I have been extremely fortunate in being able to have my Wadia S7i taken most of the way to its outer limits. Although I know that this upgrade wasn’t the ultimate S7i upgrade possible for those with very deep pockets, it may well be the first and most significant upgrade performed on any individual’s personal S7i.
Peter Israelson is first and foremost an amplifier and speaker designer. But he also upgrades components, designs and builds cables, and designs acoustical treatments. He's been around the industry a very long time and knows John Schaffer.
Peter is a fanatic and completely over the top when it comes to his designs. He has the ear as well as the knowledge to pull the most natural sound out of any component he upgrades. My complete system upgrade began three years ago when he first upgraded my speakers. Next, he took that upgrade the rest of the way and designed and built outboard crossovers for them.
When he flew in to hand deliver the crossovers, Roger Cullen and he sat down with me and we discussed how to take my system to a point where I could live with it for years to come without feeling the need to upgrade something. They suggested that I start by switching out my Accustic Arts components with a Wadia CD player, which basically paid for itself by eliminating the extra component, digital cable, power cord and rack space.
They also suggested that following the purchase of the Wadia, I would do well to switch out my Karan KA I-180 integrated amp for something with the ability to accept and process the huge amount of data that the Wadia outputs. Peter said that one of the biggest reasons for someone not liking a Wadia component was that their preamp and/or power amp was not able to handle and pass along the music it was receiving fast enough.
That didn’t sound logical to me since these components are considered to be in the high-end category, but I replaced my Karan with a Burmester 036 amplifier. When they heard the Burmester, they said “no, that’s doesn’t do it”. I sold it and purchased a Spectron Musician III Mk. 2. They were surprised when they heard the Spectron, after all, it was a dreaded Class D amplifier. It handled and passed everything perfectly, and was as quiet and as powerful as all get out. However, they said that it lacked the bloom of a Class A amplifier, and suggested that I get a Plinius SA or a Pass XA .5. I then bought a Pass XA 30.5 since I’m in a small room. It had the bloom, but wasn’t powerful enough and got bogged down during complex passages. It also ran hot as any Class A amp does, and it my 10’ x 12.5’ room I was sweating. I knew that if I got anything with more power, it was only going to get hotter and more uncomfortable.
I went back to the Spectron Musician III Mk2 and sent it to Peter. After a couple months he sent it back and told me that I was now ready to hear what the Wadia could do. The Spectron upgrade was amazing. I could forcibly stop my foot from tapping with the music, but I just couldn’t get my head to stop bobbing. After two months of really enjoying everything, he said that I was ready for the main attraction and to send him the S7i. I waited for two months while he designed and built the external power supply, and then sent him the S7i. Peter had it for three months because this was the first upgrade of this magnitude and he took the time to try component after component until he had it where he was satisfied. Peter called me when it was ready, and Peter is a quiet, unassuming soul, but this time he couldn’t contain himself. He told me that this S7i was the best digital component he’d ever heard. As I said earlier, Peter’s been around a very long time and has heard most of the digital components out there, so that statement from him was profound. I won’t elaborate, but here’s what he did:
Step 1: Separate the power supply from the S7i. This was done to for two reasons. The first was to eliminate any magnetic interference problems that the transformers impose on the sensitive digital circuits. The second was to allow room for a much better power supply to be designed and built. The new power supply and chassis weighs 40 pounds.
Step 2: Upgrade the rest of the S7i with the best components available to achieve a natural sound. Some of the most natural sounding components, which also carried the highest costs, were the Duelund Cast. If you haven’t heard anything about Duelund, here is a link to some information about them: http://jimmyauw.com/2009/08/16/extreme-capacitors-battle-1st-session/
I received the S7i on Friday, Dec. 2 at lunch. Peter flew in from Las Vegas that evening, while Roger (Irish65) and Tony (BLCube) drove in from North Carolina and Virginia. Craig (CHAcoustic) drove in from Illinois Saturday. I spent most of the weekend sitting in the living room so that they could take turns sitting in the sweet spot and listening to it. It sounded better now when I was in the living room with the listening room door shut than it did when I sat in the listening room before I sent it to Peter. Being seated in the sweet spot was a complete transformation. Craig said it best when he said that my system had gone from neutral to natural.
A month later, now that it’s fully burned in, I sit in complete amazement. My system doesn’t exist any longer, I’m sitting here watching the performers onstage. There are no restraints, nothing being held back, only the music freely flowing. I’m in the church with The Cowboy Junkies, I’m in the audience listening to Nils Lofgren’s acoustic set, I’m wherever the CD was recorded, listening to the performance like it’s being performed right in front of me. The dynamics are completely realistic, and no matter how complex the music is, a bell chimes and decays as it does naturally in the midst of it all. I’m indeed very fortunate!