Overall, the Blue Hawaii SE seems rather neutral, with perhaps a touch of warmth and a bit of grain apparent on first listening. Interestingly, the neutrality of the Blue Hawaii SE shows up in a listening perspective that focuses on the musical “forest” as much as on the “trees”—a quality that allows you to focus on musical themes and dynamics as much as on instrumental detail or the amplifier’s underlying frequency response characteristics. When listening through the BHSE, the related short–term reaction you may notice is the desire to listen to whole tracks and to keep exploring your musical library, hour after hour. We mention these initial impressions because experience teaches that these more visceral, intuitive reactions are often predictive of responses that will linger long after our intellectual or analytical attempts to characterize or explain the amplifier’s sound.
If we break down the sonic palette, the deep and mid bass of the Blue Hawaii are very good. We know that the SR-009s can offer impressive bass and are capable of delivering dynamic and detailed low frequencies without much bloat or blur. We know this because you can hear the SR-009 deliver accurate drum and string bass sounds (accurate when compared with the sound of live music) through other amps like the Woo WES. With the Woo, you just get the sense that the headphones are being well controlled, yet supported with excellent power and drive. We’d say the Blue Hawaii SE isn’t quite as good as the Woo WES in terms of absolute neutrality (provided the Woo has been fitted with optional, upgraded driver and output tubes), because the BHSE provides a little more upper bass than we’d hear live. But apart from hair-splitting comparisons with the more costly, upgraded Woo WES, the bass of the BHSE remains top notch.