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Epic Woo WA5 / Eddie Current 4-45 Shootout

post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 

Introduction  

 

Presently, I think I am the only Head-fier that has both the Woo WA5 and Eddie Current 4-45 in the house. I have had these amps here for about a month or two.

 

I am writing this post because I want to write down my impressions before I sell the amp. If I re-purchase a Woo product some other day, it will either be a Woo WA234 or the upgraded version of the WA5. I am selling the WA5 mainly because of space concerns, but I will miss it dearly.

 

As I have posted my impressions earlier, I do not think it is as simple as saying that the WA5 is bettered by the 4-45. One has Purrin's post on the best amps for HD800 in mind. In that post, he opined that the WA5 is unable to compete with the "big boy" tube amps such as the 4-45. I do not necessarily agree with that observation as I shall show that the choice between the two boils down to one's subjective preferences (and I do not think Purrin disagrees).

 

Review conditions

 

Headphones

These are my impressions using the HD800 and, to a much lesser extent, the SR009 through Woo WEE. The HD800 uses a balanced 4 pin XLR Cardas Clear cable and is modded with rug liner material and foam covering the trapezoid only.

 

Source

My DAC is the AMR DP-777 fed by an Audiophilleo PP1.

 

Tubes

When one is comparing tube amps, it is most important to note what tubes one is using. The WA5 is often provided with stock tubes in meet conditions and those, frankly, make the WA5 sound like a $500 amp.

 

Allow me to take stock of the tubes I am using for both amps:

  • For the WA5: AVVT AV32B, GEC U52 and Sylvania 6SN7W metal base or Tungsol 6SN7 BGRP.
  • For the 4-45: Globe UX245, OTK 6C45Pi and stock rectifiers.

 

I use other tubes as well but I found these to be the best combination for the comparison. For extra tube warmth, the WA5 may be coupled with the Tungsol 6SN7GT BGRP. The 4-45, on the other hand, may benefit from a more modern Hifi sound with the EML 45 Solid Plates - which I did not use in this review as they have yet to be burned in.

 

The WA5 reacts more significantly to tube changes than the 4-45. I find that the soundstage of the WA5 widens considerably with the change of rectifiers and slightly more with higher end output 300B tubes. The rectifiers clear up the mud in the sound as well. The 300B output tubes improve the high and low end extension significantly. Tonality and resolution are in turn influenced by the driver 6SN7 tubes.

 

The 4-45 is not as much influenced by tube-rolling. An argument may be made that because of this, the WA5 is more tube reliant in its design and therefore is bound to be prone to tube distortion. I would suppose that my subjective impressions (below) are consistent with this. Please take this with a grain of salt: I am not an amp designer. I would not know if the 4-45 is “technically superior” than the WA5. 

 

Listening Impressions

 

After listening to both amps and A-Bing them for about a month, my conclusions are that both amps are top tier amps that excel at imaging, soundstage and details. The differences, which are noticeable but not game-changing, are as follows (in decreasing order of audible significance):

 

What the 4-45 does better than the WA5

 

  • Speed, attack and decay
  • Pin-point imaging
  • Treble sparkle and air
  • Laid back and better for long listening sessions
  • Wider soundstage
  • Resolution and micro detail
  • Lower noise floor
  • Bass resolution and more precise attack

 

What the WA5 does better than the 4-45

 

  • Lush mid-range beauty
  • Front row presentation and imaging
  • More dynamic and engaging
  • Euphonic and occasionally more fun and musical
  • Bass extension and bloom

 

I will deal with my specific impressions on a selection of tracks in the post below. 

 

A word about the HD800 mods

 

I used to think that the HD800 sounded terrible with run-of-the-mill recordings on the WA5, even with upgraded tubes. The HD800s in stock form just sounded too grainy and harsh on certain recordings for my taste. With the WA5, it was really the best recordings that brought the HD800 to the forefront in my mind as the best headphone in my collection (bar the SR009 which is not properly driven, yet). As I used to think, the HE-6 sounds great on 80% of the music while the HD800 sounds even better on 10% of my collection.

