There is always a great sense of camaraderie when Woo Audio teams up with Abyss Headphones at an audio show. This weekend, the two upscale brands were showing off plenty of new wares at the Los Angeles CanJam personal audio event. Located in a private room just off to the side of the main convention hall, the two show stoppers had their “forces combined” for a mix of both high-end tube home setups, and surprisingly, portable tube setups.
Now I realize that the idea of portable tube audio may sound as unusual as playing records in a car (for this has been attempted as well) but for NY-based Woo Audio, the latest product is that dream pulled slowly into reality in the form of the Woo TUBE mini ($499). Utilizing vacuum tube technologies in a really small form factor has been attempted by very few. And while Woo does make some portable options with their WA8 Eclipse and WA11 Topaz DAC/Amps, the TUBE mini is capable of producing sweet music in a dongle-sized form factor.
The new TUBE mini sports a peek-a-boo window to view the analog bits, and does high resolution decoding for your phone or computer up to 24/192. Power is completely supplied via the USB connection so no additional muss or fuss is necessary to get rock-n-rollin. At the show, brand representative Michael Liang says the new portable is available in 4 colors and retails for $499.
The direction for a lot of full-sized headphones this year seems to be aimed at reducing the necessary power to adequately drive mobile transducers. It has long been the secret pleasure of audiophiles to tout hard-to-tame specs with special uncovered gains in the process. Whether this approach really bears sonic fruit is likely up to some debate, but the convenience factor for portable usage was never a secret. Thus Abyss Headphones now offers a slightly lower impedance model called the Diana MR ($2,995). Available in several finishes including carbon fiber “Carbon Weave” and Sapele Wood, the new MR brings down both the requirements to drive the transducers and the relative cost from the company’s more flagship offerings.