Woo WA5-LE vs Feliks Euforia Anniversary Edition - FIGHT

Woo WA5-LE vs Feliks Euforia AE - Two high-end tube amps fight it out to claim their place as king of the (audio rack) hill.

This will be the primary review, with some follow-ups as questions are asked and tubes are rolled. The amp I prefer less will eventually be sent off to another home, but I’ll keep both for some weeks so that members of the community can ask for specific comparisons or tests.

I will be concentrating on both amps with their stock tubes for this review. I do have a few upgrades for each, and I’ll make notes on them later, but given the nearly infinite permutations that can be had with tube rolling, and a not-infinite tube budget for me, I feel it’s most fair to start with what the manufacturer would send you.

Background
Some months ago, I decided to wade into the world of tube amps to see what this “tube magic” was all about. After weeks of reading and carefully watching buy/sell forums, I pulled the trigger on a Woo WA5-LE. Days ago, I came across a Feliks Euforia AE, which I have generally considered one of the primary competitors to the Woo, given both cost about the same, and both supposedly play nice with low-ish impedance headphones (like my Utopias). The beauty of buying used is that you can try things out with minimal loss, and I wanted my comparisons to potentially help others on their journey. I will try to be as objective as possible about specific qualities of the sound, but always tread carefully around “better” or “worse”. I would call my approach scientific-ish. Same tracks, in close proximity time-wise, but I simply don’t have a setup where I can have both amps turned on at the same time and quickly flip between the two, and I don’t have a measurement rig to volume match. Still, I feel that the perceived differences are clear enough to me that I can give a sound (hee hee - see what I did there?) comparison.

My Rig
Power: PS Audio Stellar Power Plant 3 with meaningfully upgraded power cords throughout
Source: Custom NUC running Roon ROCK with access to Qobuz, Tidal, and some locally stored hi-res files
DAC: Chord Hugo 2
Headphones: Focal Utopia through upgraded single-ended cable

Primary Test Playlist
(Artist - Album - Track)
Doug MacLeod - There’s a Time - Black Nights
AC/DC - Back in Black - Back in Black
PaTRAM Institute Male Choir - Teach Me Thy Statutes - Blessed Is the Man
King’s Singers - Gold - Die Nacht
Yo-Yo Ma - Six Evolutions: Back Cello Suites - Suite No. 2 - Prelude
Trifonov / Philly Ochestra / Nezet-Seguin - Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 2, 4 - Piano Concert No 2 - 1. Moderato (1st movement)
Bamberger Symphoniker - Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D Major (Live) - 2nd Movement
Yosi Horikawa - Wandering - Letter
Infected Mushroom - Army of Mushrooms - The Rat
Coryells - Chesky 30th Anniversary Collection: Complete Set - Love and Happiness
Jen Chapin - Chesky 30th Anniversary Collection: Complete Set - You Haven’t Done Nothin’
The New Appalachians - From the Mountaintop - Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor
Lorde - Pure Heroine - Royals
Beyonce - Partition - Partition
Beatles - Rubber Soul (Remastered) - Norweigian Wood
Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life - Sir Duke
Van Halen - 1984 - Hot for Teacher
Nickel Creek - Nickel Creek - The Lighthouse’s Tale
Michael Wollny Trio - Weltentraum - In Heaven
The Fairfield Four - Standing in the Safety Zone - Children Go Where I Send Thee

The Contenders

Woo WA5-LE
MSRP: ~$3,700






Feliks Euforia Anniversary Edition
MSRP: ~$3,500
The Anniversary Edition is not posted on the Feliks Audio home page, but apparently can still be had by special request






Read, Set, FIGHT!!!
I started by listening to my test playlist directly through my Hugo 2 as a “palette cleanser”. That acted as my baseline against which I could judge relative changes in detail, speed, and instrument separation. To help you all level-set to my subjective preferences, I want to note that I love how my Utopia sound directly through the Hugo 2, and am not of the opinion that the Utopia need a tube amp. I chose the Utopia because I love the speed and the detail, and don’t find them harsh or sharp through most equipment. That said, a great amp can definitely provide synergies, and I have found this to be a really fun and rewarding exercise.

Category 1: Detail Retrieval
Winner: Woo WA5-LE
Both amps had a noticeable drop off in detail from plugging straight into the Hugo 2, but the way in which that manifested itself was a bit different. Both had what I would describe as slight muffling, but the Euforia felt like it also had what I can best describe as “fuzziness”. Put another way, the Woo might have put the music on the other side of a big quilt that was hung up in a room, where you could mostly hear the detail, but it was just a smidge less pronounced, whereas the Euforia turns that quilt into a thick fleece blanket. Neither sounded particularly “liquid”, which is something I’ve experienced with other amp combinations. I would, however, give a slight edge to the Euforia in bass detail, as the Woo did have a bit of bass bloom that wasn’t as evident in the Euforia. Still, considering detail overall, I felt the Woo was the winner here.

