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WooAudio WA8 Eclipse

Rating:
4.66667/5,
  1. KESM
    Woo!...this is one hot amp’
    Written by KESM
    Published Oct 22, 2018
    5.0/5,
    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.
    C9A39D66-2AA2-46F3-9847-5B3C8A9CD546.jpeg 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.
  2. JoeDoe
    BIG Sound in a Small Space
    Written by JoeDoe
    Published Mar 17, 2017
    5.0/5,
    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:
     
    [​IMG]
     
    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!:
     
    [​IMG]
     
    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!
      HiFiGuy528, jinxy245 and mpc8240 like this.
    1. RogerWilco
      Nice Joe,considering this little/big amp myself.Thanks for your impressions.
      RogerWilco, Mar 22, 2017
    2. JoeDoe
      @RogerWilco it's a great unit. If you find one secondhand, there's even more bang for your buck!
      JoeDoe, Mar 23, 2017
    3. mpc8240
      Can't wait for a comparison between WA8 and Hugo 2.
      mpc8240, Mar 26, 2017
  3. AnakChan
    A brief impression of the classy Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse transportable tube DAC Amp
    Written by AnakChan
    Published Aug 14, 2016
    4.5/5,
    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.

    Introduction
     
    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

    P8140002_Snapseed.jpg
     

    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.
     
    P8140004_Snapseed.jpg
     

    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.
     
    P8140007_Snapseed.jpg
     

    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.
      pinciukas, Pokemonn, maxh22 and 3 others like this.
    1. zeissiez
      Great review by Anakchan, as usual.
      zeissiez, Aug 17, 2016
  4. Currawong
    The Woo Audio WA8 is a lovely-sounding single-unit transportable high-end rig.
    Written by Currawong
    Published Aug 13, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Warm yet detailed and spacious sound. Drives everything from high-end headphones to IEMs easily. Very well made. DAC is great.
    Cons - Heavy for a portable device. Poor battery life.
    [​IMG]
     
    Until recently, one of the most daring things I'd seen on an amp was the large block of glass atop Woo Audio's WA7 Fireflies. The amp, a simple, yet good-sounding transformer-coupled tube amp performed, I reckon, above it's $999 price (ignoring the DAC), and gives an IKEA-like style to the world of headphone amps. That was until Jack Wu decided he was going to make a portable version.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_4659.jpg   Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_4662.jpg
    WA8s at the 2016 SF meet at Wikia
     
    Let's get the major bits out of the way first: It weighs 1.09 kg or 2.4 lbs. This is purely crazy. The weight isn't just from the battery, it's actually mostly from the case and the two transformers, as the WA8 is not a hybrid. Transistors weigh only a few grams. Transformers weigh a few hundred. But Jack is a purist, and possibly all the better for it. The next thing is the battery life: 4 hours. At least you have 5 LEDs on the side to let you know roughly how much you have left. Once only one light is showing, you have about 10 minutes before the amp will shut itself off.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_4955.jpg
     
    That makes the amp transportable rather than portable in the most common sense. If you're going to take it to work to listen all day, you'll be charging it at lunch time. You can just leave it plugged in, however, which works just fine. To that end, the WA8 comes by default with a Pelican case, and optionally with a sturdy leather case.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5011.jpg  ​
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5009.jpg
     
    On the positive side is the USB DAC. Powered by the internal battery, and not the USB bus, it uses an ES9018K2M and officially works with PCM music only, but unofficially will work with up to DSD128, if you have a good enough source for it. Since my days of owning the original WA7, where the inbuilt DAC was about on par with the original Audioquest Dragonfly, both the WA7's DAC has been upgraded and Jack delayed the WA8 to get proper performance from the one in the WA8. I was expecting to give the DAC some brief use then switch to either my Schiit Yggdrasil or Chord Mojo, but I was surprised to find myself using it, direct from my computer (rather than via a USB re-clocker like the Schiit Wyrd) and completely satisfied.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5014.jpg   Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5018.jpg
     

    That made me think that the WA8, along with a pair of headphones, a potentially great computer-based rig. The DAC can by bypassed by plugging in a separate source to the included 3.5mm jack on the back instead, so I gave it a go with the two DACs mentioned an an AK380 as the source.
     
