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Sophia/WattPuppy7/Maxx2 vs Summit

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Joey_V

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Prelude:
After a hearty lunch at Weber Grill - good ol' prime ribeye steak - my 2 friends and I headed over to Glenn Poor on Michigan Ave. We popped in, ragged after our last medical final exam, and the owners greeted us. I looked around a little before Kirk (the owner) tracked me down just around the corner. I introduced myself and my friends and told him that I was interested in hearing the Wilsons. I told him that I've wanted to visit for quite some time, but never had the time to do so (school blows, I know). He asked me what speakers I was coming from... I told him I had a pair of Martin Logan Summits. He said, "Superb."

He asked for my age and I told him. He told me that I was a little advanced, but he also proceeded to tell me that the other day an 11 year old kid came by and his parents bought him a pair of Wilson speakers for his birthday. :D

He asked me, "Are you ready to graduate?"

I replied, "What do you mean?"

"From the Logans."

I laughed and I told him to bring his A-Game.

Wilson Sophia ($20,000 worth of gear):
Highs:
Very similar to the Summits. The highs are slightly on the warmer side, yet forward. It doesnt come off as brash nor does it come off as too focused. The vocal focus is solid, but not overly beamy. There was never what I call - fake sugar-coating around the harmonic tones of the vocal reproduction.. it just sounded real - much like on my Summits. There wasnt that overly synthesized presentation that I notice plagues many higher end speakers. I will add, the harmonic tones of the vocals came through with great detail and with great realism! You could definitely make out the singer's mouth - almost. This aspect of the Sophias truly TRULY rival the Summits.

Mids:
Superb! I think Wilson uses a similar, but tweaked version, driver as on the Sonus Faber Cremonas. That 6" driver was impressive in delivering the realistic presentation of the instruments as well as most of the vocal's lower harmonic band. I really enjoyed the palpable realism that the Sophias provided. There was this coherence that was unmistakably HIGH END. The midrange worked superbly well with the tweeter in creating a holographic image that rivals that of my Summits.

Lows:
Quick and transient. Although the Sophias go only to about 29hz, the bass was quick and never boomy. I was impressed that it rivaled what I remember the BW802D pumped out, considering the Sophias sport a single 10" driver while the 802D sport two 8" Rohacell woofers. While the Sophia had a nice bottom end, I will easily give the nod to the Summits in terms of overall extension, speed, and room integration capability. I must say, the Sophias were coherent from top to bottom, including the well chosen 10" bass driver.

Soundstage:
I felt that the Sophias were a very open speaker, very neutral in most aspects. I felt that it had the same degree of resolution as my Summits have, and had almost the same capability to present sonic information between the speakers (and sometimes outside the speakers).

Both, the Sophias and the Summits, present the vocalist right down center about 5 to 5.5 feet tall. Realistic for sure. Just as my Summits have the capability to have the singer's mouth float in mid air a foot or two or three infront of the speaker baffle plane, so did the Sophia. It was eerie how good the Sophias were in this respect. A definite tie, in my mind.

However, I felt that this is where the Summits take off. The Summits are uncanny in presenting sonic information in space. The Summits, even in my setup, definitely present with a slightly deeper soundstage while matching the Sophias' ability in presenting, say a guitar, on the inner right of the left speaker. However, pay attention here, the Summits are better at making the guitar sound cohesive .... like ONE guitar. I found myself having a slightly more difficult time in picturing the guitar as a guitar with the Sophias. Not that it was bad, but it just didnt present the guitar as lifelike in presentation as the Summits. Dont get me wrong, the guitar acoustics sounded unreal, just as good as the Summits, but that ability of the Summit to reproduce a guitar with just the right size and shape makes for a better experience, IMO.

Overall:
The Sophias are a superb speaker. Top to bottom, it is a very very well designed speaker - no ifs, ands, or buts. The driver coherence is unreal... very well done from what I heard. I also liked that it had a much better horizontal dispersion than my Summits present, as I felt that they need not be toed-in towards me and still deliver a holographic image that sounded and felt real. I think this is where the Sophias beat the Summits, the Sophias are less picky with placement. I could have them completely straight at me or toed in and the sonic signature remained very similar. With the Summits, if I toe them out a bit too much, I lose much of that holographic image and stage depth. But, bear in mind, with my tweaked positioning, the Summits are able to keep up with the Sophias and beat it in most everything, IMO.