Category 2: Speed
Winner: Feliks Euforia AE
I felt that both amps had pretty good response in terms of the attack (transients) of notes, but the Woo had a slightly longer decay, resulting in less crisp stops. This was particularly evident on electronic music (which isn’t really ideal to listen to on tubes, in my opinion, but worthwhile to test speed), and for any faster drum sections (like the intro to Too Hot for Teacher by Van Halen). I’d like to note that the “fuzziness” I mentioned in the detail retrieval section is still a factor in the Euforia’s transients, so while still fast, they don’t sound as clear or close to the Hugo 2 as on the Woo. While I think the detail/speed tradeoff is important to consider here, if we’re talking purely speed, I have to tip the contest to the Euforia.

Category 3: Sound Stage and Instrument Separation
Winner: Tie / Personal Preference
For this category, I have a hard time choosing a winner, and have to just say that they’re different. Both amps put good distance between the instruments, and the sound stage for both is perceived as deeper than on the Hugo 2 alone. I couldn’t pick out a clear winner on depth. The major difference is in what is going on between the instruments. I perceived that the Woo puts some air in between the instruments, and I felt like that I could pick up both the instruments in their pockets, as well as the space between them - like they’re all playing in the same physical space. The Euforia had very distinct pockets of instruments with about as much distance, but noticeably less air between them, which is closer to the Hugo 2, by itself. I personally like the more open feeling of the Woo with the airy space in between instruments, but I want to be careful to not inject my personal preference there, as some may very much like the more distinct pockets (or blobs) of sound in the Euforia.

Category 4: Blackness of Background
Winner: Tie
This one is the toughest to pin down, as there can be differences in individual tubes or amp builds that can swing the result on a case-by-case basis. Both amps are quiet, but certainly not dead silent. At a quarter turn on the volume knob (no music), the Woo is a hair quieter. Interestingly, the Euforia had a pronounced hum between 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock on the knob, that mostly went away as I turned past it to max volume. That indicates to me that there may be a small issue with my volume pot. In any case, the Euforia was quieter at max volume. (Edit: This seemed to go away with time / tube rolling, so may have just been how I inserted a tube). Without getting into details, changing tubes has had a huge effect here (on both amps), so I don’t think there was enough in the stock setup either way to declare a winner.

Category 4: Build
Winner: Tie / Personal Preference
Both awesome, but different. They are both heavy, and fairly tank-ish in build quality. The Euforia is more refined, with clean lines and a glossy finish. The volume knob is super smooth. The Woo is a beast, with rougher edges, but also solid as a rock, and looks more like something out of a 60’s space movie. I personally like the Woo for it’s wow-factor, but the more compact and sleek Euforia may very well be preferred by some.

And the winner, considering stock tubes only, is…

…drumroll…

… you ready for this?..

The Hugo 2

“WAIT WHAT!? WHAT IS THIS GARBAGE!? I thought you were going to help me pick an amp…”

Okay, okay, hold on. Catch your breath. Both amps have their merits with stock tubes, but this is where I get to be subjective. I personally wouldn’t recommend buying either amp unless you are willing to invest a meaningful amount ($500+) in tube upgrades. I’ll dive into that in further commentary in follow-up posts, but long story short, the modest shortcomings of the stock-tube versions were enough for me to feel I’d rather just go straight out of the Hugo 2. Otherwise, why bother with equipment as capable as the Utopia and Hugo 2? I might consider the stock-tube Euforia if (1) I felt that the Utopia (or similar) was a bit too harsh and needed some “warming up” (which I don’t), or (2) to help take the edge off of sub-par recordings, which the amp actually does accomplish nicely. Basically, the Euforia can wrap your music in a fuzzy (but very fast) blanket, and that’s actually perfect for some use-cases. After my formal review listening I did to back to recordings I don’t love out of the Hugo 2 (with or without the Woo), and ended up being very satisfied with them out of the Euforia. The stock Woo, I would prefer only on a limited set of recordings - even more limited than the Euforia. However, I wouldn’t personally spend this kind of money on an amp that didn’t improve things meaningfully for my primary listening.

So what’s next? Well, some tube rolling. It won’t be conclusive, because my tube access is limited, but my conclusions with new tubes change meaningfully. More on that in a day or two…

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Haha. Nice write up.

You can order the Feliks here:

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Nice comparison review. This is also SET v OTL. Hard to say if that matters.

What struck me was your impression of a lack of clarity, a veiling. I’m hoping that’s tube related as I’d be disappointed if amps of this expense were demonstrating that. I have never heard a Hugo 2 so I don’t know if it’s maybe just super clear and it otherwise wouldn’t be noticeable day to day.

