of a big one, allowed easier integration to the main system, as each sub can be tuned separately to cater to the differing acoustic characteristics at different sides of the room. A sealed sub, rather than a ported one, would also have less issue with overhang, such that the bass will not lag behind the main system. Still, Max said that it took him long hours of work and measurement onsite to get the integration right, and he agreed with the owner that if he couldn't get it right there was no deal - now that is dedication for you. Since the subwoofers were now permanent residents in Kenneth's system, you can guess what the verdict was. The work did not stop there though, Max mentioned that he had some more acoustic treatment work to do with the room to improve the bass definition even further.

Rhythmik F12 subwoofer pair sitting behind the main speakers

In a quick A/B listening test (switching the subwoofers on and off) during our visit, we could hear the subwoofers extending the bass response in room, but more beneficially they expanded the scale of the sound. The system sounded bigger with the subwoofers on, the soundstage expanded and subtle atmospheric cues became clearer.

We thank Kenneth for his hospitality. It was an ear-opening listening session.


KC said...

Looking at the picture of the set up, irrespective of what others may think or critics may argue on room/reflective effects. the Wilson speakers are designed with the tweeter to toe. ( as stated in their manual) Try it and let it stay on a for a week or so. one will be highly rewarded. The clarity , spatial cues, and soundstage and depth + details is astounding. If one find the sonics too " bright", Harsh .., it is more of the problems with the other chain( equipments or cables/current supply) in the system rather due to the Sophia 2 itself. Sophia 2 is a big jump from the seris 1!

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