I will add though, I found the Sophias to have a better sweet spot. I could move my head further along the horizontal axis without losing that center image. Could it be the amp, could it be the room? Who knows for sure.

Wilson Watt/Puppy7 ($35,000 worth of gear):
Highs:

With a completely different tweeter, the WWP7 definitely sounded more resolute than the Sophia or the Summits. The WWP7 had this uncanny ability to let you hear the raw fingers plucking through each guitar string - unreal indeed. However, this did not come without a price, I felt that the tweeter altered the vocals in a very deleterious manner. I did not like how it presented the vocals at an overly FOCUSED fashion... yes, you heard me.... I actually felt that it was somehow over-etched and over-synthesized. There was definitely that "WOW FACTOR", but after a few songs, it got to me.

Midrange:
I felt that the midrange was solid for the most part (just as good or better resolute than on the Sophia), but the vocals lacked the warmth that the Sophias had. It was a very distinct difference between the Wilson product line... the WWP7 sounded very different than the Sophias (and Summits) in terms of vocal reproduction. For one, even when driven by $13,000 worth of VK gear, I was dissapointed that the vocals lacked that weight and palpability that I find so alluring about the Summits and the Sophias. Perhaps it just wasnt for me.

Lows:
The WWP7 definitely trounced the Sophias in terms of extension while offering a somewhat better dynamic bass control. I felt that I had a better sense of the bass notes, but only slightly. The two 8" drivers definitely had better speed than the single 10" on the Sophia. The WWP7 can extend lower than even the Summits - though the Summits still have the nudge in terms of room correction, you cant beat that.

Soundstage:
Definitely as good as on the Sophias, with one exception.... the WWP7 were more resolute and were more adept at "LAYERING" the images. Background singers came through a foot or two behind the leading vocalist while the acoustic guitars (between the two speakers and slightly outside the speakers) were so resolute, that they hovered over a spot tangibly. There was no mistaking where on the stage it stood (and the same goes for everything else on stage). It was very impressive how resolute the WWP7 was. The stage was deep and the vocalist was forward to a certain extend... the stage was well populated and remained very realistic in terms of size and height.

Overall:
I felt that the WWP7 are among the MOST RESOLUTE speakers I've ever heard in my life. It's safe to say that they are easily toe to toe, equal to the Summits in resoluteness, while that extra tweaked tweeter on the WWP7 has the prepronderence to present sonic information in a more resolute manner than even the Summits. It's hard to explain, you have to hear to believe it really. It's not bright, its not sibilant... just a solidly resolute presentation that most will find heavenly. However, I found that it wasnt as natural in overall presentation as the Summits or the Sophias. I liked that extra weight in vocals.... that TANGIBLE holographic ball that floats about 5.5 feet above the ground. I love that forward yet warm vocal sound that the Sophias offer (much like the Summits). In the end, if I were given a choice between the Sophia or the WWP7, I wouldnt hesitate in picking the Sophias as my overall preferred speaker. And between the Sophias and the Summits, I would say that I prefer my Summits, still. ;)

(Continued down below)
 

Joey_V

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Quips about the Sophia and the WWP7:
Though both speakers were able to present the stage in a very coherent manner (both size and height), I felt that the Sophias or the WWP7 are unable to match the Summits in terms of the sheer ability to display not only the size nor the height of the instrument, but also the shape of the instrument. When I listen to my Summits, I feel like I have a good idea of which way the neck of the guitar is facing and I have a good sense of its shape. It's an odd phenomenon, but I think this has to do with the ultimate coherence one gets from a single high-end planar handling the mids and the highs at the same time. As good as the Sophias and WWP7 were in overall coherence of all 3 or 4 drivers, the Summits are just better. This is EASILY evident when the guitar acoustics pan full right or left (like when a single speaker plays the entire guitar solo).... the guitar on either the Sophia or WWP7 sound more dissociated than I'd like. I can distinctly hear when the tweeter is playing and when the midrange is taking over - or so I think. However, I felt that this was evident with the WWP7 - this dissociation phenomenon - as I felt that this is evident of the utter resolution of the WWP7. I talked to the owner of the store and he told me that it might be the supremely resolute design that completely dissects the guitar into its separate harmonic tones.... its a very subtle abberation that I noticed, though I probably wouldnt have noticed it if I didnt have the Summits playing on a daily basis. Yes, I'm being extremely critical as ALL conventional speakers display this property to an extent.