Do you think any of the modifiable factors like the impedance switches or cross feed option would play into this?

Look forward to your impressions of tube related changes.

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Halfway through, I guessed the winner. Nice review. I suspect you might learn more with different headphones.

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Thanks, @perogie! I do want to stress that the detail loss is small, yet perceptible, and perceptibly different between the amps. I don’t think it’s so bad that you’d think either amp is bad, per se, but between being a hair less detailed and a hair slower than a solid state amp, I just don’t feel that the tube magic (with stock tubes) is good enough to be worth it.

Now, as I hinted, upgrading tubes definitely matters, and I do end up preferring most of my music with one of the amps. More soon :slight_smile:

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That is what makes tube amp reviews and comparison kind of tough isnt it? Just what kind of X factor are the tubes? Ive rolled tubes on my amp and Ive got a different beast now than what I started with. It’s just unfortunate that it can be pretty costly to get those good tubes that make the difference.

The problem I have with even small differences in something like detail retrieval is that once you pick up on it you know it’s there and that perception can become magnified. Do you accept it or not is the question?

I look forward to your tube rolling adventure!

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It’s one of those things that I hate we have to do. Like - why can’t I just buy the darn amp and have it be “right”? But alas, even with fairly limited tube rolling experience, I can tell that it’s critical. I just switched back to my (now confirmed) favorite setup, and it’s a different world than the stock setup. Sigh.

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But it’s a happy sigh. My box of probably mostly never to be used again tubes isnt so happy.

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Happy indeed. It’s so satisfying to put your headphones on after a random tweak and get that “wow” feeling all over again.

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I think we call that solid state. Do we? I thought we did. I dunno. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: :rofl:

shrug

Yeah, tube rolling can suck.

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Yes and no. Solid state amps sound different from each other as a result of different choices of components and circuitry. We trust the engineers who put them together, and don’t fiddle with them, and just treat them as complete when they’re delivered, and review them as such. With a tube amp, I feel like it’s a similar set of decisions by equally talented engineers, but then they’re like “but wait - the hardest part is actually this really complicated puzzle with components you don’t understand nearly as well as me, and probably have less experience with than me, but you go ahead and figure that one out.” I don’t want to say people shouldn’t be able to tube roll if they want to, and I understand it’s partially a decision by builders to reign in the cost of the already expensive amps, but I would appreciate at least more editorial opinion by the manufacturer. Something like version A costs $[current MSRP], and those are the “stock” tubes, but I have pre-selected a version B that’s a bit more expensive with upgraded tubes I know work well together and sound noticeably better, and then there’s uber version C that costs a lot more, but again, I’ve figured it out for you. Even better would be detailed descriptions of what sound improvements a buyer might expect with certain tubes. Woo does a bit of that with a fairly small selection of suggested upgrades, and I appreciate that, because at least it’s something. Otherwise, folks are left to browse hundreds of pages of forums to even begin to get an idea of what to do (this guy).

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Great writeup. Easy to follow and detailed. Great read.

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Yeah, I was being a bit sarcastic. My odd sense of humor, I guess.

Good writeup. I did enjoy it. I’m curious which of the two you allude to is your preferred amp.

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I kind of see this as an example of “Hitting The Limit”. You’ve got a source ( Chord ) that appears to be nearly perfect for you, then you add one of two top tier tube amps. What you get is that the source shows up the strengths & weaknesses of the amps, which they are essentially equal to each other on top of that.

An entertaining review, thanks for doing it.

Mark Gosdin

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Tube Rolling Update and Crowning a Champion (Sort Of…)

As alluded to in the original writeup, I do end up coming to a different conclusion with a few tube changes. Just as I’m guessing most who read the initial review were disappointed at the “conclusion”, I felt the same way when I first started using the Woo WA5-LE with its stock tubes. I wanted to love it so badly. It looks so cool, and it certainly seems like all of the “cool kids” around these forums are fans of tubes, but I did feel let down - that is, until I started rolling…

Rolling with the Euforia
When I bought the Euforia, it did come with a pair of upgraded power tubes: Bendix JEA-6080WB. They don’t seem to be readily available through the tube sources I’m currently aware of, but some quick Googling seems to put them in the range of $400-600 for a matched pair (@BondDaBoom would be more qualified to confirm/deny). I did feel that slotting those in to replace the stock power tubes opened things up just a bit, but they were not transformative. Speed was the same, I felt, but just a tiny bit more space and a tiny bit more clarity. Nothing too different, though, and my general conclusion about the amp stays the same as in my initial review. If anyone in this community has recommendations for (non-unobtanium) tubes to try, or would even be willing to send out a loaner (I would absolutely pay to “rent” some tubes, and put down a deposit, if anyone is open to such an arrangement), I’d be thrilled to add more content here. Until further tube changes, my conclusion on the Euforia is that it is fast, and will give your music a nice warm hug.

