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    The Computer Audiophile

    Review - The WATT/Puppy from Wilson Audio

     

     

        

        Audio: Listen to this article.

     

     

     

    I’ve been an audiophile for as long as I can remember. I’ve had audio systems ranging from a Toshiba boombox that was sent in for repair twice, to my first real stereo consisting of a Technics receiver and Kenwood speakers (mom and dad, I still owe you $64 for those speakers, I know), to my current state of the art twelve channel immersive system. The journey from boombox to immersive has been incredibly enjoyable, and if all goes well, this journey will continue for decades to come.

     

    Along this journey, one item stands out as the single most memorable product, producing the single most memorable experience, and a comment I will never forget. I graduated from college in 1998, and started saving money to upgrade the Klipsch KG5.5 speakers I had in my college apartment. Over a year later, I visited a local HiFi shop, just to hear what it had on display, and to hopefully set an obtainable goal by finding good sounding components I could afford at the time.

     

    That afternoon I listened to a couple systems that I can’t remember. I then walked into the main room and saw what was described to me as the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 6 in a beautiful blue color, connected to Audio Research amplifiers. I sat in a black listening chair, was handed the remote control, then left alone for twenty minutes. I was wholly unprepared for what I heard out of this system. In fact, when the owner of the store came back into the room I asked him why I wasn’t hearing certain aspects of the music. He honestly replied that those artifacts were probably not part of the recording and I was just used to hearing a little embellishment or editorializing from my current system.

     

    I spent another forty minutes in this room, wondering if there was a time limit, or if I would eventually get kicked out. I didn’t want to leave. A new world had opened for me. I had now heard what was possible from a HiFi system. The WATT/Puppy 6 was so astonishing to me that I told the dealer on my way out, “One day I will own a pair of WATT/Puppys.” I entered the store to set an obtainable goal, but what I experienced was much more profound and enabled me to reach for an aspirational goal.

     

    Over a decade later, when I was finally in a position to purchase the WATT/Puppy, the speaker had been discontinued. However, I was fortunate enough to purchase a pair of Alexia 2s, as my first Wilson Audio loudspeakers. If only my twenty-five year old self could’ve seen me when those speakers arrived. It was a special moment, and made possible by the WATT/Puppy 6.

     

     

    The WATT/Puppy 2024

     

    When I was offered a chance to review The WATT/Puppy, a flood of memories came back to me. I also had one slight hesitation, what if meeting my “hero” didn’t turn out the way it did in my audiophile dreams? I didn’t want to tarnish my ethereal memories of the WATT/Puppy 6, but there was no way I could pass up this chance.

     

    0001.jpgI asked if I could review the speakers at one of the best audio dealers in the world, The Audio Salon in Santa Monica, CA. I was scheduled to fly out there for a Wilson Audio 50th anniversary event, and if The WATT/Puppy speakers were going to be there, it would be a win-win. I also asked if I could listen to The WATT/Puppy serial numbers 0001 and 0002, and the speakers could be signed by Wilson Audio CEO Daryl Wilson. Only kidding, I didn’t ask for that, but The Audio Salon and Wilson Audio made it happen anyway.

     

    I arrived at The Audio Salon on Thursday, May 30th, knowing the Wilson 50th event was scheduled for Saturday June 1st. This enabled me to observe the entire process of selecting components and positioning the loudspeakers. I prefer to be a fly on the wall, staying out of everyone’s way, but the entire Audio Salon team took care of me like a five star staff and wanted me to be part of the setup process. Soon the speakers were roughed into place, I was in the listening chair, and measurements of my ear height and distance to the speakers were taken, to be entered into the WATT/Puppy nomograph. The speakers were setup for me, and we started listening.

     

    As soon as I pressed play I knew. I knew The WATT/Puppy loudspeakers were an instant classic. There was still fine tuning and slight positioning adjustments to be done, but it was easy to tell this is a special speaker. The CSC Tweeter, 7-inch AlNiCo QuadraMag midrange driver (also used in Chronosonic XVX, Alexx V, Alexia V, and the Sasha V), two 8-inch woofers (also used in Sasha V), and a combination of proprietary Wilson Audio X, S, and V Materials, were used masterfully in this speaker’s design, to out-kick its coverage by a mile. In other words, I couldn’t believe a speaker of this size was pressurizing the room, hitting me in the chest with kick drums, and placing butterflies on the head of a pin with delicacy.

