• WES—2-chassis, tube-powered electrostatic headphone amplifier. ($5000)
• Woo 234 Mono—World’s first monoblock, user-adaptable, tube-powered headphone amplifier/speaker amplifier system. ($10,000/pair)
• WTP-1—CD transport, shown in pre-production prototype form. ($1099)
• WDS-1—Desktop DAC, shown in pre-production prototype form. ($1099)
Judging by the very wide range of headphone amplification products offered by his firm Woo Audio, company president Jack Wu must surely eat, sleep, and breathe headphone-based audio systems. But for Can Jam Mr. Wu really outdid himself, introducing not only two new top-tier headphone amplifiers, but also two remarkably beautiful value-priced digital audio products targeted toward the traditional high-end audio enthusiasts. Let’s begin, though, with the headphone-centric products.
Woo introduced its new 2-chassis WES electrostatic headphone amplifier ($4990), which was paired with the amazing new Stax SR-009 electrostatic earspeaker ($5200) to create what Woo unabashedly describes as a “world class headphone system.” The system sounded very, very good, though it was difficult to determine (on the basis of a brief listen under trade show conditions) which aspects of the sound were attributable to the Woo amp and which to the Stax headphone. This package will certainly bear further listening; it’s remarkably good.
Adjacent to the WES/Stax display, Woo was showing what was if anything an even more imposing product: the Woo WA-234 MONO, which is billed as “the world’s first monoblock headphone and speaker amplifier.” Apart from its gorgeous industrial design and plainly over-the-top build quality standard, the thing that sets the Woo 234 Mono’s apart is the fact that they ship with two types of plug-in “switching keys”—one set that serve as Tube Switching Keys (allowing users to equip their 234’s with 2A3, 300B, or 45-series vacuum tubes), and another set that serve as Output Switching Key (allowing users to configure their 234’s to drive speakers or headphones, as they see fit). Interestingly, Woo has developed output switching keys for “cathode and plate outputs for high and low impedance headphones.” As you can imagine, the WA-234 MONO offers tremendous versatility and provides all sorts of opportunities for comparatively listening using different types and brands of tubes. The only catch: a pair of WA-234 MONO’s will set you back a cool $10,000. Still, by high-end audio standards that figure is by no means as crazy as it might at first sound; indeed, if you simply judge just the product by its looks, it will make you start itching for a spare 10 large to spend.
Completing the picture for Woo were the sweet new WTP-1 CD transport (projected price $1099) and the matching WDS-1 desktop DAC (also projected at $1099). Woo was using this transport/DAC pair for many of its headphone demos, and they sounded extremely good for the money.