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Headfi wrap. With the butch power rating of the L1's Fet/Mosfet headphone circuit across all standard impedances, one isn't surprised that off a 4V source like AURALiC's Vega even HifiMan's demanding HE-6 is properly supported. Barring the 7'000Ω TakeT H2+ and various electrostats requiring special driver circuits, the Wow Audio Lab should thus drive all dynamic headphones known to man and beast. And so stable is its performance or voicing imprimatur that the described sonics track regardless of load.

If you pursue maximally aerated super lit-up to transform Sennheiser's HD800 into quasi Raal earspeakers—Serbia's Raal make what to my ears are the best ribbon tweeters extant—you'll not find it here. For that you'd need the €8'000 Crayon Audio CHA-1 from Austria. If you're a diehard Audeze fan to relate to the HD800 as 'too electrostatic' for your cravings, the L1 will build more body without compromising the laterally gifted staging of the Germans statements. Without meaning to overplay the cosmetic nod, if Jeff Rowland made a headphone amp, I think it'd sound very much like the WAL.

Preamp wrap. If you approach preamps from the passive side of that fence, the Fet/BJT linestage circuit is decidedly active. As it should in my book, it actually does something. Otherwise you might as well do the source direct tango. This action is the previously described gravitas enveloped in an aura of tangible calm. It's a settled comfortable weighty sound whose focus is on tone mass and natural physicality. It's not centered on hyper vivid, otherworldly ethereal or youthfully charged. I thought it sonically equal to my Esoteric C-03's high-gain setting but actually slightly preferred the WAL. One could pursue more color sheen and tube-induced temporal elasticity as my Nagra Jazz demonstrated but that would cost disproportionately more. The L1 also runs deathly silent—no mechanical transformer hum—and the carved-from-solid casing only gets modestly warm to the touch. Though petite, the remote worked as it should and had enough reach even from my work desk 5 meters away, i.e. farther than my eyes could read the display.

As the stock photos suggested and visual inspection confirmed, build quality really is superlative. One imagines plenty of rejects or redos for the casings where imperfections would telegraph very loudly. The only 'concern' is limited socketry: no XLR, just two inputs and a single output. I actually don't think most people need more but it is a consideration. Time to inspect the matching M1 stereo amplifier.

As attentive readers noticed already, its oblique cutaways diverge from the L1 for added visual interest whilst the general foot print and height match precisely. So does the location of the power mains switch on the rear. Highly impractical is the 1-inch recess that the binding posts sit in. Bananas won't have an issue. It's spades that'll refuse to work on unwieldy thick cables which won't bend sufficiently. That part of the design seems ill considered. Terminals should mount flush to remain properly accessible!

Modularity is the name of the game again as the insert's four main building blocks show.

Here we clearly see the 2+2 power transistors per push/pull channel array. They bolt directly to the monolithic chassis which sports added side-wall bores to increase dissipation surface. The output transistors are Toshiba BJT, specifically the 2SA1943 PNP and 2SC5200 NPN parts.

A total of four high-speed voltage regulators mount directly to the transformer's 'engine block'.

In this closeup we see the plastic-capped protection relays for the right and left channels.

And finally comes WAL's fully ensconced toroidal power transformer whose box again enjoys enhanced dissipation surface from more machined oval bores. Owners of €10'000 monos would be proud if they were put together this well.