Focal v Wilson

how would folks that have heard both compare a Focal Alto Utopia BE to a Wilson Watt/Puppy 7?



You need to use your own ears to determine this. For example, we used REW and all these sophisticated measurements to make a pair of subs sound much worse than when I did it with my ears. 

I have Wilson SabrinaX and had planned to buy Bowers 803d4 but was blown away by the Wilson/McIntosh/Transparent Audio cable combo. It is shocking how good it can sound. But that’s to my ear and in my room. I could care less about any measurements at this point because you follow the Wilson setup protocol which is all based on what you actually hear. Stunning, absolutely stunning. 

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The combination of Focal Utopias and Boulder amplification has synergy made in heaven. Boulder use Grande Utopias in their listening room, so it's not unexpected. 

As for Wilsons...Wilson + Soul = Focal Utopias

Had WP7s for years and loved them. Replaced them with the original Sashas. 

The Sashas were a real upgrade, more even sounding and produced a big speaker sound.  They are available used at good prices.  Now have Yvettes, also an excellent speaker. They have just been superseded by the new Watt-Puppy, a clever marketing move for Wilson.  Yvettes should be coming on the market used at a good price.  Good listening.

Wilson and Focal are both good speakers if you have the right gear for them.Borensen are superb as well.

So depends on your ear and the listening space.  Have speakers from both companies.  And "last years model" or demos can be had within your price range.

Bedroom -- vintage Teresonic tube integrated, Focal Diablo Utopia Eco, cabling a mix of High Fidelity cables and Rick's new Illumination line.  Sourced mostly from Hifi Rose streamer  - and for that room the sound is phenomenal

Listening room - Ayon Triton Evo tube integrated, Ayon streamer used as tube DAC for Hiffi Rose 130, Wilson Sasha V (upgraded from Sabrina), Avenenger Rererence turntable, VAC Renaissance phono preamp and Ricks new cables.  Mid size family room - not a dedicated listening room but allows system to get more use.

Find a brick and mortar dealer that will let you trial in your listing space if possible.  All these recommendations are great but they come with all our biases.  What sounds good to you What music do you listen to?  Unless you know someone who likes things "voiced " like you do .........


Enjoy the journey!

@edelbby, you have some really great classic and desirable gear, no doubt.

IMO you are out pacing your gear at a similar pace by looking at a once classic "high end" speaker.  I've spent lots of time with the WP8, and it was much better than the 7. The 7 was harsh compered to the 8 to my ears.


I'd advise you to get into a speaker that you like rather than trying to match an era and work backwards by looking at resale comparisons. 


You should find a speaker that you love driven by that McIntosh amp.  Don't buy blind based on the reputation of a speaker without insight into the amp. Does that make sense?  So... maybe look at Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, Devore, Verity Audio, or any other rec's here.  Come on guys...


There's something called synergy and you typically start with a speaker and word in the direction of amp, pre, source, etc. I would never start with an amp and look for a speaker at your stage in the game. Maybe after you have some experience.

Hope this helps and doesn't confuse more.

I was passed down some old McIntosh gear and while I loved the nostaligic feeling I felt like I was driving a 74 Cadillac with a faulty sway bar, bald tire and a dirty carburetor. The feeling of me being 10 years old wore off in few weeks and I just couldn’t do it anymore.

If your not looking for performance, which is fair enough, I’d go with an easy speaker to drive because that tranny isn’t going to last that long either.


Fun project, please post your results. As said above, don’t worry too much about cables and electricity with the old stuff, the detail just simply isn’t at the same level as newer gear.

I suggest that, whatever you end up buying, buy cheap cables first. Really cheap. Like $50 tops. Don't buy expensive cables before you are reasonably happy with the rest of the system.

At that point AUDITION any cable you want, so long as you can return it for a full refund. See if it's worth the cost. In YOUR system. IMO, cables are the lowest bang for buck in the chain

+ 1000

@edelbby Thanks for the correction about the Mac being solid state. If I understand the specs correctly, it is rated to put out 270 watts at 8 ohms, 4 ohms, 2 ohms, and 1 ohm. My Krell KSA 300S is rated to put out 300 watts at 8 ohms, 600 watts at 4 ohms, 1200 watts at 2 ohms, and 2400 watts at 1 ohm. I'm using it to drive a pair of Thiel CS6 speakers which are one of the few models that have as difficult an impedance curve as the Watt/Puppy.

