Wilson Audio’s new Sasha WATT/Puppy has some mighty big shoes to fill.
Wilson Audio’s new Sasha WATT/Puppy has some mighty big shoes to fill. The venerable WATT/Puppy concept achieved remarkable acceptance and exceptional success in the high-end arena. Over its many generations and iterations the iconic speaker had been refined and fine-tuned—sonically, aesthetically and in terms of fit and finish—to such a point, that in order to move significantly forward, a major rethink was necessary.
The Sasha is still a two-box design based on a truncated pyramid tweeter/midrange ‘WATT’ module atop a twin-woofered ‘Puppy’ bass enclosure. However, where the WATT was always a stand-alone speaker with its own internal crossover, the new top module does not allow such use; the new configuration makes it a slave to the bass enclosure which contains the speaker’s fullypotted three-way crossover network. Twin spade-ended fly leads from the enclosed crossover below hook up to Wilson Audio custom binding posts—one set each for the tweeter and midrange driver.
The new top module’s baffle is now constructed from a newly-concocted material comprising natural fibres in a phenolic resin laminate. The temporary name for this is, not-so-cryptically, ‘S’ material… presumably due to it making its first appearance in the Sasha. ‘M4’ material—a fourth generation epoxy laminate—makes up the rest of the top enclosure which is rear vented by way of a port with a machined aluminium sleeve. The mélange of dedicated materials used (as in the woofer section too) was arrived at after intensive research into the relationship between materials, their resonant characteristics and their sonic attributes. Plain MDF—as used by most manufacturers—is plainly not good enough for Wilson Audio. The Sasha’s Focal-sourced inverted titanium tweeter (the same as the MAXX 3’s) is similar to the WATT 8’s except for some modifications to the back of the motor structure, which according to Wilson, are important tuning components reaping worthwhile sonic benefits. The midrange driver is a departure from the custom 178mm Scanspeak 8545-based unit used since the WATT 5. The new Wilson-designed/ Danish-built driver (also shared with the MAXX 3) is a simplified version derived from the flagship Alexandria’s own. It features a cellulose paper pulp composite cone. Wilson will not divulge any more than that, other than to say that its ‘unique’ sound quality is a result of several design techniques and material choices. The trademark baffle foam diffraction pads are now replaced by a much more attractive and sonically adept felt material.
The treble/mid module once again couples with its woofer mate by way of three steel spikes; two at the front, one for the rear. Different length rear spikes are provided in order to adjust the physical angle for correct propagation delay—Wilson provides a table that determines the appropriate spike for adjusting the relationship between tweeter/midrange, listener distance and ear height.
The ‘Puppy’ woofer section, which has been significantly increased both in terms of internal volume and overall dimensions, still uses Wilson’s ultra-hard ‘X’ material claimed to be the most suitable for bass enclosures. Like its predecessor, the large reflex port is placed asymmetrically on the rear panel. The twin long-throw 203mm woofers now have far larger magnet motors for improved bass control, increased power handling and lower distortion. The spiking scheme (previously known as the Puppy’s ‘Paws’) consists of massive machined ‘diodes’ with hardened steel spikes that are height adjustable via the provided steel spacers. The spacers can be used as tuning devices by varying the woofer-to-floor reflection relationship; something that can make marked differences to the upper to middle bass registers.
The crucial specifications are rather interesting too. Wilson has revised its sensitivity measuring methodology resulting in what looks like a lower spec. However, the Sasha is 1dB more sensitive than the WATT/Puppy System 8 which was originally specced at 92dBSPL but measured 90dBSPL under the new system. Therefore the Sasha is quoted as being 91dBSPL. The extra sensitivity however is off-set by an amplifier-testing impedance minimum of 1.8Ω at roughly 90Hz. In fact, the impedance stays below 4Ω from 55Hz to almost 400Hz and below 8Ω from 20Hz to 20kHz (see accompanying test measurements). This is—on paper—a tough load and I’d recommend mating to beefy high-current solid-state amplifiers or very powerful valve amplification. Forget low-powered SETs.
I queried Wilson on the reason behind the rather severe impedance characteristics. I was told that important engineering decisions had to be made during the evolution between System 8 and Sasha and that since the primary aim was for superior bass performance the tougher impedance plot was an unavoidable design side-effect. In the company’s view the impedance plot does not present too many difficulties for welldesigned modern amplifiers, be they solid state or valve. There may be something behind Wilson’s stance on this. Although I didn’t have a small valve amplifier at hand, I had nevertheless tested such amps on the similarly difficult (but not quite) System 8 without issue… sometimes what’s on paper does not translate into practice. I would, however, recommend careful auditioning should your amplifier have only a modest power output.
The frequency response Wilson Audio claims for the Sasha is quite impressive for a speaker of this size. Wilson quotes 20Hz to 20kHz ±3dB in-room. Crossover points have always been a bit of a trade secret for
Wilson so these were not forthcoming. Suffi ce to say that the ‘anti-jitter’ technology approach, as used in Wilson’s more recent designs, is continued with the Sasha.