Wadia 2000 Decoding Computer Page 5

All the connections for the processor appear on the rear panel. Here we find the connector for the fiber-optic cable, the three XLR-type connectors for the power-supply cables—to avoid confusion, these are one each of three-, four-, and five-pin types—and the audio output connectors for the two channels. Tiffany RCA jacks are provided for the single-ended outputs, while three-pin XLRs, wired conventionally with pin 2 "hot," are available for the balanced audio outputs.

The front panel provides display LEDs for indicating the selected sampling frequency, the CPU status—"Standby," "Initialization," or "Operational"—and the presence of the fiber-optic signal. Another LED indicates the engagement of deemphasis with preemphasized CDs. Of the two pushbuttons, the purpose of On/Standby is obvious, while Invert flips the absolute polarity in the digital domain. An LED indicates the selected polarity. There is no On/Off power switch on the Wadia 2000; it is intended to be left on at all times.

Those who hold convenience in high regard may not be satisfied with the somewhat scattered assemblage of the Wadia 2000. But if convenience was the only goal here, I'm sure the designers at Wadia would have created a different package. The goal was obviously superior sonics from a digital source, and for that I'm willing to forego a few amenities.

And the envelope, please...
I'm happy to report that the Wadia 2000 is a sonic knockout. It's a development significant enough to reevaluate the status of the Compact Disc medium. This unit, when fed a carefully retrieved digital code, breaks new ground well beyond what until now has been the realm of the CD. For once we can be rid of the perennial qualifier: "It's good...for digital."

From now on, no more excuses! The sounds I've enjoyed from the Wadia 2000 are the state of the art by any standard. It substantiated for me the fact that CD is far better than we have been able to establish up to now, and can stand proudly on its own merits. It demonstrated, very convincingly, that a whole world of new information is there waiting to be retrieved. CD after CD was revealed to be not only sonically, but also musically more complete, more enjoyable than ever before. This is somewhat reminiscent of the sonic riches that Mercury and RCA LPs revealed, but without a wait of 20 years. I told you digital progress was fast!

Since the Wadia 2000 first appeared more than a year ago, there have been three substantial changes to the design. Having experienced all three, I can testify that each was an enhancement and built up the strengths of this unit.

First was new software. The new set of PROMs instructs the processors to calculate the slope of the curve in addition to the value at each resampled point. It was hoped that a better-fitting curve and, therefore, improved replication of the original, could be achieved. And, indeed, the Wadia 2000 was improved in this iteration: speed, openness, and dynamics took turns for the better.

Second, an analog output stage was added. Up to that point, the output of the D/A stage, along with some mild filtering at ultrasonic frequencies, was used to feed the preamp directly. I'm glad they realized the error of their ways, and have included an output buffer stage. Specwise, it's a knockout. Current swing: 400mA. Voltage swing: 27V p-p. Power bandwidth: over 100MHz. Slew rate: 1300V/µs. Risetime: 3.6ns. Settling time: 50ns. These are impressive specs. Maybe too impressive, I thought. But not to worry—the sonic performance did improve markedly.

Curiously enough, it was an additional change to the analog stage that put the finishing touches on the 2000. Specifically, it was capacitors. This third change was sent to me 10 days before the deadline, in the form of another buffer board. The only difference I detected was the color of several capacitors—the size was identical—appearing on the new board. I was subsequently informed that, yes, only a few of the caps were changed, but these were the latest and greatest Wadia could find.

The trouble to implement this change was well worth it. This new version improves the sonic performance yet another significant increment. All those items having to do with musical tension and the sense of freedom gelled at this point.

The importance of the analog amplifier stage has been confirmed yet again. I'm puzzled that its designers would initially choose to compromise a demanding digital design like the Wadia 2000 by skimping on the output buffer. Analog can make or break digital, but not vice versa.

Soothing the savage beast
You know how good this product is? It's good enough to soothe the savage beast in me at a time when I was ready to tear Stereophile apart.

Here I was, trying to meet the deadline, and nothing was coming my way from Santa Fe. Besides mixed-up shipping addresses, Stereophile blew it when they neglected to designate Red Label status for a UPS delivery. That lost me a weekend. When the Wadia 2000 finally did arrive five days later, I was not a happy camper.

But not for long! No sooner had I unpacked and plugged everything together, than I quickly quieted down. I was hearing sounds so refined, delicate, and dynamic that I dropped everything and continued listening well into the night. And that was without the break-in period recommended by Wadia.

The improvements covered many areas of performance. Let's just say the basics were there: spectral balance, dynamics, transparency, focus. I perceived the most startling gains in the staging department. Never before had I heard a stage of such vast yet specific proportions. The total soundspace was endowed with convincing volume, right down to the subtle tremors we come to expect and hold so dear.

While the stereo spread was about as wide as I have ever experienced, it's only part of the story. This enticing horizontal dimensionality was augmented by an exacting rendition of depth. When we look into the stage we see only as far as the CD permits, without artificially enhanced vastness. That's if the recording has a natural setting. The whole playback process is made credible because the soundspace dimensionality is tracked as we go from one CD to the next. This ability to convey a wide variety of soundspace conditions with great precision is what makes the Wadia 2000 a standout.

But there's more. Since the soundstage information was recovered very aptly, the sonic imagery within it also fell into place. In some cases the vivid presentation of these born-again images was very startling. In most cases the image that materialized before me had a legitimate "reach out and touch me" validity. It was a stark and credible rendition.

The Wadia 2000 really came into its own—shone, actually—when confronted with demanding musical material. Choral works certainly fit that category. While massed singers seemed seamlessly distributed across the whole stage, the individuality of each performer was also asserted with great success. I perceived a feeling of control as all the subtleties of inner detailing, right down to the reverberations of breath intakes, were vividly recreated. The sense of unity, which gave the choir its power, came through with better success than ever. And then there were the little details like the wisps of voicing floating about, the airy expanse of massed sibilants, the thrill of the melodic unison, and the full-force might of choral exclamations supported by multiple harmonizations. It was breathtaking, that's all!

Wadia Digital Corp.
1556 Woodland Drive
Saline, WI 48176
(734) 786-9611