Wadia direct into amp, Sound a bit too lean??

Hello everyone:
I need a little help here. I'm using my Wadia 861se direct into my Rowland 302 amp, but the sound is a bit too lean for my taste. I'd like to make the sound of my system to be fuller by changing the ICs. Any comment will be helpful. The rest of my system are: Avalon Eidolon, Acoustic zen silver reference II ICs, Hologram II speaker cables, MIT oracle AC2 for wadia.

Hi Jerry
I think unless you are willing to add a decent preamp, no cables will give your the body and air that you are looking for.
I also own the same cdp so I am speaking from my own experience.

I have had the same problem running Wadia 7 & 9 directly into my amplifier. I have tried interconnects and power cords with very marginal improvement. Finally I tried the Z-systems RDP-1 and the search was over. The combination is simply awesome to say the least. Follow Nickt's advise, you should look for a quality pre-amplifier.
What is the output voltage of the Wadia set at?...you may need to pop the cover and kick it up a notch. Are you using balanced outs? Also, I suspect the Rowland may not be the best mate for a passive.

Thanks lot for all the replies. I will look for a quality pre and Z-systems RDP-1 for sure. The wadia's output is set at 0.5 volt, and I'm using balance ICs, so it should be 1v.
Could you please recommend some pre-amps(tube or ss) that matchs well with the rest my system.

The Z-Systems is not going to do you any good since it would require the use of a separate transports since it only offers digital ins and outs. It is a great unit however and I can see how it would be marvelous between a Wadia transport and DAC, however will do you no good with only a CD player.

If you are looking for a fuller sound, you should try out the Cardas Golden Cross cables. They have a very meaty full sound that sounds pretty great with Wadia direct CD players.
XLO Unlimited or limited will definitely help fix your problem
hi Jerry
I think your system would benefit from a Rowland Synergy Preamp. A friend of mine has the Synergy and I think it's great.
Ejlif Nailed it Do as he says and Install Cardas Golden Cross Interconnects and Speaker wire.
Make sure you are also on the same AC Phase leg
with both units even if you have to plug the whole system
into an average power strip .
This can itself make your system seem Hot Brash etc.
Cheers Johnnyr
.5v output won't cut it...try a much higher setting. The voltage can be adjusted via internal switches from 0.3V to 4.25V to match system sensitivity.

Hold off on spending money untill you try the higher voltage settings.

I own a GNSC Statement Wadia 861 and run mine directly into a Boulder 1060 amp. I've tried many ics from Jena to Tara 0.8s(including MIT Oracle V1.1s, both single ended and balanced. I am currently using the 0.8s(balanced) and NBS Omega 1 speaker cables and now the sound is a little leaner than it was with the Tara "The One" speaker cables I was previously using. Whether you run balanced or not, there are a lot of ic and cable combinations that would minimize the harshness without giving up the definition that a high resolution system such as yours should be capable of. Before I would invest in an expensive preamp, I would certainly try cabling first. I am currently experimenting with a Purist Audio preamp(differentially balanced tube design)running balanced through the 0.8s. I then have my Wadia connected to the preamp via Cardas balanced cables. It certainly sounds different than it does when connected directly. I only went this preamp route because I was planning on getting back into vinyl and I needed a switching device. I have yet to hook up my analog system so now I'm really just jumping back and forth between the two setups. I don't think I have the ideal combination just yet, but somehow I'll figure it out.
Running my 861 direct to ARC vt-100III. I recently changed my mains cable to NBS pro III, and got rid of any leanness I was having. I was very surprised at the improvement.
I'd get rid of the AZ silver reference and try the matrix copper instead...seriously.

Not to slight Wadia, however at one time I had the 270/27ix combo. I picked up a Levinson 390S on a whim and ended up selling the Wadia combo. I find the Wadia players algorythms to add a "sheen" to the sound that doesn't appeal to me. A friend recently brought his 861SE over for a shootout. Same cables on both players, same CD, level matched the volume. 2 weeks later he called me after he picked up a 390S as well. He runs the 390S direct. The Levinson has an analog volume control instead of the bit-stripping digital piece Wadia employs.

For the longest time, I thought that Wadia would be the "be all, end all". Perhaps for some, and again it will also be system dependant. I'm not here to knock any brand, only to report my findings.

I have also found that I am better served by a good preamplifier than I was running the Wadia or the Levinson direct.


