Since the WA11 supports analogue and digital inputs, we will go over the each use case separately. Let’s start with the DAC/Amp combo by using the USB C input. Back when I first got the WA11 Jack Wu recommended to use the balanced output, as that’s where the topaz performs best. There are notable differences between both outputs, which we’ll cover later. Now let’s focus on the 4.4 mm connection.
The WA11 creates a very effortless and full bodied sound with excellent details and resolution. It’s fast and precise, with wonderful accuracy.
Where I find the WA11 performs exceptionally well is low end and lower midrange. Here you get superb body and an organic sound with meat on the bones where it matters. Bass is fast and extremely well layered. It goes down low into the sub regions, giving the entire music a great foundation. Bass has very nice texture and sports good amounts of air, but never misses out on that physicality which makes it so remarkable.
Mids are nicely organic with a full body that brings the right weight. It is neither too heavy nor too light, but sits right there in the perfect zone for me. Vocals transport good emotions, with the correct amount of air in them. Instruments sound realistic with spot on timbre. Mids are rich and decisive, where I don’t feel like missing out on something. Upper midrange has a very nice controlled tone, with keys and violins sounding particularly nice.
Treble is fast and energetic, never dry or harsh but soft and well contoured. It brings decent amounts of air into the spectrum. Lower treble has good richness over the tone, while upper highs enjoy that to a lesser degree.
The WA11 does not sacrifice any details with its full bodied sound. It brings out a good amount of information to the headphones. The topaz stretches a good sound stage, with even dimensions in depth and width. It layers superbly well and has a wide pin-point imaging. Instruments are well separated with the right amount of air between them and stand out on a deep black background.
Overall the WA11 has a nicely achieved balanced sound with a mild emphasis on the lower registers, to create a full bodied and natural sound.
Jack Wu couldn’t be more right. The balanced output clearly outperforms the single ended in my opinion. The balanced output creates a wider stage with better instrumental separation. Single-ended you’ll get a softer tone, with less impact-full bass. On balanced you get higher resolution, a faster sound with a darker background, better imaging and a cleaner and richer sound overall. Also you’ll gain a bit in output power.
People that claim there are no differences between balanced and unbalanced should hear the WA11, it’s the prime example of a perfectly implemented balanced circuitry and implementation is what matters the most in any audio design.
For this part I have used the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch in Line Out mode to feed the analogue signal to the WA11. The Lotoo provides a very neutral reference sound to let me know how the amp section sounds as standalone.
The amp section of the WA11 is really impressive. You get a fast and crisp sound, with perfect layering and texture. A well controlled low end with good drive and authority. There is the same wonderful body as in DAC/Amp mode, but depending on the source you’re using, you’ll get higher resolution and even finer rendered details.
Topaz’ amp section delivers high resolution and separation. Instruments are precisely positioned in the room. The sound stage stretches in great dimensions. The depth is especially noteworthy in my opinion, as you can follow the tones until they disappear far back.
The WA11 says it in its manual – Recommended for full-sized headphones – it’s no surprise really when you’re looking at Woo’s other amplifiers. They sport power and are often used with the hardest to drive headphones, but fret not, you can also use In Ear Monitors with the WA11. We will take a look at a number of full sized headphones and IEMs here in this section of the review.
My absolute stress test headphone is the vintage AKG K240. With an SPL of 94dB at 1mW and 600 Ohms impedance, the Sextett is a beast to drive right. On high gain the Woo has no problem powering the early 70’s headphone to even very uncomfortable listening volumes for me. We will concentrate on a few more up to date headphones though.
Meze Audio – Empyrean
The Empyrean is one of the nicest headphones on the market. It presents a superb balance and organic sound with meat and flesh where it’s needed. It’s not a particularly hard to drive headphone, but it certainly benefits from proper amplification, and here’s where the WA11 comes in.
Bass has impressive definition and a very good flow to it. It’s soft and dynamic with a very enjoyable tuning. You get a damn smooth sound with excellent emotions and body. The Empyrean creates a sound stage that’s more in front of you, though it doesn’t go wide out of your head. It keeps things more intimate.
Mids are lush and full bodied, with a very organic touch and feel. There is excellent size in every instrument, where they sound harmonic and as they are right there in front of you. Almost as if they’d be close to reach.
The Meze clearly is one of the headphones that I enjoy listening to when I want to kick back after a long day out with the little ones.
It continues with more pairings on the next page.