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Woo Audio WA7 & WA7tp DAC and Headphone Amp Review

cjfrbw

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#81
Heh, Heh! Another bullet riddled pedestal.
 
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amirm

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#83
Sorry to disagree, but I disagree.
I was going to write a dissertation until I saw that you did a better job than I could do. :) Thanks for the write-up. I was going to pull this bit out and make a thread out of it because there is so much folklore out there about tube sound.
 
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#84
@amirm Thank you for the review. Very useful.

I’m one of those folks who almost bought these Woo DAC/amps, but got suspicious at the amount of “love” shown on HF for Woo. FYI Since 2009, there has been 2700 pages of discussions at the HF main thread on Woo Audio. This is not counting the other product-specific threads.
I almost bought the wa7/wa7tp combo too, I did read somewhere else mentioned they don't sound as good as they should based on their high price, but I've never read such detailed testing/analyst report, thanks for the great work, Amirm!
 

NTomokawa

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#85
[...] there is so much folklore out there about tube sound.
Serious question: are there any well-written "tube sound" DSP plugins for Foobar/Winamp/etc.?

I figure something like that really has to exist. Combined with a transparent DAC and amplifier, one can then get all the "tube sound" they could ever want.
 

Dogen

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#86
Serious question: are there any well-written "tube sound" DSP plugins for Foobar/Winamp/etc.?

I figure something like that really has to exist. Combined with a transparent DAC and amplifier, one can then get all the "tube sound" they could ever want.
I’ve wondered about this too. I know there are tube sound emulators for guitar amps. Can all aspects of whatever is “tube sound” be achieved with DSP, including output impedance etc.?
 

solderdude

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#89
I’ve wondered about this too. Can all aspects of whatever is “tube sound” be achieved with DSP, including output impedance etc.?
Output impedance would be difficult to simulate as one would have to know the impedance plots of all headphones and of all amps.
One would have to select them and then simulate that combo... so one can only simulate the non-linear behaviour.

I never toyed with those plug-ins... can one select different tubes or configurations ?
 

Svperstar

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#90
I'd love to see a WA6SE measured, but its a big beast so shipping would be prohibitive. Some while ago it was measured here, https://kenrockwell.com/audio/woo/wa6-se.htm#perf
and looks to do what is expected.

I must admit I have a WA6SE and like it (it does look great in black with the Sophia rectifier tube). I feed it from an RME ADI-2 DAC. I listen with HD800's and it drives them well. With the RME, when I need perfect sound I use the inbuilt headphone amp, when I feel like something subtly different I use the Woo. Plus a little EQ from the RME gives the HD800's just a little more low down oomph when needed.
Well ship it to Amir then even if its inconvenient! lol!

WooAudio has been a big name for a long time, I am also curious how HeadAmp would measure. They claim to be "wire with gain" and detest tubes so I have debated sending in the Gilmore Lite mk2. I would be shocked if it spewed distortion everywhere since their claim to fame is not being "warm and musical" but razor sharp accuracy....
 

Veri

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#91
Well ship it to Amir then even if its inconvenient! lol!

WooAudio has been a big name for a long time, I am also curious how HeadAmp would measure. They claim to be "wire with gain" and detest tubes so I have debated sending in the Gilmore Lite mk2. I would be shocked if it spewed distortion everywhere since their claim to fame is not being "warm and musical" but razor sharp accuracy....
I'd love to finally see an objective review on one of the Headamp products.
 
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#92
Would love to see you or our customers perform a simple AB comparison with a high performance solid state amplifier and show in which content they think the sound became less "analytica/dry sounding." I watched a number of youtube reviews of WA7 and none included any comparison whatsoever as I am suggesting. In some cases the owner or reviewer didn't have another reference point with a high performance headphone amplifier. So I am not swayed by positive testimonials where a simple comparison is not performed.
I bought a WA7 even after reading this review because I love the design of the WA7. I cannot tell any audible difference in listening to the WA7 in low gain mode with my Focal Utopia vs the Grace M900 which appeared to measure objectively better.

Either the Utopia makes everything sound amazing, or my ears aren't good enough/I'm too ignorant to know what to listen for. I'd lean towards the latter.
 

SIY

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#93
I’ve wondered about this too. I know there are tube sound emulators for guitar amps. Can all aspects of whatever is “tube sound” be achieved with DSP, including output impedance etc.?
The one thing DSP can't easily simulate accurately (at this point) is microphonics.
 

amirm

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#94
I bought a WA7 even after reading this review because I love the design of the WA7. I cannot tell any audible difference in listening to the WA7 in low gain mode with my Focal Utopia vs the Grace M900 which appeared to measure objectively better.
That's to be expected. It has taken me a while to gather the right test material, and techniques for pushing amps into distortion that is audible to me. In less critical situations, it would be darn impossible to hear differences.

Your observation is a good one that there is no magic sound quality to tube amps/WA7.
 

Dogen

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#95
That's to be expected. It has taken me a while to gather the right test material, and techniques for pushing amps into distortion that is audible to me. In less critical situations, it would be darn impossible to hear differences.

Your observation is a good one that there is no magic sound quality to tube amps/WA7.
It may be magic or tragic, but I’d say there is a traditional “tube sound” - rolled off highs, for single-ended amps lots of second harmonic, low damping factor, and distinctive interactions between amp and load. Certainly not all tube amps exhibit these characteristics, and certainly not everyone desires them.
 

SIY

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#96
It may be magic or tragic, but I’d say there is a traditional “tube sound” - rolled off highs...
Gordon Holt used to describe "tube sound" as "bright, forward, and alive."
 
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#97
That's to be expected. It has taken me a while to gather the right test material, and techniques for pushing amps into distortion that is audible to me. In less critical situations, it would be darn impossible to hear differences.

Your observation is a good one that there is no magic sound quality to tube amps/WA7.
From the reviews I read of the WA7 it’s apparently the least “tubey-sounding” of the tube amps some reviewers have reviewed so take that for what it’s worth.

It also makes me wonder for the regular layperson if there’s any benefit to an expensive DAC or amp with superior measurements if the difference between something that measures awfully (WA7) vs something that has good measurements (M900) is inaudible.

When I first heard the Utopia it was the best sounding headphone music that I ever heard. I later learned it was being driven by a Chord Dave, but I wonder how much of it was the Utopia vs how much was the Dave.

I suppose with harder to drive headphones, a professional A/B blind setup, or better trained ears the differences in DAC/amp quality would become more apparent in listening.
 

Dogen

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#98
Gordon Holt used to describe "tube sound" as "bright, forward, and alive."
See, nobody agrees! I think it’s highly dependent on the circuit and the speakers. I’ve heard bright tube amps.
 

amirm

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#99
It also makes me wonder for the regular layperson if there’s any benefit to an expensive DAC or amp with superior measurements if the difference between something that measures awfully (WA7) vs something that has good measurements (M900) is inaudible.
We don't know if that is true for all content and all people. If I can tell the difference, others may too.

You are likely correct about majority of audiophiles. In that case, if they are wanting to spend good bit of money, they might as well do that for a well-engineered product. Why waste it based on feature list (this capacitor, and that circuit) that doesn't mean anything at the end?
 
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We don't know if that is true for all content and all people. If I can tell the difference, others may too.

You are likely correct about majority of audiophiles. In that case, if they are wanting to spend good bit of money, they might as well do that for a well-engineered product. Why waste it based on feature list (this capacitor, and that circuit) that doesn't mean anything at the end?
Heh, I just ended up going for what looked the prettiest on my desk in the end. :)
 

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