    The amp uses a trio of sub-minature tubes: A pair of 6S31B plus a single 6021, the latter of which can be switched out when the amp is powered off via a switch above the tubes, making it a 2-tube rather than 3-tube amp. It isn't a tube-roller's amp as the tubes are mounted respectively on special boards designed to slot into the amp. Replacements will be available from Woo Audio though there is no discussion yet of alternatives.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_4960.jpg
     
    Typical for a Woo Audio amp, the WA8 has a warm and relaxing presentation that made for relaxed and enjoyable listening with the Sennheiser HD800, HD800 S, MrSpeakers Ether Flow and HE1000s, despite what seems like a fairly meagre power output.  Like the WA7, it has no trouble delivering a good listen with IEMs, in my case ALO Audio's Andromedas. 
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_4972.jpg
     
    Compared to the Studio Six, the WA8 isn't as dynamic-sounding, but I didn't feel the amp was lacking, with a pleasing soundstage and plenty of detail coming through. The amp, with its warm sound signature, was so pleasant to listen with using any of the trio of headphones and yet got sufficiently out of the way of the music that I didn't feel the need to attempt to pick apart any details of its presentation. After listening for a while then switching to using a DAP alone regular opamp-based electronics sound unpleasant and cold. As I have been spending the last couple of weeks writing, the WA8 made my time working very pleasant indeed.
     
    Switching to 2-tube mode removes some of the warmth and livens up the sound a little, but then I felt that the amp sounded a bit strained with the HE1000s, maybe not surprising given that it loses about a third of its power. So for the rest of the time I used it, I stayed with 3-tube mode.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5006.jpg
     ​

    Jack told me he delayed releasing the amp until he felt the DAC was good enough and it has paid off here I reckon.  The DAC is fairly forward and pushes detail up into your face, which balances out nicely with the warmth of the amp, whereas Chord's Mojo presents detail in a more relaxed and less intimate manner. The AK380, which sounded like it was clipping with HE1000s at maximum volume then became a good source with the WA8. While I would expect an AK380 user buying the matching amp instead, it was an interesting experiment. 
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5004.jpg
     

    I said about the WA7 that it looks like the kind of headphone rig that you'd find in a store like IKEA, for people who just want to buy something stylish that they only have to plug in and can get a satisfying listen from, but can scale up with a better digital source. The WA8 is much the same, yet would suite someone who wants a single component that they can use with good headphones and easily take with them between, say, home and work. This time the DAC is much better, meaning that one could buy the WA8, a good pair of high-end headphones, and be "done".
     
    As crazy as it is when the idea of such a heavy device being portable sounds, for the tube purist, I reckon this may be the ultimate transportable rig.
     
    Woo_Audio_WA8_Eclipse_D75_5024.jpg
     
     

      CactoesGel, gr8soundz and audio123 like this.
    1. gr8soundz
      Great review. Good to know how well Woo implemented the built-in dac. Does the WA8 get very hot? Like would it be too hot to pick up and hold after listening to a full album? 
      gr8soundz, Aug 15, 2016
    2. Currawong
      @gr8soundz  Good question: It gets quite warm, enough to make a nice hand-warmer in winter, but not hot.
      Currawong, Aug 15, 2016
  5. bmichels
    Spacious, euphoric, detailed...when used as DAC+AMP. Not so good when used as Amp only.
    Written by bmichels
    Published Jun 18, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Very Very good DAC+AMP solution. Super synergy with HE-X. Quite powerfull...
    Cons - Very short Battery life, No Optical-in.
    Thanks to Pierre Costers from Belhifi (a dealer near Bruxelles) and to @Ultrainferno, I had today the opportunity to try during almost 3 hours the WA8 against the HUGO alone and the HUGO+TU-05.
     
    Gears used  :
     
    I tested the WA8 only in the 3 tubes configuration using my HE-X headphone with a DHC Molecule Elite 22 silver 8 wires cable. The analog interconnect was also a DHC Molecule Elite 22 silver 6 wires cable. The Tablet PC was runing ROON without HQPlayer, the USB cable was a very basic computer cable and no Audioquest jitterbug was used (improvement possible here)
    I also brought with me my Roxane custom IEM but I did not get the time to use them.
     