Paul :-)
Thanks again for all the replies. I just got a AZ Marix Reference II for a home audition, and it does give a fuller body to my system. I'll definitely try to get a pair of Cardas ICs for home audition too. As for the output voltage, I don't think I can go higher than .5v for my set up, If I go any higher, I won't be able to keep the volume above 90.
I own a Wadia 850 and had a similar problem with lean bright sound. When I ran short interconncets the sound changed for the better. I used Coincident CST's. They can take a while to break-in but well worth the wait. The change with the shorter ic's was not subtle. Try it. Also consider maple platforms and brass footers from Mapleshade. This to will reduce the internal vibrations which can brighten the sound.
I've noticed that although a preamp adds to another link in the chain. Running directly from source to amp (even though some sources have an attenuator) the sound is not as airy and the soundstage seems compressed.

i have also found that running my Wadia 861 thru my tube pre is much better than running directly into amp. I do not think that Wadia's digital volume is anything to write home about. It does the job of attenuating the sound but i personally do not think that it can provide the soundstage depth & width & height that a really good preamp can. Hence, after comparing w/ tube preamp & direct to amp for several weeks, i setup the system thru the tube preamp & I bypassed the DSP-based volume control (set it to 100). never regretted it one bit!
Another solution to consider is the Musical Fidelity X-10v3 tube buffer stage between CDP and amp. Only works single ended on RCAs though. Adds a little tube warmth. At $399 a lot cheaper than a lot of cables and maybe worth a try.
in trying to tweak your sonic signature you don't mention doing any experimentation with AC cords. Changing cords on the CDP & the amp (not necessarily / probably not using identical AC cords on each unit) you can accomplish a lot more change than you might believe possible. Also you can experiment with many different types of tuning products: shelving, footers, cones, bearings, etc. placed mainly under the source component; although whatever is supporting the amp can certainly also have a significant effect.
Hi Jerry, yes, I too have experienced the same result: thin, bright sound. The soundstage also became slightly compressed with direct mode opeartion. I'm using the Wadia 301 & M/F XP-200 mono blocks. Auditioned a VTL 5.5
tube preamp and the "problem" disappeared! So I bought it! Even though it's another link in the chain, the musical result was very satisfying. All the best, Mark.
The one and only solution for you is to get a top preamp. I had the same setup (861 se going directly into solid state power amp) and the sound was exactly as you describe. Good but dry! I got Mick Maloney in Australia to make me a preamp (see his website - Supratek) and I have never looked back. IMHO matching powerful solid state amps with a valve pre and a top quality source gives you the best of all worlds.
Your sound is anaemic because you're starving your amp. Up the voltage (and set the gain on the Rowland on 26db if you;re not there already). OK, so the volume won't go over 90... but, at least you'll get to judge the combination by the actual sound the thing produces -- not by lack of energy.
Ch5588, I'm curious where you heard that an output voltage of 1.0 V is best for balanced interconnects? I too have a Wadia 861se and am running balanced into a Bat vk5i preamp and then balanced into a Rowland 302. I contacted Wadia today because of this thread. They emailed the instructions for adjusting the output voltage. The thing is, in the instructions, it says that the output voltage can be adjusted for 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 2.13*, and 4.25 Vrms. (*= factory setting) I asked the customer service person about 1.0 Vrms for balanced. He had never heard of that, but said that he didn't know everything about the unit. Did you try your unit at the 2.13 setting? I did try my Wadia directly driving my Rowland 302 amp and my listening level was about 85-90. I think that my unit is at the factory 2.13 Vrms setting. I preferred the sound of the Bat preamp included in the audio chain. It gives a fuller (better body/texture), more musical sound, than the stand alone Wadia. Although, the Wadia by itself was slightly clearer. Stan
Hi Stan,
The voltage setting for my Wadia is 0.5vrms, and I'm using Balanced outputs which doubles up to 1.0vrms (I think I found this info in Audio Asylum). I can only keep my volume level above 85 with this setting to get the maximum resolution from its digital based volume control. In other words, this setting is my only choice. Do you prefer Wadia with a preamp or without?

