Disclaimer: Woo was so kind to send us a loaner of the unit to do this review. It has been returned in the mean time. Thank you Mike L. and Mister Wu.
I got an email from L. a while back, which read more like an aside, saying that, oh yeah, you will be getting the Woo Audio WA7. Both the SS and tube based power supplies would be included, too? Oh well, if you insist. Woo Audio should need no introduction. They are the makers of tube amplifiers, from the $599 WA3 to the $15,900 WA234 Mono. They are known as much for their gorgeous build quality as they are for their clean, dynamic sound. The WA7 will not disappoint on either of these fronts, but… well, let’s get to that latter.
First, the WA7 is Woo Audio’s first attempt at an all-in-one machine. It is a class-A tube amp with a built in 32/192 DAC. Before we go any further, I should mention that there are two versions of the WA7 out there: the WA7 and the WA7d. Since the amp and dac section are the same, to keep things simple, I am going to wait and discuss the differences later in the review. So, until I mention different, when I say WA7, I am referring to both.
The WA7 has the nickname of “Fireflies”, and that couldn’t be a more appropriate name. Having the amp and its tube based power supply sitting next to each other, turned on in a completely dark room is a thing of beauty. It does look like four fireflies just hovering there. This is, beyond a doubt the most beautiful thing I have reviewed in my tenure at Headfonia. Made out of aluminum, with no screws showing, these are put together amazingly well. I am even saying this as someone who prefers black (Woo sent me the silver model). All of the switches and knobs are solid. These units might actually be bullet proof. Be warned, however, that unlike the transportable Pan Am, the WA7 isn’t meant to travel. With its glass top on, both the WA7 and the tube power supply weight about 9 pounds, and need an electrical outlet. Pair this with a snazzy looking Apple computer, and you are going to like the epitome of high style. Don’t be surprised if someone wants to display your computer disc at the Louvre.
It is a pure tube, class-A transformer coupled amp. With the stock tubes (well burnt in), the amp has a very linear sound. Clean, even and detailed from top to bottom. The highs have sparkle with some decent air. There is decent midbass impact with enough body, and the mids connect the two without drawing too much attention to themselves. It is a very balanced sound. The DAC follows suit (or is it the amp the follows suit of the DAC? Oh such questions!) with a clean, spacious sound. It is a little laid back, but far from sleepy. It, and the amp, provides a solid sound stage, with decent width and depth. When hooking up the Dacport LX to the WA7, I noticed that the WA7s built-in DAC was cleaner, and definitely had more air to the sound. So, all-in-all: good body, good balance, good sound. My main headphones for this review are the HD650 and the Alpha Dogs, although I used the HD650 more. The Alpha is cleaner, something the WA7 is able to capitalize on, but I can’t get over the lack of bass impact with the Alpha. Not the WA7’s fault.
In its stock form, the WA7 doesn’t add much to your headphones. You like the way they sound, the WA7 will bring that sound out. Of course, you could always change the tubes, and wouldn’t you know, Woo Audio offers a pair of upgrade tubes through their website, the Electro Harmonix 6C45 with gold plated pins. And yes, these do change the sound… boy do they ever. They might be a little cleaner and more detailed, but that is a moot point. These are much darker, with really full mids and bass. Voices sound awesome, and rock really rocked. These are a great time… unless your diet is made up of mostly classical, like mine. I missed the balance of the stock tubes with orchestral music. That is just personal preference, though. If you want your WA7 to rock out, these are tubes to strongly consider.
It goes on after the click