After break in the Woo 3 with Sennheiser HD650’s has a warm easy to listen to sound. I was expecting more detail, high end extension and weight. Adding a Signal Power Cord made a noticeable difference in weight. Next addition was Siemen 6922 tubes. A small but discernible improvement. The biggest improvement was exchanging the stock output tube for a Tung Sol 5998. Now it’s all there except the highs still seem somewhat muted. Replaced the stock cord on the Sennhiesers for a Stefan AudioArt cord. After breaking in the cord I finally hear what I consider to be excellent sound top to bottom.
This combo sounds almost as good as my Merlin VSM’s, no small feat. As a preamp the Woo is no match for my Audible Illusions 3A but is very good considering the price difference.
I also use the Woo with my computer using lossless WMA files, M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 analogue out, Nordost cables, Woo headphone amp driving the Sennheiser’s or Monsoon speakers. Very big bang for the buck.
Probably one of the best audio buys I've ever made and I've always been a solid state guy. This amp just makes magic with HD-650's. Tried some differnt tubes, and like them, but still kept coming back to the Phillips JAN. I just really like the liquidity of the stock tubes.
The biggest difference I got with this amp was swapping out the stock 6AS7G power tube. For only a few bucks, the older GE 6AS7G tubes are about 3/4" taller than the stock ones, or the vase shaped RCA power tubes, made a huge difference in the soundstage. Much wider and taller presentation, and greater ease. Right now, the best I've found is the RCA military tubes made in the early to late 1950's. It's interesting to note that I acquired a tube tester and found the the older tubes don't test as well as the newer ones, as the newer ones test much stronger and indicate longer life span. The older tubes read like they're ready to go anytime soon, but man, what a difference.
I just don't see how anyone could not be happy with this product.
With a quality source, the WooAudio 3 with the Tung Sol / Cetron 7236 power tube with the stock JAN Phillips 6922 signal tubes, or Amperex Orange Globe 6DJ8's, really excells with the HD650's, once the HD650's have been "deveiled" and have an upgraded cable (e.g. Cardas, Zu Mobus, SA Equinox, etc.).
This combo produces truly exceptional SQ. Some Headfiers have reported they think, with the HD6xx's and upgraded tubes, the WA3 beats anything up to $1000+. Others have reported that upgrading the caps to Blackgates, or Auricaps takes it even further "to yet another level."
Once this combo is burnt in - you'll find it difficult to beat.
I bought the WA3 amp to drive my Sennheiser HD650 headphones w Cardas Cable and my Grado RS-1 headphones out of my Music Hall MMF CD-25 w 1+ upgrade, and Musical Fidelity XDAC v3. Although, it reportedly is also an excellent tube pre-amp, and may well be a great front-end for a solid-state amp to warm your conventional audio speaker system. It is a heavy, solid, well-made, piece of audio equipment with premium components assembled by Woo Audio, a small boutique US manufacturer, who provides exceptional customer service. At $350 to $500 it is truly a real audiophile value.
With the stock tube set (1 NOS GE 6AS7 and 2 NOS JAN Phillips 6922 output tubes) the WA3 produces truly exceptional audiophile sound with this setup.
Overall: The overall sonic character is weighty, warm, liquid and lush that you would expect from a tube amp – this even though, the amp is still not yet fully burnt in – which requires 50-100 hrs of play, before it reportedly blooms to it’s full potential.
Bass: The bass is deep and extended, layered and textured with palpable weight, body, and slam. It is as well defined, fast and tight as the source and recording. The leading edge and attack of transients is fairly sharp – though just a bit less so than solid state, so as not to be harsh, and to promote the sense of the real performance.
Mids: The mids are full, warm and liquid with a striking presence, which gives real life to brass and vocals. Vocals and the tenor, or baritone sax are simply outstanding with this amp.
Highs: The highs are well defined, extended, clear and detailed, without any sibilance, or harshness. Strings sing, and cymbals have that splash, or shimmer, depending upon how they’re played.
Background: Notes emerge from and decay into a silent, black background at normal listening levels.
Image: The image is fairly dimensional, with a wide, deep and high soundstage, which allows you to sense the relative positions of the instruments and performers. The amp positions the listener fairly close to the performance with a more intimate sound – closer to the front row, or stage, than to the back rows.
Details: If the rest of the equipment is up to the test, the listener hears all the sonic details and textures that lend that sense of a real live performance: the rosin on the bow across the strings of the violin, bass, or cello; the squeak of the fingers on the frets; the thump of hammer and stops on the piano strings; the pick on the guitar strings; the saliva on the lips and the breath of the vocalist; and the creaks and squeaks of the piano seat, or stage floorboards.
Resolution: The sound is highly resolved, with good definition and separation of each note, instrument and performer, yet provides an overall cohesion to present a well integrated whole without being muddy.
