Between the two, I'd opt for the Wadia, especially for your music preferences.
20 responses Add your response
And I prefer the Resolution Audio Opus 21. (FYI, we have identical taste in music, FWIW).
The Opus 21 has a vinyl like sound (close, but not quite there, IMHO), that makes the music come to life. (Now, if you can stretch your budget a bit more, the Audio Aero Capitole II is even better, (and even closer to the sound of vinyl), but even used it is more expensive, @ $4,500.) I prefer the sound of vinyl to any digital sound I have heard, and while the Wadia is good, it just did not have that touch of vinyl sound that I like.
BTW, Resolution Audio used to have a return policy that if within 30 days you don't like it, you can return it for a 95% refund, less shipping. YOu might want to check with Jeff Kalt, with R.A., to see if that is still in effect. (BTW, Jeff is a great guy, and will do anything in his power to help you. Always nice to have a guy stand up beind his product.)
Good Luck in your search!
PS The Opus 21 has an excellent analog volume control built-in that you can use if you wish to avoid using a preamp (both the RCA and XLR outputs use it). However, if you use a preamp like I do (i.e. for other sources like a turntable!), than you can bypass the volume control by using the DIN output. I do this myself. I have a specially made DIN-XLR Interconnct cable using an Audience Au24 cable. (Although you can make it DIN-RCA if you choose, as the DIN is not a balanced output). This improves the sound to its ulimate performance.
I haven't heard the Wadia's so I can't really compare them, but I have owned a couple of Resolution Audio Opus 21's so I can provide an opinion of it.
The RA Opus 21 is a very good CD player IMHO. I've owned 5 or 6 different high-end CD players and the RA Opus 21 is the one that I've preferred by a good margin. It is fairly analog sounding in my setup and it does have a very rhythmic sound. It has great bass definition and bass lines are very easy to follow, where they were somewhat muddled on some of my other CD players.
As Kurt stated, RA has a 30 day return policy and would only charge a 5% restocking fee if you returned it. I have owned 2 different Opus 21's that I bought used on this site. Both were perfect. The first one I re-sold at zero loss and I ended up buying another used one as I was unhappy with the interim player (a different brand) that I bought.
You may want to consider a used one since they seem to hold their value very well once the initial depreciating kicks in. A quality used one can be purchased for under $2500. You might get lucky and get one for around $2000 (as I did). Anyway, if you go used, make sure it is a very recent model with the "new" quiet transport and direct access remote control.
BTW, I use mine connected directly to my power amps using the built-in analog volume control. I save a bunch of money by not needing a comparably good pre-amp in my system.
Here is a guy on Audio Asylum who compared the RA Opus 21 to the Wadia 301.
RA Opus 21 review
(There are several reviews of the RA Opus 21 on this site actually.)
Hope this helps.
PS The noisey transport issue was solved long ago, so unless you buy a used early model, it is not relevant.
Also, the new remote does have direct track access as well.
I'd take an Opus 21 over a 301 anyday. I prefer the RA21 over the 302 and by a safe margin to boot. I preferred the the Jolida 100 over the 302 but... That was highly system dependent and I had pain stakenly chosen my (emphasis on MY) favorite tubes for the Jolida. In a different system that outcome may have been just the oposite. Meaning, the Wadia was excellent but didnt make the midrange magic. I think due to its highly resolving nature.
The RA 21 on the other hand, does make that midrange magic and has resolution too. I have a RA CD55 and it is of the 21s pedigree. I can tell you that its no slouch at all. Without doubt the 21 is better than the 55. Much better.
Steve at GNSC was one of the most memorable and straight shooting guys I have ever spoken to. If I read bewtween the lines well enough, he has a preference for the Opus. If I were buying new, he would be the guy for me. ...And if memory serves me, Steve worked for Wadia for some time.
As far as the RA21 outperforming the 861? Hmm, well the stock 861 is a fine machine and that would be a tough call. In the right system the 861 can perform magic. But then again you can have a GNSC modded RA21 for about the same price and although I havent heard one... I bet it sounds great!
