Wadia Digital 830 CD player Page 2

All current 830s are programmed to accept signals with 16-24-bit resolution, and to lock on to any sampling rate up to 96kHz. My DVD player doesn't have a 24/96 digital output, so I couldn't test the Wadia's performance with DADs, but the digital inputs and 24/96 capability do make the 830 a bit more "future-proof" than your average CD player. Wadia intends their players to function as the center of a digital system, accommodating emerging digital formats via digital inputs and software modifications. They're adamant that until a new format truly takes hold—in the form of universal support from the software industry—it's just not prudent to compromise CD performance.

System and setup
I used the Wadia 830 exclusively in my main system, but during the review period that system went through several iterations—one major friends-over-to-help-move-furniture revision, and a breathtaking parade of gear. Eventually, however, I settled on a bare-bones setup in which the 830 drove Mark Levinson No.20.6 amplifiers directly from its balanced analog outputs via MIT 330 Shotgun interconnects. The Levinsons, in turn, drove Thiel CS7.2s through MIT's MH-750 Shotgun speaker cables. The Wadia rested on a Merrill equipment stand, with a Bright Star Big Rock below and a Little Rock above, and power fed through an MIT Z IsoDuo. The Levinsons rested on Tiptoes and were connected to the wall with Synergistic Research A/C Master Couplers.

And the journey began...
As I said earlier, my take on the Wadia was that: a) it probably wasn't going to sound that much better than the best of the $1000-ish players I had around, and b) even if it did, the differences wouldn't matter enough to me to justify its cost. My audio path took a dramatic turn one weekend, however, when a pair of cable manufacturers stopped by to demo their new products.

To make sure that everything was optimized, they went to work on my system, tweaking this, swapping that, moving speakers a few millimeters to and fro—looking for that last little bit of resolution. I thought things were proceeding nicely, but they weren't satisfied. We were listening to "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," from Ernestine Anderson's Never Make Your Move Too Soon (CD, Concord Jazz CCD-4147).

"Listen to the cymbals," they explained. "There should be more depth, more extension...and there's not enough air around them. The vocals, too—there should be more resolution and detail."

The Levinson No.20.6es and Thiel CS7.2s met their approval, and—of course—the cables were beyond reproach, so the conversation centered on the Ultech CD player. I ran down the list of what other units I had on hand, and when I mentioned the Wadia, they brightened up considerably. After two hours of warmup while we were at dinner, into the system went the 830.

Bingo! Andersen's vocals on "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" were noticeably more dimensional, and seemed to be surrounded by a cushion of air that faded naturally into the surrounding ambience. The brushed cymbals sounded cleaner and more extended, and inner details, like the circular motion of the brushes against the cymbal, began to emerge. Notes started and stopped much more precisely, and their inner structures—impact, body, and decay—became apparent as well.

The improvements—focus, dimensionality, detail—made it much easier to optimize the system, so we set to for another round of adjustments. The final iteration was to bypass the line stage and drive the amplifiers directly from the 830's balanced analog outputs. This results in improved clarity and transparency with most CD players I've tried, but also in a noticeable loss of dynamics. Not so with the 830. Driving the Levinsons directly resulted in improvements in both transparency and dynamics. Large transients seemed larger and faster, and microdynamics were much more apparent as well.

The rest of the weekend was spent chatting and listening. I was taken with how good everything sounded—not "good" in the sense of a hi-fi spectacular, but captivating and musically involving. It seemed as if I was listening not to the system but through it, directly to the recording session and the artists themselves.

Wadia Digital
24 Troy Street
River Falls, WI 54022
(715) 426-5900