Linn CD12 vs. Great Northern Sound Wadia 860
This is not a formal review, just some observations for those that might be curious. I previously posted a thread about my observations during a listening comparison between the Linn CD12 and an EMM CDSA, which I did at a dealer's I know pretty well. My comments today come from home listening.
About 2 years ago I had an opportunity to purchase a demo CD12 at a good price (after Linn discontinued the line). I was, at the time, using a Wadia 860x. I A/B'ed them at home, and concluded that the Linn was a bit warmer and richer, so bought it. I traded the Wadia to my brother, though I still admired its solid and forceful presentation.
A year or so later, I had occasion to try a Great Northern Sound modification of an ARC LS15. I was really impressed with the way the unit "warmed up" in its presentation after the mods. GNSC (Steve Huntley and co.) also had rave reviews for their Wadia mods. So, my brother and I did another trade and I got the Wadia back and sent it to GNSC.
The results were in line with my hopes (which were based on the LS15 experience). New, the Wadia 860 was a wonderfully accurate machine that pulled out quite amazing detail from CDs. However, it (to me) sounded a bit cold and analytical. If a CD wasn't well recorded/mastered, etc., it really let you know. There were certain CDs that mattered to me that I just avoided on the Wadia. The Linn was more forgiving...up to a point.
The GNSC Wadia 860 still does a masterful job of retrieving detail, but the presentation is warmer and (to my ears) more musical. I think that, like the EMM, it is somewhat more accurate than the Linn. But now it has more bloom in the mid and lower mid-range, and is just plain more pleasant to listen to than the stock Wadia. In terms of musicality, it is quite competitive with the Linn. There is still some yin and yang...the Linn is a bit softer and darker...the Wadia more accurate with maybe a touch more punch.
They're both really good. I couldn't really fault anyone for preferring one to the other. The Wadia is a better deal, economically, in that a 2nd hand 860 plus the Reference mod would probably be in the $5,500 range, whereas the Linns are going for around $8,500 or so. They both involve enough of an investment that I don't expect to be able to keep them both. But I think I'm going to spend a while not deciding.
Audition equipment: GNSC LS15 or Joule LA150 MkII, ARC VT100 MkIII (4 ohm tap), Harbeth M30's, all Cardas Cross cable.