Pros: Clarity, transparency & soundstage
I recently had the opportunity to listen to WA6SE on demo for 2 hours at the comfort of my home and this is my take on it.
The DAC is DACport and the headphone used is LCD-2 Rev 2 if anyone is interested to know.
The actual amp consists of 2 separate units; one is the actual tube amp while the second unit is a separate power supply to the amp. The 2 units would then be connected via a power supply umbilical cord. I have not actually listened to its predecessor, the WA6, before; as such I am not able to comment on the differences in sound signature or power. However, with a separate power supply added in this SE version, it should not be a far stretch to think that the sound produced by WA6SE would be both more powerful and cleaner. The amp looks very handsome and muscular in live. I had the silver set, and it looked a very sophisticated and well crafted piece of machine. The volume pot is very smooth and there are no blemishes on the body. It is indeed very finely crafted by Mr Woo.
I have not heard many tube amps as I am more of a solid state sound signature kind of guy. The general signature of tube amps seems to be warm and mellow. The WA6SE has quite a black background. When I was listening to LCD-2 on it, I did not really pick up much noise or hum in the background. The WA6SE did not sound as warm or mellow as I expected it to be. Sure, it was slightly warm, but it was not to the extent of being very warm, nor was it so mellow that it was only suitable with tracks with low PRaT. If anything is to go, I personally feel that WA6SE is a little bright with a tinge of warmness, which is a funny thing to say about a tube amp.
Soundstage is excellent on WA6SE both on width and depth. It is relatively wide and I could hear staging in layers. Imaging is also very good. Before listening to WA6SE, I expected the transient of tube amps to be rather slow and mellow sounding. The WA6SE changed this notion; in fact, WA6SE is just 2 steps behind the Burson HA-160 that I own in terms of transient. It was quite a funny feeling, and I had to double check just to make sure that the headphone was plugged into WA6SE instead of Burson. WA6SE actually impressed me on the energy that it is able to churn out. The decay of WA6SE sounded like midway point between Burson and a Little Dot MK III I listened to a couple of months.
Clarity is present in abundance and the slight warmth was actually a nice complement. WA6SE also scored quite high in transparency as I expected the warmth to slightly curtail it, but that was not the case. As mentioned earlier, the energy and speed that WA6SE actually made my music sounded crisp and clear, and that was something I clearly had not expected prior to this audition.
Bass on WA6SE extended low, and the bass details is quite detailed. Impact is also quite impressive, yet the decay on the bass is just nice; it did not linger too long as other tube amps nor did it behave like a solid state's short decay. In short, for me, the bass impressed me as I expected it to be slightly loose, but it was clearly not the case.
Mids has always been the stronghold of tube amps and I am very happy to say WA6SE excelled on this front. The timbre and texture is excellent. Vocals sounded natural, full and lush with a tinge of emotions especially on female vocals. If there's one defining feature that I have to comment about WA6SE, it is the mids that I totally enjoyed.
For me, the treble on WA6SE is quite a funny beast. As I mentioned earlier, WA6SE sounds a little brighter than the few tube amps that I have heard. So, treble extension on WA6SE is very good, in fact, it is better than the few tube amps I have heard. However, this also means that music that is a bit "hot" in treble might be more revealing on WA6SE than other tube amps. On the flipside, WA6SE also provides a little sparkle that is missing in most tube amps.
Concluding what I heard on WA6SE, I could be forgiven for mistaking WA6SE to be a hybrid amp. But it is not; it is a tube amp. I am usually a solid state guy but I had a thoroughly enjoyable time with the WA6SE. It has a relatively fast transient, yet has that warmth that is lacking in most solid state amps. I was especially impressed with its mids and soundstage. If I were to consider a tube amp, the WA6SE would be very high on that list at this point. That is how highly I rate this amp.