The Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies

There is another addition for the WA7 that can have an effect on the sound. They call it the WA7tp. It is a tube (12au7) based power supply that replaces the solid state PSU that comes with the unit. It retails for $649 or $399 when purchased together with WA7/WA7d and Woo Audio says that the WA7tp should provide “enhanced stereo separation, smoother treble, more air, more effortless sound”. I would say that is more or less accurate. With the Electro Harmonix 6C45, it made the sound more linear, but it still wasn’t quite straight enough for me. With the stock tubes, I liked the extra air and smoothness. It does offer a noticeable improvement. Is it worth 4 big ones? If you want to push the WA7 as far as it can go, than yes. But know, it offers an improvement, not a revelation. Of course, though, as with the amp, you can roll in some different tubes, and tweak the sound even more.

Now, it is time to discuss the differences in the two different WA7 units: the WA7, and WA7d. They both contain the same DAC and Amp unit, so the sound is the same. The difference is that the WA7, which retails for $999, has USB and RCA analog inputs. It has the ability to output an analogue signal and act as a standalone DAC, but that is a rather useless feature as, if you are going to spend $999 as a DAC, there is better you can do. The WA7d adds an optical (TOSKLINK) input into the mix, but drops the ability to output the decoded signal (not a big loss). The WA7d also adds $200, bringing the total cost to $1199. So, ask yourself if you need the optical input before you load in.

Now, on the “but” portion of tonight’s program. First, I have one small issue with the sound. It seems to be lacking a little rumble in the sub-basement. I was thinking I might be remembering the HD650 going deeper than it actually does, but upon plugging it in to the LF 336/Dacport LX combo, I could feel that bass in the bottom of my feet again. I really only noticed the lack of sub-bass with classical, as the punchy midbass is plenty fine for rock and the like, but I really like to feel the floor shake with Tchaikovsky. A pretty small thing, but worth noting. However…

I like big buts, and I cannot lie. My big but here comes where it almost always does, in the value for dollar area. Let’s say you are looking for a good, all-in-one solution, dac/amp for your computer, and that you are willing to drop $999 on such a solution. In this situation, I would go with the Concero HP from Resonessence Labs over the WA7. It is a little cheaper. It is smaller. It is USB powered. It maybe not look as awesome, but it has equally stellar build quality, and though the amp on the WA7 might offer better dynamics on harder to drive headphones (the Concero HP was very good with the HE500 and HD650, though), the DAC on the Concero HP is simply in another league than the (very fine) DAC on the WA7.

But, suppose you are interested in taking the WA7 as far as it would go. You want the optical input. You get the WA7tp. You roll the EH tubes. You are now talking about $1698. What’s more, with both the WA7 and the WA7tp together, you aren’t taking up much less space than a separate DAC and amp together. For $1698, you have some nice options for what DAC and amp combinations you could make. For the DAC, you could snag something like Concero HD, KingRex UD384, Violectric V800, etc. For amps, you could go with a SS from Burson or Violectric, or a tube amp from La Figaro, Bottlehead, or even one of Woo Audio’s amps. I am willing to bet that the Concero HD, matched with WA6 with its tube upgrades (which together should run about $1860) would sound a good step up from the WA7 combo, and won’t be taking up much more space, either.

This is just the way I see things, however. I actually feel a little guilty saying this as the WA7 is a VERY good sounding piece of gear. I just can’t get past the fact that, at the asking price, better sound can be had. You are paying a premium for the all-in-one factor, and, to get the absolute best out of it, you need to add a power supply that, in my eyes, negates that advantage of having a DAC/amp combo.

But, it is up to you, gentle reader. If you are reading this, and you think I am nuts, that my conclusions are asinine, and that my mother is a terrible person, then by all means, go for it. It does sound excellent.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

22 Comments

  • Reply September 19, 2014

    dalethorn

    I’ve lusted after this WA7 ever since I saw the ‘review’ by Ken Rockwell the camera guy.

  • Reply September 19, 2014

    Nickjan Glas

    great review, happy to see the comparison to resonence and that you like classical; since I ll be replacing my Marantz pm 7004 for a dedicated hpa/dac and classical will be the main focal point. so many wishes…..

  • Reply September 19, 2014

    Tibor

    Hey good review, thanks 🙂 Before I started reading it a question came up in my mind. How would it compare with concero hp and at the end, there was an answer 😉 Thank you, I am going to save some money on concero. 🙂 First I was thinking to add that vorzamp to my Meridian but concero hp will take on another level, am I right?

    • Reply September 20, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      I haven’t heard the Vorzamp or the Meridian, and I don’t know what headphones you are using, but I absolutely loved the Resonessence Labs sound.