IMO you can't go wrong with either. I had the Opus 21 and went through the difficult decision recently of having it upgraded with the GNSC mod or purchasing an already statement modded Wadia 860se.
I am thrilled with the Wadia as I'm sure I would have been with the upgraded Opus.
I did get a chance to directly compare the upgraded Opus with the stock Opus and felt the upgraded unit provided some nice improvements...a more organic and solid sound...you could hear deeper into the music with the modded unit.
I never got to directly compare either Opus with the Wadia.
My system has changed significantly around the upgraded Wadia vs the Opus so even memory is of no use.
I had both RA Opus 21 and Wadia 861. It may not be a fair comparision because Wadia 861 is more expensive.
Anyways, I liked Wadia 861 much much more! Wadia was more dynamic, great bass, silky highs, solid imaging. I can go on. There was no comparison. The transport of Opus 21 looked quite flimsy as well.
I returned the Opus 21 and had to pay the restocking fee...
I will be completely honest and say that I really never compared the two methods, as I have used the Opus 21 using the Au24 DIN-XLR cable almost exclusively. Jeff Kalt told me that the absolute best sound is via the DIN, so I immediately went that route. Although, I did not use the DIN cable he sold, as I had read a review from a guy on Audio Asylum who tried both the DNM and the AU24, and much preferred the later.
Again, he uses a very good analog volume control, so the difference is pretty small, based on my (and my friends) limited experience. My friend borrowed my DIN cable and tested it against his XLR cable (Cardas Golden Reference, I believe), and did prefer the Au24, enough so that he too ordered one. This is the same friend who upgraded to the Audio Aero Captitole II a while later, which is why I know it is better. (But to be honest, it is not so much better that I would sell my Opus 21 to get it, as I prefer to spend that extra couple of grand on better analog equipment.)
PS The only time I ever tried them direct to the amp, was when I first bought my Lamm M2.1 amps and I was just quickly checking the amps to make sure they worked fine and were balanced properly, before finalizing the sale of the amps. (My preamp does not have a balance control so I am very particular about this.) They sounded great, but since they were connected to a new set of amps, it is not fair for me to really say what they did.
PPS As long as you do your research properly, you probably can't really go too much wrong no matter what you get. I have heard good things about the Wadia too. Another player to check out is the Ayre C-5XE, which has been getting some good reviews as well. (Ayre is a great company with great service as well. I own the Ayre K-1XE preamp.)
I actually ordered it through some company called northwest audio, or something like that. (I don't know if they still advertize here or not, as I can't seem to find their ad anymore.)
What I suggest is writing to every cable reseller you can find that you need a AU24 I.C. terminated with a DIN to XLR (whatever length you need, although I suggest at least a meter), and then see what the best price you can get is. That is what I did and I ended up saving about a hundred dollars betweent he high estimate and the low estimate. (It should be about $500-600. I paid $500, but that was a couple of years ago.)
Have experience with both and some other units:
I´d clearly go for the Wadia for several reasons:
- great design and superb build quality
- extremely reliable
- very convenient remote and digital pre-amp
- much higher resolution, slam and musicality
- easy to sell on the 2nd. hand market
- and with eg. GNSC mods simply awesome
If you´re looking for a one box competitior for the Wadia I´d look at Esoteric X-3/UX-1/X-1 an Ayre D-1xe or Audio Aero Capitole MK II SE.
This is off the subject a bit, but for all you Opus fans out there Steve at GNSC gave me a brochure on a new product from Resolution Audio called the X2. The X2 utilizes the same housing as the Opus CDP, one box not two, and contains an AM/FM tuner with RDS, 4 or 5 digital inputs, and MM/MC phono pre's. The X2 will sit directly under the CD transport as it utilizes the connection on the bottom of the transport. It uses the Opus display, as well as the Opus DAC. It looks very cool! I know Jeff was shooting for a late February ship date, but I haven't inquired for awhile.
The Wadia was clearly superior to the Opus 21. The Opus required a Shunyata Black Mamba power cord to get it to sound smooth and real. The 861 at a much higher price sounded much better even with the stock power cord. I posted this info a year or so ago if you look through the threads.