    The TU-05 was fitted with 2 Telefunken DF96 diamond base tubes and 2 TEN 3S4-SF (3W4) tubes (a pretty rare Japan made tube ! ).  
    I have no idea if tube rolling is possible or easy on the WA8, but on the TU-05 it is very fun & easy to find cheap tubes on EBAY ($10 to $15 / tube). I have +40 pairs of tubes for the TU-05...
     
      FullSizeRender.jpg
     
          

     
    - First I used the HUGO feeding the WA8 and the TU05 together through line-in so that the WA8's internal DAC was not used. (I also tried with my MOJO)
     

     
     
    In this configuration, the TU-05 was clearly better than the WA-8, offering more BASS and improving the HUGO sound, by increasing the soundstage & "space around" while not loosing the  precision of the HUGO.
    On the other end, the WA8 did not really improved the HUGO sound (to my ear and with the HE-X) and I even prefered HUGO direct better than HUGO+WA8. Indeed, HUGO direct was more clear & precise.
     
    So...after this first part I was quite disapointed by the WA8 but....
     
     
    - Then I compared HUGO>TU-05   against  Tablet PC >USB>WA8, and....magic hapened [​IMG]
     

     
     
    When using the WA8's Internal DAC sudently the WA8 becomes spacious, enjoyable, full of bass, and very detailed.  The volume was set at 4 or 5 out of 10, so there was plenty headroom.  In this configuration the WA8 becomes really better and fuller than the TU-05. The change of SQ was so drastic that I tested again HUGO>WA8, and the later sudently sounded boring, and I also tested HUGO alone and it sounded also less enjoyable.
     
    So, either the HUGO & WA8 offer a very bad synergy (I could not test another DAC to feed the line-in of the Woo) or the WA8's internal DAC is very well implemented and offer a wonderful synergy with the internal Amp.
     
     
    This combo DAC/AMP is so enjoyable that after the test I tried to purchase the demo unit from the dealer, but... I couldn't because it was a Press unit. So I will have to order one and wait.
     
    CONCLUSION : It is a wonderfull DAC/AMP.  I just wish it offered better battery life (after 2,5 hours, only 2 leds on out of 5, so I do not think 4 hours is achievable) and also had a Toshlink optical digital-in (It can't connect to any A&K DAP through digital-in).  
     
     
    ASIDE NOTE: I have not used my TU-05 during this last year since I was using mostly my HUGO direct to HE-X or to feed my Eddie Curent 445, but.... thanks to this test I realized how the TU-05 improves the HUGO when using the HE-X, so now I will at home always use HUGO+TU-05 instead of HUGO direct [​IMG]
     
    image.jpg  


      pinciukas and EagleWings like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. HiFiGuy528
      @pompom optical is the past... USB is present and the future. All AK players will eventually support USB Audio out. 
      HiFiGuy528, Aug 18, 2016
      Ike1985 likes this.
    3. jaredjcrandall8
      Curious, I've owned the eddie current 4-45 and loved it but sold it because I was buying a home, how would the 4-45 compare to the woo albeit the latter is in a different ballpark all-together? I am also considering the hugo, but am more interested in the woo
      jaredjcrandall8, Dec 10, 2016
    4. bmichels
      Sorry, but I did not have at the same time the 445 and the WA8 to compare side bu side, and I am not good at comparing by memory. But... I guess the 445 is still providing a more spacious sound than the WA8 ? 
      bmichels, Dec 16, 2016
  6. Koolpep
    WooAudio WA8 - All you ever need? Probably!
    Written by Koolpep
    Published Apr 10, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - brilliant sound, drives nearly every headphone extremely well
    Cons - expensive, loud pop when switching unit off (problem solved itself)
    REVIEW: Wooaudio WA8 Eclipse
     
    All images are clickable for the full res version!
     
