Wadia 861SE with GNSC Statement Upgrade

I would like to know the level of interest still out there for a Wadia 861SE with GNSC Statement upgrade with and without digital ins and outs.

Would like to hear the experience of those who own this particular setup too.

I owned this unit from Steve for 2 years and only sold it as i changed front ends completely...Mine was without digital ins and outs and i was very impressed with the build out mods and the resulting quality of sound.
In addition, Steve is tops as a person both before AND after the sale...

Hope this helps,

I have the 861SE with Reference upgrade from GNSC. I still really like the looks & the sound. I don't feel compelled to change or upgrade.
As AZjake wrote - Steve is tops in pre & post sales & the best person for Wadia mods.
I also know a friend who owns an 861SE with Statement mods (what you are looking at) & he has compared his Wadia sound to other hi-end CDPs like dCS, Burmester, Accuphase, Esoteric & found that changing would be a lateral move more than anything else. FWIW. YMMV.
Hi Bombaywalla,
I had a Wadia 861se with GNSC statement upgrade. I can assure you it has nothing to compare with DCS or Esoteric top end models. The wadia was lacking in definition. It had a big sound but with little resolution or depth in soundstage. Dynamics were either on or off. It may be more musical than the old DCS P8i but only great if you only listen to rock music.

While the Wadia is a beautifully built machine and GNSC did a wonderfully neat job inside, there are better players out there.

New digital is nearly always better than old digital.

Dear Chadeffect,

Although I don't doubt your hearing, the description of the disadvantages you note do not seem compatible with my perception of Wadia. Specifically, lack of resolution, dynamics, soundstage depth, and definition. Those descriptors, along with a solid bass and clear delineation of harmonies and rhythm, are among its attributes. Likewise, I would never recommend any Wadia for rock music. So your conclusions are interesting.

The 861se remains a statement single-box CD player. Although they may have updated the power supply and a number of other things, the 861 contains a great transport. The transport is vital because an accurate read requires less error correction, and error correction can be unmusical. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to buy or recommend an 861SE Statement for a great price if that was the budget. Of course, it needs attention to shelfing, powercord, and power conditioner for it to really open-up.
You are stating your opinion as if it were "fact" when in fact it is your opinion. Others have theirs and they may be just as valid.
>> 02-21-09: Chadeffect
>> The wadia was lacking in definition. It had a big sound
>> but with little resolution or depth in soundstage.
>> Dynamics were either on or off.

Chadeffect, you heard what you heard. I'm not going to argue with you on that score.
However, I am going to discount your comments completely because "definition", "resolution", "depth in soundstage", "dynamics" are all hallmarks of the 861SE player. I have these attributes in spades in my setup. Many others, who are also owners of the 861SE player, have reported the same conclusions. I fail to understand how you were missing all these attributes in your system?
The Wadia needs some work to extract its best but then don't all the others (EMM Labs, dCS, Esoteric, mbl, etc) as well?

Looks like you are not a Wadia fan. That's fine with me. Hope that you are enjoying your dCS.
>> New digital is nearly always better than old digital.
>> Chadeffect

I like the way you state it so confidently as if it were fact!

Everyone has differing tastes but if you're going to attempt to slam something at least put some effort into making your "critique" credible.

With regard to the 861se GNSC Statement, I still own it as I have yet to hear a one-box that imo out performs it (some players do some things better but I'm speaking of an overall presentation) in the 15K and under range (I've heard the Esoteric X-01 Ltd, Meridian 808.2i, dCS Puccini, newest version of the Burmester 001 (this was 23K I believe) and Levinson 512). As has been stated above, the players I've heard would be a lateral move at best (and some would be a downgrade imo).
Hi Bombaywalla and Bar 81,

Maybe I was unlucky with the Wadia. I always thought in the past Wadia made very desirable CD players. This was the main reason why I tried one out.

I tried everything to make it work (cabling/power filtering/isolation). To be honest I really wanted to like it. It just didnt work out for me. An Audio Aero capitole SE was much more detailed and that had a tube output stage.

To my ears the 861se GNSC statement sounded like old digital. Slight edge of grain with not quite resolved details. The dynamics were 3 stage. It didnt have a natural flow or progression through the dynamic envelope. pp then mf then f. It seemed to reach each a threshold step by step rather than letting the event happen with ease with no jumps. Look dont get me wrong, we are talking fine details here, but nevertheless at this level very important.

I was dying to find a 1 box player that was world class. I had had enough of massive hifi taking over the room. I wanted it to fit in my fireplace. I still ended up with a 3 box player again in the end.