Rolling with the WA5-LE
The prior owner of the Woo also had some upgraded tubes he threw in with the deal. In a way, I was lucky that they were shipped in a different box, and came only a day later, after I had time to listen with the stock tubes. There were two options for 300B upgrades - one pair being the Genalex Gold Lion PX 300B (~$300 for a new matched pair) and the other, Emission Labs (EML) 300B (~$600 for a new matched pair) - and rectifier upgrades in the form of Brimar 5Z4G (~$120 for a pair of NOS tubes). After being underwhelmed by my first experience with the stock tubes, I threw in the EMLs and Brimars, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. Different amp. Noise floor dropped to almost nothing. The amp sped waaaay up. Not quite solid state, but so fast that I no longer cared about the difference. Detail retrieval also improved to the point where I perceived almost no difference with the Hugo 2 alone. If I had to find fault, I would say that perhaps the bass response wasn’t quite as perfect as with solid state, and there was a tiny bit of veiling. Regardless, this was my “aha” moment. I appreciated the tubes, and for the first time, preferred using the Woo over solid state. I had set the Gold Lions aside, mostly because they were the cheaper tube, so I assumed they wouldn’t be as good, but then I put them in, and got to my current tube combination happy place. They’re not as quiet as the EMLs - they have a noticeable noise floor (or at least my pair does) - but oh my goodness, I love them. This was when I truly gained an understanding and appreciation for what “holographic imaging” is. Acoustic instruments were brought to life - like someone was playing in the room with me. The last bit of perceived veiling was lifted. They had even better stage depth and instrument separation, but where the Gold Lions shine is filling in that sense of space between the instruments. It all just seems so alive. So, very unlike the stock tubes, the Gold Lions + Brimars are fast, massively open, with great depth and space, a touch of “liquidity/wetness” (which I personally like), which all adds up to a vibrancy and “there-ness” to the music which I most definitely do not get nearly as much of with the Hugo 2 alone.

Conclusion(ish)
As is obvious by this point, my personal winner, right now, is the Woo WA5-LE. The tube upgrade in the Euforia was a small improvement. The tube upgrade in the Woo was a total makeover. I’m guessing this isn’t a shock to folks familiar with the Woo, as I’ve read from many sources that it’s very tube dependent, and boy is that true. Even so, as someone who was a total newbie to the tube world, the degree of the change really did surprise me. I also want to be cognizant of my limited experience (and tube inventory) and try not to be too conclusive here. It’s totally possible that a different combination in the Euforia could potentially change my mind. However, even with stock tubes, I think I would have been more inclined to want something more like the Woo, but better - if that makes any sense. If I had to sum it up quickly, I would say that the Euforia adds a pleasant tube flavor, for those who would want it, while the Woo adds tube magic, with the right tubes. After my first experiences with stock tubes, I thought maybe I was just a “solid state guy”. Nope. Pull me up on that tube bandwagon, folks! And I have the Woo WA5-LE (with some rolling) to thank for it!

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Great write-up.

My first experience with tube-rolling was upgrading the tube on my Lyr 3, but although I ended up with a better sound, it was not an OMG experience, probably because the Lyr 3 is a hybrid.

When I got my Pendant, I did have the OMG experience going from the stock JJ tubes (which sounded great, definitely not underwhelming) to the NOS tubes that Zach had supplied, which just sounded better in every way. It makes me wonder if I can get even better tubes, but so far, I’ve managed to convince myself that if I love it the way it is, why the hell would I want to change it!!!

So with your upgraded tubes, would you change any of the winners of the individual categories?

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Great write up, thank you for taking the time!!

Am I the only one cringing at the sight of those Utopias teetering on the edge of that stand? :rofl:

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Great question. Yes. Clarity and detail would go even more convincingly to the Woo. Speed would become a tie. Sound stage and separation would shift from a tie to a win for the Woo. Background would be a win for the Euforia, actually, but that would reverse if I went back to the EML 300Bs.

Basically, unless I start hearing responses from some tube gurus with highly recommended tubes for the Euforia that I am compelled to try, I think that it will be sent along to a new home, and some of that reclaimed budget going to some even better tubes for the Woo.

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Haha. I don’t love them sitting there, but as a precaution, the stand is held down with adhesive strips, so it’s super sturdy. The amp is too big to put the headphones anywhere else, really. I considered hanging them off the side, but then I might bump into them, and I’d never forgive myself if I did that.

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Someone get this man a Pendant with Tungstram EL84s and an Amprex 6201 for comparison, quick!

The tube amp death matches must continue until the pandemic is over!

Two amp enter. One amp leaves. It’s… TUBERDOME! Muahahahaaaaa

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