 

Then came the 4-45. The recessed treble and laid back presentation made the HD800 much more bearable. I pronounced on the 4-45 thread that the harshness of the HD800 was then gone! I could listen to everything and anything on the 4-45 (with the less clear and accurate WE 417A) without much fatigue, despite the inherent brightness of the amp and headphone. The reason for this, I surmise, is the fact the forward voicing of the WA5 which pushes the HD800's harshness in its upper midrange and lower treble in your face.

 

But soon the harshness of the treble reared its ugly head. I resorted to well-recorded music again, though the 4-45 was still smoother, laid back and more listenable than the WA5. I also found that I had to use the less accurate WE 417A driver tubes on the 4-45 because the 6C45Pi was too bright to be listenable.

 

The only solution, I found, was to mod the HD800.

 

And it works. The WA5 and HD800 combo is now a wholly plausible proposition. Most music well recorded or poorly recorded sounds amazing on the WA5. As for the 4-45, as I have endeavoured to explain, equally if not even more amazing. I could use the better 6C45Pi without having to grimace at the treble. But for those who want to stick to their stock HD800s, I would say get the 4-45 and avoid the WA5.

 

We have to thank Anax and Purrin for promoting this mod. It is really worth it.

 

The Hifiman HE-6

 

I have said very little about the HE-6. Well, I simply did not have the time. To me, the HE-6 driven by the WA5 is marvellous, possibly one of the best amp-headphone combos for the HE-6. I believe Justin_Time agrees with me on this.

 

But the 4-45 just takes the HD800 to another level of detail, speed, soundstage and imaging with which the HE-6 can never dream to compete. It is the sort of sound that brings the HD800 into SR009 territory. And having both headphones in the house, I think that statement is no hyperbole. Moreover, the HD800 is supremely comfortable on my head, while the HE-6 is heavy and grasps the sides of my skull with the claw of fury and vengeance.

 

The HE-6 is therefore, much like the unmodded HD800 when I only had the WA5, somewhat relegated to a corner in the room. I always dreamed of having a wonderful set of headphones that could play with any kind of music (like the HE-6) and that felt comfortable on my head. That seemed like a remote dream until I settled down with my modded HD800 and 4-45 set up. That said, the HE-6 is still a fun headphone to use for that amazing deep bass and ridiculously visceral impact once in a while.

 

So you may ask, how does the HE-6 sound on the WA5 and 4-45? Well, the HE-6 is much better driven out of the WA5 than the 4-45. The WA5 plays all the HE-6’s strong cards where the 4-45 emasculates it. The deep bass, palpable and tangy mid-range is weakened on the 4-45, though I must say the soundstage is wider. The HE-6 + WA5 is also the most euphonic combo that I’ve heard with my headphones. It renders voices very nicely. There is little contest in this regard.

 

At the end of the day, these will also have to factor into one’s consideration when one is thinking of buying the 4-45 or the WA5. If HE-6 is your main set of headphones, the 4-45 will not do them justice, or as much justice, as a WA5.

 

Functional observations

 

Build quality

Without a doubt, the WA5 looks and feels better built than the 4-45. The WA5 is carved out of machined aluminium and looks oh so beautiful.

 

 

The 4-45 looks more functional and has a smaller footprint. I do not think it is hideous but it is not beautiful either. I note that my version of the 4-45 does not have protruding transformers but internally it is exactly the same as the production version. Some think this looks better than the later production versions.

 

 

The speaker output posts of the 4-45 look a lot cheaper compared to the WA5. It does not seem to affect sound, however.

 

Both amps are two-box solutions, with external power supply units to prevent noise. The tube rectifiers on the WA5 protrude externally while the tube rectifiers are held within the chassis of the PSU unit of the 4-45.

 

The volume attenuator on both are smooth and not stepped. The one on the 4-45 is made of plastic and definitely feels less high quality than the aluminium attenuator on the WA5, which is so far the smoothest volume knob I have ever used.

 

Outputs

The outputs for both amps seem solid. The 4 pin XLR outputs are of the same construction.

