The Woo Audio 2: The Looks And Sound

Sound

Woo Audio is not only known for its great design but also for their quality of sound. While I am not too convinced of the WA3 myself this WA2 does up the level and also the price. You will see I made a lot of references to one of my favorite OTL amps, the LaFigaro 339.

Describing the Woo Audio 2’s sound is, for once, fairly easy and a several keywords come to mind. The WA2 is very dynamic and transparent and it lets you hear everything there is to hear in the music. There is a completely black background and no audible hum at all, it is dead silent. This amplifier is very clear sounding; has no grain and isn’t overly warm like some tube amps can sound. Of course there is this smooth tube sound but the WA2 sounds very natural and clear. It’s pace is reasonably good compared to other OTL amplifers, it easily beats the Crack and 339.

The WA2 has a good level of detail and still remains musical sounding. Sound stage is very nice and compared to the 339 it is wider and more spacious but is doesn’t go as deep as the 339. Imaging, 3-dimensionality and left-right separation on the WA2 is extremely good and it makes it a very relaxed amplifier to listen too. It is not a dark and really warm tube sound like the 339 but it is not solid state sounding either, it’s a perfect mix in between. I always call it a little forward sounding but calling the WA2 “forward” sounding would be wrong. It’s smooth and clear and detailed while staying musical as I said. A well balanced amplifier that is a pleasure to listen too, with the right headphones (but that goes for all amplifiers)

Everything on the WA2 has more air than the 339. Bass is well rounded and detailed but not overly present and it doesn’t go as deep as the 339’s bass which also has more body. In return you get a more dynamic, very nice sound stage (bigger as 339). Instruments and treble are incredible on the WA2 while bass and voicing are better on 339.

The mids of the WA2 are very open and in good harmony with the bass and treble, it all blends in perfectly with a small remark however. When I called the WA2 “forward sounding” you don’t have to take it too literally as it isn’t really forward sounding like some other amplifiers but this refers mostly to the mids which are slightly more upfront but overall go very well with the bass and treble as I said. Treble on the WA2 is further extended as on most OTL amplifiers I have listened to and it remains smooth and doesn’t come close to being shrill. Treble detail maybe could be a bit better but you won’t complain about it unless you’re a huge treble fan.

As usual I threw dozens of different musical styles at it but in general the Woo 2 does them all. Sure I can prefer some specific artists like “Melody Gardot” more on the 339 because of the voicing but we’re talking personal preferences here. If I do have to be negative about it I wouldn’t recommend the WA2 for the fans of dance music with a lot of deep and hard bass, but that’s about it. The pre-amp section of the amplifier logically has the same sound characteristics and you will be able to hear it in the amplifier you will put next in the chain. In conclusion, if I have to describe the WA2’s sound with one word it would be: “Silky”. I can not see music fans not liking this amplifier as it does nothing wrong and you get a lot in return: looks and good sound.

Headphones Combinations

Being an OTL design the WA2 should prefer Higher Impedance Dynamic headphones but there’s always a “but”.

Let’s start of with two of the non dynamic headphones that are very popular: the Audez’e LCD 2 (Rev 1.) and the Hifiman HE-500. Long story short, I do not like the LCD-2 very much with this amp. While it certainly isn’t bad sounding I have heard the LCD-2 sound a lot better (best being the solid state Violectric V100/200). I have read lots of posts from people liking the LCD-2 with the WA2 but to me the match isn’t too magical, call it personal preference. The HE-500 which I like most on my custom made 300b speaker/headphone amp does sound very smooth, natural and romantic on the WA2, a pleasure to listen too. Both headphones however sound better on the 339 to me. They don’t sound bad, but that doesn’t mean they sound as good as they can and should. Those who want can of course use a power tube like the 2399/5998 which will make the amp have a bit more gain, however I’m not a fan of the sound signature of those tubes.

The famous Sennheiser HD650 which works brilliantly with OTL tube amps sounds almost perfect on the WA2, maybe even better than on the Bottlehead Crack (but looking at the price that’s only normal even if the Crack is a giant killer). That is mostly due to the sound stage being bigger and while I do not like saying the HD650 is veiled, the WA2 seems to lift “the veil” more.

Another of the High Impedance headphone brands is Beyerdynamic. I didn’t have any 600Ohm version to use with the WA2 but in stead I used the 250Ohm T90 which I love very much. The WA2 of course doesn’t have any problems driving these and I would even dare say a big part of the T90 fans would find this to be one of the best combinations. The sound signatures of both units seem to be made for each other and it only improves the T90 even more. Listeners who would want to make the T90 sound a tad warmer with a little more impact-full base would however be better of usingΒ  an amplifier like the Crack which focuses more on the bass section.

