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First Woo Audio GES in Australia - Impressions

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
O.k., I've not posted a review thread before so go easy on me.

Short history to acquisition:
I tried some Apuresound ([AK]Zip ) RCA-2-RCA interconnects (thanks to Juzmister) in place of the Stax OFC ones I'd used for years. They revealed that I could benefit from upgrading my amp (Stax SRM-T1, unmodded, sorry Spritzer) to then fulfill the potential of my HE60s. And so I'm now moving just one upgraditis step - yes, just one, really (why don't you believe me???) - further to find that synergy of ideal sound (for me). I couldn't afford Alex's ([AK]Zip's) ES-1 or his final maxxed KGBH so I took his suggestion to look for alternatives in the 007t price range and ran straight into Adrian's (akwok's) sale of his Woo Audio GES.

Equipment Used:
For these impressions I have used a variety of redbook CDs (rock, jazz, folk, orchestral, studio and live) and a StatMat CDi Blue (Thanks to fkclo) through a modded Pioneer PD-S901 stable platter (or a Musical Fidelity A3.5) via a pair of VH Pulsar interconnects (Thanks to happyangryhappy) through the Woo Audio GES to the Sennheisser HE60s reterminated with a Stax Plug (Thanks to [AK]Zip). The impressions come after a few days settling with the GES and a solid day's listening with the above equipment (the interconnects arrived today).

Detail:
The first point to note with the GES is that it takes a good hour to warm up - it's disappointing listening to it prior to this. In fact if you start listening too soon to the amp you'll find yourself driving the volume up too high and the sound is unbalanced, most noticably the poorer the source recording you use, but annoyingly noticeable even with the best recordings.

Of note, though, is that it warms up faster with signal going through it (i.e. listening after an hour of passive warm-up - just having had it turned on for the hour - it is initially still not at its best but it comes into its own within a further 15-20 minutes of active listening). You notice this by where you need to place the volume control as it reaches its prime operating temperature - it gets louder and louder until it's settled. For instance, if it's not fully warmed up I'll play my better quality recordings at 1 o'clock but once it's warm these are too loud (for me) beyond 12 o'clock. Once warmed I'm generally playing my various recordings anywhere between 11 o'clock and 12 o'clock.

For an electrostatic amp it's quite lively; dynamic. And, yes, I concur with others who have stated that it packs its best punch when you give it just that little bit more volume to truly 'drive' the phones. This can become a juggle, though, as driving the bass punch sufficiently can lead to an occasional 'punch' of too much treble (for me, at least). Which is probably why Kevin Gilmore went on to the KGBH design to give more bass slam . For this price range, though, it's a very good result.

It's definitely addictive - seductive? - the longer it's on, the more you listen, the longer you want to listen.

The bass is strong - powerful, clean and clear. Yes, it does give the HE60s good bass - if there's good bass recorded on the source, of course!

Sweet, crisp treble - cymbals are cymbals, punchy, dynamic with delightfully realistic decay. It's so much closer to the sensation of being there, at the
recording.

It makes the HE60s truly sing, using their full breadth and scope. It produces great dimension - soundtstage front to back, left to right is reflective of
what each source delivers (the Musical Fidelity is more constrained than the Pioneer, and works better with broader scope orchestral recordings whilst the Pioneer delights in close microphoned works).

The GES retains the detail - the distinct placement of instruments and voices within the mix (especially wonderful on multi-voice choruses and well mic-ed choirs) - but is not hard or harsh in its analysis - it's still warmly musical, seductively so. At times I get too analytical myself and wonder if I'm
missing something, only to relax back into the music that's being so well produced by this delightful amp. It's just a good, neutral and clear deliverer of what it's being fed.

Now I know I've rattled on about sound/music and there are a number of HeadFi-ers for whom look is also an issue. I'd only advise going to the Woo site and checking out the images there. They're a true reflection of the simple, well polished, rounded look to this typical open-tube amp. Of course the best look is in the dark, with just the source and the amp as the light sources: only regret is that the front tubes don't glow anywhere near as brightly as their larger partners . As if that matters - this thing's for music! Listen to it!

Summary:
Does it do the job? A resounding 'Yes'. Give it a good quality audio signal from a good player playing a good disc - through a good quality interconnect - and it will deliver everything it gets, evenly and delightfully amplified to your chosen electrostatic headphone.

