Buy or borrow RCA and listen to it direct to the amp. To my ears, there is somewhat more "clarity" that comes at the expense of being musical (mostly I think due to a loss of dynamics - both macro and micro). I also do not like the fact that the Wadia units accomplish volume control by losing resolution. We pay increasingly higher $$ to get from 16 bit to 20 bit to 24 bit, why give it all back to avoid using a pre-amp??
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I run a Linn Genki variable out to a Mesa Baron tube amp. There is some brightness that I think could be attributed to the magnepan tweeters or the CD interface. One thing I have been considering is the SCE harmonic recovery system between the Linn and Mesa. One review at Audioreview said that it cured the treble brightness on his MMGs as well as added a wealth of information.
I run CD direct in my third system. It's lower end stuff, Pioneer CDP into an NAD 2600A amp. I have used this for 13 years with very good results. I tried 3 preamps over the years(Sony, Counterpoint, & AR), none did anything other than worsen the sound. I've considered a passive preamp(Creek OBH-12 or 14), but since I only use 1 source with this rig these days, I haven't bothered. People have always told me, "You need a preamp". But even they have admitted to the deterioration in sound upon listening. My advice, try it. If it sounds better direct, don't let anyone else tell you anything.
Oops, I also meant for this to be included: If you are wanting to do the work yourself, you can hook the ground on your male RCA to pin 3 on your XLR cable and the + (Center) on your male RCA to pin 2 on your XLR cable. I also have seen a few companies selling a cable like this. Madrigral is one I think. Hope this helps!
blbloom: i'm now running my 850 directly into a pair of cj's premier 12 monoblocks (speakers are jm labs mezzo utopias). i have a/b'ed the 850/premier 12 combo with and without cj's pv10a preamp (part of my last configuration). my experience kind of ties-out with jkphoto's comment--by eliminating the preamp i'm experiencing increased clarity. but not at the expense of musicality. the depth and breth of my soundstage seem nearly the same, but focus and imaging have gotten tighter and sharper. and the low end is more controlled. i do not beleive i've sacraficed the rythem, warmth and richness that i associate with musicality (but maybe that's because of my output tubes? or the "wadia" sound?) i'm not sure whether these improvements are the result of (a) eliminating the preamp alltogether or (b) eliminating a good preamp, but one that was not up to scratch with the balance of my system. i can tell you that running the 850 directly into the amps did result in a bit of brightness at first. so i toyed around with cables a bit and moved some furniture here and there and then found happiness. i enjoy the krell sound; i find it hightly analytical. but i also find it a bit bright or cold sometimes. i'm not too sure whether running your 830 directly in will counter-balance or exacerbate this (then again, as is always the case in this crazyfun hobby, maybe it's just my ears!). for the moment i intend to continue running the 850 directly into the amps. but i am interested in testing a more sophisticated preamp (such as cj's mini art) to see whether it adds value. the beauty of the wadia's (and other volume control cd players) is that you can run them right in for a while and add a preamp later (when you are motivated to change or, in my case, have the $$$). i say, give it a try and see (hear) what you like best. in addition to borrowing some rca interconnects, why not look for a pair of balanced/rca adaptors? they'd be a bit more cost effective and you could save re-cableing until later (when you re-amp). i've a question for jkphoto: has your experience with the waida's been that volume control necessary results in perceptiably decreased resolution? this has not been my experience, due in part i think because i opened my 850 up and flipped a switch or two to better match the 850's volume control to my system. i'm now listening at levels in the 80's and 90's. there is a trade off, however, i can no longer push my system to beyond listenable levels. but why do that anyway? have fun.
I also own Wadia. Just like the other wadia I have owned, and those owned by others on this thread, you, or your dealer, should know how to match the output of the Wadia to the partnering amp(s) and speakers. There are two sets of DIP switches inside each Wadia and they can be set for the unit to output as little as a quarter of a volt up to a little more than four volts. This will allow you to use the volume levels that will give you the SPL's you want without degrading the 24 bit signal integrity. If you are unsure, check with the dealer, or any Wadia dealer for that matter. For those that care, I also run direct-connect from a Wadia 861x to a BAT VK 500 via Nordost SPM to a pair of Aerial 8b's. I believe this is the cleanest, most true signal path I have heard.
[email protected] will make you an affordable Stealth interconnect XLR to RCA's. I strongly suspect that if your system sounds worse with the Wadia straight in, there's something else improvable in your system. The Wadia can be set, as another responder said, so as to lose only a little resolution: you should of course do that. I run an Accuphase DP-75 into my amp, compared it with using a very good passive preamp, and direct was better. Accuphase isn't as sophisticated as Wadia on losing resolution, either.
Flogging a dead horse. I tried running the output from a Bidat DAC directly into my amps (via Nordost Quattrofil: i.e. I didn't skimp on the interconnect which Tom_nice suggests may be the cause of some negative experiences when bypassing the preamp). Maybe I'm a sucker for euphonic tube coloration, but I much preferred the sound when I went back to running the digital through my cj preamp. As Gertrude Stein (had she been an audiophile) might have put it, "with the preamp there's more there there".
After some years, I jumped back into audio about one year ago. Bought a Sony XA20-ES with variable outputs and went directly into an ARC D-76A driving Magnepan 1.6's. The sound was too bright ie harsh for my tastes. Sounded electronic! Next I found an ARC LS-1 and when using this linestage things seemed MUCH better. Following the threads on Audiogon, I began to wonder how much an outboard DAC would improve my sound. After much reading I decided to go to Van Alstine and ordered their Omega IV DAC. I inserted this into my system and truthfully I wasn't very impressed. I called Van Alstine and they advised me to eliminate the LS-1 which was easy because my power amp has a volume control for each channel. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! What I experienced was nothing like my original system without the LS-1. For the first time I was hearing the most accurate, dynamic and simply the most magical audio I had ever experienced. This is where I intend to stay with my sound. I just enjoy the music.
I recently sold my Audio Research preamp and now have my Wadia 850 runing directly into my McCormack DNA.5 via Nordost SPM. I must admit this is the best my system has sounded. I was a little afraid regarding the loss in resolution but to my experiece I have not had any issues in this department. I don't seeing myself putting a preamp back in my system at all. I will spend the money on a Wadia upgrade instead.
Randalleron - If you adjust the output to keep the average listening level near "85" or so, then you cannot get listening levels whre you want them for certain CDs recorded at a lower level, or when you are in the mood for some punch!! If you adjust the output internally to allow for that, average listening levels end up being in the 70's - too much bit-chopping. I think first impressions are that direct is better - again the clarity increases. But, to my ears, so does listening fatigue and "cringing" during certain passages. We have to be careful searrching for the holy grail of "detail" as I feel it leads to systems that are far too analytical. Music is not analytical ... it is music.