Woo Audio WA6 SE Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Sep 15, 2020.

  1. dubiousmike

    dubiousmike Friend

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    The original wa3 was my first dedicated headphone amp. It was a work of art and built like a tank, but frankly even with the best tubes out there (the guy I picked it up from way back when threw in a pair of 7308 PQ's and a 5998), it is a slow high impedance amp, with a big stage, that just doesn't let hd800's full detail or speed shine through. I sold mine shortly after buying my hd800's and then building a bottlehead crack 9 or so years ago. Even stock, the crack is a far better match for hd800's as OTL's go (although a better match for hd650's), and it scales up with mods - plus building it is super fun and will get you started on diy!

    All that said, Purr1n's OP is dead on as usual that tube amps with output transformers are where it is at, especially for hd800's, with the exception of getting your hands on a Zana. I liked the wa6se a lot when I heard it with hd800's, and I would be very surprised if you didn't find it to be a big leap forward.
     
  2. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Ironically though, the very best amp for HD800 I've ever heard was Apex Teton, a classic OTL design with rather high output Z. It beat the pants off not only Zana (a unique OTL design that uses negative feedback with no cathode followers to achieve low output Z) but also well-regarded DHT SET amps with output transformers such as DNA Stratus and EC Studio Jr. The downside is that it seems to be optimized for HD800 and doesn't fare as well with other headphones, especially planars.
     
  3. dubiousmike

    dubiousmike Friend

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    So true! This inspired me to go hunting for the Zout post of yours that blew my mind several years later in 2012! Not on HF, but I recall telling people there to google "hd800 and 120ohm standard" so they could actually see your measurements showing exactly what happens to the hd800's FR, based on its impedance curve, when you bump Zout a little:
    https://www.changstar.com/www.changstar.com/index.php/topic,90.0.html

    Up to that point, I recall a lot of discussion about how high Z amps didn't deliver adequate power to low Z phones, how bass tightness was impacted and how x-overs in IEM's were affected. But I never really thought of Zout as a form of EQ for single driver dynamics. Frankly, Currawong's decision to nuke various posts on this for "indirect linking" to changstar was a big part of what drove me to abandon HF altogether.

    Thanks for the reply songmic! Sounds like one to add to the must hear bucket list! The only high end TTVJ amp I ever got to try was the 307a, and I thought it was stunningly good - so transparent and not the slightest bit tubey. If the world ever rights itself and I make it to another show, I'll have to keep an eye out!
     
  4. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Huh. If they were then I completely missed those. Maybe someplace upscale like the old hi-fi place at Power Plant but Egghead and 5th Ave didn't have any WA last I saw (maybe the Fireflies???). Either way might be a while get before I can get to demo anything outside again, haha.
     
  5. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    @purr1n How would you say that this stacks against the SW51+?
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    As it is equipped with the tubes now, I feel it's better for HD650 than HD600. The highs are bit coarse, there could be more body for a tube amp (as consequence of this is the good midrange clarity). Of course there are many other tube options which I have not even explored yet for the HD600. While I'm sure there is a magic CRT scanning tube that may exhibit the specific properties I would be looking for, the problem with many of these type of 9-pin tubes (there are specific exceptions) is that exhibit sort of this "weak-sauce" sound quality. The octals sound so much better.

    An JBL Nano Patch wouldn't help with the high noise because of the gain (I will measure this later today). The 6SN7 with an adapter (sanctioned by Woo) should have lower gain and may alleviate the noise. Hard to say because some of this is hum.

    Starlett is in another class. I agree about the magic. It's not that the WA6 SE doesn't have it, just that Starlett is so close to the TOTL SET amps from the boutique guys. Below is a rundown subjective comparison. May the objective folks at ASR have their eyeballs pop out and brains explode.

    upload_2020-9-17_14-52-9.png

    Important Notes:
    • Warmth/Body will be slightly dependent on tube, however the sound is a lot more dependent upon the output transformer. The figures for the WA6 SE are with the Sylvania 6DR7s which are less warm sounding than others.
    • Not absolute. Everything has been normalized to 8.0
    • Soundstage (really headstage) is an aggregate of imaging precision, openness, depth, whatever, etc/
    • IMHO, YMMV, WTF, something about opinions and assholes, etc.

