WooAudio WA8 Eclipse

General Information

Woo Audio’s epic WA8 Eclipse is the world's first battery-operated vacuum tube headphone amplifier. Featuring SET Class-A transformer output for transparent sound quality, a built-in 24bit/384kHz DAC, and easy transportability/set-up, high fidelity audio listening is possible anywhere.. With its high power output, the Eclipse is capable of driving high-end headphones of 8–600 ohm impedance, while its ultra-low noise circuitry is ideal for in-ear monitors.

Latest reviews

Pros: Transportable class A tube amp that adds warmth to sterile digital sources
Cons: Expensive...but in this case...you get what you pay for.
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I’ve had this amp since April 2018. To my ears...it adds a slightly warm analog sound to all digital signals....all the while emitting a ‘radio days’ amber glow from the tubes...adding visual appeal. It has become my main staple for listening to music via HPs (when I’m stationary). I highly recommend it.
Pros: Sound quality, footprint, power, versatility
Cons: Price, maybe battery life?
I've owned and auditioned quite a bit of gear in the few years I've enjoyed head-fi. From my humble beginnings with the Koss PortaPro and the way up to the Audeze LCD3's with plenty in between, I've gotten to hear a lot of quality headphones and gear. I've gotten off the merry-go-round for the headphone circuit (with my PS1000s and ZMF Ori's), and now, thanks to the Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse, I see the end of the tunnel for upstream gear as well.
 
The Breakdown:
 
The Chain:
MBP running JRMC21 > Woo WA8 > PS1000, Ori, 64 Audio U8
 

Zebra Ori's from the WA8 are killer!
 
 
 
Test Songs (all 320 MP3, 16/44, or 24/96 FLAC and ALAC):
 
"10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman - Campfire
"Strasbourg/St. Denis" by The Roy Hargrove Quintet - Earfood
"Grown Folks" by Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha
"Hands are Clever" by Alex Clare - The Lateness of the Hour
"Best for Last" by Adele - 19
"Modern Soul" by James Blake - The Colour in Anything
"House of Mercy" by Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent
"Jupiter, from The Planets" per Sir Adrian Boult and the LSO
 
 
Sound: In three words: rich and clear. I've owned two other Woo amplifiers and to me the Woo sound is definitely warmer than neutral and while the WA8 still has a bit of that delicious tube warmth, it's a little leaner than some of the other offerings from NY. This makes it a great option for serious listeners who have a variety of tastes and/or headphones.
 
Bass: Great impact with lots of texture and layers. In three-tube mode, the WA8 plumps up the low end a bit, while two-tube mode levels things out more. I felt like I was getting the control from a SS amp, but the rich, fat thump that I've only ever heard from all-tube designs. From the U8 IEMs to the ZMF Ori's the low end through the WA8 doesn't leave anything to be desired! Check those kick drums:
 

 
Mids: The reason I can't get out of the tube game is because of that rich midrange sound. Well, Woo has done it again. Vocals aren't quite as forward as my older WA6 or something like a MAD Ear, but they are still wonderfully placed. Adele sounds great, as well as the guitar and sax solos in my Snarky Puppy. Lots to enjoy here, especially with cans that are known for a quality midrange presentation.
 

 
Treble: Clean! This was the only thing I was a little worried about. I've never been able to keep any Sabre-based DAC because I always found the upper end fatiguing over time. So glad to report that so far, I've not got that hair-raising feeling I usually get when cymbals get busy or violins soar into the stratosphere. Compared to the other Woo's I've heard, I'd say that the upper end is the biggest departure from the classic Woo sound. It's certainly not strident or overly-aggressive, but definitely not as smooth and slick as the WA6 or WA22 to these ears. 
 
Soundstage/Imaging/Separation: Well, I wouldn't say that the soundstage is a revelation by any stretch, but I would say it's on par with or better than Schiit Mjo2, Questyle CMA600i, WA6SE, and the Feliks Elise. The beautiful, holographic soundstage that Woo is known for is there, but with better spatial cues and placement than a lot of full-blown desktop rigs I've heard.  Jupiter is my soundstage test. Check it!:
 

 
Other stuff:
  1. Operation is really straightforward.
  2. There's a surprising amount of power for my planars.
  3. 3-tube > 2-tube to me, but going to 2 does offer a little more neutrality if that's your thing! 
  4. Dead silent background from sensitive IEMs to dynamics. 
  5. Setup - piece of cake. No hiccups whatsoever, just plug-n-play.
  6. Volume knob - never used another I like as much as the Woo's!
 
Qualms: Not really anything. MSRP isn't great, but you can't complain about that and still think $4k for a pair of headphones is okay... Also, several have commented on the short battery life. Here's my take: Woo messed up in calling the unit a 'portable' solution. That word is automatically associated witjh small handheld units like DAPs and stackable amps a la ALO CDM and Chord Mojo. Thinking of the WA8 as a desktop unit that can be transportable would be a better description. Don't expect it to run all day off the battery, but do realize that you can take it to Starbuck for a few hours and not need to be tethered to the wall. Also, being assured of clean, steady power, no matter who's dingy, poorly-wired apartment you're in is definitely a plus as well. 
 
