Comparison Cary 306, Wadia 581, EMM Labs CDSA

Hi all,

it's time to get a new (used) CD / SACD player and I reduced the possibilities to the following 3 candidates:
Cary SACD 306 (PRO)
Wadia 581 (SE)
(Volume control and/or digital inputs NOT a requirement but SACD playback a MUST)
Had anyone the possibility to compare these players? I think they are (used) in more or less the same price range and I've not the possibility to listen to all of them so I am really curious and can't wait to hear your opinions.
Listen a lot to (female) voices (Jazz, Rock, Singer/Songwriter), Classic and also Rock and Electronic.

Thanks a lot
Peter, I hope you are just starting to look around. You won't see a 306 Pro used for some time. Ditto a 581 SE. There is no shortage of EMM stuff and for very good reason... I talked to Mr Had at CES, my advice is a late model 306. Again, be careful to make sure it is the latest version. Great machine, input is nice, as is HDCD decoding. I just bought a Krell 505 and it smokes them all. Seen any used ones? Get it? Z.
thanks for your advice, how do I make sure that I would get the latest model of the Cary, as far as i know there is no MK II or 1.01 version.
So EMM is not the kind of sound you really like ;-)
I've never been a big Krell fan, but maybe their sound has changed in the last years.
Hi, i just heard of 306 SACD PRO.Does it have a volume control?
The only thing I know is following:
Following the tremendous success of the 306 line of CD players, Cary Audio Design’s new CD 306 SACD Professional Version includes the latest in SACD and HDCD playback technology. The new CD 306 SACD Professional Version features a new servo board design with internal components tested to 105° C. The PMD-200 filter has now been replaced with a high quality Burr Brown filter chipset. HDCD decoding is accomplished with the absolute latest software available. Larger, multiple power transformers along with higher current regulators add up to stronger, higher current regulated power supplies. The internal copper chassis along with a new vented top cover add strength, durability and incredible transport shielding to the CD 306 SACD Professional Version. For even greater resolution when playing back SACD’s, the internal wordclock frequency has been raised from 11.2896 MHz to 22.5792 MHz. Completing the list is a new aluminum loader tray that adds elegance and greater disc handling care. The new CD 306 SACD Professional Version continues on with 8 Burr Brown 1792u DAC chips running in a true balanced parallel, extremely low jitter digital to analog converter. The digital to analog conversion section within the new CD 306 SACD Professional Version may still be used as a stand alone DAC with three separate digital inputs available that are selectable on the front panel.
Strange observations, Zieman. There have been as many Wadia 581 SEs for sale here as EMM Labs CDSA SE units, perhaps more. Quite a few Cary 306s, too. Frequency or quantity of a particular model appearing on A-Gon isn't necessarily an indicator of customer dissatisfaction. One the contrary, it often means more customers bought more of these models than others. Therefore, more will eventually appear on the used market. You'll find a lot of used Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys, and they are always top-rated.

For the record, both the EMM Labs CDSA SE and Wadia 581 SE are world-class CDPs. Which is better comes down to personal preference.

Krell smoking them all? Depends what you've been smoking , I guess.
I have had the 505 at home for couple of days. I did not really like it - it sounded too bright to my ears. In my system, I much preferred Accuphase DP-78 and ARC Ref CD-7, which I ended up buying. ARC is not SACD capable, so they would left you with DP-78, which also has digital inputs.

Other players that I have also tried (all in MY system !) are: Audio Aero Capitole (all 4 versions, both SE and non SE), MBL1531, Naim CD555, EMM DCC2/CDSD (both SE and non SE), Opus 21 and the latest Accuphase DP-700 (still have it at home). It was quite a quest for me !
Hi Elberoth, can you discuss the differences that cause you to prefer the Accuphase and ARC over some of the others? Curious 1531 owner here....

I will post my impressions in Reference DAC thread - it will be a longer writeup, which just takes time to write.

In short, MBL have had a certain forwardnes in the upper midrange/lower treble, which I did not notice at first, but made me sell the player eventually.

