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DAC - Wadia 9

WADIA 9

THE KING

→ updated 19.12.2015

 

I-INTRODUCTION.

WADIA is probably the most regarded brand in the late 90s : who has forgotten the incredible surprise that their WADIA 2000 created in the audio world ? The musicality of this device was so unbelievable compared to all the other existing devices, that the WADIA was considered has a phenomenon...

The WADIA company has been created in 1988 and is one of the very first companies to be specialized in the digital devices, with the clear goal to reach a musical quality far beyond the levels achieved by the others. WADIA reached its goal with an incredible success and this success continues nowdays: WADIA is still one of the 2 or 3 most regarded companies in the digital audio area.

The founder is Don Wadia MOSES, helped by a team of qualified engineers coming from 3M (Minessota Mining & Manufacturing) having previously worked in the telecommunication sector. These engineers were interested by the new CD format bu had been very disappointed by the musical results of the current CD players: a car radio provided a better sound than the first CD players !

This problem has recently be the reason of the Vinyl revival, but back to the 90s this problem has been one of the most discussed in the audio world. Because the Shannon theorem explains that the CD resolution should be enough to get excellent musical results, it has also probably be at the base of the research made by Wadia MOSES and its team of engineers.

Unfortunately, Mr Wadia MOSES died on November 29th, 2008. And like for many other famous brands (Threshold, Thiel, etc...), when the founder dies (or leave the company), the essence of the brand dies simultaneaously... The new Wadia products do not seem to be as exclusive as the previous ones, although they remain very good products.

Here is a photo of Mr Wadia MOSES in his laboratory:

DonMosesLab.jpg

 

The first Wadia DAC was the WADIA 2000, and it made the same effect than a bomb in the DAC domain : 30 years later it still belongs to the cream of the DACs on our planet... The WADIA 2000  has been the first true external DAC (previously the DACs were in the same cabinet than the drive) and it has created the concept, pushing up the DAC to a specific device in a HiFi system, with the same importance than a preamplifier or an amplifier.

The WADIA 2000 was also the first DAC to reach a so high price, approximately 25,000 of our current Euros (!), and this looked crazy at this time, similar to something that almost nobody can afford. But, -there is a but-, the WADIA 2000 was also the first DAC to reach a so incredible high musicality, pushing every competitor directly to the trash can ! We repeat:  "directly to the trash can"...

This miracle was made possible because the design of the WADIA DACs was at this time totally different than any other DAC, and there are still very few DACs (actually you only need 1 of your hands to count them...) using the same design concept nowdays.

The design uses 3 DSP (Digital Signal Processors) to replace the usual digital filter (such as the horrible CS-8412, the acceptable CS-8414 or DIR-9001) before the conversion chips. These 3 processors, with their huge calculation capabilities, present a perfect digital signal to the conversion chips, which can therefore operate at their best. The secret of the WADIA DACs is not at the conversion chip level, but at the the digital filtering level ! The approach that was chosen by the other manufacturers was useless and faulty : they were trying to improve the conversion chips but as good as they made them, they worked on a crappy digital signal coming from the digital filter ! Contrarily , WADIA created the required condition to make the conversion chips working on a perfect digital signal...

There is no need to « science fiction based theories » to check that : a simple oscilloscope is enough. The included software, named DIGIMASTER, came from the Marine devices and generates a perfect signal.

WADIA has also introduced the ST fiber optic as the preferred and unique link between the drive and the DAC : there is no BNC or RCA connector, all the inputs uses the optical ST standard, which is of course far better than the crapy TOSLINK optical standard. By the way it is a pity to see that the new WADIA DACs use this crappy TOSLINK connector instead of the high quality ST: Mr Wadia MOSES, this would have never happened when you managed the company...

As it is often the case with the state pf the art devices, the power supply delivers 3 independant supplies: 2 for the analogic section and 1 for the digital section.

 

Here is the WADIA 2000 front view:

Wadia-2000_front.jpg

and the rear view:

Wadia-2000_back.jpg

 

and a close up:

Wadia-2000_zoom.jpg

 

The Wadia 2000 upgrades that were regularly delivered by the manufacturer are listed herebelow::

wadia_2000_evo.jpg

 

II-THE WADIA 9 DAC.

