In my January 2018 Bass Player review of the Wayne Jones Audio WJBPII preamp and WJ 2x10 passive cab, I described the gear as expensive and eclectic, but also among the best out there. I finished the review with the editorial equivalent of a cliffhanger: “Wayne also has a head in the works — stay tuned for a review.” Little did I know then that the follow-up review I promised would appear in an entirely different publication, but nevertheless, I’m happy to deliver with this month’s review of the WJBA and WJBA2 heads.
The design brief for the WJBA was simple: Start with the two-channel hi-fi hybrid preamp that is the WJBPII and mate it to a super-powerful Class D/SMPS power section. The WJBA delivers up to 2,000 watts with its stereo 1,000-watt power section. The WJBA2 is a one-channel variant with a mono 1,000-watt power section in the form of a bridge-able 2x 500-watt power amp.
Given that the WJBA and WJBA2 feature the same circuit as the WJBPII I’ve already reviewed, a quick recap of the preamp is in order. The WJBPII is an unusually feature-packed preamp that features two discrete signal paths, making it ideal for those who use two basses on a gig, double on synth and bass, or use an upright with a pair of pickups or a pickup and a mic (there’s even a phantom-powered xlr jack on hand for powering a condenser mic). Additionally there are balanced outputs, extensive I/O capabilities, a built-in compressor, and footswitchable muting. One would be hard-pressed to name a feature the preamp design lacks, and thus the WJBA and WJBA2 heads deserve the same plaudits. Additionally, the multi-hued LEDs indicating input gain and output level make it easy to govern gain staging, essential on a head with so many EQ and compression options.
The construction of the Wayne Jones Audio heads is competent and clean, with a mixture of surface-mount and through-hole components dominating the large preamp, power supply, and amplifier circuit boards. A single generic Chinese-made 12AX7 is present in the WJBA2, while a pair are offered in the two-channel WJBA. A plethora of opamps look to be handling gain and other voltage-amplification duties throughout the circuit. As I pointed out in my review of the WJBPII, I don’t think the front-panel text is as clear as it could and should be, especially because the numerous features and filters are all accessed with identical knobs. That said, it’s likely something a player would adjust to after spending time with the heads.
Down Under Sound
I tested the Wayne Jones Audio amps with a variety of cabinets, including a passive Wayne Jones 2x10, a Barefaced Big Baby II 1x12, and a Bergantino HT322 2x10 + 1x12 cabinet. As I have had the heads for a while, I was able to use them on a number of gigs and in my studio.
Overall, the WJBA and WJBA2 deliver exactly what they were designed to do, adding a lighting-fast, phenomenally loud power amp to the successful WJBPII preamp design. As I noted in my review of the preamp, the overall tone is on the dry and clinical side, despite the presence of a 12AX7 tube in the preamp. Those more compelled by the grit and dirt of, say, an Ampeg SVT pushed hard ought to look elsewhere — but the rest of you, particularly if you want sharp, precise, and fast transient response, would be well served to check out one of the Wayne Jones Audio heads. The EQ is effective and thorough, and the abundant I/O proved useful in a number of tricky in-studio situations. As a frequent bass/synth doubler, I am always appreciative of heads like the WJBA, which make easy the often-confounding task of amplifying both sources at the same time through a single amp.
What used to be a rare luxury is now the norm, with 1,000-watt-plus Class D/SMPS heads dominating the market. It’s refreshing to see a unique take on the design — especially one from a designer who already has an excellent reputation for hifi sound thanks to his universally beloved cabs. If you can manage to find a Wayne Jones Audio amp (hint: it won’t be at your local Guitar Center), it’d be well worth your time. Moreover, Wayne Jones himself is affable and responsive, and I know he will work hard to get one in your hands. Drop him a line.
Wayne Jones Audio WJBA & WJBA2
Street WJBA, $1,600; WJBA2, $1,000
Pros Feature-packed layout; abundant EQ; two-channel WJBA superb for doublers
Cons Front-panel layout and text could be clearer
Power Rating WJBA, 2x 1,000 watts (4Ω or 8Ω load); WJBA2, 1,000 watts (4Ω or 8Ω load)
Input impedance Approx. 1MΩ
Tone Controls bass, low mid, mid, high mid, treble, high treble (all –20dB, +15dB)
xlr di output differential opamp-driven balanced output with ground-lift, pre/post switch, and level control
Power Amp topology Class D
Power Supply Switchmode
Input/Output ¼" instrument (both); xlr/¼" mic/instrument input (WJBA); 1/8" aux input; balanced (xlr) and unbalanced (¼") master output jacks, ¼" headphone output; ¼" fx send/return
Speaker Jacks SpeakOn
Made in China