Wilson Maxx2:
Highs:

As resolute as the WWP7 while retaining the warmth that I loved on the Sophias (and Summits). It was completely UNREAL! The harmonic tones of the vocal reproduction was the best I heard.... better than I've ever heard, better than even on the Summits. It was truly unreal how the "twang" of the guitar or the transient "clang" of the cymbal was just a whole level better than even on the Summits, much less the Sophia or WWP7. Dynamics was truly awe-inspiring.

Midrange:
Ooooh... the meat of the vocal reproduction was just soooo real. Soooo superb. I truly truly enjoyed sitting in that chair while $150,000 worth of gear (from the $50,000 pair of Maxx2, $40,000 Halcro 68 monoblocks, a $25,000 CDP, a $15,000 preamp, and $10,000 worth of cables) slammed me to the back of the chair with utmost realism. There was just the right amount of VOCAL FOCUS - not overly beamy as was on the WWP7, yet as slightly more focused than I remember on the Summits or Sophias - while retaining that natural sonic characteristic of the human voice. The acoustic guitar sounded - well - like an acoustic guitar... and the trumpet sounded like a trumpet, with the horn blowing straight at me at times!

Lows:
No contest... the best I've ever heard on a full range speaker before.. dipped to 18hz with ease. Not even close. Fast, dynamic, and superbly transient in terms of bass decay and bass rise..... cant ask for more.

Soundstage:
I felt that the soundstage was real and lifelike - everything had the right size and were in the right spot. There was such good resolution - matching the WWP7 easily, without that abberrant overly synthesized consequence I mentioned earlier - that it was SO EASY to tell where the back up singers were (individually!) relative to the foreground, lead singer. It was truly an ear-opening experience about the reality of high-end and about how truly deep the rabbit hole goes. It was LIVE... it truely was. There was no doubt in my mind that I was listening to a recording because the band was right in the room. The MAXX were able to present everything aplomb - from the right height, size, and SHAPE! Dont know how they managed to do this, but it was plain nuts. The lead was right about 4 feet infront of the speaker plane, while the drums were about 8-10 feet back. The back up singers were about 2-3 feet behind the lead, while guitars were precisely localized on the stage. Amazing, indeed!

Revelations for my friends:
The two were glad they came as they experienced true high-end. One of them, Chris, was especially enthralled by the Wilsons that he is looking to purchase a pair asap. Looks like I'm going to have a Sophia system not too far from my place:). Danny still felt that the Martin Logan Summits are it... despite the super slick Maxx2 presentation. $150,000 is a Ferrari, afterall.

Leaving Glenn Poor:
We spent a long time in the store, about 2 1/2 hours by my count. Kirk (the owner) was especially nice to us. He knew that we were college students, yet he treated us like he does with all his high-profile customers (namely CEO and professional athletes). He mentioned to me that the store was in a bit of a disarray because they had a huge VIP gathering of past customers the other day that included a Master Cigar Maker rolling Cubans for the guests, the one and only Johnny Walker Taste Tester who shared wine and scotch with the guests, and hor deurves were served to the likes of Michael Jordan and company. Yes.... MJ himself in the same room that I was standing. Needless to say, I asked him to invite me the next time he had one of those events. He laughed. Apparently he thought I was joking.

Kirk is a truly nice man. He told us to come back anytime and we will. He was a stand up guy and he couldve kicked us out at any time, but he didnt. Superb host. We thanked him for his time and walked out with smiles plastered to our faces.

In closing:
I realized TWO things today.... First, I realized that high-end does exist and that there is still a bit of a ways to go. Though I'm never going to splurge $150,000 on a 2 channel system (contrary to what many of you might think of me... but I'm not THAT crazy), I realize that my Summits have the potential to truely hit that next level. Second, though the WWP7 had sheer resolution.... though the Sophias had that Summit-like sound.... though the MAXX2 blew me away.... I came upon my most pleasant epiphany of the day: the Summits are a VALUE!

