Mark Levinson 30.5/31.5 vs Wadia 861se

Has anyone compared these two digital front ends. I know this is probably a question of personal taste and I should listen for myself but, there are no dealers for either in my area, and I would be looking used. I listen to all types of music. Prefer detailed but laidback sound with lots of soundstage depth. You can see my system listed. Only interested in Redbook.

One other thing.......... am I better off looking at something completely different (i.e. are these players easily beat by newer less expensive stuff these days?).


Hi Chris, the way you expressed your question I would suggest you take a look at a thread I started entitled, Reference DACS: An overall perspective. It will give you some of the information you are seeking. I had a ML360s/DCSpurcell/ML31.5 in my system at one time and found it quite enjoyable. However, I believe their are other digital front ends that offer better sonics today, it still depends on personnal taste and system synergy, but my thread will you some guidelines to go by. I can't comment on the Wadia, since I have never seriously auditioned their gear, but many folks are true fans of this brand.
Hello Chris:

I run a 30.6/31.5 currently and had the Wadia 270/27ix transport and dac a short time ago. IMHO the Levinson is far more musical.

You will find that opinions on good digital blow every which way like the wind. Most audiophiles disregard anything but the so called "latest and greatest".

If you are anywhere near Massachusetts, you would be welcome to hear the Levinson combo on my system.


Paul :-)
Hi Chris
Good advice given here,I side with Beemer however and even though I don't own any of the digital gear that was mentioned I got trementous respect /confidence for ML.
Teajay: Great thread you started there. I liked the idea of flavors vs. a "best" since we (should) all know there is no "best". In the end it is a matter of personal taste. I have not heard any of the "reference" DACS in my system but my little Theta Miles still holds it's own in the 5K range....... I am just curious though thinking what might be possible. BTW, How do you characterize the ML compared to what you are using now?

Beemer: Thanks for the offer. Unfortunately I am in Texas (or a very long way from you). I greatly appreciate your response having owned both set-ups. Have you compared the ML to any of the "flavor of the day" stuff? In your opinion would the ML DAC work well with my Theta as a transport until I could afford the ML transport or, are they very dependent on each other?

Thanks again for your thoughts

I have owned Levinson digital gear for a number of years. (35,31,31.5, 36, 30.5) Nothing prepared me for what I heard with Wadia 7 and 9 combo. I've even compared the 31.5 with the Wadia 7 transport, and the 31.5 had to be sold off after just 5 tracks of comparison. The 9 DAC is so much better than ANYTHING I have ever owned, that it finally made me a true believer in mega-dollar DACs. another transport that is worth mentioning is the Forsell. anyone interested, I believe I still have pics of the components sitting toghether during a comparison.
I've just sent in my 9 DAC for the tweak/upgrade...waiting for burn-in to see how much better it will be.
Chris, if I would compare my digital front end in my system now to my older front end of ML/DCS the major and most important differences would be:1) The ML was very accurate/detailed but somewhat "dry" sounding. 2) The ML did not give as large and layered soundstage with air around the players. 3) The ML overall sonic flavor was never hard or upfront but not as dynamic or alive sounding as my present gear. Stated very subjectively, the ML/DCS was a very good digital sound , while my present pieces offer what alot of audiophiles would call "analog" like.
George, I have a personnal motto, if your own ear's has not heard it you don't have an opinion. So, if you never have seriously listened to the gear up for discussion how could you "side" with anybody? I would never put down a fellow audiophiles personnal opinion, it's really finally all about personnal taste and system synergy, but its only fair to have an opinion based on actual experience. Finally, you never responded to my information regarding the cost of used ML gear, after you made statements that were not factual concerning their cost on another thread, why the great loyalty towards ML gear? Just curious.
I had the chance to own both ML 390 and Wadia 861se. In my system with B&W 800D driven by Mac 1201s.

Soundstage= Wadia
Details= Wadia
Laid back= ML

Given that the ML 390 is five years old, I will admit that it is not 30.5/31.5. However, I thought this might help you. I think your taste is more w/ the ML gears.