     

    We spent Thursday evening, and all day Friday trying different components with The WATT/Puppys, listening with the doors open and closed, with and without chairs in the room, and really enjoying the process of extracting as much as possible from the system. I still hadn’t had time to myself with The WATT/Puppys, but I’d already scheduled that for Sunday, when I had The Audio Salon to myself, literally, but more on that later.

     

     

    The Event

     

    I was at The Audio Salon for the entire Wilson Audio 50th event. It was really nice to hear from Daryl Wilson about the company’s history and to get a feel for the company ethos. I also spent a lot of time talking to other audiophiles about Wilson Audio and The WATT/Puppy. They had no idea I was working on a review of the speaker when I asked for their opinions. Heck, most of them probably had no idea who I was, and I liked it that way.

     

    Daryl 02.jpgEveryone I talked to loved the speakers. There wasn’t a single under the breath comment about something missing or the sound being off. That in itself is a miracle because pleasing a group of audiophiles is a fool’s errand.

     

    During the event, Daryl Wilson said something about Wilson products and the craftspeople who build them, that really hit home. Growing up in Minnesota with a large population of humble Scandinavians and playing hockey for coaches who understood the power and necessity of teamwork, I really connected with Daryl’s comment about the name on the speakers. Daryl expressed that while his family name is on the back of loudspeakers, there are four or five other names of craftspeople on the inside of each loudspeaker. Those craftspeople, along with a team of roughly 60 others, come together to design and manufacture Wilson Audio loudspeakers in Utah.

     

    Connecting Wilson Audio’s ethos to hockey in Minnesota, there’s a saying that all hockey players, from the age of 5 to the professional ranks, have ingrained in their minds. It came from legendary coach Herb Brooks, who brought a team of college kids to the 1980 Winter Olympics and won the gold medal against all odds. Herb used to say, “When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.”

     

    Given the aesthetic concerns with placing several craftspeople’s names on the front of the loudspeakers, it’s understandable why the prideful signatures of the team are on the inside. But, the fact remains, there are many parallels between the name on the back and the name(s) on the front or inside. It takes a team of skilled and dedicated people to produce something great, and nobody is larger than the team as a whole.

     

     

    The Serious Listening Session

     

    Sunday June 2nd, I had The Audio Salon to myself. Literally, Maier Shadi opened the doors for me, made sure all my questions were answered, then left. It was just what I needed, after listening with a large group of people the previous afternoon, and exactly what I would do if the speakers were in my own listening room.

     

    Daryl and Chris 01.jpgIn addition to The WATT/Puppy serial numbers 0001 and 0002, the system consisted of a Halcro stereo amplifier, Ypsilon Phaethon SE integrated (using the preamp output), dCS Bartok, XACT S1 Evo server and N1 switch, and Transparent cabling. The library and music selection were all within the JPLAY iOS app for my own listening, and everyone at the previous day’s event passing the iPad around. To say the app worked well is an understatement. Any time a group of people, un/familiar with all kinds of audio apps, start tapping around and pressing buttons, things can and will go awry. As The Computer Audiophile, I expected to be summoned to the listening room a few times to get someone out of a jam, but it never happened.

     

    Sitting down in the black listening chair, with the place to myself, I played Irishman Dave McKendry’s album HumanBeingKind. Track three, Islander, was ear/eye opening. It was as if he was singing directly in front of me. The sound was electrostatic-like in its liquidity, but impeccably robust in the reproduction of foundational bass notes. Above all, the emotion of McKendry singing, and the emotion pulled out of me listening, was equivalent. The WATT/Puppy delivered McKendry’s message, without editorializing, just as the WATT/Puppy 6 had in my aspirational audition over twenty years ago.

     

    Feeling the Irish vibe, I tapped on fellow Irishman Glen Hansard’s 2012 album Rhythm and Repose from within JPLAY for iOS. I’ve been a fan since the movie Once in 2007, staring Hansard and musician Markéta Irglová. HIs songwriting, phrasing, and sound are right up my alley.

     

    While listening to track two, Maybe Not Tonight, I got goosebumps all over. Hansard pours his heart out when singing verses such as

     

    Though what you say is true

    This might be it for me and you

    Maybe we can draw that line

    Maybe another time

    Well I wanna do what's right

    But maybe not tonight

     

     

    The beauty in his lyrics, music, and emotional performance, are all on display through The WATT/Puppy. It’s as if the tagline for this loudspeaker is, “You Want It, You Got It.” The WATT/Puppy is everything one could ask for and delivers the music how it’s meant to be delivered. That is, however it’s put down on the album.