I realized today just how good I had it. The Summits are truely a world-class high-end speaker! From the natural and palpable vocals - complemented with a right dose of resolution on the top-end - to the room-adjustable bass response and its sheer ability to give proper size, height, and shape to most, if not all, reproduced instruments... the Summits are true high-end. No doubt about it, the Summits are everybit as good as the WWP7 and Sophia - and are enough of a speaker that I was able to come home from the MAXX2 insane audition, and sit down in my little plastic white Ikea chair.... and enjoy the sound coming from my Summits even moreso than I did before.

I will add that I asked the owner what would he have done if in my shoes... would he build around the speaker or build a balanced system the first time around? He told me that I was doing the right thing, building around a solid speaker and catching up with the electronics as time permitted.

I will write a full review of the Summits soon (and why I think they are far better than the Vantage).... but for now, I'd like to leave you guys with a quote my friend told me (there were 3 of us auditioning at Glenn Poor today) when we took the subway back to the apartments....

"Joey, your Summits are money."

I think he meant that the Summits are solid.

;)
 
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Audiophiliac

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Excellent review!!! I think you are spot on in your comments. You would be surprised at how an inch here or there can effect the Wilsons. When John Giolas came and showed us how to do the amazingly simple, yet extremely scientific W.A.S.P. (Wilson Audio Setup Procedure), I got to hear first hand why they have different height spikes to couple the WATT to the Puppy. I got to hear what happens when you move them forward a few inches. I got to hear firsthand what happens when you toe them in or out too far. It may seem that they are easier to get placed right because they sound so good just plopping them down and playing them, but when you follow the W.A.S.P., you can squeeze so much more out of them.

I agree that the Logan signature has been that supreme imaging you described as well as I could have. I think it is mostly due to the sheer amount of air being moved by the panel, as opposed to a 6" or 2 and a 1" tweeter. The vertical imaging especially is hard to match with a non-ESL speaker. And the curved panels have made horizontal imaging just as great! They definitely have a sweet spot though. Which I dont factor in, because this is the case with any speaker. There really is only one good seat in the house when it comes to a high end 2 channel rig.

I am not implying that they had the W/P setup improperly at all. But when you are speaking of Wilsons, especially the W/P on up (the multi-piece designs), an inch or 2 difference in your ear height when sitting is enough to cause some of what you may have heard that wasnt quite right with the vocals or highs. Just a thought. There is a chart that cross references ear height, and distance to speakers. This tells you which length of rear spike to use on the WATT. It is critical for the time/phase alignment. Just an idea again.

But you are correct. Those MAXX II are UNREAL! I couldnt believe how much better they were than the W/P. I mean...WOW. I am planning a trip to the Wilson factory soon and will definitely take some time to listen to Alexandria. I can only imagine! And yes....I would much rather have a Ferrari, but if I could afford one, I am sure I could afford both. :) Dave Wilson is also a Ferrari enthusiast, and last I heard, he drives a 550 Maranello around in the Utah mountains.

For all intensive purposes, I would agree that the Martin Logan Summit is in at least the top 3 $10k speakers. I havent heard any that can beat it at that price. A bargain indeed. So maybe instead of the MAXX system and a Ferrari, you can be happy with the Summits and a M3 or a Z06 or so.

Great review again!
 

kwr

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Interesting comments about how fussy the Wilsons are on setup. We heard the Watt/Puppy 5 and were distinctly unimpressed while the audiophile press raved about them. They have subsequently become the coloured Watt/Puppy 5 in the same audio magazines.

I have heard the Maxx II with Meridian G08 feeding Krell preamp into very expensive Transparent cabling with Krell 350c monoblocs and it sounded like a hifi system - ticked the boxes, impressive, but didn't play music.

There may well have been setup issues but this was at the local highend Wilson dealer. I have heard other Wilson setups and have been predisposed to like them but would not be tempted even if I had the money.

Our non Martin Logan setup uses similar Focal drivers to previous Wilson iterations but produces music rather than treble, midrange, bass, slam, focus etc. One day, one day I might hear a Wilson setup that I like.

