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The Beauty and the Beast... Woo WA2 vs WA22

post #1 of 213
Thread Starter 

THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


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WOO AUDIO -  WA2 vs WA22


 

 

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I have had the privilege of having these two beautiful amplifiers side by side for a couple of months now. I assume I am not the only one who has been wondering about which one to get, so I've tried to contribute with a subjective write-up, including rather subjective track-by-track side-by-side comparison. I have limited the number of headphones to two sets, the HD650 and the LCD-3.


DISCLAIMER
Just to get it clear. I prefer unbright sound. I like LCD-2 rev.1, LCD-3, HD650, FostexT50RP. I prefer the Stax 007 to the 009. I’ve owned the HD800 and T1, but both were too bright for me. I think “natural” sound is more appealing than “neutral”. I think “timbre” is more important than “PrAT”. However. I enjoy high levels of detail and transparency, but I am willing to tolerate less of that if the tonal balance feels better - which often means less treble tilted.  I do enjoy a powerful presentation, but have a preference for warm, full bodied bass to super tight bass.Thus, I foresee that many head-fiers will disagree with my subjective experiences presented in the following text.

 

 

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TECHNICALITIES

What’s the difference?
Price: WA2 is 1090 USD (Stepped attenuator as in WA22 199 extra), WA22 is 1990 USD.
Output impedance: WA2 is 70 ohm 
+/- 15% output impedance (source) depending on tubes, WA22 has a high/low impedance knob similar to the WA6SE - which is measured to 15 or 50 ohm ref.Ken Rockwell review WA6SE)

Wattage: WA22 is significantly more powerful than WA2, but WA2 has more wattage than a lot of headphone amps, especially compared to other OTL tube amps.
Functionality: WA22 is fully balanced headphone amp only. For roughly 400 USD you can get a custom balanced pre-amp output. RCA and XLR inputs, flip switch on the back.
WA2 doubles as a
pre-amp in standard version. 4 inputs selected on front panel knob.

WA2 is a SET OTL, (Single Ended Triode, Output Transformer Less) - among the purest of tube constructions. OTL’s (and tubes) generally are better at voltage swings than current, and is usually regarded better for higher impdance headphones. However, WA2 delivers quite a bit of wattage, and I find it to be a good match for the planars/orthos I have tried. These orthos has got a flat impedance response curve, which makes impedance matching less important. There are also people who raves about the WA2 with low impedance phones, especially as well Denon D7000. (see CNET and EnjoyTheMusic reviews)

WA22 is also a Triode, but transformer coupled and fully balanced. It delivers 1,5 Watts into a 30 ohm headphone. It has two options for output impedance, which is quite neat. Often I seem to prefer the low impedance planars with the high output impedance. It makes the sound a bit thicker. A very nice function, you got two amps in one. With HD650 and HD800 it is almost always the High imp setting that works best. I have not tried it any HQ low impedance traditional dynamic headphones.

Woo Audio: htttp://www.wooaudio.com/products/
Woo Tube Compatibility Chart
Woo Audio Comaprison Chart

 


2916771

 

 

 

THE SOUND

They both share what I guess is the Woo “house sound”. Not dark and warm, rather smooth, yet very precise and detailed. Great soundstage. Actually I originally got the to compensate for my former T1’s brightness. I thought that the WA2 (my first tube experience) would add a real dose of warmth to the midrange and roll of the treble enough for me to tolerate the T1. It didn’t work out that way. Some say the WA22 has warmer mids than the WA2, I disagree. But I would say it is more upfront. I feel the high mids are more present in the WA22.

WA22 generally has more bite, sharper edges, is faster, and in a way “thinner” sounding.  WA2 is tender, more full-bodied, polite, lush. Not laid back and dull, but a bit less sharply defined. However, it kind of makes things more subtle in a way. If this is really so or just that I am lead to listen more for subtleness with the WA2, I do not know. The peaks are slightly higher and sharper with the WA22, slightly smoother with the WA2. They smoothness of the WA2 is not the warmish type. It is not smooth as honey, but smooth as silk, if you see what I mean.