David Wilson and Jim Thiel were unwilling to make the design tradeoffs that would make their speakers easy to drive. If you go to an audio show you will see Wilsons typically paired with D'Agostino amps or another brand that behaves like my Krell because that is the type of amp they were designed for and voiced with.

Your 7270 is a highly regarded amp and with the right speakers it will sound wonderful. But it was designed to drive speakers with a fairly flat impedance curve and there are hundreds of options to choose from. You don't need high efficiency horn speaker (you have 270 watts to play with) but you do need speakers with a resonably flat impedance.

There are so many excellent speakers available today, both new and used, that it is hard to make a recommendation. If you take note of speakers you think are candidates you should Google the speaker model and the word "review" and look for a review in Stereophile. The reason I mention Stereophile is because they always include the impedance curve in their measurements and they comment on what type of amplifier would be a good match for the speakers.

As a practical matter, either your amp choice drives your speaker choice or your speaker choice drives your amp choice. One way is not better than the other. If you want to stick with that gorgeous McIntosh then you want a speaker of average sensitivity that has a fairly flat impedance curve. Somewhere between 87 dB to 94 dB sensitivity would be good. You would not want an extremely high sensitivity speaker (98 dB to 102dB) that is made for low wattage SET amplifiers because you generally want to run your amp in the range of 10% to 60% of its rated power.

@emergingsoul IMO biamping isn't a good option for speakers with difficult impedance curves because it doen't solve the core problem and the complexity increases dramatically. If you use two brands of amps you have to make sure they have the same gain and that the current output into low impedances of each amp is complimentary. If you want to biamp with D'Agostinos or Gryphons then that will work great but things get pretty expensive in a hurry.

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I suggest that, whatever you end up buying, buy cheap cables first. Really cheap. Like $50 tops. Don't buy expensive cables before you are reasonably happy with the rest of the system.

At that point AUDITION any cable you want, so long as you can return it for a full refund. See if it's worth the cost. In YOUR system.

IMO, cables are the lowest bang for buck in the chain. IMO. For example, I bought Magnepan DWM bass panels to augment my 4 Quad ESL's. I set up using 12AWG power cord. Liked the sound so bought a top-rated 11 AWG oxygen-free copper cord in a star-quad configuration from the top Japanese manufacturer. Starquad was a little better. In my system. To my ears. 


your amp will drive a lot of speakers. Maybe all of them. The question is synergy, and what your ear enjoys the most. I wouldn't start with the most expensive pairing, at the top of your budget, how would you know you wouldn't be happy with a speaker at e.g. at x/2.


thank you - on the amp, can anyone that looks at the technical specs of my solid state amp that I posted above say if it will drive modern type speakers?

Between the two I’d go with the Wilsons. Better balanced too to bottom. You will get a more realistic presentation with better dynamics. Wilson Audio customer service will most likely take care of you no matter what you may need for the speakers. Focal customer service for an older model like that you really need to research to be sure they are able to support your needs. 
I also agree on the amplifier being a concern with either model. Consider amp upgrade down the road. 

@audioman58 even if you buy eight to $10,000 speakers that were originally 15 to 20, you have to understand that they are still going to need cables that cost about 15 to 20 grand to make them work right in your entire cable loom.

The biggest problem you have is your amplifier at the moment you need everything basically so you really need a budget that’s about triple to accomplish the sonic goals you’re looking for 1/3 on cables one on speakers and one on electronics

Really??? How did you decide on such a precise amount too? What made you such an expert on cable prices and the never ending miracle that comes out of them w.r.t price?

Let me start this way, considering buying a a 20 years old Wilson Watt Puppy is a little risky. Wilson is a good choice however in 20 years speaker technology made significant progress. I always prefer Wilson to Focal at any price point comparison. Focal has more choice at any price points. Focal has some harshness at high end, also over exaggeration of lows which makes midrange moving to background a bit. Wilson newer models has excellent high/mid/low balance. Wilson also has good service through the dealers. If you need a woofer replacement, it is relatively cheaper. Borresen X series is excellent for the money, a bit to analytical and digital. Sonus Faber are good furniture accent but not so good speaker, veiled midrange is not for me. Alta Audio is also very good. Don’t buy a speaker without a comparison. Your ears will tell which one is the best. You need solid state amp for both Wilson and Focal, they are power hungry, if you use tube amp, always you will be missing something. That is why, you will never see neither a Wilson nor a Focal presented with tube amps at HiFi conventions. My suggestion would be a recent Wilson Sabrina and Hegel 590 combo. Hegel 590 is superb amp. 

