Scot had me covering several CanJam titles but one of the best headphone rigs was outside of the tent in the Tower at the Marriott.
Here I found Joe Skubinski’s Abyss Headphones paired with the Woo Audio flagship amps — and the WA5s as well — with digital-to-analog conversion done by the excellent sounding Mytek Manhattan, which I was first introduced to at the AXPONA show in Chicago. The sound quality was simply fantastic.
A quick search of the available music file and I dug into some Miles Davis right away. “Freddie Freeloader” was clear, with defined musicians and nice separation. Really gorgeous sound, smooth delivery by the amps into the highly resolving Abyss headphones. Stellar resolution from the Mytek Manhattan.
Moving on to some more modern acoustical tunes, I clicked on Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through The Static album and listened to “All at Once”. Oodles of presence from Jack and his guitar. The Abyss headphones seem to offer up this music quite effortlessly.
The Woo Audio mono amps are simply spectacular to look with their obvious flagship-build-quality and the large tubes hanging out “on the roof”, reminiscent of the flagship Audio Research amp towers. The WA 234 can drive both headphones and efficient speakers. I had the privilege of hearing these drive some OMA Mini speakers at Chris Sommovigo’s house over a year ago, with a Continuum Caliburn turntable as a source. The amps include an-all aluminum housing with CNC machining in a glorious flowing shape. All triode design and single-ended, Class A. No semiconductors are used anywhere They come with a wooden box of “tube switching keys” which were on display. By using these special keys the mono amps can use 2A3, 300B, or 45 power tubes. Cool stuff, but It gets better. Woo also has “output switching keys” which help tune output for low or high impedance headphones or loudspeakers.
Woo Audio also had the more affordable WA5 single-ended triode on display. This class A amp has all point to point wiring. Drivers are two 6SN7 tubes and power is provided by two 300Bs. Very high quality parts: V-Cap, Jensen, and Black Gate caps. They can drive very efficient speakers but output 8 watts per channel at 8 ohms. A nice is a HI/LO switch for matching low or high impedance headphones. I heard these amps with the Abyss as well and it also sounded great although admittedly the WA234s were level above.
As for the DAC, I’ve been impressed with the Manhattan for a while. The DAC is based on the Sabre 9038 with 130db of performance. It uses a 32-bit Class 2 USB2 driverless interface and has MQA built in and has a Roon Ready optional network card. It can handle PCM formats to 32/384khz and Quad DSD256 to 11.2 Mhz. So you’re an analog guy too? No problem. You can get an optional phono preamp card. Switching back to digital, the device uses a femto clock to push jitter down to very low levels. Firmware is upgradable and it is universal remote capable. The most impressive thing is how it sounds though. It clearly pulls out a lot of detail in audio files but is also part of that rare air of converters that creates a musical sound that is non-fatiguing over the long haul.
This was a stellar showing by Abyss and Woo both with quality utility infielder support by Mytek. There are clearly synergies between these two brands. Joe’s headphones continue to impress and were among the best portable audio experiences I had at RMAF. I hated to leave the room.