Pros: Warm smooth sound. Deep Bass. Sweet Vocals, Low Hiss
Cons: Lacks the Impact, Initial Tubes are not that great
The WA22 is my third Desktop Amp and second tube amp. I got it through AV One, a local retailer here, after 2 rounds of testing and I was impressed enough to purchase it.
Built like a tank and weighed more then 10KG, the WA22 is one of the nicest looking amp that gives a the buyer confidence. The volume knob has stops built in. Personally I prefer a smooth knob with good tension but the one on the WA22 is really smooth and the volume increase usually hits the amount I need to so no complaints. The only amp I that felt better using is the studio six by ALO but I guess its really subjective to each individual..
The WA22 is a very smooth amp with good warmness. Through my vocal songs by Suara and Susan Wong, this warmness makes the vocal all the more realistic and pleasing to hear. Especially in the phases where the vocal dominates most of the sound, it gives a feeling of a upfront small little hall that the singer is there to express her song. Theres also a slightly longer decay that adds on to the smoothness that makes the WA22 a blast to listen for vocals.
Listening to more pop music however lacks the absolute impact in those bass and the shimmer in the high. Everything feels tamed and yet extended. It feels some excitement is actually lost in the music compared to my hybrid tube amp ALO Continental Dual Mono. This is however mitigated a little with the usage of Sylvania 6SN7GT which I replaced over the default tube. For the lack of impact of impact, the WA22 bring about quite some depth in the lows and plenty of clarity. This can be felt in the various sound tracks from Final Fantasy Distant World series. Separation is also great, allowing each instrument to be identified. However their exact positioning is definitely not the absolute best: the studio six which I had a chance to also try out is better at it, though it cost twice the price!
With all its power, its a great amp to drive the planars and likes of K701. My HE500 was really revived with the energy the WA22 gives it. The K701 with the WA22 has plenty of clarity and a nice warm sound stage. It doesnt feel as wide as the WA5 that I tried out, but it feels more realistic like a good sized room. It also drives IEMS quite well. My Lyra had no hiss from the WA22 even when the pot is turned more then 50%.
If one major issue I have, is the original tubes that comes with it is rather bad. Just changing it really improves the entire amp by a good margin. My current favourite for vocals is the RCA 6SN7 while for general listening, the Sylvania is a great generalist for most types of song. My rectifier is a RCA 5U4G, definitely going to try a Metal base Mullard 5ar4 one day.
In conclusion, the WA22 is a great amp especially after some basic tube rolling. It may not be the best if you want the best seperation or sound stage, but if vocals are the main course of your music, then this amp is extremely enjoyable and worth the space and cost.