Both CD-7 and DP-78 also have much better resolution than 1531 (I'm talking about HF-air, delicacy and extension here) and deeper soundstage. Be warned though, that CD-7 takes awfully long to break in. I alsmost gave up on him. It really takes off after ~400h. Before that, it sounds like crap - muddy, diffused and grainy.
Thnaks, I look forward to reading your impressions!
Megan, Might wanna recheck your stats. Consumer response has been so bad for the CDSA that EMM will make ANYBODY a dealer, even you. Just to turn a unit. Let's forget about the recall of the ENTIRE first batch. Mr EMM is a SOTA guy, not too good at the price point thing. Yet. Tell me again how many Cary Pros you've seen listed? I can see by your feedback that you have tried them all! Keep your Civic and please stay out of the deep end. Z.
i won't comment on the cary as i've not heard it. but let me chime in on the following:
1) i covered EMM's build quality in my review on dagogo. that said, i've never had a problem, its just not built to the same standards as esoteric or wadia. its also $6k cheaper than esoteric, and has a better track record than wadia (i've not heard the 581, but owned the 861se, which was not comparable to the EMM).
2) wadia had LOTS of problems w/ 1st gen 581s, which is why you saw so many for sale. the later rev's seem to be fine though. shame some buyers became beta testers though---but that's for wadia to sort out. ---this is the first time i've heard the same accusation leveled at EMM, ever.
3) the EMM is a very high-selling player (i'd have to go back to shahin at Emm to get exact vol's, but i want to say it was > 5k). no wonder some are for sale.
4) no evidence whatsoever that EMM makes "anyone" a dealer.
5) at this time, the only major player in pro digital that also goes audiophile is EMM. think the studios use junk?

now, nowhere was i willing to promo or bash the sonics of these fine players; meagan was right--at this level, its personal preference. but for zieman to come down hard on EMM without evidence sure smacks of an agenda.
Rhyno, If you think you are tight with Shahin, ask him, point blank. I did, over dinner at CES. It is no secret. Both the reliability issue as well as the dealer issue. EMM ads on this home page speak volumes. One phone call does the rest. That is why he was hired! Every player mentioned has had teething problems. We all know about the SACD Standard as well. Remember those being "dumped" six months ago? The original question was about a used player. I stand behind my advice. My "adgenda" has been unearthed! I have a bit of trouble with you comparing redbook, (861SE) when again the original request was for advice on SACD players. No, the 861 can't touch the CDSA on SACD!
I didn't wanted to start a big argument, just wanted to get some impressions, seems that no one had really compared these players. I've read a a comparison in the Wadia forum where the 581 outplayed the 306 SACD.
I'll keep on looking
FWIW, I have had my share of reliability issues with the EMM, but Shahin certainly helped restore some faith with me and their company.
I thought I'd chime in. For the record I'm a EMM dealer. Yesterday ,02/22/08, I received the latest version of the CDSA SE. It has a new suspension and new drive. You can't get better SACD playback at anyprice. Two weeks ago the rep from DCS brought the Scarlotti , or however it's spelled, and we listened all day. The EMM is as good or better in a number of ways and the DCS is 68 big ones. I'm glad to let you listen if your ever in our area.
The latest version? How many is that now? When will they release the "right" version? I might suggest you take the dCS piece home and do a proper ABA, it DESTROYS every "version" of the CDSA I have heard. This thing runs with the very best hand made stuff Ed builds. Z
Don't need to take it home. The system is running on 8 dedicated circuits using the Joule electra VZN 160 driving the Beveridge G3 Electrostatics on locking 30amp custom Ensemble power cords . The woofer section is powered by the newest Bryston Mono blocks on dedicated 20amp circuits. The remain components are resting on the Arcici reference rack, latest version, with carbon blocks on all the poewr transformers. Marchand tube crossover and a Levinson 326S sandwiched between two carbon platforms. I also have the Reimyo CDT777 and CDP777 with their top cables as a good redbook reference. Oracle turntable on a Copulare Tonebasin also on dedicated circuits. Numerous JPS Aluminati power cables ,interconnects, and the rep brought the latest Nordost just for a kicker. Cartridges Paltinum Onix, Audio Tekne, Oracle Tahlia, Decca Super Gold,Benz's. This system shows all differences. The room also is special with two drywall layers one made of cork. The ceiling is a special acoustical material designed by a company specializing in studios. Not much left to chance. May I invite you to come hear this yourself and then post you're impression. The EMM CDSA SE is a tremendous bargin in it's latest version . I have one of the first of this version. Way Good!!
And this "latest" version was needed because... I guess what you are saying, is that you totally agree with me and my advice to run not walk from original CDSAs. As well as all the other "improved" versions, until they get it right. Right? In the meantime, I will take you up on your invite. Thanks! Please make sure the thing works before I arrive! This should be in May/June, in time for you to install the "latest-latest-latest-latest" version! Z.
Is this the edition with the CD mechanism that isn't practically guaranteed to fail? Meitner needs to understand that performance doesn't matter if the unit's not reliable; when it's down you're getting no performance. In any case, considering the limited number of SACD releases compared to CD, Red Book performance should be imo the first consideration, SACD secondary.
I have been following a number of threads in regards to the emmlabs, esoteric and marantz units I am interested in. When I read your comments regarding emmlabs I keep thinking you are a competitor( either directly or indirectly), atleast the bitterness comes across like that. You just seem so passionate about your hatred towards emmlabs.
Incidently I am sure all of the cd/ sacd players mentioned are excellent. I see no reason to trash good equipment. It is fine to bring up issues( whether reliability or whatever) but there seems to be a lot of emotion in your responses and in my books raises doubts as to your motivations.
Please make an effort to listen to the newest EMM and be your own best reference. Lots of politics on open forums
i've not come across read or transport failure issues w/ the original transport in the CDSA, and am getting the new transport in a week or so.

