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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S; Raysonic CD168; Ancient Audio Lektor Prime; Abbingdon Music Research AM-77 [on loan]
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; ModWright LS-36.5/PS-36.5; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic; Bel Canto Design PRe3; Wyetech Labs Jade; Supratek Cabernet Dual; Melody HiFi I2A3; Eastern Electric M520; Yamamoto HA-02; Almarro A318B; Trafomatic Audio Experience One [on loan]; Red Wine Audio Signature 30.2 [on loan]

Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; 2 x FirstWatt F4; Yamamoto A-08S; Bel Canto e.One S300; Fi 2A3 monos
Headphones: AKG K-1000 w. hardwired Stefan AudioArt harness; audio-technica W-1000
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Pro; Rethm Saadhana; Mark & Daniel Ruby and Maximus-Monitor with Omni-Harmonizer; WLM Grand Viola Monitor with Duo 12 and Sys VI active crossover; DeVore Fidelity Nines

Cables: Ocellia Silver Signature loom; Stealth Audio Indra; Crystal Cable Ultra loom, Crystal Cable Reference power cords; Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable; Zu Cable Varial, Gede, Libtech and Ibis; double cryo'd Acrolink with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer
Stands: 2 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular 4-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S fed from custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option; Furutech RTP-6 on 240-V feed
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Walker Audio Reference HDLs; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; Acoustic System Acoustic Resonators and front-wall matrix of sugar cubes
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 15' x 35' living room

Review Component Retail: $2,950 (+ $1,050 for optional parts upgrade)

It's the audio version of the Director's Cut. Put all the juicy bits back in which the family-approved rating forced you to take out. It only makes sense. An original circuit designer should offer her own ultimate version if cost-no-issue parts truly take performance up, not just your wallet down. It realizes an uncompromised vision plus accommodates the leaner pockets with the basic release. Audio Note UK has done this parts betterment for years over various tiers. As has Gordon Rankin of Wavelength, for upscale all-silver magnetics with Cobalt cores and other exotica. So when Jack Wu suggested that I "might be interested in the upgraded parts; frankly, these parts are worth the price and bring out the best of the amp," I was with the concept. Why leave the doing it all the way bumper stickers to the after-market modifiers? Jack's $1,050 question -- the list of pre-modified replacement items -- was as follows:

  • Vcap 0.15/600V
  • Jensen 220u/450V
  • Jensen 100u/500V
  • BlackGate vk 150u/350V
  • BlackGate std 220u/16V
  • BlackGate std 470u/160V
  • Mills-mrc50 750ohms/50W
  • Mills-mra12 22k/12W
  • Mills-mra5 7.5k/5W
  • Mills-mra5 15k/5W
  • Mills-mra12 62k/12W
  • Audio Note Tantalum 330/1W
  • Audio Note Tantalum 330k/0.5W

Jack also forwarded the following two photos of the innards to demonstrate his workmanship. With 35lbs and 40lbs respectively, the on-board iron for each module suggests uncommon cojones.

Woo Audio's Model 5 attracts attention for combining a dedicated 1/4" headphone output with lo/hi output impedance taps (8 - 800 ohms) with a custom AKG K-1000 Neutrik socket and separate 10-watt loudspeaker outputs, all from a classic 300B single-ended circuit with 6SN7 drivers and dual 5U4G-rectified outboard power supply.

Nobody reviewing single-ended low-power tube amps with any ambition of wider perspective can do a solid job if he hasn't a proper 300B amp in-house for reference. If there's one tube that epitomizes the renaissance of single-ended triode amps, it's unquestionably the 300B. Woo Audio's Model 5, proudly hand-crafted in New York state, hits plenty of check marks on paper and forum buzz on the brand is high, too.

With an itchy pin inventory of Western Electric 300Bs stashed away and Woo Audio's two-box multi amp promising to do triple duty on my W-1000 audio-technica 'phones, AKG K-1000 winged earspeakers and various high-sensitivity speakers, I'd be in business on all fronts. Woo Audio promised 3-week built-to-order turnarounds. With my birthday coming up, I was ready for woo-hoo. I opted for the fully loaded version, cleaned out a left-over US currency account that was losing value by the day with the current weak dollar exchange and set the clock for a nice audio care package surprise in March...

In the meantime, a bit of recon on the firm was called for and I asked my contact Jack to fill in the bits. Woo Audio is a family business between three main players - pater familias Wei (chief engineer and builder) and brothers Zhi Dong (engineer and designer) and Jack (owner, sales rep, quality assurance, webmaster, designer and "a little bit of everything"). Production and assembly is in-house including self-wound magnetics (power and output transformers and filter chokes). The chassis manufacture is outsourced. For a small firm of valve electronics to control their own magnetics from day one is impressive. Ask any tube fancier to hear the same song played: the quality of iron, particularly the output transformer, is paramount to the final performance of glowing amplifiers. The Wooists have 40 years of amp design between them. They're not quite as new at this as it might seem. Which begged the question - where had Wei and Zhi Dong Wu plied their trade before forming Woo Audio?