Amp for HD-800 - RSA Apache or Woo WA5-LE?
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entrope

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Hail all,
  Am looking to move up a little bit with my headphone set up (mainly utilizing my Sennheiser HD-800) and need a few opinions.
 
My budget at this point of time is anything under five grand.
 
My direct previous (and now sold) headphone amplifier was the Musical Fidelity X-CAN V8P with X-PSU V8.
 
Had pondered going towards the M1 HPA, but eventually decided for something a tad more exotic.
 
I admit I haven't really done all that much research yet, but am mainly zoomed in on the Apache by RSA and the WA5-LE by Woo.
 
Source is a Bel Canto DAC3.5VB with VBS-1 which is getting music via the USB LightLink from my computer.
 
Have read a fair bit about these two amps, but not much in terms of direct comparisons.
 
If I go for the Woo I will opt in for all permanent upgrades, but I will leave the tubes as standard-issue for the time being, it does mean however that the Woo will end up costing almost a grand more than the RSA.
 
So, what's the opinion of you guys and girls? Anything else I should take a look at as well?

Cheers!
 
 
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rgs9200m

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HD800s need tubes from the amps I tried. If you go with RSA, get the B52 instead, a great match, especially if you get balanced cables for the 800s. 'have not heard the Woos.
 
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entrope

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Ah. Believe the X-CAN V8P's were tube based so I don't think I have ever tried the HD-800's with an amp which is purely solid state. Why do you say they need tubes though? Too sharp? Too clinical?

Had looked at the B-52's as well and that will be right at the limits of my budget :)

I'll read a little later about having the HD-800's on balanced but am still not 100% convinced. Am still on the stock cables by the way.

The reason for eyeing both Woo and RSA is they seem to have a decent rep here and their stuff is **** well built (both with the exception of their silly PSU-to-Amp power chord however). But excelled workmanship inside and excellent build quality outside.
 
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MacedonianHero

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I love the HD800s with tubes and I'm admittedly not a huge fan of them with SS...so with that in mind...I would strongly recommend the Woo 5LE. A brilliant headphone amp that can pretty much drive any set of headphones out there.
 
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rgs9200m

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"Why do you say they need tubes though? Too sharp? Too clinical?"
Yep, that's it in a nutshell.
 
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decur

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woo wa5 le is the best synergy i have ever heard from the senns hd 800
be carefull of your source! the front end really matters with the hd800
 
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twsmith

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Couple of my own thoughts -- don't be concerned about going balanced.  This really depends on the amp..maybe the DAC too.  There are too many variables involved to give a definite opinion one way or the other.   The best sounding combination that I've heard with HD800s is the Anedio D1's DAC/amp which is only single-ended.   It is also solid-state and uses op-amps! -- so go figure.   The best advice is keep an open mind - you may be pleasantly surprised.   There is no one "best" amp for the HD800 -- the best is what works for you.  
 
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Observer

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Entrope,

No dog in the race, as I don't own either, but figured I'd throw a couple of coals on the fire.
 
1.  With a $5k budget for just the amp, which (IMHO) is a very nice position to be since there are many options to choose from, and it opens up doors to what I personally would call some of the very high end echelon of headphone audio equipment.  With that said, I would suggest it might make sense to "test drive" your current selections (Apache and WA5LE) before committing to either.  Unfortunately, I'm guessing there just aren't a lot of these particular amps going around primarily due to their price point,  hence, finding a local meet where you'd have the opportunity to audition may be very difficult.  An very good option might be to mail Jack and Ray, and ask them to bring their equipment down to RMAF in Colorado in a few months (October), where you'd have this opportunity.  They might already be planning to do so, hence, it would work out well.  Assuming you live in the US, (you don't list your location) a RT ticket may be a good "insurance policy" to know what you'd be getting, and getting what you like.  In the event you live outside the US, and the costs/time associated is too prohibitive, it does make things a bit more difficult, but perhaps you can find some comfort knowing at least these two models appear to hold their value rather well in the event things don't line up with your preferences.  
 
Personally, I'm a bit on the lower end of the budget spectrum, and have to consider a DAC as well.  My goal is a W4S DAC2 with a WA6SE, and although I have heard the WA6SE at a meet, I haven't heard the WA2, WA22, or the combination with a W4S, hence, a $200 RT plane ticket is my insurance policy to experiment and see if this is really for me.  It is even possible that I find something more interesting and to my liking, which could end up costing me significantly less, or (worse) significantly more, but I've set an upper limit for myself, and this is a very personal decision.  In any case, I think this venue will be the ideal forum to see all the major equipment manufacturers representing all under one venue, hence, I consider it the best possible opportunity to determine what I like.   
     