      • Reply September 20, 2014

        Tibor

        At home I have Philips X1 with PanAm and on the go Meridian Explorer and Aedle vk 1. You mentioned the PanAm there, so could you compare Concero HP to it please?

        • Reply September 20, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          I have not heard the Pan Am. Sorry.

          • Reply September 20, 2014

            Tibor

            That’s all right. I believe that concero is an awesome dac. It’s just a pity, for me, that here, in UK, it costs 785 pounds…

            • Reply September 21, 2014

              Dave Ulrich

              That’s a lot of change right there….

  • Reply September 19, 2014

    Joseph

    If you wanted to improve detail retrieval, clarity, separation of instruments, would you upgrade to the WA7tp or buy a new DAC (something like the X-Sabre)?

    • Reply September 20, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      DO you already have the WA7?

      • Reply September 20, 2014

        Joseph

        Yea, the first version. Using EH Tubes as well.

  • Reply September 20, 2014

    rob

    “It has the ability to output an analogue signal and act as a standalone DAC, but that is a rather useless feature as, if you are going to spend $999 as a DAC, there is better you can do.”
    In my case I have a pair of amplified desktop M-Audio monitors, that at flick of a switch, I can send the signal to, with the WA7 turned off. The DAC it’s self is USB powered. I find a lot of value in this feature, as living in a Brooklyn apartment, there isn’t much room for complicated separate pieces of gear.

    I wholly agree with the financial aspect of this article. When I bought my WA7, there was no WA7tp – the solid-state PSU was the only choice. So would I spend the extra $400.00 bucks? Hell-No. For one it defeats the purpose of having an all-in-one unit. And for two, as pointed out you have more, equal or better choices in gear you could purchase. If I want to change the sound of my music, for $400.00 dollars ill buy a new set of ‘phones. That aside, as far as an all-in-one full tube DAC/amp for 1K plus the EH tubes (so very worth it), I have been really happy with the unit. I feel I have made an investment in an item which i will enjoy for a long time to come. This is a rare bird in todays disposable, mass market economy and mind state.

    I should also add that Woos’ customer service and communication is excellent. I recently had some issues with my overall setup involving my Late 2009 iMac and my WA7, that for all conventional troubleshooting techniques looked as if my WA7 was the issue. Mike was very accommodating in helping me troubleshoot and even thoroughly tested my unit free of charge, less shipping and insurance to WooAudio; return shipping was picked up by them.
    I sell technology for a living and i see A LOT of broken promises, unnecessary spending, and crappy customer service, often even after tens of thousands have been spent on a “solution”. Woos’ reputation for incredible bespoke engineering-the transformers are custom built as is the case and even solid block of glass-, great build quality, and customer service earns it’s 1K price tag.
    But thats just me….

    • Reply September 20, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Thank you for the comment

    • Reply September 21, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      See, everyone has a different look at things. This was just mine. I think you make a great point, and I am glad the WA7 is worth it for you. Their build quality is beyond praise, and I can say they were great people to work with. It is also rather obvious that my crush on Resonessence Labs gear just won’t go away.

      • Reply September 21, 2014

        rob

        Of course…if anyone of could ever just pick one headphone one amp or one DAC, none of us would be here.
        I just thought I add some points to really well written article.
        I will be in the market at some point for solid state gear, and when that happens both Vio and Rec Labs are my top two for considerations.

        • Reply September 21, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          I just realized my last comment doesn’t read like I intended. I wasn’t intending to be defensive. The first sentence was a comment to everyone but you saying “here is an equally valid, but contrary opinion to the one I have”. I should also say that the Vio/Concero HD combo was a great one.

  • Reply September 23, 2014

    Nick Tam

    What a long overdue review for the WA7 lol

    Moved on to the Fostex HP-A4 in the meantime though its one price bracket lower

    😛

  • Reply May 31, 2016

    lysingur

    Would this Amp/DAC combo work well with AKG K812?

  • Reply May 2, 2018

    DC

    I was interested in the WA3 OTL to use with the 650, but for a little more the WA7 comes with DAC, you did not like the synergy of this version so much with the 650, you know what it would look like with the new WA7 Fireflies (2nd gen) ?
    This is an amp of tubes, but it is not OTL, is this what the 650 does not harmonize?

  • Reply May 5, 2018

    Dave

    Sorry, but I have no experience with the 2nd gen WA7, and have not heard the original since this review was posted almost 4 years ago. I did not get to keep it. I am no help to you now.

  • Reply May 19, 2018

    Richard T.

    Dave, as usual love your review. You tell it like it is. Please review more gears. Love reading it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.