      
     
    DSC01342.jpg  
     
    DSC01293.jpg
     
    DSC01349.jpg
     
     
    Equipment used:
    Headphones: Hifiman HE-560, AKG K7XX, Audeze LCD-2f, Sennheiser Momentum, HD-650, Oppo PM-2, PM-3, Aurisonics ASG 2.5, JVC HA-FX850, UE900s, plenty of other IEMs.
     
     
    Music used:
    From Röyksopp to Amber Rubarth, Diana Krall to Apoptygma Berzerk, Tom Jones to Sphongle, Yello to Camouflage, mostly FLACs 24/96 or 16/44.1 - some mp3 320kbps, some AAC 256kbps
    Depending on headphone high or low gain - no EQ
     
    Disclaimer: samma3a.com, @Mazen4samma3a provided me with a review unit of the WA8. I am not affiliated with Woo Audio or Samma3a.com and am not paid or in any way compensated for this review. The unit is already returned back. Though I really highly appreciate what samma3a is doing for the audiophiles in the region!! Thank you so much for letting me test and review this marvel. 
     
    TL;DR
     
    Pros
    Cons
    brilliant sounding amplifier and DAC
    unacceptable loud pop when switching off or battery runs out
    EDIT: Woo calls it "soft pop".
    The pop disappeared after a few days of use - we are observing this to see if it comes back.

    impeccable sound quality
    no gain control (well sort of with 3 and 2 tube mode)
    drives EVERYthing (tube switching and 3.5mm/6.35mm jacks)
    expensive!!!
    simple to use
    tubes will eventually die and need replacement
    might be all you ever need
    transportability - only compared to other Woo products
    build (and weight) like a tank
    can get quite hot
    all tube design (not hybrid)
    battery life rather short
     
    DAC doesn’t official support DSD (though it works on Macs as DSD over DoP)

     
    Simply put: Incredible sound quality and a surprisingly wide array of in-ears and headphones that just sound amazing with it, makes this an easy recommendation. It’s worth it’s very high asking price. However beware to unplug headphones before switching off or running out of battery, you will be exposed to a pop. 
     
     
    Now, the longer version:
     
    DSC01364.jpg
     
    DSC01365.jpg    DSC01369.jpg    DSC01371.jpg    DSC01367.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Packaging & Accessories
     
     
    The Wooaudio WA8 comes nicely packaged with USB cable, a Pelican-style, waterproof and shockproof carrying case, power brick and cable. 
     
     
    Technical Highlights
     
    DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9018K2M (24bit/384kHz); compatible with iOS and Android devices; SET Class A transformer output, drives 8-600 Ohm headphones; all tube design; XMOS xCORE Audio asynchronous USB
     
    Ouput: 
    250mW @32Ω 
    350mW @50Ω (270mw in 2 tube mode)
    180mW @120Ω 
    120mW @300Ω 
    80mW @600Ω 
    (3-tubeOutput impedance: smaller than 1 Ohm)
    Dynamic Range: > 115 dB
     
    Formats supported DAC: 
     
    PCM: 24bit - 384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1kHz
     
     
    Headphone output:
    3.5mm and 6.35mm 
     
    Inputs:
    1. USB 2.0 Type A, works with MacOS, Windows and Linux
    2. Support for Android OTG and iOS for iOS7 and above
    3. 3.5mm analog input
     
    Output:
    1. Headphone out: 6.35mm with adapter to 3.5mm
     
    USB charging:
    not available only with supplied charger
     
    Sound effects:
    none
     
    IMG_6548.jpg    IMG_6552.jpg    IMG_6553.jpg  
    IMG_6557.jpg    IMG_6561.jpg
     
     
     
    Usability and Build Quality
     
    The WA8 is a pretty simple device with the following switches and ports:
     
    1. Volume
      Pretty self explanatory, turn the dial, the more you turn the dial to the right, the higher the volume. Feels very nice and smooth with the right heft to it and has a wide enough range to find the exact volume.
       
    2. Power switch
      Recessed switch - easy to grab/feel, even when you can’t see behind the device. Not feeling the price on this switch.
       
    3. Tube switch (top of device):
      Switches the operation from 3 tube to 2 tube operation. It’s like a gain switch, offering more juice with 3 tubes and longer operation with lower power for less power hungry headphones with 2 tube operation.
       
