Wadia 2000 Decoding Computer Page 6

The recording that highlighted all of the above was a Philips CD of the Misa Criola with José Carreras. Right from the beginning I could hear the panning of the console gain as the soundspace slowly swelled with ambient residuals. The music commences with introductory drum impacts alternating with stick hits. In the next moment, the whole stage turns into one huge breath intake and the choir starts in with a soft droning hum. At that point the whole stage sprang to life and sang out gloriously. Right in the middle of this setting the voice of José Carreras appeared, anointed with delicacy. This solo was separate and distinct, occupying its own clearly defined position in the soundspace just in front of the choir. The voice was clear, resonant, and resounding. And effortless.

The Harmonia Mundi USA Water Music CD also showed off the true colors of the Wadia 2000. By the way, Robert Harley, who mentioned this CD in his recent Nakamichi DAT review (November '89), is very much on target. This recording is very grainless, and exhibits no stridency. And wouldn't you know it—Peter McGrath was the engineer (footnote 7). Listening to this CD through the Wadia 2000 was one of the highlights of this review. Here I found the whole stage assembled, with clearly outlined instruments meticulously spread out before me, yet maintaining the specific locations of each instrument. The bass line was crisp and clearly defined, while the orchestral timbre rated high in credibility.

A couple of other commercially available discs provided additional pleasant surprises. On Trio, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris do some outstanding harmonizing. Overall, Trio is a respectable recording, but it does suffer from exuberance in the treble region. The individual efforts are captured very successfully, with plenty of manmade reverb/space. What hit home, however, was how marvelous the nuances and minute intonations were revealed during the trio's harmonizations. Each voice could be identified immediately as to its personality and position on the stage. This CD was a whole lot of fun to begin with, and, reproduced through the Wadia, was even more captivating.

Speaking of captivating, that's exactly what Ben Webster was on his Big Ben Time CD. Once he started "How Deep Is the Ocean," there was no stopping him. The textures of the saxophone intonations, and the overall richness of the instrument, were irresistible.

I was reminded how, earlier in the day, someone had tried to tell me that he found it impossible to listen to "digital." Come on—impossible? The sound here did not exaggerate any particular frequency region; staging was just wonderful. There was no glare or grain to speak of. I could hear the inner subtleties of timbral accuracy, and the not-so-subtle dynamic contrasts. Plus there was the air rushing through the saxophone—you know, the way only Ben Webster breathes into the instrument—and expanding throughout the room. Sorry, friend, there was enough there. No, not perfect, but certainly very agreeable. I could have listened for hours. Come to think of it, I did.

Yes, yes, you're probably saying, but what is it that makes the Wadia 2000 this alleged breakthrough? As it turned out, a component that appears to be a breakthrough in its own right interceded, allowing the Wadia 2000 to shine.

A wise move
What happened next was very close to a disaster. Had the following component not arrived in time, my impression of the 2000 would have been more subdued. I simply would not have found out just how great the Wadia processor really is. As you will see, that would have been a disappointment for all of us.

What I'm talking about is the Teac/Esoteric P-1 CD Drive Unit (CD transport to everyone else). Warren Weingrad, the worldwide distributor for Wadia products, was able to hunt down one of only two units in the US, and deliver it to me a mere two days before the deadline. (The other unit, by the way, was on Long Island somewhere, at a place named "Sea..." something.)

I'm really glad Warren got me the Teac transport. This happens to be a prototype of the CD drive that Wadia will be offering as a companion product for their processors.

A wise move. This transport is just what was needed to round out the product line. Since this component will be under Wadia's control, they will be able to provide a clean digital code for their processors.

Warren tells me that Teac went all-out to optimize the entire process of retrieving the digital code off the CD.

To clean up the playback process, they start with the mechanics of the playback components. First, the CD is centered after it enters the CD transport. Next, a clamping mechanism descends and presses against the entire label side of the disc. Since the clamp is driven by its own motor, it remains in place while the disc spins. This holds in check any major vibrational modes, as well as any wobble, of the disc as it rotates at speeds up to 500rpm.

Mechanical resonances throughout the P-1 CD Drive were also kept to a minimum to create a stable environment for the laser pickup. All in all, the priority was to keep the data stream pure.

This Teac transport goes a long way toward confirming what I preached earlier. Keep the shape of the pulses arriving at the processor in tiptop form, keep the bits jitter-free and in the intended sequence, and the results are bound to be spectacular.

Matching up the Wadia 2000 and the Teac P-1 transport produced a formidable combination that translated into substantial sonic gains. This is the kind of product we've been waiting for—CD can now be welcomed as a bona fide member of the high end.

I know I should get more specific, but that's hard to do. For starters, let's just say the improvements were very sweeping. Every area of sound reproduction was markedly better (footnote 8). It wasn't a case of a little more air, a little more space, a little more stage. The whole stage came alive musically. It was a feeling of every note in its place, the harmonics in sync with the fundamentals, the rhythms more obvious, the sonic semblances of the performers more arresting. And there was more air, more space, more stage!

The soundstage lit up sonically. I was overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of details. As a result, my previous ideas of what good stereo presentation is need some rethinking.

The sweep of the soundstage was staggering in many cases, not because of width, but because it encompassed so much pertinent soundspace. What was so striking here was the sheer credibility of the situation. This presentation was a very tangible recreation of the recorded event.

I chose the Dorian CD of Pictures at an Exhibition, transcribed for organ and played by Jean Guillou, to inaugurate the Teac transport. Even before the music started, I knew I had something extraordinary here. The sound of the silent stage was enough to reveal a prodigious space. It left no doubt it was vast.

Footnote 7: Just as important, Robina Young produced.—Richard Lehnert

Footnote 8: What is better? More is better, at least in audio. When I have more details, more soundstage, more bass, more transparency, and more fidelity, my sound is more better!

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