 

If I were to use negative vocabulary, the the WA2 would be the flatter and duller one, while the WA22 is the edgier and intrusive one. But I’m not going to put it that way. Every trait has its pros and con. I must emphasize again that they are indeed of the same family. They share more similarities than differences. On some tracks they vary more in presentation than others. They favor different parts of the recording, which draws your attention slightly more to this or that. Both have excellent soundstage and detail, they are great amps.

Focusing on the differences, how would I decribe the comparative advantages of these two beautiful amps in a few words? Well, this is what comes to my mind. But remember, this is comparative - compared to one another, not to other amps:   
WA2: Tenderness, timbre and a full-bodied and coherent sound.
WA22: Speed, precision, detail and dynamics..


2913511 
 

TRACK BY TRACK

The tracks chosen is from the music I like to listen too these days, but I picked each of them because I find these specific tracks to be good for spotting traits in audio gear. I’m sorry about the lack of well known tunes, but have included direct links to a listen-preview-services. (If the links not work, google is your friend, and I think Amazon has them all - also for pre listen straming).

Tubes in WA2 on this test: 5998 +
 Mullard CV2492
Tubes in WA22: RCA6080, Rayethon 6SN7, 5U4G. (I used TS5998, Sylvania 6SN7 and EML5U4G too - but the main differences between the amps are the same).

Source: SB Touch - Lavry DA11 - Nordost Baldur RCA (Y-Split to both amps)

I have used my own ranking, the SPR - Subjective Preference Ranking. This is only based on what I prefer. Not what sounds most impressive, detailed or whatever, just which amp made me enjoy the music the most. I played all tracks several times with each amp, switching back and forth in varying intervals until I was sure I had made up my mind.


“Subjective Preference-Ranking” explained:

= indicates equal preference, not necessarily that it sounds the same
>= indicates “very slightly preferred to”
> indicates “slightly preferred to”
>> “clearly preferred to”
>>> “absurdly preferred to”
>>>> “preferred beyond sanity”

 

2913517

 

FEEDING THE HD650

Track 1 and 2 - Ipa/Lorena/Ting/Mossabacka.
Alternative jazz, fabolous percussion details, bass, intense sax. After about 9 minutes, the track “Ting” has some intense solo drumming, the drum skin licks your ear canals..
http://wimp.no/wweb/album/?album=2838336
The WA22 has more punch, sounds crispier, faster, better separated. It suits these tracks especially well. WA2 presents a more polite, less edgy and fuller sound, but on these tracks the WA22 really makes the material shine.
WA22>>WA2.

Track 3- Radiohead - Kid A -Morning Bell.
Rock/Electronica -male vocals
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/1747929
The faster WA22 makes the percussive elements stand out more, bass is better defined. However, the vocals feel better on the WA2, which isn’t a slouch in the other aspects either. WA2>=WA22

Track 4 - Ola Bremnes/Hav av tid/Hav av tid
Folky singer songwriter, challenging bass - long deep notes.
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/4852205
The WA2 presents the bass surprisingly well, and has an edge on the WA22 on the vocal presentation.
WA2>WA22

Track 5 - Jørn Øien Trio - It should be obvious
http://getwimp.com/wweb/track/3867840
This percussion based track should favor the WA22. It hits harder and feels more precise. However, it is thinner sounding, and I prefer the WA2 more elegant presentation by a hair..
WA2>=WA22

Track 6 - Jøkleba - Nu Jøk - Muggen Fallskjerm
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=6675654
This is also percussion oriented, and I expected the WA22 to win But again, the precision of the big brother makes doesn’t make that much of a different, WA22 feels more restrained in a way, hard to explain, but I prefer the presentation of the WA2
WA2>WA22

Track 7 - Flaten/Kornstad/Christensen - Mitt hjerte altid vanker 1 - For himmerigs land maa man kjempe
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=5760677
Here, the WA2’s tender mids brings the music out better IMO, but the cymbals have definitely more shimmer with the WA22.
WA2>WA22