has anyone else had read or transport failures w/ the CDSA? i'm curious if this is a real issue or not. (i did cite the flimisness of the original transport in my review on dagogo, but in fairness, its been flimsy, but perfectly reliable).
For anyone living on the bleeding edge of technology, there are going to be issues. I believe most companies have faltered at least a couple times in customer service and reliability. I would agree upon the importance of hearing equipment yourself. However, that is difficult for most and arguable whether valid under most conditions.

These threads are important to better understand manufacturer issues which may affect us. People have taken shots and Wadia, and same with EMM. In the end, one has to consider the facts, the source, and make an informed decision. Since the reviewers do nothing more than heap praise upon all that come through their system, we need to rely on each other to help buy the equipment that best suits our own tastes.

Each of the units in the original post have vastly different sonic signatures. It really depends upon the what the poster values in listening to music. Since there is no indication as to what that may be, we get threads that have nothing more than polarizing views.

I wonder if the new CDSA will be a true SACD player. The Mediatek digital transport used in the original CDSA was not able to output pure DSD signal, but converted it to 88,2kHz instead (and then upsampled it to 2x DSD).
Bud, Ed designs and builds some gear that is State Of The Art. He has defined SOTA. I mention this in one or more of my responses. This unit has not been one of them. I am not alone here, witness other responses. What the heck is an indirect competitor anyway? I would love to carry this piece if/when it runs. There is a lot of competition at this price point. My "motivation" is the same as my "agenda". If you have in fact been following, I offered advice to a member of a community I care about. From first hand knowledge/experience.

Rhyno, You are a bit naive to think EMM would voluntarily offer to folks "please don't buy now, we're not ready". "OOPS" is not a word mfgrs use. The same goes for folks who just dropped ten large and are unable to listen to music. Only if the mfgr. did not work with them would they be likely to share their misfortune.

