Wadia Owner - with or without preamp

I was wondering what do most of you guys run w/ your 861se or the 270se/27ix dac? Straight to your amp/amps or to a preamp. Thanks
I always found something missing with the 270/27ix I had without a preamp. The dynamic just wasn't there for me.
Part of it I believe is the digital attenuation. Bits are bits.....when they're gone you can hear it.

I ended up selling the Wadia combo and moved on to greener pastures. A definate learning experience.


Paul :-)
I have a GNS Reference upgraded 860 with the SE transport. I run directly. I've tried a couple of preamps, but always preferred the Wadia alone. That's the way it was designed to be used...
You will find no solution to this question on audiogon. People are split on this, with perhaps slightly more preferring the preamp. I run direct because the Wadia is my only source. I haven't had the opportunity to listen to preamps. I have no plans to go with a preamp, due to monetary factors. I decided to ditch the preamp and upgrade the CD player instead.

I ran mine for 2 years, Convinced on no preamp!!
I have since, just this pass week tried it with a Placett passive and now am thinking why didn't I try this 2 years ago. What a FRicking difference!!
If interested I can elaborate more. Email me if you like.
Regards Brian
I run the 27 direct also. However, if I had the choice I'd prefer an analog output stage with volume control. As has been mentioned, I don't like the idea of losing resolution when adjusting volume either.
I suspect that a lot of people who prefer to use a preamp with a Wadia are not operating the CD player at the upper range of its volume control. If you haven't set the internal switches that allow you to do this, you are not hearing the true capability of players like the 861. Also, some people might simply prefer the coloration that most preamps and additional cables add. The best advice is to simply try it both ways.
I'm going to jump in on the pre amp side of this debate. I have tried mines extensivley both ways. Call it a fondness for coloration or what ever. IMHO my Wadia sounds better through a pre amp. Which allows me to contour the music for my room. Also as you may know you don't get the full sound of a Wadia unless the volume is maxed out. So with a pre they recommend setting the volume to max, then using your pre to control the volume. In any event there are so many varibles that you have to decide for your self. Happy listening.
I have recently added a Supratek to my system. Previously I was running the Wadia at 0.25V output into 750 watt monoblocks. The sound was great but quite dry. To keep the 861 in its sweet spot meant that the volume was either too low (when I really wanted to crank it up) or too high if I changed the dipswitch settings to higher levels. The addition of a tube pre amp has made all the difference. A really smooth, warm engaging sound, the Wadia running at 100% resolution and absolute control over the volume/resolution combination. Check out the thread titled "Pre amp deal of the century" for info on Supratek pre amps. For my system, addition of a pre amp has been wonderful.
27ix with volume setting over 90 (always) and directly into Mcintosh MC 2000 tube. That's it for me.
If you are asking based solely on whether one likes the sound better with or without a preamp, only you can answer that after listening to your choice of Pre.

However, if you already know you like the direct sound, but have more than one source as I do (Wadia 861 and VPI TT), and are wondering if you'd be compromising too much in sound quality for the convenience of switching sources, then I would agree with BTSTRG. The Placette Passive Pre is a good solution.

The Placette allows you to keep the Wadia digital volume at 100 (which makes a huge difference), and yet I do not notice any coloration.....at times I think I hear a coloration, but then when I A/B it again, I conclude that I'm just imagining it.

When I have a couple extra $, I may even try the Placette Active, just to see if it adds some dynamics. But if you like the direct no preamp route, I don't think you can go wrong with the passive.

Just my two cents worth.
A similar thread came up on 8/15/04 but it was re. the Wadia 302. Here is the link & my post on the subject:


Hope that it helps.
Run it through a HIGH Quality Preamp and it will sound MUCH better.
Digital volume pot degrade the dynamics....
Eigentlich, was ist ein "digital volume pot"?? Danke.
(Wadia veraendert das volume mit ein DSP Technik)
i have been told, that when using a pre-amp, it is important to set the Wadia's output level low enough such that you are using the higher end of the analog pre-amps volume control.

it was posited that pre-amps will generally sound best up near (approaching) their neutral gain setting. this appears true for my pre-amp, but i have no other data points.

does this make sense, or was i led astray?
Thomasheisig: What are you basing this on? Have you experimented with the Wadia equipment? I notice that your system doesn't include any Wadia gear.
I've had a few Wadia's, and depending on amp pre-amp and CD model, my preferences have varied.

The 830 I had for about a year and preferred it through a BAT VK-50se pre-amp - amps were McCormack dna-1 rev A mono's. Direct, the soundstage was too flat and highs were hard.

The 302 for about 6 months and preferred it direct into my Classe Omega. But could go either way (tried an Audio Valve and a Lamm, forget the model, also a demo with a placette passive), there were equal trade offs. Direct was a little hard on top but not as much as the 830 into the McCormacks. The pre's added noise and distortion but added some air and softness. Passive may be the way to go if you must do a pre.

The 861se for about 2 months, and clearly preferred DIRECT. The soundstage can be 3d, the images are thick, each drum sounds unique and the air pressure from kick drums feels like you are there, and the bass detail is stunning. I never considered putting it thru a pre given my experience with them and the 302.

The 270se 27ix combo - same thing as the 861se and then some.

With the TOP Wadia units, everything matters and makes a difference, amps, cables, platforms, cones, etc. These things matter on all system I assume, but the changes are very dramatic in the 861 270 27 units. Things can range from warm to hard, resolved, musical, punch, finesse, detailed, relaxed, etc. I tried the 861 at a friends house and my unit sounded polite, but we added a beefier PC and she started to get a little attitude, then we bypassed the pre and things opened up. Everything matters, because these things put back exactly what you give them.

I need to be below 70 on the units before I notice any degradation, however, I know my Andra speakers are a completely different animal depending what volume you run them at, too low and the music looses some evenness and dynamics, so I do not know if the performance at lower volumes is the Wadia or the speakers.

I don't think one system can be great in all areas at all volume levels. My critical listening is at near live performance level, that is the volume I want my system to sound best at. Less than that, any system will sound un-realistic - maybe clearer, with some dynamics, but not realistic.

My music preferences are acoustic and electric Jazz and rock, with some classical and the kitchen sink.

I will be trying some external volume attenuators that hook directly to the amp's input and, the IC's go directly to the attenuators. If these do not interfere with the magic at real volume levels, and make the lower volumes "better" too, then I may have it all? If that happens, I will sing the praises of the person building them for me.

Many variables and preferences. Direct has always (other than 830) brought me closest to the music.
One thing thing that woukd be nice on the 27 would be a small access panel for the dip switches. It's a hassle taking the top cover off for the adjustments. I think Wadia considered this adjustment to a dealer function. At least they didn't give out the dip switch position output voltages with the owner directions. Wadia: If you're reading this, how about an access panel on the top plate of the 27? Wishful thinking?
IMO: The balanced outputs sound better on the 27.