 

The WA5 has a switch between different headphone impedances and gain. The 4 pin XLR plug is specifically designed for the HE-6 and K1000 and therefore outputs more gain and power into (I think) 50 Ohms. It is important to note that there is significant hiss driving the HD800 through the XLR output of the WA5 and it is not recommended by Jack Wu.

 

The 4-45 seems to be designed in a way that the same outputs can be used with any headphone. I have not tried IEMs but the 4 pin XLR worked fine with the HD800 and the HE-6. The output impedance, correct me if I am wrong, is very low, which enables this. According to Craig, the internal wiring for the XLR outputs is the same as the speaker outputs, so nothing is to be gained by driving the HE-6 through the speaker outputs.

 

Inputs

Both amps take single ended RCA inputs only.

 

Conclusions

 

Can I pronounce a clear winner? No, I can’t. The WA5 and 4-45 will have their own fans. Those who prefer a detailed, smooth, front row, euphonic and bass heavy presentation to their music will love the WA5, as I did. Those who use the HE-6 as their main pair of headphones will also love the WA5.

 

But for those who are in the pursuit of realism and transparency, and prefer a less forward and engaging sort of sound, the 4-45 is the clear choice.

 

Unfortunately for me, tomorrow is the day that I need to say goodbye to my WA5.


Edited by lojay - 10/31/14 at 9:33am
post #2 of 71
Thread Starter 

Specific tracks with the HD800

 

Tests were conducted with non-blind A-B testing. The amps were sound pressure level calibrated with pink noise at 64 dB for pop and rock music and higher for classical.

 

I have chosen a mixture of well recorded recordings and poorly mastered ones so as to reflect the capabilities of the amps while testing how the amps sound with different genres of music.

 

The tests were conducted with the HD800. I use a 1/8" single ended adaptor for my Cardas Clear cable to level the playing field as the WA5's single ended output is the only practical output for the HD800. There is a slight subjective reduction of quality with the adaptor but it is negligible for the review purposes.

 

  • Friday Night in San Francisco, Paco de Lucía and Al Di Meola (24 bit 176400 Hz HDtracks)

 

Mediterranean Sundance

 

I like to use this track to test speed, transients, dynamics and timber. This is a live recording I like to think being on par with that of Clapton’s Unplugged album.

 

The 4-45 does several things right here. The guitars sound like lifelike with Stax-like transients and micro-detail. Each pick is heard with a quick attack with a realistic amount of decay and resonance of the guitar through its wooden body. At fast passages, each note is clearly pronounced. The highs are sparkly and there is a lot of air between each note and instrument. This track is very dynamic, as the loud and soft passages vastly differ in loudness. I would say that 4-45 does a good job at representing the musicality of this song with amazing pace and rhythm.  

 

The WA5 sounds immediately slower and less airy, even with the Sylvania 6SN7W as a driver tube. Compared to the 4-45, each note carries more weight but attacks are softer and more “rounded” in its spatial image. That can be interpreted as being “lusher” than the 4-45. I like how the decay and resonance after each note is rendered, it is simply beautiful with the 300B’s mid-range bloom. But the extra “reverb” makes the sound perhaps less realistic and lifelike as the song progresses to the fast passages, where each pick and resonance sounds dislocated as the sound is slowed down by the WA5’s emphasis on the decay and resonance. One cannot help but notice how the highs are less sparkly. The 4-45 is airier and faster.

 

Both amps image splendidly. However, the WA5 magnifies macro details like the audience clapping and the musicians talking, while the 4-45 pushes these back deeper into the stage.

 

While I like WA5 for the song’s slower passages, I enjoy the 4-45 more overall for its captivating speed.

 

  • Graceland, Paul Simon (24 bit, 96000 hz, 25th Anniversary version)

 

Under African Skies

 

This is considered one of the best recorded albums by many. I feel that this version of the recording is compressed but nonetheless it is top notch in terms of instrumental placement, mid-range purity and complexity of arrangements.