    IME, Woo amps need some finagling to get the best out of them. This is either a a curse (for people who want to listen to music) or a blessing (for people who want to listen to tubes). I think there's more to get out of the WA 6 SE.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    WA3 and WA7 are nice, but not competitive from a SBAF sound quality standards POV. WA3 is no longer available. WA7 does come with a DAC, but it is more of a lifestyle / co-worker discussion piece to be strategically placed the corner of the workdesk.

    There are different approaches to the HD800. One is to pump up the output impedance to sky-high levels to bring out a lush and dreamy experience. It's enticing. I've heard the same from the RSA A-10 and an EAR power amp with the HD800. Nothing taking credit away from the Teton, because the reality is that it's not just high Zout, but also the right amp.

    I do however feel that this takes away from what the HD800 is supposed to be to at least some extent: a surgical take on the music. It feels too far removed from reality. I'd rather a take puff or two from the magic dragon while listening to HD800s.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    That just brings back bad memories. I had forgotten how unkindly Jude took criticism of products on HF. This of course leads to an interesting story of why Jude hates @zerodeefex more than me. I need to find a specific postcard first. If anyone has this postcard, can they please scan it and send it to me privately? (Please don't post it yet, I want to tell a story).
     
  9. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    But did you make sure to use filtered water to test for proliferation of plankton without giving any of the amps an unfair advantage? :p

    Okay this puts a lot of things into context and I'm glad I didn't spend on a ZDT Jr. of my own, haha. Yeah the stuff re: voicing is of less interest to me than the other aspects but could prove useful to others. Mid clarity was surprising, is that just a voicing thing or in absolute terms?

    Silly question but is soundstage an aggregate of stage size and imaging definition or just the former?

    No actual interest in the WA7 cuz I think I'm done with AIOs for now, but yeah the value proposition was kinda implicit with Woo's rep.

    Could be a symptom of my not being in a position to spend much nowadays but storytime is among my favourite content from older members now, hah.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Just do you guys know, I hate tube rolling. I dropped a Sovtek 5U4G and cheap Shuguang 274B. Yeah, as expected with Woo stuff, tube rolling makes a huge different. The Sovtek 5U4G is da bomb. Now I don't yet want to say rectifier tube this or tube that, not at least without measurements of the characteristics of the individual tubes. Hey, if I can listen to Get Lucky the 1000th time and still bob my head to it, or crank the shit outta Pixies Surfer Rosa to get 100db peaks just so I can hear that Steve Albini recorded bass drum, then the amp is good.

    IMG_20200917_141836 (1).jpg

    The leanness, lack of body, and coarse highs (with the USAF 596), not that they were major anyways, are a thing of the past. I am really really loving the Woo WA6 SE. With these set of tubes and the component compliment (Gungnir MB, Pi2AES AES / Motu SPFIF out, Sylvania 6DR7s, and Sovtek 5U4G), I feel provides a nice general balance that will let me run almost anything HD600, HD650, Verite Closed, Utopia, etc.

    I've gone back to the amp comparison quality graph and updated the WA6 SE entry with the Sovtek 5U4G as the rectifier.

    The USAF 596 with the antennae gives a nice clarity and sharp attack at the expense of less body, warmth, and coarser highs. The Shuguang is odd, it's warmth too like the Sovtek, but there's also a thinness with the notes at the same time, and the lows are congested. There's some part of me that feels the 596 was sort of a gimmick anyway with the Robbie the Robot look.

    I'll put these rectifier tubes on the Amplitrex AT1000 tube tester and report back! Super curious if these results will have anything to do with it.

    R-491027-1170429003.jpeg.jpg
    CRANK IT UNTIL YOUR EARS BLEED! 104db or bust!
    (I do not advise not doing this for long. Be sure to take a long break afterward to let your ears recover)
    1wgmql.jpg

    There, I'm done with rectifier tube rolling.

    If I only had $1300 to spend, this would be the amp to get for moderate efficiency dynamic headphones.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    I am bad for thinking Kim Deal is a totally under-appreciated bassist? TBH I like what she does better for the Pixies than Flea ever did for RHCP. OK, time to turn the amp off so I can finish work work.
     