Not only the higher impedance dynamic headphones sound great on this amp, in example the Beyerdynamic DT770 AE (while not really needing an amp) sounds great on the WA2. As a matter of fact, the DT770 Anniversary Edition is one of my favorite headphones with the WA2! It does everything right and it takes a bit off of the DT770’s big bass. Win-win!

Power wise the WA2 is not the strongest but you have plenty of room to play with and don’t need to worry. It shows most of all when using it with the HE-500, in example where my listening level is 8 o’clock on the 339 it is 11 o’clock on the WA2. But as I said, don’t worry about it too much.

In The End

I’ve very much enjoyed the company of the Woo Audio WA2. My love for this terrific sounding and looking amplifier has only grown from the day it got here. I’m sad already thinking of the day I will have to put it back in its box for who knows what reason. If you have made it to the end of this review I am sure it is clear this Woo Audio 2 is a great piece of equipment and it is worth every single bit of its price. One will be yours starting from $1190 and it can be bought directly from Woo Audio in the United States.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

66 Comments

  • Reply September 11, 2013

    George Lai

    Woo Hoo!

    • Reply September 11, 2013

      L.

      Is that good or bad George? πŸ˜‰

      • Reply September 11, 2013

        George Lai

        Woo Hoo is good. Boo Hoo can also be good. I’m eyeing the Fireflies!

  • Reply September 11, 2013

    donunus

    I was hoping this could be tested with the hd800. that would have been an awesome test πŸ˜€

    • Reply September 11, 2013

      L.

      We can’t test everything unfortunately πŸ™

    • Reply September 12, 2013

      John123John

      The HD800 is well enjoyed with the WA2, being an OTL. I haven’t heard the combo myself but that’s what I’ve read.

    • Reply September 12, 2013

      Mike

      I listened to it on the HD650… It’s clean and resolving. Cleaner than say the Bottlehead Crack (of course) and I like how the OTL makes the WA2 more transparent than the WA6 and WA6SE. I think it’ll be nice with the HD800, but the tonality is bright (though still very smooth sounding) and lacking low end, so if you don’t mind that combination with the HD800 then go for it.

  • Reply September 11, 2013

    Dave Ulrich

    Finally, the much vaunted WA2 review. I’m surprised you didn’t mention its excellence as a preamp.

    • Reply September 11, 2013

      L.

      It only took a little over a year to get it online. I wasn’t worried (yet). I know I was brief on the pre-amp part: “The pre-amp section of the amplifier logically has the same sound characteristics and you will be able to hear it in the amplifier you
      will put next in the chain”. But that’s saying a lot as well. I mostly used it as a pre amp for the Crack or the 339.

      • Reply September 11, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        When I saw this post, I had to stop and think. I could have swore it had already been up up, but then I just realized I was remembering the other reviews in which the WA2 popped up.

        On another note, you have heard the WA3?

        • Reply September 12, 2013

          L.

          I have, I have

          • Reply September 12, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            How is the WA3?

            • Reply September 12, 2013

              L.

              I think Mike would say “Meh”

              • Reply May 12, 2015

                WJ

                Thanks so much for all the info posted here. First time post from me. I’m trying to decide between a wa2 and a wa3 solely to drive hd650’s. I won’t be driving any other headphones (i.e. no T1 or hd800, etc) on the amp, just the 650. And I have no need for the pre-amp section. If focusing on sound quality alone, specifically for the 650, would you prefer the wa2 to the wa3? Also I think I’ve read somewhere on your post that the wa2 seems to lift the “veil” of the 650 — is this also true for the wa3? I’m asking because i actually like the “veil” of the 650 πŸ™‚

                Thanks!!

                • Reply May 12, 2015

                  Headfonia_L.

                  If you, like me, like the veil on the HD650 I wouldn’t recommend a Woo amp. I’d rather go for the Bottlehead Crack or the Lafigaro 339 (see review)

                  • Reply May 12, 2015

                    WJ

                    Thanks for the reply! Really appreciate all the help here. Though it’d be great to broaden my selection options, I’m buying used and currently have a good local deal for either the wa2 and the wa3. I’ve auditioned the wa3 before and liked it, but I’m reading such great things about the wa2 and was wondering what the differences would be, specifically when driving the 650s. For example, would tonality be changed at all or is it strictly larger soundstage? Or, for the 650’s are the differences between the wa2 and the wa3 not very significant (whereas they might be for other headphones,say like the hd800s or the T1’s)?

                    • May 12, 2015

                      Headfonia_L.

                      WA2 is better sounding, but it will lift your HD650’s veil. It will change its tonality a little yes, but most OTL amps do. The WA2 is a great amp and I prefer it over the WA3, which didn’t wow me at all.