 

On the 4-45, Simon and Ronstadt’s voices are pure, grain-free and without a trace of harshness. Each of their voices is distinctly heard and in beautiful harmony. The 4-45 does an amazing job creating a wide soundscape and expansive ambiance thanks to its amazing soundstage and imaging qualities and accurate reverberations of Simon and Ronstadt’s voices. The sound effects are portrayed with a great deal of sparkle, with eerie realism, at the furthest ends of the soundstage. The resolution on this track is amazing. The nuances in the bass guitar are accurately portrayed without getting in the way of the voices. I find nothing to fault with this performance apart from some clipping in the first hit of the drum on the track – likely a fault of the compression in this remaster than the 4-45.

 

As for the WA5, the first thing that stands out is considerably more bass bloom. A credible (and close) performance. However, a few things are, on a closer listen, not done as well as the 4-45. First, Simon’s voice lacks smoothness, I suppose because the WA5 tends to portray voices more aggressively. Simon’s voice is already quite forward in the mix so the WA5 may have gone slightly overboard in its mid-range emphasis. Second, everything sounds more compressed into the mix, thus losing much of the ambiance and reverberations that make up the expansive soundscape of the 4-45. Third, the bass guitar has less speed and attack.

 

I prefer the 4-45 here but not by a very wide margin. I am somewhat nit picking here, but there is an audible difference and the 4-45 is indeed more enjoyable.

 

My One and Only Thrill, Melody Gardot (CD version)

 

Baby I’m a Fool

 

This is a track with a lot of artificial bloom in its recording and for this reason, Gardot’s voice is quite euphonic and moving at times.

 

The WA5 puts you in the front row. The presentation is very forward: strings are placed on the front stage and Gardot’s voice is very close to the microphone. It is an intimate rendition with a decent soundstage. The WA5 tends to render strings as a silky smooth single instrument, as opposed to a collection of violins. As for imaging, it is clear that each spatial image takes up more space in the stage. This sacrifices resolution, which is also sacrificed by some treble roll-off.

 

The 4-45 puts you a few rows back. The strings are placed in the backstage and sound more like several instruments playing together. Gardot’s voice is still very close to the mic and intimate. The voice is overall very good. While being less euphonic, it is slightly, just slightly more resolved and detailed. It is drawn slightly back in the stage compared to the WA5, which makes the track easier on the ear. Her voice is slightly more sibilant and bright but not unpleasant. The mid-range bloom is there with good tube warmth but Gardot’s voice is more euphonic on the WA5 than on the 4-45 given the emphasis on mid-range bloom and vocal inflections. Both amps do a good job at presenting the musicality and emotion. Finally, the 4-45 images better due to smaller spatial images.

 

I feel that given the less prominent midrange on the 4-45, one has a more balanced image. This is a song to which one can kick back and relax with a glass of wine. The 4-45 does that better.

 

Over the Rainbow

 

On the same album, I find that this song has some interesting sound effects of animal noises and shakers which makes it ideal for testing the soundstage.

 

I feel that the 4-45 gives out an extremely realistic soundstage. With the HD800 even the top-to-bottom sound effects are accurately done. I was awestruck by the eeriness of the intro of the song.

 

The WA5 presents the soundstage in a slightly more one dimensional manner. Each sonic image is more diffuse and rounded. When the music kicks in, the accompanying instruments sound louder. Again, the voice of Gardot is more euphonic with mid-range bloom.

 

  • Just a Little Lovin’, Shelby Lynne (24 bit 192000 hz, HDtracks)

 

How Can I Be Sure

 

It is not my cup of tea in terms of musical content but it is a good album for testing the purity of female voices. The WA5 portrays Lynne’s voice with alluring appeal. I also noted the realistic echoes from back wall. It is overall very engaging. 

 

The 4-45 pushes Lynne’s voice further back in the stage. Her voice sounds thinner and less engaging. The echoes are equally realistic but are less pronounced than the WA5, thus giving a first impression of less detail. The guitar sounds more realistic than the WA5, with a more accurate portrayal of its nature as a part percussion instrument.   