What it brings to my audio experience, though, (pending the arrival of my [AK]Zip interconnects) is completeness. [AK]Zip interconnects will (finally)
complete my main system and, thus, what I'm noticing more nowadays is not "there's something I haven't heard, or heard that way, before in that recording" but more just recognising that my main rig is delivering everything I can hear out of my recordings and then, paradoxically, noticing what isn't delivered by my bedside or portable rigs. Oh, the sacrafices! Cest La Vie!

Best: Once it's warmed up and my headphones are on my head then that's the way I stay (provided I don't run out of discs within reach!). Food, Drink and other physical necessities like sleep just have to be put on hold!

Worst: Single Volume Control (no opportunity to alter balance if you ever needed to - not that I ever have with my previous amps that had this feature); Only one Stax 'Pro' outlet unless you order more outlets; Source selector switch at back of amp (would be easier on the front as with other Woo amps). Perhaps, for those wanting to eventually go balanced the option of balanced inputs/outputs might be desirable (I'm not sure if Jack is able to offer it with this amp?).

Further upgrades? Well, I'll be interested in suggested tube upgrades but, like mikeg, I'll wait to see which tubes are found to be best by others.
post #2 of 21
Nice impressions, we should have another meet soon! I've got some more gear...
post #3 of 21
congrats! sounds like a sweet piece of kit =)
post #4 of 21
Congrats on the new amp. It should be a big step up from an unmodded T1 but be careful not to go nuts with tube rolling, matched quads of NOS 12AX7's are pretty pricey.
post #5 of 21
Great write-up! Thanks
post #6 of 21
Nice write up webbie and congrats on the GES. It is good hear that the GES does well with the HE60, to date I think the only other impressions have been with the HE90 and Omega II.
post #7 of 21
I am waiting on a built-to-order GES (3 weeks now) and am using a demo unit that Jack had.

He does indeed offer a balanced input option, which I almost bought, but I don't really have the cash flow to fund the upgrade. He has to add another row of tubes and make the chassis about 2 inches longer to accomodate them.

I did get a Sennheiser jack added on but was told, that unlike the 007t which is a hybrid amp (not point to point wiring) that the GES can't handle 2 headphones at the same time, so if I want switch from Omegas to the HE-60's, I'd have to shut off the amp, switch headphones and then wait for the new headphones stators to warm up. It would just be better to use a different pair of headphones each listening session.

I never realized the "warm-up/volume" situation, but it does make perfect sense, because when I listen to them after 15 minutes, I have to turn the volume up to 1 o'clock...but when I turn it on and listen a couple of hours later (not on purpose, it's just that life gets in the way sometimes) it is one of the sweetest amps I've ever heard and the volume is suitable at 11 o'clock.
When I spoke to Jack about this, he offered to increase the gain for me.

I was listening to "The Best of Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis" last night before bed and I was truly impressed with the sound quality. It had been on for about 4 hours.

I guess that since electrostat headphones take a while to warm up before the sound their best, then waiting for the amp to warm up isn't that big a problem.

Enjoy your new toy and thanks for the review!
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by juzmister View Post
Nice impressions, we should have another meet soon! I've got some more gear...
I've got a set of NOS 6S4 tubes that may be worthwhile to try. Also I am waiting for an upgraded KGSS from Justin - we could do a reasonably interesting shoot out.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 

A reasonably interesting shoot out?

Always interested in trying and comparing. Not sure on requirements for tuberolling with this amp but PM me when you've got the upgraded KGSS from Justin and we'll organise a get-together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvse View Post
I've got a set of NOS 6S4 tubes that may be worthwhile to try (webbie64 please let me know if you want them). Also I am waiting for an upgraded KGSS from Justin - we could do a reasonably interesting shoot out.
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by webbie64 View Post
Always interested in trying and comparing. Not sure on requirements for tuberolling with this amp but PM me when you've got the upgraded KGSS from Justin and we'll organise a get-together.
Will do! By the way.. how does the new amp compare to the T1? Is it a substantial improvement?
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 

