Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy System 5 loudspeaker Page 4
The bass it does reproduce is articulate and well-defined—I have never heard more of the subtle performance details that distinguish one acoustic bass player from another. Heavy Sounds, by Richard Davis and Elvin Jones (LP, Impulse! A-9160) is one of my acid tests for bass articulation: "Summertime" is an 11-minute duet between bowed bass and drums (played with mallet and brush only) that exploits just about every tonal possibility the two instruments can muster. Davis has never had the deepest bass tone; his instrument possesses a light, almost nasal timbre, and the WATT/Puppys reflect that. Toward the climax of the song, Davis turns his bow around and, putting wood to the strings, sets aswirl a cascade of overtones that almost screech their way toward inaudibility, while Jones anchors the excursion with muted tom tom flurries. The combination of near-ultrasonic color and woody earthiness tests the resolving power of just about any system—I would have said any system, but the WATT/Puppys weren't fazed by it one bit. It remained music, intelligent and comprehensible, never descending into noise.
Watt price glory?
Ultimately, however, one aspect of the WATT/Puppys' performance left me unsatisfied. I want to be careful here because I think that they are extraordinarily well-built; in fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard speakers improve upon their strengths. Yet this is not the speaker system that I would necessarily choose to just listen to music through, hour after hour. If you want to throw my own words back at me and point out that every time I changed components, what I had taken to be the sound of the speakers changed—well, I'd have to admit you'd have a point.
Perhaps I never found my perfect combination. For instance, I never heard them with Spectral's components, which would, seemingly, match them strength for strength. Furthermore, if you read my interview with David Wilson, you'll conclude that the WATT/Puppys do, indeed, sound exactly as he intended. How could I fault them for that? I don't, but I have to admit that they never precisely engaged me. (Yes, I know—properly speaking, that's not a speaker's job, but the music's.)
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Last January, a few days before the Wilson speakers arrived at my house, Jerome Harris dropped by with a dub of his recording session for Hidden in Plain View (New World/Countercurrents 80472-2), wanting to listen to it through my system, which included the Metaphor 2s. He was suddenly yanked right out of a conversation with my wife by what he heard. "That sounds just like us!" he exclaimed. "I ought to know—I was there!" Two weeks later, he dropped by again with a dub of the final mixdown, once again wanting to hear it in a different context. The system was essentially the same, the only difference being that now I had the WATT/Puppy 5s in place. Jerome was impressed: "I can hear everything we did in the studio!" I find the difference in his comments instructive.