Track 8 - Vincente Amigo - Ciudad de las ideas - Compare Manuel (Dedicado Aueco)
Flamenco guitarist, vocals percussion. .
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/498913
Here the WA22 has definitely better separation, clarity, soundstage depth. The percussive elements are more upfront, bass control is better. The WA2 does ok, but all is more relaxed, and feels (I hate to say it) slightly veiled in comparison.
WA22>>WA2

Track 9 - Emerson String Quartet - Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola Op.H 313 - I. Poco allegro
Energetic string quartet piece
music link
WA22 is crisper, details more u front, but the WA22 has a tenderness in its tone that is hard not to be seduced by.
WA2>WA22

Track 12 - Tord Gustavsen Trio- Changing Places -Turning Point
Slow and gentle jazz trio
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=1673843
WA22 tighter bass, harder sound. WA2 is softer, has more charm
WA2>WA22

Track 11 - Axioma Ethica Odini  Enslaved - Raidho
Hard hitting hard core death heavy screaming double drum black metal
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/4314640
WA22 is faster, things are better defined, details stand out more. WA2 does surprisingly well with keeping up with the speed, and its fuller sound has indeed much appeal.
WA22 >= WA2

Track 12 - Jon Balke - Rotor - Khamsin
Almost only piano single notes.
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=474259
WA22 is crispier, WA2 is fuller. Both very nice.
WA22 >= WA2

Track 13 - Vivaldi 4 Seasons - Concerto Nr.4 In F Minor: Winter - I Allegro Non Molto
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/440116
WA22 feels more detailed, but somehow the WA2 makes my toe tap more.
WA2 = WA22

Track 14 - Solveig Slettahjell - Domestic Songs - Never Forget The Good Ones
Slow jazz female vocal
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=1148880
The tender presentation of the WA2 is just precious. WA22 has a harder edge to it.
WA2 > WA22

Track 15 Olga Konkova - My Voice - As Before
Jazz
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/4997469
This song has a very fat piano, which the WA22 handles better. Also the cajón (a spanish percussion instrument - you sit on it (a box) and hits its side between your legs) is presented in a very good way.The vocals are clearer too, without being too sharp.
WA22>WA2

Track 16 John Talabot - Fin - Depak Ine
Ambient/Electronica
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=11748905
WA22 makes percussive elements stand out more, slimmer and tighter bass. WA2 presents a more full bodied landscape, a more enveloping sound which is very  - well, yeah - enveloping.
WA22=WA2

* HD650 conclusions: Surprisingly, the way the two amps handled genres didn’t always match my expectations. The WA22 really lifts the so called “veil” off the HD650, if there ever was one (I do not think so - but a wronly amped HD650 can be a bit unsparkling). The HD650 just has a lovely smoothness to it, and if amped right, this smoothness can fit many genres - even black metal. The dynamic range of the bigger brother sometimes steals the show, however.

 

2913519 
 

FEEDING THE LCD-3

Track 1 and 2 - Ipa/Lorena/Ting/Mossabacka.
Alternative jazz, fabolous percussion details, bass, intense sax:
http://wimp.no/wweb/album/?album=2838336
The WA22 has more punch, sounds crispier, faster, better separated. It suits these tracks especially well. WA2 presents a more polite, less edgy and fuller sound, but on these tracks the The WA2’s politeness suits the LCD-3 better, and opposite of the HD650, I prefer the WA2..
WA2 > WA22

Track 3- Radiohead - Kid A -Morning Bell.
Rock/Electronica -male vocals
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/1747929
As with the HD650, the faster WA22 makes the percussive elements stand out more, bass is better defined. However, the vocals just is adorable with the WA2, which again isn’t a slouch in the other aspects either.
WA2 > WA22

Track 4 - Ola Bremnes/Hav av tid/Hav av tid
Folky singer songwriter, challenging bass, male vocals - long deep notes.
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/4852205
This track really challenges the bass control abilities, at the same time as there is some male vocals that should be cared for as well. The WA22 has a tighter grip on the LCD-3, and the tonality suits this track superbly. The WA2 does ok, but this is one of the tracks which would make me miss the WA22 the most.
WA22 >> WA2