How does the new amp compare to the T1?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvse View Post
Will do! By the way.. how does the new amp compare to the T1? Is it a substantial improvement?
Much as I love my beloved SRM-T1 (my first tube amp) the difference is as stark as you might expect from the price difference. The more I have gradually gained better/clearer signal into my SRM-T1, the less I've noticed a difference. This became especially noticeable when I tried juzmister's [AK]Zip ICs. The SRM-T1 just couldn't deliver the bass anymore in comparison to the much clearer mids and highs. Alex ([AK]Zip) suggested bass was hardest for an amp to deliver to an electrostatic and suggested something at the 007t price range. I looked at potentially stretching to a KGSS that was offered in the FS forums at the time, or a KGBH. Even had a shot if I wanted it at Alex's ES-1. However my budget couldn't allow for it . So when the GES fitted my requirements I grabbed it. No regrets, whatsoever. Just got to recover some of the funds by making the SRM-T1 available for another to enjoy.
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 

It's also in the d-e-t-a-i-l...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvse View Post
Will do! By the way.. how does the new amp compare to the T1? Is it a substantial improvement?
After writing the previous entry at work I thought about it on the way home and confirmed it by a further session this evening - it's the level of detail - more detail across the full range of the frequency spectrum; cleaner, clearer signal fully resolved coming to a set of phones that will reproduce exactly what you throw at them. This amp is working at a level of synergy with the HE60s to resolve what the cables are more capably delivering from the source.

It's like my collection is 'new' again; waiting to be 'discovered'.

Sure, I'll 'play' a little bit more with my source (in case there's more to be discovered) but the sound is so pure and rich to me right now I doubt I'm too far away from settling on my main headphone rig. [which means I'll focus on finalising the portable and speaker rig set-ups! There's always something to tweak! ]
post #13 of 21

GES upgrades?

Has anyone inquired about things like cap/wiring/xformer upgrades. Looking at the insides, it looks like it has plenty of room for some big ass russian teflon caps or some other flavor. Does Jack charge a lot for these kinds of upgrades? I know that some designers don't like to do that sort of thing and charge accordingly. Although it doesn't look like it'd be all that tough, it sure would be nice to maintain a warranty it's full length for a change!
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ironbut View Post
Has anyone inquired about things like cap/wiring/xformer upgrades. Looking at the insides, it looks like it has plenty of room for some big ass russian teflon caps or some other flavor. Does Jack charge a lot for these kinds of upgrades? I know that some designers don't like to do that sort of thing and charge accordingly. Although it doesn't look like it'd be all that tough, it sure would be nice to maintain a warranty it's full length for a change!
He does offer some upgrades to the coupling caps, psu caps and resistors but not to the internal wiring and input jacks. The upgraded caps he offers are better but none of the good stuff and the upgrades aren't cheap.
post #15 of 21
Your observation regarding the benefits of warming up gear by active playing, coincides with mine. While listening to my nearfield studio monitors, I discovered that they sound harsh and shrill at the start of listening sessions, but that after 15-20 minutes of playing, they very noticeably smooth out and sound wonderful. Thus, active playing of the equipment is needed even after "passive" equipment warm-up times of several hours. So, I now routinely play music for a while, at low volume, before every listening session. Thank you for posting this observation, which I've never seen anyone else post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by webbie64 View Post
O.k., I've not posted a review thread before so go easy on me.

Short history to acquisition:
I tried some Apuresound ([AK]Zip ) RCA-2-RCA interconnects (thanks to Juzmister) in place of the Stax OFC ones I'd used for years. They revealed that I could benefit from upgrading my amp (Stax SRM-T1, unmodded, sorry Spritzer) to then fulfill the potential of my HE60s. And so I'm now moving just one upgraditis step - yes, just one, really (why don't you believe me???) - further to find that synergy of ideal sound (for me). I couldn't afford Alex's ([AK]Zip's) ES-1 or his final maxxed KGBH so I took his suggestion to look for alternatives in the 007t price range and ran straight into Adrian's (akwok's) sale of his Woo Audio GES.

Equipment Used:
For these impressions I have used a variety of redbook CDs (rock, jazz, folk, orchestral, studio and live) and a StatMat CDi Blue (Thanks to fkclo) through a modded Pioneer PD-S901 stable platter (or a Musical Fidelity A3.5) via a pair of VH Pulsar interconnects (Thanks to happyangryhappy) through the Woo Audio GES to the Sennheisser HE60s reterminated with a Stax Plug (Thanks to [AK]Zip). The impressions come after a few days settling with the GES and a solid day's listening with the above equipment (the interconnects arrived today).

