Wadia 170i and Benchmark Dac1 - anyone try it?

I noticed that some Agon members have replaced their CD player with the new Wadia 170i and a dac. I've been look for a transport for my Dac1 to replace the DVD player I'm currently using. I've demoed some CD players acting as transports to the Dac1 and have definitely noticed an improvement in sound especially in the bass over my five year old DVD player. Interestingly my new Sony 350 Blu ray player sounded much worse as a transport (coax) than the cheap Dvd player which cost one fifth as much.

Any feedback on the new Wadia 170i (as compared to other transports) would be welcomed.
My question is why would people want to use an ipod doc instead of their computer as a transport? If you have music on your ipod then it must also be on your hard drive and your hard drive can contain your entire collection and your computer has a better interface.
I've used only CDs for years. I'm looking for a good transport at a reasonable price (<1K) with a digital output to feed the Benchmark Dac1. I could take an Ipod in the car & work if I hand one.

Again, does anyone have a comparisons on the quality of the Wadia digital output?

I have no experience with Wadia 170i but if your Benchmark DAC1 does its job in eliminating interface jitter then the digital source will not affect the sound. Digital is Digital and provided the source reads the bits correctly then it should sound the same - just like digital copies. Clock jitter is the only distortion inherent in digital interfaces.
Thanks for the responses. I never gave much thought to the transport feeding the Benchmark Dac1 until I purchased a Sony 350 Blu ray player. Even after much breakin it sounded like the Sony Blu ray was introducing something bad into the sound. Using the coax output from the Sony Blu ray the sound lacked focus, the bass was muddled and the sound stage flattened. My older, cheaper Dvd player sounded much better. I tried a CD player as I transport and that seemed to sound even better in the bass area with better focus.

As much as the "Wadia" name is a factor in audio, I'm looking for anyone who's had experience with the Wadio 170i (good or bad).

Perhaps your player is doing some kind of conversion or compression (44.1 to 48Kz or to 96Khz or to compressed Dolby or something like that). Perhaps it is doing a poor job at converting. Check your settings.
i'm running my 170 into a wadia 830... sounds just as good as CD....
My question is why would people want to use an ipod doc instead of their computer as a transport?
I "guess" suggested answers are, simplicity/comfort level and kowledge.
Simplicity/comfort: Using the 170 is basically using a piece of audio gear just as we have always been accustomed too.
Knowledge: Using a PC seems like a daunting task, though I believe it is getting easier all the time. Furturemore, not everyone has their computer in close proximaty to their stereo, nor want it there.

I'm looking for anyone who's had experience with the Wadio 170i (good or bad

Before the introduction of the 170 I was intrigued by the idea of a hard drive based system. Once I read about the 170 I was sold, I liked the simplicity of it all.

Having had my 170 for many months now, which I am using with a PS Audio Dac III (w Cullen mods), I have no regrets! Furthermore, going this route caused me to purchased an iPod, as I didn't have one; I really like owning one.

IMO, if you purchased one and weren't happy with the results, I'd look at the DAC, not the Wadia/iPod. The reviews in TAS and Stereophile mirrored my results.
Brian, thanks for the feedback on the Wadia 170. Looking at the components in your system I'm sure you'd be able to identify any weakness in this transport.

I also have never owned a portable music player. I considered trying something like the Squeezebox but am concerned about some of the issues Agons members have mentioned. I'd also would rather not deal with computer driven audio if the Ipod capcity is sufficient.

I was thinking of doing exactly what you are doing above. S350 into Benchmark. Can you tell us more about your settings? Are you forcing 2-channel downmix? Have you verified what is being sent in terms of 16/44.1 or 24/96 and all that? I am very curious about this.

Theoretically, as someone else mentions, if you have 16/44.1 or 24/96 on a disk and play it through the Benchmark it should sound exactly like the same file from an IPod or hard drive.
Yeah, and all CD transports sound the same
With regard to using the Sony 350 Blu ray player as a transport, yes I have tried all of the different audio settings. I currently using the Optical output from the Sony Blu ray to the Benchmark Dac1 just so I can get 2.1 for movies. I have the Coax output from my old Dvd player (Cardas digital 15 cable) going to the Dac1 and it sounds much better for music.