Track 5 - Jørn Øien Trio - It should be obvious
http://getwimp.com/wweb/track/3867840
The crispier sound of the WA22 works well here, it feels more precise and gives more air
than the WA22, without loosing the charming tonality.
WA22  > WA2

Track 6 - Jøkleba - Nu Jøk - Muggen Fallskjerm
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=6675654
Same as track 5. The WA2 has has some advantages, presenter a fuller bass, but still..
WA22>WA2

Track 7 - Flaten/Kornstad/Christensen - Mitt hjerte altid vanker 1 - For himmerigs land maa man kjempe
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=5760677
Here, the WA2’s tender mids brings the music out better IMO, but the cymbals have definitely more shimmer with the WA22.
WA2>WA22

Track 8 - Vincente Amigo - Ciudad de las ideas - Compare Manuel (Dedicado Aueco)
Flamenco guitarist, vocals percussion. .
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/498913
As with the HD650, the WA22 has definitely better separation, clarity, soundstage depth. The percussive elements are more upfront, bass control is better, all without getting edgy.  
WA22>>WA2

Track 9 - Emerson String Quartet - Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola Op.H 313 - I. Poco allegro
Energetic string quartet piece
music link
The more upfront WA22 may give a higher sense of detail, but those violins on the WA2 are just so silky, so right. Ahh. Both have their right. Tie.
WA2=WA22

Track 12 - Tord Gustavsen - Changing Places -Turning Point
Slow and gentle jazz trio
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=1673843
WA22 presents an open and detailed soundscape. The WA2 does too, but just not as good.
WA22 > WA2

Track 11 Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini - Raidho
Hard hitting hard core death heavy screaming double drum black metal
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/4314640
As with the HD650, the WA22 is faster, things are better defined, details stand out more. WA2 again presents a fuller soundscape, its fast and delicate - presented with that silky airiness the WA2 does so well. (can’t believe I just described Enslaved as “silky”..)  
WA22 >= WA2

Track 12 - Jon Balke - Rotor - Khamsin
Almost only piano single notes.
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=474259
WA22 is crispier, clearer, WA2 is fuller. Both nice, but the cripiness suits this track.
WA22 > WA2

Track 13 - Vivaldi 4 Seasons - Concerto Nr.4 In F Minor: Winter - I Allegro Non Molto
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/440116
WA22 presents a crispier and better defined soundstage, but the silkiness of WA2 just makes you wanna lean back and close your eyes. Tie.
WA2 = WA22

Track 14 - Solveig Slettahjell - Domestic Songs - Never Forget The Good Ones
Slow jazz female vocal
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=1148880
The silkiness of the WA2 is hard to beat, but the WA22 has its right.
WA2 > WA22

Track 15 Olga Konkova - My Voice - As Before
Jazz. Fat piano Female vocals. Cajón percussion
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/4997469
Againg, the silkiness of the WA2 wins. WA22 does a great job with the percussion and stuff, but sounds thinner.
WA2 > WA22

Track 16 John Talabot - Fin - Depak Ine
Ambient/Electronica
http://wimp.no/wweb/track/?track=11748905
Similarly to the HD650 experience, the WA22 is sharper and faster, but the WA2 experience is so...enveloping.
WA2 > WA2

* LCD-3 conclusions: The WA2 brings out the lovely smoothness, the WA22 brings out the bi dynamics. Both work good, but as with the HD650, the only times I used the >> (clearly preferred) indicators, was in favor of the WA22. The advantages of the increased dynamic range of the WA22 is sometimes very dominant. But the WA2 can be soooo sweet.


