9 times out of 10 no preamp is better!
Good luck and listen to the Wadia both with and without a preamp. Don't be afraid to be the judge. Remember, you not someone else has to live with it.
I used to have a 850. Used it direct to a BAT VK200 and then to a BAT vk60. Later on, I added a BAT vk50se. Here is my experience, on a dollar basis, the Wadia is very very good. Especially at higher volume levels. You do loose resolution when the volume control is 75 or lower, you really start to notice it below 50. However, without a top notch preamp to directly compare it to...you won't miss much.
Also, I thought the preamp helps in dynamics and soundstage. That's my 2 cents...
i've never used wadia cd player but i know that it has digital volume control that degrades the sound on lower volume levels. you can use an external passive volume control(or passive preamp) and use fixed output with much better results if your rest of electronics are compatible with passive preamp.
the regular electronic preamp will bring you less headache in terms of figuring out and matching.
I guess I'd like to add one more comment to my above post, I think direct at higher volume levels the Wadia direct add a decree of imtimacy that the preamp just won't give you. However, the preamp does help in dynamics and soundstage like I said above. Depends on what's more important to you and what you want to spend.
Even though I'm NOT using Wadia, I still like it better without preamp. I use McCormack TLC-1 passive mode as a preamp, an excellent preamp in my opinion, but I still like it better without the preamp.
I'm only using a Denon DCD-3000, still hoping to get a Wadia some day.
The rest of the system are Threshold T-200 and B&W Matrix 802 S3.
I own the 860x and have used it with and without, either the Rowland Synergy or Adcom GFP 750 preamps. In both cases I prefered largley the sound of the Wadia run direct. I think in a word it sounds more accurate and true to the natural sound of intruments in space. I did match the output voltage of the Wadia to match my amps and play at a reading of between 80-90.
I've sold the Wadia stuff for a few years now, and demo it on some high end gear. My experiences overall dictate that, in most systems, you're going to find the down side being that you'll lack dynamics and soundstage, yes, to a degree. If, like most people here posting probably, you listen to mostly instrumentals, vocals, string quartets, light classical, jazz, etc, you can probably get away with the "passive" approach, or dirrect CD/amp connection. If on the otherhand you want full bodied dynamic capabilities, and are into rock, pop, full scale stuff, heavy percussion, R&B, Metal, Reggae, world music, whatever, you'll be less pleased I think with the passive approach!..in this case a very good high end preamp will do you better justice, with minimal coloration, if any.
I've worked in many high end shops over the last 20 years, and can say this is the general trend, in passive vs active preamp dillemma...it's always a trade off it seems
KISS When I first got my 860x I ran it through my Krell krc3 because I "needed" the switching for my other components. After a couple of weeks As an experiment I tried it direct. There was no going back. After al who needs a cassette deck? and If i want to listen to the radio turn on the radio. Seriously The Pre never got plugged back in. Sold them all on AudiogoN. Upgraded my cables to Kimber Select, After all I only need one. The claim is that you loose resolution under about a volume setting of 70 But I really don't notice it because under 70 you are just using it for background anyway.
As others have said Trust your ears.
You will have enough left over for a good power cord. I can Highly recommend Synergistic Research Designer Reference and by all means get the Active shield. good listening.
when you go direct are you folks using single ended or Balanced?
As an 850 owner, I agree with the posts by Jfrech and Ejlif above. Wadia just sounds more palpable and natural direct. Through a good preamp you get some extra dynamics, but lose some sense of "real instruments playing" (superb timbre from Wadia's DSP). I've had a number of preamps in my system to test this out (e.g. Pass X1, ARC LS25, Levinson 380S). The direct Wadia sounds even better after the Great Northern Sound mod (which I did). As for RCA v. XLR, I doubt it would make much difference unless your system is truely fully balanced throughout. As for the volume control issue, many people seem to really sweat over this or criticize it, but it is really simple to resolve given the internal switches which can adjust output voltage between 0.25V and 4.0V. You can always adjust such that the volume will stay above 80 for most recordings.
With most (possiblly all) their designs Wadia recommends balanced ics for the shortest signal path and best performance. I went from Stealth PGS (excellent RCA's) to a balanced pair of Nordost Quattro fils w/ a Wadia 21i feeding a Coda 11 amp. The balanced Quattro's get my vote. Wish I had a pair of balanced PGS to do a real bal vs. single ended test. Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound is better informed than most on what works well with Wadia gear.
My system consists of a Wadia 860x CD player, a BAT VK500 amplifier, Martin-Logan reQuest speakers, Nordost Quattro Fil interconnects XLR and Nordost SPM Reference speaker cables. In addition, there is a PS Audio P300 feeding the Wadia, one PS Audio 20-amp high current outlet for the speakers and one PS Audio 20-amp high current outlet for the amp. I run the Wadia straight into the VK500, no preamp. I adjusted the output voltage to .5 volts using the internal DIP switches. I sold a BAT VK50SE pre-amp. Today, I consider pre-amps as sound polluting devices........
Your response is scary as your experience mirrors my own.
I too am thinking of selling my 50se. It's been sitting on standby for 6 months now since I received my statement upgrade from GNS. I may wait till I get a new set of cables and upgrade to the new 51se before finalizing my decision.
Running the unit direct is so sweet now. I can't say that I miss the pre at all. If you enjoy detail and no veils to your music, running direct can be a beautiful thing. However, I didn't always enjoy the direct sound prior to my mods. The sound was often too transparent and edgy at higher volumes. Thats all gone now fortunately.
I all depends on your listening habits. I have been selling Wadia equipment for almost 10 years. The digital volume does affect the sound.