Hi Jerry, At this point, I prefer the Wadia with a preamp; however, I'm still breaking in my amp, which was a demo. The Rowland 302 had 100 playing hours on it, but then sat at the dealers for 6 months without being used. I've put about 60-70 hours on it so far. I've heard that there's about 300 hours of breakin. What's your experience with the Jeff Rowland 302? Mine sounds better after several hours of play, but it still has a long way to go, considering what I've heard about the amp when it's broken in. Stan
Two things, I don't think Wadia doubles the voltage into balanced IC. Also it's possible to run with a RDP-1 even though it's not a transport and dac. Just use the digital out and in. Wadia is built for this purpose considering the clocklinked I/O
Hi, your system certainly seems challenging.
i think it has a lot to do with matching (a very difficult task, i believe). i have my Wadia 6 (ser no. 003) directly drive a couple of Forte amplifiers (bi-amped) from 1988-98 via balanced ICs and to my recollection, it is one of the best setups i ever had. i only introduced a pre-amp (Musical Fidelity X-P100) when i decided to go back to analogue.

Jerry, the W 6&9 combo is still, to my taste, the best digital front-end there is (even with the newer products around)... problem is, direct-driving amplifiers with a Wadia is not for everyone; it certainly is a trial method judged by your ears and musical taste.

i would not introduce any 'foreign matter' in-between my Wadia and my amp, certainly not ANY pre-amp... but you have to decide which is the 'weak link'... for me, i'd test the combo with AMPS!!... cables are nothing, just excuses for audiophiles to spend.

if you are building your system around the W 7&9, then test them with other amps; somebody mentioned a boulder, which could also be your ticket... i would be very cautious in using the combo to drive tube amps... i suppose i'm just chicken :-)

enjoy the hunt!
I hadbeen using my wadia 861 directly plugged into amplifier. I had adjusted the voltage output so on most recordings volume was set >90

I recently purchased a preamplifier and there is an overwhelming improvement in sound.

I'm not sure what the preamp does but it clearly not a volunme control. For me it resulted in improved balance, tonality, and the prolly the most 3d imaging adn resolution.

cant recommend to get a preamp enough. your wadia will sound like a different player
Hello Jerry,

Although out of your league, I am running my EAD 7000 DAC (which I love BTW) directly into my amps, with a resistor based attenuator, I was also getting lean sound, but I solved it with very short speaker cables (10 inch) I am using mono amps, with the short cables everything fell into place right away....I would stay away from silver going direct.
I would also reccomend an Isolation transformer on the power line, It gets a fuller, cleaner sound out of your system.
I tried a bunch of preamps, I hated most of them and loved a couple, but distortion was always introduced to the signal path. IMHO

All the best
You guys are really funny! For what reason did you buy the very best single cd player like the Wadia 861SE to "bend" or color the sound afterwards? Doesn't make sense at all to me.
In any case the addition of ANY preamp between the Wadia and the Power Amp will only color the sound, it CANNOT ever get any better because its just an addional amplifier chain which is never as good as a straight wire.
There might be a possible mismatch between the Wadia and the Power Amp in some case, therefore the output of the Wadia is adjustable.
And for those specialists who believe in cutting of bits via the volume control: the wadia operates the volume control in the digital domain, not on the analog side. The 861 processes 24 bits while the cd itself contains a maximum of 16 bits of information.
Therefore 8 bits (or 256 steps) are available as "waste" just for the volume control. With only 100 possible steps (50 dB, 0.5 dB each step) degration of the sound even with the volume set on step 1 is just impossible - but who will judge the sound of the system at step 1, the speakers don't even produce any real sound at step 1. I do normal listening with the volume set to 50 or even 70....
I have tried many times with and without preamp - the system sounds best when the player is directly driving the amps. Maybe you guys should invest the money better in good speakers so that you can hear what your cd player really delivers...
I'm quite familiar with the Avalon Eidolon and your problem could lay in the position of the speakers. Try to position them wider from each other and them sit closer. Look what will happen.
Also you need a good neutral pre amp like Ayre K-1x or Hovland HP200. Indeed any pre amp do colorate, but the benefits of a good pre amp are more important (control, fixed and wide/deep soundstage even at very low volumes). no volume controled cd player can beat these.
When your sound is still not full enough try NBS Black Label power cords on the Wadia.
hope this helps.
The best advice has been given. I have a wadia 861se and use a Supratek Sauvignon tube preamp and the sound is wonderfully full. By itself the wadia sounded "sterile" to my ears, although it was still very good.

Try some good valve preamps.