 

2913522

 

CONCLUSIONS

I was quite surprised sometimes during these sessions. The WA2 silkiness is just so appealing, and I found myself preferring it to the powerful presentation of WA22 more often than I'd thought. But the WA22 isn't hard and harsh, it's just that the WA2 is so smooth. However, there are certain tracks where the WA22’s extreme control is just so much better. I assume, though, that others might have different tastes and prefer the clarity of the WA22 more often than I did. Also - audio preferences are not constant. The WA2 can become too smooth sometimes. After I finished the days of “reviewing” (which is a pretty exhausting way to enjoy music) I have no problem enjoying the tracks I preferred on the WA2 with he WA22. The powerful grip the WA22 has on headphones is hard not to miss once you have gotten used to it. But so is the lushness of the WA2 mids, the softer but more enveloping way it paints. None of the Woos are overly warm. They do not roll off the highs. They both do bass. They have overwhealming build quality. They are as good as dead silent thrugh the phones. They both handle the HD650 and the LCD3  very well, but wit different flavor. Both are high class amplifiers and compared to lesser amplifiers, they are outstanding on all parameters, even though they excel more on different traits. Both are recommended.

 

 

 

fb7afd16_c3a298809f54563318e66c2326906093.jpeg

 

 

I also wrote some comments on the Hifiman HE-500 and the WA2 and WA22 which I posted here:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/402215/the-woo-audio-2/645#post_8629243

 

 

For a second opinion, please check out MacedonianHero's excellent WA2 vs WA22 review:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/562618/woo-audio-wa2-and-wa22-comparisons-finally-finished-whew

 

 

The WA6SE vs WA2 review by baka1969 might also be of interest 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/555749/sibling-rivalry-the-woo-wa2-vs-the-woo-wa6se-review-posted-update-6-3-2011


Edited by ardilla - 3/16/13 at 6:10pm
post #2 of 213

Great review, thank you!

post #3 of 213

Bravo

post #4 of 213
That was a great read! I've not heard the WA2 to make any comparisons, but I found your description of the WA22 spot on. Considering your musical tastes, I'd think the WA22 would sound better for you with RCA VT231 greyglass or Brimar CV1988 with Brimar 5R4GY rectifier. Have you tried other tubes with the WA2?
post #5 of 213

Terribly detail review eek.gif, thanks.

post #6 of 213

beerchug.gif Impressive Ardillia...nice review...

 

So which one is the Beauty and which one is the Beast? let me Guess WA2 Beauty, WA22 Beauty and A BEAST...biggrin.gif Hopefully my next amp if i can't save for the WA5 


Edited by keph - 6/25/12 at 9:23am
post #7 of 213

Nice review. I’ve been curious for a while on the differences between these two amps.

post #8 of 213

great read!

 

makes me appreciate that silky smoothness of my WA2 more biggrin.gif

 

 

this review kinda reminds me of the sibling rivalry one with the WA2 and WA6-SE.

 

interesting to compare...


Edited by Dubstep Girl - 6/25/12 at 10:33am
post #9 of 213

263

 

Excellent review. I love subjective reviews like this. Well done sir.

post #10 of 213

Impressive review!! I have always been curious about the woo amps and would love to try one some day. Your review reinforces my desire to try one.

post #11 of 213
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

Impressive review!! I have always been curious about the woo amps and would love to try one some day. Your review reinforces my desire to try one.

I think you may be slightly OCD :P

post #12 of 213
Quote:
Originally Posted by WiR3D View Post

I think you may be slightly OCD :P

 

Slightly would be an understatement, but I still want to try the woo amp biggrin.gif

post #13 of 213
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

 

Slightly would be an understatement, but I still want to try the woo amp biggrin.gif

 

Be careful once you have a Woo you will want to buy lots of expensive old light bulbs tongue_smile.gif

post #14 of 213
Quote:
Originally Posted by keph View Post

 

Be careful once you have a Woo you will want to buy lots of expensive old light bulbs tongue_smile.gif

Talking of which, we found some old original 1920 Cunningham Radio tubes lol, and a headphone that looks like its from that same time period. Crazy. But its my new EX girlfriends friend, so so much for that.

post #15 of 213
Thanks, ardilla! Well done - I enjoyed that read - and I really must do some research on the Woos. smily_headphones1.gif

And - excellent pictures of two easy-on-the-eyes amps. I've always thought I wanted a black Woo, but now I'm not sure...
Edited by Loevhagen - 6/25/12 at 1:54pm
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