Kevin
 

twich54

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First off Joey, hope your exams went well. Secondly, thanks for the accurate review. As I've stated before I'm lucky to be near Overture Audio in Wilmington which according to Mr Wilson himself has the best "rooms" of any audio salon in the country and after listening to everything they offer over the years, the thought of having R2D2 or CP30 clones standing in my listening room dosen't excite me, I admit when the eyes are closed they produce some beautifull music.

Your assesment of the Summitt's value vs. the Wilson's was spot on Joey, now if we can get you to order the correct steak next time you go for USDA Prime........make it a Strip or a Porterhouse, of course to be preceeded by a Bombay Saphire or two !! Bon Appetit !!
 

Joey_V

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twich54 said:
First off Joey, hope your exams went well. Secondly, thanks for the accurate review. As I've stated before I'm lucky to be near Overture Audio in Wilmington which according to Mr Wilson himself has the best "rooms" of any audio salon in the country and after listening to everything they offer over the years, the thought of having R2D2 or CP30 clones standing in my listening room dosen't excite me, I admit when the eyes are closed they produce some beautifull music.

Your assesment of the Summitt's value vs. the Wilson's was spot on Joey, now if we can get you to order the correct steak next time you go for USDA Prime........make it a Strip or a Porterhouse, of course to be preceeded by a Bombay Saphire or two !! Bon Appetit !!
Exams went well, Dave... thanks for the well wishes!

Regarding the Wilsons.... I really liked the way they looked! Though I thought the MAXX2 were very imposing, the WWP7 a little edgier, and the Sophias a bit rounded relative to its brothers. I will say that the WWP7 displayed some of the best layering I've heard to date.... very good resolution across a large frequency range. Also, I will say that I found the Sophia's strongest asset to be its warmth which equaled, to my ears, a sense of natural-ness.... much like I'm used to on the Summits.

As I said before, if I were to choose a Wilson speaker, I would definitely go for the Sophias. ;)

Oh... and I prefer the Ribeye over the strip.... thought the porterhouse presents with the combination of the strip on one side and the filet on the other, a truly stellar combination.

Great, now I'm sounding like I'm a steak reviewer. :D

Edit:
BTW, I just read my entire review.... and I'm surprised I was that coherent at 3 in the morning. :eek:
 
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Joey-

The Wilson sound is definately an amazing one...

but I'm shocked Kirk didn't hit you with Avante Garde.

Personally among all the big boys of speakers... I like Avalon Acoustics.

Their new Isis is flat out amazing.
 

Craig

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It's a real priviledge to experience such a high-level audition of very fine audio gear. Lucky you.

One thing to consider when listening to speakers in an audio boutique (store, dealer, whatever) is that you are not just auditioning the speakers but you are also auditioning everything else being used in that room including the room itself; I.E. the amplifiers, preamp, source, speaker wires, interconnects and most importantly (but not always) an acoustically refined listening room.

It would be a perfect comparison if you could plug a pair of Summits into that system and room. We can only imagine how the Summits would sound with a setup like you described. It is quite a statement that you find the Summits in the same league even though they have to perform in a slightly more challenging environment.

It's been a while since I've been to my local ultra high-end audio dealer for an audition of the latest in ultra high-fi gear. I'll have to find some time next week to check out some Wilson and other exotic stuff way beyond my budget. Wanna to make a trip to "AVS" and "St Celia Sound" Sleepysurf?
 
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Audiophiliac

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twich54 said:
the thought of having R2D2 or CP30 clones standing in my listening room dosen't excite me, I admit when the eyes are closed they produce some beautifull music.

R2D2....those are the B&W 800 series right? lol....just kidding. Some people dont particularly like the looks of the Wilsons. It can seem a bit industrial and imposing. But it is a product of their function mostly. And when you can get them in any finish you want, it makes it easier to like them. Ferrari red is my favorite. :)


 

Jeff Zaret

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I would have to agree with Craig here. What would be really revealing is to have your Summits in the same room and then compare. I think you will be amazed at how well both sound with great fornt ends.

Jeff
 

aliveatfive

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Joey -

Good job of comparisons. First, one small caveat. A two-and-a-half hour listening session may seem like a lot, but in the privacy of your own dorm room, with loads of undisturbed time, things might sound somewhat different. That was my experience when I heard stuff in my own home vs. what I heard at a high-end dealership.