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I would try these new in the box Revel 328be. I have bought from this seller before. Not sure where you are located, these are in Michigan. The 328be is a near perfect speaker with almost no real flaw other than it lacks an exotic cabinet of much more expensive product. It is one of the best box speakers I have heard.



Awesome comment about impedance curves.

Never really focussed on impedance curve differences as it relates to different speakers. Impedance curve variety between speakers is enlightning.

I guess biamping might help level the playing field. i biamp b&w 802 d3’s and the dedicated amplifier impact works out really well.

you would be a good person to talk to about impedance issues


Thanks to all

@8th Note - the MC7270 is solid state - here are specs - can this keep up?


270 watts minimum sine wave continuous average power output, per channe,l both channels
operating into 1 ohm, 2 ohms, 4 ohms, or 8 ohms load impedance, which is:
16.4 volts RMS across 1 ohm
23.2 volts RMS across 2 ohms
32.9 volts RMS across 4 ohms
46.5 volts RMS across 8 ohms
540 watts minimum sine wave cont inuous average power output into 2 ohms, 4 ohms, 8 o hms,
or 16 ohms load impedance, which is:
3 2.9 volts RMS across 2 ohms
46.5 volts RMS across 4 ohms
65 .7 volts RMS across 8 ohms
93.0 volts RMS across 16 ohms OUTPUT LOAD IMPEDANCE STEREO
1 o hm, 2 ohms , 4 ohms, and 8 ohms; separate terminals
are provided for each output. MONO -BRI DGED
2 ohms, 4 ohms, 8 ohms, or 16 ohms, balanced to ground.
20 Hz to 20 ,000 Hz
0 .0 2% maximum harmonic distortion at any power level from 250 milliwatts to 270 watts per
channel from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, both channels operating .
0.02% maximum harmonic distortion at any power level from 250 milliwatts to 540 watts from
20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
0.02% maximum if instantaneous peak power output is 600 watts or less per channel with both
channels operating for any combination of frequencies, 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
0.02% maximum if instantaneous peak power output is 600 watts or less for any combination of
frequencie s, 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
20 Hz to 20,000 Hz + 0 - 0.25 dB.
10 Hz to 100 ,00 Hz + 0 - 2 dB.
100 dB below rated output.
Greater than 30
20,000 ohms.
Switchable : 0.75 volt or 2.5 volts-level control provided for higher input voltage s.
Clipping is prevented and THO does not exceed 2% with up to 20 dB overdrive a 1 kHz.
120 volts 50/60 Hz; 13 amps.
79 silicon transistors
31 silicon rectifiers and diodes
7 integrated circuits
16 3/16 inches wide {41.1 cm) by 7 1/8 inches high (18.1
cm) by 14 1/2 inches deep (36 .8 cm), including connec­ tors. Knob clearance required is 1 1 /4
inches {3.2 cm) in front of mounting panel.
The front panel is a combination of glass and black anodized aluminum . The chassis is black.
82 pounds (37.2 kg) net, 96 pounds {43.5 kg) in shipping
carton .

It's true that this particular Wilson has a 2 Ohm impedance dip in the bass, but the Focals tend to not be great there either.  They tend to dip in the "punchy" part of the mid-bass and are unusually sensitive to the current delivery of an amplifier.

The biggest difference however is probably not in the tweeter or bass but in the midrange presentation, and I'd encourage a listen before deciding.

About a year ago I too was considering the Focals and Wilsons. I also added in Sonus Faber as well. I really enjoyed listening to the Focal Alto Utopia BE and the Sonus Faber Amati Homage. But in the end it was the Wilson Audio Alexia's that won me over. In my dedicated listening room  they just simply spoke to me more. I could have easily lived with any of those three quite happily. Perhaps it's my overall system; Conrad Johnson LP275M monoblocks (or my Bryaton 28B-SST monos), Aesthetix Callistio Eclipse preamp, Modwright PH9.0XT phono or Cary DMS-600 dac/streamer. My cables are all Audience Front Row. Three TT's; My room is 22 X 25 with a vaulted ceiling. The Wilsons seemed to need more power and that I had in spades. The Focals and SF Amatis seemed to need less power to get the most out t of them. The Wilson's bass extension is as deep as I could ever hope for. No more using separate subs as I was doing with my Avalon's. I really liked the Avalons but do admit that I am a sucker for a good soft dome tweeter. I feel that Focal does about the best job with a BE tweeter. My absolute favorite speaker of all time is the Focal Grand Utopia, but those cross over into six figures price wise and would not have been feasible. There are so many great speakers available these days. Listen to as many as you can, preferably in your home with your equipment. If it's at a dealer, see if they will let you bring your amp/preamp for the listening session. 

