Thanks for your observations. While Steve was modifying my Wadia Series 9, he lent me a modified Opus 21, which had replaced my Statement 27ix/270se. I mention this, because it is typical of the service Steve provides - always sympathetic to stereo down time. But, I came to really appreciate Wadia much more after that. I don't want to knock the Opus too much because of the price differential, but to me, the sound the Wadia provided was more than justified. Again, the Opus was a decent value piece, but the Wadia was simply, as they say, in another league.
I'm sure Steve will find the optimal mods for the Cantata, to really extract its full potential. But the Wadia retains 'final destination' status.
nice review Casaross, it helps a lot for me on choosing a modern digital player
I have now had the unit plugged in for more than two weeks and have gone back and forth with the Wadia many times. I would say that in an absolute sense, the Cantata does not leave anything to be desired. It has a naturalness that reminds me very much of analog gear. The bass depth and weight are wonderfully full and dynamic. The midrange is outstanding, warm, smooth and natural. The highs seem correctly proportioned to give air but I doubt my abilities to judge high frequency extension too much; I am a 52 year-old man. My hearing probably does not go all that high into the frequency range.
that's the funny thing about audiophile equipment (in the ironic sense): when you are younger, you have better hearing, but don't typically have the cash to buy this stuff. when you get older, you are more likely to have the cash, but your hearing isn't as good any more.
As long as I still have the passion when I listen to recorded music, it does not matter if I "miss" a few notes.
For those interested the Cantata is featured on the cover of Stereophile this month with a review by John Iverson.
Disclaimer: I am an authorized Resolution Audio dealer.
Anyone heard the system 3.0 just came out?
I have what must be one of the very first Cantata Music Center 3.0 versions out there. While I have not had it long, I am really enjoying the sound.
Steve Huntley upgraded my unit a couple of weeks ago. The 3.0 upgrade represents almost four years of development work. Jeff Kalt (Resolution's founder and designer) and his business partner Steve Huntley (a really respected guy in the industry for a long time) experimented with numerous DAC topologies to try to improve upon the former unit’s Burr Brown PCM-1702 based DAC board. They now use some DAC chips (four per unit) designed for military and medical imaging use where bit accuracy is literally life and death stuff. To optimize them for audio use required a ton of effort.
Additonal flexibility that the 3.0 offers is also really nice with flex inputs. Right now on my unit, there are two pairs of analog line level inputs. Other flex options are in the works including a future option of built in mc phono, though when that will arrive I am uncertain.
The 3.0 version also uses the same t-network capacitors that they use in their amps. It appears to be a whole lot more capacitance than in the original Cantata. A nice touch on the new version is the ETI RCA jacks (formerly Eichmann). The upgrade consists of a new DAC board and new rear panel. It is a factory upgrade done at the facility Steve operates in Minnesota.
Resolution Audio sells this as a new version of the Music Center but an upgrade path is available from the earlier versions. Cantata owners can contact Steve Huntley for all the details on that. The price of the 3.0 unit is $9500 and the upgrade cost is $3000.
So far as sound, the thing I notice most is involvement, whether standard Red Book or high resolution (24/96 or 24/192). The bass seems more solid and dynamic, spatial presentation is deeper and, maybe, just a bit more extended left to right. The sound is definitely more detailed without making it harsh or tipped up on the top end. In short, it just sounds a lot more like real music. I am really, really happy with the 3.0. I had a chance to hear the 3.0 before I committed to fork over the money to do the upgrade. To me, the improvement in sound and expanded flexibility make both the expenditure and the wait for the 3.0 very worthwhile.
I can pretty much say with confidence that you have the best laundry room system ever : ) My story pretty much mirrors yours. I had a GNSC statement modded Opus 21 for years. It replaced a $15K Audionote DAC and transport and sounded much more natural and musical. Jeff Kalt of Resolution Audio (RA) is a digital genius and when he teamed up with Steve Huntley they pretty much make up a dream team for audio.
For the past several years, I've owned and enjoyed the Cantata Music Center and recently added a couple of RA's power cords. RA's digital players have been a main stay in my systems for more than 15 years. Last week I got my Cantata back from getting the 3.0 upgrade. I was expecting an improvement, but I was quite taken back with the level of improvement. It's insanely good!
From the very first note, I noticed something was different. The upgrade really does something neat with voices, which now really seem to jump out at you and give you that feeling that the singer is truly in the room. The 3.0's spatial recreation and musical detail is unbelievable. There were many songs in my older cd collection where I could never make out or understand the words being sung. Not any more. With the 3.0 upgrade you hear everything. Dynamics and bass weight is also greatly enhanced. Bass, now socks you in the chest. With the enhanced spatial recreation, you get imagining and sound staging like never before. Lastly, music is even more relaxed and organic sounding, dare I say, like vinyl.
The 3.0 upgrade still maintains everything you liked about the original Cantata Music center, but the improvements are not subtle. This is one of the best digital players I've heard and well worth $3K upgrade. If you have a Cantata Music Center, the 3.0 upgrade is a must! Take care.
thanks for the reviews of the 3.0!!!! are you guys using the usb input? does the 3.0 use the same usb receiver as previous model, or was it updated for the 3.0 version?