 

I prefer the WA5 on this one as I feel this is a track which benefits from the amp’s mid-range magnificence.

 

Just a Little Lovin’

 

This is the track I use to test bass resolution and extension. With the WA5, I was impressed by the deep sub-bass of the bass guitar. It is able to convey the emotion and dynamics of this track. As to the cons, cymbals and hi-hats sound slightly muffled. The bass guitar is placed near the Lynne’s voice which is a bit odd. Otherwise, very realistic and engaging.

 

As for the 4-45, the hi-hats here are far more realistic. The bass guitar is placed back in the stage where it belongs, but the bass guitar sounds leaner in the sub-bass and subjectively less extended. As Lynn’s voice sounds recessed and drier, this takes a bit of the emotion away. Towards the end of the song, Lynne cries out the chorus “just a little…lovin’” with less immediacy and emotion felt on the WA5. That being said, her voice is smooth and realistically portrayed. On balance, I would call it a draw.  

 

  • Random Access Memories, Daft Punk (24 bit 88000 hz, HDtracks)

 

Get Lucky

 

I do not find this a particularly well recorded album but it is good for testing some modern (and compressed) music.

 

I gave the 4-45 a first go. I find that the bass extends quite deeply, especially during the bass drop at the beginning of the track. Pharrell’s voice is nicely done but is slightly dry. The highlight of the track here is none of other than the clear instrumental separation. The resolution and speed of the amp allows the beats and “clapping” to be rendered as precisely as they should sound in real life, with the texture of each clap being heard clearly despite so much going on in the track. As compared to the WA5, Nile Rodger’s guitar sounds recessed and less clear as it is shoved to the back of the stage.

 

The WA5 again presents the track with considerably more bass bloom. The bass goes deep as well but sounds slightly slower and muddied. The “clapping” lacks definition and is more diffuse sounding. I like how the guitar is brought forward and sounds wetter than that portrayed by the 4-45.

 

WA5 is thus better in terms of sheer musicality. Rodger’s guitar is certainly the “soul” of the song and that point is brought out by the WA5. It is groovier on the WA5. The 4-45 tells it “as it is” but lacks the shoe-tapping engagement that the WA5 provides.

 

  • Weezer (Blue Album), Weezer (CD)

 

Undone the Sweater Song

 

I had to try one of my favourite songs. Though poorly recorded, there is quite a lot going on in this song which inferior amps fail to capture.

 

I'll let WA5 go first. The drums at the start are very well defined. The kick drums sound like kick drums but are slightly flabby. The electric guitars right after the intro sound amazing with euphonic reverb. They were probably driven by a tube amp! Cuomo’s voice is unfortunately slightly drowned in guitars and the crescendo of the track sounds a bit confused and messy. I attribute this to the “wall-of-sound” that the WA5 puts forawrd.

 

Then I turned to the 4-45. The drums at the start sound even more defined. While the electric guitars sound less euphonic the pace and speed of the amp makes it quite enjoyable. The 4-45 presents a wider soundstage which at all times sounds less muddied and crammed. Despite the crescendo being deliberately chaotic, it does not sound congested: instruments can be picked out from the cacophony if you listen carefully, despite being recessed and more far away. The stage is better defined thanks to two guitars placed wider across the left and right of stage. Cuomo’s voice is less pronounced though. During the crescendo it is easier to hear what is going on with the 4-45. I would say the amps are both very resolving, with 4-45 being slightly more resolving. The subjective impression of resolution is ultimately a difference in emphasis. For instance, you can hear the acoustic plucking of strings of a guitar in the middle-left side of the stage despite the mess in both amps but it sounds thinner and punchier on the 4-45 and thicker and more slower on the WA5. The smaller spatial images of the 4-45 project a feeling that the sound is less messy and clumped together. The WA5 gives out more of a wall-of-sound.

 

Overall I prefer the 4-45’s presentation.

 

  • Love – Forever Changes (CD)

 

 

Alone Again Or

 

I have always been moved by this song. Although it may not be the best song to test audio equipment, it is always beneficial to test your system with a song you feel engaged in order to test musicality.

