Here’s a novel way to deal with problematic audio show room-acoustics: don’t bring speakers.
Instead, Woo Audio brought boatloads of headphones and amplifiers to power them. Tubes were everywhere! Music got served up off of a CD player or a computer and audiophiles were encouraged to BYOM. Great recipe, right?
Well, it was. This room had the most variety on hand this side of Can Jam at RMAF. Something like a dozen “stations” had been set up in the two-room suite and every one of them was available for demos. Headphones from Audeze, HiFiMan, Stax, Sennheiser, and more, where all there for our delectation. Quite a feast.
If pushed, I’d say that the Woo Audio room had the best sound at the show. But that’s hardly fair, is it? The room had a lot of different sounds, not one, and all were happily coexisting in a show-friendly format. It was really hard to find fault here. Didn’t like what you were hearing? Swap headphones. Still not to your taste? Plug them into a different amp! You just couldn’t go wrong.
I was particularly drawn to the $4,990 WES, a fully balanced amp designed to drive ESL headphones like Stax. There were two on display here, in anodized black or silver, and they were the most popular in either room.
The $1,060 WA6-SE, a two box, SET affair, was particularly convincing, and I was able to fill my head with delicious hedonism. Yum.
But the king of the show was the WA234 monoblocks (pictured at the top of the page). At $10,000 for the pair, the were not only physically dominating (monoblocks … for your headphones …!!!), but were also the most technologically advanced. Do you love your 300b amp, but can’t really decide whether to forgo the extension of a 2a3 or the speed of a 45? Well, why settle? The WA234 allows you to switch out the tubes – and through a clever swapping out of the critical, tube-specific, bits circuit topology, the amps were able to do all three – “natively”. Oh, and when you’re tired of your ‘phones, these monos can also drive your speakers, too. Yeah. Impressive.
At the “Meet the Editors” panel on Saturday morning, one show goer complained, loudly, about the poor quality of show music. A lot of hilarity ensued about how tired everyone was of certain songs. Hotel California was singled out as an overplayed case in point. Walking around the Woo Audio room, I eavesdropped on some of those more obviously lost to the music. With the open-backs on some of those high-end headphones, you got to hear quite clearly what it was that was capturing them so completely.
Diana Krall? No.
Billie Holliday? Nope.
Frank Sinatra? Uh uh.
I did hear Guns and Roses. Oh, and AC/DC. There was a lot of AC/DC. These dudes were jammin’, and it was all I could do to keep the grin off my face.