Wadia Digital 830 CD player Page 3
One thing led to another and, finally, to a complete rearrangement of my listening room. Even though the optimization will continue, I've spent the last month or so with the best system and setup I've ever had. For the first time in a long while, I've been listening into the wee hours night after night. My 4:30am mornings have been brutal, but each night, I can't wait to get back to the music.
I've even felt compelled to wake Bonnie and demand that she come listen. Once, it was to "Chuck E.'s In Love," from Rickie Lee Jones' Naked Song (Reprise 45950-2). The precise way that the acoustic guitar strings snapped, the complex inner detail as the notes evolved, the three-dimensional resonance of the guitar's body—all stunningly right. With the lights off, it was incredibly realistic, as if someone had snuck in in the dark, picked up my Martin, and ripped into the intro.
Another late-night, in-the-dark session involved Piatigorsky's performance of the Dvorák Cello Concerto with Munch and the Boston Symphony (RCA 61498-2). Again, Bonnie and I were struck by how realistic the presentation seemed. Instruments, top to bottom, were correct in terms of tone and detail, and the overall handling of space—of ambience, image size and spacing, interaction, and continuity—was the best I've ever heard. The effect was subtle but profound, stripping away a bit of artifice and nudging the music and performance toward the center of the experience.
And how did we get here?
Any system is the sum of its parts, and I've got a string of superb components. Two months ago, however, this reasonably well-optimized system—comprising essentially the same components as the one now including the Wadia 830—didn't sound nearly as involving. It's also true that I completely revamped my listening room during the process and re-tweaked everything, down to the smallest detail. But it was the Wadia's superb resolution and precision that inspired the process, and allowed the changes to be heard and evaluated.
On several occasions during and since revamping the system, I replaced the 830 with other players, both to test the effect on the system and to isolate the 830's characteristics and contributions. My first observation was that the Wadia was a big part of my system's newfound magic, most obviously because of its precision—temporal, spatial, and tonal. Everything was clearer with the Wadia, and the overall presentation was more natural than with any of the other players I've used or heard recently.
The Wadia's dynamic transients were sharp but completely natural, without a hint of overemphasis or ringing, The guitar on "Chuck E.'s In Love" was a great example: The louder string snaps absolutely exploded, but started and stopped on a dime. At the other end of the spectrum, the subtle waverings in Jones' voice, and the complex superposition of resonant modes as the guitar notes decay, were equally riveting.
The same was true for spatial definition and inner detail. With the Wadia, image edges—front, back, sides, top—were more clearly defined than with other players, but again, without any sense of artificial etching. One result was a wonderfully open soundstage, with clearly defined spaces between images. The Wadia's precision seemed to eliminate the grunge between instruments, allowing the resulting space to be filled with the recording venue's ambience and re-creating a seamless, natural portrait.
Soft countermelodies were beautifully distinct with the Wadia, as were individual voices within orchestral sections. At one point in the first movement of the Dvorák Concerto, Piatigorsky is joined first by a flute countermelody, then by additional layers of woodwinds. With the Wadia, I was struck by how distinct and inherently right each section and instrument was. Their size and detail were correct, and perfectly matched their level and position on the stage. Even the way and extent to which the instruments interacted with the surrounding space were more precise than I'm used to hearing. The interactions with the hall boundaries of the woodwinds at the stage rear, for example, were noticeably different from those of Piatigorsky's cello. Across the orchestra, each instrument or section interacted with its surroundings a bit differently, but was perfectly consistent with its position relative to the listener, the other instruments, and the hall.
The Wadia also seemed to do a much better job of keeping things pulled together to the far reaches of the soundstage. Swapping in other CD players usually reduced the soundstage to a trapezoid, with the rear narrowing and a concurrent reduction in image size, inter-image distance, and air. In contrast, the Wadia's soundstage was unfailingly wide, and maintained its width and air from front to back. Instruments at the stage rear remained properly located and proportioned, and the hall boundaries stayed out where they should be.