Why did you use different ICs with each of those players ?
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Elberoth, because the Cary preamp only has one XLR connection. Also, we only had one pair of each particular cable at hand. You are right to point this out, because the players sound different when played single ended and XLR. There was a difference between cable as well, but not as large a difference as between SE/XLR.
The Cary gives a warmer and fuller midrange on XLR than on single-ended. The Wadia seemed to be the reverse - switching to XLR seemed to lean it out a little.
The crackling you heard was the wadia overdriving (Some tube gear can only handle 2volts inputs, but since the Wadia can be used as a preamp also it is capable of high voltage) your Cary preamp. In the older Wadia gear you can rejumper inside the voltage output (which could be as high as 10volts to drive long runs of cable). I had a Wadia 12 that did the same thing with my tube preamp at the time. My Gamut CD1R overdrove my CJ Premier 14 tube preamp also.
Cytocycle that is a possibility but the output voltage of the Wadia is actually lower than the Cary CD-306. When we volume matched for the comparisons, we had to raise the volume on the Wadia to match the Cary.
Jond you are absolutely right, the Wadia had a problem. Even when the crackling went away I had a question mark at the back of my head as to whether this was really fair or not. But the Wadia was actually doing extremely well so I put that out of my head for the time being :)
Elberoth, good point - thank you.
I have both the Wadia 581i and the Cary SACD at the same time and I thought the Wadia was better in every way.
The other poster was right you had to much gain on the Wadia. All you had to do is set the gain down and it would of went away. The Wadia also sounds better using the balanced outputs.
You should of tried the Wadia direct to your amp and you would of been shocked as long as you had the gain set right.
Their was no problem with the Wadia just a gain issue.
I agree with Mtdking, Wadias do sound better through their balanced outputs. Also, IMO Kimber silver cables are not sympathetic with Wadias.
Had you used the balanced Acrolinks with the Wadia I suspect the outcome of your test would have been different.
Also, if your friend only uses the 581i as transport, are you sure the DAC section is properly broken-in?
It would be very interesting to hear your impressions if you repeated the test and reversed some of your variables.
Thanks so much for this review.
I like reviews like this where the only difference is the units being tested. Different interconnects are an issue perhaps still in this case but if this is by design because each player is judged to work better with different cables, that is OK as long as the rational is stated. I have no problem with treating player and interconnect as parts of the same system being judged together.
Also, it would be nice if practical to have each player play a home and away game, ie judge both on system deemed optimal for one, then on the other, and note the differences. I am not convinced that comparisons on a single system are comprehensive enough to really bring out meaningful differences.
I have difficulty placing much confidence in reviews of high end cd players in particular where reviewers make comparisons based on recollection of sound of different players on different systems. I have to admit that this is because although I have no difficulty hearing differences in CD players, the differences are very subtle in my opinion compared to most other components, so the devil is in particular with the details when it comes to CD players.