I dont wish to upset anyone out there and of course my opinion is just my opinion. What is good to me may not be good for you. I am not slamming Wadia.

I will qualify my comments with the fact that I had a lot if top end players through the door around that time. Comparisons were done over a few months, and side by side on the whole. The wadia reminded me quite a lot of the ML players from the late 90s early 00s (great at the time).

I do stand by my experience that new digital on the whole is better than old. Digital playback has become much more refined. Dont fool yourselves. Look at the computer market.

Many of the components and board layouts are much better now. I owned state of the art players that were once known as the best you could find and within a few years modest players had the same performance.

The main thing is that you enjoy your music.
Maybe I should qualify the above with the fact that the players with volume control were used so and fed direct into power amps.
02-22-09: Chadeffect
Maybe I should qualify the above with the fact that the players with volume control were used so and fed direct into power amps.

Now I can see where you are coming from,direct to amp is make or break for most all digital play back. Fine digital also needs a fine line stage, imo.

Sometimes. The difficulty is finding a good one! I spent many years looking and gave up. There was always a gain and a loss in the pre amps I tried. Never a gain gain if you catch my drift. The ARC ref 3 being the only compromise that I could almost live with. The Lamm was good but no remote...

But the traits of the player are the traits of the player. A pre amp wont add detail although it may enhance what is there.

Maybe I just expect uber detail from hi end players.
I've run the player direct for some time and again, your description of the player's attributes is completely out of line with what I've experienced (and those of practically all others including, recently, Hi-Fi+).

With regard to a preamp, try the Ayre KX-R, there's no downside ime.
HI Bar81,

maybe there was a problem with the player I had, but I doubt it. Players from that time tend to sound the way I described. I had the internal dip switches set to the right output level, so the volume control was using the last few bits.

I know GNSC do good work. I have heard some mods to ARC he has done, as well as the Wadia in question. I just feel its a lot of money for not a great deal of performance with this player. It is bound to be better than the original, but if you spent the same money on an Audio Aero Capitole SE or even the Bel canto CD/DAC I am sure it would surprise you.

Have you heard the latest generation of high end DACs? Because if you feel that my description is out of line with your experience, this could be where the trouble is. For instance the DCS is absolute resolution, crystal clear top to bottom, not a hint of grain and extremely capable. There is clarity with new machines that you just dont get on these older models for whatever reason.

At least have an idea of where this Wadia sits in the world of digital playback today.

Now obviously things like the DCS are expensive machines, but the cheaper ones still have that ability as well as the players I mentioned. This is something the 861se showed no sign of.

I havent heard the Ayre preamp in my own system, but I have heard it in a Ayre system. I quite like Ayre.

Let's leave it at you heard something generally inconsistent with what everyone else is hearing.

You appear to be fixated on resolution and in that regard some players do improve upon the Wadia but overall these players are generally at the same level as the Wadia since the Wadia does other things better than them (this is what I was talking about earlier).

As to the single box players that I've heard recently, scroll up to my first post in this thread.
>> At least have an idea of where this Wadia sits in the
>> world of digital playback today.

Chadeffect, scroll up to Bar81's original post dated 02-22-09 to see the list of players he has recently auditioned.
Hi guys,
I understand we all have differing tastes. What is important to one person may not be important to others.

I dont know the Burmester 001 (I know what it looks like!). But the other players I have heard the Esoteric X01 although I think it was an se or something, also the X03se, the meridian with the volume control, which are quite good players.

I see Bar81 has gone down a very nice road with his hifi with Acoustic revive and MIT Ayre etc and Bombaywalla is a fellow Apogee man.

Resolution is extremely important. Thats where the magic is. Surely the whole point is to hear what is on the disk? Now whether the presentation is to your taste,well thats another question and is probably what you see in the modded Wadia. But things like layering are so delicate and easily lost. The Wadia I had didnt have a hope of that kind of resolution.

Your Apogee would show a player with fine details easily and leave you grinning from ear to ear. It is exactly what the Apogee is great at. Dont get me wrong Wadia is a lovely machine, just a little tired IMHO as a highend digital source. Its nearly 10 years old. So the majority of the insides were designed in the 90s.

I know GNSC put in Bybees etc and have done it beautifully (I had a good look inside) but the base unit is still the base unit. A computer from the late 90s early 00s with burr browns.

I totally understand, and dont wish come across as rude. It is always good to share experiences with fellow audiophiles. It is good to hear opinions.

