Wilson Audio System V Loudspeaker WATT's In It For Me?

WATT's In It For Me?

The Wilson WATT V/Puppy V is one seductive speaker system [writes Ken Kessler]. These ugly little spuds – all-too reminiscent of Darth Vader's rubbish bin – pop images into the room like the holographic chess set in Star Wars... only the images are life-sized, not miniature. I'm sitting here looking into the soundstage, behind and to the right of the hot seat.

Which I'd identify as Audible Upgrade Gain No 1: the WATT V/Puppy V does not preclude listening with friends, as did its predecessor. And my system has now been on for seven hours straight and I have no desire to turn it off yet. So that's Upgrade Gain No 2: the WATT V/Puppy V has no upper-edge sizzle to induce listener fatigue.

In short, Wilson has done it again. The latest WATT/Puppy edition is the speaker's biggest evolutionary jump so far, and it's one that's going to cause major rethinks throughout the industry. But first, let's backtrack so you can put it into context.


Generation Game
Instead of non-concurrent numbers like 'WATT 3/Puppy 2' which always sounded like the scores in a football game, the latest revision jumps a generation, equalising the numbers. (We've adopted the roman 'V' for this review instead of the Arabic '5' since this is now Wilson's preferred style.)

The WATT 1 then became the WATT 2 by virtue of fine-tuning, the move to WATT 3 being more substantial: new tweeters and the need for a revised crossover. The Puppy 1 moved to 3 classification with the change of the Puppy Tail and a redesign of the bottom of the enclosure. But both WATT and Puppy have been altered substantially for 'V' status, and the bulk of it is retrofittable.

The only thing the WATT V shares with the WATT 3 is the enclosure. The 3's glass-fibre inverted dome Focal tweeters have been replaced with the faster, cleaner, tighter titanium version, made to Wilson spec.

While the Puppy V retains the Puppy 2's Dynaudio woofers, the cabinet's top, bass and baffle have been replaced with an ultrahigh-density composite material. Additionally, the entire airflow path is different, the crossover has been changed, the port is larger and it sports both the WBT binding posts and new adjustable spiked feet called Puppy Paws. (Who thinks up these names?)

If the System V has been positioned optimally – with a fair bit of toe-in in my listening room, for example – anything you feed into it will be transmitted with minimal degradation to your ears. I've never heard such vivid exposure of amp and cable differences as I've heard these past weeks. And yet I've not managed to turn the sound into a nightmare... even with sub-£200 amps. In every case where the power was limited to 100W/channel, though, you could hear mild compression, so I won't hesitate to tell you to feed the System V with as much wattage as you are able to muster.

I sat down for the most enjoyable listening sessions I can recall. I had never experienced anything like that which lay between me and the V. It was virtual reality audiospace, a perfectly formed soundstage filled with tactile sonic images that I wanted to touch, to walk around, and – in the case of The Bangles – frolic amongst naked. But this superdetailed, truly three-dimensional presentation was only part of the experience. I was dazzled by the layering in the Cabaret soundtrack, Power Of Seven's 'Mockingbird', some Janis Ian, a Dave Wilson classical demo track on CD-R – hey, I even heard layering on Yardbirds CDs!

Perfect Couple
A key aspect of the System V was bass so coherent, consistent, clean and controlled that I was forced to reassess recordings I had written off as boomy. And then there's the WATT V. Speedier, tighter, cleaner, with greater precision than the WATT 3 – and that's a speaker which takes some beating.

I've now found the perfect reviewer's loudspeaker, because it works with all types of amplifiers and it tells you everything. I adore the WATT V/Puppy V. Hear it, enjoy it, even if only for a brief time in a shop. I swear it will increase your passion for music.