Gear Review: Boss WAZA AIR Bass Wireless Personal Bass Amplification System
A review of the Boss WAZA AIR Bass Wireless Personal Bass Amplification System…
This seems like a timely moment to discuss the constraints of practicing bass at home. Maybe you’re like me: stuck at home a lot over the last 18 months, gigging a whole lot less due to the pandemic, working during the day, and relegated to practicing at night while my family sleeps. Maybe you live in an apartment building with thin walls, and cranky neighbors, making firing up your amp less than ideal at all hours. Maybe you spend a lot of time on tour buses and in hotel rooms where headphones are the only way it’s gonna happen. Whatever the reason, there are a whole lot of us for whom practicing bass means playing through headphones to avoid disturbing others. And let’s face it, it’s just not the same. I’ve gotten used to it over the last bunch of years, as my only real practice time is in the evening after my family drifts off to sleep. But it just doesn’t compare to plugging into an amp and feeling some air move.
So, when I happened upon Boss’s new WAZA AIR Bass Wireless Personal Bass Amplification System, an all-encompassing headphone practice solution for bassists, offering 3D-like “spatial technology”, app-controlled amp modeling, EQ and effects, and native practice rhythms, I was extremely interested.
The Boss WAZA AIR Bass showed up and immediately I got to work.
It did take me a minute to get a handle on how to utilize all of the features, but at its simplest level, I was able to plug in the wireless transmitter, turn on the wireless headphones and hear my bass in glorious detail, with great fidelity and dynamic 3D sound.
Getting the most out of the WAZA AIR Bass involves downloading the app, for iOS and Android, and syncing the unit with your device’s Bluetooth. From there, you have access to the app’s 30 different customizable and storable effects and 5 different amplifier models, in addition to a great sounding EQ, tuner, metronome and 10 different drum grooves for practicing. So many of the parameters of the effects and amp are editable, which really allows you to dial in your preferences. While not the most intuitive interface I’ve encountered, it just takes a few minutes to learn your way around.
Let’s talk about the WAZA’s “Advanced Ambient Setups”, which I think is the jewel of the WAZA’s many cool features. 3 different modes provide totally different tactile listening experiences: Surround mode places the amp in a virtual room, providing an immersive experience like playing in a recording studio. In Static mode, the combined amp and room sound changes depending on where you move your head, which really gives the impression of being in a room with an amplifier. Stage mode places the sound behind you, like a “virtual backline” along with the onboard acoustic drum patterns or music streamed from your phone over Bluetooth.
Without getting into the weeds describing the numerous cool effects the WAZA provides, there is a LOT to play with. Everything from subtle modulation effects, compression, overdrive, and filter sounds, to far-out ring-modulated tones and full-blown synth madness is on tap, with pretty impressive amounts of tweakability for each sound. Develop a patch you love and store it to one of WAZA’s 6 memory slots, which you can cycle through with the toggle buttons on the right headphone assembly.
Let’s talk about the headphones themselves.
Boss really did a great job with the design and build quality of the WAZA AIR’s phones. Custom-designed drivers with large 50mm magnets deliver great clear tone with plenty of low end and tons of clarity. The over-the-ear design is comfortable but snugly sealed (for my big noggin) and the ‘immersive experience’ is not just hyperbole. The WAZA is super detailed and rich sounding, with plenty of headroom for clean bass and crisp treble.
A 3 LED status indicator on the left cup tells you if the unit is on, whether the transmitter is connected, and whether or not its paired to your Bluetooth device for playing back music. On the right cup, you’ll find the up/down buttons for toggling stored presets, as well as a heavy-duty feeling roller knob for master volume. An optional padded carrying case is remarkably low profile and durable, and securely holds the phones, transmitter and charging cable.
Speaking of the charging cable, this thing Holds. A. Charge. I’ve been using it for a bunch of hours and it’s still going strong. The included USB charging cable allows you to recharge the lithium-ion-powered headphones and transmitter, although unfortunately not at the same time (easy fix if you get a second charging cable).
Boss was kind enough to provide an EV-1-WL Wireless Midi Expression Pedal which offers all kinds of additional parameter control over the WAZA AIR experience. Control volume, effects parameters, patch selection and more when you pair the device with the Bluetooth wireless expression pedal.
I will say, when I first fired up the unit, I was having some issues with it disrupting my Wi-Fi signal in my home, but after a couple of on/off cycles, the unit seems to have found a channel that was free of interference. Similarly, in early testing, I heard a few crackles and pops as if the signal was clipping or being interfered with. This also resolved on its own. Boss states that the WAZA will cycle through different channels to intelligently locate the frequencies with the least amount of noise or interference. I can only assume that’s what happened and now it’s basically perfect in terms of both sound and interference. Smart little bugger.
At $449, the WAZA AIR Bass isn’t particularly cheap. But it is uniquely useful, very well made, and packed with cool features. Whether you’re a pro or a hobbyist, there is a lot of value in a high-quality headphone practice rig. Sure, you could put together a cheaper headphone practice rig, but taking into account all that the WAZA offers: the immersive spatial/ambient experience, the build quality, fidelity and how concise the setup is (no cables, no external interface), I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a more elegant and effective headphone practice tool. For more info, visit the Boss WAZA AIR Bass online.
Read my review of the Accugroove El Jefe 2×12 Bass Cab