JD's Combo Unit Ranking list: Woo WA8 > Teac UD-503 > CMA600i > Emotiva DC-1 > Chord Mojo > Audio-gd NFB 29 > ALO Pan Am > Resonessence Concero HP > Audio-gd NFB 11.32/15.32 > 
(please note this list is based on both function AND SQ)
 
Final Thoughts: All in all, the WA8 really impresses on every level. It sounds great, looks great, has a tiny footprint, is very competitive with full desktop amp/DAC rigs, and plays well with a lot of headphones. I suppose some quality nitpicking would find some niggles, but considering all you get in this attractive package, I'd say this a grand slam for the Woo crew! Thanks for reading!
RogerWilco
RogerWilco
Nice Joe,considering this little/big amp myself.Thanks for your impressions.
JoeDoe
JoeDoe
@RogerWilco it's a great unit. If you find one secondhand, there's even more bang for your buck!
mpc8240
mpc8240
Can't wait for a comparison between WA8 and Hugo 2.
Pros: Very solidly built, typifies what one would expect out of a tube amp, no tube vibrations/pings/rings, versatile 3.5mm & 6.3mm sockets, very quiet amp
Cons: No balanced out, rather small soundstage, a pop when stopping DSD music, legacy USB-B port instead of microUSB, runs hot, & a heavy unit!

The Thank You's 

Before I start, I have to give a big thanks to Jack Wu for providing this loaner. In Japan, Woo Audio products aren't easy to come by (in fact almost impossible) to demo.

[size=24.57px]Introduction[/size]
 
Woo Audio is a business that's been the audio scene for a very long time with its roots very established in the desktop amp space. In fact with its WA234 Monoblock product, it's venturing to the floor amp space too. They're also known for their elegantly designed headphone stands.
 
Woo Audio has come up with the first transportable Class A tube DAC Amp with the WA8 Eclipse. Other makers have made all-tube amp transportables whilst others have made tube DAC/Amp portables, however the all tube amp transportables are only amps only, and and the tube DAC/tube are hybrid tube/transistors. The WA8 Eclipse has made a tube DAC/Amp where the amp portion is all tube.
 
The specs of the WA8 Eclipse can be found here: http://www.wooaudio.com/products/wa8eclipse.html

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Design

The WA8 is one very solidly built device that has a hefty 1.1kg weight to it. When you hold it in your hand, it exhibits quality workmanship all around. The volume knob rotates smoothly yet firmly. There's little chance of one accidentally bumping up the volume during listening. The three (2x 6S31B & 1x 6021) are safely caged safe from grubby hands yet visible through the open window. There's 5x LEDs to show the battery strength which lasts for approx 4 hours. This has been a controversial topic as many feel 4 hours isn't long enough however the WA8 can be used whilst charging with thanks to a dedicated separate charger port. Personally for me, I don't have 4 hours to dedicate to listening so the battery run time has not bothered me. Having an external charger is a little cumbersome however with a large battery of 3400mAh capacity, it's understandable why an external 12.6V 3.0A charger is required.
 
The power on/off switch and 2/3 tube settings are also set in and therefore no chance of accidental bump and break. The WA8 also provides the versatility of 3.5mm and 6.3mm headphone jacks and a 3.5mm single ended line in, or USB-B port digital input. Unfortunately there is no balanced in/out support. The USB-B port does seem somewhat old school especially these days when microUSB as been more popular.
 
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Whilst Listening

I listened to the WA8 Eclipse off my iPhone/iPad mostly with the Onkyo HD playing mostly DSD tracks. A times I did drive it off the iMac too with Audirvana Plus 2.5.3, again listening to mostly DSD but occasionally 16/44.1 PCMs. My headphone of choice was the Fostex TH-900 as pictured since I had loaned my Sennheiser HD800S to @Currawong.  During the listening sessions, I didn't hear any tube vibrations nor pings, however whenever I stopped a DSD track, I get an unexpected pop which gets me by surprise almost all the time. (Edit: Thx to Jack Wu for helping to debug, this so far seems to be with DSD. I didn't hear any pops/clicks with PCM or DXD files).
 
I have also listened to IEMs off the WA8 Eclipse but haven't heard of any hiss nor noise.
 
Sonically the WA8 Eclipse oozes tube sound and typifies what one would expect from a tube amp. It does not cease to impress in that respect. I compared the WA8 to my Aurender Flow, Cypherlabs CLAS -dB/Duet stack, and against my AK380/Analog Squared Paper TUR-06b. The WA8 just screamed "tube" by comparison, even against the TUR-06b which is a hybrid design. The overall signature is smooth and fluid across the spectrum. Bass was deep and impactful with a beautiful layered reverberation. The midrange was full extending to the trebles which continued the trend in its silky smooth textured presentation. My other transistor amp setups were more "crisp" rather than smooth in their respective presentations. I wouldn't describe the WA8 as technical demon however the signature is smooth and articulate with a relaxing musical signature setting the mood for listening.
 
Soundstage wise, I do feel the WA8 is somewhat smaller and a little flatter than the likes of the Aurender Flow and AK380/A2P TUR-06b stack. In that respect, the WA8 was closer to the CLAS -dB/Duet stack.
 
As for the DAC portion, the ESS9018K2M used in the WA8 is the same as the Aurender Flow. It's a fast and detailed DAC. If the ESS DAC is known for it's lack of warmth, that's definitely not exhibited on the WA8. To my ears, the WA8 feels full sounding and in fact leaning more towards the warmer end.
 
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Conclusion

If one is looking for an integrated DAC/Amp pure tube transportable, the Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse is it. It exhibits premium sound as what one would expect from a brand of this calibre. The tube signature does not fail to disappoint. Personally for me, to use it on IEMs would be a waste and to make full use of it, large cans are the way to go with this DAC/Amp. Sonically, what it lacks in soundstage, it makes up in the silky smooth fluid presentation and it's bass textured layering is addictive. It gets close and almost rivals my Invicta/Zana Deux setup.
zeissiez
zeissiez
Great review by Anakchan, as usual.

Comments

It is an awesome unit. Monolithic design.. Supposedly tube upgrades will be available very soon.
 
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