     

    Switching gears to one of my “I Bet You’ve Never Heard This” albums, I put on Them Crooked Vultures self-titled release. I was a bit scared to head down this road. I knew the music demanded that I crank it, because it’s hard rock n’ roll and should be played loud. But, I thought, what if I blow The Audio Salon’s new WATT/Puppys, serial numbers 0001 and 0002 nonetheless! With great risk, comes great reward, so I had no choice. I had to crank it.

     

    Watch dB 2.jpgI put on track 1, No One Loves Me & Neither Do I, set the volume to “I think this is still OK” levels and let it rip. Within an instant, there was a chest thumping kick drum and heavy guitar and bass my whole body could feel. I tapped the volume up another notch, just because I could, and it’s as if The WATT/Puppy looked me in the eye and said, “Is that all you got?”

     

    This is a hard hitting track that sounded crazy good and immensely powerful through The WATT/Puppys. I could picture Dave Grohl bouncing on his drum stool as he “kicked” the bass drum and choked the cymbals throughout this track. The sound quality of The WATT/Puppys and the entire system enabled me to visualize this better than any 4K UHD screen could ever dream of reproducing.

     

    Note: It turns out that the risk of turning the volume up louder than I thought was sane, wasn’t that great and the reward was huge. The WATT/Puppy handled everything I threw at it. Not even skipping a beat playing Them Crooked Vultures at 93 dB (as indicated by my Apple Watch face).

     

    After giving my ears more of a workout than the speakers, I took a break, then put on Stravinsky Conducts Le Sacre Du Printemps from High Definition Tape Transfers. In reviews I often talk about a track or two, but I’m an album guy. I listen to entire albums because 1. I like it this way, and 2. This is how the art was made and delivered. I listened to this entire 31 minute piece a couple times. When great music and great sound quality come together, the results are magical. I was captivated.

     

    Everything from the delicate to the powerful was reproduced with equal parts finesse, control, and an endless ease. This speaker oozes that confidence of a younger sibling who has matured enough to take on or compete with older siblings on both an intellectual level and strength exercise. The WATT/Puppy transitioned from the Introduction to the Auguries of Spring with ease and elegance, and delivered with incredible power and control of the percussion section, as the music moved into track 3, Mock Abduction and beyond.

     

    After listening to this album a couple times, I thought I’d love to be the guy selling The WATT/Puppys and hate to be the guy selling anything more expensive. It’ll take some serious listening, splitting a few hairs, and finding those few recordings where the larger siblings of The WATT/Puppy are head and shoulders better.

     

     

    The After Hours Listening Session

     

    After spending the day at The Audio Salon by myself, I headed near the Santa Monica Pier, for dinner at Blue Plate Taco. After dinner I caught the end of the Stanley Cup Western Conference Finals on my iPhone while waiting on the beach for the sun to set. The fresh air and scenery rejuvenated me. What does a rejuvenated audiophile do, with a pair of new WATT/Puppys a couple miles away? I called The Audio Salon’s Maier Shadi and asked if he wanted to meet me at the store for more listening. I couldn’t get enough.

     

    Daryl Maier.jpgI had much of this review outlined and my notes finished by this time, but I still wanted more of The WATT/Puppy and the entire system. During this “after hours” session we even drove The WATT/Puppys with the Ypsilon integrated amp rather than the Halcro. I wasn’t ready for this experience, with lush midrange like nothing I’d heard in recent memory.

     

    Two tracks that really put icing on The WATT/Puppy cake for me are Iron & Wine’s Low Light Buddy of Mine, and The War on Drugs’ Living Proof. These are gems that I don’t throw around lightly because there’s nothing worse than turning a great song into a hated song, by overplaying it. I once put a favorite song as my ringtone a million years ago and found out the hard way.

     

    Low Light Buddy of Mine is an Iron & Wine track on the album Ghost on Ghost. It’s hard to believe neither track nor album have made anyone’s “Must Listen” list, but I’m OK with that. It’s nice to have a few tracks/albums up one’s sleeve, that nobody has heard. Right from the start of this track, the Xact S1 Evo > dCS Bartok > Ypsilon Silver Phaeton > The WATT/Puppy combo delivered goosebump revealing reproduction. The drum and bass combo sounded so realistic, with tight bottom end for days, before the heavily altered vocals of Sam Beam began, creating an incredible juxtaposition with seriously cool vibes.

