I’m super pleased to introduce my latest, and potentially final, acquisition. It is the first and the only (as of this moment) of its kind, a Woo Audio WA33 Elite with JPS Labs Alumiloy internal wiring. I’m sure now that this exists, more people would ask Jack Wu, whom I consider a very good friend, for the same thing. And to me, every dollar I paid for this beautiful beast here is absolutely worth it. Which lead me to the disclaimer: this is not a review unit, or one given in exchange for honest opinion. I paid for it with my own money and I don’t have any skin in the game
The idea first occurred to me the first time I saw that Abyss Headphones (which is part of JPS Labs, which produces high end cables and power cords) sells their own version of my beloved WA33 Standard Edition, but priced differently because they asked Jack to build with all JPS-Alumiloy internal wiring. According to Joe from Abyss, the Alumiloy wiring makes everything sound smoother.
So the curious me asked Jack, half jokingly, if an Ultimate WA33, an Elite Edition with Alumiloy can be build. Jack said yes and told me in which additional way such an edition would sound different from a Standard Edition. I resisted it for a while … but eventually my wallet cried a stream of green blood. Ka-ching-ching-ching-ching.
As I mentioned above, I used to own a WA33 Standard Edition, and though this may sound conceited and may just be my personal preference, I’ve not heard anything that sounds better than my Abyss Diana Phi on the WA33 SE. My new EE essentially told me “Hold my tubes!” If you want to know what it is that the regular EE has that the SE doesn’t, you should head over to wooaudio.com and find out
My setup is relatively simple. My Sony HAP-ZH1ES is my transport, which feeds my WA33 EE JPS through balanced XLR JPS interconnects, and a PS Audio P5 Powerplant feeds both with regenerated power. I don’t stream music, being a believer in off-line files only I have the Takatsuki 274B rectifier tubes, PSVANE 2A3 power tubes, and 6C45Pi ElectroHarmonix driver tubes. These tubes were also what I used with my old Standard Edition.
The moment I plugged my Diana Phi into the amp, I was just struck by how absolute a control the amp has over the music. Everything that flows out of the headphones was graceful, effortless, and natural. I’m a J-Pop junkie, so I don’t think many are familiar with the music I listen to, but damn, any doubt I had about spending upwards of 10 grands vanished as soon as I heard the music.
The WA33 SE I had was very good, no doubt about it. It was just that the EE is so much better. My WA33 EE is a tube amp throug and through but it doesn’t sound like a tube amp at all in the sense that people likely think. The EE is not artificially lush and overly warm. The EE is like a solid state amp with abundant power and slam but without a cold and sharp edge at the top. It is transparent … and it sounds correct.
The bass of the EE is clean, deep, precise, and textured. One of the rare English songs I listened to was the “Song of Durin” by Clamavi de Profundis, which is rich with deep baritone and as I listened, I thought I could hear distinctly every rumble of the singers’ voices as they delved lower, and lower, and even lower still.
The mids of the EE are full-bodied and, dare I say, mellifluous. I wonder if you, like me, had wondered about the difference of something sounding digital versus analog. To me, sounding digital means that I hear the artificial “edge” of each musical note. There is no edge with EE. One piano note melts into the next, and the next, and the next. To me, the EE doesn’t just sound analog. It sounds real. There is no hiss. There is no hum. There is nothing alien that I heard from my music. The background is dead quiet despite, again, this being a tube amp!
The EE’s trebles are magnificent. It can reach so high yet never sounds harsh. I don’t know if you are familiar with the sound of an orgel, but when I heard orgel music from the Diana Phi, I thought about how the notes keep extending upward and eventually just melt naturally away instead of rolling off.
The image presented by the EE is holographic, and the soundstage huge. But what’s most impressive is the depth of the stage. It is so deep I felt as though I could tell which instrument was further away and which one is closer. There is so much air around each instrument, all of them materialized precisely enough in my mind that I could “feel” where they are: front, back, left, right, etc. The female vocal, which is 90% of my music, sounds gorgeous from the EE and so well defined that I could easily picture the singer standing at the front of the stage, with the instruments behind her back.
I won’t pretend as though I noticed any “cons” to the amp. Cost, to me, was not a problem, and I felt that it was worth every dollar I paid. There is yet no weakness that I had perceived. Perhaps there are, and I may find them in the future. Right now, there is none.
I like to begin the end of my length impression (it’s not even a review, as I don’t feel that I am an adequate reviewer) by quoting a real one: “Nobody has to have one of these”. But if you have the money to spare, I would say you should take the jump and purchase one. I’m 100% sure you will love it as much as I do.
This will be the final headphones amp that I would purchase … until Jack Wu came up with something better. Which I think would be really, really, really hard.
PS: I’ve been trying to get Jack to come to Seattle to meet local audiophiles. You can see more details in the Seattle interest check thread. If this does happen, I will bring my WA33 EE with me so that you can hear it with your own ears. Until then
PS2: A bit more disclaimer here. I’ve known Jack since meeting him at RMAF 2017 and have always thought of him as a friend. I’m sure there are parts of me that are biased, but I tried my best not to be