                    • May 12, 2015

                      WJ

                      Excellent, that gives me great guidance. Thanks again for your help!

    • Reply September 12, 2013

      John123John

      I’ve definitely read reviews about the excellence of the WA2’s preamp. I found that many people enjoy using an OTL as a preamp (too bad a well designed and built tube amp costs around $1000).

      • Reply September 12, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        That isn’t true. You have the Crack, the LF 339 and even something else.

        • Reply September 12, 2013

          L.

          Me? I do indeed, and something else as well. And some more. Too much really but it’s addictive.

          • Reply September 12, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            I was actually responding to John123John’s comment about good tube amps being at least $1000. Although, now that I look at it, he might have been talking about tube amps that are also preamps.

            • Reply September 12, 2013

              John123John

              yup. There are little dots and musical paradise (or something) but I’m kind of sketched out by them~

            • Reply September 12, 2013

              L.

              I see that now πŸ˜€

  • Reply September 12, 2013

    John123John

    Awesome review. Woo Audio Products are definitely pieces of art. Definitely one of my dream amps πŸ™‚
    I still haven’t seen one in person though πŸ™

    All we need is the WA22 and we’ll have the whole set πŸ™‚ (Don’t care about the WA3 and WA7 LOL)

    • Reply September 12, 2013

      L.

      Thanks John. The Woos are so beautiful, the WA22 I will have to get one day.

      I won’t be reviewing my one of a kind 300b amp, it’s no use to anyone as you won’t be able to buy it. But Mike loved it, so it has to be good, right? πŸ™‚

      • Reply September 12, 2013

        Mike

        The 300B is good.

        Full sound, weighty bass, not so bright. Typical tube smooth sound. Big soundstage, clean black background. Excellent dynamics for a 300B tube, decent pace. It’s an all rounder amp. I just felt the dynamics a bit lacking from my usual standard but again I’ve been using the Studio Six. Soundstage size the 300B amp matches the Studio Six though.
        L also lets me listened to some really fancy expensive rectifiers but the sound was BLEH. Just goes on to say that expensive tubes don’t always mean good sound.

        • Reply September 12, 2013

          L.

          That was the 596 United Electronics btw. How did you like the GZ37 in the S6 finally?

          • Reply September 13, 2013

            Mike

            GZ37 Mullard was okay. Not a fan of it. Fast dynamics, thin on the bass. Bleh πŸ˜›
            I liked your RCA 5R4 better. Warmer, fuller bodied, more analog, more organic.

            • Reply September 13, 2013

              L.

              5U4GB πŸ˜‰

  • Reply September 14, 2013

    Sasmit

    Hi Lieven,

    Do you have any experience with the little dot VI+ or the VIIISE? I know they are old designs but still a balanced tube amp at their price is still not in the market( as far as i know).

    • Reply September 14, 2013

      L.

      I have to say I never got tempted. the VI+ looks nice though

      • Reply September 14, 2013

        Sasmit

        Yeah definitely……also just saw your picture on inner fidelity…nice to attach a face to all the advice

        • Reply September 14, 2013

          L.

          Uh oh πŸ™‚

  • Reply September 15, 2013

    John123John

    http://www.wooaudio.com/products/wa234mono/

    Cant wait for the review πŸ˜‰

    • Reply September 15, 2013

      L.

      You get me the amps, I’ll do the review πŸ˜‰

      • Reply September 16, 2013

        Mike

        Can you imagine if the review turns out to be bad? Lol.

        “Yeah we just got these mono blocks from WooAudio but I still like the bottle head crack better.”

  • Reply September 15, 2013

    Alyssa (Dubstep Girl)

    i’ve been waiting for this review for a while now. the WA2 is one of the best amps i’ve heard and my favorite for the Beyerdynamic T1 and HD 800. I find the Tung Sol 5998, Amperex A-Frame Orange 6922 to pair the best with the T1, and the GEC 6AS7G and Amperex 6DJ8 Bugle Boys to be the best tubes for the HD 800, the RFT EZ80 are the best and most transparent rectifiers i’ve heard with this amp.

  • Reply September 15, 2013

    Alyssa (Dubstep Girl)

    I also prefer the WA2 to the WA6-SE, its more transparent and more natural sounding than the WA6-SE with HD 800 and T1 after spending some money on tubes, though the WA6-SE is an amazing amp for the LCD-2, HD 650, and TH-900 (with 596 and 6FD7 tubes).

    • Reply September 15, 2013

      L.

      Thanks for your comments. Can you find yourself in the review?