Unfortunately writing in these forums it can be difficult to get to the heart of the matter without seeming to have an attitude. I have no axe to grind you understand I am just interested.
Hi Chadeffect,

You had the 861SE in your system, worked your best to optimize it by all possible means, and it still did not fulfill your requirements. Hence, you are certainly entitled to your opinion and I would regard your opinion as well-informed. Other well-informed users have contributed that this was not the case in their situation.

I think audiogoner Forteleza has gotten his moneys worth from this thread. This thread has presented a balanced view, and it seems to me that this is how it should work. Hence, we are all to be congratulated.

DCS certainly makes great digital. If the Wadia series 9 didn't exist, I'd probably seriously consider the Scarlatti.

I do think that digital has come of age in the last 5 years. CDPs now provide incredible resolution without grain or forwardness, particularly at the top tier. However, the 861SE Statement would still fare very well for the next 5-10 years, particularly now given its price point. I think Bar81 has come to appreciate that first hand.

Happy listening.
Hi Rtn1,

Amen to that. How do you find the 9 series?
I have a Wadia 861 SE with GNSC Statement Upgrade and have enjoyed it for several years. I have made several substantial improvements to the 861, starting with moving it from the Reference to Statement Upgrade level and adding the SE transport.

From there, I replaced a Shunyata power cable with a Virtual Dynamics Revelation Signature. This cable had a silly MSRP but it effected a tremendous overall improvement to the sound - especially smoothness and dynamics.

Not content, I put the 861 atop a Finite Elemente Master Pagode Reference rack. One more improvement.

Finally, I propped the 861 up on the Finite Elemente Cerapuc feet instead of the stock Wadia spiky feet. That was a surprisingly big improvement.

In general, each change moved the player further out of the inherent realm of digital sound and more toward a sound consistent with analog.

I cannot provide you with any meaningful insight regarding the best of the new DCS, Burmester or other really spendy digital players available. I can say, however, that with a bit of persistence and experimentation, one can make very meaningful improvements to the 861.

Don't think that because it has the SE and Statement upgrade that other details of your system can go wanting. You need to play all nine innings and do those things to feed and site the player that will let it show its best.

Steve is a terrific guy and he can help you get there. He can hear and makes good suggestions. He is also very pleasant and patient. If it is important to you to have good support, one can't do better than to have Steve behind a product you own.
Dont get me wrong Wadia is a lovely machine, just a little tired IMHO as a highend digital source. Its nearly 10 years old. So the majority of the insides were designed in the 90s. Chadeffect

But you fail to explain that although the innards are a latter design by Wadia,GNSC upgrades are still state of the art for that player,and it has only been discontinued in the past few years(861se),NOT the statement upgrade.
This from a man that uses a speaker design from "20-25 years ago"(even though you state in your system review that the Apogees have also been upgraded). Talk about comparing apples to oranges,yikes.

I wouldnt compare a ribbon suspended in a magnetic field to a board full of chips, power supplies, lasers, clocks, decoding software and so on.

Lets not get confused now. Yes the Apogee is an old design. Advancements in glues etc have made it possible to refine a classic design. Just have a look on the 'gon to see how many are still represented among the finest systems.

My understanding is that some components of this Wadia have been replaced. Not a redesign just some components replaced with good knowledge, and the addition of filters (bybee) in various areas to make the best of what is there.

If the player is younger than I thought...yikes!

The post asked for people with experience of this player. My experience with it over several months was ok, not the last word. Obviously you feel different. There are better players IMHO, but there always will be better whatever you have. Digital gear is moving on very quickly now. That should be celebrated.
Obviously you feel different. There are better players IMHO, "but there always will be better whatever you have." Digital gear is moving on very quickly now. That should be celebrated.

Yes Chad, I certainly do like my Wadia 861se/GNSC Statement CDP.For my tastes, in my system, it most certainly fulfills my requirements.And yes, the state of the art in our hobby will always continue to advance,time waits for no one.

To some degree it appears we are in agreement. Resolution is definitely an important characteristic of a front end's presentation but as noted above, imo, it's not so important that it renders everything else secondary.

With regard to disparaging products due to their age, you're on a *very* slippery slope and not particularly well placed to be the poster child for that movement.

Have you had the chance to listen to the Wadia 781i and compare to the 861SE Statement?
I haven't. When I was making the decision to purchase the 861se Statement I had the option to pick up a 581 Statement, but given the problematic transport (which appears to be resolved now) I made the decision at that time to steer clear of their new line until they implemented a proper transport. This will happen with the 981 and it is likely that the 981 Statement will be the next front end in my system.
Hi Bar81,

I do not understand why you believe I am on a slippery slope or why I should or should not be a poster child. A very confusing post from you there.

I was under the impression we were discussing a digital source. I am not sure what your point is.