Second, I believe you have experienced the fact that Logans are highly revealing of everything in the chain that is before them. Again, from my experience, they love tubes. I wopuld not be too surprised if you also make that discovery some day. Although I have no idea where I would get the money to buy them, I would love to hear my Summits driven by a pair of ARC REF 210 monoblocs.

Third, think back to where you were a year ago (audio wise) and make the necessary comparison. Where will you be a year from now? Good luck with the quest (not Quest.)
 

Joey_V

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I agree.... the best way to do a comparo is to bring all the speakers and have them congregate in the same room running the same equipment and individually tweaked to their max potential.... then having a good speaker switcher to switch instantaneously between speakers mid-song.

However, if you read my review, it gives you the jist of it - mostly a generalization of what I thought about each speaker. I tried to leave out too much of the specifics aka ambiguity that may be answered only by a true A/B comparo, but the general tone and presentation can be assessed if the system is done right in the first place.

What really impressed me is that my audition of the Wilsons have given me a greater appreciation of the Summits - no lie.

It's great to be a Summit owner. :)
 

twich54

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Joey_V said:
I agree.... the best way to do a comparo is to bring all the speakers and have them congregate in the same room running the same equipment and individually tweaked to their max potential.... then having a good speaker switcher to switch instantaneously between speakers mid-song.

Actually Joey that is the worst thing to do, since the spekers will interact with each other and give you an inacurate comparison. Any "high end" store worth it's salt would never have more than the pair of speakers you're auditioning in the room at one time (multi-channel set-ups aside).
 

socialxray

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OK come on guys! The listening session was just for kicks and grins. How could he impose on the dealer to ship speakers to his dorm or rearrange the listening room with no intention of buying?

Anyways, Joey I appreciate the review and if you ever get a chance let us know how Revel Studio/Salons compare.
 

C.A.P

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I to have heard the Revel Studio Salons and can tell you this , the Wilson's are far more entertaining to listen to IMHO , the Revels are very sterile and thin in my book. They were hooked up to Classe mono blocks and a Meridian 508 cd player, with a meridian preamp. It might not have been the perfect environment for them but I did listen to them with the Krell fpb300c I own and was still a little unimpressed. If I was buying a cone driven speaker the Wilson's would be the choice for me!! With the 800 series B&W next . They did sond good in the Sacaremento CA shop I heard them in .
 

Joey_V

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twich54 said:
Joey_V said:
I agree.... the best way to do a comparo is to bring all the speakers and have them congregate in the same room running the same equipment and individually tweaked to their max potential.... then having a good speaker switcher to switch instantaneously between speakers mid-song.

Actually Joey that is the worst thing to do, since the spekers will interact with each other and give you an inacurate comparison. Any "high end" store worth it's salt would never have more than the pair of speakers you're auditioning in the room at one time (multi-channel set-ups aside).
Dave,

That may be true... speakers interacting with one another. But I think that would be the lesser of two evils. It is very difficult to truly compare another speaker in separate rooms. First, it is very difficult to match the seat in the same spot, the rooms would be different, and the time it takes to get to another room and listen to the same song clip would be a detriment to audio memory. I think if properly setup, one can have up to 3 pairs of speakers up front all with the same distance, if they were staggered one after another. There will be interactions no doubt, but I feel that it would be the lesser of two evils.

Nonetheless.... this was not the case here. The WWP7 were on the front side of the room while the Sophia were in the rear of the room. I had to turn the chair around to listen to the other speaker. The Maxx2 were in a completely super-elite room of its own.

Besides, it was all for kicks... which is why I didnt go into agonizing detail as to the differences I heard in the several speakers I auditioned.
 

twich54

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Understand completly Joey, but when you stated the "best" way, which is what one would do when seriously contemplating the purchase of a five figure pair speakers prior to auditioning in your own home is to listen seperately . if not and you fall in love than you might as well buy the others and use them as room treatments because that is what they were doing when not producing music !!!
 

Joey_V

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twich54 said:
Understand completly Joey, but when you stated the "best" way, which is what one would do when seriously contemplating the purchase of a five figure pair speakers prior to auditioning in your own home is to listen seperately . if not and you fall in love than you might as well buy the others and use them as room treatments because that is what they were doing when not producing music !!!
Understood also Dave.... it is a complicated subject this auditioning business is.
 
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