 
Quote:
The reason for eyeing both Woo and RSA is they seem to have a decent rep here and their stuff is **** well built (both with the exception of their silly PSU-to-Amp power chord however). But excelled workmanship inside and excellent build quality outside.
 
2.  There is no doubt that the these 2 pieces are works of art in my opinion.  I've not heard one bad remark about their design, workmanship or quality of materials.  I do, however, want to point out that having a dedicated power supply unit in a completely isolated chassis is really an ideal electrical environment for an amplifier.  It is debatable as being over-engineered and/or inaudible, but the fact that some models have that feature is really testament to how seriously they consider making the best amplification possible with functionality first, and aesthetics second, but in seems in this case, they got both. 
 
Happy Hunting.
 
 
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Anaxilus

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Haven't heard the RSA but the WA5 and Eddie Current line up are the best I've heard the HD800.  For SS others have mentioned the Phonitor, Beta22 and Luxman but I have yet to hear those myself.  Might want to read up a bit.
 
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johnwmclean

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Hint: Get an understanding of what’s going on under the hood and you can send me the $3000 you’ve saved. 
 
 
 
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Uncle Erik

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No consideration of the Zana Deux? I strongly prefer it for the HD-800, though the Si2A3 is awfully good. I think Craig has a new 2A3-based amp in the offing. I'd consider that, too.

And I strongly recommend taking johnwmclean's recommendation of learning a thing or two about amps before buying. Not everything is as it seems and you do not want to drop several thousand before learning more.

You might want to take a look at what the DIY'ers run aside from their own stuff and what they recommend.

 
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entrope

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Thank you everyone for your recommendations and comments thus far :)
 
I'm actually living in Asia and yeah it's a real nightmare for me to find anyone locally where I live carrying any headphone amplifier which I am considering with my budget and hence why I'm posting here to see what everyone's got to say with what I'm intending to buy.
 
I've always been fond of the DIY market but I'm also quite anal when it comes to getting stuff from reputable manufacturers as I do not wish to end up in a position where I have to endure continuous back-and-forward freight charges when problems begin to surface.
 
Already had that experience once when a 20KG power amplifier had to make *three* round trips between Asia and Europe. Not fun when you're not a FedEx employee (;
 
Am definitely not in an urgent state to upgrade - it might easily be another two to three months before I make the plunge, still have my speaker system to enjoy! I usually spend quite a few weeks (or even months) deliberating my upgrade paths.
 
I have to admit as well I'm quite an anal nut when it comes to aesthetics. For my speaker system I've actually shunned away from some brands simply because I found their kit looked odd.
 
Having said that however when I purchased my speaker system some time back there was no shortage of showrooms for me to audition at and from there on I formed a pool of what sounded right to my taste and based my final shortlisting on price and aesthetics.
 
 
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entrope

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(I do actually think my Bel Canto DAC aesthetically matches the WA5-LE quite well come to think about it :p)
 
 
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Ross

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I was tossing up between the Apache and B-52 for my HD800s, even though I have generally prefer solid state. I thought if anyone can do tubes in a way I liked, it would be Ray, so I bought a B-52. However, I found I didn't like the B-52 - it just sounded too coloured, too unfocussed, and lacked the dynamics I was looking for. It sounded like just another tube amp to me. So I sold it and bought an Apache, and now I am happy that it produces the ideal sound (for me) for the HD800s. Dynamic, detailed, slightly coloured in that warm RSA way but not overly so (after replacing the stock op amps with AD797s), and very smooth and quiet. I should add that I haven't heard a Beta 22 or other top solid state amps, but it easily beats the others that I own or have owned (Headroom Maxed Home, Meier Prehead I,  SPL Auditor). I might also mention that I use my HD800s with balanced and unbalanced Moon Audio Blue Dragon cables, which I find give greater focus than the stock cables, as well as taming the top end.
 
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rgs9200m

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If you REALLY want the best match for the HD800s, the apex  Pinnacle is the one, and in the long run worth it if there is any way you can afford it now, as you won't need to worry about (much)  tube rolling or other upgrades, maybe ever.
There is some sort of congruency between the Pinnacle and the 800s that makes them sound better than anything, even R10s (as I have noted and also in Innerspace's Pinnacle review).
Nothing sounds better on the Pinnacle than the 800s in my experiments, and it's a match made in heaven. It sounds like the Pinnacle was voiced with the 800s, but that's just speculation on my part.
You will never need to spend on other phones once you have this combo. There is some sort of magic going on here that I don't understand.
The only thing I did special was to replace the (single) 6NS7 tube with a Brimar cryo'd one.
 
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