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TAS Legacy: Wilson Audio WATT Loudspeaker

When David Wilson signed on as a reviewer for TAS, lo those many years ago in 1980, the magazine’s editor Harry Pearson felt constrained to note that “Wilson is attempting to design a professional recording monitor system, hand-built and of modular design (and of astronomical cost), one that is not aimed at the audiophile market.” Such may have been Wilson’s intentions. But soon enough the unexpected success of the WAMM led to another, very different loudspeaker: the WATT.

Early on, the Wilsons, husband and wife, set up the WATT at audio stores and shows where Sheryl would be demonstrating Wilson Audio LPs. The dealers clamored to be able to sell it and “Sheryl kept asking me to design a speaker the average person could afford,” Wilson says. At the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1985, he decided to go for it—“We took more orders for it over two days,” Wilson says, “than we thought we would sell in two years.” The WATT—Wilson Audio Tiny Tot—with the Puppy woofer went through eight iterations and is the best-selling over-$10,000 speaker of all time. The WATT could be purchased separately and used as a two-way monitor. The Puppy was the bass unit. The loudspeaker cabinet was originally constructed from mineral-filled acrylic to address resonance control, along with heroic bracing. Its driver complement included a new one from a (then) relatively new company called Focal—an inverted fiberglass dome tweeter.

The WATT weighed almost 70 pounds, which was then unheard of for a small monitor. Never built to have much bass, it focused on resolution and gradations of dynamic expression. Sporting an aluminum handle on its back to make it easy to carry, the WATT also had potted internal crossovers. Of all the iconic products in high-end audio, none is perhaps more iconic than the WATT/Puppy.

By Jacob Heilbrunn

The trumpet has influenced my approach to high-end audio. Like not a few audiophiles, I want it all—coherence, definition, transparency, dynamics, and fine detail.

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