    4. Digital USB Audio inputs/Analog inputs:
      Standard USB 2 input - does not charge the device, only supplies DAC with digital music information up to 24bit/384kHz, compatible with iOS and Android OTG. 
    5. Line in: 3.5mm line in for using the WA8 as amplifier only
       
    6. Headphone outputs:
      Two headphone sockets, one 3.5mm and one 6.35mm. 
     
     
    Build Quality
     
    It’s a square black (or gold, silver/grey-ish) box. It weighs a substantial 1.1KG which is quite surprising for it’s size, really heavy. Dimensions are: Dimension 6.69" (L) x 3.6" (W) x 1.69" (D) / 170mm (L) x 92mm (W) x 43mm (D)
     
    The enclosure is machined aluminum - it feels great to the touch - unfortunately is quite prone to fingerprints, so have a microfiber cloth ready. Other than the the build quality is what you expect for a nearly $2,000 device (except the power and tube switch buttons).  
     
    Sound Quality Comparisons & Usage
     
    Well - the WA8 surprised me. I have heard Woo Audio amps in the past and always liked them a lot for their musicality, their smooth but holographic rendering of the music and how you just get “lost in music” with them. But this amp surprised me. When I looked at the spec sheet, I thought, well it should run IEMs quite well. WooAudio claims as well very low noise floor for the WA8. And so it has. No hiss with in-ears as low as 8 Ohms. Wow. With a tube amp? Crazy. It drove all my different IEMs (I stopped trying after around 12) with authority, no matter if they were dynamic driver, balanced armatures or hybrid based. None them had distortions in any frequency band and all of them sounded really, REALLY good. The low output impedance of the WA8 really shines through here. Beware though: the thing runs quite hot! As a class A amp - it runs hotter with easy to drive headphones and cooler the more it has to "work"….
     
    Surely, this device sucks with full size over ear headphones - since it’s so good with IEMs, it can’t possible drive full-size cans properly….or so I thought. So I started with the easy to drive ones. Oppo PM-2 and PM-3 - sounded sublime, I expected them to be a bit too smooth - but they weren’t. It was actually hard to change to the next headphone - as I just enjoyed my tracks so much. Eventually I put the 70 Ohm, but sometimes picky, AKG K7XX on. Wow, no problem for the WA8. The 300 Ohm Sennheiser HD-650 were, like the 250 Ohm Beyerdynamic T90, a feast for the ears. 
     
    I say it here on record: I think I never heard the T90 sound that good from anything that wasn’t a Bottlehead Crack.
     
    Lastly I thought - HA!! Now I got you WA8 -> Planars, I am sure you will suck with Planars little 2001 Space Odyssey lookalike. But to my surprise with “only” 350mW into 50 Ohms - my Hifiman HE-560 sounded amazing. How is that possible? They sound full and “round” everything is as it should. How Wooaudio does this, with literally no headroom, is a mystery to me. But it might show that power is not what counts a well designed amp section.
     
    So, wanting to show the limits of this DAC/Amp, I must accept defeat. The WA8 is one of the best sounding amps I have heard with my headphones ever. I want one to sit next to my Liquid Carbon. Badly. But the price is indeed an issue.
     
     
     
    DAC use on a Computer vs. line out
     
    The Sabre DAC is implemented so well - there is no harshness, but so much detail. The sound is full and rich without being warm. The WA8 does not color your headphones sound signature much but adds a little bit of smoothness to it, that makes your music more enjoyable and fatigue free and you can’t help and at least tap your toes (or go wild and headbang, dance or just rock away to your tunes). The line out does the same to your music but of course you get, to a certain extend, what you feed in.
     
     
    Conclusion & Issues
     
    It REALLY can drive headphones from 8-600 Ohm. The clever use of 3 tube vs 2 tube operation via switch, which works as a gain switch of sorts, makes this amp your perfect desktop setup (just make sure to follow this procedure when switching tube mode: remove headphones- switch off the amp - switch the tube mode -  switch it back on, then connect headphones again). Thanks to its battery, it allows a sort of transportable use - but not on-the-go use as it’s too heavy for that (some might disagree). The WA8 is considered “transportable” don’t confuse that with “portable”. It’s the same for my Cavalli Audio - that has no battery - which is small and light, less than half  the weight of the WA8, and also considered transportable.
     
