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[Review] Woo Audio 3 Headphone amp - Da Bomb

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

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Full review of the Woo Audio 3 WA3 here. There are loads of pictures, glowing exposures, and RMAA measurements. 

 

I've been using full size headphone amps since 2003; my first love was Meier, and to be honest, I'd go back that way in a heartbeat if I had the room. On my desk this month is the Woo Audio 3, Woo's entry-level valve amp, though at 475$, it doesn't feel entry-level at all! Actually, it is made like a tank, and I ain't being cliche. 

 

Build

Its walls are nearly 1 cm thick, made from machined and extruded aluminium, the top excellently ported for its tube set and the integrated power supply gets plenty of air from its grilled enclosure. This back-heavy design has a number of plusses: plugging and unplugging headphones is easy: the amp won't move around the table, so you can operate one-handed. At the same time, you'll have to make sure whatever it sits on is ready to take 2/3 of its weight at the back.

 

Speaking of the back: solid. The Pre-amp outputs and power cable connections are solidly made, not budging even for all-thumbs hands and thrusting fingers. The only part which might be a problem is the exposed valve tubes. Still, someone who buys a nice audio component isn't likely to rest their collection of Converse shoes on top.

 

Sound

I really want to re-iterate that this amp is good. But, if you want to use it with earphones and inner ear monitors, it isn't the best option. Balanced armatures are naff, and low Ω earphones, while loud, are poorly amped. Apart from that, though, there is lots of tubey sound to enjoy.

 

LowΩ headphones such as the v-Jays get a pronounced boost in bass. It is quite heavy. They are already heavy bass earphones, so it is like flipping the hyper switch. To hear what the WA3 really can do, you need to hook up proper headphones. It most easily drives headphones of 100 and above, with a sweet spot around 300-600. 

 

For that reason, HD600 and DT880 are simply smashing pairs. After 100Ω, though, there is little distortional/noise effluence in the signal. Grado headphones tend to induce a little harmonic distortion, but that softens their sound. The same goes for the DT880, a headphone known for stringent highs. The load of 600Ω presents as little load on the WA3 as there can be in headphone land. Thus, the signal is the most neutral above 150Ω, though again, the WA3 isn't Einar Sound neutral - it is hot and coloured, and for lean mean headphones, it is perfectly matched. At 9 o'clock, even with the DT880 600Ω, I have more than enough volume on both modern recordings and nice, pre-volume war recordings. 

 

That said, the valves introduce some fuzzy wuzzies. Treble is softened, and the wildly wide image of the DT800 is softened somewhat, allowing a less fatiguing listen. Both high and lows are consolidated into a more central image. This mid-centric presentation is great for rock, ambient, jazz, and relaxing classical.

 

Its midrange is magical, with a little bleed, making atmospheric genres magical. Fast genres still sound good, but shimmer a bit too much. Guitars, percussion, and wind instruments are bloody great as are voices and pianos. 

 

Pre amp

The WA3 also has a pre-amp built in. It is a serviceable addition, but not a great pre-amp. Its output is linked to headphone output and controlled via the volume pot. As such, it retains a lot of the same performance as the headphone output, and doesn't serve that well as a source, but it is a nice addition, especially if plugged into a multimedia system.

 

Valves really do warm/soften up the sound. Music you can relax to. A few valve amps I've listened to are more 'neutral', but I'd not say 'better'. The WA3 personifies valves and at its price point is a great example of build quality and adroit valve voicing. As long as you aren't listening to earphones, it is a fully recommended amp.

 

Full review of the Woo Audio 3 WA3 here. There are loads of pictures, glowing exposures, and RMAA measurements. 

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post #2 of 19

Very nice review...I read the complete multi-part. I've had my W3 since soon after joining Head-Fi. Considering how much stuff I've bought and sold since then, this shows how much I like this amp.

 

I recently moved my W3 from HP amp/ preamp duty where it worked fine with my Rotel speaker amp. Now it sits beside me at my listening chair where it belongs...and waiting for my T1 to arrive.


Edited by GreatDane - 5/15/10 at 12:14pm
post #3 of 19

Great review, I'm glad you took some measurements. I would love to see expansion in the part about valves, how they might sound different depending on their design (OTL, transformer coupled, caps in the signal path), or a link to those articles, it'll be handy for the newbies. Or maybe that's when you review the WA22? 