@edelbby speakers are very personal. I do believe you can get fantastic speakers for 3K easily, especially used.

these are the ones I would audition:

Dynaudio, Totem, Fyne, Harbeth, Revel, Paradigm. These are great values, $ for $

Thanks guys -- to answer a couple of the questions:

-- why these 2 models?

-- upgrade your electronics first?


I am not an audiophile, I just enjoy music and inherited this system from my dad (who was an audiophile way back when): MC2720 amp (my replacement to 2100 from the '70s), preamp (C28) and Tuner (MR77)  Kyocera DVD and Bluesound dac -- current speakers are MC XD-715 - so a mix of '70s and 'late '80s/early 90's (other than DAC))

system will go to a much larger space so I am thinking i need a larger sound and that speakers (which are light even for current bedroom setup) would be the thing to change to most economically achieve that?

i listed the 2 that I did because they appeared to be the "best" for sale in the used market driving distance to me in my price range -- i am not looking to backward upgrade my entire system into the speakers that I choose - but rather would like to figure out what would best complement what I have and project more sound

it sounds like super high end/modern (or the label you wish) used speakers like the ones mentioned (which are modern compared to '70s electronics but both are 15 to 20 yr old) are "too good" for my electronics? -- so what should I be looking for ... some 10-15 year old Khorns? at the end of the day it always seemed smarter buying used in a premium market b/c there is such a markup for new...kind of like the value that drops off a car the moment it is titled one time even if it goes no miles

on the other hand, technology changes and maybe today's $5K speaker does what Wilsons' WP7 $22K speaker did from 15 years ago? I have no idea...that's why i am asking...................


I would not recommend running a pair of Wilson Watt/Puppies with a vintage tube amp. The Wilsons have a very demanding impedance curve (they drop to a low impedance over part of the audio band with a difficult phase angle), Depending on the version, they have an impedance of around 2 ohms over a significant part of the low frequencies.

Wilsons were designed and voiced using amps like Krell, Levinson, Pass, and D'Agostino that double their power with each halving of the impedance. If you use an amplifier that can't do that you will get weak, flabby bass and a distorted frequency response.

I don't know about the Focal's impedance cuve but it is likely to be much more benign than the Wilson's. The point here is that the speaker and amplifier have to be compatible to get the best sound. If you are planning to stay with your McIntosh your speaker choice should be limited to models that have a fairly flat impedance curve. A good example of a modern speaker that is designed to be run with tube amps is DeVore Fidelity.

Pennfootball71  have you or anyone tried the Borresen X speakers ,for several have used the 275 with Borresen with excellent results ,their tweeter for example 

is 1/100 of a gram in weight ,and drivers are ultra light and fast ,very low mass in weight ,the x3 are 90db efficient.even the smaller x2, are very detailed .

you May hear tube hiss if up real close but not with music playing.we used Wireworld Eclipse cables, as well as Cardas clear ,

as well as their Ansuz cable line and worked well the speaker played to the character of the cable ,which is good . As with any  speaker  you use a cable that you prefer. Audio group Denmark would like you to use all their products 

but not necessary ,it can get very $$ expensive.

Here’s an of a room in Munich High end with a $38,000 speaker from Rockport. They are similar in the 20-40k speakers you were looking at.



Room Components A4.2, F202 – HIGH END Munich2024

Rockport Technologies ATRIA II $38,000

Nagra HD Dac X $70,875

Absolare Integrated 2 Signature amplifier $40,000

Echole Infinity Cables:
XLR Digital Interconnect (3 feet) $13,700
XLR Analog Interconnect pair (3 feet) $28,500
Powercord (6 feet) $24,500
Speaker Cable (10 feet) $47,500

Everything at that level matters and the speakers are the cheapest thing on the menu. At this level resolution you need to spend more on the cables and the electronics than the speakers. 