  12. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

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  13. Ralf Hutter

    Ralf Hutter New

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    FWIW, my first gen WA6-SE tube compatibility chart shows 6sn7 for plain 'ol WA-6 only. Can't use them with SE.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Ah, confusing. Oh well, less to worry about and I'm happy anyway with the 5U4G with the dynamics. The 596 would probably fare better with decently efficient Audezes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  15. Cebuboy

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    You need a specially built adapter to use the 6SN7 in the WA6SE, or you 6SN7 will have a short life...

    Try some 6EM7/6EA7 rca sounds fuller while sylvania leaner. If you like the Sovtek rectifier, try the Svetlana black plates.
     
  16. Empyah

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    View attachment 23002

    Important Notes:
    • Warmth/Body will be slightly dependent on tube, however the sound is a lot more dependent upon the output transformer. The figures for the WA6 SE are with the Sylvania 6DR7s which are less warm sounding than others.
    • Not absolute. Everything has been normalized to 8.0
    • Soundstage (really headstage) is an aggregate of imaging precision, openness, depth, whatever, etc/
    • IMHO, YMMV, WTF, something about opinions and assholes, etc.
    Nice to see that not all Woo amps should be dismissed price/performance-wise, they all look great and build quality is top notch.
    My Wa7d tho good, does not sound like 1000+ bucks and my Wa22 needed quite a bit of extra cash to turn it into a very good amp.

    Sorry for off-topic, but where would you put my Studio Junior 2A3 on that graph?
    As it stands when I compare it to my Wa22 1st gen ist bests it in every aspect (especially soundstage and microstuffs) but has a
    similar tonality, being solid-state like fast, natural and neutral sounding.
    Got a pair Genalex Golden Lion 2a3's on it and a pair of Psvane 2A3C's (which turned out to be a nice surprise for only 130€ with shipping etc. and are proof that the Junior sounds great with everything, but can be fine tuned with tubes)
     
  17. exsedol88

    exsedol88 New

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    Would the WA6 SE be a significant upgrade over the Mjolnir 2 with Telefunken ECC88 tubes? I am using the Mjolnir2 with Gungnir Multibit and Verite Closed/HD800 SDR/HD650.
     
  18. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Friend

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    Depends what you are looking for, MJ2 has a very addictive slam and bass control that the WA6SE will not comparatively. Also the HD800 for me performs it's best with all tube amps.

    I personally have both a Starlett and a MJ2 because they have unique characteristics. (Gungnir A2 dac)

    I find myself using the Starlett much more but... always enjoy using the MJ2 when I change it up or listen to more of one kind of music.

    So depends how you use your headphones and the music you enjoy to listen to most.

    Best would be to pick one up and try it yourself!
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Just a few notes on the Shuguang 274B. The one of the left with the red lettering is CRYOGENICALLY TREATED. I picked these up from an eBay seller. It sounds the same more or less as the regular one on the right, maybe 2% more body - but both make the WA6 SE sound harsh in the highs with the HD650 when I crank up the volume.

    IMG_20200921_105316.jpg

    Normally, tubes with a base should be inserted or removed by holding the base, not the glass. The design of the WA6 SE has a nice aesthetic touch with the recessed sockets. However this makes removing the tube impossible without touching and applying at least some upward pressure on the glass. What happened next is that the socket came loose. I don't know if cryo freezing messes up with the glue that holds the base to the glass. The problem was compounded that the pins on the Shuguang were a bit too thick to easily fit into the socket.

    So something to be aware of for cyro treated stuff: make wreck the glue on tubes with sockets, may not sound all that different. The cryo explanations sound bullshit anyway.

    Pretty much similar but more neutral, less creamy, less organic, just a little bit. The feedback brings 300B and 2A3 sounding closer together. The 2A3 isn't as colored. I think of it as the 300B version sounding less 300B. The transformer used on the Junior / B makes more of a difference than the DHT tubes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
  20. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    So... good-quality socket savers to the rescue? The recessed socket on the WA6 does look absolutely class but it's amusing that they're sacrificing utility for a nice ornament.

    Also, not sure if it's just my crappy net connection but I can't see the companion chart where amplifiers and technicalities were swapped (i.e. grouped by technicalities, each bar within the cluster was a different amp). While having both there does look cluttered it could be useful for people who want to compare specific aspects across the amps (cough). Caught the edit about headstage (i've stopped using "soundstage" to refer to headphones, haha) thanks for clarifying!
     

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