     

    Taking this track to, and giving The WATT/Puppy a chance at, another level of performance, are the incredible number of instruments played by Rob Burger throughout the entire 3:30. With the groove set by the bass and drums, Burger smatters a little clavinet, hammer dulcimer, organ, and a jaw harp, among others playing saxophone, reeds, and ukulele. While it seems like this would be a bit chaotic, The WATT/Puppy laid it all out there on a silver platter for the ears to absorb, the brain to enjoy, and the body to feel. It’s all beautifully audible and endlessly memorable, just like my first impression of the WATT/Puppy 6 over twenty years ago.

     

    With Maier Shadi sitting in the listening position, and the clock just past midnight, I put on Living Proof. When Adam Granduciel sang the opening line, “Banging on a drum,” followed by Anthony LaMarca elegantly playing that drum, The WATT/Puppys appropriately matched the elegance with both the texture of the drum and by reaching down to reproduce the lowest notes with authority. The intimacy of this track, with all the clear and gritty details being revealed by The WATT/Puppys (and the entire system), nearly brought both of us to tears. It doesn’t happen often, but when a system and a song push all the right buttons and the listeners are willing to show vulnerability, it’s pure emotional magic. To me, this is what makes our wonderful hobby so wonderful and this is how memories are made.

     

    Maier and I stayed at The Audio Salon until well after midnight. If I had a nickel for every time one of us said, “wait, one more track,” I’d be retired in Kauai right now. Chico Freeman’s Spirit Sensitive sounded like he was in the room with us, right there in Santa Monica. Olivia Vedder’s vocal performance on My Father’s Daughter sounded so spectacular that we were sending SMS messages with videos of it, to friends. No matter what we played, The WATT/Puppy reproduced it faithfully and we enjoyed the heck out of it. But, at some point, we had to call it a night. We queued up Audioslave’s Like A Stone, turned the volume well beyond a safe level, and let it rip. When the song was finished, we both looked at each other and agreed it wouldn’t be possible to top that. “That,” meaning playing Like A Stone at concert levels and having it sound so amazing, but also the entire four hour listening session. In that moment, it’s hard to imagine life getting much better.

     

     

     

    The Conclusion

     

    cash@3x.png This review is very meaningful to me and no doubt will bring back wonderful memories for those reading it. When I said one day I’d own a pair of Watt/Puppys, I believed it but never thought I’d have the incredible opportunity to review serial numbers 0001 and 0002 of new WATT/Puppys in 2024. The WATT/Puppy is a special loudspeaker. So special that it’s often imitated, but never duplicated. It’s an iconic American original.

     

    After spending several days with The WATT/Puppy, from initial setup, through minor adjustments, and final positioning, measured for my own ear height and distance, I feel like this is a speaker I’ve known for a long time. It certainly helped that I was away from home and life’s normal obligations, and could focus my attention entirely on the loudspeakers. However, I also would’ve loved to share in the enjoyment with my 12 year old daughter playing the new Billy Eilish album, in my listening room, but that’s OK, we’ll see her in concert  together in November.

     

    A small part of me wishes I would’ve kept track of all the hours I spent listening, but the other 99% of me is happy I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I didn’t even pay much attention to the driver compliment or the custom Wilson Audio capacitor discussion, that took place during the 50th anniversary event. That stuff is easy to look up, for those who are interested. Music is all about emotion for me. An audio system, or loudspeaker, either pulls it out of me in a special way, or it doesn’t.

     

    The WATT/Puppy is special. It’s capable of bringing the recorded past into the present, and along with it all the emotion, delicacy, and energy of our favorite music. Meanwhile, The WATT/Puppy itself has a well earned history that can’t be bought or easily recreated. Fortunately, those lucky enough to purchase The WATT/Puppy will enjoy the best of both worlds for a very long time.

    Product info

     

     

     

     

     

    Product Information:
     
    Wilson Audio Specialties - The WATT/Puppy: Price $38,500
    The WATT/Puppy: Product Page
    Purchase: Where to Buy

     

     

     

    About the author - https://audiophile.style/about
    Author's Complete Audio System Details with Measurements - https://audiophile.style/system

     

     

     




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    A classic Pearl Jam song that you have to know to know. Only played like this one time in the band's history :~)

     

     

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    Quote

    It was just what I needed, after listening with a large group of people the previous afternoon, and exactly what I would do if the speakers were in my own listening room.

