Wilson Audio WATT Puppy v6.0 Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Friday, 01 December 2000

Introduction
The Wilson WATT Puppy has been the reference standard loudspeaker for high-end consumer use for more than 10 years. David Wilson and his design team have taken a fresh look at their most popular loudspeaker with the version 6.0 release. Priced at $20,000 per pair, the new WATT Puppies are greatly improved over the former version, the 5.1s, in that they utilize new cabinet material and have better cabinet construction and design, as well as improved drivers.

Version 6.0 WATT Puppies share a similar look with the previous versions, although the way the WATT now sits inside of the Puppy is different. Originally, the WATT was designed to be a portable monitor for location recording. It had no real bass, so Wilson ultimately developed the Puppy to extend the WATT’s low frequency performance to nearly full-range status. Version 6.0 finally fully physically integrates the WATT and the Puppy. Another difference between versions 5.1 and 6.0 is that the Puppy is now made of the Phenolic resin used to form the MAXX and Grand SLAMM loudspeakers. This material is far denser than traditional MDF plywood, thus reducing the cabinet’s aural signature on the loudspeaker. The WATT in version 6.0 is pretty much the same as in version 5.1, except for an upgraded one-inch Focal tweeter and a bottom base made of the Phenolic resin. The majority of the changes can be seen in the Puppy. While the Puppy of version 6.0 is only slightly larger than version 5.1, the cabinet space is nearly double and the cabinet itself is far more rigid than the older model. The bracing is completely redesigned, which also factors into the WATT Puppy’s improved low-end performance.

Wilson Gloss paint finishes are nothing short of incredible. My pair are custom-finished in Audi Pearle Scent White (a $2,500 extra) paint, with polished aluminum hardware. They are gorgeous. WATT Puppies are easily integrated into a listening room that is professionally decorated. They can be painted to match nearly any shade of any color. If you want a pair of WATT Puppy v6.0s painted to match your 1952 Ferrari Testarosa in Rosa Forte, no problem. With version 6.0, wood panels for the WATT have been tastefully discontinued.

The WATT Puppy must be properly set up in a room. Both the WATT and the Puppy are rear-ported and therefore tend to work better far out in a room – at least three feet from the back and/or side walls. I do not recommend trying to set up WATT Puppies by yourself. I have set up many pairs on my own and I have realized that it is an art better left for professionals. For $20,000, have your dealer come to your listening room and set up the speakers close to an optimal position for your tastes. The Wilson-trained installation technician can incrementally move your speakers as you critically listen. The fine-tuning process works much faster that way. If it seems like I am nitpicking with these fine adjustments, I am not. Moving a Watt Puppy a quarter of an inch can make a very audible difference and help you get the performance you want from your investment. I went deep when setting up my WATT Puppies, as I hired Bob Hodas, a well-known professional acoustician, to tune my room and set up my speakers. He used the Checkpoint SAS laser device to achieve accurate imaging. He also employed Wilson’s voicing techniques and a z-systems digital EQ and Myers SIMM computer system to attain the best possible performance from my system, based on my rock ‘n’ roll tastes, along with the physical limits of my less than perfect room.

I have long maintained that WATT Puppies are very ownable for a host of reasons, including their diminutive footprint, gorgeous finishes, incredible sound and extremely high-power sensitivity. I designed systems, way back in my days of retail at Christopher Hansen Ltd. in Beverly Hills, around WATT Puppy v3.2s with a $1,000 Acrus integrated amp and a $500 Rotel CD player. WATT Puppies are still capable of being driven by lower-power amps, but considering their now sizable price tags and even more resolute sound, I recommend much better gear upstream when building a system around Wilson WATT Puppy version 6.0s. In my system I used both Jeff Rowland Model 112 ($5,000) and Mark Levinson No. 336 ($9,500) power amps, with Proceed electronics and Transparent Reference cables, with excellent results.

