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Woo Audio 2

Posted

Pros: High-powered, great sounding OTL design

Cons: Not ideal match for low-impedance dynamic-driver headphones

This is not a full review, just a rating and a few comments.  I bought my WA2 used, and was really surprised how good it is.  The WA2 is among the better headphone amps available.  It actually surprises me that it's not even more popular than it is.

 

The WA2 has some pretty impressive power delivery, and it works wonders with high-impedance cans like the Beyerdynamic T1, and is also remarkably good with the Audeze LCD-2 and HifiMan HE-5LE.  Only very low impedance dynamic drivers, where the damping factor could be an issue, and not in the WA2's sweet spot.  But with the T1, the WA2 is absolutely stunning. 

 

The WA2 is an outstanding headphone amp, and the fact that it has multiple inputs adds to the string value. 

 

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Posted

Pros: A Perfect Amp

Cons: Poor Quality Control and Customer Service

The WA2 is a five-star amp sold by a two-star company. The amp itself is a marvel of engineering, built on a Bauhausian aesthetic: form follows function. It's pretty to look at, but, properly upgraded, infinitely prettier to listen to. With dual driver, rectifier, and power tubes, it's possible to sculpt and finesse sound signatures: several reviewers have already noted that the amp lends itself to tube rolling--which can be both an exquisite blessing and an expensive curse. For sheer versatility, the WA2 is a wonder. Add to that the WA2's magical sound, when properly upgraded with well-regarded NOS tubes, and it's safe to say that, at its price, the amp has few, if any, peers.

The stock tubes the amp ships with are a disservice. That's not entirely the company's fault: short of raising the base price of the amp by several hundred dollars, the WA2 needs to ship with inexpensive tubes--and cheap tubes means comparatively mediocre sound. But the tubes should, at the very least, work. Many WA2 owners have complained that the stock tubes were defective. I myself received defective tubes, which took about $200, 15 hours, and some slow, casual indifference from Woo Audio to diagnose (I had to rule out a ground loop to prove the tubes were at fault). Woo Audio, almost comically unapologetic for the expense and inconvenience, did the absolute minimum to address the matter--i.e., by sending cheap reimbursement tubes after I had already bought and installed replacement tubes to correct the problem. A company with better customer service would have sent better tube replacements (even if not top-tier NOS tubes) as a token apology. Sadly, the forums demonstrate that customers after me--after Woo Audio claimed to have addressed the matter--experienced the same problem. Exactly why a $1200 amp--arguably, the company's flagship, even if not its most expensive, product--is being shipped to customers without first having its stock tubes tested in the amp is an uncomfortable mystery. Certainly, though, I've never had to work so hard to spend so much money. If it were any other product, I would have returned it--but perfection is worth some pains.

If you buy the amp, you should be prepared immediately to buy tube upgrades. The WA2 with stock tubes is merely enjoyable. With upgraded tubes, the WA2 is absolutely enchanting, and puts other amps at similar prices to shame: upgrade the power and driver tubes first, as they affect the sound the most. Upgrade the rectifiers last, as their effect on the sound is comparatively small (though ultimately important). I'd advise against buying those upgraded tubes through Woo Audio, however, since the company consistently charges a significant premium on NOS tubes compared to market prices.

You should also be prepared to supply your own power cord since the WA2, much to the surprise and chagrin of some customers, ships without one. Personally, I think the amp's sound benefits greatly from an audiophile-grade power cord, but a $3 power cable will get you started, and may be all you ever need.

My interactions with Woo Audio have been consistently off, often odd, and occasionally rude. However, I don't think these rudenesses were intentional so much as the result of distraction and misunderstanding. I got the sense, perhaps mistakenly, that Woo Audio's staff was simply overworked--the result of a company's infrastructure lagging behind its own success. I never once, in my interactions with Woo Audio, felt like a valued or respected customer so much as a hurried duty. In fairness, many customers find their interactions with the company perfectly affable and helpful.

The WA2 is, for the price, about as close to perfection as one can find in this world--that, at least, is the humble opinion of this former professional classical musician. The amp, with proper NOS tube upgrades, offers a vast soundstage and, without aggrandizement, breathtakingly gorgeous timbre and divine imaging, subtle and layered. There's something magical about the amp, something pure in its presentation: it makes sense of complicated musical passages that, on lesser--even if more expensive--amplifiers, are just confused convolutions. To call this amp awe-inspiring is simply to state fact: I have whiled away untold hours listening in awe. I'm genuinely distraught that I can't give the amp the five-star rating it so justly deserves. But the company's faults--its quality assurance and customer service--tarnish the amp's perfection.

Posted

Pros: Great sounding, Large soundstage, Gets better with better tubes, Looks great

Cons: You will be tube rolling for ever!

I have owned the WA2 for about a year now. I typically listen to Alternative Rock, occasional Rap and some Blues. I am using a Arcam rDac with it and I also have a Rega RP-3 and a Project Phono Box.   

 

In Summary

Amazing amp best $1000 I have ever spent on my headphone set up! Works well with all sources and has loads of room for upgradeability! 

 

 

Woo Audio 2
Description:

Desktop headphone amp.

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