Palmetto, I will be visiting you. Your attitude is very mature and professional. There are some things we could talk about. Thanks again for the invite. Z.
I look forward to seeing you in a few months. We have a lot of surprises for our visitors.
Hi Bauerp,

If you don't like the Krell sound then stay away from it. Their philosophy has been the same from day one. It's a matter of taste and I will not argue with anyone when it comes to personal taste. After all it's important in any audio purchase, more so with speakers though. By the way I like the Krell sound, my preference only. But for CD players not necessarly.
Thanks everyone for their input. Still thinking but getting closer to purchase.
Thanks again
Bauerp, Before this thread got so far off track, I was going to offer something I find myself saying more and more often. If you have not heard Krell lately, you have not heard Krell. I can't think of a brand that has evolved more. Your willingness to accept that "perhaps their sound has changed over the years" puts you at the head of the class. Good luck in your search. Z.
I want a comapny that get's it right the first time.Cary fits that bill.
Dear T, Might wanna read the threads on the first gen 306 SACD player. I too really like this company. Dennis Had is the real deal. I think they bit the bullet pretty good on these first units that all failed. The price then went up 1500 to pay for it. Krell is using parts from their 10,000 SACD player to fix ($4000) SACD Standards. Also pretty cool. NO price increase... Z.
The false accusation/assumption that all CDSA SEs are defective and being recalled needs to be addressed. This is simply, completely untrue. There is no such recall (visit EMM The truth is much less hyperbolic. There have been some issues with noisy and temperamental transports, but it is not a problem with all the units--just some. (A second generation CDSA SE is being introduced later this year that includes a revised, custom-designed and built transport. This is a good example of Mr. Meitner's constant quest for perfection.) The company is very customer responsive and will fix the problem under the warranty's terms and conditions. To claim that EMM Labs' quality control is less than Cary's or Krell's is not only false, it is hurtful. Carelessly disparaging a company's reputation through a post here is bad behavior. Having an opinion is one thing, but throwing out untruths that can cripple sales and damage reputation is reprehensible.

While I agree that anytime you're spending obscene amounts of money for audiophile equipment, it should be absolutely bullet proof and last eleventy billion years with never a problem. Unfortunately, that's a fantasy. Virtually every high-end manufacturer, especially those on the leading edge, experiences design or operating flaws from time to time. What counts is how quickly and easily they respond to problems or issues. (I am a Mac addict, but have learned to suffer through the company's reflex denial of problems with their products, knowing they come around eventually.) I have found EMM Labs--like Pass, Aesthetix, Legacy, Martin Logan, and others--is fantastic when it comes to offering help.

BTW, I own a CDSA SE and have had no issues with the transport.
Megan, Then you don't own an original, ALL of which were recalled. You don't own a version two either. You may be lucky, that's all. Yeah, in less than a year we've seen four iterations of this player? Lets see how the new drive works. They had to give up on the original, it just would not run. There were other problems as well, but we can save that for another forum. Yes, they have been great about fixing it. NO, THEY WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. Are you serious? Nobody ever said their QC was lacking, as ALL the mfgrs mentioned have had SACD player problems. I am a Krell owner and I am the first to admit the problems persist. Cary seems to be the only one with a solution, so far. I challenged another poster who claimed friendship with Mr Al Rashid to "put it to him piont blank". To date, SILENCE from this member. High end audio is not required as auto mfgrs to broadcast recalls, so they do as auto mfgrs did before they were forced to come clean. They "continually strive for perfection" "R&D never sleeps" Yeah right! Hey dude, I got a bridge I want to sell you! Z.
first, i never claimed friendship w/ shahin al rashid. i have exchaned about 5 emails w/ him.