     

    That right there is audio bliss!

     

    The system looks (and sounds, even on your videos) aamazing.

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    Chris, you have one of the best jobs in the world!  But, better than that, the passion of your expanding love of music shines!  The physical simplicity of the equipment and the software is also very telling!  Also, belying the background effort to produce the products!

     

    Looking back to the "old WATT/Puppy," could you have dreamed of this new experience?

     

    It begs the question, can this be that easy to do?  The skill sets involved, and the professional work shown stands out in the recordings you posted.

     

     

     

     

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    I love my 25 year old Watt/Puppy 5.1s!

     

    Does anyone know how much the new edition weigh? Mine are at least 200 lbs for the pair.

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    23 minutes ago, lmitche said:

    I love my 25 year old Watt/Puppy 5.1s!

     

    Does anyone know how much the new edition weigh? Mine are at least 200 lbs for the pair.

    160 lbs each

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    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    160 lbs each

    I was wrong, watt puppy 5s are heavier at 324 lbs per pair according to Stereophile.

     

    Lol, Larry

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    I had a 90 minute listening session with these at a local dealer a few days ago. The mids and the highs sounded great. Not the transparency of an electrostat, but better than anything I heard from Wilson. However, the volume of bass this unit puts out is just unacceptable. Even though they were carefully positioned by a high volume authorized Wilson dealer in a good sized room, they still produced boomy unnatural uncontrolled sounding bass. It reminded me of the Sophias I owned 20 years ago. This is not what real music sounds like. On lean sounding recordings, this could work, but on my Groove Note SACDs and Mark Levinson recordings, there was simply an excess amount of bass energy that you would never hear in live unamplified music, These would be perfect if they got rid of that mid-bass hump. Until then I'm not going to buy them. I am surprised you didn't mention this. It sounds a bit like a promo. No product is perfect and the flaws should be noted.

     

    BTW, I can hear the boomy bass on your Midnight Sugar video. That's exactly what I heard at my local dealer. An acoustic bass blends into the background and fills in the lower registers. It doesn't boom in your face like this speaker is doing, except in close miked solos. Unacceptable otherwise.

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    42 minutes ago, Tascam said:

    I had a 90 minute listening session with these at a local dealer a few days ago. The mids and the highs sounded great. Not the transparency of an electrostat, but better than anything I heard from Wilson. However, the volume of bass this unit puts out is just unacceptable. Even though they were carefully positioned by a high volume authorized Wilson dealer in a good sized room, they still produced boomy unnatural uncontrolled sounding bass. It reminded me of the Sophias I owned 20 years ago. This is not what real music sounds like. On lean sounding recordings, this could work, but on my Groove Note SACDs and Mark Levinson recordings, there was simply an excess amount of bass energy that you would never hear in live unamplified music, These would be perfect if they got rid of that mid-bass hump. Until then I'm not going to buy them. I am surprised you didn't mention this. It sounds a bit like a promo. No product is perfect and the flaws should be noted.

     

    BTW, I can hear the boomy bass on your Midnight Sugar video. That's exactly what I heard at my local dealer. An acoustic bass blends into the background and fills in the lower registers. It doesn't boom in your face like this speaker is doing, except in close miked solos. Unacceptable otherwise.

    Hi Tascam, have you seen the anechoic measurements of these speakers? In addition, what does a frequency sweep of the room look like at the listening position? 

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    45 minutes ago, Tascam said:

    BTW, I can hear the boomy bass on your Midnight Sugar video

    Keep in mind that my iPhone was used to record that, with a nonlinear microphone, in a lossy format. 

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    22 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    They likely have lead in them. 

    At €50,000 in France, I rather think that their weight can be explained by the presence of solid gold!! 😆

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    1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Keep in mind that my iPhone was used to record that, with a nonlinear microphone, in a lossy format. 

    I'm aware of that, but I was making a point to describe what I heard in person at the dealer. It's the same overblown boomy bass

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    1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Hi Tascam, have you seen the anechoic measurements of these speakers? In addition, what does a frequency sweep of the room look like at the listening position? 

    I don't go by that. Who cares. It's what it sounds like connected to top notch components

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