I was originally looking at purchasing a Woo WA5 last August but at the time was put off by the high shipping cost and the fact that I would have also wanted the parts upgrade and better tubes which would have pushed the cost out to around 6k inc. shipping so I opted for a Red Wine Audio Isabellina LFP-V HPA instead.
I loved the sound the RWA as well as the fact it was an “all in one” unit so didn’t have to worry about DAC’s, synergy, cables etc. At this point I thought I had reached the pinnacle of personal audio nirvana but after a while I began to wonder what else I might be missing (audio is evil like that!). So for the following few months I began researching amps again constantly coming back to the Woo WA5. Another driver for the upgrade was I wanted to get back into vinyl again so needed an amp with a input selector switch. I first thought of upgrading my Isabellina to an Isabella as this has an input selector but the jump in price put me firmly into WA5 territory and the fact that the Woo could also drive efficient speakers was the clincher for me.
So after weeks of waiting my WA5 finally arrived. Purchased from a fellow headfier in the US the transaction ended up being a logistical nightmare for me living in Australia due to the sheer bulk of the 2 units. Shipping and customs charges ended up fattening the price by another $1000 but as the amp came loaded with all the fruit (parts upgrade, Teflon sockets and Sophia Princess 300B and power rectifiers) in the end I still think I got a reasonable deal.
First visual impressions of the Woo were impressive. Both power supply and amp have a commanding presence and I absolutely love the overall design of these however the only other Woo product I have or have ever seen here in Oz is my headphone stand so didn’t really have any point of reference in terms of the Woo sound signature or fit and finish of their products.
My only aesthetic disappointment was a gouge on the top faceplate under one of the carry handles however im not sure if this was how is came out of the factory or whether the previous owner somehow managed to do this (my instinct tells me this was a factory blemish as I cannot figure out how someone could make that kind of damage under the handle).
My unit also arrived with loose volume pot and selector switches but was easily fixed by tightening the grub screw with a hex key. And finally while on the subject of aesthetics I must also say im not a big fan of the quality or perhaps I should say the “feel” of the selector switches used. They are very tight and have a clunky cheep feel to them, which is something I would not have expected at this price point.
So for the initial test my rig consisted of the following:
Source: Mac Mini 2010 model with 4g Ram upgrade running iTunes via Decibel
DAC: Isabellina LFP-V HPA (Miniwatt Dario E188C buffer tube)
Headphones: Audeze LCD-2 with ALO Chain mail cable
Amp: Woo Audio WA5 (parts upgrade and stock tubes for initial testing)
As I mentioned earlier I was quite happy with the sound of my LCD-2’s running through the Isabellina and there has been a few threads in the past commenting on this combination and all have said the Isabellina drives the LCD-2’s well. I also was of this opinion until I heard the WA5! The old adage of “you don’t know what you don’t know” rings true here as upon hearing the WA5 for the first time was a revelation to my ears. At moderate to loud listening the music flowing out of the amp was just so dynamic and powerful with so much space surrounding the instruments it made my Isabellina sound somewhat compressed by comparison. My LCD-2’s felt like they had just been injected with a dose of steroids!
Apart from the increased dynamics the two things that have really stood out for me is the bass response and the sense of space I am hearing. I have never felt the LCD’s physically move air until now and there is so much meat on the lower registers I am rediscovering all my albums again. That said there does however seem to be a slight amount of bass bloat but that could be due to the stock tubes or the fact the amp has only had around 50 hours of use.
There have also been a few occasions where I could have sworn I heard noises from upstairs only to find it was from the recording. Its hard to describe but I get the feeling instead of the instruments being played in front of me I can also look around each of them as they all have a distinct space. Very uncanny! All this I might add with the stock tubes which a lot of owners with more experience than I have said are basically rubbish..
I have since replaced the stock tubes with Sophia Princess mesh plate 300B’s, Sophia Princess Mesh Plate 274B and a pair of Sylvania 6SN7GTA Bad Boy Tubes and am going to give it a few days before commenting as I try to get an idea of the changes.
Overall im very impressed with the Woo. Heres a few pics.