 

Playing the track on the 4-45, one is immediately drawn to the impossibly wide soundstage. Instruments sound incredibly realistic, especially the guitar and its reverb. You can hear every recording imperfection. The best part of the song is when the mariachi horns and strings start playing. I knew I always loved this part and I was expecting shivers down the spine, but I still felt emotional after hearing this. Who says the 4-45 lacks musicality?

 

WA5 presents a slightly narrower soundstage. The guitar on the right and its reverb sounds less realistic, as it softens the attack and merges into the mix. The marachi horns and strings are brought too forward onto the stage and detract from the balance of the song. I feel that 4-45 is the clear winner.  

 

  • Led Zeppelin II (CD)

 

Bring it on Home

 

Time to try a poorly recorded classic rock song. The WA5 boasts a good soundstage but has a strange presentation of the echoes as they bounce quite hard off the left hand side of the head stage. I find the echoes are louder than 4-45 and sound less realistic. Otherwise a decent attempt.

 

The 4-45 offers precision imaging. The reflections sound more realistic with appropriate loudness compared to the rest of the instruments. The harmonica sounds softer with less “bite”, but more emotive and easier on the ears. Plant’s voice “brighter” which suits the song.  

 

A slight nod to the 4-45 here, which is surprising as one would have thought that the brighter, more resolving 4-45 would ruin any poorly recorded song. That is not the case, because of its rather laid back and mid-row presentation.

 

  • OK Computer, Radiohead (CD)

 

Karma Police

 

My all-time favourite album and an album I am familiar with. I always found that the album sounds good on any system.

 

On the 4-45, the acoustic guitar at the intro sounds as real as one can imagine. As the acoustic guitar occupies almost the same sonic space as the piano, less resolving systems may fail to differentiate them. Not so here. The 4-45 is very dynamic between loud and soft passages. Compared to the WA5, Yorke’s voice is more coarse, as it is supposed to be. One can see that that’s the case midway into the track around 2:40, when Yorke lets his voice loose and sings angelically. I would like his voice to be less recessed and placed more forward into the stage, though.

 

With the WA5, the separation of the piano and the acoustic guitar sounds equally pronounced but the guitars sound louder. However, with less high end extension, the instruments sound less realistic. Yorke’s voice is more forward, fuller, and has more body. The soundstage is slightly narrower and instruments are less spread out. Cymbals sound less convincing. The backup chorus sings with more bloom and emotion. On the other hand, the coarseness of Yorke’s voice is less evident. I think this is a tie as there are points one can nit pick with both amps.

 

Exit Music (For a Film)

 

One of my favourite songs on the album. The 4-45 does an admirable rendering of the guitar. Yorke’s voice is placed very close to the mic and immediate.

 

On the WA5, the guitar sounds less realistic again with too much emphasis on the decay. Yorke’s voice is equally immediate and moving. 

 

  • Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Rising Force (CD)

 

Black Star

 

The WA5 is amazing with this track on every level. Not only is the imaging precise, the electric guitar weeps in a melodic and musical manner. The acoustic guitar in the intro sounds more realistic than usual given the reverb effects.

 

As for the 4-45, ditto what I’ve just said with an added dose of realism and microdynamics. It sounds real, very, scarily real. Somehow, the electric guitar does not move me as much as the WA5. At this stage, it is quite evident to me that the tubbiness of the WA5 benefits electric guitars as they probably add more harmonic distortion.

 

  • Eric Clapton, Unplugged (CD)

 

Tears in Heaven

 

This song and album need no introduction. Every audiophile should own this CD.

 

I still recall the day when I first played this song on the 4-45. I felt I was invited on stage with Clapton and his band. It was like the first time I watched high definition TV. Now that I have heard this combo several times, I can confirm that this album plays excellently with the 4-45 – it is absolutely lifelike and realistic. Words can’t describe it. Everything is in the right place, each instrument is placed away from the other at an appropriate distance, with a feeling of genuine air and distance in between. As I have enthused throughout this review, the guitars just sound realistic with accurate attack and decay.