It is my understanding that the 2.0 upgrade dealt with the USB/Processor board...that brought the Music Center from 96k capability to 192k and allowed for UPnP network playback too. This 3.0 version/upgrade is primarily a DAC board upgrade and although the unit needs to be (or get) the 2.0 upgrade to become a 3.0 unit, the USB part is unchanged from the 2.0 version. There evidently was no necessity to change that processor board again. That is my understanding anyway...
I recently returned from a trip and could swear that my Cantata 3.0 has changed a bit for the better. It seems as though the bass is a bit more extended and a bit fuller. These changes are a further enhancement to my involvement. After having been away from a system, it is always hard to remember precisely what it sounded like before the trip so my perception is not subject to saying exactly how much the Cantata 3.0 has changed in the interim.
Another subjective item: If someone asked me whether the upgrade was worth it, I would have a hard time answering for anyone else. These sorts of aesthetic to dollar value judgments are hard to make for other people. In my case, I was fortunate to hear a 3.0 upgraded unit against my 2.0 unit. I would have trouble going back to the 2.0 after that experience, though I hardly suffered with the 2.0. Rather, I found the improvement compelling and hard to pass up.
I don't know if these additional reflections help anyone but I thought I would post them just in case they might.
Thanks casaross and Brawny for your detailed review! I was contemplating the upgrade from 2.0 to 3.0 after I ask Steve about the pricing as I have yet to see any reviews from an actual owner other than those reported from shows. One quick question, both of your reviews apply to the computer part of input(usb) or also the direct playback from the cd drive as well? Half of time I am using the cd playback from the system itself that's why I wonder if the DAC part of upgrade affect the computer input more or equally to the cd part...
So far as I know, the upgrade from 2.0 to 3.0 affected only the DAC and not the CD drive. Since the signal from both the CD drive and USB input travel through the DAC, I expect that the upgrade has affected both CD and USB playback practically equally. I have listened primarily through USB input and have not conducted comparisons that would answer the question whether CD or USB playback benefitted more from the 3.0 upgrade.
Make sense. If USB/CD drive receive no upgrade on 3.0 then the improvement coming from DAC on 3.0 should be effectively more or less the same. Thanks for your valuable input casaross and looks like I am on the path to the upgrade based on what I hear.
My review applies to the cd-playback function of the Cantata. In fact, I have never used the computer input ever. I guess you can say that I'm newer old school ; ) I can't express it enough, the 3.0 upgrade is phenomenal! Probably the best upgrade of a component I've ever done.
Hey Brawny - thanks for your feedback on the cd-playback! I use cd-playback slightlymore often than nas as I don't have streaming service yet and don't have all of my collection ripped into files. Appreciate your review and this will make the upgrade 3.0 an easy decision.
i had Steve Huntley upgrade my Cantata in October and I agree with those who have given reviews here. I use both computer based music as well as CD’s and really can’t tell any difference from CD’s I have burned into my library. I can hear a difference using Tidal or Apple Music which both sound a bit muffled compared to my library or cd’s.
As for the sound, I thought the Opus 21 was great, then the Cantata was a leap from the Opus, but what I’m hearing with the 3.0 upgrade is a different world.
The Cantata 1.0 And 2.0 were knocked a bit for not extracting all the bass, I can say without any hesitation that that is now not the case. I never thought there was an issue, but now bass is clean deep, and the decay is incredible.
Aside frim the base base what I notice is how the 3.0 reaches into the music to extract all detail without sounding overly detailed or harsh. The air around voices, especially male voices is astonishing.
6 weeks later I still am hearing new qualities that make me think it’s the best $3K I’ve ever spent on aidio.
I've had the Cantata for 5 years now, but have been playing with upgrading for quite a while. Steve sent me here to look at your impressions.
Am pondering either going with the upgrade or selling and getting myself a Lampi or similar. Will try to keep up with your posts, since I will only decide next year anyway.
I’ve had my Cantata 2.0 since July. It’s a great machine. I’m only using CD and also the optical in from Tv.
I was delighted to hear that an upgrade was possible and the above posts are the first I’ve read on the Cantata 3.0. It must be something special, as the 2.0 is already really impressive.
Steve upgraded my Cantata to 3.0 recently and it sounds beautiful. The words I’ve used to describe the sound are elegant, organic, smooth, glissando, highly resolved, natural, luxurious. I realize these may not satisfy audiophile review language, because I don’t care as much for that way of evaluating (but more power to those who do). What matters to me is just the way the sound affects me--just a pleasure to listen to. I mainly listen to Tidal via USB, and occasionally CD. The rest of my system is Vandersteen Model Seven MkII speakers, Aesthetix Atlas stereo amp and Calypso preamp Eclipse versions, Antipodes DX server/streamer (about to be upgraded), mainly upper level (not highest level) AQ wires, Mapleshade rack and brass footers, and an old RGPC power conditioner for low draw components (amps and speakers come out of the wall). I realize the non-technical nature of these comments may make it of limited usefulness to audiophile readers.
Thanks for your thoughts jimski and nice system you have.
I might consider the 3.0 upgrade at some stage in the future, but I’m very happy with the 2.0 at the moment.
i just upgraded to the 3.0 as well. the improvement is not subtle. i can honestly say that playing 16/44.1 through the cantata 3.0 sounds better to me than any hi-rez, DSD or MQA i have ever heard on any dac. i think the secret sauce is jeff's application of the AD5791 dac chips that it uses (same as schiit yggy). instruments and voices sound very natural, and i'm hearing ambient and spatial cues that i have never heard before in recordings that i'm super familiar with. a complete home run.