The driver arrangement is the same as on the WATT Puppies of the past, but some of the drivers have changed. The new WATT Puppy v6.0 uses a one-inch Focal inverted dome tweeter, which is an improvement over the one used in the WATT Version 5.1. The midrange drivers are seven-inch Scan Speak drivers and the Puppies are now loaded with two eight-inch Dyn woofers. The result is an even faster-sounding speaker with significantly better bass (bass quality has historically been a source of criticism for many listeners of the WATT Puppy). The WATT Puppy V6.0 also comes complete with a full set of adjustable feet known as "Puppy Paws," as well as with Klein Tools, a guitar cloth for polishing and a leather-bound manual.

The Music
WATT Puppies are very neutral speakers that are known for their speed and resolution. They have always been able to rock on the most dynamic and challenging of music. Some critics find WATT Puppies to be too revealing, but I have found them to be simply demanding in regard to the equipment you have upstream.

Once I broke my WATT Puppies in for about a week, I started hitting some of my reference CDs to get an angle on how good my new babies were. It was Rickie Lee Jones’ cover of the Jimi Hendrix tune "Up From The Skies" from the Pop Pop record (Geffen) that really highlighted what the new v6.0 WATT Puppies were all about. Rickie’s voice was warm, sweet and way in front of the speakers, especially when I added the Apogee Digital Pro DAC and the Mark Levinson No. 336 to my reference system. But what really shocked me was the incredible presence of the acoustic standup bass. I couldn’t believe how much the new Puppies improved the low end. The attack was faster and the notes were more resonant. I have heard this cut on many of the best cost-no-object systems in the world, and the WATT Puppies freaked me out even without my subwoofers.

Stevie Ray Vaughn’s "Pride and Joy" shows a similar effect without such amazing bass performance. On "Pride and Joy," you can hear not just the very present vocals but also every subtlety of SRV’s Signature Strat though his Fender Twin Reverb amp. Each strum was loaded with echoey goodness, midrange bite and bluesy soul.

I have been listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Epic) a lot lately. In its day, I didn’t really appreciate the insanely good production values on this album. Of specific note is "PYT." Beyond Michael’s vocals and the very danceable bassline, "PYT" is filled with sexy sonic accoutrements. Most notably are Steve Lukather’s crazy rhythm chops. From back in the mix come R&B slides, clean chords and burning rhythm segments that I really never paid much attention to before – even with my last Wilson system. The resolution of detail is one element of the WATT Puppy’s value, but the real idea here is that you get closer to the emotion of the music. The Puppy enables you to hear more and more of the music in ways not possible on lesser loudspeakers.

I got a little carried away with the whole guitar icon thing and plunked in Van Halen’s 1984, my favorite record of all time, thus pegging the volume at 72 (way beyond reference) and punched up "Panama." Eddie’s legendary "Brown Sound" was present, much like Michael Jackson and Rickie Lee Jones’ vocals on the other cuts, with a characteristically accurate dip in the midrange. What I did hear was a bit too much of the higher frequencies. I tried to address this issue with more than my standard 1 dB low-pass filter. I dipped it to as much as 2.5 dB, but all this seemed to do was suck the life out of the recording. The WATT Puppies kept up with the volume, but couldn’t smooth out the digitally bright problems I heard on this beloved album.

The real potential of the WATT Puppies is highlighted on DTS CDs and DVD discs. With 20- to 24-bit resolution, you immediately hear the most silky smooth highs and even tighter, deeper bass. At the risk of sounding like an audio geek, I must admit I dropped in Boyz II Men’s Beatles cover "Yesterday" (DTS Entertainment) on a recent first date. We had gotten on to the topic of "what all of this gear is for" and I wanted to give her a brief sample. I dramatically dimmed the lights, special thanks to Lutron, and automatically closed my shades via remote. When the tune came on, the four-part vocal harmonies were just dancing in the air. The presence was beyond anything a non-enthusiast could imagine. When I brought lights up, she simply said, "Wow, that was just amazing."

