The surest label of your descent down the audiophile rabbit gap is the first time you initiate to noticeably set up in thoughts purchasing for a faithful headphone amplifier. It’s cherish a photography fanatic taking a thought into corpulent-body digicam our bodies: an inevitable characteristic of the pursuit for the suitable-conceivable effective. As you ascend the price classes, alternatively, it is doubtless you’ll maybe maybe struggle to give an explanation for a luxuriating expense cherish a headphone amp to of us of a less audiophile persuasion. The resolution? An amplifier that seems as intriguing as it sounds.
The $999 Woo Audio WA7 is liable to be the prettiest half of audiophile equipment that it is doubtless you’ll steal with no need to remortgage your own home. It makes exercise of vacuum tubes for its amplification and in addition has a built-in ESS Sabre DAC (digital-to-analog converter), so all you will need is a USB cable to run for your Mac, Dwelling windows PC, Android, or iOS utility. It handles your whole audio processing for you, and that it is doubtless you’ll run in the relaxation from the ideal-sensitivity in-ear screens by strategy of the three.5mm jack to extraordinarily vitality-hungry over-ear cans by strategy of the 6.35mm port.
Now in its 2d hardware revision, the WA7 has been around since 2013, but in all that time, none of Woo Audio’s opponents had been ready to craft the relaxation nearly about as shipshape. This dice-fashioned amp in actuality stands on its salvage, and its timeless appearance would match into any abilities of craftsmanship. Woo’s sleight of hand with the gain has been to position your whole gruesome stuff staunch into a separate, slightly big vitality offer brick and leave greatest the swish bits for the metal-and-glass dice you retain on your desk. It’s a orderly and efficient gain.
The analysis unit that Woo shipped to me change into once tightly and securely packed. Clear instructions guided me by the assembly task, which change into once usually upright unpacking the 2 Russian-made vacuum tubes, seating them in their silos, and placing the sturdy glass body around them. Job performed. Hooking as a lot as my Mac change into once also utterly painless. Just a few of the loads of DACs I’ve used enjoy required me to manually take hold of them as the audio output every time I exercise them, however the WA7 takes over output mechanically when it’s became on and relinquishes it when off.
The overwhelmingly obvious first impression of the WA7 is a combine of that easy setup and the effective of its parts. The anodized aluminum substandard feels reassuringly heavy, and it has a seamless unibody thought that makes it a truly finest match to Apple’s MacBook Mavens. The glass module is also heavy, with thoughtful anti-scamper pads to withhold it in keep.
Whereas you spark off this amp, you effect why its corpulent name is WA7 Fireflies, as a pair of amber LEDs spark off below the tubes and illuminate the total unit. This creates a fanciful behold at evening, with the corners of the glass refracting and scattering that gentle. I’ve had this amp since the cool months of cool climate, and its refined warm glow has been cherish a mini fireplace perched atop my desktop. Two concerns fabricate arise with these lights, alternatively: one is that you simply don’t desire any technique to indicate the LEDs off, so that you simply’d higher cherish their thought, and the loads of is that many customers enjoy reported as a minimal one in every of their LEDs failing. This passed off to my analysis unit, with the left gentle going out completely. It hasn’t harmed the sound of the utility, but it provides a motive for worry about effective adjust, alternatively.
There’s a scant quantity of physical concerns to this little field, with upright two switches on the support: one for vitality and the loads of to toggle between low- and high-impedance modes. The latter of the 2 is designed to take care of headphones that are extra troublesome to drive, cherish Sennheiser’s HD 800 S or the 470-Ohm Audio-Technica R70x that I upright reviewed. The WA7 does an limitless job with both of them, by no methodology leaving me attempting extra juice. You’d enjoy to switch to absolute extremes, reminiscent of Hifiman’s $6,000 Susvara planar magnetic headphones, to search out a pair of cans that can maybe maybe feel inadequately powered by this amp. Amongst the headphones I tested with the WA7 were Focal’s Utopia and Clear, MrSpeakers’ Aeon Float and Ether Float, Audeze’s MX4, LCD-X, and LCD-2 Traditional, Grado’s PS2000e, and Audio-Technica’s flagship X5000. None felt constrained by the amplifier.
The greatest thing on the front of the WA7 are the headphone outputs and the volume knob. It’s a in actuality easy, functional setup. The knob rotation has a upright quantity of friction to it, making for a intriguing tactile feel, though the volume marker isn’t without narrate identifiable in the darkish. My well-liked volume knob on any headphone amp to this level is the one dominating the front of Astell & Kern’s Acro L1000, and the WA7, while upright, isn’t reasonably in the identical league of knurled pleasure.
So how does the Woo Audio WA7 if truth be told sound? Successfully, it sounds nameless. That is a upright thing when it comes to audio instruments, which you cherish to enjoy to feel transparent, letting the effective of the tune sail by it with as little alteration as conceivable. The ESS Sabre DAC that Woo makes exercise of is a most fashioned option among portable tune gamers and loads of DAC/amp combo units, so it’s little shock that the WA7’s sound would cease up feeling indistinguishable from loads of high-cease audio equipment. After I hear to tune, motion pictures, or the relaxation by this amp, it’s down to the headphones and the audio recording itself to excite or provoke me. To my thoughts, that’s a headphone amplifier doing its job well.
The energy of Woo’s implementation is in the manner it’s segregated out your whole parts that can maybe maybe potentially motive electrical interference into the big vitality brick, ensuing in a pristine sound output. One thing that always impresses me referring to the WA7 is its total silence when not taking half in support any tune. Drag your headphones into your pc, and it is doubtless you’ll maybe maybe effect a refined electrical hum, which is a characteristic that’s fully absent from the WA7, without reference to the volume it’s keep to or the sensitivity of your headphones. That also makes this amp well well matched with in-ear headphones, severely ones the utilization of a whole lot of balanced armature drivers, which might continuously be overwhelmed by used desktop amps. With the versatility to switch from little in-ears to vast over-ear behemoths, this amp ought to play fine with upright about any pair of wired headphones you care to throw at it.
So thought, the Woo Audio WA7 won’t alternate your lifestyles. It won’t gain hasten headphones sound upright. But this can gain your desktop thought cherish a great classier keep, this can gain volume adjustments feel so great nicer than plinking a keyboard key, and this can elevate the ceiling of the audio effective you’ll be ready to gain out of your own home audio setup. The $999 asking label positively carries a top class for the final be conscious, streamlined seems, and I’m not about to imply that that is the suitable-price amp that it is doubtless you’ll steal. But that’s the unbelievable thing about a various market: whenever you cherish to enjoy purely utilitarian instruments, thought in loads of areas; whenever you cherish to enjoy one thing that seems incredible while being highly functional, the WA7 is a upright candidate for your consideration.
Pictures by Vlad Savov / The Verge
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These fabricate not influence editorial instruct, though Vox Media might per chance maybe also honest manufacture commissions for merchandise bought by strategy of affiliate hyperlinks. For added data, effect our ethics protection.