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WW vs. AI Focus - initial impressions

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by macmrkt, Jul 26, 2005.

  1. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Just got my long awaited Walter Woods Super. Never really even saw a WW before, so I was coming into this not knowing what to expect.

    My first impression of the WW is that it's a very classic American industrial design. It reminds me of other great American products like a McIntosh power amp, or a 1960's Electrolux vacuum, a Kitchen Aid dishwasher or a Harley. There's something very "built to last" retro and stylish about it, enhanced by its use of chrome and its overbuilt nature. It has an offbeat, hand-made style and at the same time, a finely crafted hand-tooled feel. Additionally, it's the only musical instrument product I've gotten in recent memory that is flawlessly executed, with no imperfections at all, no matter how slight. And I notice those things!

    I ran my S&D DB with a Full Circle pickup right into both a new AI Focus 2 or the WW. The cabinet was an LDS 2x8 3way. The differences between the two amps are not great. Playing by myself, the Focus is thicker, may be darker sounding and somehow doesn't seem as quick. The WW is more revealing and more responsive. These are not big differences. A larger difference came when I played on the upper two strings or anywhere in the upper register. The WW allows my DB to 'sing' more. The notes sustain longer and sound more like my DB without amplification. You can play more expressively as each little inflection comes across just as you intend it. That seems to make you want to add even more inflection and subtlety and play more musically.

    This responsiveness or speed was readily apparent in a band setting. I never got lost in the mix and the amp seemed to track just what I was intending every time. My dynamics and inflections were always there, just as I wanted them to be, and more than I remember having while in a band setting. I'm not sure how big a difference this was to others, but I noticed it often.

    Interestingly, the guitarist heard me practicing when he came in the room and from 20 feet away he said that he never heard my bass sound so good. This was before he saw the WW.

    A few other notes. Once I understood the tone controls, I found them to be the best I've yet used. They seem to be really dialed in for DB and I was able to get the sound I wanted with very minor adjustments. I never quite got that sound with the Focus even with much more tone control fiddling. Also, there's plenty of gain for a direct connected piezo pickup.

    I was really hoping the Focus would be the overall winner in this test. Ai is a great company, easy to buy from and costs less. The WW is harder to buy and more expensive. (I guess you win some and lose some - my last big test had the cheaper and easier to buy LDS 2x8 come out ahead of the EA VL208.) Now I know why musicians line up to get a WW.
  2. I also own the Ultra and the Focus 1R and mainly agree with your review; I found the Focuse a little warmer sounding in the lower frequencies than the Ultra, but nevertheless, both amps are IMO/IME excellent choices.
  3. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Congratulations, I understand that the Ultra High Power is
    going for $2,400.00 now. That's a considerable investment, but
    a wise one. I have two of Walter's Amps a M400 and the older version
    of the Ultra. I bought my first one in 1979 a WW M100 for $650.00
    shipped. It's still working great for a friend of mine that plays bass guitar.
    I think that we (meaning the Walter Woods owners) should post some
    pictures of the various models as a reference for the talkbass community,
    so if someone is interested they can at least see what they look like.
    I personally have had my hands on four different models of the
    Walter Woods amps. The first ones dubbed the "ice cream sandwich"
    had a black tolex top and bottom and ran at four ohms. What do you guys
    think. I wouldn't think that we would run pictures of the inside of the amp
    just photos of the fronts and backs.

  4. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Is there a list of what models Walter is producing? And a price list?

    I wish he would have a website.
  5. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I got a flier with the models and prices when I bought my "Electracoustic Lo-Power" in 1999. It seemed to me then that he only makes one series--like when he's done with one, he moves on to the next and doesn't make the older ones. So I guess the series now is "Electracoustic," which all four versions (wattage-wise) say on the front. I'm not sure about this, though, and I don't know what the real differences are between one series and the next. Mine, the cheapest one, was $1100 then, but I'm sure the prices have gone up since 1999...

    I never use mine anymore for reasons I can't really explain; my Eden WT400 just seems better-matched to my cabinets and sounds fabulous live, even though the WW slaughters it in a side-by-side taste test in the unnatural setting of a living room. The WW is clearly a better amp: I even recorded some bass guitar stuff with it, going through an EA 1X8 and into a good stereo mic, and the sound was brilliant--my comp. professor thought it was a recording of a double bass and an acoustic guitar overdubbed, but no, it was just me playing chordal stuff on a Lakland 4-string through a Walter Woods/Euphonic Audio setup. Wish I could find the right speaker to pair with it (the EA is long gone, too power-hungry or something to work with the WW but of course it sounded great with the Eden).
  6. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    If I were told that I had to clear out my entire bass gear "inventory" and I was only able to keep one head, it would be the WWU (though I would, indeed, miss my V8!!!). I think the iAMP 800 offers more bang for the buck (I've never tried a Focus), but the Woods is the pinnacle for me.

  7. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Methinks a call to Don at Low Down Sound may be in order! ;)
  8. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    For a man with renowned diplomatic skills to pick one great over many other greats, that's saying something. :smug:

    However, I don't think the proposed scenario is very likely. :ninja:

    By the way Tom, what is that new avatar symbol you're sporting?
  9. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002

    These are what I've been able to cobble together as the current lineup...but don't quote me on it! Shipping may or may not be included in these numbers, so the Ultra, if you add his typical $75 FedEx charge would be the $2400 number that's been going around.

