Never heard the Wadia, but I was amazed at how much better the CD7 was than CD3 MkII. It is hard for my ears to imagine a cd player substantially better than the CD7, different certainly but not better.
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I compared the Audio Research CD7 with the Wadia 27ix and 270se and Krell 505 Evo. Wadia was far too digital sounding, Audio Research sounded incredibly warm and rich with so much depth to the soundstage whilst the Krell was somewhere in between the two sounding warm compared to the Wadia but a little digital following the CD7. What suprised me though was how different the three sounded side by side. All played through ML Summits using full Transparent Reference cables and Krell Evo 202 and 400.
I have the new Wadia 581 and the ARC CD7 now in my system. The Wadia has more high frequency and sound brighter. The CD7 has a more organic sound and sunds more fluent. The bass is excellent on both but because the CD7 sounds darker than the Wadia it looks like it has more bass. The Wadia has slightly more detail because of the brightness.
On my system the CD7 sounded better. and warmer. The extra brightness on the Wadia does not sound good on the Wilson speakers. The ARC is very very good on female voices. Best I ever heard from any CD player. I think only analog can beat this. The Krell CD players are excellent to and are more neutral than the ARC and Wadia.
It depends on your system which one to buy. Try before you buy.
thx for the response. must say everyone i've talked to speaks glowingly of the CAST system, which helps explain your results.
i'd guess w/ a diff pre/amp combo (one that isn't designed to work together), you might find the 581 more competitive w/ the ARC as it would preclude the use of a preamp and make comparisons one of ARC+pre vs wadia sans pre.
i'll be getting a 581 in soon enough myself and will see how it shapes up (my preamp is nigh on the best avail).
I tried the Arc Ref3 driving the power amp and the Wadia 581 driving the power amp directly and could not hear much difference. The difference is so small that it did not justify the 12000 euro for an ARC Ref 3.
The Cast system however brings the 700CX to a higher level which makes the whole combination better.