      • Reply September 15, 2013

        Alyssa (Dubstep Girl)

        nope lol

        • Reply September 15, 2013

          L.

          Care to elaborate?

          • Reply September 15, 2013

            Alyssa (Dubstep Girl)

            you said if i can find myself in the review, i don’t. am i in this review somewhere?

    • Reply September 16, 2013

      Mike

      Agree. OTL all the way especially with high impedance dynamic drivers.

  • Reply September 19, 2013

    L.

    BIG NEWS. the owner of the amp decided he has too many amps (and he does, believe me) and he will be selling this great WA2. Let me know if you’re interested!

    • Reply September 24, 2013

      L.

      It’s sold. The new owner is a lucky guy!

  • Reply September 26, 2013

    GeertN

    I plan on buying a LCD-3 and I’m interested in pairing it with a WA6-SE. But I’m bit afraid of additional costs that come along with importing (to Belgium). Is there anyone with some experience with importing audio gear from the U.S to Europe? Or other β€” better available ampβ€” recommendations are welcome.

    • Reply September 26, 2013

      L.

      Importing amps from the US to Belgium is horrible if you use USPS. Fedex is the best. I shouldn’t say but always ask for a fake lower invoice amount under $150. Do not use USPS cause Belgian post will confiscate your amp and you will have to wait for a few more weeks (been there plenty of times). Why are you so focused on the WA6 SE and what is your budget?

      • Reply September 26, 2013

        GeertN

        Not focused, just interested because of al the great things I’ve read about it. Budget is around 1000-1200. At the beginning I was looking at the Pan Am, but since transportability is not important for me and since I already have a decent dac, I changed my search to decent headphone amps. And for reasons I cannot explain, I’m a bit fascinated by tube amps… Also, my gut has served me well. But don’t get me wrong, I’m more than open for suggestions.

      • Reply September 26, 2013

        GeertN

        The Pathos Aurium might be interesting. I heard it at CanJam with the Grado’s. It’s within me budget plus for sale in the netherlands. Innerfidelity has review with the LCD-3’s.

    • Reply September 26, 2013

      Guest

      The Pathos Aurium might be interesting. I heard it at CanJam with the Grado’s. It’s within me budget plus for sale in the netherlands.

  • Reply October 17, 2013

    Alyssa (Dubstep Girl)

    So i sold my wa2 and i ended up purchasing a wa22 with all upgrades and using super expensive tubes on it. And though the wa22 is better, i think the wa2 has better tonality and is smoother, silky smooth and sweet. Bass is better on wa2 as well, theres more of it, quite a musical amp. So im gonna be rebuying it again soon!! Its THE best amp ive heard yet with the beyerdynamic t1 and one of my favorites with hd 800

    • Reply October 17, 2013

      L.

      sorry that didn’t work out as you hoped. maybe you can find a good WA2 secondhand

    • Reply October 17, 2013

      Mike

      Try the WA5. It has the good character of the WA2 but a much fuller mid and weightier bass.

  • Reply October 21, 2013

    STARSTERN

    which amps pairs best with the lcd 3 headphone ?

    • Reply October 21, 2013

      Mike

      For me its the studio six. Please read the review for the studio six.

  • Reply October 21, 2013

    STARSTERN

    would you agree with those who praise the lcd 3 a overall highest end headphone in compare to HE 500 and can be called the poor mans mdr r10 or stax 009 or HE 60 balancing dynamic and fidelity

  • Reply November 4, 2013

    STARSTERN

    Had seen on top audiophile forums ,many put a edge’ on the dt880 by beyerdynamic ,over anything-else” as far fidelity ,more transparent then anything else ,whats your say about it ?
    and that holds true in a sense ,whicchh amp pairs well with that ?

  • Reply November 4, 2013

    STARSTERN

    Had seen on top audiophile forums ,many put a edge’ on the dt880 by beyerdynamic ,over anything-else” as far fidelity ,more transparent then anything else ,whats your say about it ?
    and that holds true in a sense ,whicchh amp pairs well with that ?

    • Reply November 6, 2013

      Mike

      It’s a very transparent headphone yes but now they have the Beyer T1 and the HD800.

    • Reply November 6, 2013

      Mike

      Here is my DT880 review.

    • Reply November 6, 2013

      Mike

      • Reply November 7, 2013

        STARSTERN

        Have no internet access ,for a day or two ,will try to reply by email ,yes am aware about the T1 and hd800 some like those better ,and other favor their sound signature better ,but from the simple naked transparent point of view ,although compromise a whole lot on warmness and joy ,I found most favor the dt880 and to a very high degree ,if that holds true and one wanna take advantage of that ,then fiio e17 would be just sufficient to serve as its accompanied amps ?

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