I've tried both the Coax and Optical output from the Sony Blu ray to the Dac1 and I've tried changing the Audio settings. The Sony 350 Blu ray used as a transport sounds flat, unfocused, and just sounds bad as compared to my old Dvd player or a Cd player. If you have better luck using the Sony 350 Blu ray then let me know what you did with the settings.

Any other feedback on the Wadia 170 transport is welcomed.
What are you comparing? CD or DVD or BD as your music source?

Perhaps it is a software bug for your player. Perhaps it is using the DRC processing to reduce dynamic range. The other possibility is that you are not sending redbook CD 16bit/44.2Khz to the Benchmarkl but PCM 24/96 or 24/48 which opens the door to errors in upsampling conversion.

Also - one other thing - most Sony devices do something to the digital output to prevent copying. If the source is copy protected then it limits coaxial/optical output to 16 bit 48 Khz. If you were playing a DVD with good 24 bit/48 Khz sound then it was truncated to 16 bit - thta may be your problem right there.

Check DTS setting, Dolby Digital Setting,48Khz/96Khz setting, Audio DRC setting, - default is normally "Auto" which means you get a compressed audio signal NOT wide dynamic range (no compression). Also check Downmix setting - there are a lot of ways you may NOT get what you want. In some cases the HDMI connector to the TV will be enough to set the audio settings so that it is compressed for TV!

Sony are a PAIN with their hard to use and understand manuals...
Let me try to make it more clear: If the two audio transports are reading the CD or DVD or BD in a "bit-transparent" manner then it should sound identical coming out your DAC1 (no matter which player or which digital connection is used). If it does not sound identical (which you have reported) then something is being done to modify the bits!
That is also my understanding.

TeddyBear - the thing is that re-clocking is relatively new. What people are saying is that if the DAC re-clocks the data at its input, then it is independent of transport.

I don't know 100% if this is true, but this seems to be where things are heading. The Bryston also re-clocks.
I just installed a 170i, ruining digital coax into the digital-in of my Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player. My first impression is very, very good.

Hopefully I'll get time this weekend to do some critical comparisons with the original discs vs. the lossless output from the my 160G iPod Classic. If so, I'll post a more in-depth follow up or maybe a Review.

re: transport,
operative word being "if", there is so much information that gets lost

re: iPod

Classic introduces lots of jitter because of the moving parts in HDD, little iPods with flash memory is much better
I've gone back to the Audio settings on the Son 350 Blu ray player and made sure that everything was PCM no digital. Through either the coax or optical output feeding the Dac1 the results are about the same for the Sony 350, lack of focus and blurry details. Again using either an older DVD player or an older CD player's digital out to the Dac1 the results are noticably better than using the Sony 350.

I'm glad to hear that many folks are having good experiences with the Wadia 170 (and Ipod) as a transport.
Contact Elias Gwinn at Benchmark and let him know your findings. It is possible others have reported the issue and there is a fix or you can simply confirm the problem and stop wasting your time trying to get it to work. Elias may also be able to advise you on which players are known to be "bit-transparent" should you decide to sell the BDP 350 and get something that works with the DAC1.
If you were to do that and let us know I at least would find that extremely interesting. Sorry, I know there is a bit of thread hijacking here, but lots of people are about to create a setup like this, so this is very interesting.
Follow up on the Sony 350 Blu ray player as a transport to the DAC1. Looks like the 2 ch audio issue has been resolved.

The Sony 350 has a number of detailed Audio Settings which require the on screen menus to adjust. I've set all of the detailed Audio settings to 2ch, down-mix, no compression because I don't use 5.1. The digital output goes to my Benchmark Dac1 via a Cardas 15 digital cable. After setting all of the detailed Audio settings I usually turn OFF the TV to play a 2 ch music CD using the Sony 350 as a transport.

