Wilson Audio's New Sound?

So, I did a search on "Wilson Audio" here on Agon to determine if this would be a redundant thread, and I could not quickly determine that, so if this is old news or a recent rehash, then I apologize in advance.

I attended a recent open house at an audio dealer in the Seattle area and two of the display rooms featured Wilson Audio speakers. From my experience at this and other dealers around the country, this was the last room I had any interest in visiting. My general opinion of Wilson Audio speakers was that they were impeccably crafted, large, heavy, accurate, a bit on the bright side, Silver, very expensive, and they generally failed to connect with me emotionally regardless of the equipment or material driving them.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when at this recent open house, the two different sets of Wilson's (Sophia 2 and Sasha) were my favorite speakers. The electronics ahead of the Wilson's were from Audio Research in both cases. I mean, these speakers REALLY sounded good.

A few days later I was reading the latest copy of Stereophile, and low and behold in his column Art Dudley was waxing poetic about his new found love for Wilson Audio Sophia 2's. He, like me, apparently has recently found Wilson religion. Unlike me, he has access to Dave Wilson for an interview and Peter McGrath for a visit to his home to personally set their speakers up for his long term demo - at least one of the perks of a monthly deadline. But, also like me, he apparently really didn't much care for the sound of Wilson's prior to his recent encounter with the Sophia's. Anyway, for a bighorn and planner guy like Dudley to go over the top for a (albeit super sexy epoxy painted, exotic material, custom driver) boxy speaker is news.

Why? Without plagiarizing Dudley completely, he is convinced the current crop of Wilson's are not your rich brother's Wilson's of a few years ago. According to Mr. Wilson himself (secondhand via Mr. Dudley) the company has a new tuning method for their new model speakers based on more "real world" listening conditions. Huh. All I can say is, whatever they are doing it is working. Big Time.

This also makes me think about your rich brother and his slightly older Wilson's tuned for listening in an anechoic chamber but placed in his plush and acoustically imperfect Italianate Manse. Has Mr. Wilson deposited brother Rich at the doorstep of obsolescence? Just wondering, because if I had the old Wilson's, I would be wanting the new ones, like yesterday. Also wondering if there is an "upgrade" path for their older speakers in terms of crossover parts or settings that can "soften" their delivery to be more "real world" friendly.

Anyway, perhaps I am just looking for the dark side to radically improving your product. For an unapologetic bottom fisherman who trolls for yesterday's (more like the last century's) high end gems, like my European sedan that was first purchased by someone else about eight jobs and two degrees ago, I will have to wait quite a while for the current crop of Wilson's to hit my price point. And I really can hardly wait.
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I think it is a question of a subjective matching between your personnal taste and the Wilson speakers you heard, and that's just fine, you have found the Holy Grail.

I have never been able to find their sound appealing to me (but that's only me). Their philosophy of trying to make speakers sound like whatever Dave wilson heard in such and such concert Hall (all from memory) is a complete joke and borderline insulting to anyone who knows how impossible this is to accomplish. Factor in the fact that they do not have a very large R&D dept (to match their - in appearance- high tech sales pitch), and I come to the conclusion that they have a very good marketing agency to handle their media exposure.

But, to many, the products do sound good, and that's the most important thing isn't it ? They of course cater to the ''pride of ownership'' club, and for many, this is more important than getting the ultimate sound.

Still, I wish them luck, they are well-established and are a staple of high-end audio. They are not unlike Cadillac - who has struggled - and are succeeding - in changing their image ( and ''sound'' ) to broaden their target market.

But it is getting harder to justify high prices as the competition is offering high performance for less money.
They are not unlike Cadillac - who has struggled - and are succeeding - in changing their image ( and ''sound'' ) to broaden their target market.
Wilson is struggling?
I attended the same event as you and was pleased with the sound as well. Ive heard Wilson speakers many times at Definitive; Alexandrias, Maxxs, Watt Puppies and now the Sasha. I was never much of a fan of Wilsons until i Heard them with the "right" amps and preamps. Halcro, Classe and VTL did nothing for me on these speakers, then i heard Audio Research and Ayre gear on the Wilsons. With those amp/preamps they came alive to my tastes. Perhaps you have had the same experience as me, did the speakers get better or was it up stream the whole time?
Wilson has always designed his speakers to be tube friendly and the current crop is no exception. I've heard the Sashas several times recently and they do quite well with the human voice yet play the frequency extremes easily. Plus they are efficient; the meters on our amps were not even moving yet they were playing at a very nice level.

They are demanding of the front end as you would expect from a decent speaker. I would not expect to put run of the mill electronics on them and then think I was going to get away with it. You have to play stuff with finesse. That way the speakers will have finesse too. You put something ham-fisted on them and that's how they will sound. They are quite transparent.
Gee, I heard the Watt Puppies previously with VTL and Nagra gear in various venues and have to say it'a not'a make'a me'a happy. I heard the Alexandria's in home theater systems with VTL and Classe gear, same thing (although very impressive dynamics!)

These are not crap electronics, and some of it is tubed gear. As good as AR electronic are, I am convinced the new speakers are voiced differently. In fact, the amp that was driving the Sasha's at the Definitive open house is a new switching amp from AR, and that sounded supremely good through the Wilson's (of course I believe it had tubed pre, digital source and phono stage).

PS - Don_s, thanks for your very kind words!