As I mentioned in my review of the Wilson WATCH center loudspeaker, the WATT Puppies are more ready to handle feature film soundtracks than ever before. WATT Puppies have always been good for movie soundtracks because of their ability to resolve fine details, such as vocals and effects. Now, with a matching center, rear speaker system and modifications made to make the WATT Puppy v6.0 still more dynamic, WATT Puppies are even more valuable for a real home theater system. Wilson WATT Puppies were used to master a number of top-grossing feature films including, but not limited to, 1993’s Academy Award-winning ‘Jurassic Park.’ I found the WATT Puppy v6.0s coupled with the WATCH center to be able to resolve obscure details amidst motion picture soundtrack chaos. A great example of this is found in Chapter 5 of the newly- re-released ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ (Artisan Entertainment). In this sequence, there are two audio tests that are very hard for an AV system to accurately reproduce. The first is when the gang members attack the Terminator when he asked for their "clothes, boots and motorcycle." At that point one of the gang members breaks a pool cue over the Terminator’s shoulder. Between the WATCH and the WATT Puppies, you can clearly hear exactly where the parts of the broken pieces land on the ground.

Later in the scene, the WATT Puppies are tested again when the bar owner comes out with his double-barreled shotgun and lets off a warning shot. The blast is difficult enough for a loudspeaker to keep pace with, but the shotgun shell hitting the ground is a rapid-fire test of extreme dynamics and subtle sonic detail. I have never heard the scene sound better than with the WATT Puppy v6.0. That includes hundreds of demos on the Cello Reference Music and Film System, complete with $70,000 Stradivari Grand Master loudspeakers (97 dB efficient and 18 Dyn drivers in each speaker), along with 400 watts Class A power from bridged Cello Performance II amplifiers. The WATT Puppy v6.0 paired with the WATCH center speaker was more resolute, more dynamic and more believable.

The Downside
The WATT Puppy is a stunning loudspeaker that is greatly improved over past versions. However, in the past few years, Wilson’s competitors have built speakers that are also incredible that sell for half the price or less than the WATT Puppy v6.0. Martin-Logan’s Prodigy, priced at $10,000, is a great speaker and Revel’s Studio, which sells for $10,000, also demands consideration when shopping for an all-out audio/video system. Neither of the competitors are built or finished to the out-of-this-world specifications of the WATT Puppy, but they both sound very good and are up to a full $10,000 less expensive. Wilson has recently added to the value of the WATT Puppy v6.0 by launching the WATCH Series of loudspeakers which include a $5,200 center and $6,300 rear speakers that are tonally and physically matched to WATT Puppy v6.0s.

The WATT v6.0’s tweeter is still just a little hot for my tastes and my very live-sounding listening room. I mention this for those who don’t have EQ in their system, since that I very easily overcame this problem by adding a very slight, 1 dB low pass filter on my z-systems RDQ-6, which took just a little zip off the top end. You can also try to accomplish this feat with a choice of different electronics, such as tube amps, and/or you can try room treatments, mostly absorption. I recommend RPG, which I have on order but have yet to receive and test.

Conclusion
The new Version 6.0 WATT Puppy is not a subtle modification on an old design. It is huge improvement. WATT Puppies are highly designed loudspeakers that can pull emotional content from music and film in ways that most other loudspeakers cannot. A friend of mine who owns and designs very high-end loudspeakers (he asked to remain anonymous) said that the WATT Puppy v6.0 – not the 5.1s – simply blew his mind. If you think you know how v6.0s sound because you have already heard 5.1s at a dealer, schedule another audition.

With HDTV coming into its own and DVD-Audio promising a commercially viable 24/96 stereo and/or 5.1 playback format, the Wilson WATT Puppy v6.0 is the right speaker at the right time. With the WATCH center, rear speakers and smaller sub rumored, using WATT Puppies in a home theater is no longer an awkward retrofit. WATT Puppies can be integrated cleanly into a professionally designed room without making it look like a mastering studio.

The Wilson WATT Puppy v6.0 is beautiful, ownable for those with the bankroll, and most of all, it is sonically second to none. If you want to hear the music as it is in the studio with lightning-fast response and beyond belief presence, the WATT Puppy v6.0 system is a must-hear. You can spend less money on other excellent loudspeakers because, let’s face it, WATT Puppies are very pricey, but you can’t get the same sound that you will if you dig deep for the $20,000 for the WATT Puppies. I have said it before and I’ll say it again with all-new evidence: in a subjective category like loudspeakers, the Wilson WATT Puppy v6.0 is the best loudspeaker on the planet. Period.
Manufacturer Wilson Audio
Model WATT Puppy v6.0 Loudspeakers
Reviewer





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