Detail:
The first point to note with the GES is that it takes a good hour to warm up - it's disappointing listening to it prior to this. In fact if you start listening too soon to the amp you'll find yourself driving the volume up too high and the sound is unbalanced, most noticably the poorer the source recording you use, but annoyingly noticeable even with the best recordings.

Of note, though, is that it warms up faster with signal going through it (i.e. listening after an hour of passive warm-up - just having had it turned on for the hour - it is initially still not at its best but it comes into its own within a further 15-20 minutes of active listening). You notice this by where you need to place the volume control as it reaches its prime operating temperature - it gets louder and louder until it's settled. For instance, if it's not fully warmed up I'll play my better quality recordings at 1 o'clock but once it's warm these are too loud (for me) beyond 12 o'clock. Once warmed I'm generally playing my various recordings anywhere between 11 o'clock and 12 o'clock.
For an electrostatic amp it's quite lively; dynamic. And, yes, I concur with others who have stated that it packs its best punch when you give it just that little bit more volume to truly 'drive' the phones. This can become a juggle, though, as driving the bass punch sufficiently can lead to an occasional 'punch' of too much treble (for me, at least). Which is probably why Kevin Gilmore went on to the KGBH design to give more bass slam . For this price range, though, it's a very good result.

It's definitely addictive - seductive? - the longer it's on, the more you listen, the longer you want to listen.

The bass is strong - powerful, clean and clear. Yes, it does give the HE60s good bass - if there's good bass recorded on the source, of course!

Sweet, crisp treble - cymbals are cymbals, punchy, dynamic with delightfully realistic decay. It's so much closer to the sensation of being there, at the
recording.

It makes the HE60s truly sing, using their full breadth and scope. It produces great dimension - soundtstage front to back, left to right is reflective of
what each source delivers (the Musical Fidelity is more constrained than the Pioneer, and works better with broader scope orchestral recordings whilst the Pioneer delights in close microphoned works).

The GES retains the detail - the distinct placement of instruments and voices within the mix (especially wonderful on multi-voice choruses and well mic-ed choirs) - but is not hard or harsh in its analysis - it's still warmly musical, seductively so. At times I get too analytical myself and wonder if I'm
missing something, only to relax back into the music that's being so well produced by this delightful amp. It's just a good, neutral and clear deliverer of what it's being fed.

Now I know I've rattled on about sound/music and there are a number of HeadFi-ers for whom look is also an issue. I'd only advise going to the Woo site and checking out the images there. They're a true reflection of the simple, well polished, rounded look to this typical open-tube amp. Of course the best look is in the dark, with just the source and the amp as the light sources: only regret is that the front tubes don't glow anywhere near as brightly as their larger partners . As if that matters - this thing's for music! Listen to it!

Summary:
Does it do the job? A resounding 'Yes'. Give it a good quality audio signal from a good player playing a good disc - through a good quality interconnect - and it will deliver everything it gets, evenly and delightfully amplified to your chosen electrostatic headphone.

What it brings to my audio experience, though, (pending the arrival of my [AK]Zip interconnects) is completeness. [AK]Zip interconnects will (finally)
complete my main system and, thus, what I'm noticing more nowadays is not "there's something I haven't heard, or heard that way, before in that recording" but more just recognising that my main rig is delivering everything I can hear out of my recordings and then, paradoxically, noticing what isn't delivered by my bedside or portable rigs. Oh, the sacrafices! Cest La Vie!

Best: Once it's warmed up and my headphones are on my head then that's the way I stay (provided I don't run out of discs within reach!). Food, Drink and other physical necessities like sleep just have to be put on hold!

Worst: Single Volume Control (no opportunity to alter balance if you ever needed to - not that I ever have with my previous amps that had this feature); Only one Stax 'Pro' outlet unless you order more outlets; Source selector switch at back of amp (would be easier on the front as with other Woo amps). Perhaps, for those wanting to eventually go balanced the option of balanced inputs/outputs might be desirable (I'm not sure if Jack is able to offer it with this amp?).

Further upgrades? Well, I'll be interested in suggested tube upgrades but, like mikeg, I'll wait to see which tubes are found to be best by others.
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