 

The WA5 is no slouch either. Like the 4-45, the guitars have good attack and decay, but they sound slightly slower. Another very credible performance. Somehow I feel that this sounds more like a CD than a live performance. Something sounds a bit off in terms of the placement of images. While the soundstage is wide, the back-front layering of spatial images is not as impressive. There is less air and distance between each instrument, as every instrument sounds “louder” and larger in its spatial image.

 

Is my impression perhaps explained by perception bias? Maybe, but I have never felt that the WA5 transcended the track from a mere recording to a live performance. The 4-45, does just that. It is a completely different matter altogether.

 

  • Mahler Symphony No. 5: I. Trauermarsch, Michael Tilson Thomas / San Francisco Symphony (24 bit 88000 hz, HDtracks)

 

Time for some classical music. This is known to be a good recording with amazing dynamics.

 

As I have mentioned above, the WA5 pictures the strings as one instrument rather than a collection of many. Some might like this as it does sound more moving and musical. Hand in hand with this observation is the slightly diffuse imaging: I feel that there is less air between different sections of the orchestra. This sound more congested than the 4-45, though certainly not congested compared to non-TOTL amps. It cannot escape one's attention that the WA5 has a very impressive soundstage. It feels like you are in a large concert hall and to some extent the wall-of-sound effect reinforces that impression. The micro detail is there, e.g. the page turning. The really stand-out aspect of this track is how romantic it sounds.

 

I swapped the cables to the 4-45. It is almost immediately clear that the 4-45 is the brighter of the two amps. There is more treble sparkle to the cymbals and more edge to the brass. It is clear that the 4-45 is also more resolving, as strings sound less as one single body, and there is more air between different instruments. It is altogether more engaging compared to the WA5 as you hear many things happening across the soundstage at precise and pin-point positions in a life-like manner. These spatial details are simply emasculated on the WA5. Again, the 4-45 brings you “there”.

 

So which is more enjoyable? This tracks really shows what the 4-45 is really capable of. There is no contest. Some might like classical served with syrup, but for me the 4-45 is the clear choice. I do feel that the 4-45 is much better with classical than WA5 and this magnificent track reinforces this view.

 

Specific tracks with the SR009

 
  • Graceland, Paul Simon (24 bit, 96000 hz, 25th Anniversary version)

 

Under African Skies

 

So, I turned to the SR-009. Time is running up as my buyer is coming to take the WA5 away from me tomorrow morning.

 

On the WA5, the voices become more recessed and soft. The reverberations and ambience is more accurately portrayed, reminding me of the HD800 + 4-45 combo. We immediately lose the amazing soundstaging of the HD800, though.

 

On the 4-45, the spatial images are less fuzzy and more precisely defined. The same qualities (apart from the width of the soundstage) of the HD800 + 4-45 combination are retained with slightly more naturalness and nuance in the voices. I still prefer the HD800 for this track. It is amazing how fast the HD800 sounds on this track despite the SR009’s inherent advantage.

 

Judging from my rather dated audio memory in relation to numerous other tracks I have tried with the 4-45 and SR009, I do feel that the 4-45 does the SR009 more justice than the WA5. But only time will tell whether the 4-45 is truly worthy of the SR009 – and a long long time that is as I am waiting for Justin to build my BHSE. 

 

That will be for another day.


Edited by lojay - 10/31/14 at 6:44pm
post #3 of 71

Fantastic reviews, thanks for the works.

post #4 of 71

that was excellent well done! Have you heard the DNA Stratus/HD800 combo? I plan on getting the Yggy to have with the DNA for HD800 - I wonder how it would compare to those big boys. 

post #5 of 71

Excellent review.  You forgot the Quotour Mosique's Haydan string quartet op 20 in C Major . . . I'll forgive you since you did such a comprehensive and fantastic job with the other recordings.    My 445 arrives today, yea!  :L3000: 

post #6 of 71

Nice review. Covered all the important points & good flow. Thanks for the effort.

post #7 of 71
Why it is not on the front page of head-fi, such great review
post #8 of 71
Made front page
Kudos!!!!
post #9 of 71
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys, I hope this will be useful to some of you. The shoot out was written originally for my personal consumption as I wanted to have a written recollection of my views as to the WA5. I hoped to write more about the HE-6 but I've run short of time. In fact, the HE-6 is hard to write about because there are so many mods and amps that could be used. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by magiccabbage View Post
 

that was excellent well done! Have you heard the DNA Stratus/HD800 combo? I plan on getting the Yggy to have with the DNA for HD800 - I wonder how it would compare to those big boys. 