If you like to listen at low volume levels late at night, you will really miss the lost resolution of the digital volume control at lower settings. In this case you will be better served with a good preamp. (A top notch preamp will not get between you and the music. Look at Wyetech, First Sound, Lamm, Pass)
If you normally listen at levels that are at 85% or higher, then the digital volume control should not be a problem.
It is possible to adjust the voltage output of the Wadias in order that you will have your digital volume setting at 85% or higher for your preferred listening volume.
Hope this helps
Go direct !!! I use Wadia 9 + 7 combo direct connect to the power amp, and I tell you there is no going back. I use to have the Mark Levinson No. 26S, that I just sold. Enough said ? Hope this help.
PS. I'd try to connect my old SAE cd player, that have variable out I try to connect to an el cheapo amp. Believe it or not, the sound and the resolution inproved the combo to the next level !!!
After experimenting w/ various pre-amps I keep going back to my Wadia 860x directly connected to my Audio Research VT-50. The resolution is outstanding (especially the low end), quick, quite and clean presentaion. You may find that w/ a pre-amp the soundstage will open up a bit more...but the other qualities out weigh this advantage. Make sure to adjust the voltage accordingly to mate with your amplifier and always use a balanced connection....if your amp is a fully balanced design of course. FYI...my speakers are ProAc 1SC monitors.
I own a Wadia 301 and used to own an 850. I've run them with and without preamps and concluded that CD direct will give more detail and subtle textures, but you will lose a little soundstage.
Whether the soundstage of the Wadias is more accurate or not, it is definitely somewhat more centered (narrower) than the preamps. My personal preference is toward the detail, especially since I listen mostly to acoustic music, so I've opted to run CD direct. The other posters are correct in that the Wadia digital volume control needs to be above 70-75 to really come alive (the owners manual clearly states this). My philosophy is to use the money saved on the extra interconnect and component to buy better cables and power conditioning/generating.
Wehamilton....I have owned an 850 and as mentioned above currently own an 860x. Could you please comment on your experience with the new 301. All I have heard is that it has the potential to be the next killer cd player. Thanks....John (jla)
Jla, I've recently done extensive tests with my Wadia 301 against my buddy's Wadia 860-X. Also, we both previously owned 850's before buying our current Wadias.
My 301 took a very long time to break in. We did the first comparison test at about 40 hours on the 301, and it was disappointing. We did the second test at about 140 hours and it was a different story. We both felt the 301 is better than the Wadia 850 in general. I won't go into specifics, because we didn't have it available to A/B.
When we first compared the 301 to the 860-X, the 860-X had more weight and a more sophisticated sound (less digital sounding). But after the 301 was fully broken in, the two players were very close, and the slight glare I'd heard earlier in the 301 was gone. I still preferred the 860-X by the smallest margin, but my buddy thought they were really too close to say one was clearly better than the other, just slightly different. To be that close is quite an achievment for the new 301 at $3650, because the 860-X is no slouch even though it's now been superceded byt the 861. I believe the various new technologies on the 301 have substantially reduced the gap between the models, and eclipsed the performance of the older 850 in the process.
I should add that both players were evaluated using PS Audio Mini Lab Cables and a Power Wedge. They were running CD direct into a Cary V-12 amp, Soliloquy 6.3 speakers, AQ Anaconda interconnects and Stealth speaker cables (model unknown).
Thanks so much Wehamiltion for the great information on the 301!!!
I own the 860x for more than a year now, and have used it with and without pre-amp. My pre-amp was a BAT Vk-40, the BAT sounds Beautiful! but let me tell you when I tried my Wadia 860x Direct to my amps Oh man, incredible! Details,Details. I play lot of different flavor like smooth jazz, vocal jazz, Hip-Hop, Latin(jazz, salsa, merengue) oh yeah! you got to tried Paquito D' Rivera Tropicana Nights SACD format, Stunning!. I did match the output voltage of the Wadia 860x to match my amps and play at a reading of between 80-96. Sounds Amazing! My setup is:
Wadia 860x ( I want to do the Wadia Statement upgrade)
Krell KMA-100 mono block.
Icon Parsec 3-way speakers.
AudioQuest Anaconda 1.5m.
AudioQuest Dragon HL 1m two pairs.
3-Elco Power cables.
I've got a Wadia 27 + Jadis JD2 drive (using Audioquest Pro2 optic fiber) Jadis JA30's + Kimber 1030 (interconnect) + (waiting for Jadis JPL to arrive in May) EAR 834L preamp (with Jadis valves) + Kimber Monocle XL (speakers' cable) + K'Horns.
I've actually tried connecting the W27 directly into the JA30's. It works but sound is more "together" with better imaging & slam with EAR preamp. I think the sound is more coherent and more "musical".
Added bonus: you can use more than one source (I've got a tuner) or you've got to have a Wadia 150 A/D converter (not available in 240 Volts).
So it seems that a good preamp would add/restore air and imaging to the sound and achieve a good synegy with drive and DAC. Now Jadis preamps have an impedance matching valve in their circuit.
Last week I went to somebody's place and listened to a huge system viz Genesis 1's driven by big Gryphon amps (150lbs each!). I was disappointed. Room? Amps? I heard the very same speakers with Wadia 9 + 7 + Jadis JPS2 preamp + Jadis JA200's a few years back: it was fantastic! Now the Gryphons were fed signal from a big Meridian combo: 800 drive + 861? with a "preamp card". Is that a real preamp à la Cello?
The thing is, every time I've listened to great systems it's always been with preamps in.
A (wise) piece of advice: stick to the same good high end dealer who will lend you equipment. That's what I've been doing for years and it works!
In my experience the only way a preamp is better, is if the component in question is not capable of driving the interconnect and amp. The Wadia gear is designed to be run direct. Remember folks, the *shortest* signal path is always the best. Keep those interconnects and speaker wire as short as possible..