    The WA8 is an “all tubes” goodness, with a brilliant DAC implementation, simple to use and just engaging, audiophile fun. 
     
    I would have never thought, that some of my headphones can sound that great from a small amp like this. Yes, you might accuse me of hyperbole, but I am absolutely in love with the performance of this amp, especially with the picky T90 that I usually run from a BH Crack with Speedball upgrade. The WA8 seems to have no issues with any headphone. And that baffles me. The background is black black black - noise level is well, not there… 
     
    EDIT and UPDATE2: 19.04.2016: The pop disappeared. After a few days of use - the pop is not anymore there. We have tried everything - the pop is gone. Not sure why and how, we will observe to see if it comes back but it seems that the issue has solved itself....
    But (I am tempted to say “thankfully” because otherwise it might be all too perfect) there is ONE major issue. When switching the WA8 off, there is very loud POP sound induced into the headphones. So loud, that at the first time I experienced it, I ripped my headphones from my head - fearing for my hearing. The workaround is to unplug your headphones from the amp before switching off - but there should be either: a time relay preventing this burst of energy escaping through the headphone output or a warning that this will happen written in GLOW AT NIGHT LARGE FONT on the device. However, on battery power the same happens when the battery runs out and that is something you don’t really control, as it happens without warning - so you can’t prepare for that. For a device with such a price tag, this is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. I wanted to record this for this video but then decided that I don’t want to risk damaging my headphones to show it. 
     
    EDIT and UPDATE1: Woo Audio has posted a comment saying the "soft pop" is normal and part of all WA8. That's disappointing as I consider this still a massive oversight in a device with that price tag. Everyone who heard the pop didn't find it "soft". Anyhow - they say it's not harmful for your headphones. That's good to know. The workaround is to unplug your headphones before switching the amp off.
     
    Minor issues: 4 hours battery life, the unwieldy, non-standard charging brick, price for replacement tubes after expected lifetime of 5000 hours (and how to change them) unclear.
     
    UPDATE:
    I hope Woo Audio fixes the popping issue before the official launch because with this exception the WA8 is absolutely brilliant, a true audiophile marvel!!
    Woo Audio thinks the so called "soft pop" is ok to be enjoyed by all customers = I still think they need to revise that - as it's not worthy of an amp like this to pop when switched off, also I don't find the pop soft. So this remains my biggest gripe with this otherwise brilliant product.
     
    It's slightly warm, musical presentation makes this an absolute hit product for WooAudio. 
     
    Rating: 4,5 stars - due to the high price and the popping sound when switching off. EDIT: due to the pop disappearing - I adjust the rating up. Should it come back I will change it again. However, it shouldn't happen in the first place, so am still very suspicious about the pop.
     
       IMG_6559.jpg
     
    In case you want to check out the video review: 
    https://youtu.be/1Bx4UysYXUY
     
    THANKS to www.samma3a.com and @Mazen4samma3a for the review loaner! I will be selling off some other gear (or body parts) to purchase this marvel as soon as possible.
      havagr8da, chillaxing, Ritvik and 4 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Koolpep
      Guys, happy to report the pop while switching off the device has disappeared completely. Nothing else changed, just use on a headphone meet-up with plenty of different headphones. We tried hard - it doesn't pop anymore. I hope we can confirm with a different unit that this is something happening to all units, but currently it seems just being cautious the first few days will solve the issue....hmmmm, really wonder what's going on...
      Koolpep, Apr 19, 2016
    3. brams
      Great news on the popping. Might have been some weird tube settling in effect.

      How does the WA8 match with the K10AU? Also any chance to compare to the Liquid Carbon?
      brams, Apr 20, 2016
    4. Koolpep
      @brams  am sorry, they were both at the meet but I had no time really pitting them against each other. That's the issue when you are an organizer, you think you can find the time and then, you don't. I had to return the WA8 before I got the K10U - but I will have a mini meet soon where everything will be present. I won't forget to chick this for you.
      Koolpep, Apr 20, 2016