Edited by Ypoknons - 5/15/10 at 12:25pm
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the kind words. I'll probably not be going for anything more expensive/large in the short/long run as I live abroad now and haven't the funds/space for a full setup for now. As it is, however, the WA3 is a GREAT amp. It is built well, has lots of tube sound, and loads of power. I try hard to listen without an audiophile ear; catching nuances of headphones/impedance and their effect on the amp has always been important because there is listening and there is hearing. I think that the last part is ignored largely.

 

The truth is that over 100Ω and this amp really sounds great. Below it, it can sound good, but its best lungs are there. 

post #5 of 19

Great review, I love mine. The Woo 3 is a no brainer with the tube options.

post #6 of 19

i wish jack still made these in the gold and red.

those were just HOT, man!!! 

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

I've not seen a gold or red one yet... suppose I've not lived... need to live. What headphones are your favourites with the WA3?

post #8 of 19

I wanted the gold color but the wait was too long. When I owned the 600 Ohm AKG K240M, this amp drove them beautifully. As mentioned, IEMs don't work due to the noise.2245402690044175878S600x600Q85.jpg

post #9 of 19

Nice review and great Pics, GreatDane!!! One Question, What's the difference between this WA3 and the 

WooAudio 3+????   I did notice from the sight that the WA3+ doesn't have the pre-amp out puts.........Has anyone heard "IT"....thanks for any info...
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 

I've not heard 'IT', but it sounds like the amp bits are more juiced up. The Pre-amp is more of an afterthought than anything else, so I'd not get too worried that it's been taken out. As for IEMS, there hum in the signal which sounds like IMD, but not as bad as a sudden rush of IMD peaks. The bad part for iems is the total treble suckout.

 

For headphones, however, this amp is amazing - if you want a tubey sound. I've vascillated over tubes for a long time since I am a long time SS guy. Tubes in the past were my fuzzy wuzzy and I still think the same thing. The WA3 is a pretty tubey sound, though I won't be upgrading any to see just how/if the sound really changes. 

 

The stock set is powerful and rich, of course that isn't a component of performance necessarily, it is just an effect of the niceness of tubes.

post #11 of 19

Ive listened to Big Poppas a couple of times and think it is a great tube amp. His hd580s sound awesome on it. I do think it falls  little short on my denons. At the price range I think it is a no brainer.

post #12 of 19

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post

Thanks for the kind words. I'll probably not be going for anything more expensive/large in the short/long run as I live abroad now and haven't the funds/space for a full setup for now. As it is, however, the WA3 is a GREAT amp. It is built well, has lots of tube sound, and loads of power. I try hard to listen without an audiophile ear; catching nuances of headphones/impedance and their effect on the amp has always been important because there is listening and there is hearing. I think that the last part is ignored largely.

 

The truth is that over 100Ω and this amp really sounds great. Below it, it can sound good, but its best lungs are there. 


haha I kid I kid. I can understand that, I had a HD595+Headroom Micro in college but ended up using IEMs most of the time for convenience. I can understand what you mean by hearing, but my personal view that we should appreciate the amp designer's choices and understand what we're buying on a technical level, and reviews are great for that. But it's not a slam against the review at all. 

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hey, fun chat. I don't mind being slammed - even though you didn't - as that is what reviews/readers are for: comparison and for resource. If I was in Canada, I'd probably save for a large main amp. I have one already that I really like in the WA3 and another for balanced, having sold my Meier and Canamp years ago. Some day when I'm either full at electronics distribution office, or back in comfortable Canada, I'll probably purchase a big tube!

post #14 of 19

nice review shigzeo.i love the woo sound,you should try hd650 with it,there is a reason why alot of headfiers recommend woo+hd650.

it is rich,spacious,airy,very musical with great instrument seperation.i like to listen to trance on my home setup more than iems and classical sound heavenly with it.

d5000 didnt have a good synergy with my wa6,dont know why but i think it needs SS amp power to control that enoroumes bass which the wa6 failed in doing.anyway,i hated d5000 in every way because of soft bass and recessed mids.

 

enjoy your wa3 it is a great amp.

post #15 of 19

Ahh!! I always wanted have WA3 in RED!! It just looks so nice and fun. I would probably get it when I have excessive money to buy RED ferrari! that would be ..... sometimes from now lol!

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