Here's where the problem was. In addition to the "detail Audio" settings there is also a "audio" button on the front of the remote that cycles the Blu ray player through 3 different audio settings. These audio settings do not show up on the "detailed Audio" settings and do not show up on the front display of the player. When I turned the TV back on during CD Music play I could see that the audio button on the remote had kicked the playback out of "Stereo" mode. Turning stereo mode back on fixed the problem.

I have not had any problems with the Sony 350 playing Blu ray or standard DVDs. The Blu ray DVDs don’t take very long to load and the music CDs take just a little longer to load than a regular CD player. I would now recommend the Sony 350; paid under two fifty for it at the Sony store.
Awesome! I'm glad we pushed the issue.

Okay, back to main topic. I can only speak theoretically as I don't have the Wadia, but since the Benchmark re-clocks, the Wadia should sound the same as anything else.

Remember what re-clocking means. It means that there is something like a buffer device in front of the DAC, and it reformulates the signal, and then feeds it to itself in perfect time (no/little Jitter). So, then, the transports/digital sources are truly just storage.

And some above said data can still get lost with bad transport - well I don't know what protocols are used exactly, but with computer file transfers or TCP/IP there are methods where the computer will ask for the info again if there was a mistake. (It runs an algorithm over the data that results in a single number, runs that same algorithm over the source and compares that number to the other one. It is possible to erronously generate the same number but that is super rare, like 99.999999%) There are virtually no errors in file transfers on computers - otherwise programs wouldn't run! They would get to the place with the missing info and then crash. FTP isn't 100% perfect, which is why people do checksum verification - it uses a different algorithm for validating that the data it has sent is good which is still over 99% but not 99.99999%. So if the music systems are using protocols similar to computers then there really shouldn't be any lost data at all...

The only drawback/advantage with the Wadia is that some people prefer a richer interface and would prefer to spend the 300 just going to music storage server. If you really want to use your IPod as the storage device then the Wadia can't be beat!

Some people are running a long cord from Wadia to DAC, so that they can place the IPod next to the listening position for choosing tracks and all that, rather than having to get up each time.
I have it with a Bryston DAC. Really incredible sound.
If the DAC in question upsamples the digital inputs, then you'll benefit from that with the Wadia.

When I turned the TV back on during CD Music play I could see that the audio button on the remote had kicked the playback out of "Stereo" mode.

That was my fear - just the HDMI communication to the TV is enough to make some changes to the audio settings.

I hope this example helps explain why there are so many "audio myths" about what works and does not work. As an engineer I always look for a root cause when something does not do what is expected. Like when you change a cable and it is like a magic veil is lifted from the sound - you can either assign the observation to the cable or you can conclude something is overall not right about how the equipment is fundamentally functioning together.
Interesting review on 6moons for the Wadia 170 connected to the DAC1. The reviewer suggests he heard a difference between the Apple Lossless format and full WAV files.

I don't hear any difference between the source CD played directly from my Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player and same files in Lossless played through the iPod/Wadia/Playback Designs trio. Perhaps that's due to the upsampling routine of the Playback Designs' DAC, which upsamples both CD and the coax digital input to DSD prior to the analog output.

Dave, maybe you are getting old :)
When I knew I was going the route of using an iPod, I researched the "best" way to store files and I quickly learned that there are many opinions on this. This led me to do a couple comparisons myself comparing AppleLossless, WAV and AIFF. In the end, I could hear no difference between them.

Having done this, I am comfortable in my choice of using Apple Lossless and saving space. If others feel there is a difference, it does not sway me.

FWIW, here are a few quotes...

"As expected, the iTransort sounded like the DAC to which it is connected. I store my music on my iPod using Apple Lossless, which provides perfect bit-for-bit accuracy to the original with about a 40% reduction in storage requirements compared wit uncompressed WAV files. In listening comparisons between the iTransport and the CDs from which the music was ripped, I thought the iTransport had a slight advantage" -- Robert Harley, TAS Issue 186

"...You're actually given 3 options in iTunes---Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF---which preserve digital files losslessly. Any of these deliver CD-quality music." -- Steven Stone, TAS Issue 183
hi, sorry to pour gas on a fire but I have tried the wadia
and the the cd transport was much better. I was very suprised because all the good buzz about the wadia, however
in the system that I heard it in , it wasnt even close !
this was ripped in apple lossless, and wav might be better
but have not tried wav yet. the system I heard in on consists of revel studio2 ,rogue apollo mono amps, top simmoon pre amp, belcanto dac3 belcanto cd2 as transport.
I guess you will have to try one in your own system to know how the wadia really sounds, good luck, ChrisSain
You are not pouring gas on a fire, there is nothing wrong with sharing your experience. That said, something doesn't seem right. (I am not doubting your results, just questioning the why.) I question this based on the many ways I tested things myself and the experience of many others.
11-12-08: Teddy_bear
"Dave, maybe you are getting old :)"

Hah Teddy, I think you're half right, but I think that the reason my Wadia sounds so good with lossless is the reclocking and upsampling routines of my excellent DAC, which is also applied to CD. The Benchmark and Bel Canto are excellent DACs at their price points, but they are not at the very top echelon of performance.

There IS a message here and it's the old YMMV. The subject of this thread is Wadia with Benchmark. There's much evidence here that this combination will not be superior to a good stand alone CD player (I haven't tried to discover the range of CD players we're talking about here) and/or Lossless may not sound as good as WAV. I expanded the thread by throwing in my experience with my Playback Designs player/DAC and Brianmagrarcom threw in his experience with his PS Audio Digilink. We both had very positive experiences with Lossless via iPod.

The cause for the differences might be a number of things, including differences in reclocking and/or the presence of an upsampling routine, or not. I suspect that all the observations here are valid and accurate, demonstrating that different downstream equipment can yield different results with the same sources.

Hmm, I've got an old Digilink in a closet, I wonder...no, I'm too lazy. ;0

Dave, I have an old Audio Alchemy DDSv3.0 right by my right hand :-D
The Benchmark and Bel Canto are excellent DACs at their price points, but they are not at the very top echelon of performance.

The subject of this thread is Wadia with Benchmark. There's much evidence here that this combination will not be superior to a good stand alone CD player

I think the question was actually what transport to hook up to DAC1 and if there are any differences. The answer seems to be that DAC1 sound is independent of transport & cable & digital input provided the "bits" arriving at the DAC1 are the same (at least many people report this and it is what Benchmark vehemently claim).

Now what "sounds" better or best is, IMHO, a whole other can of worms, which includes the subjective preference of the listener. Certainly a different D to A converter and analog output stage of another high end CDP (removing DAC1 from circuit) is going to sound slightly different - just the same as different DACs will sound slightly different.

Subjective sound preference is hardly "evidence" in the same sense that test results made on the Benchmark DAC1 demonstrate it to be jitter immune and hence transport & digital cable independent (provided there is bit transparency). Note that DAC1 test results say nothing about subjective sound quality - the DAC1 while transport independent may sound terrible to some people. My advice would be to simply listen yourself and buy something more "top echelon" in that case.
The way I read his question is that he wants to use his iPod in home and car and he has a Benchmark and wonders if the Wadia will be a good iPod transport to interface with his DAC. He mentions CDPs, but his question and his followup clarification seem to be focused on iPod as a transport.

If that is indeed his question, then I know of no device superior to the Wadia for that purpose. I just bought my Wadia and searched for a similar interface that bypassed the iPod's DAC and could find none. (That may change soon). Given the lack of direct competition, I think that the Wadia is the best solution for using an iPod in a high end system.

Some of us attempted to validate that course of action by comparing the output of an iPod/Wadia/DAC trio to the source data played on excellent CDPs, finding it either vary close or, in my case, the same. My experience leads me to strongly endorse the Wadia for the IP's intended use. If he upgrades his DAC later the Wadia will yield further improvement. He seems to like his DAC and I doubt that he'll find something superior without spending a good bit more money.

Teddy_bear said:
"Dave, I have an old Audio Alchemy DDSv3.0 right by my right hand :-D"

I remember that one and wondering if the extra money for the PS Audio was worth it.

I believe there is a lot of misinformation and wrong thinking on digital, me included, as I am certainly no expert.

An observation of mine is that I think many of us have an analog mentality of copies when thinking of digital. To clarify, think of taking a photograph and making a copy on a copying machine, then taking the new copy and making another copy, etc. In doing this we expect the quality of each successive photo to be worse.

This is the mentality carried over to digital, which I do not see as an accurate view. I read comments from some where I can tell there is disbelief or hesitation that the iPod copy can sound as good as the CD it was copied from, because it is a copy and “loss” is assumed.

A good analogy I have read to debunk this thinking is of a computer program, it is 1 and 0’s just like digitally stored music. You can copy that program as many times as you want and it will work, if there was any loss the program would fail.

Besides the 1’ and 0’s, there is clocking information passed along in the data stream, this is the information that a DAC can make a difference with, what is known as “reclocking”, not all DAC’s do this. (The DAC in question within this thread, the DAC1, does reclock.)
Again, I am no expert, so anyone more informed than I can feel free to correct and/or add to my comments.

If all I say is accurate, there is no reason the iPod should sound worse than a transport. It is my opinion it is about the DAC one uses.

As for Apple Lossless, many, including myself in the past, viewed this as a compressed format that losses data. This is not the case, if it has been explained to me correctly, hence why those in the know classify it with WAV, AIFF, etc. Here is how it was explained to me. If you have a data string of ‘00000’ (5 zeros), instead of storing all 5 zeros, it would be stored as ‘50’. In doing so, the Apple Lossless file can be converted back to the original ‘00000’, whereby nothing is “lost”.
One more time I’ll add the disclaimer of stating I am not an expert on this.

I think you got it. The point is that as long as Adasilva uses the DAC1 the "evidence" suggests that it really does not matter what transport he uses (provided it doesn't mess with the bits, as some apparently do).

If Adasilva finds the DAC1 to be a substandard DAC compared to the much better sound of top echelon players then he might, in future, face the interface issues as to what other DAC goes well with the Wadia 170i & possibly what type of digital cable he needs and what length. This is the situation faced when using the majority of DAC designs, which are NOT demonstrated through test data to be totally immune to incoming jitter on the digital signal. In this case, careful selection of components that work well together is mandatory and there are no guarantees, such as Benchmark offers in their claims (In this scenario, everything in the chain should really be as low jitter as possible and, as a general rule, a separate clock signal interface is usualy preferred to qualify as "top echelon" - Meitner gear comes to mind)

BTW - "jitter" is certainly the end of the world - it might be better to have a tubed DAC with a great warm and musical sound than an analytical DAC with better jitter rejection. This is where individual subjectivity comes into it - the lesser of Evils - the horrible pro sound versus the organic warmth of something that sounds much better.
Dave, I used XLO 4.1 signature digital cable then and was really pleased with digital.

Using tube buffer/DAC is like using honey to smooth out chipped windscreen.
A separate box for the clock does nothing to assure that it'll outperform a clock combined with another digital device, like a DAC or transport. Generally you'd expect the separate box clocks to be among the best, due to price, but that isn't necesarily the case.

I'm using the Analysis Plus Digital Oval coax digital cable with good results, but I can't distinguish it from the one Wadia sent with the 170i. I think that the reclocking in the PD is making up for any error introduced by my cable... maybe. I tried an XLO balanced IC owned by a friend and found it very neutral.

Ah... tube/DACs, what an oxymoron in my mind. If you need to add honey, there's something wrong that needs to be fixed rather than covered up, at least IMHO. I like your point of view Teddy.

I have the iTransport and love the sound quality. I use lossless files on an Ipod Classic 160gb. It sounds better than my Sony ES CD player. The bass is fuller when comparing the same tracks back to back. Fascinating since the Wadia is playing the digital copy of the CD.

I had a musician in my home recently and he wondered if his Iphone would play his live recordings (lossless) of his Jazz band on my Wadia. It worked well and sounded awesome. He said it was the best the recording had ever sounded, and the closest to live -- on any system.
Fascinating since the Wadia is playing the digital copy of the CD.
This is exactly the thinking/mentality I was alluding to above.