Asuming both are equal; while you're thinking or searching put also another question to yourself; which one has more reliable transport and is upgreadable through the years.
Such investment IMHO must be future-proof, reliable, with long warranty and of course a breath away if not already in from "computer-audio" & HDaudio 24/88.2 24/96 24/176.4 24/192 which will be the standard
Even comparisons with the Wadia 922 would be interesting. This would be the ultimate shootout! Please, anybody has compared either..even with other high end DACs such as Meridian... I would also like to know.
The Meridian isn't even in the same league; quite overhyped imo.
I owned the DCS Elgar Plus Full stack with Rubidium clock, Esoteric P03D03 with same clock, and Wadia 921/931 simultaneously (and also the MPS5). I now own the MPS5, Zanden Signature and Boulder 2020. I would put the Wadia in its own sonic signature category. Incredibly clear transient/attack, an ethereal blackness that seems to make the edges of music more sharply defined and, when connected directly to an amp, earth-shaking, fundamentally deep/wide bass.
I am still impressed with DCS gear; I understand that the Scarlatti is an improvement on the Elgar but at least according to the DCS website, similar to the Paganini DAC. To quote: "The Paganini range has a similar feature set to Scarlatti with the main differences being in the chassis, CD/SACD transport mechanism and the remote handset. These differences mean little is lost in the resulting musical performance and we think Paganini has a very special kind of magic." I am not sure the Scarlatti DAC on its own is different from the Paganini. The Esoteric based transport should make a difference but again, you could use an Esoteric transport with a Scarlatti DAC.
Classicjazz thanks for the response! Can you please tell us more about treble air on the Wadia... say on cymbals and violin timbre, and its acoustic space? Did the clear transients make it sound too mechanical compared to the others? Also, why did you let go of the Wadia?
I have both owned the dCS Scarltti full stack included the Scarlatti clock.
The Scarltti full stack did not have the emotional musicality, according to my opinion it is more a technical sound rather than a musical sound, but extremely detailed and focussed.
The Wadia 931+921 was a much more musical emotional presentation.
Scarlatti full stack should be used with scarlatti clock because that will enhance the musicality a little.
but still it is not up the beautiful musical presentation as the Wadia 931+921 did.
In short I liked the Wadia combo much better than the Scarlatti full stack.
That is interesting that you were able to compare Scarlatti and Wadia 931/921. There are probably very few who have had that opportunity. I would like to hear more specifics as to the pros and cons of each system.
I have a review of the series 9 on the audiogon review page under digital. Feel free to post your comments.
Since you stated that the Wadia is heads and shoulders above the DCS Scarlatti, I'm curious to know why you are selling you Wadia currently.
Have you found anything better and could you share this with us?
I would say that the Wadia 9 stack presented the attack and decay of treble transients in a dark background, where the edges are clearly delineated. The shimmering notes rung like a cymbal in the night. I have never heard anything like it; I would say the sound was clean. No other DAC I've owned was like it. This includes the ones I mentioned as well as Sonic Frontiers, Levinson, Audio Synthesis, Audio Logic etc. Because the 9 series is so different and having tried other pieces, if I had two to own, I would have the Wadia and one other. In this respect, I regret selling it. Also, the bass when the unit drove the amp directly, was foundationally impressive. Deep and wide.
I would not say the sound was mechanical at all; in fact there is something to be said for the clarity. I find units that upsample PCM to DSD to diffuse the sound, some more than others.
@Classicjazz: I currently own Wadia S7i (great device) and I´m thinking in the same direction as Karajan. Have you ever tried the Boulder 2020 together with the Metronome Kalista ? Have you any experience with the big Esoterics (0-series) or the late EmmLabs seperates ?
No experience with any EMM Labs gear or the Metronome gear. I can't see myself buying a super expensive CD2 based transport. I did consider the P01 transport but the mechanism is the same as the UX1 I have. I also considered the XDS1 but went with a Spectral 4000S Pro CD player instead. I was reluctant to spend so much on a unit with a switching power supply. Also, for redbook CD, from an analytic standpoint I was also hesitant to upsample everything to DSD, which the XDS1 does (using probably an ASRC).
As for the 2020, it remains excellent and with the Trinnov ST2 Pro room correction, offers the best sonics yet. I am a big believer in a DAC that offers the following: proprietary digital filter, multibit conversion, proprietary I-V converter and discrete analog output stages. The units that I've owned that do this all have really impressed me (I realize this only ex post). The list that comes to mind are: Wadia 900 series, Boulder, Spectral CDP, Naim DCA, possibly dCS and Lavry. Other units may use op-amps somewhere or an off the shelf DF. MSB would be the other one - although they don't have an I-V and drive the output directly, if I recall their design overview correctly.
The XDS1 does not have a switching power supply, you are probably thinking of the CDSA.
A resonant mode power supply is a switching supply.