But let us talk about the WADIA 9. This model was introduced on the market in 1992 and includes a preamplifier with digital volume and 16 bits conversion chips. They are the famous PCM 63-K, and 4 of these chips being used for each channel (8 are located in the Wadia 9).

The design is exceptional, like the manufacturing quality : for exemple, the chasis is drilled in a single piece of metal, it is very heavy, and you should not expect to find the same quality nowdays. Even the exceptional dCS Vivaldi does not have a similar chassis...the price of this kind of chassis would be too high.

The Power Supply is housed in a dedicated chassis delivering the 3 supplies through 3 different cables using the LEMO type connectors : 1 for the digital section, 1 for the analog left section, 1 for the analog right section.

It is easy to understand that the WADIA 9 design is very similar to the WADIA 2000 one.

Here is the front view:

wadia9_front.jpg

and the rear view:

wadia9_back.jpg

The remote control, compatible with the WADIA 10 Transport, is also an incredible piece of steel, drilled into a single piece of metal: just crazy...

wadia9_telco.jpg

 

III-THE LISTENING CONFIGURATION.

As usual, we have not changed the configuration protocol in order to give you a solid comparison base amongst the various DACs that ThresholdLovers have tested. The DAC has been reviewed in the reference system #2:

systemeref.jpg

 

IV-THE LISTENING SESSION.

You do not need more than one minute to clearly understand that the WADIA 9 is totally different than the other DACs. By different , we mean that it presents a perfect signal to the conversion chips, instead of just passing the signal through a classical digital filter (CS-8412, CS-8414, CS-8416 or DIR 9001), like 99.99% of the other DACs, with a very very few exceptions such as THETA (Gev III → Gen V-a) or dCS.

Because we care to always review the devices wery seriously, and also because we know that you like to have a few photo of the internal parts of a device, here is an entire view of the WADIA 9 allowing you to understand its architecture:

 

Wadia 9_carte calculateur_small.jpg

 

This photo shows you « the secret of the high end DACs » like the WADIAs, the dCS or MSB... : we mean a DSP based calculator to achieve a perfect dgital filtering prior sending the signal to the conversion chips ! on this phot you see the Optical input Card sending the signal to the calculator, and the calulator sending the signal to the 2 conversion cards.

We also provide you with an entire view of the optical input Card:

Wadia 9_carte entrees ST_small.jpg

 

Please look carefuly at this photo : don't you see anything surprising ? look again, somewhere in the center : you do not identifiy a surprising chip ?

OK we help you: there is the crappy CS-9412 filter, the horrible common digital filter that is largely responsible of the very poor musical performance of the first CD players, as well as the later ones...

But if the CS-8412 operates in the exceptional WADIA 9, did ThresholdLovers make a mmistake when saying that the CS-8412 is horrible ? Did WADIA make an error when the decision was taken to use it in a so exceptional DAC ?

Sure not. Here is the explanation:

When the WADIA 9 was released to the market, WADIA has been obliged to use "what was available at this time", and there nothing better than the CS-8412... But WADIA did perfectly know that the common chips such as the CS-8412 were far, very far, to do correctly the job that they were supposed to do ! and they also perfectly knew that the impact on the musicality was a disaster ! This is the reason for which WADIA has developped its own digital filter, based on 3 DSPs, to properly achieved the job that the CS-8412 (and its successors even if they improved) was just unable to achieve ! This has always been the reason and the « secret » of WADIA and of the very few other companies that have manufactured the high end DACs.

 

The sound is full, precise, clean, as quick as a flash. The bass domain is unbelievable: powerful, dry, with a lot of presence: it makes the music alive by its rightness and variety. It has so much punch that your loudspeakers must be able to undertake it, and good enough to transfer all its qualities to your ears...

The high frequencies are also unbelievable: thay are not just « a bit better » than the other DACs, they are so much better that you feel to discover your CDs for a second time. The clarity is so perfect that the rest of your HiFi system should be at the same level of excellence and not add any excess. The pre/amplifiers and the loudspeakers should be (in our opinion) on the soft side regarding the high frequancies: the Wadia 9 is not agressive at all, but the transparency of the high frequencies is so right that any excess in this domain generated that would be generated by the rest of the HiFi system would be too much.

If the rest of the HiFi is at the same level of quality and rightness, you will get what we believe to be one of the 3 best final results in the world: this DAC belongs to the very best DACs, if it is not the best...

