Waza Air combines BOSS’s cutting-edge wireless technology, ground-breaking spatial technology, and the premium sounds from the Katana amplifier series into a personal practice system unlike anything else on the market today. Tom Quayle takes this unique guitar amplification experience for a spin, with the Boss Waza-Craft Bluetooth Headphones.
Headphone amps have historically been a bit of a hit and miss affair, aimed squarely at the budget end of the market, often coming off as more of a gimmick than a serious practice tool. With their Waza Air headphones, Boss aims to change all of that whilst providing guitar players with some very cool innovations that could redefine the experience of the headphone-based amplifier.
The problem with using a headphone amp is that we are not used to hearing amplifiers without the interactions of the sound bouncing off of walls and other reflective surfaces before it reaches our ears – the ‘moving air’ sensation that everyone talks about. This sense of space is how we experience every sound in our daily lives, and if removed, by placing the sound source directly next to our eardrum, it can make guitar tones sound and feel stiff, lifeless and out of place. This experience be the same with a high-end modelling unit or a budget practice amp and, while it can be counteracted somewhat with the introduction of reverb, this doesn’t solve the problem entirely.
With their Waza Air, Boss has taken the acclaimed tones of the Katana range and created a set of premium quality headphones utilising spatial technology to simulate the way in which amp sound is experienced in a room, rather than directly into each ear. This kind of technology has existed for years in the movie and gaming headphone industry but has never been translated into guitar tech and the difference is truly transformative from a playing perspective.
Using the Waza Air to practice feels as natural and enjoyable as using a real Katana amplifier in your room. Switching the Boss spatial technology off takes you back to that dry, lack of space feeling that normal headphone-based playing suffers from, whilst switching it back on makes it incredible easy to forget that you’re wearing headphones at all. This really is something that needs to be experienced to believe. You can connect any Bluetooth audio device to the Waza Air for jamming to backing tracks or just listening to music and these premium headphones make for a highly pleasant listening experience quite aside from their wireless amplifier credentials.
As well as the cutting-edge spatial technology, the Waza Air features a gyro sensor that tracks your head position, allowing you to place the amplifier within 3D space as if it were in the room with you. Place the amp in front of you and move your head to the left, the amplifier will appear primarily in your right ear and vice versa. It’s a highly convincing feature, although it can exhibit minor tracking issues from time to time, so the ability to reset it from the headphones themselves is a valuable addition.
There are three different ‘Space’ modes to choose from – Surround places the amp in a virtual room for that realistic ‘moving air’ room feel, Static where the amp and room sound changes depending on where you move your head, and Stage mode where the amp (and any Bluetooth audio) is placed behind you for a realistic ‘on stage’ backline effect to simulate playing with a band. All three are really useful and fun to practice with and provide some element of tailoring your 3d space to your taste.
The setup relies on a low latency wireless connection, so Boss include their WL-T wireless transmitter that plugs into your guitar and connects to the headphones without the need for any cables. Pairing the two devices is simple and the connection feels effectively the same as using a cable with no perceptible latency, interference or sound quality issues. Boss quote 5 hours of continuous usage and 3 hours to a full charge, but as always, your mileage may vary and we found between 3.5-4 hours of playing time was about average, especially with a Bluetooth audio device connected.
In true Katana style, you get five amp types to choose from with over 50 customisable effects and access to six presets on board that can be switched via the large buttons on the side of the headphones. The Boss Tone Studio app connects via your mobile device and offers a high degree of control over all parameters, plus preset management and a tonecloud function for downloading artist and Boss created presets across a multitude of genres. Tones are superb – every bit as good as the actual Katana amps with a vast array of potential tones and effect combinations on offer.
From a build quality point of view, the Waza Air headphones are absolutely a premium product. The large 50mm drivers sound superb across the frequency spectrum and offer an audiophile listening experience. The padded over ear pads and headband are extremely comfortable for long playing/listening sessions, and the build feels solid with high-quality materials and components and a premium look to the design. The control scheme is also well thought out with access to guitar and Bluetooth volume, track playback functions and preset browsing all from physical buttons on the headphones themselves. The app is intuitive to use yet powerful if you need it to be with the typical Boss design language, so you’ll be right at home if you’ve used any of their other products before.
The only downside is the price. If you think about the cost of a Katana amp, a pair of premium quality headphones plus the wireless transmitter it seems that Boss has got the price just right, but there is no denying that a lot of people will be struggling to justify the high cost for what is effectively a great sounding practice tool. But if you travel a lot, or volume is a big consideration for you in a flat or family environment then the Waza Air is hands down THE best sounding headphone amp on the market right now, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. As mentioned earlier – this one has to be experienced to be believed – it really is that good.
For more information, please visit: