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Wilson Audio WATT Puppy 5.1 Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 February 1997
ImageThe Wilson WATT Puppy is a truly classic loudspeaker design. Developed in the mid 1980s by David Wilson as professional location monitors, Wilson WATT Puppies have become the high end industry’s standard for music, theater and 35 millimeter film playback.

The elements that make the WATT Puppy so special are complicated. First off, the sound is phenomenal. "Punchy," "crisp" and "extremely dynamic" just start to describe the event of listening to music or film soundtracks through WATT Puppies. The size, with its slender footprint, makes the speaker welcome in living rooms as well as mastering labs. Exotic paint and wood finishes give you the opportunity to either have your WATT Puppies blend into your décor, as they do in my room with my Asian Pearl paint job, or you can choose to have them be the focal point of your room with, say, a Lamborghini Fly Yellow finish.

The WATT Puppy System is a two-piece combination. The WATT is a midrange and high frequency loudspeaker featuring a 7-inch mid-range driver and a 1-inch modified Focal tweeter in a super-dense cabinet made of a mineral and ceramic-filled methacrylate polymer. The Puppy is a rear-ported woofer unit featuring two 8-inch drivers to take your low frequency performance deep in to the 30 Hz range. The WATT and Puppy are connected by a Puppy Tail speaker cable.

Efficiency and Value
One of the factors that makes the WATT Puppy System so great is the fact they are extremely efficient. By efficient, I mean the WATT Puppy loudspeaker system is capable of making wonderful music on very little amplification power. WATT Puppies are by no means inexpensive at $18,300 per pair USD, but when you consider that you don’t absolutely need to use a super powerhouse, $10,000+ amplifier to get the performance you’d expect, one must concede that these speakers have a somewhat high end value.

I recently set up a system for my father’s vacation home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he wanted a music system that would provide stunning playback with the convenience of a 100 CD Player but didn’t completely break the bank. I assembled a Krell integrated amp, Pioneer Elite 100 CD player, a Camelot Technology-20 bit DAC and Transparent Audio Cables along with a pair of WATT Puppies. My father and his wife can't stop raving about the system, even though they have an excellent Cello music system back home in New Jersey.
Getting the Most Out of Your Watt Puppies
The two criticisms most frequently voiced about the WATT Puppy loudspeakers are that they are too bright in the high frequencies and that they have very little deep bass. I agree with these digs. However, I was able to address them both in my system to the point where they were non-issues. My reference music system includes a Theta Data CD Transport, a z-system rdq-6 digital EQ, a Mark Levinson No. 36s DAC, a Mark Levinson No. 380s preamp and a Mark Levinson No. 333 power amp, with Transparent Audio Reference cables and two Sunfire Signature Subwoofers. When I had my room EQed by Bob Hodas using his SIMs System II software and computer system, I found the high frequencies still to be too bright for my tastes. I simply dialed in a low pass filter that very simply and ever so slightly rolled off the very top end of the high frequency performance. It immediately took just a bit of the bite out of the high frequencies, which made all of the difference for me. The speakers sounded smoother and not at all fatiguing.

To address the bass issue, I added two Sunfire Signature Subwoofers and had them professionally placed and tuned for phase, then had Bob Hodas again set up to find the optimal crossover point. WATT Puppies have very fast bass, but they don’t go tremendously deep. If you want the subsonics associated with a lot of today’s music, I recommend that you get some small, powerful woofers to go with your WATT Puppies.

The Music
First off, feel free to trade in all of those "the recording is the only thing that matters" audiophile records you may have. WATT Puppies playback real music to the high level you should expect from a $18,300 loudspeaker.

On "A Day In The Life" from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Apple-EMI 1967) my music system was able to send me on a musical journey to audio nirvana. The harmonics of George’s guitar were forward and resolute, not lost in a world of audio muck that you’ll find with this record on many systems. John’s voice never sounded better in my room, panned hard right. The panning effects pinpointed images all over the soundstage, including way outside of the loudspeakers. This much resolution from a classic record allowed me to suspend disbelief, thus transcending the experience of listing to a mere stereo to emotionally diving into one of the best records ever made.

Never before have I heard the decay time on the cymbals on "Blue Rondo Ala Turk" from Dave Brubeck’s groundbreaking Take Five record (Columbia-SBM) sound more crisp and resolute. Instead of being shrill, they rang with striking clarity, just as real cymbals do when you strike them. The layering of the piano, woodwinds, drums and bass were extremely deep and, once again, the best I have ever heard in my system.

If you want to really impress your friends, break out Michael Jackson’s Dangerous record (1991 Epic) and cue up the first track "Jam" with the volume juiced. Be sure, before you hit the play button, to point out that you are not using any rear speakers for this track. When this Q-Sound powered track kicks in, it has an effect of breaking glass that sounds genuinely three-dimensional. Depth of imagery doesn’t get any better than this.

To truly test my WATT Puppies, I popped in The Brian Setzer Orchestra’s "This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof" from The Dirty Boogie (Interscope 1998). This cut features a smokin’ big band sound that is highly complex and is the foundation for Brian Setzer’s (former front man of 1980’s rock-a-billy icons The Stray Cats) tangy guitar sound and raspy voice. From the first sweeping guitar runs, you get all of the energy and swinging goodness you’d expect to hear at a club like LA’s The Derby with out the risk of getting kicked in the head by some trendy swing dancers trying their aerial kicks.

The Downside.
The tweeters are a bit hot for some listeners and there isn’t a lot of very deep bass. With a sub or two and a slight EQ setting, you can easily get past these problems. While it isn’t essential to have your WATT Puppies professionally set up, I highly recommend it. If you’re investing $18,300 on loudspeakers, what is another ten percent for setup? The WATT Puppies do need minute attention to detail during setup to elicit the best performance.

The Wilson WATT Puppy Loudspeakers are the finest loudspeakers in the world. Okay, I said it. You can spend more to get larger loudspeakers, but when considering all of the attributes of the WATT Puppy System in light of the needs of almost every music and film lover out there, I can’t imagine you finding a better loudspeaker. Its weaknesses are not impossible to overcome and its performance is so powerful that you’ll find yourself listening to and enjoying music you never thought would sound great on your high performance music or AV system.

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