This DAC is definitely not like the others : the use of DSPs for digital filtering without oversampling is the best approach without any doubt.

Where are the competitors 30 years later ?

For sure, a dCS Vivaldi can compete (as well as the high end MSB ? but we have not yet lessoned to this one) : it is also one of the very best DACs in the world and cost a fortune (like the WADIA 9 when it was issued on the market).

Is its price justified by its musical performance and its technology basement ? Yes.

Is it better than the WADIA 9 ? no, it is similar. There is no miracle in this domain: the digital filtering using the DSPs without oversampling is the only way to achieve the best possible results, but this approach has a cost which is one of the reason explaining that it is too rare.

Listening to the WADIA 9 will convince you that it is a star in the audio world. A modern 32 bits conversion chip is just useless and will not give you a better musical result : the problem of digital reproduction does not come only from the conversion chips but mainly from the digital filtering before the conversion chips.These DACs look modern, are able to decode higher sample rates (96kHz / 192 kHz or even more), but it is just useless for the CDs playback.Contrarily, the manufacturer does not have to invest in R&D: he just has to assemble a few chips together...

But of course the musical result is not he goal of all these approaches amphasizing on the number of bits, black magic technologies, more LEDs and more buttons...

The WADIA 9 costed the equivalent of 30k€, the price of a very decent car, or... the price of a dCS Vivaldi..., but 30 years later it still belongs to the cream of the DACs.

 

V-CONCLUSION.

This DAC is totally outstanding and beyond the best currently available standards. It is old, for sure, but it is built like a tank and it offers an incredible musical quality: its ability to reproduce the music with an unbelievable quality makes it a «modern » device.

It is a total surprise: this DAC is just out of the world of DACs, excelling on complex musical messages, bringing a kind of magic, and pushing 99.99% of the other DACs back to the school.

It probably belongs to the 3 or 5 best DACs in the world like the dCS Vivaldi, it is an absolute reference, the best that I have lessoned in 30 years of HiFi, one of the very few to compete with the dCS Vivaldi.

Mr Don Wadia Moses, we thank you very much to have created this piece of engineering art, as well as the Wadia company (even if we are not sure that the new Wadia products will be as exceptional as the ones created by Wadia under your reign...).

 

Pros:

  • incredible quality of the musical reproduction: one of the very best DACs in the world.
  • the bass domain is just magic
  • the speed and dynamics are incredible
  • it brings emotion as well as details: it is a piece of engineering art
  • We should give it more than 5 stars SOTA, but we do not have a higher award...

Cons:

  • most of the units do require service, particularly they need new capacitors: this is not a faulty design, but something totally normal after many years.
  • without the abovementioned capacitors replacement, the DAC will not be at its best
  • it is very heavy, but this is simply a consequence of its incredible built quality
  • all the digital inputs are optical ST only, but these connectors are more common nowdays than they were when the Wadia 9 arrived on the market.
  • A excellent optic fiber like a SAEC is a must : this is not a problem, it demonstrates the high quality of the Wadia 9
  • it is old but almost impossible to find on the used market, because the owners rarely sell it...

 

TL_5stateart.jpg

 

This article has been written by Florent and Nounours - Nov. 2015.

 

 

 

 


Creation date : 14/07/2015 @ 07:34
Last update : 19/12/2015 @ 21:20
Category : DAC
Page read 5263 times


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Reactions to this article


Reaction #2 

by Nounours18200 10/02/2016 @ 20:37

Bonjour,
En réponse à votre question concernant un test du Dac TOTALDAC, nous n'avons malheureusement pas pour l'instant ce test prévu à court terme.
Je vous suggère de contacter directement Florent par mail, car je crois qu'il l'a déjà longuement écouté sans être vraiment agréablement surpris (en tout cas rien à voir avec le Wadia 9 !), mais je préfère que vous lui posiez directement la question (vous trouverez son email en cliquant à la fin de l'article sur le Wadia 9 par exemple).
Nous avons en ce moment de nombreux tests en attente de publication, mais pas le TotalDac...
A bientôt sur Threshold Lovers,
Nounours-Webmaster

Reaction #1 

by jadis36r 10/02/2016 @ 13:36

Bonjour à vous.
SVP a quand votre essai et avis sur le DAC français TotalDac (version sans tubes)
Bien cordialement.
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