2nd, Z, your agenda grows painfully obvious: your position "they have QC problems, but they'll never admit it, and there's no one else that will" seems like you have a very convenient argument that wouldn't stand up to the most rudimentary of counterpoints, such as: name a few. describe the problem. what serial #s involved. ---you know, these little details someone as knolwedgeable as you should know. i posted an open ? on this thread for EMM owners to (publicly or privately) post their QC problems...i got ZERO replies...other than 1 guy who gushed how good his EMM was, and another about his Wadia. ---two fine machines, no doubt about it.

all you have done is wildly thrown accusations at more than 1 good mfg (EMM & Cary) without substantiating any of them. hopefully people will put all the trust & credibility into your comments as is warranted.
Rhyno, Just go back and read my contrbutions to this thread. Please. Call the folks at MD, they might have the serials for all the units in the first batch on the RA. You need to be very careful who you BS in these forums, you never know who might be reading them. You brag about your relationship with Shahin, I KNEW you had none, so I called you on the carpet. Now you come clean... Thank You. I can understand you not wanting to accept the truth about something you spent so much money on, too bad, it is what it is... I TRULY hope it does not stay that way...Z.
z, i don't care to argue w/ self-promoting sorts, so i'll be brief:
1) i never said i was friends w/ shahin. you were the one saying you had all this access---dinners, contacts at various companies, etc. i always said i only corresponded w/ him a few times. so, you should know better what happened than i.
2) if you know so much better, YOU provide evidence. (i asked the entire forum to provide it, and got ZERO replies from anyone). it is not my job to prove a negative---the companies in question should be assumed to provide a quality product unless proven, prove it! all you've done is lob accusations, w/ nothing more than hyperbole and volume. if you're so smart, and so knowledgeable, you should be able to prove your own accusations. give serial #s. owners. proof. (also, notice how no one else is substantiating ANY of your accusations?)

instead, i'll probably get insults and more volume from you. so don't be surprised when i opt out of going back & forth with a hyperbolic fraudulent knucklehead like you.

please go and argue w/ the tide rolling in. my guess is it will give you daily enjoyment when it rolls out, no doubt due to your persuasiveness & cajoling.
Rhyno, I know you didn't re-read the entire thread this quickly. Please do. S L O W L Y. And, as many times as you need. I am alone on this issue? Please. I told you where you might obtain serials. Scared? Of the truth? Didn't happen to see the last auction of a CDSA did you? ZERO bidders. With an opener at dealer... Still think I am the only one with knowledge you are without? I'm willing to bet that happens alot. Read, don't write. Listen, don't talk. Then read some more. There is a reason you have two eyes and two ears, yet only one mouth... Try to have more coming in than going out, and eventually something worthwhile will come out! Please get back to me after you have actually read this thread. I will help you with any of the big words. I promise. Z
I have received my Accuphase DP-700 and it has outperformed my previos player, a Cary 306 SACD (not the latest Pro version), so it is almost embarrassing... The DP-700 cost twice as much, but I think it is worth it. It is much better than the Cary. The Cary is also very resolved, but with the Accuphase the music is now flowing. The word that comes to mind to best describe the DP-700 is "organic".
Thanks for checking back in, Cappucino. Is your Accuphase burnt in yet? It might get even better with time.

I have a Cary 306. I am really happy with it but I have been itching to see what else is out there. I know the Accuphase tone is beautiful, but my last experience with Accuphase led me to wonder whether the dynamics and PRaT are quite up to the competition. What do you think of this?
my Accuphase DP-700 is quite new and not burned in yet. Out of the box it is sounding amazing so I don't know what it really is capable of yet. But I wouldn't worry about dynamics and PRaT for this player. It seems to be there, nothing less than the Cary player, but only much more refined and musical.

I have recently ordered the latest Burmester 069 reference player, so I guess over time I will use the DP-700 for SACD only.
Wow, this thread is like the democratic debates. Both throwing bombs at one another while the rest of us watch in amusement.
Love the sound of Emm. But hated the reliability issues. Two power supplies blown and replaced for $500 each, strange sounds coming from the tweeter every 2 minutes using anything but the optical inputs, and all the while having to fight tooth and nail to get them to respond to inquiries, even when I was willing to pay full price for repairs. When it was working, it sounded WONDERFUL. But my system was down more than it was up in the last two years and I'm so glad to be moving on. Buyer beware.
EMM fixed my CDSD that was a few years old with one phone call with quick turnaround (about a week in the shop).
This has been my only problem with 6 years of EMM gear.