Most of the Jazz, R&B, Country and Classical CD’s I’ve played through it have been presented with the character of a live performance – highly entertaining and enjoyable. It’s sonic character compares quite favorably to my Musical Fidelity XCAN v3 – though the WA3 may present a bit more of that rich, warm, liquid, lush tube sound, perhaps, just a bit bigger, more rounded sound, since it is an all tube SET amp, while the XCAN v3 is a hybrid tube / solid state amp, which presents just a bit more of the dynamic, sharpness typical of solid state amps, yet with a somewhat warm overtone. The XCAN v3 may present just a bit more detail and separation between instruments, but with a slightly brighter, colder sound than the WA3. The WA3 will probably sound better with systems with somewhat bright components, which may benefit from the warmth of the WA3 (e.g. silver interconnects, Beyer DT880 headphones, Sony MDR SA5000 headphones, the Grado PS SR325i headphones, solid state amps, etc.), although, it sounds exceptional with the HD650’s, which are generally considered to have a bit warmer, darker sound than other headphones.
I started playing around with headphones and headphone amps again after a 20 year hiatus. My last headphones before this time were the venerable Koss Pro4AA. They served me well thru college and college radio. Never knew you could connect headphones to anything other than the phone out jack on a piece of consumer gear or the board at the radio station. Headphones (and everything else for that matter) have come a long way in 20+ years. Now there are these new fangled things called headphone amps. Purpose built signal amplifiers that you plug in: (1) a dedicated source to (or thru), (2) power cord, (3) headphones and viola you get beautiful music. Way more beautiful than the op amp powered phone out jacks on the old Kenwood receiver. Not that there is anything wrong with op amps. Well there is but I won't go into it much here. This is where the Woo Audio 3 tube (3 of them) headphone amp comes in. No Op Amps. Tubes and caps for the most part and a tranny. After futzing around with a Rega Ear op amp based head amp (dreadful) and a JMT Audio Pimeta op amp based (Burr Brown 627's) head amp (much better but still lacking). I came across some glowing praise for the Woo Audio 3 tube headphone amp on Headfi.org. The place to go for all things head phoney and other wise. This is a serious Sub Culture website/bulletin board/forum. I don't know what finally made me pull the trigger on the Woo 3 but I am sure it was helped along by the internet buzz about this little giant killer of an amp. OK, I was totally dissatisfied by the headphones and amps I had owned by that time. I thought I would give tubes a shot even though this would be my first piece of tube gear. Tubes and certain headphones seem to have a synergy that transcends anything solid state and headphones can do or so some said on Headfi. So I sent Woo Audio my paypal funds for the Woo 3. It came in shortly after I had purchased a pair of Sennheiser HD600 headphones (cans for you noobs). Did I mention that after already having gone thru 3 sets of headphones and 2 amps that I was ready to throw in the towel on headphone listening all together? Frankly, I was totally skeptical that any amount of money spent on headphones and amps could bring me a faction of the listening pleasure I got from my loudpspeaker based systems. Boy was I wrong. The minute I got the Woo plugged in (by the way you have to furnish your own IEC power cord and source rca interconnects), powered up and the HD 600's jacked in, I was in another audio world. Yeah, this is more like it. Soundstage, depth, warmth, sparkle, toe tappin', head bobbin', MUSIC. Not sound but MUSIC. The Rega Ear and Pimeta sounded like listening to a transistor radio in the bottom of a well in comparison. The Pimeta really is better than that but the Woo 3 is so much better. So much more like listening to loudspeakers and music. OK, so now this headphone thing is listenable, actually enjoyable. How can I make it better. Well there are these top of line Sennheiser headphones call HD650's. Let's get a pair of those. Yep. Not even close to these ears. The HD650's smoke the HD600's. Some long time headphoners will disagree on this point. Hey that's what makes life interesting. It would be pretty boring if we all liked the same music and gear and there was nothing to argue or get passionate about. What else can I do. OK, read up on some tube rolling (buying different tubes and changing them out in your gear to see if they sound better or different, tone controls?). Yes, the 5998 Tungsol power tube and 6DJ8 pre tubes(Amperex is supposed to be DA Bomb but I found the Groove Tube version of this tube to be more to my liking) really takes the Woo 3 to another level. Clarity and quickness from the pre tubes and bass and warmth from the 5998. The tubes that come with the Woo 3 are very adequate but a NOS 5998 and whatever NOS pre tubes suite your fancy gild the lilly so to speak. They just put some polish on the shine. I could not be happier with my purchase. The Woo 3, my Home Theater Master 500 remote control and Von Schweikert Audio VR-1 loudspeakers are the top 3 neatest, coolest, most useful pieces of audio kit I have ever purchased.