    Green Light Hi-Power 300/400W @ 8/4 Ohms $1,625
    Amber Light Super Hi-Power 450/650W @ 8/4 Ohms $1,925
    Blue Light Ultra Hi-Power 800/1200W @ 8/4 Ohms $2,325

    Green Light Hi-Power 1000S 225/350W @ 8/4 Ohm or 700-1000W bridged $2,425

    Availability...well that's another story.
  10. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I've been asked that a lot, lately! It is Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor, and a fairly common Norse, Danish, Anglo-Saxon symbol that once saw widespread use. I will have an inlay of this on the neck pocket overlay on my next Skjold (an Exotic Custom 4-string). John DiMaggio will be doing the work, and will also be inlaying the symbol for Odin's spear, Gungnir, in place of dots for my position markers. Here is what that particular symbol looks like:


    The fingerboard and overlay are figured ebony, and the inlay will be done in gold pearl. John is a true artisan, and I am sure it will turn out well. I wanted to do something special on this bass, and since Pete Skjold is a Viking and all :p, I thought the use of some Norse symbols might be cool.

    Sorry for the off topic bit, but this is your thread, and you did ask! :D

  11. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Wow, sounds great. Hope you post a photo of it when done. Now if you could find a way to have your Avant incorporate these matching symbols, you'd really make an arrival at your gigs! :hyper:
  12. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    There's a thought! But that S6 is just too purdy to muck with, at least IMHO! :D
  13. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    Congrats macmrkt-

    I've never owned a WW, but I've borrowed them. They are excellent, and deserving of the reputation they have. I wonder what will become of them as Walter gets on in years.

    I tried the AI. It was good but not the sound I was looking for.

    Maybe I can convince my wife that I should buy a WW as an "investment". Prices will have to go up if Walter stops building them, right? :)
  14. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    If Ebay is any indicator USED versions of the Blue light models have been selling at $2500. That is more than the price of a new one. I'm guessing he's got a few miles left in him but whenever he builds his last amp I woundn't be surprised if they go through the roof. I've been gigging with one for a bit now and am amazed at how excellent it sounds. I went from mixing a Fishman Full Circle and a Wilson pickup with a Raven Labs blender into an iAmp 800 before I got the Woods. Now I just use the Full Circle and the Woods. Dropped from 30lbs of stuff in a rack to 8lbs in a gig bag.

  15. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    Yea I recently pulled my old woods out and started using it again. Just ordered a LDS 1x8. Really looking forward to the tiny schlep.
  16. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    I was hoping for a similar benefit but only wanted to eliminate the extra preamp of a Bass Master Pro when I used Acoustic Image heads. I ended up with much better sound overall and less stuff to connect with the Full Circle direct into the WW.

    After playing the WW some more, I beginning to think the biggest difference over the Focus is the 'speed' or 'responsiveness' of the WW - it simpy responds faster to what your fingers do, allowing all of your dynamics and right hand inflections to count. You get a fuller range of expressiveness that can be altered from note to note depending on how you want to interpret the music. (Having the LDS 2x8 doesn't hurt either...)
  17. I've sometimes fantasized about using one of these for a doubling rig, using different cabs for DB and BG. I'm guessing you'd run it in stereo mode, but pan one instrument all the way to the left and the other to the right. So if I'm correct that the power ratings are PER SIDE, I'd have 225W going into each cab, right? (If they are both 8ohm).

    Does anybody know of any drawbacks or flaws to this theory? Like, any ill-effects on the amp if the two cabs have different effeciency ratings. Also, what about a 4-ohm load on one side and 8-ohm on the other?
  18. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    It must just be me but I really just can't understand the idea of spending that much money on an amp for which the long-term serviceability is in doubt. Yes businesses such as AI do disappear but I have more faith in AI (with or without Rick Jones) being around in the future than some guy who scratches part numbers off the components and is apparently getting on in years. Just makes no sense to me but I can see that plenty of people disagree with me. I mean would you buy a car from a single guy that does all the servicing himself and makes the cars with unidentifiable parts? It's OK, no need to answer, I know the answer already - yes some of you would.

    I'm not diss'ing WW or any WW owners in anyway. I just find the whole thing incredulous myself. And while the amps are clearly good, to me, the extra cost and the future of the line is enough to scare me off.
  19. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    You sound just like me fighting with myself. I went through all these arguments with myself and more over the years. And you are right...his business setup is nutty for the consumer. But the lengths we players go to for sound often has us make a leap of faith. Eventually I took the jump. I hate to say it, but it was worth it. Once you are on the other side, the arguments don't mean much anymore.

    Regarding service, I'm sure there will be some sort of exit plan when Walter decides to pass the torch. He does take service seriously now and I expect he will in the future. Again...you can find a lot of reasons not to buy a WW. I certainly did for years. Until I got one. Now I'm not worried about it. Really.

    Here's the good news. You get on his waiting list without a deposit. And you wait. You have your Focus to enjoy. One day, the call comes and you rush him a money order. If you don't like it, put it on eBay and make yourself a few hundred bucks for the effort. That's right. The last 2 WW amps that were on eBay over this past weekend I'm guessing sold for a minimum $400 each over what was paid originally. So you really can't lose other than having the money out of your account during the audition.
  20. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    If that car will last for more than 20 yrs with no problems, you bet!