 

Thanks. I haven't heard the DNA Stratus. From what I've read here, it should sound more like the WA5.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chengka7 View Post

Why it is not on the front page of head-fi, such great review
Quote:
Originally Posted by snapple10 View Post

Made front page
Kudos!!!!

 

For the period of 10 years of my Head-Fi membership, I have never dreamed of being on the front page! Wow!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rico613 View Post

Excellent review.  You forgot the Quotour Mosique's Haydan string quartet op 20 in C Major . . . I'll forgive you since you did such a comprehensive and fantastic job with the other recordings.    My 445 arrives today, yea!  :L3000: 

 

Thank you Sir. You will really enjoy the 4-45. It is really amazing with classical music. 


Edited by lojay - 10/31/14 at 9:12am
post #10 of 71
Great review.

Did you get a chance to try EML 45 Mesh? Warms up 4-45 a bit with more bloom, but it's like you said, the amp really doesn't change that much. Yes, you are right on the subjective preferences thing: My priorities are toward resolution, speed, attack, precision, neutrality (which should not be confused with lean, bright, etched, sizzly, unnaturally sibilant, etc.). I generally dislike bloom.
Edited by purrin - 10/31/14 at 11:54am
post #11 of 71

holy ****, the front page cover is [Mod Edit: *COUGH*] awesome, thank you guys for the great work

post #12 of 71

I have owned WA5 for a very short period like 4 days. And I borrowed WA5(Maxxed out with EML300B, Tung-sol 6SN7 BGRP, WE422A) from my friend. I also did a comparison with my friend against 445 on my Lampi B7. My 445 has globe 245, 345 and WE417A. 

 

For me, the most noticeable thing is that WA5's noise floor is just too high, especially on TH900. However, 445 is dark as hell. Also at this level of performance, I focused more on the ability of the amp to reproduce the original sound. I personally think an amp should never color the music, even it makes the amp more enjoyable. That is why I believe 4-45 is more of a HI-FI amp, WA5 is more like an amp for casual listening. But do not get me wrong, I did not say WA5 is worse than 445, just from my perspective 445 has the better ability to reproduce the original sound. I like my sound to be neutral as ****. 

 

But if you take a look at the actual cost of those two amp, it might be another story. For 445, the actually cost with tubes should be around 5000-5600usd depends on your choice. But WA5 maxed out with those tubes cost around 6000-???? depends on how crazy you are because you always can find those fuking crazy NOS tubes for 6SN7, 5U4, 300B. 

 

This is just my personal impression, and please, do not let me give you guys detailed description of the sound, I suck at it. 


Edited by chengka7 - 10/31/14 at 10:25am
post #13 of 71

lojay, Your WA5 is without the optional upgrades offered by Woo , right ?

post #14 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by chengka7 View Post

 

For me, the most noticeable thing is that WA5's noise floor is just too high, especially on TH900.

 

My brand-new maxxed WA5 has absolutely zero noise floor, even on 100+ sensitivity portable headphones. There are two pots you can adjust with a screwdriver that are underneath each handle to adjust noise suppression, this is described in the manual. I had to adjust one very slightly after I rolled tubes and that was it. If it's still an issue then you have bad tubes.

post #15 of 71

Hmm, it is not my amp, so I really do not know, and that amp is more than 2 years old, there might be the issues. But when I was listening to the music, it actually does not matter. And i think I will also buy WA5 by the end of this year if I can sell my other gears to my friend in next two months. 


Edited by chengka7 - 10/31/14 at 11:22am
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