@audioman58 even if you buy eight to $10,000 speakers that were originally 15 to 20, you have to understand that they are still going to need cables that cost about 15 to 20 grand to make them work right in your entire cable loom.

The biggest problem you have is your amplifier at the moment you need everything basically so you really need a budget that’s about triple to accomplish the sonic goals you’re looking for 1/3 on cables one on speakers and one on electronics.

@audioman58 borreson I won’t play nice with vintage McIntosh. That’s like putting diesel fuel in a Ferrari.

@edelbby Sir that older amp will make any modern speaker

sound very bad. The resolution of modern speakers are going to resolve every little problem you have with your older vintage amp that was never really made with the best parts. You really should sell that thing and buy a different amplifier and different level speaker. You’ll have a better result. Those vintage amps are too warm and fuzzy and have too much distortion for higher resolution modern speakers with more complicated crossovers and impedance dips. The old amps are too slow to keep up.

Why just these 2 speakers ?  Focal has a more lit up top end very detailed with the BE tweeter, Wilson ,a warmer sound with the soft dome .

that being said the Borresen line of speakers has that great ribbon tweeter and carbon fiber drivers that is very detailed and musical and their Xseries is a great buy, they have several series that is better and better based on your budget.


We have Focal Kanta 3 speakers in our family room. Focal makes a very nice speaker I think you would be happy with. Good luck!

I would look at the ATC SCM40 v2. They just had the price dropped to $6K a pair from $8K, and compete with both yet with a far smoother tweeter. I think they would be a better match to your amp. They are also easy to drive and place in a room, as you don’t have the complications of a port (they are sealed boxes).

I've tried and disliked Focal and Wilson speakers and am now well and truly in the Sonus Faber camp. May not be the best for headbangers however.

Thanks to all ... very helpful

my thinking was getting a used 20K speaker for 8 to 10 would provide better value/quality than new at the same price point

Audiotroy says: there are some truly breathtaking newer speakers that offer 20k level sound for half

so additional question: is there a new speaker at 8 to 10K that beats out the mentioned focal/wilson models? i hadn't come across anyone saying that in reviews

i do know its personal ... this is to support my system going into a larger shop space (40' x 40') where it will get more "exercise time"

i can barely pronounce "audiophile" so all suggestions welcomed!

I’m not a Dali or Borrenson dealer like audiotroy, so I have no financial interest in my comment. And since you asked about Focal and Wilson, I own and prefer the Wilson sound. W/P 7 is great. BTW, the earlier Wilsons with the inverted tweeter sound great to me in that application; ie. the ’harshness’ comments usually poo-poo Wilsons in general, and very likely haven’t heard them properly fed or set up. I can’t think of a speaker that I would rather have, that can do more, brings more satisfaction, and competes across the board with the W/P 7 - under $8-10K used. My opinion.


So I agree with the post above that Wilsons have more bass and (IMHO) a smoother midrange in terms of the floor standers.

On the other hand the Focal inverted domes are a bit splashy and extra colorful regardless of the speaker they are in. Wilson’s new models have turned warmer and more neutral. In terms of that, Revels also have an outstanding presentation along with wide listening area.  So if you like the old Wilson or Focal sound I think you've already found your happy place.

The Dali speakers I’ve heard have a boosted treble which I can’t do for long but may be an excellent low volume alternative. Not every Dali is like that, so you should 100% listen.

personably i wouldn’t purchase eithe,r


there are some truly breathtaking newer speakers that offer 20k level sound for half


the new dali rubikore and borrenson loudspeakers are what I would look at


Dave and Troy

audio Intellect NJ Dali dealers

I have not hear those exact models but can compare those brands older models in that time frame.

Speaking generally the wilson has a bit more bass impact, as in the leading edge of drums hits. The focals are a touch more “round” in their bass tuning, strong but more defused with a touch less definition.

the highs on the older wilson’s are so so. They are using a focal tweeters and focal alway kept the best tweeters for themselves. I found the older wilson ok in the treble but I know a lot of people hate them.

I can’t speak to the mids. I have always thought both brands had good mids.


new wilson are much more refined on the top end but kept the bass slam. New focals have gotten a lot smoother with less of a “V” shape tuning and are more or less flat on axis.

At that level everything else upstream makes a significant difference.  What will be driving them?