Wadia 170i/DAC combo with AudioEngine speakers

I use AudioEngine A2 and A5 speakers with an Ipod as a portable stereo system that sounds pretty good on vacation. Very decent sound for a lake cabin or out on a pontoon boat with a power pack (using the A2s, not the A5s). In my opinion, the Ipod/A5 combo fills a lake cabin living room with very adequate sound.

I've never heard an Ipod through a 170i/DAC combination. The references I've read tend to focus on a primary home system. My question is this: Is an 170i/DAC combination overkill if you're using the AudioEngine A5 speakers? The Ipod/A5 combo sounds pretty good and is affordable. Is it worth adding the 170i/DAC combo to this "system"?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Hello, the combo of the Wadia i170 - Cambridge DACMagic with your AE powered speakers will be great. The i170 allows you to bypass the onboard iPod DACS and use the superior upsampling Cambridge DAC. We have built a similar combo with the Kanto iPair5 for a compact system.
Sounds like it would be great. The Audioengine speakers are really good sounding for what they are.

I have a couple of questions for you if you don't mind.

How much of an improvement do you think the upgrade to the A5s is. My main gripe with the A2s is they just won't play very loud.

Tell me more about the power pack you are using to play them on the boat.

Thanks, Ryan
I agree........ I have a Zune playing through Audioengine 5's in a Lake Cabin and it does a great job of filling the space with very good sound given the money I have into it .....
Thanks for the replies.

The power pack is just a simple 12-volt battery/recharger available anywhere auto parts are sold. Add an AC converter and you have a great portable power source. The problem with the A5s is that they drain the power pack very quickly. However, if you use the A2s, you can get at least a couple hours, if not several hours, before you need to recharge the battery pack. Works great for camping too.

The upgrade to the A5 from the A2 is pretty substantial, in my opinion. With the A2s, you can hear the music fine, but the A5s will give you room-filling sound. More bass, better quality bass; midrange is very good; the highs are definitely not "airy", but the information that's there is very good, and overall you just get a better sense of "oomph" from the A5s--very musical.

I own both, and each has it's application. A5s are best when plugged in to a wall somewhere. A2s can handle several hours of battery operation (using a power pack like I described above) making them extremely portable.

So, my question still stands: Given the very good sound of the iPod/A5 combo, is the sound improved by adding the 170i/DAC combo to the above or do the speakers fail to resolve the sonic improvements that you'd expect by adding the outboard DAC?

Hi Lrdmax,

I have the A5's and the A2's and I will tell you that the A5'S are able to resolve the difference's between different DAC's. While using the high quality Bitrates (Apple Loseless), I have compared the digital output jacks from my MacPro Desktop, iPod, Logitech Duet, and Benchmark DAC1 and the Benchmark was the obvious winner. The Audioengine A5's are like good Studio Monitors and they are very resolving for nearfield listening, they can certainly resolve the differences between different DAC's, power cord's or interconnects especially when hooked up to a quality DAC. I have never listened to the Wadia i70, but it's reputation proceeds itself.

However, for walking around or background music you will not appreciate the difference, but if you sit in front of the A5's for critical listening enjoyment, then you will most certainly be rewarded with worthwhile sonic improvements.

Thanks. Your answer is the kind of information I was looking for. It sounds like the addition of the 170i and a decent DAC will result in a sonic improvement. At least it sounds like it's worth a try.
To get the most out of the Wadia you need an exceptional external DAC. Using the Wadia just as a dock IS indeed overkill and you'll be as happy with a Cambridge or something like that.

I've got the Audioengine speakers and the Wadia, but use the Wadia in my main system, feeding it through a SOTA DAC with exceptional results. If you've got a great DAC laying around, then it'll be very nice. The AE speakers are up to the task, but if you have to buy a high quality DAC for the pontoon boat, then that's probably overkill.

I own and love the A5 but returned the A2. Prefer M-Audio model 40 (might be called AV40) over the A2. Amazon sells them around $150 shipped last I checked. The A2 sounds strained to me compared to A5 or the M-Audio. A5 is warmer and more robust than the M-Audio model.

I use computer as source for A5's and M-Audio. Switched to Devilsound DAC (Latest model, USB to RCA) from using the computer sound card, and it is a VERY audible improvement.